Monday, October 31, 2022

Trick or Treat: Sports and Spirituality Style

I make a point of reading the student newspaper. For one, I'm glad high schools still have them—even if it is digital form only. But realistically, reading what students write and report, how they express their opinions and understanding what captures their imagination is important to me. When I'm at my very best, I make an effort to read the same books they are reading in English class....maybe that is a good goal for the Spring.

The Fall issue of InSIde SI—the newspaper of Saint Ignatius College Preparatory—is a Halloween edition! In addition to a movie review of Hokus Pokus 2, Cultural Folktales, a survey of favorite Halloween candy, traditions and whether or not you like candy corn is a section entitled "Tricks and Treats." 

The editors wrote: Beware of the Halloween spirits that are roaming the halls from the dreaded midterms to the deans spooky calls. Here are the Tricks & Treats we experience at SI in a friendly list to help guide you through the Halloween festivities!

Many of both the tricks and the treats are very creative. I chose a few to include here

Trick – having homework over the quarter break
Trick – getting detention for being one minute late to class
Trick – Canterbury Tales...that’s it
Trick – thinking about the molecular structure of sugar every time you see Halloween candy #TheEffectsofAPBio

Treat – watching the Women's volleyball team win the first game of the Bruce Mahoney
Treat – having early college applications submitted
Treat – playing in the Women's Flag Football game

Thus, in the spirit of Austin Kleon's book "Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative" here is my own list Sports and Spirituality style. 

Trick –
this trick is a treat. In the 49ers win over Rams, the newly acquired Christian McCaffrey threw a trick-play TD pass to Brandon Aiyuk for his first score with 49ers. He is one of three running backs in NFL history to throw for a touch down, rush for a TD and catch one. Treat, treat, treat!
Treat – If McCaffrey stays healthy....!
Trick – still referring to girls' flag football as "powder puff." #please
Trick or Treat? – cheering for the Astros. (aka the Asterisks) only because you want the manager, Dusty Baker to get a ring.
Treat – having both Monday Night Football AND a World Series game scheduled for the same date.
Trick – a rain out game! (Game 3 will be played on Tuesday, 11/1)
Trick – still not knowing the start time on the Notre Dame vs. USC game, Thanksgiving weekend...makes travel tough!
Treat Even skeletons are Warriors and Steph Curry fans!
Trick – Being asked if you are a maintenance person, gas attendant or gardener while sporting your Halloween costume.
Treat – Those who love sports recognizing and appreciating your costume for what it is: representative of the best major in golf! #MastersCaddy
Treat – the teaming up of Jerome Bettis, and Peyton and Eli Manning on campus at Notre Dame for a very special Halloween epsiode on ESPN+ Watch it here

Treat – When students lead meaningful, personal prayer in class. One of my classes is praying with current events.
Trick – When no one offers personal intentions. (I will offer creative ways to do this!)
Treat – Attending the Hesburgh Lecture on the Global Future of the Catholic Church. Hosted by the Notre Dame Alumni Club of San Jose/Silicon Valley, my good friend Father Paul Kollman, CSC was the presenter. I learned SO much and the crowd was highly engaged.
Trick or Treat – All Saints Day is Tuesday, November 1. Is it a Holy Day of Obligation or a Holy Day of Opportunity?

I encourage you to come up with your own. Happy Hallow's Eve!

Photo Credits

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Guest Speakers: An Exercise in Hospitality +

Dear Fellow Teachers and Coaches,

I want to extend a work of encouragement and a friendly reminder here: invite guest speakers, to talk in your classroom and/or with your team

This message it not new. It will require some effort on your part, but anyone in education is no stranger to hard work. While it is always prudent to vet your speaker, when you find a good one—keep them close and tell other teachers and coaches about them. Their presence, wisdom, experience and expertise break up the grind. Their stories, connections and insights leaven the load. I was reminded of this when three men affiliated with the San Francisco Police Department came to speak at St. Ignatius College Prep on Tuesday, October 18, 2022.

While the intended audience was the Criminal Justice class, I found Sports and Spirituality connections from each speaker. Cross-curricular connections make listening and learning more meaningful and fun. They are worth celebrating (which is where the realm athletics CAN serve as the "8th period of the day."). 

I ran into Greg Suhr '76, former Chief of Police at the gym before school. After I critiqued his form on on the rowing machine (the erg) he told me that he would be on campus to speak to seniors. He noted that the students prepared a long list of questions for the panel. I learned a lot from what the students asked and opined. 

One question was about the image society has of the police. Greg explained that when he was as student at SI, he had a positive image of law enforcement because so many of his coaches were cops. He added, "building personal relationships with young people, especially through sports is essential to what we do. I'm going to let J.J. speak to that, as it's part of his story."

