Thursday, May 30, 2019

Inspiration with Action: A case for athletic awards

"Side Hustle School" by Chris Guillebeau is a "daily podcast, an online community, and an action-packed book — all designed to help you create a new source of income with-out quitting your job." I love it. Guillebeau runs this podcast 365 days a year, which is truly remarkable, not to mention inspirational. And speaking of inspiration he concludes every episode with the same poignant reminder: inspiration is good, but inspiration combined with action is much better. Thank you, Chris!
His words have prompted me to reflect not on what inspires me and why, but what (inspiration) prompts me to take action. Recent events in academia have offered me insight to this question. 

I love awards. I delight in seeing people recognized for their achievement. I just watched all 31 minutes of the Commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. Why? Because I can't help but get bask in the glory of the pomp and circumstance. I am partial to the regalia and graduation flare. This time of year is rich in people who are thanked for their efforts and their labor. Those who inspire are put on a pedestal. They receive honorary degrees and other decorum...and they should.

Inspirational moments such as these light a fire inside of me. I want to work harder and smarter. I remind myself that success comes from sacrifice and focus. Yes, I am a fairly competitive person but when someone wins an award, I don't ask the question "Why not me?" Instead, I let the joy of the moment serve as a reminder of what should I be doing. I ask myself, How should I channel my energy and eros? How might I better use my own gifts to glorify God and better the community around me? I hope you will, too.
The 2018-2019 St. Ignatius College Prep school awards ceremony, offered many inspirational moments. I have attended enough of these to know that when the award is given to the "right" person—a worthy recipient—his or her peers and teachers, friends and coaches will respond accordingly. The applause cannot be silenced. The cheers are sincere. The joy is contagious. And what I find equally exciting is when the award surpasses our expectations. When moments like these occur, remember them. Oh, and be sure to tell about it—a nod to the late Mary Oliver.
I always pay close attention to the conferring of athletic awards. Before awarding the John E. Brophy award, the athletic director calls out the name of the highest award for each unique sport and of this year's honoree. Given that St. Ignatius has 26 varsity sports, the audience learns the unique name of 26 awards. The varsity girls' swim team award, The Wildcat Award, caught me by surprise for it was not given to an individual. No, this year's winner was the entire team.

Though we live in a era and a culture that embraces the philosophy of "everyone wins a trophy" this accomplishment is much different. To me, when a coach decides that the collective whole is worth a singular distinction, something very special must have happened. This decision would never be done in vain. We spend energy and effort to pay attention to the person who does make a difference. However, every once in a great while, a team takes on a life so magnanimous that the whole must be recognized. Indeed, it is much greater than the parts. To me, that is inspiration. What then might be the inspiration with action?

My best guess is to respond in a way that surpasses expectation once again. What might a team or person do that is unscripted? Unsuspecting in gratitude or thanksgiving. Reading about Douglas Uchikura, a distinguished alumni from Moreau Catholic High School offered one example. In the latest issue of "The Vector" he said,
"I remember when the team returned to campus after defeating Saint Elizabeth High School in the final,” recalls third baseman Uchikura, who also played varsity and junior varsity football, ran cross country, and competed on the school’s inaugural wrestling team. “We crashed a parent meeting that [founding principal] Brother Fisher [Iwasko, CSC] was having in the school's auditorium, so we could present the trophy to him. You should have seen the grin on his face!”
Uchikura's story has stayed with me because I wonder (and hope) that a team upon victory or distinction, might think to share it with those who made it possible in the first place. Who on their team thought to take this action? Thinking of our teams today: Who might student athletes present their award to? With whom would they want to share the sign or symbol of excellence? Would they go out of their way to find us?  Why or why not? 
For those who would rather that we do away with awards and the ceremony around them, I would like to know not only what inspires them, but what inspires them to take action. How should we honor those teams and individuals who have made a difference? And how would we know that they have done so? As I've written about before, I haven't always gotten it "right" in determining who should win or why. Maybe I needed a little more inspiration. Or maybe the inspiration with action is to broaden my vision and consider alternatives....maybe it's the team? Maybe this is a year to take a pass. Perhaps it is actually a manager or trainer. I believe that quest to get it "right" is inspiration in action. Let me know what you think.

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