Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Baby Shower Game for Expectant Athletes, Coaches and Serena Williams: Part II

As mentioned in my last blog posting, although people have raised many questions since Serena Williams announced that she is 20 weeks pregnant, I can guarantee there is one question no one has asked. Inquiring minds do not want or need to know: What shower games will friend and family hold at her upcoming baby shower? But they should, because the game I have created for an expectant coach, athlete or sports fan is far from what Parents magazine warns us about: "too many shower games are dory, embarrassing for the mom-to-be, or gross (guess the candy squished into the diaper? No thanks!)

I offered directions and encourage you to develop this activity for your audience, your generation (if/as necessary) and a given demographic. Here are the photos and profiles of the talented, competitive, inspiring and beautiful Olympians, professional athletes, champions and sporty spices.

Please note, for many years the sporting careers that women could seek on the professional level were limited to golf and tennis. The US Women's National Soccer team known as the '99ers as well as the creation of the WNBA under former commissioner David Stern shifted that paradigm.
Kim Clijsters: Without a doubt, Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters is one of my favorite examples. As mentioned in the NYT article on Serena, Clisters won three Grand Slam titles after the birth of her daughter Jada (pictured above). Her husband Brian, who played basketball at Villanova and professionally in Europe retired from his career to follow his wife on the tour. She retired from the game in 2012 to have another child. 

Additional Points for: country of origin, information about her husband, Grand Slam titles earned after the birth of her daughter. 
Annika Sorenstam is one of the most successful female golfers of all time. With over 90 international tournament victories, she has 72 LPGA titles and won 10 majors. Born in Sweden, she has two children.

Additional Points for: country of origin, greatest golf achievement.

Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, is not only a former number one player in the world, she is the only mom to have won a Wimbledon championship in the modern era. She gave birth to her daughter in 1977 and won the title in 1980. I am excited to see if Serena changes this stat.

Additional Points for: Goolagong is Australian Aboriginal in her ethnicity

Dara Torres: This twelve-time Olympic medalist competed in different Olympic Games. At 41, Torres earned a spot on the 2008 team making history as not only the oldest swimmer on the team but the only mom in competition. Torres, who is Cuban-American believes that she was a better swimmer after having given birth to her daughter, Tessa Grace.

Additional Points for: College (University of Florida) and Best Stroke (Freestyle)
Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings: May-Treanor gave birth to her daughter Malia in June 2014. She decided to retire from Beach Volleyball to focus on motherhood after the 2012 Olympic Games. Her long-time partner, KWJ was in fact 5 weeks pregnant with her third child during the London Olympics.

Additional Points for: fun facts about their husbands (Treamor is a catcher in MLB and Jennings was a pro beach VB player),  AND for college teams (CSU Long Beach and Stanford, respectively).
Candice Wiggins is a retired professional basketball player (point guard/shooting guard) who in a WNBA champion (2011) and earned one of my favorite awards: Sixth Woman of the Year (2008). People might be familiar with Wiggins for her remarks about the toxic culture in the WNBA, that included bullying for her orientation.

Additional Points for: She is the all-time leading scorer for Stanford University.
Paula Radcliffe is arguably the greatest female distance runner of all time. A world champion in the marathon, half marathon and in cross country, what is especially remarkable is that she gave birth to her first child in 2007 and won the New York City marathon in November of that same year.  She trained while expecting her second child, a son, born in 2011.
Muffet McGraw is the winningest coach in Notre Dame history. Hired to coach in 1987, she coached the Irish to a national championship in 2001. McGraw has one son, Murphy, who was born 5 years into her career at ND.

Additional Points for: her first name is Ann—great name! This fall the she will be decorated with the 2017 Legends of Coaching Award. 
Jennie Finch is not just a pretty face (there has been some controversy regarding her popularity. Female athletes are often recognized more for their appearance—beauty, sexuality, etc. than their achievements). Finch, a mom of three, is an NCAA champion, US Olympic Gold and Silver medalist.

