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....!

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