Thursday, July 30, 2020

What Comes from Creative Use of Space: Love for Live Sports

Americans have gotten very creative with how to use space in our homes. Thank you, COVID. For example, I love my friend's new office space, created by removing doors from a closet, adding lighting and a pop of color to the wall. #Inspiring! Removing the table from their dining room meant other friends extended their living room by 20 feet. Their son now has an open space to plays video games.....which they can monitor. #Brilliant! Yours truly writes from a secretary desk I put in my hallway. I love this little nook of my San Francisco flat and I swear I write better at it because it's so novel?! But as the virus has lingered long, our recreational and emotional needs are increasingly being met outdoors. Creativity is not lost there, either. 
Special Table overlooking the 18th green. 

At the Olympic Club where I play golf, tables for food and beverage service have been placed on outdoor patios that were rarely used in the past. The weather in the western part of the city isn't entirely conducive to outdoor fare. I have recorded some of the coldest temperatures of the year in July on the Ocean course's back nine. However, reality and necessity came together and the club is now open for lunch on one patio and beverages and bars bites on another. 

Last Sunday, my playing partner went out of her way to snag the most coveted table on the property. It sits on this small patio, above a staircase overlooking the 18th green on the Lake Course. We were later joined by four other friends, making  space on this veranda. One friend in the group—who happens to be a very strong golfer—caught sight of the play action going on beneath our table. She interrupted the conversation at the table to tell us what a terrible putt this golfer just had. She added, "I hate playing my golf ball from where he is now." She had such a strong reaction that everyone in our group looked down to watch. (I took a mental note for future play). Unaware of the gallery above him, this golfer read the green perfectly and sank a 12 foot putt. We started cheering and clapping. He tipped his cap and gave us a wave, as if to acknowledge the crowd. Moments later, his playing partner had a similar putt. As fans at a golf tournament do, we tuned down the volume and let him shoot. He missed by but a few inches. A collective "awwww!" came from the gallery. He tapped it in and we clapped and cheered again.
This was our view.

I don't know that I will ever forget this moment.

Moments earlier, I had been thinking of how much I miss the grill room bar. In this space, club members come and go, stopping by to chat and check in. Meanwhile, I lost sight of the fact I was sitting in one of the most beautiful places in California. From this patio,I overlook palm and cypress trees, Lake Merced, and a championship course. Were it not for COVID, this table would not be there and without that table, good frriends and the game I golf, I wouldn't be there either.

Most poignantly however, that moment crystallized what I absolutely LOVE about live sports. As a sports fan, I live for those moments—unexpected and out of struggle—that emerge victorious. They are electric, Everyone at my table felt that joy. We cheered for this underdog, even if it were but one (or two) putt(s). We understand the challenge and that feeling of triumph, if but for a second of eternity. 

I don't know if it was the sports moment or the story that sustained me, but as I continue to find one bright light each day, thanks to a creative use of space by the Olympic Club and friends who help me pay attention, I had one worth savoring...and sharing with you.

Perhaps for your reflection and prayer, consider what was a bright light for today?
What is a story that has sustained or nourished you this past week?
What do you love (and miss) most about live sports?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

“Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” My Sports and Spirituality Response

In Sunday's first reading, King Solomon—the son of David—is asked told by the Lord God, who appears to him a dream, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Perhaps this is a command you have always wanted to hear. Maybe you think with this question comes too much responsibility. Surely one's response reveals a great deal about the respondent. Are they selfless or selfish? Forward thinking or in the moment? Visionary or practical? Moral or realistic? Solomon offers a beautiful reply. He answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”
I have always loved Solomon's request. The LORD too, was pleased. As it is written,
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”
For what would you ask the Lord God? If you're not sure, consider for a moment, you as the best version of yourself. Let your response emanate from that vision. I think this is a great question for students and teachers, parents and children, even coaches and athletes to share and pray with together.

And before you bring that dialogue to a close, I say why not have some fun with the Word. Spending time with scripture need not always be serious. Imagine, for a moment the Lord God stating, "Ask something of me that is related to sports, and I will give it to you." How would you reply? 

I need not hesitate or pray over this one. I determined a few months ago. This is not a bucket list item because it is largely out of my control. I need to be invited as someone's guest. Getting to this corner of Georgian isn't that easy...etc. Maybe that's what makes wishes so... well...wishful and fun!?
Here's my response
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, teacher and coach
Give me the opportunity to play golf at Augusta National, the home of The Masters Championship tourney.
I am not even requesting my own foursome, though that would be nice. 
I would love to walk and compete on such hallowed, beautiful grounds. 
Often when I play this game, I contemplate the beauty of nature and marvel at your creation.
I do kindly ask that I have idyllic weather. 
Caddies are included, yes?
In the Bible, there are passages that speak to the trials and tribulations of life and others convey the range of human emotions. Some readings invite us to reflect more personally on the men and women of faith who have gone before us. Familiarizing ourselves with their story  can teach us about ourselves and God's love for us. Adding a personal touch, a willingness to imagine and be open can transform our prayer life and ultimately our relationship with God.

