Thursday, November 29, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody: How Queen's Music Resonates with Sports & Sprituality

I've never been a huge Queen fan. Sure I appreciate many of their songs, but, in my youth, I would forgo their videos on MTV. I've never felt even the slightest impulse to purchase one of their albums. I realize "Bohemian Rhapsody" is #166 on Rolling Stones' 500 greatest rock songs of all time. Though I "get it," I would never pick the six minute ballad on my personal Top 100 list. Ever. However, I do love music—all types. I'm a fan of Rock n Roll—its history and all that goes "Behind the Music." A big one. So, viewing "Bohemian Rhapsody" was on my  short list. What did I find? What were my concluding thoughts? It is the story of a band who created the three greatest Jock Rock songs of all time. Bar None. The question is How?
Live Aid: Wembley Stadium, 1985. Look at the crowd.

John Anderson of America Magazine captured word for word what I expected in this much anticipated bio-pic. He writes, "Loud, vivid and yearning to be operatic, “Bohemian Rhapsody”—a.k.a. the Queen movie—was always destined to be a martyr’s tale, a tragic romance, maybe rock’s answer to “La Boheme.” Freddie Mercury, the band’s guiding diva, died of AIDS complications in 1991—early enough in the epidemic to have been one of its more celebrated victims. The band was huge (still is; few acts will ever outsell them), and Mercury was pop’s most flamboyant performer—a closeted icon who rode a gay aesthetic to stardom. It is a poignant story even now. Or especially now."

I watched the two hour, 15 minute film in conflict, with curiosity and at one point completely ready to rock out. Mercury is complex; no surprise there. His vocal range of four octaves and his energy—few, if any rocks stars live up to the billing of that title. He does. And yet, his inability to arrive on time or stray from the center of attention—ever—are the "stuff" of divas. I mused, "Are we left to expect this of all musical geniuses?" Sigh. 
Anderson writes "the movie is far more conservative than its subjects." Duly noted. For the most part, Queen's lifestyle—at both home and on the road was underplayed. The tension between band members is largely unseen. However, Mercury notes the in-fighting, the squabbles and tension with the three other men in Queen is exactly what made them what they are: #52 on Rolling Stones greatest Rock Artists of All Time.

When tension is creative it can give birth to something remarkable. And from that creative tension, emerged what I believe are songs that resonate with sports like no other....with the spirituality of sports....of athletic contests on the highest levels...and of championships on every level. For example, the lead guitarist, Brian May wanted more audience involvement at arena concerts. Hence using foot stomping as an instrument created "We Will Rock You." Freddie Mercury wanted to integrate disco into their ever evolving sound. The bass player John Deacon had a riff to share. That creative tension accounts for "Another One Bites the Dust." What better song to play for a home team when a rival goes down?!
What most sports fans will most widely recognize as Queen's greatest Rock Jock ballad is a song that is played—even today—at Super Bowls, NBA Finals, in team slide shows and at little league parades. We are the Champions. I'll let the words, and the music speak for itself.

According to the Culture Review, Anderson and his movie viewing partner left the theater, much like I did...still thinking about the film and waking up the next day to only think more, question more, smile more, sing more.

I wondered,
How could a band like Queen create three masterpieces that resonate so deeply with sport? The viewer has no sense that they are sports fan. Not one athlete arrives on the scene, into their inner-circle or among their groupies. My answer emerged from Anderson's conclusion.

He writes, "
It will seem odd, but in my ruminations about the highly entertaining if problematic “Bohemian Rhapsody” I keep thinking about “Lawrence of Arabia,” a genuine epic but also a film with many parallels to Mr. Singer’s. Its hero was sexually repressed, the war within himself being reflected in his conflict with an outside force (Freddie’s enemy being standard pop musicality). He had allies who were fiercely loyal, but the forces of the system were fatally arrayed against him. His demise is foreshadowed—or, actually, just spelled out—from the opening moments of the story. And while historical accuracy is not the first priority, the point of the story is sacrifice: the artist on a cross. That may seem a bit grandiose, but grandiosity was always the fuel source of Queen and Freddie Mercury—and of “Bohemian Rhapsody” as well."

