Friday, February 27, 2015

Remembering Fr. Ted Hesburgh for A Lifelong Assist

This morning, I finally got a chance to read Sports Illustrated's tribute to UNC basketball coach Dean Smith. I put the magazine down to reflect upon all that this great leader achieved. As I started to think about the many life lessons he imparted to his athletes, my eyes caught sight of a mug that bears the logo of my alma mater: the University of Notre Dame. Quite unexpectedly, tears began to pool in my eyes. Reading about the late Coach Smith, called to mind the life and legacy of Father Ted Hesburgh, CSC who died on February 26, 2015. He was 97 years old.

How does a "coaching legend" relate to a university president? Perhaps you know that both men served in their roles for over 35+ years. Maybe you are aware that they each contributed to the cause for Civil Rights in their own unique way. But "Hail and Farewell: Dean Smith 1931-2015" taught me something I never knew that Coach Smith valued: the assist.

The assist is one of the more selfless stats in all of sports. You have to think of your teammates and have a wider vision of who they are and where they are in order to get one. The assist makes scoring and winning happen; without one you have a lot of "I"s in that team. As a way of teaching its importance, Coach Smith "drummed into his players that, after scoring, each should point at the teammate who made the basket possible." 

And in February 2010, in the midst of a 100th-anniversary season, players gathered for an old-timers game. Fred Kiger, a Chapel Hill alumnus and historian said "In this place that bears your name...we'll pause and point to you, for a life long assist."

I started to think of how the world might be different if we all recognized the person who gives us an assist. And then it hit me, there is one person I want to point to for a lifelong assist—Father Hesburgh. 

At the memorial for Dean Smith. Former players honor him by doing what Coach taught them to do
Too often, assists go unnoticed (which is why Coach Smith's innovation is so thoughtful and poignant). Hesburgh's death and entry into eternal life made me pause to remember that. His made Notre Dame coed. Without his efforts and leadership, I would not have had the opportunity I did. It is something I took for granted. Why wouldn't I? I didn't know Notre Dame any other way.

By the time I arrived in South Bend—in August of 1992, co-education had been underway for 20 years. At the convocation, the Dean of Student Affairs, Patty O'Hara was thrilled to inform my class that we were 44% female, the largest in the University's history. Pangborn Hall had been converted to a female dorm and within 3 years time, Notre Dame would have near gender parity. I should have been grateful, but her words left me unfazed. While I may not have fully appreciated the fact that women could attend Notre Dame. Fr Ted did.

Many people are aware of what Hesburgh considers his greatest accomplishment as President of Notre Dame—turning the university over to lay control. Yes, under his leadership his administration improved academics, the quality of student, the endowment and the building program, but in his book "God, Country, Notre Dame" he says
"Every bit as momentous as changing the governance of Notre Dame as far as the students were concerned was the decision to go coed. Coed! Notre Dame? What was the world coming to? Well, the world of higher education was coming into modern times, a fundamental change in the culture of America. It was the mid-sixties and the sentiment on campus was overwhelmingly in favor of admitting women to Notre Dame. That was a pivotal change from when I became president of the university in 1952. A poll then would have shown, I am certain, that 95% of the students were against coeducation. Fifteen years later, 95% perhaps even 99% were decidedly for it. Obviously the time was ripe to take a historic step."
Looking at the logo of the University, not an interlocking ND, I realized Father Ted ought to be credited for the lifelong assist, even beyond coeducation. My friend Jason Spak '95 once said "going to Notre Dame isn't a four year decision, it's 40 year decision." Working with senior alumni in the local alumni chapter, I can see it's even more.

Even though Father Hesburgh is no longer with us, his spirit lives on. At every mass he said in my dorm, Farley Hall—where he too once lived—he encouraged us to pray "Come Holy Spirit." He reminded us that it's a simple prayer, but it's a powerful one too. Please pray those important words.

