Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Importance of "Happy Places" in Sport and in Spirituality

In his fifth book "Living Inspired" Alex Montoya writes "I'm passionate about motivating others. Things I'm passionate about include my faith, sports and politics. For a living, I'm a motivational writer and speaker and communications coach." He adds, "You'll notice in my elevator pitch I didn't lead with my job. That's what I do, not who I am. However, the things that inspire me led me to choose this occupation. It's a manifestation of my passions and talents." His pointed and honest introduction should prompt us to consider what we might say. What are you passionate about? How do your passions relate to who you are AND what you do?
I am passionate about my faith and sports. I care about education and creating/sustaining community, especially through faith and athletics. And, what motivates me—what I am most inspired by and passionate about—underscores my love of my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. Montoya, my classmate and friend describes it as one of his two favorite places.
Quite possibly my two favorite places are Camp RYLA and the University of Notre Dame. Those are my happy places because those places are happy. And they’re filled with passionate people. 
Whenever I encounter a student or alumnus from either place I tell them don’t let RYLA or Notre Dame be a place. Let it be a spirit. And take that spirit wherever you go! Be a representative of that spirit and shine wherever you are!

I attended RYLA as a high school junior and returned the next year as a student volunteer I’ve been blessed to return as a speaker incredibly 20 years in a row.
He says "RYLA, which takes place on some old campgrounds in Idyllwild CA is where the service organization Rotary International hosts the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards—R.Y.L.A. Every spring, Camp RYLA brings together 350 high school juniors from San Diego, Imperial Valley, Brawley and more.  And Rotary completely underwrites and staffs—100% through volunteers—a weekend retreat. These kids learn about leadership, teamwork and overcoming adversity.

The kids selected are largely your "classic overachievers" and I love it because they are fired up to be there. They are excited, loud and jacked!" He adds:
I trek to Notre Dame whenever I possibly can, whether it’s for a football game speaking engagement to staff or students or just because I’m in the South Bend region. It invigorates me. So many of my values and beliefs were shaped there. That’s why I call Indiana the "Motherland." Find a place that excites you. Make sure it stirs your patriotism and gives you the frenetic energy of young kids. Make it a place that inspires you!
In light of the "shelter in place" mandate that has been imposed on San Francisco and the six other surrounding counties of the Bay Area, I find Montoya's words more pressing, more urgent than ever. Though I cannot go to my happy place, I can bring the spirit of it to where I am today.

Here is a shout out to those who can help others live inspired with this message in mind.

Coaches: For many of our athletes, our practice fields, our pool. or our trails might in fact be their happy place. Indeed, these are happy places because it is also where our athletes are happy (not all, I know!).  Have them share, as you can (Instagram? Twitter? FlipGrid? Zoom Call), if their happy place does in fact, relate to your sport

Athletic Directors: please affirm your coaches in this time of social distancing. Our teams are happy places for athletes because they're filled with happy people--their leaders!

And lastly, how can we take heed and bring that spirit of happy places and happy people into our homes during these trying times?

As an ND alum, I loved seeing the numerous ways my fellow Domers dressed up for St. Patrick's Day. Some were over the top, others donned old school paraphernalia—I need to see if I still have THE SHIRT from my freshmen through senior years. 

I watched a 7-minute video on the spirit of green nail polish for the women's basketball team. I can't seem to get enough of that Fightin' Irish spirit, nor should I. The bigger question is how else can I bring that to others? to those in the region I oversee for Notre Dame Women Connect? 
As an athlete: I am now reading "Open" by John Feinstein. I have enjoyed learning how the U.S. Open found its way to Bethpage Black, a public course in Farmingdale, New York. Hearing the story of this contest reminds me how many golf courses are happy places for me, and in large part because the people with whom I have shared the game.

We will return to these happy places again. We will encounter the happy people of these spaces soon enough. Let us recall and remember their beauty and their joy—the memories and the magic. Thank God for the unique happy places each and every person has. Ask one another about them? Share stories of the people who inhabit these places.

How many of you have a happy place that reflects your faith tradition?
How many of you find a happy place related to sports?
Do they include both?!

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