Officer Jason Johnson grew up in the Bayview neighborhood and admitted, "I was one of those kids who did not trust the police whatsoever. So I get it." He recalled a turning point for him personally and professionally at the Boys and Girls club. He said "I was standing inside the gym in my uniform; the kids were looking at me with suspicion and making comments like the ones I used to make. One of the basketballs rolled over to where I was standing and I started dribbling. I then took it to the hoop and dunked it. All of a sudden, all the kids wanted to know how they too could dunk." A relationship was born.

That recollection led to my favorite story of the day: It's worth watching (see above) and learning more about here.

Office Peter Walsh '87 was proud to share with the Wildcats that he has been with SFPD for 31 years. A fellow parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul, I have to admit I enjoy going to church that much more when I know people in the pews. 

Officer Walsh addressed a number of questions about tasers—an acronym for  Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle. (This was fascinating to me because I recently re-read a post from 2010 about Philly police using a taser on a fan who stormed the field. Spellcheck kept running the word taser as misspelled because it recognizes the word as an acronym!). The San Francisco Board of City Supervisors held back police funding of these handheld devices, citing the need for a more comprehensive understanding of their costs. 

He made a distinction about "causation" and "contributing to."  Studies found that tasers—which incapacitate a person by transmitting a high-volt electric shock, do not cause death but have been a contributing factor—along with issues of mental health, drug usage, etc to death. I was surprised by how many questions the students had about this topic!

The crew also answered questions about tips—what qualifies as a legitimate tip or not. This was timely as the serial killer in Stockton had been caught in part to some tips to the police. They spoke about de-escalation, harm reduction (as a tactic in working with drug users, not sellers), bias, body cameras and more. Suhr said their biggest challenge is also their greatest need: good men and women to serve in the department and improving their image. I looked around the room and thought a number of these students would excel in law enforcement. 

This class was made better because of conversations like this one. It only happens because of an invitation and a willingness to give of ourselves to one another. And that's what true hospitality is. Parker Palmer writes "hospitality is not an end of itself. It is offered for the sake of what it can allow, permit, encourage, and yield.” 

Welcoming guest speakers into our classrooms, to address a student body and meet with our teams is but a starting point for this biblical virtue. 

“Hospitality, Henri Nouwen writes, “means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” Amen.

Let’s welcome guests into our communities. This is a wonderful means for our students to learn more about themselves and one another. 

Thank you, Danielle, Greg, JJ and Pete: your knowledge, the breadth of your experiences, humor, humility and professionalism made for a riveting class period. I am a better teacher and citizen because of your time! AMDG

A special note of thanks to Daniel McMahon of DeMatha HS, Hyattsville, MD for the inspiration to write about hospitality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Sports and Spirituality Review: Summer 2022. Sisterhood

The joy of a bye week means a few good things: a Saturday that's wide open and a little less stress. During the regular season, sports fans take one to three days to review the past game. Close to midweek however, it's time to turn your attention to the upcoming opponent. However when the schedule says bye, there is more time for reading about something other than your football team. I can't be the only person who feels this way...

With a bye on October 1, I had a chance to read Notre Dame Magazine: Summer 2022 from front to back. Entitled "Sisterhood" it is an issue by and about women. It is is a fitting tribute to 50 years of co-education.

The Letter from the Editor: "A Woman's Point of View" begins with a story of Sports and Spirituality I have never heard. Kerry Temple '74, writes

I was in Lyons Hall on Thursday night, September 20, 1973 — one of 50 million Americans watching ABC on prime-time television — when Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. Minutes later, hundreds of women marched across campus singing, “I am woman, hear me roar,” belting out with gusto the popular Helen Reddy song, “I Am Woman.” Our first-floor window was open, and we heard the proclamation: “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.” The eruption of defiant self-determination made an impression. It said so much.
I was a student during the mid-90s, a relatively peaceful, passive era. I never saw students march across campus as I heard they had—during the Vietnam era. This would have been a sight to see.

The two photos in "Stillpoint" capture the spirit of Notre Dame, the spirt of sports. Here's how.

The caption beside Cashore's photo reads, "Having long dreamed of throwing a pass in Notre Dame Stadium, Archbishop Borys Gudziak hurled the pigskin toward the Cheering Class of 2022...The graduate who got the grab is Edie Uebelhor, a water polo player (first?!) and a chemical engineer from Encintas, CA.

I would love to see a stat on the number of commencement speakers at Notre Dame who make an overt reference to Sports...and of course Spirituality. Go Irish!

At 50 Years
This essay examines "a half-century after the start of co-education, how Notre Dame has changed—and not changed—for women." Each profile paints its own profile of progress, while recalling past (and present) pain and challenge.

The story of Molly Kinder '01, the first female member of the Irish Guard piqued my interest. The Irish Guard always have. I've been mesmerized ever since I first caught sight of that tall,  tartan clad, forward facing group—one that has now had several female members.