I was on campus but two weeks ago for a job interview. It was a long and busy day (unfortunately, I didn't get to ride in the elevator of the library that bears his name as I had so many times in the past). I concluded the day by seeing a 5-person performance of "MacBeth" in Washington Hall with a good friend, Father Paul Kollman, CSC. We grabbed a meal and he drove me to my hotel. When he dropped me off, he looked at me and said "Anne, thank you for applying to work at Notre Dame." He said it with such total sincerity that it rendered me speechless. I walked away and thought "who says that? Who thanks someone for applying to a great place to work." 
And this morning it hit me. Father Paul learned that from another Father—Ted Hesburgh. At the final mass of freshman orientation before we left our families, Father Hesburgh thanked the parents for entrusting their sons and daughters to Notre Dame. When I graduated, he said those same words again. 

That's what happens when you get the assist. Your worldview is one of gratitude. You see what others make happen. The irony is that the very man who did all of this has incredible records of his own—innumerable honorary degrees and a Presidential medal of freedom. 

If you're on campus tonight, point to Our Lady. Thank her for the assist. She must have brought Ted Hesburgh to her campus; she must have known what he would make possible: a post-Vatican II style of leadership, a community that is coed and one that prays those three simple words: Come Holy Spirit, hopefully everyday.

Photo Credits
BandW Ted
Coach Smith

Monday, February 23, 2015

40 Things to Give Up for Lent: Sports & Spirituality Style Part II

It shouldn't have been a surprise to me that a list of 40 things one could give up for Lent would be so popular. Lists are everywhere. The latest edition of Notre Dame Magazine, the official alumni publication of my alma mater is entitled Making Lists. Just when I go to recycle it, I discover another list and chew on a new gem.  The editor, Kerry Temple writes "we like it when things come in numbers. Definite, concise, nailed down. There is a clarity, a certainty, a sense that all the deliberations are done, the work is over, the excess carved away and the essential bones delivered in a tidy package. Reader friendly." No wonder I wanted to take it to the blog.

One of the more popular lists these days is one named after a bucket. "The Bucket List" started as a catalog of things to do before one "kicks the bucket." However, it has taken on new dimensions. Many college kids create one for their campus experience. 

Perhaps you have a list of your own? 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco before you die? Top 10 road races in America and one list I still need to blog about is Pope Francis' 10 Tips for Living a Happy Life. In the meantime, let me follow up with the remaining 20 Things to Give up for Lent with the eye of an athlete and a coach. 