Perhaps I will ask God for what attribute as an athletic director /teacher /coach / daughter/ friend and board member I desire most, with his love and Providence. Once I figure that out, I might as well throw in the prayer to play Augusta, right?

Photo Credits
Female at Augusta

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Notre Dame Magazine: The South Bend Issue Sports and Spirituality Style

Over time, every community develops its own vernacular—terms and words that take on a meaning familiar to those on the inside. I would like to read a study about groups with a strong identity: Does their lexicon loom larger than others/ My basis for comparison is my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. 
I have noticed that those familiar with the Fighting Irish will drop term on me like "Domers" or reference reputable venues such as "the Backer." Others ask me what it was like going to school in South Bend. However, referencing this Indiana city in recent years isn't uncommon or unique as it once way. And, as the latest issue of Notre Dame Magazine affirms, there's good reason for it.

The Summer 2020 issue: The South Bend Issue pursued "those stories that spoke of South Bend and its relationship with the University, the renewal taking place in the city and adjacent communities." It is PACKED with stories and profiles of people and places, projects and partnerships that reflect why there's such a buzz about town. The purpose of this blog is to point the stories that speak to Sports and Spirituality in and around South Bend. Enjoy.

NB: These are listed in the order they appear in ND Magazine

And what a run it was by Kerry Temple '74
In case it wasn't already clear: "Here’s persuasive evidence that Muffet McGraw is Notre Dame’s most successful coach since Knute Rockne. In 33 seasons at the University her teams won 77 percent of their games, with 29 of her 33 teams winning 20 games or more (including 11 30-win seasons). Those teams won two national championships, made nine trips to the Final Four and took 14 regular-season conference championships. She coached 22 All-Americans, was named consensus national coach of the year three times and in 2017 was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Her teams also packed the house, attracting a loud, loyal and festive fan base to the court inside the Joyce Center, when most women’s basketball teams had difficulty drawing spectators."

The story of her NOT boarding United Flight 175 that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 still gets me.

Another Deadly Contagion by Margaret Fosmoe '85
A historical perspective on how the world handled the Spanish Flu has helped me put COVID-19 into some much needed context. I shouldn't be surprised but I was still deeply saddened to read and realize that there were nine deaths among the students. "The University had about 1,500 students in the fall 1918, with more than 200 cases of the disease." 

As we await the fate of Irish football, it was interesting to read, "The Notre Dame football team — led by new head coach Knute Rockne and including star player George Gipp — canceled or postponed three October games because of the ban on public gatherings, including a match with the team from Great Lakes Naval Station.  Notre Dame resumed its football schedule in November, playing its final five games to finish the 1918 season at 3-1-2."

Time will tell how the 2020 season will follow....

Deaths in the Family: Remembering Gil Loescher
I never met Professor Loescher, but I wish I had. 

Gil Loescher, a 6-foot, 8-inch former varsity basketball player at Saint Mary’s College of California, visited Vietnam and Cambodia on a research trip and spent time with war refugees. The experience had a profound effect on him; the plight of refugees became his life’s work.

I had several classes that were cross-listed as a Peace Studies course. Wish I had taken even more of those.

A Community that Cares by Beth Lohmuller Grisoli '87
I have heard many times that the best thing about Charlie Weis is his wife, Maura. This should not be interpreted as a slight against Coach Weis but rather a full endorsement for his better half as just that. 

Maura Weis is the founder of Hannah and Friends—a nonprofit service for children with special needs. Furthermore, Sound Bend is home to the Logan Center—a place to support people with intellectual disabilities of all ages. The author, a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, encountered a city that seemed to say, “We care about what happens to our citizens with special needs. And we care enough to invest in serving them well.” 

People with developmental delays need more help than their families can give, and they want to flourish in society, not simply survive. Special-needs children grow into special-needs adults who want jobs to feel productive and friends to feel human. To say it’s difficult having a family member with an intellectual disability seems too benign. It’s not simply difficult, but terribly difficult at times.

As much as we are amazed by what our football coaches do, what their spouses do off the field is often equally compelling.

Home Field Advantage by Rasmus Jorgensen

I don't know if Jürgen Klopp's stock could rise any higher on this blog right now. And then I read about his time at Notre Dame last summer. #Fangirl

His team team was in town for the July 2019 soccer match "between two of the world’s best teams, Liverpool F.C. and Borussia Dortmund."

