Thursday, March 28, 2019

Opening Day 2019: Hope Springs Eternal for 150 Years

On Opening Day 2019, I can't help but think "hope springs eternal." What a fitting way to frame the journey that awaits all 30 major league baseball teams and their fans. In what is the earliest Opening Day on record (for some it's never early enough), clubs from 27 different cities throughout the United States will do what they can from the dugout to the diamond to gel, hit, catch, and string it all together for a chance to play ball in October. Here are but a few reasons to celebrate today.
150 Years of MLB
"Sesquicentennial" is the word for an anniversary of 150 years; it's worth knowing and celebrating. In the United States, not much reaches this milestone. I have to wonder, will the NFL have Super Bowl CL?  Football fans know we are only at LIII. However, today, every club will sport MLB 150 patches on their caps. This is the first time a league-wide anniversary will be commemorated on something other than a sleeve. In fact, all clubs will wear special "MLB 150" patches on their uniforms for the entire 2019 season. The Reds will wear their own as this anniversary commemorates the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings—the first openly all-salaried professional baseball team.

David Adler of MLB writes "In addition to the league-wide patches, the Reds will also wear a series of 15 throwback uniforms throughout the season and feature a special commemorative logo on their caps and jerseys. MLB also announced on Tuesday that Manfred will be the grand marshal of the 100th Findlay Market Opening Day Parade in Cincinnati." Play Ball!

Every team plays today
Every club in the National League: East, Central or West as well as the American League: East, Central and West will take the field today. Maybe you are thinking: there is snow on the ground—baseball is starting? Yes. MLB reports that "the 2019 season will mark the second season under the scheduling format agreed to as part of the 2017-2021 Basic Agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The format, which extends the length of the season by adding an additional weekend of play at the beginning of the season, gives each Club three to four additional off days throughout the season to provide added rest and opportunities for rescheduling." 

I have waxed poetic about what is or is not Opening Day, before. It can be confusing. For example, the
 Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners played a two-game series in Tokyo. Therefore, the Mariners enter into Opening Day 2019 with a record of 2-0. Regardless, of that "soft opening" the designation of an official day by MLB as Opening Day 2019 with worth celebrating....even if just for the opportunity to check in and wish my fellow baseball fans a happy Opening Day.

I know that Opening Day has some outstanding and meaningful traditions. The ceremonial first pitch, the parents who take their kids out of school for an "unexcused absence," the parade of legends who return to the yard and are honored on the field. Indeed, this panoply of rituals characterize our collective memories of Opening Day past and present! 
However, I still get the greatest thrill from something so simple. It's red, it's white and it's blue. It's doesn't have a song written in its honor for it isn't Star Spangled and although it sometimes can look faded, this take on Old Glory is ever fresh and new on Opening Day. Bunting. 

Bunting adorns the outside and the inside of every Major League Ballpark for Opening Day. You will see it on display with a modern twist beneath the Opening Day 2019 logo. The tradition must go back to the earliest of Opening Days as it has the look of yesteryear, and I just love it. I can imagine Teddy Roosevelt cheering for his team, his monocle in place....the bunting in the background.

No Room for Pessimism
We say that "hope spring eternal," but the full quote ought to be shared. Alexander Pope said "hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest." The second half of this message is important to remember. Negativity, reality, and that writing on the wall make it hard to have and hold hope. But as Pope reminds us, we are blessed. We are blessed to have opportunities to start anew. We are blessed to have traditions to honor and reasons to celebrate. We are blessed to have sport—a chance for humanity to play and compete, to strive, learn, grow, and achieve our goals. 

San Francisco Giants fans struggled this morning to muster much excitement for the 2019 season. I wanted no part of that. We have A LOT of baseball—162 games to play! Trades to make. Balls to catch, hit, and land into the Bay. I know that tonight, I'll look for the box scores as well as the highlights with a keen eye on the MLB 150 patches and bunting in the background and raise a glass to this American past time, 150 years in the making.