Happy Lent!
  1. Bitterness – The only person I am hurting by holding on to this is myself. Bitterness is insidious. It eats away at our hearts and can reside there for extended periods of time. And nothing can compromise the notion of sportsmanship and team work like bitterness. Do what you can to let it go.
  2. Distraction – Life is filled with distractions that will take our eyes off the prize. Mary Oliver offers but three commands in In her poem "Instructions for How to Live a Life." Number one is "Pay attention." It's a given in sports. You have to read the play, focus on your breathing, respond to your opponent. Paying attention is the opposite of distraction; Lent is a good time to give that up!
  3. Giving up – God never gives up on us. Jimmy V said it best: Don't give up, don't ever give up. And I love Stuart Scott for adding to Valvano's message. He said "When you get too tired to fight, then lay down, and rest, and let somebody else fight for you.” Amen.
  4. Mediocrity – If you are going to do something, then give it all you got. The late John Wooden said "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” Indeed, there's no time for mediocrity. Do your best, and everyone wins.
  5. Destructive Speech – Encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching (see Hebrew 10:25). One of my favorite sports to watch at the high school where I teach is boys volleyball. And I know that's because in addition to being great athletes, I love the way they encourage one another after every play. They regroup and affirm. The help one another shake things off; they have to. Destructive speech is to a minimum.
  6. Busyness – It is a badge of honor to be busy. But that does not always translate to abundance. While playing golf a few weeks ago, a friend noticed how two men were taking their time as they unloaded their equipment from their respective carts. They were talking to those assisting them without rushing. I thought of how often I just run from one place to the next; my busyness prevents me from engaging with those right in front of me...those who are all too often, my neighbor.
  7. Loneliness – With Jesus I am never alone. He is with me wherever I go. I always look out for that girl on the cross country team that is sitting on the bus alone. On a team, we can still feel lonely. During Lent, keep an eye out for that teammate who might feel isolated or left out.
  8. Disunity – If two of you agree on earth about anything, it will be done for them by the Heavenly Father (see Matthew 18:19) When "camps" or "cliques" develop in a team, nip it in the bud. Call it to everyone's attention through a team meeting. Lead by saying "it has come to my attention that groups are forming within our team....what can we do about this." 
  9. The Quick Fix – Rarely does true transformation happen overnight. In the movie "Chariots of Fire," the Rev. J. D. Liddell, told his son, the Scottish Olympic runner Eric, Don't compromise. Compromise is the language of the devil. It's no different than a quick fix. Take the necessary time to allow for change.
  10. Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help. Mother Teresa said: "if you pray don't worry. If you worry, don't pray." As a coach and as an athlete there is so much to worry about! Pray!
  11. Idolizing – Don’t assign anyone a standard they cannot live up to. It's inevitable in professional sports to idolize and see these men and women as heroes. But I prefer to recall the words of Thomas Merton: "for me to be a saint is to be myself." And his biographer said Merton was "so human, but so holy." Role models and mentors? check. Idols? No so much.
  12. Resistance to Change – Change is certain. It is not if we will change, but how we will change. I had a conversation with the head football coach at the school where we teach. He said the teams that have won the championships have had to overcome so sort of adversity. If they were resistant to change, they wouldn't be there. Keep that in mind over the course of your own season.
  13. Pride – Blessed are the humble. All too often, egos come with the territory in athletics. But coaches say "act like you've been there before" for a good reason. Humility is more that gracious. It's impressionable.
  14. Small View of God – Don’t tell God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big your God is. I like this one as is. Amen.
  15. Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. It can be very easy to envy the talents, abilities and success of our teammates, especially if we believe we have worked just as hard. When you feel this creeping in, think green. Cool down and Count your blessings.
  16. Ungratefulness – You have been blessed in a way greater than you realize. As chronicled in my blog posting "One Hit Away: Something Beautiful for God" be the 10%. Always say "thank you." 
  17. Selfish Ambition – God has a mission for me that is bigger than me. Our athletes wear AMDG on their uniforms. This is a reminder that all we do is for the Greater Glory of God. Not our own.
  18. Self-Sufficiency – Jesus is my strength. I can do all things through him (see Philippians 4:13) Many athletes live by this motto. I think it's important to have a few passages of Scripture committed to memory. They serve as "tools for the tool box" when we need to think and speak about our faith and offer a prayer. St. Paul's words here help us to realize the real source of our life comes from God.
  19. Sorrow – Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5b). An athlete I was close to started to cry at the completion of his final high school basketball game; one his team should not have lost. I wondered if his sorrow would prevent him from shaking hands with the victors. He walked away, regrouped and extended his congratulations. That said a lot to me. Sorrow is natural, but remember the joy...and the journey itself. 
  20. My Life – Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25) I wish this wasn't true...but it is. It's tough to give it over to God. But athletes and coaches do tough things everyday. Trust, pray, and love. All very challenging and yet that's a recipe for a good life!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

40 Things to Give Up for Lent: Sports & Spirituality Style

Lent is a liturgical season that demands spiritual discipline. The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. During His time in solitude, he fasted, faced temptation and committed himself to prayer; it strengthened his soul which prepared him to undertake the arduous passion. 
Whether or not athletes are in touch with their spirituality, they are summoned to discipline the mind, body and soul regularly. When I saw the posting "40 Things to Give Up this Lent: The List" I reviewed it with the eye of an athlete and a coach. I decided add—in italics—how what one can fast from, can pertain to sports. Whether or not you are an athlete "in season" there is an invitation to prepare for Easter in this special way. Determine for yourself what you are hoping to root out and what needs to grow in your heart. I hope this list helps! 

I am reflecting on the first 20 for this posting and the next 20 to follow.

