Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Seeing God

Not as man sees does God see, 
because man sees the appearance 
but the LORD looks into the heart.

Though the Deacon at my parish gave wonderful insights into 1 Samuel 16, I have learned the truth about this Sunday's First Reading at my gym. One need not pump iron to get it. Allow me to explain.

I go to the gym two to three mornings a week. I wouldn't recommend setting your watch by me, but I'm there at more or less the same time Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Even when I am on spring, summer or Christmas break, I find my way to the sixth floor, where I warm-up on the treadmill and then hit the free weights for the next 40 to 50 minutes. I enjoy chatting it up with the regulars, checking in with friends, running into some former students and listening to everything from friendly exchanges to verbal spars among others. Sports, relationships, a little bit of politics and the collapse of the Niners fill the airwaves. Honestly, there's never a dull moment.
Given that my gym is also a social club and a golf club, I spend time at one of the two campuses in the evenings, for special events and on the weekends. This place has become a community, albeit a large one. There are nearly 5,000 members at the Olympic Club. Needless to say, I don't know everyone....but on a fairly regular basis, I hear the words I am sure that in some place, in some context you have heard as well.

I will be at an event, totally separate from the sixth floor of the gym and a person will say to me, after our introduction, "I see you in the gym all the time." Occasionally, I will concur, but many times I will pretend that I do. I think to myself, "I've never seen this person before." Though I would never say that out loud, I register their name and their face and invariably, the next time I go to the gym, I see this person. Clearly, they were in the same space as me many times in the past, but it took a personal encounter to really see them.

Though appearance often makes an impression, I have come to believe that we don't really see people until we know them. 
Once we get a longer look at who a person is, or more formally speaking—a sense of what is in their heart, we cannot not notice them. I think this has something to do with Samuel's words about the heart. God sees and knows us. The question is, do we see God? 

My experience at the gym has led me to wonder how often I miss God. God is present, God is in my midst. God is near, beside, above and behind me...but too often, I don't notice. I don't see God, and when I do see God, I am convinced I see God because God has reached out to me. God knows my name. God has somehow let me know God sees me all the time in a place, especially in those places I go regularly...where I live my life....where I show up.  
Our varsity boys' soccer team won the WCAL & CCS titles. I looked at this photo & realized I didn't know a single athlete. I wrote an article about them for Genesis so I could learn more and got to interview the captains.

Now, I see those boys' all the time...
I shared this example with my students and they get it. In our school of 1,500, it saddens me that I don't know every student; they feel the same way. Though I know the name of all my students and those I have taught, there are too many people in the hallways I do not know. And worse, I might not see them though we walk past one another regularly. 

Samuel's words both inspire and challenge me to have encounters—meaningful interactions, even playful conversations with the young people in my community so that when I pass walk toward or beside them, I see much more than their red hair, Notre Dame sweatshirt, breakfast of Cheetos and orange juice or their dress code violation. I hope to call them by name, have a sense of what matters to them, what struggles they carry and what makes them laugh. I hope to see them as God sees them. The First Reading also invites me to make an effort to actually look for God's presence, not in the extraordinary...but in the ordinary people and places I inhabit and encounter. Blessed be. 

Photo Credits
Seeing God

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lenten Box Project for Athletes

This past Sunday was Laetare Sunday. Perhaps you noticed that the presider at Mass wore a Rose colored vestment. We are called to "REJOICE!" as we are half way through Lent. Think of this feast day as half time to break, step away from the action and consider what has been working well and what you might need to adjust in your Lenten journey.

Lent, a holy season of 40 days, asks each of us to practice not one, but three traditional spiritual disciplines: fasting, giving alms and prayer. Many Catholics are familiar with the "test" of giving something up. They fast from eating cookies, drinking alcohol or using foul language. Abstaining from meat, fasting on Good Friday / Ash Wednesday and even making more time for prayer is no easy task; others nearly embrace the challenge. Ultimately, the rituals of Lent seek to deepen our relationship with Christ and bring hope to our brothers and sisters in need. What a beautiful invitation...what a wonderful way to live.
As coaches, we demand discipline—physical, mental and even spiritual discipline from our athletes. They expect it from us. This truth has given me pause to ask: How can I integrate the practices of the Lenten season into my own season? What might be a way for the athletes on my team to bring hope to those in need? I have an answer: Lenten Boxes.