Photo Credits
MLB 150

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Billie Jean King and Her Legacy: "Not Done Yet"

Just three weeks into my freshman year at the University of Notre Dame, I walked with my roommates to hear the Governor of Arkansas speak at the Stepan Center on campus. I knew that he was the Democratic nominee for President but I didn't know much if anything about him. I was aware that his campaign was picking up speed but I assumed George H. W. Bush would be re-elected to a second term. I shook his hand, I listened to his remarks and went back to Farley Hall. I was more excited about the first home football game against the University of Michigan taking place the next day, than I was in meeting this politician. Two months later William Jefferson Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States. 
I'm not really sure why I went. I suppose it felt like something I thought a college student should do....or so I had heard. In reality, I went because I could. I went because there was some momentum to go. I'm so grateful I rode that wave and did was Father Hesburgh long proclaimed as the secret to a good life: "just show up." College life is full of these types of opportunities. Students can hear speakers from around the globe in the auditorium, theater or lecture hall next door. Musicians, artists, politicians, Nobel laureates and as evidenced on Tuesday March 19, professional athletes who use their platforms to change the world are ready and willing to share their story, beliefs and hopes for young people. Such is the case with Billie Jean King, who spoke as part of the Silk Series speaker at the University of San Francisco.

Billie Jean King, who is arguably — as John McEnroe once said — the single biggest influence in the history of women’s sports, appeared at War Memorial Gym with he gold-medal-winning basketball player Jennifer Azzi. The discussion between them touched on issues of equity and influence, King’s childhood and her path to activism (Killion). I attended this talk with six of my female colleagues—a fellowship of coaches. We sat together, met for discussion after the event. Each one of us took notes, many cried tears of joy. Everyone left humbled and inspired. We are still smiling and still talking about this legend and this icon. Truly, she is one of America's best. And fortunately for us, when asked about her legacy she said "I'm not done yet." 
For the purposes of this blog, I would like to share what I learned and captured from my notes and the shared discussion. [The format I am using is a tool we teachers employ to frame an article, a lecture, etc. Identify what is new, surprising and disturbing]. Here we go.


  • As many people know, March is Women's History Month. I had no idea this year 's theme is "Celebrating Visionary Women." Hard to imagine someone more visionary that BJK. She broke with the tennis establishment in 1970, founding what eventually became the Women's Tennis Association. She served as the first President of this union (WTA). Because of their efforts, female players no longer earn $14 a day. In fact, in 1973, the US Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women.
  • I think it's important to learn about the mindset of a champion. BJK grew up in a home that never asked about the outcome of a game or match. Her parents, Bill and Betty wanted to know "how did it go?" instead of "did you win?" I hope parents in the audience wrote that down. Furthermore, she believes that "champions adapt." No wonder she was ranked number one in the world off and on over the course of ten years. She said "pressure is a privilege." Indeed. In an individual sport like tennis, more pressure—>more matches—>;more championships. I will try to remember that motto when I am under pressure. 
  • The third word out of King's mouth was "ball." She did not speak about her success as a tennis player. The emcee reminded the audience that she won 39 Grand Slam titles (29 singles and 10 doubles) but BJK did not address which one meant the most....what tournament was her favorite....who was her greatest opponent. I cannot tell you that I learned about the strengths and weaknesses of her game, but I know how much she loves athletics. She played softball and didn't even pick up a racket until she was 12 years old. Her brother pitched for 10 years in Major League Baseball and today she is part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The audience learned more about her enthusiasm and love of sport than her accomplishments. Her enthusiasm makes her relatable; her humility? Admirable!
  • The song "Philadelphia Freedom" was written by her good friend Sir Elton John, ABOUT HER. This was probably my favorite story of the evening, because she shared it so nonchalantly. I've only seen a few people do that well (Springsteen in "Born to Run). You can read the full story here, but let me offer a snippet here. King said,
In the summer of 1974 we were driving to one of his concerts and he looked over at me in the back of the car (I can remember, he was on my right) and he said, “I want to write a song for you.” Of course, I didn’t think I heard him right. I turned scarlet red, I’m sure, and went, “Oh please. What??” And he goes, “No, I want to write a song, what are we gonna call it?” And I said [exasperatedly], “I don’t know!” Then he went, “How about ‘Philadelphia Freedom’?” Because I played for the [World TeamTennis] Philadelphia Freedoms and he used to come to watch our matches. 
As a music fan, I delight in knowing the origin story of a great song. I can't wait to hear "Philadelphia Freedom" at an unexpected time, in an unexpected place and pass along that story...

