Sunday, June 25, 2017

What to do about Tiger?

When asked by golf analyst David Feherty in a recent interview about his ideal foursome, Steph Curry, NBA Champion and the 2016 MVP who carries an index of 1.3 said "My dad, Barack Obama and Tiger Woods." Given Steph's outstanding reputation as a husband, father, son, teammate and competitor some were surprised that he included a fallen hero like Woods. As a sports fan and golf enthusiast, I wasn't. To me, Curry's choice is yet another example of just how elusive Tiger Woods remains and may forever be in American society.
We are good and putting people in a box: good or bad, black or white, wrong or right. But Tiger is tricky. Fans still flock, They cheered and jeered his return to the US Open in 2010; he still makes headlines when he announces whether or not he will play in a major. Indeed, Woods both literally and figuratively cannot be confined. This quandary...this quagmire leaves us with the question: What to do about Tiger? Reading his new book "The 1997 Masters: My Story" has gotten me closer to an answer. How? his own words have help me come to terms with who he is and who he is not.

I have been wrong about Woods, for better and for worse. For example, in Black History Month: A Case for Serena Williams, I stated, 
In light of Black History month, I sincerely appreciate that Williams calls on the other black female tennis players who paved her way. She wants the world to know that long before Serena and Venus, there was Althea Gibson and Zina Garrison. She has named and thanked them from the winner's circle. She insists that her success cannot be separated from theirs. With her older sister, she has worked to extend tennis to the inner-city and other low income areas, for all children. She has spoken out against the racism she has endured (Indian Wells) and used her voice for the advancement of women, people of color and the game itself.  
I am not convinced that her peer, Tiger Woods who met equal success in another sport traditionally underrepresented by people of color has used his voice in the way she has. I do not believe that his fans would know that long before Tiger Woods, there was Calvin Peete or Lee Elder. 
In "Paging Tiger" a review of Woods' new book by Michael Bamberger, I learned that "Woods' son is named Charlie, for Charlie Sifford the pioneering black golfer who won thrice on Tour but who never played in the Masters. What a tribute." #MyBad

Even my mom weighed in on Woods when she admitted "I feel sorry for him." I said,"Mom, I think a lot of people do."

It's difficult to see anyone struggle and I hope this isn't too strong—devolve. Today, this athlete who was twice named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year is the butt of many jokes. I know I have launched my own, which is unfortunate given the condition of his back. I can only imagine what playing golf since the age of three—a game that invokes a swing that is not natural for the body—has done to it. His torque, sheer power and drive that were perfected because of many more than 10,000 hours cannot leave those muscles at ease. And so, when Tiger was arrested for a DUI on May 29 the ironic reality / sad truth was that his public statement was true: he had not been drinking alcohol. No, Woods had "an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications."

Since the incident, we have learned that, like many Americans, Woods is living with a lot of physical pain, and treating it with opioids, given through the signature of a doctor. Though his agent, Mark Steinberg does not disclose whether or not Woods has an addiction, he shared that "Woods has checked into a clinic to get help dealing with prescription medication for pain and a sleep disorder."

In "Our National Pain," an honest and heart-wrenching editorial by former NBA star Rex Chapman, I learned.  
After multiple injuries and seven surgeries, I developed an addiction to prescription painkillers. My masters were Vicodin, OxyContin and Suboxone, and they led me into a life of isolation and erratic behavior and, in the fall of 2014, to my arrest for retail theft. (I later entered a guilty plea, paid restitution for the items I stole and was sentenced to 750 hours of community service.) I am one of the lucky ones: I had the financial resources and support of family and friends that enabled to me to enter rehab three times. My last stint was in the fall of 2014, and I have now been clean for three years. That is amazing to me. There were many times I didn’t think I could go without opioids for three hours, much less three years.
I do not know the extent of Woods' dependency on painkillers, but Steinberg reported, "he has been in just immense pain for so very long that taking prescribed medication was a must, just to get up and move." I think we can all be sympathetic toward those who are living with chronic pain, it's no way to live. Woods has had four surgeries on his knee and four on his back. There is more to this story....and yet, how do we know how much to tell? and when? And, because you are Tiger Woods, there is no reason to ask why. You have a legacy and you are a legend. To what degree can you control that? And where does that leave the fans? What to do?

For now, I have an answer.

My problem with Tiger Woods has nothing to do with what he did or should have done, rather, my issue is also my wish for anyone who has the talent, opportunity, impact, livelihood and greatness he has. Bamberger spells it out in stating "What Tiger's book lacks is introspection." I cannot help but believe the book is but an extension of the man, the golfer, the son, father and (fallen) hero.
When interviewed by Charlie Rose, Tiger confessed that his only regret in life was that he left Stanford after his sophomore year. I find this hard to believe. In "The 1997 Masters" he says more about the pain he caused his ex-wife with his extramarital affairs and yes...the regret. Perhaps that is a step toward some introspection, but there were other opportunities to say more.