Additional Points for: college team (University of Arizona) as well as the name of the pro team she pitched for (Chicago Bandits).
Don't forget to post a photo of the honoree of your shower! AND be sure to give additional points for all fun facts
Hopefully not her last Grand Slam title, Australian Open victory, 2017.

There are many other women: athletes and coaches (Mia Hamm, Pat Summit, Chris Evert to name just a few) that you might feature in this shower game. It might also serve as an activity on women in society. Most important, honor the women who serve as inspirations with their careers, the gift of motherhood and friendship.

Photo Credits

Beach VB 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Baby Shower Game for Expectant Athletes, Coaches and Serena Williams: Part 1

Several interesting questions have risen since Serena Williams' confirmed to her fans and the world that she is indeed pregnant. My students wondered if playing in (and winning!) the Australian Open early in her pregnancy compromised the baby's health. Serena isn't the first, and certainly not the last to give it a go; like all medical matters, consult your physician. 

It is natural to inquire about her future with the game and in the game. Through her agent, she has announced that she will not play in any more tourneys in 2018, but those who know and love Serena understand how much she loves tennis and the extent of her competitive drive. Williams, is not only one of the most prominent athletes in the world she is one of the game's all time greatest. As written in the New York Times
By winning in Australia, Williams broke her tie with Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam titles in the Open era. Williams ranks behind only Margaret Court's 24 on the career list. Court, an Australian, won the last three of those titles in 1973 after giving birth to a son, Danny, in 1972. 
Will she win another Grand Slam title? How will pregnancy affect Serena's chase for the title? Tennis players like Kim Clijsters won the US Open in 2009 and 2010 as well as the Australian Open in 2011 after the birth of her daughter Jada in 2008. 

My own student, a tennis player wrote, I believe her pregnancy might even inspire her to rise to different level. I heard that she has spoken quite a bit in the past about having children, so I think it could possibly help her focus. She could realize that she might not want to extend her career as much, resulting in her using the next couple years to put herself far out of reach from other players as the best woman to ever play. I'm also excited to find out as well... I love his insight; I think she would too.

I want to know where she will have the baby. Given that her fiancé Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian lives in San Francisco, I hope she has this future great athlete at CPMC, the city's baby factory. Will she have a boy or a girl? What kind of mother will Serena be? Like her father Richard, will she write a 78-page manifesto for this child's greatness? And whose net worth is greater—Serena's or Ohanian's? 

All of these questions, obscure and insignificant, life changing, some even inappropriate are but a reflection to me that Serena Williams is much more than a great tennis player. To me, she is a cultural icon that I study, follow, and admire. She is my favorite female athlete. Her older sister, Venus is my second. I am excited for this new chapter in Williams' life and what the narrative will be. I would be more than happy to throw a baby shower for her, and if I did here's information about the game the attendees would play.

First, let me offer a disclaimer: most of the women I love and respect are not keen on "shower games." Wedding and baby showers have what too many of these obligatory rituals. They are meant to facilitate interaction between guests before the shower of gifts that the honoree is required to publicly open. I think it's safe to say though showers are joyful occasions, but these shower games are painful? awkward? well-intentioned but weird...I hope and believe however, I have found a solution.

Disclaimer #2, this game is for a certain demographic: the expectant athlete, coach or sports fan. These women are inherently competitive. We should take to games like we do to our respective sport. Framing this shower game into our paradigm may help. All this game requires is a color printer, a pencil and a knowledge of sports.
Coach Sanchez & her baby!

Identify great female athletes who have had children/are moms.
Print their photo on an 8" x 10" piece of paper (you can use the images I post in the next blog).
  • Have guests name the athlete on a lined sheet of paper.
  • If the picture you use features an athlete in her professional attire, offer bonus points if guests can name what college she played for. 
  • Offer additional points for any fun facts they can offer.
  • Don't forget to include a photo—an action shot—of the guest of honor. It's safe to say many of those in attendance have probably been a teammate, coached with this woman, run, lifted, trained and competed beside her. 
I created this game for my dear friend and beloved colleague, Haley. The head of our girls field hockey program, Haley is one of THE best athletes and coaches I know. She is also a true sister in the sorority of coaching. I loved honoring her with not only a baby shower but making her the highlight a game at her shower was real winner.