I have to give credit to St. Benedict's Young Adult Group (of St. Thomas More Parish in San Francisco), Their e-news describes what you can do. It says:

Lent encourages us to think about self-sacrifice, giving things up, renewing our faith, and strengthening our relationships with God and others. How are you doing this during the Lenten season? What are some Lenten sacrifices that you are making? 
We are inviting all of you to participate in our Lenten Box Project. To participate we ask that you place items in a box to give to an individual who may be in need. We ask that your box be 8 x 14 x 5 inches-- roughly the size of a typical shoebox, or if you do not have a shoebox, then a gallon size bag. 
Here are some examples of items that you can place in the box or bag:
  • Toiletries (i.e. toothbrush/toothpaste, bar of soap, travel sized shampoos, razor, floss, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
  • Clothing (i.e. T-shirt, socks, gloves, etc)
  • Religious items (i.e. prayer cards, Rosary, candle)
  • Activities (i.e. book, coloring page/pencils, sudoku, mandala, etc)
Please note that you do not have to include all of these items, these are just suggestions! We encourage you to be creative (feel free to decorate your box) and to think about what you can give up and provide for others during this Lenten season. These boxes will be donated to individuals in need throughout San Francisco.   
Sports and Spirituality Lenten Box
This project could easily be modified to reflect the unique personality of any team.
The Tennessee Men's Golf team completes their own type of box project: to serve those affected by forest fires.

I would start by inviting my athletes to use the shoe box from their favorite pair of athletic shoes. For some, this might actually be a small sacrifice, but that is precisely the point. The shoes and the sport are the gift, the box is an immaterial, material good. If they do no have this box, they can decorate their box with images of their sport. Maybe they have stickers by the  brands for the gear that they use. Maybe it's a badge that comes with membership (e.g. USRowing, USGA). They can decorate these at home or together. Depends on the dynamic of your team.

Inside the Sports & Spirituality Lenten Box

  • Toiletries (i.e. everyone needs sunscreen and even an SPF lip balm. Many of the teams I have coached share these items liberally; they can however, be quite costly. Some athletes need Advil or Alleve for pain relief; these over the counter drugs might be sincerely appreciated. Additionally, hair ties will never go to waste!)
  • Clothing (might come in the form of what you wear for your sport—a dri-fit shirt or shorts? athletic socks are necessary, hat or visor that you like, etc. Many teams print their own shirts, separate from their uniform, that includes your team's motto. By including this gear, invite your athletes to consider this act of giving as an opportunity to share the spirit of your sport, your team).
  • Religious items (i.e. I have a prayer card made for my team at the beginning of the season; if you make one as well, include your team's prayer card. Maybe your team has a unique candle or one that has the logo of your school).
  • Activities (i.e. book, in particular one that you have enjoyed as it relates to your sport, maybe your team has a favorite activity that does not require electronics, like playing cards. Include a new deck of cards).
  • Anything else you might like to receive...Every team I have ever been a part of has favorite snacks, as far as my athletes are concerned, these are a must for the Lenten Box.

It is a true privilege to give. While giving may—at times—feel like an obligation, when we give in a creative and personal way it feels much more like an act of love. Lent does indeed call us to make sacrifices, coaches may have to sacrifice practice time to make the Lenten Box Project happen. Athletes may need to make sacrifices to acquire the items that go into their box. But St. Francis has told us in his prayer, "It is in the giving that we receive." Yes, we are privileged to give, what athletes may gain in the process of giving and seeing one another give is a greater gift.