Jorgensen writes
It is not normal for a city like South Bend, population 101,860, to attract events of this magnitude. Liverpool played other elite European clubs at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and Dortmund had another match at CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. “It’s pretty remarkable,” says DeCleene. “To have South Bend in that mix is a pretty great feather in our cap.”  
The teams were in town for a few days and hosted open practice sessions at Alumni Stadium — my chance, I thought, to meet my heroes from the Liverpool team I have followed since I was growing up in Denmark. But I was wrong. Alumni Stadium, which seats 3,000, was full of fans who had to be reminded to stay quiet so that players and coaches could communicate. 
It was still something to see. So was Notre Dame’s practice facility, according to Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp. “Notre Dame is, wow,” he said at the time. “No club in the world has facilities like the University of Notre Dame. It’s just not possible.”

Notre Dame IS Wow. I'm sure he smiled as he said this....

Take us out to the ballgame by John Nagy '00 M.A.
This article profiles the downtown South Bend ballpark that is the home to the Chicago Cubs, a Single A minor league team. The owner Andrew Berlin invested in the downtown ballpark and boldly made the claim "It's not just about baseball." 

The article states:
“When Andrew purchased the ball club, it was our goal to develop and cultivate an experience at Four Winds Field that will bring people back downtown,” Hart told the South Bend Tribune two years ago. “We wanted the ballpark to be a community gathering point that would provide an entertainment experience like no other.” It worked.

One midsummer Friday in 2017 I took my kids to a game. No special reason, just time for a night at the park. The Cubs lost, but the postgame fireworks revved up on schedule — always an impressive show for a city of this size. Afterward, fans ran the bases. Rounding third, one by one, we saw a crowd forming just behind home plate. And there was Andrew Berlin, child-like grin on his face, a chunky World Series ring on one hand, letting kids touch it as he crouched like a catcher for pictures.
I have a few fond memories of seeing the South Bend Silver Hawks—a farm team for the Arizona Diamondbacks named for a popular Studebaker model of the late 1950s—play in the yard once known as "The Cove." Berlin is right. It wasn't just about the's the memories. 
A Home for those without one by Deanna Csomo McCool
This might be my favorite article in this issue for it talks about the genesis, development and growth of the Center for the Homeless. I did not know about its humble beginnings, deficit, what it has overcome and even what how comprehensive it is today. This piece speaks to what dedication to a cause, good leadership and the Holy Spirit can make happen.
For instance, the Robert L. Miller Sr. Veteran’s Center, a separate building on the Center for the Homeless campus, opened in 2011. It can house up to 24 male homeless military veterans, who can obtain treatment, clothes and meals and receive plenty of support as they process post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical issues. Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn ’07 promotes the project because of his interest in helping veterans and military families.     
Quinn’s experience of volunteering at the center with his football teammates stuck with him. “This is one of the reasons a lot of players and other students came to Notre Dame — to give back to the greater good,” he says. In 2011, he founded the 3rd & Goal Foundation to offer support to veterans because he was inspired by his father, who served in Vietnam. 
Quinn, Camilleri and Carl Ackermann, who teaches finance at Notre Dame, eventually collaborated to create a personal finance program for veterans. The program has expanded to cover other topics including computer skills, nutrition, organization and stress relief. It’s called the Developing Readiness in Veterans’ Experience program, or DRIVE. 
“Our biggest mission in creating the DRIVE program was to provide a curriculum that would help veterans break the cycle of homelessness and dependence,” Quinn says. “We wanted to equip them with the tools to support themselves and break any prior bad habits — ‘driving’ them to become better versions of themselves.” 
The veterans’ center, and all other Center for the Homeless programs, operate with a better understanding of post-traumatic stress than when it opened. “We have shifted language and culture over time,” Camilleri says.
We ask our student athletes at to serve together as team. To know that Quinn and his teammates served at the Center and how that experience sparked in him a further desire to  commit his time, money, talent and influence for a cause he created says "mission accomplished."

Going for Gold by Joanne Norell
This is a must read for information about the economic impact that sports has on Notre Dame and South Bend. Read it all, but I was very surprised to read, "Though football visitors accounted for 60 percent of the 1.1 million total attendance at Notre Dame sporting events in 2016-17, non-football athletic spectators — especially the combined 293,000 attributed to men’s and women’s basketball — generated an additional $10 million for South Bend, $11 million for St. Joseph County altogether and $13 million total for the state." I thought it would have been a higher percentage. What number would you have guessed?

Mayor of South Bend, Governor, Veteran, Prisoner of War, Baseball Player for the Fighting Irish, competitor and 1998 Commencement speaker Joe Kernan embodies all that Sports and Spirituality aims to make known. God Bless him as he struggles with Alzheimer's.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Four Stories Worth Sharing: Catholic Sports Radio Podcast

American author Barry Lopez has penned one of my favorite quotes of all time. In Crow and Weasel he writes, “If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” This is a message I use in Sports and Spirituality every year, in talks I give to coaches and even on retreats I have led. There is truth, power and beauty in something as simple as a story.
This was one of my favorite classes of the year. So many stories!
Guest 76 and 77 here. Hoping that Neal might be a future guest....

Recently, I have given more thought to what—if any stories—I am giving away right now. And to who are they going? The narrative of life as we know it has certainly changed; so have the stories. And yet we are in need of the nourishment that only good story can give. 

