Friday, January 29, 2016

How to Succeed at Sports, Spirituality and your New Year's Resolution

One reason (among many) to write a blog is that it serves as a virtual diary. Writing my latest blog posting, I realized my new year's resolution has served as a topic several times.They include
In reviewing the list of entries, I am able to recall what I resolved to do and why. It has been fun to integrate sports and spirituality into this process. My favorite posting about this topic remains:"Notable New Year's Resolutions: More Parade Vibe."
In spite of this common theme, a common oversight exists. I have yet to write a posting that features tips, thoughts or input on how to help people manage their resolutions. What blog doesn't have "Ten Ways to..." or "Seven Practical Steps for..." I feel as though in tI have succeeded making resolutions new habits. What have I done that has helped me succeed? Who can assist me in this process? Here are but a few thoughts.

Partner in Crime.
Studies have long reported that those who have a workout buddy are much more likely to do so on a regular basis. We all need accountability and when that comes in the form of another person, especially a friend, the likelihood of success increases exponentially. 

Why not tell someone you talk to regularly, a trusted friend who is also excited about resolutions what you have resolved to do. Ask him or her about their progress and be ready to share your own. If this partner also happens to be someone you enjoying working out with, bonus points. They might also be someone worth praying for or with, too!

SMART goals
Hopefully you are aware of S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results Based and Time-Bound. A helpful resource/outline can be found here.

In terms of new year's resolutions however, I believe they only need to include the first three letters in the acronym. It's necessary to be Specific—name what you want to do and why. By Measurable, I have found I succeed when I can determine quantity. For example, how often? everyday? how much? Maybe people are cynical about resolutions because they are unattainable. Create one that is. No one sets a goal aiming to fail. Your resolution shouldn't be any different.

Visual Aids. 
What can and will help you along the way? I am a visual learner and find images, graphics and photos to be helpful sources of inspiration. Maybe you post a reminder on your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. Don't let these go stale or become invisible. Mix them up and keep them fresh. You are worth it!

I found this resource from Bankers Healthcare Group to be helpful. They break down the goal step-by-step. Very SMART.

I agree with BHG when they write: "Small strikes toward better fitness goals will result in a healthy and happier lifestyle. Get out there an embrace a healthy you!"
Photo Credits
Banker's Healthcare Group

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Looking Back and Ahead: Checking in on Resolutions for 2016

We have to give the Romans credit, the month of January is well named. As written on
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus. His most apparent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January.
It's also my least favorite month of the year. January is long. All 31 days seem to pass slowly. I should take comfort in the hibernation mode the first month of the year invites us to, but instead I get antsy. I think to myself, Days are supposed to be getting longer—right?, but the evidence is slim. The  heart of winter has truly settled in and the cold, gray skies and cold temperatures have set up camp.
The initial enthusiasm for a new year and new resolutions has waned. Old habit die hard in spite of my resolutions that I make them new. So that is why, in the spirit of Janus, there's no better time than now to evaluate and what progress has been made and determine what do I need to do to in order to succeed.

I had three resolutions for 2015. I found that they fit the notion of sports and spirituality quite well.

1. Become a better listener. I once heard someone say that every relationship is improved by careful listening. I don't think I'm a terrible listener or that I'm at a deficit, but I do think there's always room for improvement. I want to listen to understand. This requires slowing down. Many times, I urge my students to tell me what they need or answer quickly. Why the haste?
Also, I often get so excited talking to some people about things like Notre Dame football or a recent "30 for 30" that I find myself listening so I can share my story...or experience...or....!!!

With my new years' resolution in place, I've noticed that when I listen in the way I am hoping to, I ask better questions. And I think the best interviewers are those who are attuned listeners (more on this in a future blog posting. Thank you Tom Rinaldi). 

In order to succeed at this resolution, I need to remind myself of it. I need to truly pay attention to what someone is saying. I also think it helps to picture a person who is considered a good listener. Notice what they do, how they respond and make others feel.

2. Eat a salad a day 
American author, journalist and activist Michael Pollan has written many great books on food as a moral issue. He has summarized the ideal diet in haiku form, when he said "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And I believe there's no better way to do that than via a tasty, crunchy, fresh, seasonal salad.

When it comes to my meals, I seek convenience, relative good taste, and variety. A salad is all of this and more. I live in a place that cultivates fresh fruits and vegetables year round. A salad can be dressed up or down. Forever seeking more fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants, I don't know what I'm waiting for.

Honestly, I think eating a salad a day requires a financial commitment on my part. Many stores have pre-made salads and these are delish. Others require careful planning or preparing in order to just eat the ingredients before they good bad.