  • King is the first female athlete to earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama conferred this honor to her in 2009. See the "Disturbing" section for more information.
  • Of the 32 athletes who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but two are women. I am happy, and not surprised to read that Pat Summit received this prestigious honor three years after BJK.

    A colleague asked if the Medal is conferred upon people posthumously. The answer is "yes." He suggested that it go to Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win Wimbledon. Although athletes must wear the color white at the All England Lawn and Croquet Club, the champions need not be. Tennis is truly an international sport and King has advocated for promotion and growth of the game world-wide.
The evening concluded with four questions from current students—which I was glad to see. She answered each one thoughtfully, honestly, and with humility and laughter. There wasn't an ounce of cynicism in her sharing. She referenced faith four times in the evening and reminded the President of USF that she's Protestant, not Catholic. "But I have a great pastor," she said.

There is a great quote attributed to Francis of Assisi—the Patron Saint of the City where I live and the University of San Francisco, I couldn't help but think of Billie Jean King. He said, “First do what is necessary, then do what is possible, and before long you will find yourself doing the impossible.” She has....and she did. Perhaps the best is yet to come. Thank you BJK!

Photo Credits
With Elton John
Visionary Women
All others are from the SF Chron

Monday, March 18, 2019

Billie Jean King: No Topic Required

It's not everyday that one can hear one a woman who was named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life magazine, 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the namesake of the United States' Tennis National Tennis Center speak. But later today, March 19, I will head to the University of San Francisco with 10 other female coaches to listen to the human rights icon and tennis legend Billie Jean King, as part of their Silk Speaker Series
My mom asked me what she will speak about. I paused for a moment, running the event information through my head, trying to recall what I read. I didn't make up an answer. I simply said, given who she is and what she has accomplished, does she really need a specific topic? I hope we agree: the answer is "no." If you're not sure read more.
Billie Jean King grew up playing tennis in the California public parks and won 39 Grand Slam titles during her career. She helped form the Virginia Slims Series and founded the Women’s Tennis Association. She defeated Bobby Riggs in one of the greatest moments in sports history – the Battle of the Sexes on Sept. 20, 1973. In 2017, Fox Searchlight released the critically acclaimed film, Battle of the Sexes, which depicts the cultural and social impact of the groundbreaking match between King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. 
King is the founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, the co-founder of World Team Tennis, and part of the ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Sparks. She founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Women’s Tennis Association. In August 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court.  In 2018 King received a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. King serves on the board of the Women’s Sports Foundation and is a past member of the board of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a past member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. 
Without BJK, professional sports for women would not be where they are today. She was a pioneer in her advocation for equality of opportunity, compensation and attention of female athletics. Perhaps she will speak about what it was like to participate in a sport that had no professional opportunities for women when she first started to play. Maybe she will address  the responsibility she believes women like her carry—knowing how things were and have far we have come. 