For example, Woods also writes about Arnold Palmer and what this golfing great meant to him. He said, 

"I was sad when he died on Sept. 25, 2016, and I thought of all those times behind the eighteenth green. Arnold meant so much to the game, and I'll never forget our friendship and his counsel to me over the years. Looking back, I know he fired me up the week before the [1997] Masters."
Alarms started ringing. These are sentences that should not be published in a book for sentient adults. The editor should have noted in the margin of the author's manuscript, How, how, how, how? Show, show, show, show! Arnold, who half-invented the tournament that defines the book, is dead. You, Tiger, have logged many hours with him, and now you're giving the man some credit for your most important victory. You cannot go too deep on this.
I don't think I should take for granted that all people can or even want to go deep. However, I believe introspection may very well be on the most important spiritual disciplines out there. An introspective person has a sense of how their words and actions affect others. They can resolve to do better or be different, care more, judge less.
Fortunately for my students, Ignatian spirituality has a tool to help them develop this ability: The Examen. This prayer, similar to an examination of conscience, invites us to review our day— to literally examine where God was present, where we could have done better and to give thanks.

No one knows how this story ends. In many sports, the life of an athlete is is fleeting....but not in golf. Watch any major tournament and golfers in their late 40s and 50s still threaten. We loved Tiger Woods for what he did on the course. He made shots and  had a spirit that transformed the game. 

I know many people want but another glimpse. Maybe we all need a moment of introspection to figure out why. Is it because of his destiny? that he was a symbol of East meeting West? that he made this game so athletic and exciting or was it because his game really like improvisational jazz? Perhaps you long to hear the discordant notes find their rhythm, their beauty, and wholeness as we did in Augusta in April 1997. The story continues....we will be both right and wrong, yet again.

Photo Credits

Friday, June 23, 2017

From Birdie to Bogey

Sitting with another 4-year collegiate rower at dinner last night, I was reminded that to really give oneself to a sport means—among many things—that you speak a certain language. Fluently. The words and terms that characterize basketball, rowing or football, running, swimming or golf, even tennis or wo-po—I mean water polo, form a unique lexicon. Meeting an athlete who identifies with my favorite sport, or one I grew up playing, allows me to speak in my native tongue. However, given the way that sport characterizes popular culture, I believe these languages ought to be spoken beyond the game and after practice. How?

The language of each sport offers a literal idea but there are metaphorical ones to be considered, too. For example fans and football players can tell you what "holding," a "personal foul" or "first down" means, but ask them to translate how that relates to life. Every rower knows what to do when the coxswain tells them wane-off or "way-nuf," but what does that look like in a business meeting or a lengthy discussion. Why should a "PR" be limited to the track or trail. Why can't we think about other PRs or "personal records" in our own lives?

I was reminded of one idea that challenges me both literally and metaphorically last month when I traveled to Bandon Dunes golf resort. During one round, I was playing lights out.* My caddie was happy to tell me several times during our round that I was putting for birdie. After the third or fourth time, I turned to him and said "please don't tell me I'm putting for birdie. Believe me I already know....and then it gets in my head." He nodded with understanding. He said "When the pros are putting for birdie, they make a 6-foot putt 45% of the time. When they are putting for par, the same distance, they make it at a rate of 60%." I wasn't surprised. The pressure, the mental messes with you and I am far from a pro. My biggest problem is my putting (see the * above, great round everywhere but on the greens!) Too often I putt for birdie—one under par, and post a bogey—one over par. Yuck.
DJ three-putted on the final hole of the 2015 US Open. That's the worst possible ex of birdie to bogey
I have said "from birdie to bogey" in my short golf career more than I would like. But that term has stuck in my head and given me an opportunity to think of what this statement means metaphorically—in other words, what in life goes from good to bad quickly. Given how much time I've been able to think about this, I have a few ideas. I would love to read your own, but for now, here goes. 

