Friday, January 11, 2019

Meet Champ...Harlem Globetrotter....The Best Version of Herself

There's a lot of talk these days about being "the best version of yourself." I hear these words among counselors at teachers at school. My students read an essay as part of their final exam and its thesis made a case for Catholic colleges to ban pornography to help students become "the best version of themselves." One of my favorite contemporary Catholic writers, Matthew Kelly has written extensively about this standard. His book, CD and YouTube videos call us to become what he believe God wants for us: to become the best version of ourselves. 
The concept isn't hard to grasp. I believe the command is invitational for it's not out of anyone's reach. Why? In part, because the standard is relative. The best version of yourself is unique to you and for you. But in order for this quest to become relevant—and not a euphemism among many, I think it needs some grounding. After all, if the best version of myself is unique to me. Without an objective standard, how do I know I got there? How would I know what is the best version of me? One quick and easy answer: look to others who have...who might be the best version of themselves. We all do better with examples and direction. 

This is exactly what I thought when I heard about Lili "Champ" Thompson, a 5'7" guard with the Harlem Globetrotters. For one, I didn't know there are female Globetrotters (thank you for not calling them Globetrottes). In fact, the Globetrotters signed their first female player, Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard, in 1985 and have featured thirteen female players in their history. Champ signed in June 2018.

Through a radio interview on KNBR, Champ discussed the transition from college hoops to where she is today. According to her player profile, 

Champ Thompson attended Stanford University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Innovation and Organizations and was a three-year starter on the women’s basketball team. As a Cardinal, she earned All-Pac-12, Pac-12 All Defensive Honorable Mention, Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention, became a two-time ESPN National Player of the Week and helped lead the women’s basketball team to the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 2014.
In case this weren't impressive enough, she matriculated to Notre Dame where "she was part of the Irish team that defeated Mississippi State to win the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championship. She earned her Master of Science in Management in 2017." Wow.

A product of good coaching and great programs, Champ is committed to spreading the Globetrotter message of "good will and positivity through basketball." Champ admits that she had to practice, practice, practice to develop the skills this team is known for—spinning the ball on one finger (in an extraordinary way), the three-person weave and shooting from the four-point line. Her natural talent, industry, self-discipline, past success and experience has transformed Lilli "Champ" Thompson from a competitive basketball players to a something unbeknownst to her, might just be the best version of herself.

I believe this based on what she said to students at her former high school in Mansfield, Texas. She said "you don't have to know exactly where you're headed. I didn't know that I would be a Harlem Globetrotter, but I had goals to achieve my full potential and started creating some good habits early. That should be their focus."

I would say that Champ is the best version of herself, not just because she has found success and an opportunity to continue to play a game she loves, but because the organization she represents—the Harlem Globetrotters—offers an important reminder that the business of fun—of play, of laughter, of lightness—is important spiritual stuff.

As Dr. Michael Tino writes in "March Madness," We can and should have some fun. We can and should enjoy what we do together. We can and should reclaim the divine magic of play together, and sports can serve as a vehicle or a metaphor—which we need more—in that journey.

As we journey toward becoming the best version of ourselves, let's remember that advice and this example. 

Photo Credits
in Oakland
Steph Quote

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