Photo Credits
UT Vols

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Ministry of Coaching: Extend an Invitation to Young People...Especially Girls

Sitting at a table with the female coaches at a Colloquium on the Ministry of Coaching, I shared with nine other women an important realization. I said "I don't know that I ever thought about being a coach when I was in high school, and I had two female coaches. One of my coaches was an excellent coaching, meaning—she went on to coach at the collegiate level. I'm not sure why I didn't think of being a coach. I know that no one ever asked me to consider being one. If someone had, I wonder what I would have said." 

The women sitting beside me were less than 20% of those in attendance at this wonderful gathering— a meeting of 64 different coaches of more than 15 different sports from Jesuit secondary schools (in the western US). The school I work out sent nine attendees; I was one of two women in our group, and interestingly enough two of my male colleagues with me coach girls soccer. Not one woman in attendance coaches a boys' sport. In our three days together, I learned more than I know—and yet one thing became very clear. If we believe that coaching is a ministry, we must encourage young people to not only think of it as one, we must invite them to it.
Female teams have won 14 of UCLA's last 18 NCAA titles.
Four of their coaches discuss the pressures and rewards of what they do.
Today in class, I invited my students to consider this challenging, but life giving ministry. I said to them, "You have probably had some good coaches and some bad ones. As you know, the good ones can have a profound impact on your life." I wanted them to know that you do not need to be great athlete in order to coach; for example, some of the best players have not succeeded as coaches (Magic Johnson, Mike Singletary). Others have, but coaching demands skills that extend far beyond athletic talent. I added, "There are different types of coaches too. You can be a head coach or an assistant coach. Maybe you enjoy being in charge and serving as the face of the team.  You might be someone who wants to run your own program; others need to grow into that role. For some of you, helping where and as you can is your thing. If you love sports and enjoy participating in athletics, if you want to contribute to building a team and motivating others, think about coaching in your future. I guarantee that you will have good stories to tell and who knows, maybe a victory or two. Girls, there were only 10 of us at this conference; please consider coaching in your future."

I write tonight, though tired and behind on the work I missed while I was away, because I hope anyone who reads this blog will invite a young person to consider coaching. The invitation—by way of a question—has always been the approach to understanding vocation. For example, at the Colloquium's final mass, Father Paul Grubb, SJ: the downhill ski coach at Jesuit High in Porltand, Oregon urged us to ask the young people we coach the following two questions: Have you ever thought about entering the Society of Jesus? Have you ever considered a vocation to the priesthood? He said, "these questions, said with joy, honesty and enthusiasm might awaken a response that your athlete didn't know he had." It made me wonder how I would have responded if my tennis or track coach had said to me, "have you ever thought about coaching?"
My colleague and sister in coaching Jen and I had a fun and spirited debate on the first night of the Colloquium. The planning team had hoped to host Brandi Chastain as the keynote speaker. Chastain, a two-time Women's World Cup Champion soccer player and two time Olympic gold medalist, coaches at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. Bellarmine is a Catholic, Jesuit secondary school that is a home for 1600 boys. Jen believes that Chastain should be coaching girls; her influence and example would be wonderful for young women. I think it's more important that she is coaching boys. Boys rarely have female coaches; there's really no reason they shouldn't. You might be thinking, So what. Does it make a difference? Yes...No...and Maybe. It's ministry—God's work. Ultimately God is the head coach anyway. But there's more to both of those ideas...and questions...let's save that debate for the next Colloquium. I wonder how many more, if any, female coaches will join me.

NB: As mentioned in my presentation, I do not refer to high school sports as "men's soccer" or "women's volleyball." I use the descriptors "boys" and "girls." I truly believe that part of my job is to mold my 14, 15 and 16 year old golfers into becoming "women." They are not there yet...I know, I wasn't. That's part of the ministry.