We have heard Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 6-19-20 in which he writes,
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? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. 
Why not do so with putting good food (or better food) into our bodies this year?  

I have had some difficulty fitting in a salad every single day, so I am allowing myself to modify that goal toward 5 days a week. When I go to the grocery store, I purchase Taylormade Farms and that lasts me for 2.5 days. And, when I eat out, I try to order a salad as some part of my meal. How do you integrate fruits and veggies on a regular basis?

3. Become a student of the game.
The last round of 18 I played in 2016 was with a friend Cris. One of her friends in our foursome said "Cris is a true student of the game." They laughed as she discussed how many lessons she had taken in the past year but I heard his words differently. I thought that was a tremendous compliment. 
I went to IMG in Bradenton, FL last April for 2 days to study the game
If you saw Cris play, you wouldn't think she would take lessons regularly...or need to. With a single digit handicap, she hits with power, precision and executes beautifully. But anyone who knows the game of golf knows her study of the game is a significant reason for why she's so good.

The way I see it, ones who studies the game has humility and respect for it. To me a student of the game is open to growth and is aware that the quest for excellence never ends; it's always seeking instruction and more information. I decided that I would commit to being a "student of the game" by taking one lesson a month. That's a S.M.A.R.T. goal—literally and figuratively.

What would you like to study this year? Scripture? the lives of saints? A new sport? An old one? 

As we draw the month of Janus to a close, look back on the progress you have made in the new year. Look forward to continued growth and what you need to do to get there. You'll also find longer days and warmer temps to come...

Photo Credits

Monday, January 25, 2016

Welcome Back Coach Kerr

Perhaps you remember the 2004 comedic drama "Sideways." IMDB gives an appropriate summary:
Miles is a failed writer living a meager existence in San Diego as an English teacher. With his career seemingly fading and the fate of a book hinging on a publisher's decision, Miles is depressed with himself and what he hasn't achieved. Jack is a television actor whom some recognize but not many do, as if he were a minor actor who got a taste of success. With his best friend Miles, the two embark on a road trip through California's wine country. Miles wants to give his friend a nice sendoff before married life, while Jack simply wants to have a fling beforehand. As they're both nearing middle age with not much to show for it, the two will explore the vineyards while ultimately searching for their identities.
The viewer can't help but wonder if Jack really could or  should commit to anyone or anything . Sitting in a restaurant, he turns to Miles (Paul Giamatti) and shares a thought that made me laugh out loud. Jack said, "Speak for yourself. I get chicks lookin' at me all the time. All ages. Dudes too."
It might be inappropriate, but sitting in Oracle Arena for the long-awaited return of Warriors head Coach Steve Kerr on Friday night,  I couldn't help but think of that line. Male or female, single or married, gay or straight—it's hard not to have feelings for Coach Kerr. And that was more than evident in his first game since the championship game he coached and won on June 16, 2015

I have never seen so many fans in their seats for the starting line-up as I did on Friday night. Quite often, they linger in one of the in house, club areas (myself included); they was nearly vacant long before tip off.

Greeted by a full house and a standing ovation, the welcome back loomed long and loud. Warriors faithful were ready and willing to extend their gratitude to a man who make the team's first championship in 40 years a reality. But given the success of interim coach Luke Walton, 39-4, the second-best record through 43 games in NBA history, 
I think it's only fair to raise the question: To what degree is Kerr responsible for the success of the Golden State Warriors. 

I don't know that I am prepared to answer that question like others can, but I do believe that the success of any team or program is never contingent on one person. And with regard to the Warriors, it's not hard to see from the top down, this is an organization that is doing things right.  

The owners have a made a noticeable commitment to winning. For example, seeing Joe Lacob and Peter Guber at court side seats as opposed to a perch known as the "owners box" speaks to me. Furthermore, even with Kerr at the helm, it's interesting to see just how many people comprise the Basketball Operations of any pro squad. As listed on the Warriors website,  today's team is supported by a General Manager and two assistants, three assistant coaches, two player development coaches and the list goes on. But leadership isn't only in the front office or limited to those in suits. Even among the players, certain athletes are named captain. For the 2014-2015 season, Stephen Curry and Andre Igoudala served in this honorary role. Their performance in the NBA finals reflected why that choice was a good one.