  1. Fear of Failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward. Failure can be a great teacher for a team, athlete and coach. And in sports, its inevitable. Do your best, give it your all and enjoy. 
  2. Your Comfort Zone – It’s outside our comfort zones where new discoveries are made. As an athlete, the only way to get to the "next level"  is to expand your comfort zone. Go for it.
  3. Feelings of Unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139:14). A lack of playing time, not improving, and even injuries can cause serious doubt for an athlete. Believe in yourself and see that Psalm!
  4. Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.This one is tough...there's often little room for patience in athletics. But when improvement is slow, when growth feels latent, persevere. Be patient and trust your coach, teammates and most importantly, yourself.
  5. Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. Our work is not always tied to a paycheck. It's hard for many professional athletes and coaches to know when to hang it up. But I think there is a fine art to this. One of my all time favorite athletes, Will Clark retired at the age of 36 as a St. Louis Cardinal. He went out on top with a post-season average of .500. He knew the demands of his family were increasing and his playing days were dwindling. Retiring opens new chapters and opportunities; to me he's an example of knowing when to say when. There's grace in that...
  6. People Pleasing – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please. Pleasing yourself doesn't mean you need to be selfish; it means you know your talents, role and ability. Trust those.
  7. Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me. Where would so many sports be today without the game changers? If Dick Fosbury compared himself to other high-jumpers, athletes would still take leap forward over the bar. He didn't and ever since, jumpers have been raising and clearing the bar.
  8. Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions. Call me biased—my grandfather and uncles have been referees. My tolerance for blaming the ref is quite limited. Don't let the outcome of the game depend on close calls. Do your best.
  9. Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind. Unfortunately, history knows the names of those who have made the "big mistakes." 
  10. Overcommitment – Do less better and accomplish more. During cross country season, I could not believe the number of my athletes who left our practice in order to workout with another team of another sport. Inevitably, these girls face injury and exhaustion. Keep your eye on the prize.
  11. Lack of Counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum. Unfortunately, I have sprained my back from playing golf. Since my injury, I have learned so much from so many different people about their own back problems. Counsel has not brought physical relief, but a huge mental one.
  12. Impurity – Live lives pure and without blemish. 1 Corinthians 6:9 states: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? SI believe athletics reveals this truth second to none. All the more reason that it ought to be kept free of performance enhancing drugs. It requires tender care and respect. We only have one!
  13. Entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace. Playing time is a gift, your position on the team is a open door. Be grateful and help others to be thankful too.
  14. Apathy – Life is too short not to care. Sports are meant to be a form of recreation—a time when we recreate ourselves! To not care about the game or the team is to lose sight of all it can be. My XC team knows our informal motto is "We run because we can." Channel gratitude, not apathy.
  15. Hatred – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) I believe athletics is a positive way to challenge negative feelings. The world is an unjust place. People we love fail us. -Isms take hold of too many of our hearts. Let sport be a place where those feelings of disappointment and hatred are exercised out. Yes, there is work to do to root out evil, but that takes stamina as well. 
  16. Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic. Nothing can destroy a team like negativity. A good coach will root it out and maintain a zero tolerance for it. Period.
  17. The Spirit of Poverty – Believe that with God there is always more than enough and never a lack. This is one reason why we love sports. We've seen the athlete or the team that doesn't have much but a whole lot of heart rise to the top. Think of them as Lenten teachers!
  18. Going Through the Motions – The more you invest yourself, the more you will get back. Drills and circuit training can be tedious and trying. But I've noticed that when we give it some spunk, crack a few jokes, and encourage others, it's so much better. And, they always paid physical dividends!
  19. Complaint – Instead of contributing to the problem, be the solution. One of a my mentors, and a great coach, Frank Allocco tells his athletes, "rather than complain, work harder." I couldn't agree more.
  20. The Pursuit of Happiness – God wants something greater and more lasting than happiness. It is called joy. I will be living with the joy of the third World Series in five years until the 2015 MLB champion is crowned. In the meantime, the joy of victory tastes so sweet. Thank you to the San Francisco Giants!
This Lent, move beyond the typical....
Photo Credits:
40 Days: See Weblink above

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Saved by Golf AND....

Wow...that is certainly true.
My spiritual director once warned me: "don't pray for'll get it."

I knew what she meant. In order to become patient, we are put through trials and tribulations that will test us. Remaining calm, optimistic, kind and considerate during tough times yields this virtue. We've heard it once and a thousand times: "patience is a virtue." And any ethicist will tell you that one acquires this virtue through practice. And I think nothing puts me through that practice—that test, trial and tribulation—more than air travel.