I want to wish Serena the very best of health in her pregnancy and blessings for the birth of her first child. I will add her to the list female athletes in this shower game for the next honoree (or for her...I don't live far from Dolores Park girl!)

Game to be included in the NEXT posting.

Photo Credit


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Culture of Lost and FOUND

I refuse to play the "I'm busier than you game." I don't think people want to hear (or read) about how much I have going on in life. Who wins? But sometimes, life really does get hectic. I get stressed and to make ends meet or get things done, something has to give. For some of us it's exercise, for others it's eating right. For me, sleep is what gets tossed and this is costly. Not just to my patience, or to my mental health and well-being—I mean this literally. How is that true? I lose things. I forget them. I leave them behind or somewhere I cannot remember. I retrace my footsteps, I make phone calls, I even show up in person to search for the item my bad self. The lost never has a found. And, it's at times like these, I wish I lived in Japan. 
It is a cultural norm in Japan to replace any and everything that is lost to its rightful owner. If you lose your wallet on the J-Rail, you can expect to get it back, credit cards, ID and cash in full. The Japanese people nearly go out of their way to make sure this happens. In fact, there is an 85% return rate on all lost items in this island nation. 85%!!! What do you think ours might be in the US? When I lose something, I try to imagine a world where we return what is not our own in full. I wish more folks knew about this Japanese way of proceeding. But, I don't have to—this culture already exists.

Golf, a sport that I hate (based on today's round) encourages a similar modus operandi. When a golfer leaves behind a club, head cover, sunglasses or even a phone, it is customary to pick it up and return it to either the pro shop, starter or to find the rightful owner. And, if they do not find their way "home," I believe that is because the golfer who found the item (like a club) simply forgets to return it. I am guilty of this offense. I should count my clubs every time I play (its a violation of the rules to carry more than 14 clubs) but I don't. Found club gets left in my bag until I check. I have said more than once, "Where did this club come from?!" I then remember....I do what I can to get it back to my club or the course where I played. I hope I have an 85% return rate on picking up lost items. 
Though I did not lose anything while traveling in Japan, I have certainly lost my fair share of golf items. I have yet to be disappointed by this "culture." For example, I have a plaid head cover from the 2015 US Open: Chambers Bay, that I love. By the time I realized it was missing, daylight was no more. I sought out a marshall who asked the players behind me if they found my head cover. The marshall continued to look for an extended period of time, to no avail. He said, I'll call you tomorrow; we will find it. I left totally unconvinced and mad at myself. Less than 24 hours later, he called me and asked me to return to the pro shop to get my head cover. When I look at this plaid wonder, I am reminded of what is and what could be...

As my friend Alex Montoya has said, "the two greatest words in the English language are What if?!" His words have inspired me to think differently about the world we live in, our cultural norms and social expectations. What if everyone who lost something understood and believed they would get it back.

The parable of the Lost Coin reminds us of the importance of LOOKING for what we have lost. In Luke 15: 8-10, we read
“Or what woman having ten coins* and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’
In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Certainly we must make the effort to seek out our personal belongings, but quite often we begin the feat as though it is futile. We search with skepticism....we are reluctant to believe we will be reunited with what we left behind. What if we changed our outlook from the start? What if we had a reason to...

On Easter Wednesday, I presented Sports and Spirituality 3.0: Success in Sports at the NCEA Convention in St. Louis, MO. After my presentation, I had the awesome opportunity to sign my book, Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes. I was a bit of a maniac in m preparation for a busy day. I found myself in Kinko's running off handouts about an hour before game time! Knowing the day would be hectic, I ran into Starbucks where I bought a to-go salad for lunch, the same salad I left next to the printing station. I returned to that Kinko's a half hour after my book signing. I sheepishly asked if anyone had turned in a Starbucks salad. The manager said "Yes! we put it in the refrigerator. I saw it and figured someone would be coming back for their delicious lunch. I'm glad you did."