As many people know, March 8 was International Women's Day. I hope folks also know that all of March is celebrated as Women's History Month. If she would like to talk about what that means to her, wonderful. If she decides to speak on where female athletics ought to go, even better. She had a vision long before others did of what can and should be. American men and women should be proud of her achievements and efforts—past and present. Oh, and 39 Grand Slam titles?! #Baller. Let's talk doubles' strategy! Let's discuss favorite playing partners for mixed and women's....And who are her favorite players to watch today? Did she coach? Did she have one? 
I am certain that I will write a post-script to this blog, but for now, I'd like to get everyone ready for the evening, I have shared the following trivia questions with my colleagues. NB: I have removed trivia questions that pertain to our school/photos are still there. Good luck.
  1. Billie Jean King and Bobbie Riggs’ “Battle of the Sexes” occurred in what year? Where? Who won!

  2. Venus Williams fought for equal pay at Wimbledon. In what year did the women finally earn the same prize money as the men at this historic Grand Slam?

  3. Where is the USTA National Tennis Center located?

  4. Can you name another female athlete who has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

  5. This picture profiles BJK when she won her first Grand Slam title. What tourney? What year?

  6. The player—front row, right side—lists tennis as her “first love of sport.” Who is she?
The real question I would like to ask in preparation for this talk cannot be captured by any singular photo. I love trivia, but this question is far beyond that. My question: Imagine a world without professional female athletes. Thanks to Billie Jean King, you don't have to. More to come!
Photo Credits
Speaker shot

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Name the Temptation: A Spiritual Exercise for Athletes

On the first Sunday of Lent, we hear the same Gospel reading: The Temptation of Jesus. Look closely at Luke Ch 4, it says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil." 40 days! I knew Jesus was a spiritual decathlete. I was aware that the desert and that period of time was demanding but to give pause and consider the length / extent of His temptation humbles me. We read that "He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry." Jesus was in this arid, separated place all by His lonesome. For all intensive purposes it's safe to assume He was weak...and yet we know, He was strong.
The Word is written so that we can further reflect upon the life of Christ. Through knowing Christ, we can love Christ. We are called to determine what He did for us and how His example may assist us in our own journey....and against our own temptation.

Temptation is all around us. Every single day we face some sort of it, big and small. If Jesus was tempted for 40 days in a row, we better believe we are too, and no where is it more real than in sports.

Athletes are tempted in every which way. Temptation to complain about the referee or playing time. Temptation to criticize the coach or worse, a teammate (John Wooden would have none of that). The temptation to not complete the task, drill or set is very strong. I hear my inner-monologue right now: Coach told me 50 push-ups. Here we go...ok how about 40. Today I'll get 40 good ones instead of 50 bad one will know. Professional athletes face great temptations with the lures of money, status, pride and glory at hand. 
 Quite often, competition leads us into temptation. No wonder so many teams pray the "Our Father" The opportunities for temptation are more pressing as the stakes for what we may gain or what me may lose are much higher. A tennis player knows the ball hit a sliver of the line but it looks out. A golfer is aware that her opponent didn't see the mis-hit. Why count that stroke? Those of us who watch water polo don't see so much of what is taking place under water. This might be a good thing. Water polo is a very physical game.—kicking and other forms of physical contact are bound to happen. Does that include scratching and clawing? I'm sure you can offer your own examples, from your favorite sport.

As a coach, I have offered what I hope is a useful tool on the golf course and in life: name the temptation. 

I run my team through this spiritual exercise. Upon completion of a hole, a golfer ought to tell their opponent their score. I say, "every last part of you may want to tell her that you got a four when you shot a five. Pause right there. Admit it to yourself. Recognize what you want to do. NAME THE TEMPTATION—in other words say to yourself exactly what you want to do. Some athletes will use a physical cue here e.g. a two tap, head nod, etc in order to reset. Great call. Take that moment and that physical cue and commit to do what is right. Give the honest score." I add, "not all of you will struggle in the same way with this example, but the spiritual exercise remains. When you are faced with a temptation, just name that it is there. Call it out." Often, this separates you from the emotion and the desire. That momentary distance can be a good thing!
Knowing the name of a person or place is the first step in building a relationship. To name the temptation might do the same. We need to relate to temptation and familiarize ourselves with its many faces, characteristics, alleged promises and potential impact. We may face the same temptation for forty days or different ones during that time—but it's a universal part of the human experience. To suggest otherwise is delusional, and I dare say—the work of the devil. Oh how the devil would love for us to think that temptation is not real...that it is far away.....and confronts us infrequently. 