Yet, even in their absence Coach Kerr made his impression as only he can and he should. As written by Monte Poole in "Kerr's fingerprints on 'everything' for Warriors, it's valuable to consider
With the Warriors on the precipice of making history – becoming the first team to win its first 16 games – Kerr sensed they might be a bit on edge. So he restated the four tenets he instilled upon taking over 18 months ago. 
“The first one, and the most important one, is joy,” interim coach Luke Walton said, recalling the morning session. “He wants us having fun. It’s a long season. This game is meant to be fun. So there’s joy. There’s mindfulness. There’s compassion for each other and for the game of basketball, and then there’s competition.
Coach Steve Kerr has built a team that is built on cornerstones of joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition. No wonder we have feelings for him. I believe if I live my own life following those tenets, I too will find excellence.

Welcome back, Coach.

Photo Credits
Coach Kerr
Owners Win Too
Kerr and Walton

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Economics in Pro Sports: What Do Yo Do With It?

The first grand slam of 2016 is well underway Down Under. For many tennis fans, this one might be the one major tournament they are least likely to follow. The time change and the literal distance make viewing more of a challenge, but it's possible that a recent investigative report from the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU)  has given sports fans a reason to check in. 
They have discovered that "over the last decade, 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they have thrown matches."

What's interesting to me isn't the fact that it happened—a sad thought, but what sport isn't plagued with its own form of corruption? For example, in 2015, FIFA was the target as 14 soccer and marking officials were charged and indicted and in 2012, USADA finally broke the US Cycling Conspiracy with Lance Armstrong at its center. But it is surprising to me is that according to the TIU's website,
In September 2008 professional tennis became one of the first major sports to establish its own dedicated anti-corruption unit. The Tennis Integrity Unit is charged with enforcing the sport’s zero-tolerance policy towards gambling-related corruption worldwide.
Furthermore, according to a BBC report by Simon Cox, "Eight of the players repeatedly flagged to the TIU over the past decade are due to play in the Australian Open which started on Monday, January 18."
It's only natural to wonder, Who are these athletes? The TIU is prepared to answer that and so are some of the athletes themselves. The number one male player in the world Novak Djokovic came forward and disclosed that in the past he had been offered $200,000 to throw a match.

For me, this is the rub (a term I love to use when teaching ethics). I thought to myself "$200,000? That's not that much money." And then I realized, something is more than wrong with the sheer money involved in professional sports, and that extends far beyond player salaries. 

Indeed, my reaction wasn't totally unfounded. I came to learn that the "Djoker" made $17.2 million in prize money in 2015. This does not account for all he made in endorsements which according to is and additional $31 million. The Serbian tennis star made $48 in 2015. He was #13 on the list. My only response to all of it is that it leaves me with what I think all sports fans confront on a regular basis. How can this be? And my question isn't one for sports fans to answer, my question is: What do you with it? 

In the very same week as this report, I heard within a one hour window a heard two contrasting stories that reveal quite a bit about our econometric system at work. Driving to work, I flip between the San Francisco Giants flagship station, KNBR 680 and National Public Radio on 88.5 KQED.  KNBR morning show host, Brian Murphy expressed great relief that the Giants signed outfielder Denard Span to a a three-year contract for just $30 million. Many quipped what a "steal" that was given that the Detroit Tigers signed left-field Justin Upton to a six-year, $132.75 million dollar contract. As the ad for hair replacement treatment began to air on KNBR, I switched to NPR which was discussing the on-going push to raise minimum wage to $15 a hour in the state of California.

I know just enough about economics to realize that raising minimum wage doesn't lift folks out of poverty, that it doesn't guarantee a more stable economy or present other problems, but I do know that the sheer amount of money in professional sports must give us to pause to ask questions. Questions should lead to answers, or least solutions, but if we just accept what is and what will be...I don't want to say we are just as guilty, but....??? Again, What do you do with it?

I know that I pay a lot of money for sporting events. I am aware that some of my very favorite sports are the greatest offenders to this unbridled spending—major league baseball, professional golf and even college football (under the sweatshop of the NCAA). I recognize the  culture that I live in values professional athletes more than...fill in the blank, please. I sti and write all of this from my rent controlled apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the United States and I look at the bevy of ticket stubs from past contests—hundreds of which were given to me (thank you Deloitte. I appreciate it Latham...).

A good ethical quagmire never stands alone. They usher in other ethical questions, problems, challenges and failings. As Super Bowl 50 takes up camp in the city where I live and work, I'll probably be asking a lot more questions. (What is the face value on that ticket) And, like I did last year—I know I'll make a bet on it.