To hear his words felt like a near moral victory. Maybe Japan, and the golf course isn't that far away.  Keep looking....and keep finding! When you do, return what you have found.

Photo Credits
Lost and Found in Japan
Lost Golf Ball

Lost Coin

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes

One of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel wrote, "I believe that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both." 

As far as I can see, "Pray and Practice with Purpose, A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes" a book I am proud to call my first...and my own, had the simple, but important destiny of being born. Considering that it was three years in the making, that is not a destiny I take for granted. Its fate, however, is to be determined by the hands of those who read it and try out what I suggest and believe to be true: a team can achieve success, real success, should they make time and space for prayer and service to one another and the larger school community. 

Indeed the most important hands that can open Pray and Practice with Purpose" are coaches and athletic directors. I say that because (as written on my publisher's website, NCEA), 
This book equips athletes, coaches and teams with the resources to achieve success in spiritual formation. Through prayer and practice with purpose, sports and spirituality can become a valuable component of a team's culture and routine.
Though I do not anticipate a New York Times bestseller, my sincere hope and wish are that a coach will look over the 30 ways to pray with your team, for your team or with other coaches and commit to that spiritual exercise. Furthermore, I hope they will take a risk—not in developing a trick play or moving a young athlete up to varsity, but risk practice time for building community, serving others, strengthening tradition and creating new ones. I have over 30 different examples of how to do that. Jesus talked about having faith the size of a mustard seed. In that same spirit, I sincerely believe a little goes a long way. 

Cardinal Bernardin said, "no one can do everything, but everyone can do something." Amen. No coach needs to be master and messiah, genius and god. They have their own unique gifts and talents, priorities and problems. I hope they get in touch with their own spiritual gifts and share those with their athletes. I liken this urging to what I find in the radio booth at an MLB baseball game. One announcer is in charge of the play by play, the other offers color commentary. A coaching staff might think with this framework in mind: the head coach oversees the "play by play." Perhaps an assistant can be "color." This book offers a whole lot of color...and it should. Why?
Giants fans love our announcers: Kruk and Kuip. A lot of play and color
Every sport is different: what works for football might not resonate with the swim team. Boys and girls teams make take to different activities. Every squad has its own personality. Not a single one of the prayers or practices listed has gone untested; every example in this text has already been used by a school community or team—past and present. In some cases, I deepened and developed the idea. With others, I simply retold a team's story and why it works. "Pray and Practice with Purpose" was not born from this blog, but certainly made it possible. 

Some authors have but one book in them. Others have thirty. I have a sense of how both can be true. "Pray and Practice with Purposes's" destiny was made possible by what I consider the first of two understatements. One: I love sports and talking about sports and Two: some of my favorite people to talk to are other coaches. I enjoy picking their brain and deconstructing how they think and approach their craft. I always want to know more about their athletes. Their attention to detail is remarkable, commitment to their athletes impressive, and the sacrifices they make is undeniable. 
Trust me when I tell you there is not one high school or middle school coach who does what he or she does for the money. When a coach is in season, life is manic, making it tough to seek out new or different ways to pray. We want to do something more than just drills, review game tape or plan for our next match but realistically, it's hard to think out of the book. In my conversations with coaches from my alma maters: the University of Notre Dame and Carondelet, as well as De La Salle, Bellarmine, Brophy, Georgetown Prep and more,  I learned what coaches were already doing. I was fired up to learn what worked and the effect it had a team...on a season...on their story. "Pray and Practice with Purpose" puts all of those ideas in one central place. My hope is that a coach will flip through this manual and an entry will speak to them and the needs of their team. That's a wonderful destiny.