Photo Credits

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March Madness and Today's High School Student

I get asked, quite often: Are high school kids different today? How have the students changed in the 15 years you have worked at St. Ignatius? Do you see a big difference? I'm never sure how to answer that question as I am but one voice; I certainly don't have a definitive answer. Furthermore, I've noticed that many times the person asking the question harbors suspicion, holds presumptions and more. Too often, I have to remind others (and myself) that teenagers are not the enemy. Yes, things have changed and so have teens, but "the big stuff" hasn't. For example, high schools students still care about what their peers think, they want to be understood, relationships are paramount, and they ask the same questions. In fact, the question that I get asked a lot at this time of year is one I have written about before. It's one that I actually appreciate. It's one that I usually say "no" to, unless of course you are in my Sports and Spirituality class. My students this year, five and ten years ago all want to know the same thing: Can we watch the NCAA tournament in class? Ah March Madness. 
At Brophy College Prep in Phoenix
Today's teens have access to technology like never before. Whereas my generation had to ask if they could watch the game on the TV that hung from the ceiling in the corner, today's student can have their teacher stream it from via the digital presenter onto a movie sized drop down screen. They can privately watch the game of their choice on their iPad, phone or personal computer. And, the reality is that today at school a lot of kids many that the tech department at our school made an executive shut it all down. The director wrote the following message to the student body:
In years past, we’ve been able to support allowing students to stream March Madness on our campus, but this year, there are just too many streams going on for our network to continue to support this *and* have a decent internet connection for the rest of the school. 
To this end, we’re actively blocking sites that are streaming March Madness.
I’ve seen a radical uptick in our blocking of VPN sites today. If we see you repeatedly trying to use a VPN site to get around our blocking technology, we will disable your device on the wireless system and you will need to come by the tech office to get your device unblocked. 
I apologize in advance for this draconian response, but our responsibility is to make it possible for teaching and learning to go on here at St. Ignatius… to ensure this, we must keep our internet connection working for everyone. 
If you have questions, feel free to drop me a line or drop by the Tech Center.
I loved reading this message. It was affirming to me that students continue to push limits, in this case, one that I don't see as problematic. I also value that a decision for the betterment of the community was made. This executive order gave kids plenty to gripe about...and they did...but that's good. They're not yet on their own...they're not always free to do whatever they want (I would argue none of us are). Though the world is sometimes at their disposal, at other times it is not....unless however you are enrolled in Sports and Spirituality. Here's how and here's why.
I made a bargain with my students that if a critical mass participated in a class pool, I would devote the first and last ten minutes of class time to watching the tourney. They would need to complete a bracket (that I had a student create), with a $10 entry fee. 

I have to give credit to my former students as THEY were the ones who developed the prototype we now use. I was hoping the winner would make a small donation to Operation Rice Bowl, a school-wide Lenten project, but these young people were much more generous...and creative. The winner earns 50% of the jackpot and is asked to donate the other 50% to a charity of their choice.

Last year's winner, a female varsity lacrosse player asked me if she could donate her earnings to the OneLove Foundation. After informing me of their mission, I asked if she wouldn't mind creating a presentation to inform our class of their work. She told us how she got to know the story of Yeardley Love and what the Foundation meant to her personally. Her classmates were silenced in learning this tragic story and interested in what the organization aims to do. Their website states their mission.
It is the goal of the One Love Foundation to honor Yeardley Love by bringing an end to Relationship Violence by educating, empowering and activating campus communities in a movement for change. We know that, given the chance, Yeardley certainly would have wanted to help.
Thinking of what my student presented, how the class devised a plan for the winner and the winning organization, their appreciation for class time to watch the games and their enthusiasm as the Madness unfolded, I realized if high school kids have changed that much, what I am seeing in Sports and Spirituality isn't for the bad....they are creative, enthusiastic, fun-loving and still interested in things other than school. Some things—like excitement when I say "no homework tonight!" and get a loud cheer—shouldn't change, even when so much in the world around us does. 