The action listed in black seems like a good idea...and occasionally you are in make the putt...but more often than not, you finish the hole two strokes later. Not good.
  • Purchasing a giant bag of M&Ms. They're on sale...maybe it's a special edition color or flavor. I've seen that one pound bag go from good to entirely gone one day later.
  • Watching "Jerry Maguire" or your 2017 version of it. When I lived in South Louisiana in the late 90s...before Netflix and much internet and/or good cable, my housemate Gary and I would turn on the TV after a round of grading papers. Eventually the remote found its way to TNT and it seemed like every other week Jerry Maguire was on. We would plan to watch 10 to 15 minutes....maybe....only to finish it a few hours later. Yes "Jerry Maguire," you completed me. Your movie may not include a quote like "show me the money" but there's some movie like this that takes you from bird to bogey....NB: I felt this way about watching any "Behind the Music" episode.
  • Meeting up with an ex. Seems harmless, right? You care about this person and their well-being, however, there's an "ex" before the word boyfriend or girlfriend for a reason. I don't recommend this for someone will leave with hurt feelings, romanticized notions of what could have been, bad break-up get the jist .
  • Drinking a transfusion. Ever. This curious cocktail involves vodka, ginger ale and grape juice concentrate. Refreshing....delicious....but I guarantee you will be hijacked by this beverage. Maybe that's what you want...the beverage does live up to its name.
  • Grocery shopping when hungry: whether it's Costco or Trader Joe's, I know I have made purchases I never would have otherwise if I were satiated. Some friends, especially those with younger children who need a break from them say they go from birdie to bogey anytime they shop at Target. You?
In "Building Your Own Conscience," William O'Malley wrote,  "the first step toward wisdom is to call a thing by its right name. Then you will handle it as it deserves." Though I work with teenagers, I think all humanity—of all ages, would be well served by a sense of choices we make in life that may go from birdie to bogey. 

***And for what it's worth, I think bogey golf isn't bad. You still break 100, easily in bogey golf....I'll take that. There are some decisions in life that are probably birdie to blow-up. One can recover from birdie to bogey...I know I have and will do so again in my next rounds. Cheers.

Photo Credits

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Favorite Mistake: The Greatest Lesson I've Learned from Writing

I called to congratulate a friend who published a book. Anticipating the publication of my I wanted to know how he felt. "I can't help but see all kinds of mistakes," he said. I was surprised. Given what he could say about this life achievement, he honed in on something negative. I thought to myself what a terrible response—until I did the same thing. In sharing his sentiment, I wondered Why do we do this? What does it say about us? And if what we see in our creation are its limits and errors, why do we create in the first place?

I held my book for the first time (does it sound like a child or what? Labor does have a lot to do with writing a book too) at the NCEA Convention during Easter week. Upon first glance, I was thrilled. "Go ahead and judge mine by the cover," I said. 

I started flipping through the pages and rather than see my stories come to life or examples resonate their inherent truth, I only saw...oh boy....and then I thought...What happened here? ...oops....Why is that there? I frantically flipped to the end wondering how many more mistakes I might find. I left out an entire introduction to a chapter! There is no "about the author." Headings are misaligned, words aren't capitalized...yuck, yuck, yuck. I extended my arms in solidarity to my friend John on the other side of the country.

My disappointment stayed with me until I learned I could make changes with the second printing. Suddenly I had a goal! Let's sell this baby. But I knew too well, most people would see the first iteration. I had to come to peace with what I created; we all have this task.

I decided to try a Sheryl Crow approach and name my favorite mistake. I figured if she could write a song about one, I could blog about it. However, anyone who knows the backstory of this 1998 hit, knows that the song is about her relationship with Eric Clapton. Given his musical prowess and remarkably handsome good looks, I doubt this mistake is one that she really and truly wants to forget. And not much came to mind as a mistake I was okay with... until one did.
In September 2016, Bruce Springsteen released his memoir "Born to Run." A New York Times bestseller I have LOVED talking to people about it. Though about 70% of the story was familiar to me, I was not prepared for was how good Bruce is at writing. I was convinced he had a ghost writer. I figured the eight years it took him to write the book was a code for six years of editing to his two years of pen on paper. I was completely wrong.

I should have known that Bruce would be a respectable author given that he writes all of his own music. One might think that writing music and writing for the purpose of reading are different—they are not. As I write, I re-read my ideas and my dreams. At my best, I read them out loud and on a regular basis I find myself almost counting the notes or rather, my words. There is a beat that I find. When I tune in, that melody underscores my entire message. It's a beautiful feeling to "hear" this type of music, or for Boss fans, it's a "Beautiful Reward."

Writing has its own cadence. It rhythm is reflected in the mood of the article or posting. It has an intro, a crescendo and a conclusion, there are pauses and rest, flats and sharps. Sometimes I don't even realize I have moved from one key into the next. Springsteen and the E Street band do this with every song and every performance. I know because I've listened for nearly 35 years. I believe because I have attended 23 of their shows. 