Let us look to Christ, who faced temptation for 40 days, especially during these 40 days of Lent for inspiration. And, be sure to use this spiritual exercise to name it, when it's both easy and when it's tough. Blessings.

Photo Credits

Friday, March 8, 2019

Having Fun with International Women's Day

Teaching is hard work but it can be a lot of fun, too. Ask any teacher when or why teaching is fun and I sincerely hope they say something beyond "June, July and August." Good students, continued learning, sharing my faith, opportunities for self-discovery, and making a positive impact on young people's lives are but a few reasons I love teaching. But let me be crystal clear here:  teaching is fun when I get to teach interesting, relevant, and creative content. 

March 8, International Woman's Day is a day of protest in some countries; a day that celebrates womanhood in others. This day, which has become a focal point for women's rights (as well as marketing toward female power) has provided an opportunity for me to teach about something super fun:
 the achievement of female athletes and what we can learn from them. This posting will serve as my lesson plan. I hope you learn a lot and by the conclusion of this blog say to yourself "that was fun!"

Opening Activity

If you would like a copy of this PDF file, (it's a full page) let me know
Happy to share.
Trivia players will be familiar with what to do here. In what is always one of my favorite rounds, each team needs to name as many people as they can on a given page. I told my class there 10 women to identify e.g. both Williams sisters and just one of the female coaches on the Notre Dame women's basketball staff. They struggled to name Se Ri Pak and Coach Muffet McGraw. Every group got Bethany Hamilton, Billie Jean King and even Michelle Wie.

Not only has each woman been successful in her sport, I believe we can learn about the spiritual life from them too. Here are but a few lessons! If I had more time to plan, I know I could determine one for each. Please offer any suggestions you have this way.

Carli Lloyd: Humility
In her book "When Nobody was Watching" Carli Lloyd reveals shares the story behind the goal and the star. Lloyd attributes her success to two men. She writes 
And that’s when my father, Steve, my first coach and my biggest supporter in the early years of my career, suggests I reach out to a highly regarded trainer in our area, an Australian named James Galanis. 
“O.K., Carli, this is the story as I see it,” he says. “Can you make the U.S. Women’s National Team? Yes, you can. It is going to take a whole lot of work. But if you put in that work, then I don’t see any reason why you can’t go as far as you want.” 
Then he provides the most detailed evaluation of me I’ve ever gotten. “You are very strong [technically and tactically]. But you are not fit. Mentally, you are weak. You don’t push yourself hard and you are lazy. You aren’t the sort of player who is going to thrive under pressure. And your character? That is poor. You make excuses and find people to blame. You always have a reason things are not working out, instead of focusing on what you can do to make them work out.”
This coach, a man who barely knows me, has just shredded me, and somehow I am fine with it. I don’t argue or push back on anything. It’s almost as if I’ve been waiting for someone like this my whole life.
Humility comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun related to the adjective humilis, which may be translated as "humble", but also as "grounded", or "from the earth", since it derives from humus (earth). No wonder we use the phrase "down to earth" to describe a person who keep his or her own ego in check. Their heads are figuratively small, not big. Whereas the Greeks valued pride, humility is a Christian virtue. We are not God. Pride really did go before the the garden of Eden and ever since.

Coaches seek to work with athletes who have a coachable attitude. I believe a primary ingredient to maintain an attitude that is coachable is humility. Otherwise, why would an athlete be open to instruction or correction? Lloyd can serve as a positive example who is humble. She heard hard things and could have ignored them...walked away...or rejected Galanis' words. I don't know that I would have been able to hear such a direct assessment. With humility, I might be more like Lloyd...and welcome it.