I should have left the South Bend Regional Airport early Saturday morning. When the inbound flight from Chicago was unable to land due to the lake effect snow storm, I knew I was in for a delay. I had no idea how long that might be.

The next flight to Chicago was scheduled for 5:30 pm that evening. Over the course of the nine hours I waited in the airport, I came to learn that other travel options to Chicago were compromised. The United Limo busses were not running and all rental cars were taken. It's a good thing—the Indiana toll roads closed as accidents began to pile up. Scary.

I still can't believe we got out...
I looked outside the windows and couldn't see much of anything. I can't remember the last time I referred to a "white out" in a non-sports context. I kept reminding myself that safety is what is most important, but, I was also very anxious to get home to a place that was having record temperatures and sunny skies.

At 5:15 pm we boarded the "puddle jumper" plane. When the cabin door finally closed, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. I should add that you could see everyone's breath too. How? Why? There was no heat inside the cabin. At this point, I was only hoping we would push back and leave South Bend before the wind and snow resumed its fury any further. 

After waiting and wondering for over 20 minutes the steward made an announcement. One engine wasn't working, which is why we were sitting in an icebox. The mechanics were doing their best to remedy the situation. They would keep us informed. 

At this point, I am slightly delirious. I had graded all the papers that needed to be graded, I couldn't find anything of interest from my inbox, I tried listening to a podcast of James Martin commenting on his book—Jesus: A Pilgrimage (how ironic, no?) and even pulled up some Key & Peele sketches hoping for any chance of laughter. Nothing was working. I put my head against the seat in front of me and let it stay there. I knew I looked pathetic. If air travel and I entered the ring, I knew I had been beaten.

I did however find a moment of comic relief; thanks be to God. After sitting on the tarmac for 40 minutes, the airline offered us complimentary soft drinks. It was so cold in the cabin, certainly Coke, Diet Coke or 7-Up could not have been on ice, but overall I was fairly miserable. I've also heard that misery loves company; I think it's true.

Grateful for the change in temps and these friends to play with...
I shared but a few words with the man sitting next to me, but I was fairly plugged in and tuned out. After we heard that the flight would go after they de-iced it, I turned to him and said "I just hope I make my next flight. I have a 9:45 tee time tomorrow." He said, "you play golf?" I said, "I do and tomorrow's also my birthday. Playing golf is exactly what I hope to do on my birthday." He understood.

We started talking about where I would be playing and with whom. He shared that his bucket list includes just walking the grounds at Augusta National. Mine too. I revealed that I love nothing more than a great final round of one of the Majors. Things started to warm up as we recalled the PGA Championship at Vihalia or the play-off at the Masters between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera or the year before as Bubba Watson unleashed his gap wedge for a hook shot out of the bark. I asked him if he had a favorite professional golfer. He said he did—her name is Lydia Ko. I tried not to gasp or look completely shocked. 

A young female golfer of Korean descent born and raised in New Zealand, Lydia Ko is the quite honestly the last name I expected to hear. "Her fundamentals are so solid. She never comes out of her shoes. I admire how poised she is during the game and in victory. She continues to move the ball toward the pin with such precision and accuracy. Watching her has helped my game enormously."

My students will learn about this story, because I teach about Ko in my Sports and Spirituality course. The LPGA was declining in revenue and popularity and new leadership under Michael Kwan turned that around. Young golfers like Ko provide a fresh face to a niche sport. I will now point out that so does her following!

After this exchange, the man looked as me and said "it is SO nice to talk to someone who loves golf like I do." I hadn't felt an ounce of joy all day. The ice that formed around it had thawed.
Unfortunately, I never found out this kind gentleman's name. If you were to look at the two of us, we wouldn't have much in common. In his late 50s, this African American gentleman from Baltimore, MD looked like he was a running back in his youth. I came to find out he excelled in the "big three sports" and once thought that golf was only for retired folks. I hail from California and like to think I'm still in my late 30s. In spite of our apparent differences, we share a common love for a sport that is physically and mentally taxing. 

