Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Back to the Basics: In School, Sports and Spirituality

Now in its 16th season, HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Lions begins in the film room. Standing 6'5" tall and weighing 265 lbs, the head coach Dan Campbell is an imposing figure. Pacing back and forth in front of 90 players, he declares his rules for the team.

He said,
  1. Be on time.
  2. Don't be overweight—which many of you have done a good job at...
  3. Don't disrespect your teammates or the game.
That's all. 

Every time I hear a coach make a pronouncement such as this, I can't help but lean in. I want to know, What do they value? What's important to them? What do they stand by?

To be honest, I have yet to hear a coach offer an expectation is is surprising or unique. Most team rules are (and should be) self-evident. In short, they are "the basics," which is why when I heard a school wide commitment to go "Back to the Basics" I took note. 

The first official gathering of the year for the St. Ignatius College Prep faculty was not in the film room, but inside the chapel. The Dean of Academics did not pace the floor like Coach Campbell, but her message grabbed our attention. 

She said, "Our hope for the 2022-2023 school year is to emphasize the basics. The past two-plus years have required flexibility and patience from teachers and students. Given where we are now with COVID, we want to focus on these expectations for our students. They are: punctuality, academic integrity, quality of work." She elaborated,

  1. Students need to be punctual and be on time. Let's do this.
  2. Students' work needs to be their own and maintain academic integrity. 
  3. During the past two years, we have been very accommodating. Excellence is the goal. Let's focus on the quality of the work our students produce and strive for better.

It was refreshing to hear an administrator call for a communal effort to raise the bar. Every teacher in that room recognize these basics are important. Not one of them is unrealistic or unnecessary. In naming them, we have provided our students with an awareness of what we expect and how we want to proceed. She was right, let's do this.

After thinking about the basics in sports and in academics, I started to wonder what the "basics" might be in the spiritual life. I said to myself, What should we do regularly. What ought we practice? What should we require of our brothers and sisters? This is what came to mind: prayer, gratitude, silence and service.

  1. Prayer: Say the Our Father daily. This is the prayer that Jesus taught us. 
  2. Gratitude: Pray Grace before Meals—once a day. Food nourishes and sustains us. So often it brings people together. Give thanks!
  3. Silence: Take but a moment each day to be in silence. God is always reaching out. What might you hear or sense in the silence?
  4. Serve: Every day. Yes, every day there is an opportunity to be of service to one another, our families, our community, and our earth. We can pick up trash, hold the door open for someone, listen generously or give our time to those in need.

Upon naming all of these basics—for teammates, classmates and fellow Christians—I have to wonder, how might our world be different if we just stuck to the basics. Perhaps that is my prayer for today—after the Our Father—that we do even more than meet these expectations. Let us work together to exceed them. 

You'll hear a report from me....

Photo Credits
Hard Knocks

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