By the way, I want to know how many students took up the tech director's office and dropped by the office...or rather, sent a text message. Go Irish

Photo Credits
Yeardley Love

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Before Stan Smiths...there were Rod Lavers

To celebrate the success of winter sports teams, today was deemed a Red and Blue Day, Free dress for all! Students and faculty donned blue jeans, a shirt without a collar (yay!) and their favorite SI gear. Though flip flops are okay—even in winter—recently, I have noticed that an old school Adidas shoe isn't all that uncommon. I however opt for different one. I've had these friends since college and honestly it shows. I'll admit, I wear them as a point of pride. Why? Stan Smith's are everywhere these days...and I understand why. This shoe is a timeless classic; but as I sport my worn out, musty sneakers, I want everyone to know that before Stan Smith, there was Rod Laver.
It's not a given that people my age or younger know the man behind the shoe, but I consider myself lucky that I do. In fact, that is probably one of two words that characterize my relationship to tennis. Luck and gratitude. Though I no longer play, I cannot think back upon my teenage years without tremendous affection for this sport. 

I will never forget the day my father signed me up for a 2-week tennis camp at Valley Vista Swim and Tennis Club in Walnut Creek. I was 12 years old and he was deeply convinced I should give this sport—one that he loved—a shot. I did...and the trajectory of my life changed, without a doubt for the better. To this day, I remain grateful.

I was super lucky to have Michael Wayman as a coach. I can't even say that he was "my coach." I wasn't that good (he played professionally and today coaches at St. Mary's College of California), but I had a great desire to learn how to get good. I was also keenly interested in something else that Wayman taught: the history and development of the game. 

Every night, he assigned homework. Though some players considered this strange given that we played for three hours in a summer camp filled with drills, training, competition and more, my father had Dick Gould's book "Tennis Anyone?" and I had a curious mind. I took it all in—learning about the game's origin and who shaped it for the better. I memorized the names and stories of the greats. To be honest, I haven't forgotten that much. Jeu de paume, anyone?

If you knew tennis records you had to know Rod Laver. I'll let the entry from the International Tennis Hall of Fame's website explain why.

The only male or female player in tennis history to win two calendar Grand Slams in singles earned a tad more than $1.5 million dollars during his entire career. Rod Laver won a record 200 tournaments, held the No. 1 world ranking from 1964-70 and his total prize winnings in a 23-year career was half of what the USTA awards the men’s and women’s US Open champions. 
While those earnings pale in comparison to our modern era, consider that Laver was the first to exceed $1 million dollars on tour and earnings are directly connected to winning, which Laver did frequently. 
Sports records are meant to be broken, and many times they are, but it often takes decades. So while Laver’s major singles total was bested, his two Grand Slams, earned as an amateur in 1962 and a professional in 1969, have not been challenged in more than 40 years and simply don’t seem in jeopardy of being broken. Consider this: After Laver won his first Grand Slam in 1962, he turned professional and was banned from competing in the majors until the Open Era began in 1968. Had he not be barred, as all amateurs who turned pro were, it’s highly likely and probable that Laver would have won a third or perhaps a fourth Grand Slam. 
He was that good.
He's a worthy subject of a much more than a shoe, but let's give some credit where credit is due. According to Adam Leaventon's post "The 50 Greatest Sneakers of All Time," the Rod Laver weighs in at #7. Not bad. It is, however, three behind the iconic Stan Smith. Furthermore, the Rod Laver which also comes in a white and navy iteration, was first produced in 1970. Stan Smith's? 1971.