Last week I wrote about and shared the story of Rafael Nadal. Learning about his ancestral home, this island community and its connection to his family from the 60 Minutes interview sustained  me in a way that only stories do and that maybe, I have forgotten. I gave that story away to friends—those I know who love tennis. others who speak Spanish and happen to like Rafa. The story cost nothing but it brought me joy and my joy increased as I did.

This past Sunday, Father Tom Doyle—the presider of my virtual community of faith —reminded us that the most important story we can teach to children is the Gospel. I cannot disagree. We must pass on the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus if we are to live and love our faith. 

And so with this blog posting, I would like to share the story of three different people (and me) who have been interviewed and profiled on Catholic Sports Radio. This weekly podcast is hosted by a warm and amiable veteran broadcaster, Bruce Wawrzyniak. As the creator of program Wawrzyniak wanted a program where religion and sports come together providing listeners with valuable insights for their personal, business, and athletic life. Mission accomplished, Bruce!

The reason I think these four podcasts are wroth listening to is because each person bears witness to their faith in a dynamic, inspiring and unique way. No one is overly pious; each person is relatable. Sports may be the common theme or thread among those chosen to speak, but to me, it is the way the Gospel has underscored their life that is worth learning, caring for, giving away and sustaining us further. Pass on and enjoy!

My favorite: Episode 63 features Sherrie Retif, 
She has been the head coach of the varsity girls basketball team at Germantown Academy for more than 20 years.  Her teams have captured the Inter-Academic Athletic League Championship 19 times, including a streak of 14 consecutive titles and 109 straight Inter-Ac victories. She had previously coached in New Orleans, where her teams captured back-to-back City Championships. She played basketball for the Tulane Green Wave and was inducted into the Tulane University Hall of Fame. In later years she was inducted into the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame. In “Perspective on Youth Sport and Spirituality,” published by Notre Dame Press in 2015, she contributed a chapter on best practices. And, she co-authored a handbook called, “More Than a Game, Stories, Prayers and Reflections for the Student Athlete.”

“The more we see Christ in others, Christ will grow in ourselves.”

“It doesn’t have to be all about winning on the scoreboard, it’s about winning in life.”

Take Note: 
Episode 42 with Haley Scott DeMaria
In college she was left paralyzed with a broken back after a bus accident involving her swim team from the University of Notre Dame, with two teammates having been killed instantly.  After five back operations and being told she wouldn’t walk, not to mention swim again, miraculously, she returned to competitive swimming for Notre Dame 21 months after the bus accident and her injury.  Her 2008 book, What Though The Odds, details what she went through and her “journey of faith and triumph.”  She later became Assistant Swim Coach at Xavier College Prep, the all-girls Catholic high school in Phoenix that she had attended.  She also talks here about two pilgrimages this and two years ago that she says reignited her faith and commitment to service.

“I have always believed truly and know – because I felt it – that it was not my faith that got me through this, but it was the faith of everyone around me.”

“It really is a testament to the faith environment where we were.”

“The beauty of my story is that it was awful and life is still beautiful.”

Take Note: 
  • Haley makes a distinction between her story and her journey.
  • Though I have heard Haley speak several times, including in my class, I teared up once again as I listened. I was relieved when I heard Wawrzyniak admit he did too
Episode 76. Anne Stricherz
No need for a bio here! Hopefully my remarks will offer new insight into sports and spirituality.

“Golf became, not only I would say maybe a necessity, but a reality, and I see that as a sign of God’s mercy to me.”

“In those conversations I would find out about these fantastic ways that coaches were including their faith with their sport.  And I just kind of started to collect them, collect the examples.”

Episode 77: Frank Allocco
The Executive Sr. Associate Athletics Director for External Relations at the University of San Francisco (a Catholic school).  He won 17 league championships and two Division I state championships in 18 years at De La Salle High School in Concord, California, and has coached and/or been a speaker at basketball camps from China to Belgium to Canada. As a college athlete he played football and basketball at Notre Dame.  He is also an inductee to the Sports Faith International Hall of Fame.

“Anytime I’ve hit adversity in my life or disappointment, I think that I’m blessed to feel just a portion of what Christ felt when He sacrificed and what He went through.”

“The lesson I learned from that was, the success of any venture will be determined by the spirit in which it was entered.”