This movie captures the very same energy that drives athletes, especially champions. So many athletes have wars within themselves. Every great team battles conflict and becomes great by overcoming the outside forces. No athlete, no team, no coach is immune to demise. Nor are they unwilling to make sacrifices. The greatest of them make sacrifices that are in the end, transformative. No wonder the great sports stories must be underscored by a Queen song. 

I left satisfied with my conclusion and ever more grateful for the music. U2 sings "she moves in mysterious ways." Lord—YOU move in mysterious ways....this is but one of them.

Photo Credits
Movie Poster
Album Cover
Live Aid

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Paradox of Football: Thoughts on the Game Ball

It's no stretch to list reasons not to play football. One need not look at the decreasing numbers of teams fielded by high schools across the US to know its future is in peril. However, when we discuss why football's popularity is in decline, I am adamant in pointing to the fact that the concussion question is not the only culprit. The reality of these head injuries might be a leading cause but like most matters, it is one among many—and several of them speak to the personalities of today's players. 
One complaint among many is that young men don't want to play a sport that competes but once a week. They feel that they train for long and hard, only to play 10, 12 or 14 games. Furthermore, football doesn't let an individual athlete shine in the same way that a sport like basketball does. Athletics and egos are bedfellows. A stellar athlete wants the spotlight and though it's not absent from football, given that most rosters have upwards of 40 guys—offense, defense, special teams, etc. the room for "one star," (other than the quarterback or a dominant receiver) is far less common. All of this being said, I think one of the very best reasons TO play football is the paradox of this game. Allow me to explain.

Social media has afforded us with access to football teams and their culture like never before. Before the game, fans inside of Notre Dame stadium can pray the "Our Father" with the Irish. How's that? It's simulcast on the video screen installed three seasons ago. After the USC win, I learned the team was flying back to South Bend. How did I know? Ian Book's Twitter video shared a video of what must have been a raucous flight. I hope students greeted them at the Main Circle early the next morning. I'm sure there's video footage if they did. And this year, my favorite feed to find is the post-game tradition: giving the game ball.

I don't know if the game ball is only given after a win—weare uNDefeated, though I imagine that is criteria for gifting. But, following Coach Brian Kelly's recap and remarks, a singular athlete is called forward and recognized for his effort. I love—repeat love—finding out who keeps the pigskin. It is signed and dated, replete with the winning score. The player is called forward and his accomplishments are duly noted and celebrated. The ball does not discriminate—guys on both offense and defense have earned the 2018 season's game balls. I am absolutely confident if I were a Notre Dame football player, I would want that game ball. I would tell its story for all to hear. I would place it in my home or my office so I could recall the memories of why it's there/how it came to be. I think its beneficial for today's glory hounds to know about the game ball. It's an attractive carrot.

The significance of the game ball—both its beauty and its glory— is revealed in the ceremony that surrounds its gifting. When it's "right" and it usually is, the team is more excited than the individual who receives it. Guys dog pile on this player. They hoot and holler and cheer for their teammate. This athlete is humble and I've seen some who are choked up and tearful. The spirituality of this moment is palpable. The recipient recognizes he has been given unique talents and abilities. They know that none of this is possible without their teammates and coaches. None of us can do it alone. The game ball may go to one person, but paradoxically, it speaks to many more. You might not believe me when I say that—please watch the video and decide for yourself.