Steve Rushin, a writer I have grown to love and admire for his unique and astute humor penned an entertaining piece in or Sports Illustrated on the man behind the other shoe. In "Stan on Two Feet" he writes
YOU MIGHT THINK Stan Smith is a fictional character spawned from Madison Avenue like Cap'n Crunch or Mr. Clean, a confusion that extended even to his own children, one of whom asked years ago if the Adidas Stan Smiths were named after Stan or if Stan was named after the Adidas Stan Smiths. 
 In the last half century, 50 million pairs of the iconic white kicks have been purchased, making "my Stan Smiths"—as Rick Ross has rapped—better known than the actual Stan Smith, who turned 70 on Dec. 14 and remains our greatest living endorser of athletic shoes. "For longevity, Michael Jordan and LeBron James aren't even close," says Smith, who wears Stan Smiths at home on Hilton Head Island, S.C., where he coaches tennis. When Smith told a reporter that 95% of people probably don't know that he's a real person, his wife, Margie, said, "More like 99%." 
In 1972, Stan Smith was No. 1 in the world, winning Wimbledon 10 months after taking the '71 U.S. Open. And though he won 37 tournaments and eventually entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame, of which he is president, it wasn't until around 2001 that his daughter Austin became aware of her father's renown. "Dad, you're famous!" she announced one day. "Jay Z mentioned you in a song!"
Two thoughts come to mind...and that's part of Rushin's genius. It's true, my Rod Lavers are fashion trainers. As a tennis player, they were never performance shoes. Look to #34 The Nike Air Tech Challenger (mine were not 3/4). Still love those bad boys...err...girls. And second, in spite of it all, I don't think I've ever met a Stan Smith wearing student or colleague I didn't like. My posting Sports, Spirituality and Shoes states that "While social scientists will say shoes are a reflection of our personality, I would like to underscore that they are an extension of our humanity." Certainly my choice to wear and defend my Rod Lavers is a reflection of that truth. Given that each pair of these iconic green and white kicks better known that the athlete, you could easily say the shoe has transcended the man, and his story. But I would like to think that if you are taught the right way, you might not. I am lucky...and I'm grateful. 

Thank you Michael Wayman. You were a wonderful coach and teacher. Maybe all coaches shoes teach us about the history of the game they love....the greats...and even their shoes.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Quality Worth Considering: Are You Unflappable?

As Dustin Johnson hit the golf ball from 145 yards out—his ball landing but four feet from the pin for a sure-fire birdie—David Feherty described the number one golfer in the world as "unflappable."

I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Unflappable. This singular word, one that I don't think I have heard more than twice in the last five years was used to appropriately describe a man who is also one of my favorite golfers on the tour. I suppose the reason I delighted in this coincidence is because of the reason, or rather, the person who brought it to mind: St. John of the Cross. I can assure you, this Spanish mystic has little to nothing in common with DJ, minus, perhaps this singular virtue. However, I believe it's one worth thinking more about and understanding through their example. Here's how...and here's why.
For the past two years, I have been commissioned to write for a Catholic website promoting the canonization of a lay woman—a servant of God—named Cora Evans. As a team of writers, we are assigned a variety of topics that pertain to Catholic teachings, tradition and culture.

In December, I was tasked with writing about St. John of the Cross. As fellow bloggers know, we can't afford to pass on a writing assignment. Why? Today a whole lot of authors write for free. I did not want to pass, but given that I knew little to nothing about this Doctor of the Church, that was what I had to do. Just last week however, my editor asked me if I would reconsider writing that post. The timing and the deadline was right; I consented and in doing so, feel as though I met a new friend in faith.

I read articles and blog postings, and watched videos of theologians singing his praises but the one that stayed with me was a near homily, describing Saint John of the Cross as the "Doctor of Detachment." Here is what I wrote about this unflappable fellow.

St. John of the Cross is regarded as a premier teacher on how to detach and let go of the things of this world to live for God alone. Detachment is important to the spiritual life. In the article “Experiencing Life’s Flow,” Patrick Kelly SJ writes, "we get off track in a spiritual sense when we become too attached to money and status. Jesus repeatedly reminds his listeners of this point, insisting that “no one can serve both God and mammon.” St. Ignatius Loyola points to the same dynamic in the “Two Standards” meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, writing that the tactic of the enemy of our humanity is to ensnare people in the desire for riches, honor and pride.”

