Thursday, July 25, 2019

Platforms for Gratitude: Thank you Shane Lowry

Viewing a game, match or tourney through my DVR just doesn't give me the satisfaction that a live feed does. I have to watch sports en vivo—live. For many fans however, the highlight reel is sufficient. If that is all a person can get, so be it. But there is much more to the production and telecast of a sporting event than the game itself. To me, this is not worth missing. If I had, I would have missed out on an important activity for all coaches to consider as they plan for a new sports season: How do we thank our parents? In what ways can our athletes honor them? Thank you to Justin Leonard and Shane Lowry for this reminder. 
As I watched the 2019 Open Championship, I marveled at the pin-rattling wind and the heavy rain that often seemed to be falling horizontally during the final round. I was mesmerized by the Irish crowd who came and stayed, in droves to support one of their own and I was especially moved by one clip they ran featuring past champions. American golfer, Justin Leonard shared his memory of winning it and holding the Claret Jug in 1997 . What followed was a number of golfers—Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods doing the same. While that may not sound remarkable, their reaction was. Each one, had to pause. They stopped talking. They lowered the silver trophy in hand. Many apologized. Each was so overcome with emotion of what had happened, they were moved to tears. Memories like these, shared with the viewers from around the world, said little, but spoke volumes about the significance of this particular win. Humbling to see, delightful to behold.

The timing of this clip made me wonder if this year's winner would do the same. The WSJ writes
With a red, bushy beard and a ball marked with a shamrock, Shane Lowry was a perfectly Irish champion on a perfectly Irish day. He won the British Open with a score of 15 under par, beating Tommy Fleetwood by six shots. In the first Open on Irish soil since 1951, Lowry became the first Irish major champion since Rory McIlroy in 2014. 
As Lowry walked up the 18th fairway, his name already engraved on the trophy, it took a line of marshals to restrain the dozens of fans running up to him from behind. 
It can't get much better than that....but it did. When it was time to hand over the Claret Jug, Lowry did so with open arms. He smiled and held it high for all to see. As written in the Irish Sun, he said
"What can I say? I just have so many people to thank really. First of all, the R&A for such a great event, to have an Open on the island of Ireland at Portrush is amazing. 
This is one of my favourite places in Ireland. I've a lot of people in my team I have to thank. 
My coach Neil (Manchip), caddie Bo (Brian Martin), my management. I definitely wouldn't be standing here without them. 
My family. What can I say? My mum and dad.

The camera turned to feature Brendan and Bridget Lowry jumping up and down. Shane however, had to pause. I knew what was coming. I felt them too. He got choked up. He lowered the trophy and looked down. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, but the tears began. Just moments later however, with Irish eyes smiling, he said, "they sacrificed so much for me when I was younger and I'm so happy you can handle this trophy tonight."

Their selflessness made this feat possible. Their joy and his joy—shared, complete.

Our parents do make our greatest of achievements possible. They are the giver of great gifts, the first being life itself. From that gift, many others flow. Indeed, our parents are not perfect but I do think it is important to express gratitude for what they have done for us. I was reminded how important and meaningful this can be by Lowry's emotion and gesture. 

The platform of athletics lends itself to this easily. I invite all coaches to consider how and when you will have your athletes and your teams thank their parents for giving the gift of sport. Indianapolis CYO director and longtime head football coach at Roncalli High School Bruce Scifres offers a poignant and practical way he had his team give thanks to their parents. In "Five Great Transformational Team Activities" he shares the steps for Senior Letters to their parents: 
Each season for our last regular season home game, I would have each of our seniors write a letter to their parents. I would give them three basic guidelines on Monday of that week:  
  • Thank your parents for the countless sacrifices they make for you. 
  • Tell them that you love them. 
  • Let them know you are proud to be their son!
After giving these guidelines, I would encourage them to create something in their own words that would be a keepsake their parents would want to hold onto forever! I would have the seniors turn the letters in to me in a sealed envelope before the game. I would hand the letters back to the players after pre-game warm-ups to hand to their parents as they were escorting their parents to the middle of the field as they were introduced. The parents could then read the letters after they returned to the stands or after getting home from the game. Over the years, I have had a handful of parents tell me later that this senior letter changed their relationship with their son for the better. They said it opened up their line of communication and provided plenty for them to discuss later. Our parents always appreciated these letters from their sons a great deal.
I dedicated my book Pray and Practice with Purpose to my parents. I wrote "to the giver of so many wonderful gifts—including Sports and Spirituality. Thank you." It shouldn't take writing a book or winning the Open Championship for us to have a platform to extend our gratitude. It's certainly worth celebrating, but we can in the many steps that our parents share with us along the way.

To Brendan and Bridget: ENJOY!
To Shane: I saw you hit a hole in one at the 2016 Masters. Brilliant!

Photo Credits
Crying Shane
Lowry Parents

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