And even more important than our love for golf is the simplest of facts: we share a common humanity. I was searching high and low for some respite from my frustration. I had chocolate covered almonds, text messages from friends, intellectual stimulation, even humor on demand--thank you YouTube. In spite of all of my tools and distractions, the very thing that "saved" me was sitting next to me. It was another human being...going through what I was...feeling what I was feeling....and it was only in each other's company and a shared passion that the 35 degrees in the plane, the 12 hour delay and cramped quarters meant, well, absolutely nothing to me. 

I speak of the Incarnation quite often and that's because it's at the very core of my faith. God showed up. God became one of us. The Incarnation is Christ Jesus.  And Jesus was tested. Jesus got frustrated, Jesus needed patience. I have a feeling that he too gained it through the trials and tribulations and most likely the only thing that makes all of that messiness worth it, is what we can find in one another. 

Photo Credits

White out

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Hit Away Foundation: Something Beautiful for God

No matter what he did in His public ministry—be it healing the sick, standing in solidarity with the poor or challenging authority, Jesus was always teaching. And for some reason, the parable of the "Cleansing of the Ten Lepers" has offered a lesson that I have never forgotten. It's hard not to, because if you pay attention to human nature, you will see just how true it is.

In Luke 17: 11-19, we learn:
As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.

A response rate of one in ten isn't very good. Jesus dramatically changed their lives and 90% of them moved on. See the painting above for a strong mental image. Further probing into this story reveals that the one who returned to extend gratitude is the least likely of them all—a Samaritan. 

Maybe the truth of this parable resonates with you. Too often, we forget to say "thank you." Let Jesus' lesson serve as a reminder of who you can be.

In the past 10 years, I have written countless articles on athletes and folks doing the work of Sports and Spirituality. I am always grateful for the gift of their time, and make sure they hear me say that. I never submit a piece for publication without their review and approval. It is an honor for me to share their story. But, it is their story—not mine that gets told. 

Over time, I have realized that the motto that guides story telling is one that governed the life of Mother Teresa. She all asked us to do something beautiful for God. My sincere hope is that what I write and share is a reflection of beauty. I believe that each of us can let our life be something beautiful for God. I do. 

Perhaps that is why when asked to write another piece on Darren and Brett CdeBaca, I jumped at the chance. To share their story is a chance for me to offer something beautiful for God. It also reveals the truth of Christ's parable in a positive way.

Darren and his son Brett are the 10%. In the Spring 2010 edition of Genesis, the alumni magazine of St. Ignatius College Prep where I teach, I was excited to share that they were the first father-son recipients of the highest honor offered by SI’s football program: the JB Murphy Award. After interviewing them together, they immediately thanked me for meeting with them. When the story went to print, they reached out again. Darren told me how grateful he was to have so many former teammates and members of the SI community contact them. They might not have if they hadn't read their story. I still appreciate the note I received from Darren and his wife Jill when Brett graduated. They thanked all of the teachers who helped shape their two sons into "men for and with others." I'm lucky—I got to teach both of them!

To me, the CdeBaca's live a motto that is one St. Paul wrote in a letter to the Colossians "Dedicate yourselves to gratitude."

This past Fall, I met with Darren and Brett again to learn about their latest adventure, a profile piece on their nonprofit "One Hit Away." I will let the story speak for itself. It takes what was a painful and trialling time for Brett and his parents and says, how can we make this into, yes, something beautiful for God . Please read it here.
Co-founders of "One Hit Away"
We sat down with our director of communications for an hour long interview. One day later, Darren and Brett each thanked us for our time. And wouldn't you know it, as soon as the story came to ink, he wrote the following:
To be on Page 50 in the 50th Anniversary Issue is somewhat serendipitous!  It is friends and supporters like you that make our mission meaningful for many.  This type of acknowledgement and distribution within the SI Community is fabulous and we certainly do not take it for granted by any measure.  Jill and I are so grateful.  Our best to both of you and your families!
And it should come as no surprise, a few hours later I received a message from Brett, again, thanking us for our support.  

So let this blog serve a two-fold purpose. Aim to be the 10%. And in whatever you do for which people are grateful, make it something beautiful for God. As my colleague Fr. Fran always says "no time for any less."

