Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Youth is Not Always Wasted on the Young: Evidence through Sports and Spirituality

They say "youth is wasted on the young." Not always. When it comes to Sports and Spirituality, I would like it to be known if a young person has an idea, if he or she follows their budding passion and if it leads to "peak experiences." Go for it. Support them. Joy, memories and life lessons will follow. Here are but a few examples.

I have no idea where I got the idea, but when I was fourteen years old, I wrote to the Northern California Tennis Association (NCTA) asking how I might volunteer as a ball girl. I got a response! I remember the letter informed me that most ball girls / boys are networked to volunteer through their club. The good news however, was that a one club was shorthanded. If I wanted to lend a hand, they could use me. A few phones calls and one supportive mom later, I stood on the court behind Gabriella Sabatini and Mary Jo Fernandez, who played at the Oakland Coliseum for the Virginia Slims Tournament  Sabatini won.

As mentioned in my last post, "I have been nominated to list the 10 athletes I have enjoyed watching the most. One athlete per day for 10 consecutive days. No explanations, no reviews, only pics." Sabatini was the first tennis player I shared. When you have the opportunity to see an athlete play THAT up close and personal, you just don't forget. For example, a month later, I was a ball girl for the qualifying round of the Transamerica Open for a young, unranked but up and coming collegiate player and his opponent. I can still recall how fast and forceful their serves were coming at me. I wanted to duck and cover every time as one or the other stood in front of me for the return of serve. The winner that day—Michael Chang—went on to become one of the Top 10 in the world. Sabatini was too. She was tall and graceful; her game was so smooth and strong. I loved watching her play for many years after. I'm so grateful to have had those memories (and that my parents supported me in this!). 

I wasn't doing this for my college resume. I wasn't copying someone who had done this before. I got an idea and I went for it. I suppose that quality still lives on in me and I think it's a good one—which is why the article "St Patrick eighth grader hosts virtual camp" in Catholic San Francisco caught my attention. Christina Gray writes,

Caroline McAuliffe came up with the idea after all of her summer camps and activities were cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Caroline saw the need for these little ones to feel connected during this very lonely, socially distant time and she devised a way to make it happen,” she said.

In a flyer promoting the free camp to incoming kindergarten families, Caroline introduced herself to school families. She said she was motivated to design and host the camp for incoming kindergarteners like her brother Michael. The in-person camps that normally welcome kindergarteners were cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Each 30-minute Zoom session was geared to help the young students get to know school schedules and each other. Each day, campers practiced the Pledge of Allegiance and the school creed and then read a story or did a craft or game together.

“Yesterday, she used the story “Pigs Make Me Sneeze,” by Mo Willems to teach the children the importance of hand washing and wearing a mask,” Nicole said.

According to her mother, Caroline’s own recent distance learning experiences at St. Patrick gave her the confidence and motivation to offer the camp. Lessons and activities got the stamp of approval from principal Angela Hadsell — as well as her little brother Michael.

The vast majority of the 22 incoming kindergarteners participated, with Caroline hosting a morning and afternoon session to give families the flexibility to participate.

Never underestimate what a young person can and might do. We want to believe this is true—but we need evidence. Thank you Caroline!

And the varsity  girls' tennis team at St. Francis High School offers but another example. Our school community is teaching and learning remotely for the first quarter. All sports will compete in either Season 1 or Season 2—God willing. 

Girls' tennis, which typically competes in the Fall decided that the delay on their season's start wasn't an excuse for not getting together. They created a welcome video for the freshman class and in doing so, taught me and any viewer more about their culture, their leadership and what makes their sport special. I love that they thought to do this on their own. Sans directions, requirements, any deadline or parameter, this team has given us a small slice of the joy and fun of Lancer girls' tennis. Thank you ladies!

I have heard many people say "don't let a pandemic stop you from..." What would you say? Reorganizing your closet? painting your garage ;-)? Improving your golf game? Your prayer life? For young people, I hope the answer is: experiences of Sports and Spirituality. Keep me posted.

Photo Credits
GS at VA Slims
Virtual Camps is from CSF

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