Take Note: 
  • Love what he says about the mentors he has had in his life. We need leaders—we need great mentors and teachers—now more than ever.
  • I'll take the assist. Frank is a good friend of mine. So happy he was profiled.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The 60 Minute Interview of Rafael Nadal: Simply Beautiful

As much as I love watching professional tennis—perhaps you too felt a fortnight of Wimbledon withdrawal—it is hard for me to watch Rafael Nadal play the game. "Rafa" who is just one win shy of Roger Federer's record of twenty grand slam victories, has played on the pro circuit since 2005. As reported by L. Jon Wertheim: "Nadal doesn't play tennis so much as he works it. Blistering the ball with annihilating force, lacing it with somersaulting topspin and imposing his will on the opponent." But that intense style of play isn't why I have often felt I would rather NOT watch Nadal play. Nadalito is riddled with ticks. During a match he is always tugging at his shorts and placing his hair behind his headband. He has an elaborate set of rituals, such as placing his water bottle at just the right angle. Said tendencies have taken away from my enjoyment of his game and this is unfortunate. Why? "Rafael Nadal: The 60 Minutes Interview" reveals an additional perspective on this great athlete. Though his game might not be considered beautiful, those are the best words to describe who he is and from where he comes. 
Rafa is fluent in English but answered the questions in Spanish so he could express himself as freely as possible. I learned more than I expected and found in him an example of an athlete I truly admire. Here's why.

Filmed on Mallorca, the island where he was born, lives now and has vowed never to leave,  Nadal admits that he loves being home because there, he  is just "Rafael Nada." When asked how many generations of Nadals have lived on this Mediterranean island, he says " pocas." In other words, "Many....quite a few." Though he could make much more money if he lived elsewhere, he admits it would compromise his happiness—something money cannot buy.

His Temper
The game of tennis has had its share of temper tantrums. When asked how many rackets he has broken in a match, I made a guess. The answer? "Cero." When asked why he hasn't broken a single one, he says "my family. They would not allow it." I see a pattern here; Rafa is connected to two things much larger than himself....
The Importance of Self-Doubt
Like many sports, tennis is physically and mentally demanding. He believes doubt and success go hand in hand. Check it out. 

How can something like jealousy be beautiful? Listen to the type that Rafa admits to having. 

My Coaching Philosophy
Every coach is tasked with articulating their own coaching philosophy. While it is often a one to two sentence statement, the message that Rafa offered his coach—his Uncle Tony—during a rain delay of the 2008 Wimbledon final capture the spirit of mine. In what is considered by many as the greatest match of all time, Rafa said , “Relax, I’m not going to lose this match. Maybe Fed will win, but I’m not going to lose." He went on to win and to win. 

I think my task for my team is to help my athletes get to a level of focus and preparation that would allow us to compete in this way. 

Your Motivation
When asked "Why do you continue to play. In spite of the injuries, why are you still in the game? Rafa offers a simple, authentic and beautiful response. I can't think of a better reason to play.

Joy or Winning or the Pain of Losing
Tennis players get asked all the time which side the competitive coin stays with them longer. Rafa is slow to respond. He deliberates and then commits. His answer is consistent with his motivation. He closes his remarks in stating "Creo." ...."I think." 

His Rivalry with Roger Federer
Wertheim asks Nadal is he ever gets interviewed without a question about King Fed. "Do you ever get tired of being asked about Roger?" He responds "No. Encantado." Tan Bonito Rafa.

Hermoso + Bello + Precioso
The 14 minutes of this program reminded me of why I love sports and what I have been missing.  For example, take one look at what is deemed "the 2019 the shot of the year" and something will happen to you. Adrenaline will flow through your veins. Do you remember that feeling? For me, it was heightened by the camera catching Tiger Woods' reaction to the feat. Sitting in the box with his girlfriend and son, he reacted with the same fist pump we have come to know and love with him in red and black on Sundays. 
That moment is quintessential Rafa. He admitted, "I think I'm a very intense person, with a lot of energy. I live life and sports at maximum intensity. This is how I feel it." I heard his words and thought of how magnificent humanity can be. Here is this athlete I have watched for years battle it out on the tennis court. He gives nothing more than maximum intensity; it is an extension of his own life. I let distractions get in the way of focusing in who he really is and how he feels things. This interview allowed me to see with new eyes something and someone beautiful. 

While you can't watch many live sports right now, enjoy this highlight reel and when Rafa returns to the court, for me, it will only be that much more special. 

Photo Credits

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Jocks and Chicks

To teach is to learn. That Chinese proverb captures why I love being a teacher. Learning sustains me.  I value the time, opportunity and importance that my career places on it. Learning is not without effort. At times, it will lead to confusion and frustration. To learn demands patience, diligence and clarity. There really is something to be said for accuracy, especially when it comes to the words we use. Why? According to William O'Malley, the author of Building Your Own Conscience: "the first step toward wisdom is to call a thing by its right name."
Nomenclature "the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other discipline" can help us call someone and something by its right name. This is something we teachers give attention to and must learn. Why? O'Malley contends, "Then, you'll handle it as it deserves." I also know that words have power. Language is necessary for communication and understanding, promoting respect and dignity. If you don't agree, please consider how you feel when another calls you by the wrong name...or something you are not. 

Thus, the purpose of this blog post is to offer two pleas, two recommendations for calling another by the right name.

Jocks: I have no doubt that when you hear this word, a strong visual comes to mind. I hear my colleagues—other teachers—referring to their own students as jocks and I cringe.