Upon beating USC on Saturday, November 24, 2018, Team 130 for the Fightin' Irish completed their regular season with 12 wins and 0 losses. To be undefeated is rare; it's nearly remarkable. The game was closer for comfort than many of the Irish faithful wanted. Rivalry game often are. As the social media and text messages exploded, I wondered who would get the game ball: Chris Finke? Dru Tranquil? Dexter Williams. What I witnessed astounded me. 
The USC game ball went to Strength and Conditioning coordinator Matt Balis. Balis did not take a single snap. He never wears a helmet or pads. He isn't even a student athlete. But without the defense would not have stood as strong. The offense would have been worn down. Coach Kelly said: "He makes sure our TRAITS OF EXCELLENCE are followed throughout the year - we couldn’t have done this without his leadership!" Upon hearing these words, team went ballistic. Was lifted high and tossed with arms and legs strengthened by muscles he has helped build.

I would like to argue that in no other sport does the game ball mean this much. Because of the very nature of football—a contest that takes place but once a week that demands so much both physically and mentally, emotionally and spiritually, that award has depth and breadth that it does not in other sports. It holds meaning with and without words and, the award itself reveals something beautiful about the human spirit that we often forget. 
There is something to be said for "getting lost in the dance." We might actually learn more about ourselves when we forget about our wants and our needs. Furthermore, there is joy in letting others shine. We can come to care for others so deeply that we might say "I would rather have you be happy, than me." Being a great teammate requires nothing less. There is a certain freedom in that pursuit. There is meaning in doing your part and recognizing after it's over, one person did it incredibly well. He or she is worth celebrating with a symbol of the joint effort. Time, date and score duly noted.

This is the spirituality of football. I would hate to lose what makes it great. I'm open to change what we can to make it safer and encouraging young people to take on what's hard and challenging about it. The game ball awaits. 

Photo Credits
Victory Arm

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Turkey Trot: One of the Best Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving: a great American holiday. I love learning the manifold traditions that accompany the most underrated of Feast Days. Although I don't go "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house" for turkey, I do love going to Mass on this secular holiday—a word that is Old English for "holy day." At my parish, the Men's Club prepares a free breakfast to feast before the feast! But for the past 16 years, I have opted to run and now walk what I think might be the ideal way to start your Thanksgiving. The proverbial...the essential:  St. Ignatius Turkey Trot.
The Turkey Trot has taken place, rather informally, at Lake Merced—near our campus for the past 21 years. What started a simple and fun way to gather current students, their families and friends, alumni and more has solidified into a meaningful way to start the day. We meet at 8:30 and register on the spot. All the money we collect goes to the St. Anthony Foundation, located in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. 

In the 16 years I have trotted, we have had one rainy day. We have been blessed with sunny skies and sunny faces every year. The reality in our home this year, however has forecast something much different. With the most destructive wildfires in state history, we pray for rain. Given the air quality, which not only closed our school but has forbidden our teams from practicing out of doors, we will come to this year's event with heavy hearts and new mindsets. Regardless, it's time to Trot. And so it is with that spirit, that I've created a Do and Don't list for those who will join us and/or anyone who wants to organize a Turkey Trot of their own. Happy Thanksgiving.

Founder of St.Anthony's, Father Boedekker prepares the Tom
Do's for Participants
  • Show up with your running or walking shoes, rollerblades or yes, even your scooter (no age restrictions). Strollers are encouraged! Dogs and cats are welcome to trot, too.
  • Wear past Turkey Trot t-shirts. Show your loyalty! I love seeing how many different shirts and years we can gather.
  • If you opt otherwise, I recommend wearing gear that reflects your/appropriate fan loyalty. This year , third string QB Nick Mullins jerseys are encouraged. Steph Curry or Buster Posey never go out of style. I'm down with the old school look i.e. Dan Fouts SI '69. Remembering the late #87 Dwight Clark or #44 Willie McCovey—RIP—are fitting. If you have family in Kansas City or have given up on the Raiders, Patrick Mahomes is perfectly acceptable. Any and all blue and gold (or green) to represent the University of Notre Dame's Fightin' Irish is always classy. Not to mention legit. BTW: Nice graduation rate, Irish. Fair warning: you may be asked to leave if you wear #16 Jared Goff. Between going to Marin Catholic and now playing for an LA team, you should know better. Just sayin'. Possible exemption however is given if you went to Cal. Go Bears.
  • Give what you can. We request a $10 donation to St. Anthony's. SO many people give more because they want to. Thank you. Others give the Alexander Hamilton. Thank you. Please don't let the cost be prohibitive. We are grateful you show up and share in this tradition!
  • Come Hungry and come even if you are hungover. We provide Bob's donuts for all who finish. And, for those of you who are 21 years of age and older, we know the night before Thanksgiving is a popular time to reconnect with family and friends. Some folks over do and over enjoy the reunion. Don't let an aching head or inability to see straight keep you at home. Get fresh air and join the cause. 

