Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Got Inspiration? Thank You, Frank Allocco

What I'm about to write isn't rocket science. I'm confident this message has been shared with me by my teachers, coaches, parents, and friends but we all need reminders. Twine not required.
I haven't been feeling very inspired lately. As a sports fan and a teacher of a course called Sports and Spirituality, I'm not often ISO inspiration. Besides, inspiration is everywhere: all one needs to do is turn on any given playoff game, attend a high school senior day game or pick up the now biweekly edition of Sports Illustrated and you will find that for which you seek. Perhaps I haven't been tuning in or paying attention, but my lack of inspiration means I'm less inclined to write a blog posting or share a story with a friend, yielding an unwelcome cycle. Why? because inspiration begets inspiration. So what do you do when it's missing...when you go through the motions...when things feel well, meh. Fortunately, my annual guest speaker, Frank Allocco reminded me of an answer. 

Frank Allocco is the Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director of External Relations at the University of San Francisco. I know Frank because not only was he the quarterback at the University of Notre Dame he founded the Excel basketball camp my brother attended many times while growing up. He was the head basketball coach at De La Salle High School where he won two state championships. He is a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, coach, poet, athlete and a friend. A true Notre Dame man, he is a motivational speaker who never fails to make an indelible impression on my seniors. He is visionary and wise. In short, he is an inspiration.
I left our class yesterday feeling the way I hadn't in a long time. If you want inspiration...if you're seeking to be inspired, surround yourself with inspiring people. These words, this insight was not the message of Coach Allocco. No, this insight was a by-product of his presence. I am ever grateful for his time and attention. He gives one of the greatest gifts anyone can give: he gives his time, attention and his presence. Given the pace and demands of this world, that might be one of the most inspirational things about him. However, there is much can start by reading "Lofty Dream and Buried Blessings" and conclude with his insights from his 2018 talk at St. Ignatius. Here are but a few...

1. Have a sense of urgency about what you do. 
Life presents a wealth of opportunities, some of which we capitalize upon. When and if we do. we can make minutes into memories. However, none of this happens without a certain sense of urgency. Coach Holtz said we should continually ask ourselves: What's Important Now. The "now" speaks to that urgency. Get it done. Do the work. Not tomorrow...not next

2. Put your athletes in a position where they become role models.
It's one thing to tell your team that they are role models—or expected to be— and another to provide the tools so they can grow into them. Coach Allocco told us that before every game he made sure that his players, the boys' varsity basketball team, found the kids in the stands and shook their hands. This small act of kindness is important for two reasons: it reinforces the virtue of gratitude. It's never a given that someone can or will show up for our games...but we are glad they do! A handshake is a "thank you" and a welcome in one. Second, this deed helps a teenager realize the impact they (may) have. They might have been a kid in the stands in the pasting—dreaming of wearing a varsity jersey. Others might make a connection with those they encounter. This small gesture is an act of service. If we can do the small things, we can do the big ones too.

Coach Allocco's own coach and personal hero.
Ara greatest legacy was left off the football field.
3. The world can be a cold and dreary place....
Coach Allocco has more than his fair share of good stories. As I listened to some new ones, and others I had heard before, I realized why he was able to tell so many good ones. Yes, the words of Greg Boyle, SJ ring true: "good stories come to those who can tell them," but I also think good stories come to those who reach out to others. That's what Frank does. He meets people while swimming in a pool, he greets strangers and has welcomed them to Notre Dame, he pays attention to a button you might be wearing and wants to know more about its message. In short, he erases the lines between us and them....until there is "just us." 

I found myself thinking how much warmer and brighter the world is because of people who build that bridge—welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry. In this case, we were hungry for his wisdom and insight. I found myself hungrier than I knew and feasting on inspiration.

Thank you, Coach Allocco. So blessed to have your friendship and now....more inspiration.

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