My Uncle Mark got to meet the Boss in Seattle,
He talked to him about...teaching ;-)
I have been holding this realization about writing and rhythm in my psyche until I read a message from my Uncle Mark. My dad's youngest brother, Mark is the man who is responsible for my love of Bruce. He wrote:
Anne, The two best books I've read this year are "Born To Run and Pray" and "Practice with Purpose." My favorite parts are your personal examples about your high school culture. Your writing is well-rounded (Muslims) and developed (incredulous research).  
I love the line, speaking of students/athletes, "Anytime you get them to be quiet they come to know their identity a little more."  Wow, that's a good thought to take forward. Also, "Time is a limited resource," when speaking of game time. Obviously it fits in with Bruce's coda about The River on the tour following, "Wreckin Ball." Waaaaa! (Ha, ha.)  
Loved, loved, loved, "Perfect should never be the enemy of good." This should be sent to Coach Salazar at Bellarmine Prep.  
Last night I just finished Ch. 78 of BTR. It amazed and bothered me the depth of Bruce's depression and how the book almost ends on this. Wow. He, too, obviously has some observations to live by. (I will have to write these down.) 
One night this late Spring after another not so good day I sat down with a beer(s) and realized, for me, the two most comforting books were yours and Bruce's. I still feel that way.
I read his words with tears in my eyes and wondered how I got so lucky to have an uncle like him. He has given me two incredible gifts: words of encouragement (throughout my life) and the love of music. 

Most writers will tell you to find your voice. They will expound on the beauty of finding and using that voice. They have to—writing is just too hard to not have these deeply satisfying, intrinsic rewards. But for me, it's not about finding or using my voice—it's about finding a rhythm. In writing and publishing "ray and Practice with Purpose," I have come to realize that I write 1). because I teach and coach and 2) because I have found a rhythm.
The stories I tell more often than not aren't even my stories. They are however stories that need to be told. I'm not even telling them with my words. No, the stories come into my life have already been written...they must simply be set for a rhythm for others to hear.

Through "Born to Run," and the love of my uncle, I come to realize "My favorite mistake" isn't the errors, the typos or anything negative about my book. My favorite mistake is that I thought Springsteen couldn't and didn't write his book. The error of my ways, help me to realize how his talent is in no way limited to writing music. 

His example, his gifts, his ability to tell a story move us to tears and to new heights because they have a rhythm that resonates with rock and roll. On a much smaller scale, I now know why I write....I encounter the stories, I live for them and through God's gift in me, I get to set them to their own tune. Next time you read, please pay attention to the rhythm—it's there.

A one,, two three....

Photo Credits
And if you would like to order your own copy of Pray and Practice with Purpose, it is available through my website!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The 2017 US Open: A Few Riches Amidst An Embarrassment of Others in Sports

As a sports fan, I get asked quite often what is my favorite one to watch. I've got my answer down: I love Notre Dame football, Giants baseball, I enjoy a lot of high school basketball but really, my favorite is the PGA. This comes as a surprise to some people, but it's the truth. What is your answer?

My love of golf is palpable when it comes time for the four most prestigious tournaments in the sport—the majors. There's a spring to my step and joy to my world. For example, on Thursday June 15, I happened to be playing in a two-day golf tourney as the US Open commenced at Erin Hills. About three holes in, I turned to my caddie and said "I'm so fired up for the US Open right now." Maybe I should have been more excited about the round of competition I was in.....but on opening day, any one of the 156 golfers in the field has an equal shot at the championship. 

The 117th Open that took place for the first time in Wisconsin had its share of great golf and notable misses (from Phil Mickelson who sat out to attend his daughter's high school graduation to the top 3 players in the world who missed the cut). I would be lying if I told you I shed a tear when Brooks Koepka captured the win; I don't want to take away from his historic feat. Koepka shares the low scoring record with Rory McIlroy, finishing with 16 under par. The 27-year old golfer out of West Palm Beach completed his final round with an accuracy rating of 85% and hit 86% of all greens in regulation. No other golfer has ever been above 80% in both categories on the 55th-72nd holes. And yet, as I turned off the television and closed the chapter on the second major of the year, I was reminded that spectacular victories and memorable final rounds are never a given. 

As a sports fan I don't think I take great wins for granted, however there has been an embarrassment of riches in recent sports history. Although 2016 was a year that many people wanted to forget, last year was epic in terms of sports. And, from this year's Masters to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, 2017 has not been devoid of them either. We have been spoiled, and we will be spoiled again. Until then, here are but a few ideas that this year's Open has has invited me to consider.

Rory with his father on Father's Day/US Open at Congressional 2013
A great Father's Day Tradition.
Is it just me or does Father's Day take a major back seat to Mother's Day? I am simply raising the question; please do not shoot the messenger.

That being said, I do love that the USGA honors golfers and their dad's on the day of the final round. Call is smart advertising, but I love the duo of this day for my dad and for golf. 