Maria Sharapova: Tension
Tension is something most of us want nothing to do with. We get a massage to remove it, take an Advil to control it. We tell ourselves, Relax! Let it go! Shake it off! Tension is seldom a friend, unless you are referring to the spiritual life.

Ignatius of Loyola wrote of Agere contra, a phrase which means "to act against." In short, this principle calls us to pay attention to the tension...and most notably, to stay with it. St. Ignatius would say when we feel tension and where we experience tension is a God-given opportunity to pay attention. 
A weight lifter knows that working with the tension, even increasing it is how one grows stronger. How might we grow spiritually? Stay with the tension. If we can, transformation may follow. Easy for me to say, right? This is however what Maria Sharapova wrote about in the Player's Tribune article "Into the Unknown." She wrote, 
I realized that, as much as I yearned while I was gone for the comfort and routine of my old life as a tennis player — what I yearned for even more was the discomfort, I yearned for the feeling that tennis gives you, of … it’s hard for me here to think of just the right phrase. Maybe it’s tough love. How tennis will isolate you, and exhaust you, and wear you down, and test your resolve, in some of the most brutal ways possible. But if you can just make it through … then it will also reward you in ways that are beyond compare. If you love tennis enough, then at the end of the day, it will love you back.
Sharapova longed for the tension; she realized that discomfort was a reason she loves the game—a game that has defined who she is and still demands an answer for what she can be.

Se Ri Pak: The Power of Example
As a tennis player and a golfer, I have always had a sock tan. I've always been quasi-obsessed by the degree of the contrast between my skin tone. Until I heard the NPR podcast LPGA's Se Ri Pak Retires But Her Impact On Golf Has Never Been Stronger I never knew a sock tan was viewed it as something one culture frowned upon....and unaware that a sock tan might serve as a source of connection for others. NPR states
Golfer Se Ri Pak's rise in the late 1990s inspired young women like Tiffany Joh, one of many Korean LPGA golfers who trace their interest in the sport to seeing Pak play on TV.  
JOH: Took off her shoes and took off her socks. And the main thing I remember is seeing her sock tan because her feet were so white, and she was so tanned. And - and I was pretty outdoorsy at the time myself, and I think my parents were always worried about me getting darker. But for the first time, I saw this girl that was super-tanned, and she was Asian, and she looked like me, and she was playing a sport.
The power of example should not be underestimated. It's a significant reason to celebrate an recognize today for what it is. Thanks to all the women in sports—athletes, coaches, referees and athletic directors, volunteers, fans and team moms. Many say Title IX has made a difference but your example, your time, talent, love and support has made the greatest of all. Thank you.

I concluded the lesson by asking my students who they would like to see on this collage. The following women were named. Please share you own! 

  • Simone Biles
  • Chloe Kim
  • Kristi Yamguchi
  • Maya Moore
  • Pat Summitt

The list can and should go on....!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lent 2019: The Sweet Spot

Because I am a tennis player, I know exactly what a sweet spot is. Golfers do too. However, if I have had one singular misgiving about my experience as an athlete, it's that I was built for sports of one. However the very first video reflection in the 2019 Best Lent Ever Series by Dynamic Catholic has reminded me that my vision is too narrow. Lent is a time to not only give something up, it's a season to give in to what we want to do...what we can do...with God's grace, and focus in on our sweet spot.

I wish my hoops career had not ended in seventh grade! My lone asset, my height, was no longer my advantage on the hardwood. I look at our girls' volleyball teams and wish I had their skills and the camaraderie that comes with all that team training. I played one season of intramural flag football for Farley Hall, my freshman year at Notre Dame, but I knew I was cut out for something much different. There were no sweet spots to be found. Put me in coach! so long as it's a sport for one. I make a great teammate in that capacity and coach, too. I've loved bringing girls on crew, cross country and golf to think beyond their individual contributions, but I do envy the other domain of *true* team sports. Sigh.