Photo Credits
Tennis Money

Justin Upton

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Patron Saint of Knute Rockne

There is no shortage of resources for prayer available to us online. Perhaps you have one that you follow or pray with daily. For many years, I used Online Ministries out of Creighton University. For those times I want to put down tech, "Living with Christ" or "This Day" has proven an excellent way to pray with the daily readings. Since Advent 2015, I have been praying with Faith ND. It includes today's Gospel reading, a reflection on the Word, a formal prayer and the Saint of the Day. 
I never tire of discovering whose Feast Day falls on what day. Today was no exception, and yet it was.... This saint was totally new to me. It said
St. Canute, patron saint of Denmark and Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, pray for us!
If I didn't revere a man who shares his name, I'm not sure I would have inquired further about his life. But in pursuit of information about why he I came to discover there is no shortage of resources on Catholic saints. I found this report from Holy Spirit Interactive to be the most interesting. 
St. Canute was a strong, wise king of Denmark and was called Knud IV. He was a great athlete, an expert horseman, and a marvelous general. He married Adela, sister of Count Roberts of Flanders. 
At the beginning of his reign, he led a war against the barbarians and his army defeated them. He loved the Christian faith so much that he introduced it to people who had never heard of Christianity. Through his kingdom, he spread the gospel, built churches and supported missionaries.  
St. Canute knelt in church at the foot of the altar and offered his crown to the King of kings, Jesus. King Canute was very charitable and gentle with his people. He tried to help them with their problems. Most of all, he wanted to help them be true followers of Jesus.
But trouble started in his kingdom because of the laws he had made about supporting the Church and he fled to the Island of F√ľnen. Then one day some angry people went to the church of Saint Alban where Canute and some of his followers were praying. He knew they had come to harm him. 
While his enemies were still outside, King Canute received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. He felt compassion for those who were upset enough to kill him. With all his heart he forgave his enemies. 
Then, as he prayed, a spear was thrown through a window and he was killed. It was July 10, 1086. 
St. Canute tried to be a good king so he could thank Jesus for all the blessings he had received. We, too, should thank God every day and offer him a crown made up of good deeds.
Unfortunately, I do not know enough about the personal life of Knute Rockne to know whether or not he shares any of the attributes of his patron saint. But thanks to the TRADITIONS tab on the University's Athletics webpage, I get a wonderful summary of his life. He is more than one of the greatest coaches of the game, he was a true pioneer—an original game changer.
Rockne was the first football coach to take his team all over the country and initiate intersectional rivalries. The Irish competed in a national arena. He challenged the best football teams in the land and almost always won.Using his medical and anatomical knowledge, Rockne designed his own equipment and uniforms. He reduced the amount of bulk and weight of the equipment, while increasing its protectiveness. He also introduced the gold satin and silk pants that cut down on wind resistance. 
Rockne foresaw the day of the two-platoon system and often used his "shock troops," a full team of second stringers, at the start of most games.Inspired by the precision and timing of a chorus line, Rockne added the Notre Dame shift to his playbook. In the shift, all four backs were still in motion at the snap. Opponents were so dumbfounded by the shift that they couldn't find a consistent way to handle it. The rules board finally enacted a law against the shift. 
Rockne also attempted to outsmart his coaching peers by downplaying his squads' talent. He never boasted about his team or its strengths; rather, he lamented his squad's lack of skill every chance he got. 
Rockne believed that half of football strategy was passing, while most of his counterparts kept the ball on the ground. 
But football was never enough for Rockne. He also served as Notre Dame's athletic director, business manager, ticket distributor, track coach and equipment manager; he wrote a newspaper column once a week; he authored three books, including a volume of juvenile fiction; Rockne was principal designer of Notre Dame Stadium; he opened a stock brokerage firm in South Bend during his last season; he was a dedicated family man to his wife Bonnie and their four children and for years raised much of the family's food in his garden. Rockne also made several public speeches a year and served as a public spokesman for Studebaker.
I have always thought that
  • Rockne was blessed with a great name and 
  • Every Notre Dame fan ought to know his impact on the game of football and in particular ND history.
Perhaps that's why during Freshmen orientation the alumni association makes a point of showing "Knute Rockne: All American" for students and parents. To realize he accomplished all that he did in just 43 years is remarkable. Tragically, he died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931. 

The impact of people like St. Canute or Knute Rockne ought to be recognized, remembered and celebrated. Two different men in different times and places but both left a legacy as strong as their name. And the strength of that name ought never be relegated to the history of Notre Dame football. It ought to be remembered and celebrated on this Feast Day or the day he died, March 31.

Thank you FaithND for teaching me about St. Canute and to a different type of FaithND for what I know about Knute.

Photo Credits