Do's for Event Organizers
  • Have a sound system. There's really no good "Thanksgiving" soundtrack and I'm doing all I can to refrain from listening to Christmas music until the day after Turkey. When in doubt: go with Springsteen."We Take Care of Our Own" works. "Badlands?" Oh hell yeah. Go old school with Woodie Guthrie or Bob Dylan. Any others? Furthermore, the sound system is quite helpful when it's time to start your trot. Crowd control isn't always easy; this helps.
  • Begin with a prayer. This might be the easiest prayer I lead all year. On Thanksgiving, we extend gratitude to God for all we have been given. This is a national day to give thanks. Let's begin with those words in mind.
  • Have fun with it. Every year, this means something new. Last year, I delighted in choosing navy and orange for our shirts. I wanted to honor the city of Houston and their Astros for all they had been through and what they accomplished in moving from a cellar dweller to World Series champs. The path they took there—in particular defeating the Dodgers—was worth recognizing. 
    Great shirts, great colors. Thank you Houston for beating LA
Don'ts for Attendees
  • Show up in dress code. I'm always doing what I can to make the standard set by the dress code something to respect and understand. For a Turkey Trot, neither is necessary! Don't wear collared shirts...don't wear jeans. Save ONE of those for school ;-) Spandex and flat bills are welcome.
  • Expect to get a medal. There are competitive runners in every Trot, but that is not the objective of the gathering. I understand some folks can't help but think otherwise. #ballers.
  • Forget to throw the football. Show off your canon. Pretend this is Turkey Bowl 2018. Lake Merced has a huge parking lot. I hear the Cleveland Browns are looking for a coach. Practice leadership skills here and now.
  • Leave
    without saying Happy Thanksgiving
    to someone new!
Don'ts for Organizers
  • Forget to take photos! The memories are worth capturing.
  • Be afraid to ask for help. Every year, someone steps in to help. I am EVER grateful
  • Opt out of participating in the Trot. ENJOY this wonderful tradition.
Have a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Breathing As Prayer: Now is the Time

Prayer is very personal. What works for one person—prayers from memory, reading Scripture, song or the Rosary might not work for another. This is both the beauty and the challenge of prayer. Prayer can be communal or individual, it can be verbal or physical. Your preferred style of prayer will most likely reflect your personality, and it should! Prayer is, after all "lifting our hearts and minds to God" or if you want to just cut to the chase: communication with The Divine.
Athletes intuitively know the value of breath. Today, we appreciate that more than ever
In my book Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes, I sought to include much more than a long list of prayers. My goal was to include prayers that will resonate with different coaches and athletes. Typically, the collective personality of a basketball team is different than that of the rowing crew. Girls' tennis might respond to one type of prayer and boys' water polo in another. How does a coach know how to pray? Some of it might be trial and error. However, we know ourselves and over time, we know our athletes. Use what feels comfortable for you as this will help those you lead feel comfortable too. You will gain a sense of what "works" and what doesn't. 