However, Matthew Kelly reminds us Lent is a season to broaden one's perspective—that is what sacrifice, atonement and repentance ought to do. Watch it here 
As Christians, we’re called to act in the world. We're not called just to be spectators in this life. We're called to take action—to take bold action, to be involved, to be engaged in the life of our culture, in the life of our country, in the life and experience of humanity. 
It's easy to get distracted, though, by all the things that we can’t impact. It's easy to get distracted by all of the things that we can't influence. There's a lot of things we read in the news or watch in the news that we actually can't do anything other than pray about. 
And when we get caught up in those sorts of things—when we get lost in conversations about those sorts of things—we wander away from our sweet spot. You see every one of us, we got a sweet spot. There's a sweet spot where you can have the most impact. There's a sweet spot where you can have the most influence. And God wants you to act in that sweet spot. God wants you to live in that sweet spot and act in that sweet spot and influence in that sweet spot. And everything outside of that sweet spot, to some extent, is just a distraction. 
So as we make this journey together, it's a great opportunity to allow God to invite us back into our sweet spot and to really make us aware of that sweet spot and strengthen us in that sweet spot.
The sweet spot is the place on the racket where one ought to hit the ball. When you hit the sweet spot, the ball gets much more bang for its buck. The racket does the most work that it can—not necessarily your biceps and forearms. The outcome of hitting the ball on the sweet spot is better distance, pure power, more give, less go. I'm not sure that an athlete who plays team sports considers the significance of the sweet spot like us individual athletes do. As a golfer, I am constantly reminding myself "let the club do the work." The sweet spot affirms that it does. 

Kelly runs with this image, this idea to help us understand how we can use our gifts and talents to make the world a better place. We ought to focus in on this area and change might occur far and wide, with some ease and positive results. The Lord is much more than the master architect. God is the master manager and coach. This Lent, I hope to keep my focus so that I can bring the needs and wants of the world to meet my sweet spot.

Have a great Lent!

Photo Credits
Best Lent Ever

Monday, March 4, 2019

I Got This: Thanks to Special Olympian Amy Bockerstette Part II

With an 8 foot putt for birdie, my friend turned and said to me, "you got this." I put my head down, putt the golf ball only to miss the hole by 5 inches. I looked up and said "I hate that expression." Alarmed by my negativity, I clarified my claim. I said, "when someone says to me you got this, invariably, I never do. I don't say it to anyone." My friend laughed and said "that's so true." We later joked "hey! should I say you don't got this? Would that help?" Point taken. But, watching Amy Bockerstette on the 16th hole of the Phoenix suggests otherwise. The Special Olympian tells herself several time "I got this." And she does! Is it different when we say words—like these— to ourselves? I think so.
Amy tells the 2018 Phoenix Open winner Gary Woodlawn "I got this!"
You have to watch the video below!

For athletes, self talk is important. Think Like a Winner, Episode 363 of the popular Freakonomics podcast: The Hidden Side of Sports offers great insight into the mental component of the game, including what we tell ourselves. "Great athletes aren’t just great at the physical stuff. They’ve also learned how to handle pressure, overcome fear, and stay focused." The inner-monologue is one such tool. Former MLB pitcher and now mental-skills coach, Bob Tewksbury agrees. He said, 

I like to have affirmations or mantras, essentially, that players can use in performance when things start to go awry. I call them anchor statements, and those anchors would be: “See it, feel it, trust it.” “Smooth and easy.” “I got all it takes to beat the competition.” “One pitch at a time.” What you say to yourself, how that little man affects performance, how to understand it, change it, correct it, minimize it, and move forward. Without them, your performance could get swept away like a boat in the ocean.
I think every coach ought to encourage athletes to find and use an anchor statement that works for them. Invite them to use one that resonates with their sport, their position and their personality. What works for Amy Bockerstette might not work for me, and that's ok. She ought to use those words...after all, we are witnesses to the result!