Photo Credits
Ten Lepers, One Says Thanks

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lessons Learned from a Duke Men's Basketball Manager

When I look at this photo, two things stand out to me: Blue Devil blue and AMDG. Even though those images are placed as the far right of the photo, that's not how I see it. That's because the man in the center, Scott Lamson, embodies both.
Today, Lamson '10 spoke to all three basketball programs at his alma mater, St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco. Ever since I interviewed him for a profile piece in our alumni magazine, Genesis, I have wanted him to speak to students. Read his story and you won't ask why. Fortunately for over 50 young men, our three athletic directors and five coaches, today was the day! Without notes, a powerpoint, any bells and whistles, he simply shared who he is and what he learned serving as a men's basketball manager at his other alma mater, Duke University.

Scott dreamt of attending Duke at an early age. He reinforced the message that these young men hear all the time. You have to make sacrifices and work hard to achieve your dreams. But what happens when you achieve the goal you set? Where do you take it from there?

Lamson applied to be a manager for the men's basketball program. He was one of hundreds of applicants. Why would he stand out among the others? One reason might be because he was a member of the Semper Fi club—a  group that according to their website "provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities."
Coach Krzyzewksi is a Westpoint graduate and many of his staff members were involved in ROTC.  Their system is tremendously disciplined, with a near militaristic feel to it. He said, "I think they saw my leadership with Semper Fi as a good fit for the program and my commitment differentiated me from the other applicants."

That is evident in not only the way practice and game day is run, but also in the appearance Coach K expects from his team. Players and managers must have short hair and be clean shaven. No one is allowed to wear a baseball hat inside a building. It was great to hear that others value some of the standards that we do. Teens often question why those things matter; I would like them to ask Coach K instead of me sometime....

You learn quite a bit from a man who has over 1,000 wins. And anyone who is familiar with Coach K won't be surprised to read the three ideals of his leadership that Scott said "will stay with me forever."

1. The importance of preparation.
2. The notion of collective responsibility.
3. Get on the right bus.

I thought it was great for these young men to hear what Coach K holds everyone to high expectations. If practice starts at 3:00 p.m. guys are already at the gym, stretching and even shooting by 2:30 p.m. Preparation.

Despite the legends he has met, the players he has assisted and the coaches he has encountered; Scott remained very humble about his experience.  He conceded that a lot of the work was the furthest thing from glamorous and the hours could be tirelessly long. But, a highlight was helping one athlete who committed to improving his free throw percentage. As a manager, Scott rebounded for him...for an hour...every practice...for the remainder of the season. The hard work paid off. He said "he improved from in the 40% range to the 70% range. It's still not great, but that was a big improvement for him and for our team. I took a lot of satisfaction knowing I had a hand in that." Collective Responsibility.

For teens, in particular, it is critically important to surround yourself by good people. As I've written before, I think it's important for everyone to consider who they "keep close." It is, after all, a choice. It might be one of the more important ones we make.  Being with Scott today, from his arrival to his departure on campus, I was given a special insight into the fact that he is a man that forged a unique, inspiring, interesting and meaningful path because he "kept close" to good people while a student at St. Ignatius. The embraces from his former coaches were so strong. The mutual respect and care for one another was palpable. His teachers and our principal held warm regard and affection for who is and what he's become. Clearly, he got on the right bus.

To me, AMDG Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: for the greater glory of God is being all that God created you to be. We are each endowed with unique talents, gifts and abilities; when we use them to the best of our ability, we honor our families, teachers, friends, ourselves and even our Creator. But it doesn't end there. When we put a light on those gifts and abilities so that others can learn from or benefit from them, we are building God's kingdom. No time for anything less. Thank you Scott!

Photo Credits
Duke fist
Other Photos: SI's own Paul Totah

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Janis Joplin Walks into a Sports & Spirituality Class...

I've read that it takes three weeks to form a new habit. Other sources say on average two months. On January I wrote "New Year's Resolutions 2015: To Laugh Often and Loud." Six weeks later the fact that I'm even still writing about my New Year's "habit?!" means something must be going right. Maybe it's because I picked a fun challenge. Perhaps its because I am equipped with a few tools to build the habit. I am very proud to reveal one great source of success: my students.