The process of elimination is another way to figure out what to use and when. For example, 
one style of prayer that I did not naturally take to is "Breathing as Prayer." An active runner for years, this type of prayer should not have been a stretch for me. I love the tradition and idea behind it, but I cannot honestly say this would do this on my own or lead my team through it regularly....until now.
As many people know the fires in Northern California (Paradise and Butte County) are considered the most devastating wildfire in the state's history. According to CBS New "the death toll from the "Camp Fire" in Northern California has increased to 71 while authorities try to locate 1,011 people who are unaccounted for. The blaze is now 55 percent contained after consuming more than 148,000 acres." Homes and habitats are gone. Here in San Francisco, over 180 miles away, the air quality has been so hazardous that schools and government agencies have closed. People are advised to stay indoors. Public transportation is free. Those who venture outside are wearing face masks. Never before I have appreciated the air we breathe more than today...than right now.

The very air we breath is a gift. I have always known that is true. I don't think I have taken that fact for granted and yet, I cannot help but be reminded of this truth as I look outside my window, as I make choices for how I can exercise—indoors, and as I think of the first responders and their health/well-being. This prayer is an important one to pray; it is a natural one to offer. 
We live in hope that the fire will be contained. We pray that those affected can and will rebuild their lives and find support in ways they never thought possible. We extend gratitude to those working tirelessly to meet the many needs resulting from the devastation. And when we can, let us use our breath—to pray,  Here's how. 

This is the second example among 30 ways to pray with and for your athletes. If you would like to order a copy of the book, please contact me.

Breathing as Prayer

“O breathe on me, thou breath of God.
Fill me with life anew; that I may love what you would love.
And do what you would do.” —Edwin Hatch 

When asked how he prayed, the Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton said, “I breathe.” He probably meant that prayer should be and could be as simple and natural as breathing—or talking to a friend. Each breath we take is a gift from God. Without breath, we wouldn’t live. We know this is true in a literal sense. I believe it’s true in a figurative one as well. Prayer gives meaning to our life, because it draws us into relationship with God. 

The root of the word for spirituality is spiritus, which means “breath.” When God breathed into Adam, he came to life. Adam’s spirit was born. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the risen Christ breathed on the disciples. It was an important gesture; Jesus wanted them to know that His Holy Spirit would always be with them….and us! Indeed, the Spirit abides.

Paying attention to our breath might not be a common exercise for most people. It is, however, a regular component of athletic training in many sports. For example, swimming and running all require disciplined breathing. If breathing exercises are something an athletes already practices, or would like practice, why not allow for these exercises to serve an opportunity for prayer too? 

Breathing exercises as prayer can be a wonderful symbiosis of a physical and spiritual exercise.

Keys to Success
  1. Find a quiet place to sit. 
    • This will depend on your sport: It might be in the end zone or on the pool deck. For rowers, it might be on the dock. 
    • It’s important to invite athletes to pray in the middle of where they spend their time…not apart from it.
  2. Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths.
    • It’s helpful for students to have a sense of how long they will be engaged in the exercise. 
  3. Focus on your breathing, expanding your stomach when you breathe in.
  4. Each time you exhale, thank God for a blessing in your life.
    • a good day, your family, the ability to compete, a healthy body, nourishing food, teammates who have become friends, those who have taught you how to play your sport.
  5. When you are done, sit for a while longer and just enjoy the silence before heading back to your day, practice, etc. 
Photo Credits

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Discussion Guide for Choose to Matter by Julie Foudy

I've noticed that anytime I say "team work" to one of my students or my athletes, they complete the sentence for me. "Makes the dream work!" I hope so! Retired soccer midfielder, two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, has pursued and accomplished many of her dreams and personal goals. America soccer fans are glad she did! And, as a coach I'm grateful she reflected upon what it took to accomplish that dream. Her experiences, life hacks, challenges and ideas are something anyone—and in particular female athletes—can learn from, thanks to her book: Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously You
One of my dreams is for my golf team to participate in the activity "One Team, One Book." In order to make that work, I figured a discussion guide could help. So in the spirit of team work, and hoping you will help your own athletes' dreams work, here's the resource I have created.