To this day, my favorite US Open was when Justin Rose beat Phil Mickelson at Merion (2014). I was a new member at the Olympic Club and took my dad and family out to brunch. We descended to the bar grill in the basement where we watched the final eight to ten holes. My dad who was allegedly stuffed from a fantastic meal, found room for two beers and the peanuts and pretzel snacks they offer. Why not, it was his day. Thanks Dad!

75% of the golfers on my team learned to play golf with or from their dad. On this day, I honor those men, for without them, I might not have the chance to coach their daughters. 

We need more great fathers in the world. I hope in some small way, that message is articulated even through the US Open.

Why is that okay?
About 10 years into teaching high school students, I struck gold. I found the perfect question for disciplinary purposes. 

A student was distracting me and his classmates once again. I had already confronted the behavior. I had given wait time for said student to stop talking and make amends. He didn't. Rather than lose it, yell or over react, I simply looked him in the eye as he was talking to yet another student and said "Why is that okay?" 

I repeated the question, "I need to know, why is it okay that you are talking right now."
"It's not," he said.

"Thank you," I replied. Matter solved.

Holly Sonders has been a golf analyst on both the Golf Channel and on Fox Sports. While there were four male commentators sitting in the booth and analyzing the tourney, Ms Sonders was standing and interviewing a few players after their round. I looked at her dress, did a compare and contrast with the conservative shirts, suits and ties in the booth, and looked at her again. Why is that okay? was my only sole reaction.

Her dress might not be appropriate for clubbing later in the evening, but I'm not convinced it was appropriate for golf either. 

I understand that Fox Sports was covering the men's US Open. I can comprehend why there are far more men narrating the tourney than there are women. But I cannot understand why Juli Inkster who played on the LPGA since 1983 was heard and never seen and why Holly Sonders, was seen and heard much less. 

The littlest of things can delight us
Rickie Fowler wears orange and white on Sundays to honor his alma mater, Oklahoma State. Perhaps you noticed what was not necessarily a clash of colors, but just a whole lot more of it on and around the 9th ranked golf player in the world during the Open. Fowler had his caddie Joe Kkovron carry a green and gold Cobra golf bag to honor the Green Bay Packers. Great call in the land of cheese heads Rickie.
Wisconsin's own native son, Steve Stricker had an outstanding performance at Erin Hills. Though 50 years old, he shot the same score in today's round, a 69 as the 23 year old Jordan Spieth. What I love about Stricker isn't just his surname (we've got to be related), but the fact that he has a female caddie. That's right. There's no need to discriminate on gender. A caddie must know the game, take good notes, make astute observations and be encouraging. That person for Stricker is his wife, Nicki.

Springsteen fans yell out BRUUUUUUCCCE! at every show. Matt Kuchar is developing fan calls that rival the Boss'. Have you noticed? KOOOOCH may also be giving Steve Kerr a run for the money as another man who has no enemies. Kuchar might be the most beloved player on the tour, which I can support. I swear it looks like he is smiling and enjoying every hole. How is that possible? Must be the fan support.
On Sunday, the final round, the absence of my favorite players forced me to reconsider who to cheer for. Always a fan of Rickie, I hoped he would win his first major. Second on my list was Justin Thomas, simply because he went to St. X in Cincinnati, a brother Jesuit high school My third and final hope was in Patrick Reed, and here's why. According to Golf Digest,
"Captain America," as he's known to fans, broke out the team trousers for Round 3 at Erin Hills, and they do seem to have brought him good fortune today. He shot a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead and a shot at U.S. Open glory. 
Unfortunately Reed did not post the memorable round that he did at Hazeltine, but I still treasure the riches from the US win (another great sports moment in 2016). 

For those who live in and around Erin, WI the 2017 US Open can't help but be memorable. Extending hospitality to the golfers and patrons from around the world is a privilege and a blessing. For those of us who watched on TV, through highlights or reviews in the paper, the 117th championship doesn't stand out as extraordinary on a grand scale. But to love a sport, and to see athletes strive to make themselves, their competitors and the game better as I did over the last four days...well, that's priceless.

Photo Credits
Patrick Reed

Brooks Wins

Friday, June 9, 2017

What You Can and Can't Say About the Golden State Warriors

Half way through our conversation on Sports and Spirituality, Brian, an athletic director in Buffalo, New York wanted me to know how much he loves the Golden State Warriors. I am willing to listen to his tune 24-7, 365. Allow me to follow up with every cliche in my arsenal. I am on board with this team and appreciate it when others recognize how special this super team really is. 

Brian and I were kitbitzing loud and proud until he said "Can we say sweep?" His question was answered with silence. You could hear the pin drop on the other end of the line. "Anne? You there?" he queried. I said, "Brian, every last part of me wants to say "sweep," but there are things you can and can't say as a Warriors fan." Here's my list
What you cannot say: #Sweep
The reverberations of Cleveland winning the 2016 NBA Finals after losing the first three games were felt all season. The collective memory of the players, coaches, owners and fans is not short. Warriors fan cannot and should not say "sweep."