While defines jock as "an enthusiast or participant in a specified activity," Urban Dictionary captures what I believe most people really mean when they refer to an athlete, in particular football players, as "jocks." According to Urban Dictionary, a jock is "rude, arrogant, stupid, beats up people, dates only cheerleaders and hangs around other jocks." 
interesting that the term is being used more often....

Though less common, (young) women are also referred to as jocks. This term is used to describe a female who is extremely athletic. She is not rude or crude. While the male jock is never considered intelligent, the female jock's GPA is of no consequence. In either case, I don't know why we can't simply refer to students who play sports as student athletes? If a person is outstanding in sports, why not just refer to him or her as a great athlete?  

I hate the presumption that football players are stupid. I despise the assumption that any athlete is. In "Success is a Journey" Bill Russell writes, "Actually, in any sport, I've never met a great athlete who was dumb. It is no coincidence that the two greatest guards in the game, Oscar Robertson and West, are also the two smartest." 

Athletes ought to remind us there are different intelligences. Though I may have excelled in the classroom, I stopped playing basketball after seventh grade because my basketball IQ was subpar. I didn't take to understanding plays quickly. I struggled to determine pace and space, the intricacies of timing, and how it all comes together to complete a task. To this day, I value the unique intelligence and physicality that is demanded of basketball players. 

I'm afraid that using the term "jock" sets an athlete up for a self-fulfilling prophesy: one that discourages excellence in learning on and off the court, and good sportsmanship. I would prefer that this term be one of the past. 
Chicks: According to the New York Times, The Dixie Chicks Change Their Name, Dropping the ‘Dixie’ 
The platinum-selling country trio will be known as the Chicks, the latest example of sweeping cultural changes brought on by nationwide protests spotlighting racial inequality. 
In a brief statement on its new website, the band states simply: “We want to meet this moment.” For the Dixie Chicks, the pressure had come over its use of the word Dixie, with commentary in the news media pushing the group to change its name just as the country debates issues like removing Confederate monuments.
To me, this country trio missed an equal opportunity. Why stop at "Dixie?"

I do not refer to myself, to any of my friends, to my nieces, my female students or my golf team as "chicks." In stating the obvious: 
a woman is not a chick—never has been, never will be. 
This is a term that I find men use to refer to women more than women refer to other women. I seldom find the word "chick" being used in a professional or personal setting. Chicks often describe women in social venue, usually from afar. About thirty years ago, some men referred to women as "broads" instead of, or in addition to chicks. Perhaps women did too. Regardless, let us call women by their proper name: women. I no longer refer to myself as a "girl." Though the term may be an affectionate one, I am making strong efforts to call myself and others by the right name.

Some have made claims that band "The Chicks" are the ones who chose the name. Why bother? While I am not losing sleep at night over this debate, I believe we all have to do our part toward growing in wisdom and treating one another as we deserve. Thus, let's a person—an athlete, a woman, and so forth by it's right name.

Feel free to weigh in on these terms and more. 

Photo Credits

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Question: Smile or Mugshot?

Like you, COVID-19 prompted me to organize files I didn't know I had. When I decided against tossing the one labeled "future blog postings," I paused. Was that a bad idea? I asked. The interior debate raged on. To keep or not to keep, that is the question. Well, this posting reveals the answer. It shouldn't have taken eight years to write and yet, it doesn't matter. The topic is timeless. It's one every athlete must choose on picture day: smile or mug it?
very happy to see so many smiles among student athletes

Although a relic by today's standards, I still have a penchant for a sports program. To this day, I purchase them at sports contests if they are available and I loved that the Athletic Department of St. Ignatius College Prep created one for fall, winter and spring sports. As an upper division teacher, I would look at each varsity team to find out (in case I missed it) what sports my students played.

I saved part of the Spring 2010 program because the baseball squad caught my eye and prompted my question. Every single player opted to mug it, except one boy. I knew him well and wasn't surprised he flashed a warm, good looking smile. I did however begin to wonder from whence the serious shots hath come. I know I am not the only person who wants to know.
A friend and regular reader confirmed my suspicion when he wrote to me about the shot featured in my bi-weekly newsletter: Sports and Spirituality Synopsis. Via e-mail he wrote:
Whether the kids decided it or were directed to it, they're all giving the "serious, competitive look."  With individual and team photos (in sports and in families), many people choose various different "looks."  Some smile, some serious, etc.  I wonder,  when everyone is giving the "competitive look," what positives does that convey about sports and what does it miss?  While the competitor in me loves the photo, the educator in me wonders, Where's the joy? the fun of sport?  I'm sure these kids, in this photo, love and enjoy their sport and their teammates.  I'm not worried about them. It just struck me when looking at these kids (14-18 year olds) that they seemed awful serious in the photo.  Would love to hear what you think.
I thanked him for framing my questions and concerns so well. I wonder, Are student athletes imitating what they see? Is that a good thing?  The students with whom I have discussed this photo love it. Several have indicated that the athletic department at St. Francis should update it every year. They want to be the model athlete of their sport. I get it.  Knowing their appreciation of this poster, would they hold back their excitement? Would they Smile or mug it?!