Please contact me with any questions (or if you need the PDF version of this document) or stories of success!
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Photo Credits
Julie and book

Thursday, November 8, 2018

One Team, One Book: Choose to Matter by Julie Foudy

In the Spring of 2017, I met two-time Olympic Gold medalist, former captain of the US Women's National soccer team, ESPN commentator and author Julie Foudy at Kepler's Books in Palo Alto. The coach of another girls' golf team invited me to join him at what proved to be an intimate and dynamic evening that featured Julie in conversation with two other incredible women:
  • Brandi Chastain: one of the best ambassadors for soccer, who has won two World Cups, two Olympic gold and one silver medal, the Inaugural WUSA Championship, and captained the San Jose Cyberrays.
  • Darla Anderson: a senior producer at Pixar whose producing talents have brought us beloved movies such as Cars, Monster's Inc, A Bugs Life, and Toy Story 3. 
I could barely comprehend the talent, credentials, energy, enthusiasm, and excellence standing and sitting in front of me. Although Foudy's work, her book Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously You served as the impetus for the gathering, it was only a reflection of who she might surround herself by on a regular basis! Such company, her passion, lived experiences and stories, wisdom and success are worth chronicling—and so she did. What inspires me most is that she decided to do that for a specific audience—young women, girls, and female athletes in particular.
Foudy reported for ESPN.W the why behind the work. She wrote
The book I have always wanted to write is about owning your awesome, raising your hand, getting on the dance floor, shimmying out of your comfort zone, being comfortable with uncomfortable, dreaming out loud, ... (you get it). It is about CHOOSING TO MATTER. 
Because this I know: Life doesn't just happen. You happen to life. YOU decide how you want to write your story. YOU. This book is for the teenager starting her journey or the woman at a critical fork in her journey. It is for every person, wherever you may be on your path, who needs a little nudge. Who needs a little motivation... to be courageously you. 
For too long I equated leadership with a position. I thought leaders were presidents or politicians or celebrities or four-star generals with a horse and sword. I thought you had to be in a position to impact lots and lots of people (someone I certainly was not), to lead. 
But what I discovered -- in large part, thanks to the amazing women I played alongside -- is just how broad the definition of leadership is. Leadership is loud. It is quiet. It is thoughtful and emotional and cerebral and nerdy and goofy and joyful and motivating. Leadership is calm in the chaos. It is standards. It is believing when others don't. It is celebrating others. It is empowering others. It is all those things and so much more. Most important, leadership is personal, not positional. 
The hardest part is just summoning the courage to choose to lead, to raise your hand. To own that awesome. It is not a question of IF you will be a leader, but HOW. The key is being authentically you —a leader others will want to follow because you are genuine. It is your style. 
And if you don't believe me, well, I summoned 10 amazing women to come to share their stories about how they unleashed their inner leader. My hope is this book serves as a roadmap (full of fun exercises, quick activities, and journaling) to help you unlock your potential. There is a method to the madness, or at least I like to pretend there is. We tell stories, share lessons, pass on wisdom. 
My goal in all of this is to make you laugh, make you think, make you eat more donuts, and make you excited to embrace life. And most importantly, to share that new, fabulous you with the world by passing on leadership. By empowering others. 
And here's the really cool thing: You can. So why not #choosetomatter?
I started to read Choose to Matter with all the enthusiasm of a fan girl....of someone who
had a chance to hear and meet the author, who left even more star struck by the collective experience and excellence in the room. I read about one-third of the book right away, wishing that it were a shared experience with my golf team there and then. 

Starting and not finishing a book is par for my course—several puns intended. However, the catchy cover—yes, we will judge this book by that, and the memories from the group reading at Kepler's called me back to finish the text. I completed this book more convinced that it ought to serve as an inaugural "One Team, One Book" text for my team...and maybe yours. 