As many of my sports buddies know, I detest the cheer "We believe that we will win." I never say it; I never will. Fans shout those six words over and over, louder and louder, but I don't. I never do. Not until the clock is precisely 0.00 do I believe anyone will win. Victory is never a given. Again, look to the 2016 NBA Finals.

I'm totally ok with not saying "sweep." I will not bring my broom. Once bitten, twice shy (one of the more interesting cliches out there).

What you can say: I've Got Your Back
This is my message for the man who has no enemies, the head coach of the Dubs, can you hear the cheer from Oracle right now? That's right, after he is introduced Warriors fans yell his name in unison: STEVE KERR. I wanted to print out shirt that says I heart Steve Kerr (please insert emoji for heart/love). I believe that shirt will win. Kerr is da man. 

When he returned to coach Game 2 of the NBA Finals after missing six weeks, a friend poignantly asked Why would Kerr coach now? He added, "Coach Kerr has everything to lose. IF the fate of the team changes, he is to blame. Regardless, he gets the credit. Why do it?" 

At first I was annoyed at his question. Puh-lease. Coach Kerr has to be out there! I realized, his question however was a good question—one that I shared this question with a coworker and friend, who is also a coach. My colleague said—with total sincerity—one simple answer "the magis. Isn't that why we do what we do?" I don't know that I have ever found a better definition of or for the magis. 
What You Can't Say: The Real MVP
Should the Warriors complete the sweep, I truly believe we can no longer say that Wanda Durant is the Real MVP (even if it is trademarked). Her second born son, Kevin, has given this wonderful woman a whole lot of credit. We have loved him for it, but given his performance throughout the 2017 postseason so far, he really could, should and would be the MVP. The real one.

What You Can Say: A House Made of Klay
In the parable "Two Foundations" Jesus preaches the importance of a solid foundation.

Matthew's Gospel, he says;
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
But when we apply this parable to "Strength in Numbers" the official motto of the Warriors, we must consider the house that has been built on Klay—that's right, the other original Splash Brother, Klay Thompson.

From time to time, Klay can go silent—but that does not mean he isn't working, hustling, and playing what has carried this team so far: DEFENSE. Klay Thompson is unflappable, one of my favorite qualities in an athlete. He is quite possibly the purest shooter in the game. He has played a critical role in this franchise that has played in the last three NBA Finals. And, I dare say he has done so with the cool factor like no other.

It is no stretch for me to say the house built on Klay is a solid one. 
Can't Say: What LeBron has thought about...
I heard someone on my local sports talk radio station say "deep in your heart, you know that LeBron has thought about what it would be like to play for the Warriors." Bold statements and ridiculous speculations such as these are why we love sports. Of course those of us in Warrior-land would think that is true, why wouldn't we? #Bias

Sports fans, we are in for a treat in but a few hours. Quicken Loan Arena will be bumping with all the title defense energy it can possibly muster. I can't wait for the game to begin. Play Ball! (Can I say that when it comes to basketball???)

Photo Credit
Heck Yeah Coach Kerr

Strength in Numbers

Monday, June 5, 2017

This is Success: AMDG

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote 
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.This is to have succeeded. 
I'm sure Emerson's poignant words grace many a graduation card; they should. With the conclusion of another school year and 375 new alumni of St. Ignatius College Prep, it's only natural to look back on the success of the past year....of those we shaped and formed...those who have left their mark and those we will miss.
At SI, like many Jesuit schools throughout the country we have a paradigm of success in a the Grad at Grad. This profile identifies what a graduate of our schools ought to be. There are areas of strength and always room for growth, but our mission is to educate the young men and women who enter the hallways at 2001 37th Avenue into the Sunset and shape them into men and women for and with others. They ought to be Open to Growth, Loving, Intellectual, Called to Leadership, Religious and Committed to Justice. These tenets remind us who we are. To be more direct, one could say they justify the cost of tuition. I like to think they are our raison d'étre.

In the past month, I have witnessed what we proclaim. In other words, I know we have succeeded. Here are but two examples.