Ask anyone who has written a book about the process of writing and their response is akin to playing the game of golf. You know your strengths and can't let go of your weaknesses. Not too much about it is easy, but it still an endeavor worth pursuing. Writing is demanding and exacting. Quite often it is a lonely pursuit—too lonely. And yet, writing doesn't have to fact, it cannot be. And so I suppose it is appropriate that the only time I shed a tear in meeting my book for the first time is when I looked at the dedication: To my parents: the givers of so many wonderful gifts—including Sports and Spirituality. Thank you. My heart swelled with gratitude when I reviewed the acknowledgments, or as I wrote, "the assists." I have already seen edits I wish I had made, a quote I could I? Eric Liddell's words have nearly defined my experience of Sports and Spirituality. I didn't get a chance to thank some people, and there were prayers and practices I learned about later.

I am so grateful that "Pray and Practice with Purpose, A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes" was made public during Easter week. The joy of these 50 days manifests itself in new and surprising ways. To offer a tool for others to know the Risen Lord, His power, and majesty through something totally unexpected—through sports—is not. Sounds like Easter to me. 

If you would like to order a copy, "Pray and Practice with Purpose, A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes" is available on the NCEA website. If you would like a signed copy, contact the author directly ( I will send it to you, mailing included.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Ode to Joy: Sports and Spirituality Style

The two great religious holidays for Christians, Easter and Christmas cannot be understood or appreciated without one important sentiment, one striking virtue: joy. 

Thinking about this Easter joy prompted me to read a postcard with the message "She practices random acts of joy" a little differently. This colorful placard named "36 things that bring Deborah Lloyd joy." The designer, created an Ode to Joy in naming experiences, memories and even sensory delights that strike joy—"in no particular order." I circled the ones that resonated with me and created my own list, Sports and Spirituality style.

  1. A good "no-look" pass
  2. Buster Hugs (San Francisco Giants catcher, Buster Posey)
  3. Putting for birdie , Making the putt for birdie
  4. Multi-sport athletes
  5. Drive of the day! (golf)
  6. The runner's high
  7. Being sore, the day after a workout
  8. Hang time (volleyball)
  9. Three up, three down (baseball—by your own team when on defense)
  10. Cresting the hill
  11. Coffee after the a.m. workout 
  12. Swish!
  13. The Zamboni
  14. Stories from Bengal Bouts
  15. The "Rocky" theme
  16. Watching a talented hurdler run his or her race
  17. The language of rowing (crew)
  18. The sound of rowing (from within the boat)
  19. A good tight end (interpret as you may....but please think football)
  20. The Masters
  21. The Olympic Club
  22. Steam or sauna?
  23. Michael Phelps swimming Butterfly—the most beautiful and challenging stroke in swimming
  24. SI girls' (and boys') golf
  25. Watching DeShone Kizer and Will Fuller on the sidelines, breathing heavily, smiling and recalling the play they just executed for a TD
  26. Mile 26 of the marathon (it ends at 26.2)
  27. Band of the Fightin' Irish
  28. A good rivalry: ND vs. USC, Giants vs. Dodgers, SI vs. SHCP
  29. ESPN's "30 for 30"
  30. Wheels (the perfect way to describe a fast athlete)
  31. World Series parade(s)
  32. Game, set, match: Serena Williams
  33. Keeping score at a baseball game (especially with my brother)
  34. Bookstore Basketball 
  35. "Thompson for 3!!!"
  36. The Warriors pregame dance

  1. Forgiveness
  2. John 3:16
  3. Shrine of St. Jude
  4. The blue on the habit of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's religious community)
  5. St. Dominic's parish
  6. Catholic education
  7. The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE teaching program)
  8. Notre Dame—Our Lady
  9. The University of Notre Dame
  10. The Grotto
  11. Team chaplains
  12. Sts. Francis and Clare
  13. Caravaggio's "Doubting Thomas"
  14. James Martin, SJ 
  15. Angels
  16. Romero Center
  17. Homeboy Industries
  18. The Eucharist: both species
  19. Take Lord, Receive
  20. Holy Thursday Mass
  21. Nature
  22. Baccalaureate Mass
  23. First Reconciliation
  24. The sign of peace
  25. Parish Fall Festivals
  26. Answered prayers
  27. Unanswered prayers 
  28. The Annunciation
  29. World Youth Day
  30. Retreats
  31. The prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola
  32. Grace before meals
  33. Taking a stand for life, all life
  34. "Peter's Confession of Jesus"/"Who Do You Say That I Am?"
  35. The Incarnation
  36. His life, death, and resurrection
He is Risen! Easter joy!
A Happy and Holy Easter!