The Table of Contents features sections Foudy calls "EmpowerRings." Each one is meant to move the reader from inward to outward reflection. 
  • Section 1: Self
  • Section 2: Team
  • Section 3: School
  • Section 4: Community
  • Section 5: Life
  • Bios
The layout of Choose to Matter is creative and appeals to the female eye. The fun colors, clever sketches, and outstanding quotes give this book an active and dynamic persona. Exercises for the reader and an invitation to journal at the conclusion of every chapter with the words: "Don't Just Think it, Ink It" prevent passive engagement. Foudy isn't afraid to make fun of herself with incriminating photos from her past. She also offers incredible stories of success—breaking barriers and shattering expectations along the way.  She is one of our best. Thanks, Julie!
If you are a coach and would like to use this book for "One Team, One Book" I am more than willing to share the book discussion resource I have created! Please contact me! Happy to share.

Photo Credits
Leadership Logo
Book cover
Hamm and Foudy

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Team Building Activity: One Team, One Book

One team building activity I still want to try is "One Book, One Team." Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes offers context for why and steps for how a coach can successfully lead and read a book with the team. I decided I would revisit this topic now, for a couple of reasons. One, I have a gem of a recommendation and two it's a timely one. High school athletics is in a time of transition from fall to winter sports. In Northern California, this means girls' golf, field hockey, water polo, football and cross country are in post-season play while basketball, wrestling, and soccer have completed pre-season prep. Their tryouts are underway, teams are being formed, captains will be chosen and goals shall be defined. I sincerely believe a book like Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously You by two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Julie Foudy can serve as an outstanding resource for all girls' sports, and in particular girls' soccer teams.
In Chapter 4: "Practice with Purpose," I wrote,
Eleanor Roosevelt once said,  “Great mind discuss ideas, average minds events, and small minds discuss people.”  
One goal I have for my students is to get them to regularly, willingly and naturally discuss ideas. In the classroom that’s easy, but outside of structured class time, it can be a challenge.  
As a coach, I am afforded with a lot of structured and unstructured time with my athletes. That dynamic is a blessing, as I really get to know my team. The bus rides and long runs have yielded some memorable, fun and challenging conversations. Many are just about food, clothing, and music. However, I have also wondered in that time how to get my athletes to discuss ideas. “One Team, One Book” is one answer. 
The program began in 1998 when Seattle public librarian Nancy Pearl asked the question “What if all of Seattle read the same book?” From her dream, the “One City, One Book” campaign was born. It aims to build a community and foster literacy through a shared reading experience. Today, many schools have followed suit with “One Campus, One Book.” 
As a coach, I started to wonder how a similar program could benefit and shape my team. As a religious studies teacher and a sports fan, I thought How might our athletic programs be different if we used a common resource to form the mind as it relates to sports? The school principal has said to me that he believes “athletics is the seventh period of the day.” We commit a lot of time and resources to form our athletes physically and today we offer more ways to enhance mental preparation. But what are we using to share the heart, the spirit and the intellect—the mind—when it comes to sports? "One Team, One Book” is an answer. 
Finishing a book is a great feeling. It’s an accomplishment. It’s also a task that many student-athletes may be reluctant to take on in addition to their required course load. But the right book in the right context can be transformative. 
And I think it’s important to remind our student-athletes that reading is a vital discipline. In the same way, they are prepared for their sport due to regular practice, they are primed for reading (whether they know it or not). Participating in "One Team, One Book" can be a spiritual, social and academic experience that shapes a season and a team in new and exciting ways. That’s what sharing ideas can do! 
If a book is introduced as an expectation and featured as part of the culture, the likelihood of success is much greater. That actually might be the first key to success, however, in my own book, I list that item as what this blog posting offers. I wrote:
Choosing the right book is essential, & so is explaining why you will be reading it.
  • Ideally the book that you read will be developmentally appropriate and interesting to a range of ages (for example, you may have freshmen and sophomores on the same team). 
Tomorrow's posting will focus in on why Foudy's work is a worthy choice, a recipe for success, and the key to unlocking this new adventure. I hope completing "One Team, One Book" will be one of the first goals you and your team reach this season. Good luck!