In my last blog posting, I noted that when I did a mental inventory of how many athletes have a great smile, I realized just how many do not smile, period! Most are very serious. I get it; competition is serious. But athletes are gifted with amazing talents, beautiful bodies and artistic abilities.  They ought to reflect what St. Iranaeus believes: the glory of God is the human person fully alive. I hope that participating in sports, playing on a team, engaging in recreation, learning from mistakes and achieving victory does amount to a person fully alive!

As you prepare for your next season, encourage your athletes to smile. And when you are confronted with the question: Smile or Mug it? let it not be a question.

Here are but five passages of Scripture that speak to the spirituality of a smile!
Proverbs 31:25
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.

Proverbs 15:30
Bright eyes gladden the heart;
Good news puts fat on the bones.

Job 29:24
“I smiled on them when they did not believe,
And the light of my face they did not cast down.

Psalm 34:5
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.

Numbers 6:25
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you

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Mother Teresa

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Best Smiles in Sports

Sitting in the dental chair, I tried to remain positive about the work being done on my pearly white as possible. Out of no where, my front tooth chipped and decay set in. I needed that enamel back. Like the little orphan Annie, I believe I am never fully dressed without my smile. That front tooth is an essential element of that wardrobe. 

I let the dentist and her assistant do the work and when they showed me the finished product, I smiled. I thanked them they asked how I was doing. Feeling both relieved and grateful I said, "Do either of you like soccer?" Surprised by my question I said "the reason I ask is because the coach of the Liverpool Reds, Jurgen Klopp has these majestic teeth. A sports writer described them as 'the Hoover Dam.' As you were working, I channeled my inner Jurgen." The assistant went to the computer in the office and pulled up his smile. "Is this him?" she asked. "Yes!" I said, "I think he has one of the most remarkable smiles in sports." And with that comment, the idea for this blog was born. 
NB: I figured it had been written about before,
but I was curious to see how my list would compare.

I did a mental inventory of athletes and their smiles. I invite you to do the same before you look at my list. I realized, it's not something a lot of athletes do; they're quite serious. But, a great smile lights up a room. It is tough to extinguish. 

We love smiles because, like the eyes, they reveal something about our soul. They can be forced, they can be fake, but we know....when it's not. Furthermore, smiles emanate from a reservoir of joy, which makes them all the more interesting to me. What makes a person more joyful than another? And how can "bad" people still be joyful? Can I become more joyful? Can I smile more often? These are worthy, universal questions!

I invite you to consider your own and please share them with me, post on this blog. For example: Whereas I wouldn't write about the best legs in sports (or buttocks, other body parts) I can write about the best smiles (or eyes...or hair) and no one is offended? What makes them so different? 

I received a postcard that says: "Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn." Smiles might be look at these athletes and coaches and let me know if it makes you smile, too. Undoubtedly, I will forget more people than not. In the interim, here's a list.
1. Jurgen Klopp: As the inspiration for this post, I had to start with the German coach. Much to my disappointment (not sure why) my dentist revealed to me what is probably obvious to you. Klopp has veneers. I would contend that smile is much more than the teeth, it speaks to one's spirit. But I would be incredibly naive to think that's all it is. Together we looked at the before and after photos. It's hard to deny his smile is not of epic, megawatt proportions now without those teeth. Still, knowing his persona, he and his smile still make this list.
2. Cam Newton: I wonder if Patriots' fans were smiling when the Carolina Panther's quarterback signed with New England in a one year deal. They lost one NFL MVP when Tom Brady took his talent to Tampa Bay but managed to pick up another Newton. He is still smiling.
3. Mary Lou Retton: Retton appeared on the cover of the Wheaties Box in 1984 because she was the first-ever American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the Olympics. I'd like to think her great smile had something to do with it too. I write that because Retton reminds me we can also smile with our eyes. She competed with joy, which is just one reason the Olympic Games in Los Angeles were so memorable.
4. Carl Lewis: While on the topic of the 1984 Olympic Games, I think I would be smiling too if I won four golf medals in track and field. This historic feat matched the achievement of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Games in Berlin. I mention Lewis, because he has had me smiling in his willingness to put himself out there. His ceremonial first pitch is one of the worst I have seen as is his rendition of the national anthem at the 1993 NBA Finals is horrible. Smiling and laughing go hand in hand.
5. Chris Webber: I am certainly missing my annual sojourn to Lake Tahoe for the Celebrity Golf Classic. A group of friends and I travel to casually watch golf and the many athletes who participate in the tourney. They are fun to talk to, giving autographs and posing for photographs. In search of a way to connect with C-Webb, my friend said "I will say Go Blue!" I looked at him and said "Why not tell him he has a great smile." It's true. She did and the result? a fantastic photo. Smile included. 
6. Tiger Woods: This is more than great orthodontia. Woods' smile is one of the best.  For a long time Tiger didn't smile. We get it. And even now, when he does, I know a lot of people who can't even look at him. However, his smile—which is often quite authentic—reveals something about his humanity. Yes? No?
7, Megan Rapinoe: When I picture the US Women's National soccer team captain, I see a woman who is pensive and serious. She is often caught in a moment where it appears as though she is looking off in the distance. But quite often she smiles beautifully—laugh lines and all. She's an important face—and smile—for the game!