With the gift of detachment, one focuses on what leads to and builds a steadfast spirituality. In detachment one’s spirit finds quiet and repose for coveting nothing. For St. John of the Cross, detachment enabled him to live and focus on God alone, which proved necessary in his life’s story. According to Franciscan Media,
John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God.
St. John of the Cross wasn’t perfect, and yet regardless of such trials and tribulations it is inspiring that so little worried him. Truly, he was able to trust God. In St. John of the Cross, we have a wonderful spiritual role model with a unique name: the Doctor of Detachment.

Why Detachment?
Detachment enables us to be unflappable.

Unflappable. When I heard this word ascribed to St. John of the Cross, I paused. “What a great word,” I thought and, more importantly, what a wonderful quality. It’s not a character trait I hear about often. I wondered, “Is ‘unflappable’ an old-fashioned word? Are too few of us unflappable?”

As a high school teacher, I am often asked to write college letters of recommendation. The common application requires me to identify the first few words that come to mind when I think of a given student. “Competent, bright, trustworthy and insightful” often come to mind. I asked myself how many students possess this quality? I think humanity, young and old, might benefit from knowing and surrounding ourselves with a person who is unflappable. It’s worth teaching my students more about.
DJ with a rules official at the 2016 US Open. Talk about a time to be unflappable.
As a coach, I see this quality in athletes quite often. Golfers must be unflappable. The ball lands in a bunker or deep in the rough. At other times, it is as though the golf gods are punishing a player. Putts don’t sink and timing is off. The golfer who is unflappable stays the course—metaphorically. Literally is not a given. He or she takes the game one stroke at a time. While a bogey or worse may faze him or her, they can shake it off. Though I don't think Dustin Johnson is the exemplar of unflappability on the tour, in 2017 he is. I will look for this trait among him and other golfers as we approach the first of the four majors.

Though unflappability is a quality to describe a singular person, it can benefit a community as well. The one who is detached promotes God, or the good of others and not of him or herself. 

Again, an example from sports comes to mind. Though the school where I teach has a long-standing rival, there is one basketball game against another team in our league that trumps all other contests: SI vs Serra High School in "The Jungle Game." Both teams and their fans extend spirit and passion so strong that it’s downright hair-raising. Always a sell out, this game which takes place in a gym that is standing room only is well named.
time and place to be unflappable. Serra HS gym
With the game tied late in the third quarter, I glanced at our point guard tasked with inbounding the ball. While looking for an open teammate, nearly 500 boys crowded as close to him as they could on the sideline, yelling in his ear, aiming to distract his focus and deter the task at hand. If they had succeeded, I would understand why. But they didn’t. Why? This athlete, in that moment and in his role was unflappable. His teammates needed him to be...and he was (inside the paint, too). His unwavering focus boosted their collective confidence and vision. It's not hard to see.

There is so much in the world that is seeking to distract us from what is important—serving others, reaching out to those in need, paying attention to our loved ones. There are too many voices that are aiming to shift our attention from where we are to the place God may be leading us. Detachment from the demands of this world and the noise around us can keep our eyes on the goal—to be one with God, to be more like Christ. We need the examples of others who are unflappable to point the way. St. John of the Cross, the Doctor of Detachment is a worthy one and whatever he has done in his personal and professional life, I am happy to say that Dustin Johnson is as well. I am a fan of DJ because his swing is just so athletic. To watch him play is a near paradox, for no one moves forward with so little effort...and yet no one has his flexibility, stance, power and strength. No one.

This past summer, a friend asked me what is the difference between "flip" and "glib." I couldn't believe what I just heard—I have considered that very same question in my writing more often than he knew. Words, or more specifically adjectives like flip, glib or unflappable help me to understand the uniqueness of each person. Our humanity is a quirky, yet lovable thing. We need to name, articulate, and share the qualities that make each us of who we are. God has created us with a palette of color larger than the human eye can perceive. Words bring us closer to seeing the ineffable...the remarkable...the lovable...even, the unflappable. Praise Be.

Photo Credits
John of the Cross
US Open Rules