At graduation, the administration confers the four highest honors in the school: the Loyalty Award, the Anthony P Sauer, SJ Award, the Valedictorian and the Ignatian Award. As written on the SI website, 
The Ignatian Award is the highest award our school offers. It is conferred upon the graduating senior who has consistently put the welfare of students above his or her own interests. This award winner is chosen from the graduating class for generous service on their behalf, dedication to the Gospel message, and devotion to the Christian ideals enunciated by the patron of our school, St. Ignatius of Loyola. 
Allow me to share what our Principal had to say about the 2017 honoree
This year's recipient is a humble leader and genuine role model for classmates and teammates. An honors student who consistently strives to do his personal best to develop intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually; this student has been a retreat leader, a leader on Student Council and an Eagle Scout. 
What sets him a part are his distinct passions which he has managed to develop and share these past four years. He has been on SITV, served as a Big Cat, and as a Kairos Retreat leader; he ran Cross Country, performed in the musical, and was in Speech and Debate. This young man's talents are many and varied because of his insatiable quest to discover and master new opportunities. He was a founding member and leader of our Robotics Team, a member of the California Scholarship Federation, and a regular at daily Mass in Jensen Chapel and still found time to complete over 897 hours of community service.  
He is a young man blessed with many gifts – he is intelligent, morally upright, and full of integrity; he is a leader and has touched our hearts and challenged our minds the past four years. His good-natured, outgoing, and winning personality, positive approach to life and learning, and genuine concern for those around him have earned him the respect, trust, and admiration of both his teachers and peers.  
Fr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to present the 2017 Ignatian Award to Nathaniel Dejan.
Nathan who served as senior class president is known to his friends and even his teachers as "Sunny D." His disposition and personal demeanor is one of joy....yes, real joy. He is kind and positive and lives life differently. I have to believe his faith has something to do with it.

A memory I will forever treasure of Nathan is the time he was recruited at the very last minute to join a modest group of eight students from SI, myself and another faculty member on the 2017 Walk for Life. He was the difference maker. Twelve students from Brophy accompanied us and Nathan initiated all the outreach to what became a band of brothers. His sunny disposition warmed up a cold day. He talked and listened to those we encountered on all sides of the issue. It's hard not to love life, all life when you know Nathan!
But my lasting impression of Nathan will remain something I have never seen in the 14 years I have taught at SI. When Nathan's name was called for the award, all of his classmates stood up to applaud and cheer, channeling the joy he has always given to us. He hugged every administrator on the stage and when it came time to exit, he took off his motor board and bowed. The clapping and the cheering grew louder; my own eyes began to well up with tears....tears of joy. He walked off the stage and stopped, only to bow again. His example, his simple act of humility was just one of the great gifts he bestowed upon his classmates and on me. 

If we can graduate young men and women like Nathan—I have absolutely no doubt that we have succeeded. And as everyone inside War Memorial Gym can attest, we did. Again, thank you, Nathan.

The Ignatian Award winner embodies a motto that guides our school, AMDG. I think we ought to add those words to the description. AMDG or "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam," is the Latin motto for the Society of Jesus, meaning "for the greater glory of God." Truly AMDG is the hallmark of a Jesuit education, and perhaps our greatest indicator of success. I was reminded of the significance of this motto in my senior final presentations when a beloved student recalled the example and impact of Andrew Phillips as encountered in Sports and Spirituality

In my book, "Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes," I noted that the trajectory of Sports and Spirituality forever changed in my life when the principal of SI shared me with the photo you see here.
In this two-page landscape photo ("Leading Off, Sports Illustrated 2012) Stanford football player Andrew Phillips embraces his teammate following an epic victory. Phillips has his helmet off, his eye black is smeared and inscribed on the athletic tape around his wrist are the four letters: AMDG.

Though all Christians are called to do what they do for the greater glory of God, those involved in Jesuit education share this philosophy in a very concrete way; AMDG is part of a shared lexicon within the school community and among who share the same tradition. AMDG is visibly promoted. Not only do students write those letters on their work, AMDG can be seen in religious art on campus, on printed material from the administration. And, after reflecting upon the image of Andrew Phillips, the leadership at St. Ignatius College Prep decided AMDG would be printed on every athletic uniform, too.
AMDG is not meant to be another decoration. AMDG is far from a marketing tool; the spirit of this motto should never ring hollow or untrue. Therefore, coaches are called to actively lead with AMDG in mind. Athletes are instructed to compete in a way that gives glory to God. They are reminded that sports is another way we can use our gifts and talents not just for personal gain, but as part of something much bigger than ourselves. Those letters are printed on team jerseys lest anyone forget.

The image of Andrew Phillips proves that some student-athletes do not forget. Phillips wrote AMDG on his wristband four years after his from Georgetown Preparatory High School in Bethesda, Maryland. No one at Stanford, a non-religious institution would require him, or any a student-athlete to wear AMDG. But Phillips did. Why?