Many athletes give their mug shot, instead of a smile. This is also a fun topic to debate with other coaches. Why are our athletes NOT smiling? Aren't sports a source of joy in their lives? Should they be serious? Next time you're in the dental chair, talk to your hygienist and dentist and get their thoughts. 

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Poem for Women's Crew: Demanding and Beautiful

The era of COVID has been characterized by tons of numbers, stats, polls and more. Some require critical interpretation and others, well—not so much. I would like to read one that reports the number of Americans who have organized and reorganized their closets, desks and drawers. Is it nine out of ten? Ten out of ten?!
The varsity program at ND is for women's crew only. They are outstanding athletes.

A friend shared an article—clever title and of little surprise. SF Gate reports, One of the hottest reservations you can get right now isn't for a restaurant. Where might that be? Goodwill, Salvation Army and so forth. Tessa Mclean writes, "The last time David Watterson saw people donating this much clothing was in the heyday of Marie Kondo. Driven by the Japanese organizer's message to only keep the items that spark joy in your life (first with her book in 2014, then a Netflix show in 2019), thrift stores across the country saw a huge uptick in donations." I dropped off a box of housewares yesterday. 

I took a fairly fine tooth comb through my files and came across a file labeled "ND Crew." A four year rower at the University of Notre Dame, I loved my experience as a (club) student athlete. My affection for the sport was made visible in what I read and what I wore. One of my most cherished awards is the "Most Improved Oarswoman" from my sophomore year on the varsity squad. Through crew, I made lifelong friendships. I am so grateful for the opportunity afforded by rowing to travel throughout the eastern and southeastern United States. Ah the stories.... Thanks to rowing, I was hired to work at St. Ignatius College Prep where I coached girls' crew for two years (which made me appreciate my rowing coaches that much more....not easy!!). It seems that a lot of college students give rowing a shot—and I'm glad they do. 
Some stay, more leave. It's a demanding sport but it's a beautiful one. 

And if I had to describe rowing in two words it would be: demanding and beautiful. I suppose that is why I wrote this poem. Scratched onto a large Post-In Note (2 pages), I wish I had taken a photo of this ode to Women's Crew. Instead, I captured the text for this blog. All the rowers out there will understand the language I speak. Those of you who were my teammates, this was our vernacular. I would like one more 7:00 a.m. breakfast together at the head table in South Dining hall to share these memories. I don't feel like thanking COVID for anything right now, but the time and space to organize, read and reflect, how can I not say that is a most (un)welcome grace. Enjoy

Poem for Notre Dame Women's Crew
Ready all…row!…Ringing alarm clock at 5:00 a.m….Run to the parking lot and back…R-u warm yet?...Row huge…Row like this is your last piece of the day…Row like HELL…Row easy…Relax… Run it out….Rivalries…Requirements: dedication and determination….Rigorous workouts…Rock solid…Raw power: Women’s Crew.

Ongoing commitment…On the water…Open blister…On this one….One seat up, let’s go for two seat….One more, you know you’ve got it in your, now let me see it. On fire with primal power. Out of our puddles….off the water. Women’s Crew.

What a feeling….Wonder….Wow! What a rush! Wake off bow…What a row! Willpower…Weights…Working together—all eight as one….Waiting for results of a race…Who are our biggest competitors? Which schools are we going after in this race? That a glorious morning to be out on the water…Willingness to give it your all…Wanting it more than other crews….  Women’s Crew.

Intensity….In two and one on this one....In our puddles, give me more. I want to see more! Internal struggles…Injuries…Internal concern….In your head picture victory….Into the last 500 we’re going up for 10….In your face…Inspiration….Intelligence… Insanity? If it is as easy everybody would do it…In your legs, feel the burn….Women’s Crew.

No holding back—give it all you’ve got. Nerves of steel…Not tonight, I have crew in the morning. Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. Never took back…Noticeable…Nobody does it better….No one person is the team….Not one bad stroke…No dipping at the catch….Never before have you seen such power….Women’s Crew.

Going for more….Getting up in time to see the sun get up. Gearing up for races—carbo loading…Give me bow woman in three….Getting stroke rate up…giving 110%…GUTS, Glory, goin the extra mile, get tough, get crewed. Women’s Crew.

Photo Credits
ND Women's Rowing