I want Amy to know what a great teacher she has been for me. She has reminded me that joy is not something that can be contained—it must be shared. She has revealed to me the significance of Sholom Aleichem's quote "When the heart is full, the eyes overflow."

I was able to say to my students that although some people think we need to "Make America Great Again" there's one area where it hasn't been lost: inclusion and service to those with disabilities. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act and programs like Special Olympics, as a nation we celebrate our brothers and sisters who have physical and mental differences. Yes, we can always broaden the circle, but this nation has made it so that those with disabilities stand by our side—not behind. We got this!

Keep playing your game Amy and sharing your anchor statement for others to hear. Thank you.

Photo Credits
Amy and Gary

Sunday, March 3, 2019

When you fill my heart...Thank you Special Olympian Amy Bockerstette

There are plenty of statistics on Americans and our reading habits, but I have yet to see the numbers re: how many of us read a book more than once. Might be interesting to poll how many people have read a book more than three times? ten times? Have you? 

Typically, surveys query what we read for pleasure—not for work or for school—but I have had the distinct pleasure of teaching the book "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion" by Greg Boyle, SJ for the past seven years. This also means that I have re-read it seven times. Maybe I don't deserve credit for doing so, but I can still make an argument for why a person might return to a text for a second, third or seventh time. 

With each reading, I have made new connections. I respond to insights I once missed. I highlight different stories and discover ideas I want to share with my students. I continue to laugh at certain jokes. What a gift literature can be. 
This year a simple quote in the introduction of "Tattoos" caught my attention. Boyle writes "When you fill my heart, my eyes overflow." Rather than underline or circle these words, I simply wrote the word "Wow." I knew there was something there. I played with that image in my mind. I knew I would return to this truth, but I wasn't sure when or how...until I did.

Several days prior, a friend shared with me and other golf girlfriends an e-mail with the subject line: inspirational video. I have yet to read or view content from this friend that isn't good (what a great reputation to have). I had some time to go through my inbox a week later only to click the video's link and this is what I saw.
The 16th hole at the Phoenix Open is infamous. As written for ABC News, it is the only enclosed hole on the PGA Tour. "It sets up as a golfing amphitheater — fans at the TPC Scottsdale course provide a raucous backdrop during tournament play, and many top golfers don't deal very well with the atmosphere." But that was not true for Amy Bockerstette as she made par—inspiring the 2018 champion Gary Woodland and playing partner, Matt Kuchar.

I watched this story in utter delight. I loved Amy's reactions to the atmosphere and the fans. I marveled at her swing! Pretty good! I nodded when she rebuffed Gary Woodlawn's offer to get the ball out of the bunker. And when Amy sank the 8-foot putt for par, I leaned my head back and my eyes became two pools on the verge of overflowing. Her feat made me smile. A sense of real joy welled in my heart. I cried.

I retuned to the original e-mail. Another girl friend wrote "Saw this clip come up on my FB yesterday. Loved it. I cried. Wish all golfers had this positive attitude and smile on their face." It was affirming to read a friend had a similar reaction. I internalized her message and thought how much I want my golf team to see this story and consider the challenge to be more like Amy in our attitude and disposition.

"Tattoos on the Heart" offers the world many truths through stories, poetry, quotes and more. Through his text, Father Greg has shared an experience that is universal...our hearts do fill up! Consequently, our eyes will overflow. I also appreciate that social media has allowed for me to see what Amy Bockerstette did at the 2019 Phoenix Open. If I hadn't read the book seven times, I'm not sure it would stay with me in the way that is has.

I shared Amy's story with my students in class. The clapped when she made par. I then read Boyle's quote and concluded my remarks with how we end every prayer, every day. I said, "St. Ignatius" Together we responded "Pray for us."

Photo Credits