Teaching high school demands a sense of humor; I'm sure many students would say surviving it does too. But the jokes that were rolling in my Sports & Spirituality class are worth sharing. Not only are they funny, they reveal some interesting information about both sports and about spirituality! Here we go...

My seniors are required to read Ron Rolheiser's "What is Spirituality?" It is a fundamental to understanding the relationship between Sports and Spirituality. Rolheiser says that our spirituality is what we do with our madness, how we channel the "fire" in us, what shapes our actions, what we do with our desire and how we handle our eros.

He adds, "everyone has to have a spirituality and everyone does have one, either a life-giving one or a destructive one." How or why does everyone have a spirituality? Because desire is our fundamental dis-ease; it is always stronger than satisfaction. How we handle our desire? THAT is our spirituality. So what might be a life-giving one? What might a destructive one look like? He offers some examples.

Mother Teresa: It's easy for us to think of Mother Teresa as spiritual but not as erotic—but she was. She channeled her eros by totally giving her life to the poor. And she did this because she loved Christ. Christ Himself was poor. To serve the poor is to serve Christ. He said "that which you have done for the least of my people, you have done for me."

Ultimately her spirituality was life-giving. Not only did she affirm the dignity of the untouchables—the lepers of today's society, but her spirituality was integrated. How? Its focus was singular. She an outstanding example of Kierkegaard's definition of a saint: "someone who can will the one thing."

Go MT go!

Janis Joplin: Rolheiser believes that it's not a stretch to think of Joplin erotic, but do we think of her as spiritual? Not so much! But she was. Joplin was full of passion and desire. She once said, "On stage, I make love to 25,000 people different people, then I go home alone."

Ultimately her spirituality was destructive. She died at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. Rolheiser says "she was also an exceptional woman, a person of fiery eros, a great lover, a person with a rare energy that went in too many directions." Sex, drugs, rock n roll, creativity...all that madness and desire. It disintegrated her very life.

But, before this conversation took place, I had to make sure my students know who Janis Joplin is. I told them "I hope you all have a family member who mentors and educates you about great music from before your time. I was blessed with an uncle who passed on his love for three greats: Elvis, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Two out of three stuck (sorry Uncle Mark!!)."

New Year's Resolution Unfolds: I don't know that anyone is going to extoll the virtues of Joplin's music in their life...and I'm not a big fan myself, but I do live six blocks from a historic, iconic venue she once played at very often: Fillmore West. I thought she might be of interest to them because the "Summer of Love" took place in our very city. I looked around the room and said "And guess where she lived! Anyone? Anyone?"People know to answer "the Haight" in reference to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, but Joplin also lived in Marin. It is one of the few places I know of in the US where people identify their home by their county before their town.

Marin County is affluent. It lacks diversity. It's natural beauty is stunning. Nearly 15% of our student body considers it home. It's also a hot bed for one of the fastest growing sports in America. One that is known for sticks and bros, Ivy League schools and bad boys (please forgive the sweeping generalization for style's sake).

When my students found out she lived in Marin, those who live there cheered. One city kid immediately said "Did she play lacrosse?"

The entire class erupted in laughter. His timing, the black and white image up on the power point in contrast to the mental image of a lax bro from Marin. Hilarious.

I then played a brief clip of Joplin singing "Another Piece of My Heart" so they could hear the passion in her music. We watched a minute of the YouTube clip and I was excited to report that Rolling Stone said she has "the number one female rock voice." Students informally discussed what constitutes a "rock voice" (one of my favorite topics!) and I look over to a student I know and love well. A talented guitar player and singer, she immediately said "that's what I sound like in the morning." For some reason, I quipped back "that's what you look like in the morning too" to which she responds "I was wondering how you got my selfie from this morning." Our class loved the spar. Everyone was laughing.

That's just a great day of teaching Sports and Spirituality. It's not a leap to admit it's a spiritual place for me. It's where I channel my eros and help student discover their deepest desires. It's also where my New Year's Resolution is becoming a habit. I hope for a few more good laugh—and loud ones.

Photo Credits