Friday, October 23, 2015

Take Time for Paradise....or at least a Golf Scramble

In Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games, the late A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote, "It has long been my conviction that we can learn far more about the conditions, and values, of a society by contemplating how it chooses to play, to use its free time, to take its leisure, than by examining how it goes about it work. I am hardly the first to think so, and I trust I will not be the last." Giamatti was a philosopher, President of a university (Yale) and commissioner of MLB from 1988-1989. If anyone could determine this realization it is he.
And yet, what concerns me today is that adults my age, my colleagues and co-workers do not take time for leisure with others. Quite often it feels as though all we do is work and head home. I believe not using our free time for play—is detrimental to our society. 

I also believe that we have made play so constructed, regimented and specialized for young people that it becomes work. For an eight year old to renounce all other sport to specialize in one may increase the likelihood of success, but causes a change in attitude. It may remain a labor of love, but I see the emphasis on "labor" increasing.
This is my favorite photo from the day. Our principal with one of our captains.
He is one of the busier people I know. But he NEVER tells you that or complains about it.
That's what the truly busy people don't do.
These fears underscore one reason—among many—why I was tremendously grateful for the teachers, faculty and parents who showed up to play on the final day of the St. Ignatius junior varsity golf team's season. That's right, we finished our season: 9-1 and clinched the league title by besting the one team that beat us the day before. But I didn't want to conclude our season with just a league match. I wanted to end it doing what we do best...with the reason why girls join the team in the first play, to leisurely compete with one another and in this case, for the greater glory of God. More on that in a moment.

This posting will serve as my urging for all coaches to consider concluding your season in a similar way. Gather your athletes for one final meeting that involves play. Take time for paradise. Part of me thinks we can't afford not to...
John (on left) was the girls' coach last year. He will work with JV boys this year. He bring joy to all he meets.
This is what we did.
All girls were asked to invite a guest of their choice. I shared a list of faculty members who I know play golf. It was fun for me to hear from my golfers who they wanted to include in our scramble. They asked a number of their teachers, the principal and their counselors. All who were asked were touched by the invitation, regardless if they could attend or not. Those who played enjoyed their pairings and the day.

Four girls on the team brought their fathers. This was especially meaningful as these men were their teachers and their first coaches in golf. It's special to play a game with a family member, even more to compete with (not against) someone you love.
After welcome remarks, one of my golfers delivered her quote of the day. This is a ritual I implemented to commence practice and get girls' heads and hearts focused. One quote is sports and one is spiritual. More often than not, the golf quote relates to life; it was great to hear what insights on faith these young women find meaningful. Here were our quotes from that day!
Sports Quote:  Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding & maddening—& it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. —Arnold Palmer  
Spiritual Quote: When God pushes edge, trust him fully, because only two things will happen. He will either catch you when you fall or teach you how to fly. 
Each golfer then introduced themselves, what year they are in school and their guest. I loved it when Rachel "This is my Dad, Theo. I got my athletic abilities and my blue eyes from him."

The team then presented their guests with their "psych buddy" gifts. During the season, two golfers work together to present their teammates with their own, unique psych buddy gift on the day of a match. These gifts have two parts: one is edible and one is golf related. This season, we ate our fair share of brownies and cookies. I also now have a handmade red and blue hair bow, numerous golf balls painted with our mascot's paw prints in our school colors and more. Psych buddy gifts prove that girls rule.
After explaining the rules of the scramble (each pairing had to use a JV girls' drive four times in the round, and circle that hole on the score card), we gathered for prayer. Parents often see their son or daughter praying as a team, but it's rare that they get to participate in it. We prayed for friends and family, we gave thanks for the opportunity to play sport, for safe transportation throughout the season and for new friends.  Holding hands we said the Prayer of Generosity, a prayer that all students at St. Ignatius know by heart. 

From that point, the games began. Faculty and parents were able to see the talent on our team. And girls on the team were able to see the abilities of their guests. One parent took photos for our team during a match and on this special day. I was so touched that he too would participate and share in our day of leisure using his gifts and talents.

I understand why Giamatti refers to sport as "paradise." To play and to make this time for leisure allowed a team that had worked together for two months to share who they are and what they have become with those they care about. It truly is the manifestation of the letters that our athletes have on their uniforms: AMDG. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam—For the Greater Glory of God. Paradise won't be much different than this day....
These smiles say it all. AMDG
Photo Credits:
Special Thanks to Tri Nguyen for the wonderful photos he took of this family/team. 

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