Photo Credits
One Team, One Goal
One Team, One Book

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Saint, A Cathedral and a Holy Day of Obligation: Remembering Willie McCovey

On October 31 at 4:04 pm with family and friends at his side, the great Wille Lee McCovey, died. #44 should have only played for one team: the Giants because that is what he was. Standing 6'4" and 220 lbs in his prime, Willie Mac was larger than life. Long arms, quick hands, my dad believes he has never seen another ballplayer hit the ball harder—not even Barry Bonds. In 1986, he became just the 16th individual to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. His legacy will live on among Giants fans as the waterway behind AT&T park is named McCovey Cove—a place I felt obligated to visit today. I wanted to pay my respects and see how other Giants fans were, too. The day couldn't have been any more beautiful. No wind, a perfect sky and one of MLB's greatest cathedrals in the background, I realized the truths of Sports and Spirituality come to us when we come to them. Here's how....
In the Catholic faith, the first day of November isn't an ordinary day. It is the Feast of All Saints—a day to honor the "saints, known and unknown who are now with God in heaven." On Halloween—"All Hallow's Eve"—I prepared my students for All Hallow's Day by teaching the religious roots of this informal triduum, which concludes with All Souls' Day on November 2. I asked them to pray for the souls in purgatory and in thanksgiving for the holy men and women in our own lives who are saints. I added that All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. Aware of the formality of the term "obligation," I put all of it in the context of Sports and Spirituality
A true cathedral in MLB, flags flew at half mast to honor #44
On a Keynote slide, I placed the following information 
  • Holiday = Old English for Holy Day
  • Obligation: Athletes are quite familiar with obligations.
  • What are some of the obligations of your sport? 
Your team?
  • What are the obligations of your faith 
I said one obligation of being a Catholic is that we gather as a community to worship. The Church has decided that certain days of the year are holy days—days to come together as one to celebrate and remember. I urged my students to give but 25 minutes at lunch attend Mass on the Feast of All Saints. "It's a spiritual shot in the arm," I said, and "you get to spend time with the Lord."
The school where I work is such a large community that I can go without seeing my colleagues and former students for weeks at a time. Consequently, I don't take for granted the times I do see coworkers who I also value as friends. I sat next to one of them at today's Mass. After the final blessing, I shared with this lifelong Giants fan my sadness at the passing of Willie McCovey. He responded by telling me that he wanted to go McCovey Cove to place flowers at the statue. We shared a few stories we knew about "Stretch" and we parted ways.

I thought more about his beautiful desire; I love that he wanted to bring flowers for a man he never met, but who we feel as though we know. I think it's so important for people to go to public places to venerate, honor and remember. Rituals and traditions lead and guide us in times of joy and sorrow, in loss and in life. The funny thing is however, I wouldn't have thought about going to McCovey Cove on my own. I needed the obligation of my faith—which called me to Mass—to send me elsewhere. And, once I decided to go to ATT Park, I realized that one obligation led to another—both of which are life-giving, transcendent and beautiful.

The local Sports Talk Radio show commented on the fact that Willie Mac died on Halloween—a day characterized by the colors orange and black—the same colors as the San Francisco Giants. I would like to add that the communal honoring of his number, his name and his legacy began on the Feast of All Saints. I have a strong suspicion that Willie McCovey, a man from Mobile Alabama—a place that claims to have the original Mardi Gras—has heard "When the Saints Go Marching In" loud and clear tonight.

We love you Willie McCovey. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with us in a beautiful game. I am so proud to be a fan to a team that honors the type of athlete you were and chose to be. The Willie Mac Award goes to the player who demonstrates quiet leadership but it's also for us, the fans. We need your example and inspiration; it will not be forgotten.May Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him Lord and May He Rest in Peace. Amen.

Photo credits: no need for any, I took all of them today 11/1/18