Photo Credits
Easter Joy

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Christ the Teacher, Parables and The Masters

During this Holy Week, I have invited my students to pray with an image of Jesus. For me, that image is of Christ the Teacher. They are never surprised, for the significance of my relationship to Jesus in this way is quite obvious. I try to help them discover one that is relatable to their own lives.

The Gospels are rich with examples of how Christ was a great teacher. Even those who do not know much about Jesus are familiar with his pedagogy. Jesus used parables in order to help his disciplines understand the Kingdom of God. Parables come from the Greek word parabole which means "placing two things side by side in order to compare them." Christ told stories from ordinary life, comparing familiar things such as seeds, wheat, yeast, sheep, or nets to unfamiliar truths.  

As a scripture teacher, one must ask what might Jesus compare the Kingdom of God to today. The easy answer? some form of technology, but I have challenged them to think beyond the norms. As I was speaking, I noticed a water bottle on my student's desk. I looked around the room and saw several of them. Nalgene, Swell, or Hydro Flask. Students have their own color and iteration; the water bottle is an everyday school supply. I can almost see Him now, "The Kingdom of God is like your water bottle...."
Probing further, I started to think of what else Jesus might reference or where else...A thought came to mind: a thrift store. Pawn shops carry connotations of iniquity, desperate times calling for desperate measures. Thrift stores however are equal opportunity venues. My mom volunteers at one regularly. I drop off donations and always find other treasures. I see young and old, rich and poor, the entire spectrum of humanity can be found in a thrift store (much like the US Post Office). And all the more reason Jesus would preach there and we should go to them. One never knows what he or she will find.

It's cliche for a reason: "One man's trash is another man's treasure." I have a hard time believing that the green jacket awarded by Augusta National Country Club is "trash," However, the coveted blazer was discovered in a thrift store in Toronto. Daily News reported
A tournament jacket from the 1950s that was discovered in a stack of blazers at a Toronto thrift store sold for $139,349 in an online auction early Sunday. 
 According to the site that hosted the auction, the jacket was purchased for $5 in 1994. However, its journey to Canada is filled with uncertainties. 
Though the Augusta National Golf Club confirmed its authenticity, according to the site, the group did not have an answer for the identity of the item’s original owner. The owner’s name was cut out of the jacket, which is one of the earliest in existence, but the unique patch of the course’s logo remains stitched to the breast pocket.
I can't imagine how I would react were I looking through the men's jackets. I might say "that's a nice green...huh, that's an awesome patch on the breast looks rather familiar. What is going on here? Is this some sort of a practical joke?"

I hope I would have it framed and hanging near other golf memories, but the yield is quite tempting! That pays for a whole lot of rounds of golf.

Could the Kingdom of God be like a green jacket from Augusta? Probably not, but I'm certainly open to interpretation. And, the fact that one was found in a thrift store, a place I believe Jesus might reference, it might be. After all, Christ did tell parables about a lost coin in a field and a pearl of great price.

I heard on my PTI Podcast (Pardon the Interruption) that Sergio Garcia is considering wearing his green jacket in his wedding ceremony. While that desire may confound some people, those who love golf and/or the Masters (might0 get it. And, I have a feeling his fianceé Angela Akins might too. Akins, who played golf at the University of Texas now works for the Golf Channel. She is also a significant reason that all signs point to what a different player Garcia has become in the past year.
Sounds for the workings of a great parable to me. Unlikely people in unsuspecting places amidst ordinary and extraordinary things, that is how I have come to know the Kingdom of God. Time for me to donate and go shopping!

Photo Credits
Water Bottles
Ceremonial Jacket