As I was writing the introduction to my book, I realized, I should just ask him. Phillips told me, 
The Jesuits taught me that everything you did should be done with the knowledge that your actions were giving glory to God. I always took a mindset as a player that my play wasn't just helping my team win, but as an expression of my talents it was actually a personal way of giving glory to my Creator. There was something very centering in my ritual of putting those letters onto my wrist tape, and my wife even surprised me by having AMDG etched into the inside of my wedding ring. Though I hung up my pads several years ago, the principle of Ad Majorem Dei Gloria is still something I use as a guide in my daily life.
I had no idea how he might answer my question. Phillips words were not much different to me than Nathan's bow. Humble, joyful, grateful, and evidence of the magis. 

We will know we have succeeded in education, forming young people of faith when they respond in a way that embodies our mission...when the people in their lives know the words and ideas that have shaped and guided them. Their success is our success, leaving an imprint on our hearts and in our minds. 

Photo Credits
Thank you, Paul Totah

Saturday, June 3, 2017

They Call Me Coach

Walking down Fillmore Street, I looked at the man standing in my path with a vague sense of familiarity. We made eye contact and I could feel my brain scanning its contact files to match a face and a name. Apart from his blue eyes and friendly demeanor, nothing stood out as extraordinary about him ...until, something clicked. I turned around and said what anyone in my situation should say, "Hi Coach." He smiled, and said "Hi there" and gave me the thumbs up. 

Steve Mariucci was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1997 to 2002. Mooch had great success in the NFL, finishing first in the NFC west three times and yet he was fired after a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Playoffs (My dad is still upset about it...oh and the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl). Today, he is a analyst for NFL Gameday, but as sports fan can and should know, he will always be "Coach."
I love being called "Coach." I am proud of the fact that the school where I work, St Ignatius, has a tradition of referring to their coaches with that very title.When I coached at another high school, I was "Ms. Stricherz." In fact, I came to SI before I taught there and yet my rowers never even asked what they should call me, the precedent had been set. "Coach" is a title I take seriously; I know many other coaches feel the same. Our athletes do too.

In the 30 for 30: Catholic vs. Convicts, Tony Rice—the quarterback for the Fightin' Irish—said "The Lord is my shepherd, but Lou Holtz is my coach." I smiled when I heard his words; far beyond the documentary, I have a sense of the relationship that existed between this coach and athlete, and the entire 1988 National Championship team. Rice's words paint the perfect picture of what was, and remains true. Holtz was his coach then, and that's what he is to Tony Rice et al today.

In my book "Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes" I wrote about the significance of coaching as a profession and a ministry. I said:

It isn’t uncommon for Americans to name a coach as their personal hero. Whether or not they are enshrined in national or local hall of fame, many coaches are icons, mentors, partners and friends. They are fascinating individuals. We admire them for their unique gifts, their vision, their passion and their success. But their success must be more than just wins; great coaches transform individuals into a team—a band of brothers and sisters, a family that can both play and pray together.

In the fifteen years I have taught in the Religious Studies department at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, CA, I have also coached three different sports: girls’ rowing, cross country and golf. When I leave my classroom and head to the coach’s locker room, I carry another attendance sheet, agenda and a different kind of lesson plan. According to the school schedule, students have six periods in a day. But ask any coach, and he or she will tell you there are seven. The places where we practice and train are much more than a classroom without walls, they are privileged places where young men and women are formed according to our values, with our school slogan or team motto as the guide.

Jim Yerkovich articulates coaching as both a ministry in his essay, "We: A Model for Coaching and Christian Living." Coaching’s import is so significant that it merits its own title. He writes,

If you ever doubt the significance of your role as a coach just consider as Father John Cusick invited coaches to do at a conference entitled "Coaching is Calling" in Chicago 1998, that apart from father or sister, "coach" is the only person in the school who is called by their title. He pointed out that students don't say "teacher" or "principal" but the coach they call "coach." Father Cusick reflected on what it was like after his ordination to suddenly have people calling him "Father." He felt good about the fact that people were giving him the sign of respect after all those years of preparation but also felt the sense of responsibility that went along with this title and role. Likewise, when our students call us "coach" this is a sign of respect, but there is also a great responsibility to be a positive influence in their lives.

When I walk the hallways at school, in the eyes of many students I am a teacher. To others, I am a coach. For some, I am their coach. The relationship between athlete and coach is a special one. Much like teaching, parenting or pastoring, it is not without its challenges and demands. Being called “coach” is a privilege and an honor. It’s a title that demands many skills and abilities.

Seeing Steve Mariucci out on the street reminded me that being a coach is a critical component of a person's identity, one that remains long after a season—the wins or losses, the championships, defeats and even the firing. In that moment, I could have said "Steve" or "Mooch" or "Mr. Mariucci" but I chose the one I deemed most fitting in an instant. Based on the smile on his face and on mine, it was the right one...the best one. Thanks Coach.

Photo Credits

Holtz and Rice