"Standing 6-foot-3, Kinder had met the Guard’s height requirement — since eliminated — and she passed the rigorous tryout." However, she was tested in many other ways.

As difficult as personal and institutional change can be, especially at a place like Notre Dame, I also hope she found she had her own champions and gracious support.

Who Do I Say I Am?
Maraya Steadman '89 puts a great twist on one of the Gospel's essential questions. This piece is about "a woman who has reached her middle years and confronts an age-old question." She weaves sport, spirituality and science into her story in such a way that when it comes to a close, my primary response/reaction was simple. "Thank you."

She writes "Descent is not a place I want to be." Therefore Steadman notes, "My first step was a pivot move away from my obvious choices: going back to work, volunteering or suffocating the daughter who is still at home by continuing to be a full-time, stay-at-home parent.  After the pivot, I took the shot. I don’t know if it went in or not; I may never know. I have no idea what will happen next, but I do know that “you will always miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” This quote has been attributed to both Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, so you can’t use it in a sophomore writing seminar. I know that not because I remember anything from my classes at Notre Dame, where I majored in accounting, but because I am now an undergraduate English major at a college close to my home in the Chicago suburbs. I tried to include a quote in a paper without citation — “Education will make you free.” My professor advised me to take it out."

My only challenge to Steadman is this: you *might* be among the minority. In my experience, accounting majors, engineers and bio-chem geniuses seem to quote their liberal arts teachers from ND as often as me. I am proud of my B.A. American Studies. I believe they got many of the benefits of a liberal arts education, too.

She's Got GameTitle IX gave women the right to compete on level playing fields. When given the chance, Notre Dame’s female athletes have soared.

This is a piece every Irish sports fan ought to read. The history, testimonials, and stats that have emerged from the implementation of Title IX are worth knowing and celebrating. Here are but a few that stood out to me!

  • Betsy Fallon ’76 organized the school’s first intercollegiate women’s tennis match when she was a freshman in 1973, at a time when female athletes started their own clubs, drove the vans and did the laundry, all for love of the game. 

  • Swimming became a varsity sport in 1981. The next year, three swimmers were All-America selections, including Teri Schindler ’83, who competed in breaststroke at the national swimming and diving championships. Schindler, who became the first woman to produce basketball games for the Big East, was hired by NBA commissioner David Stern to be the inaugural vice president of WNBA broadcasting. She remembers the value of swimming at Notre Dame.

  • Molly Seidel ’16 finished her career with four national championships and won a bronze medal in the marathon at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. Softball and golf earned varsity status in 1988, followed by rowing in 1996 and lacrosse in 1997. There are now 13 varsity sports for women at Notre Dame.

  • The men’s and women’s combined team has won 12 national championships — one more than the football team — and the women have compiled glittering resumes.

  • Basketball now carries the school’s mantle of excellence and visibility, but it took a while to run the weave. The varsity team, which launched in 1977, didn’t play a Division I schedule until 1980, which included a 124-48 loss to South Carolina. The program first joined the North Star Conference, then the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

Lesley Vesser writes "Those 37 words, signed into law by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972, changed American society. They created the explosion of girls’ and women’s sports that has taken female athletes at Notre Dame and other colleges and universities to national championships, the Olympics and professional careers."

She adds, "The road has not been easy. And yet, "Every female athlete today owes her gratitude to the women who overcame those obstacles, both on the court and in the courts." I agree.

Domers in the News
ND Women are contributing on to the wide world of sports on the field, in the front office and in the production booth.

Lindsay Schanzer ’11. The NBC Sports producer has overseen the network’s coverage of horse racing’s other two jewels, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, and on May 7 became the first woman to lead a broadcast of the legendary Derby. “What’s really important to me is on this day we’re reaching an audience, many of whom never watched horse racing,” Schanzer told The Associated Press, “so it’s inviting them and also not alienating the audience that watches horse racing throughout the year.”

In Conclusion
Sports and Spirituality offer but two perspectives to reflect on our society. At Notre Dame, I daresay those points of view constitute "the blood in the bricks." 

The Summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine: Sisterhood celebrates 50 years of co-education. I find Coach McGraw's quote to be a fitting way to think back on that milestone.

“I always struggle to find the perfect words to say how great Notre Dame is,” McGraw says. “I’m big on accountability. I demanded it from my players and myself. At Notre Dame, everybody makes a promise to do it the right way.”

We have and and we have not. This is a chronicle of success and failure and the effort to do it the right way...!

Photo Credits
all from ND Magazine
Lindsay Schanzer

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Another Lesson from Aaron Judge: Keep Your Eyes Up

At the conclusion of the HBO documentary, "Nine Innings from Ground Zero," former New York City major Rudy Guiliani states "It was something about baseball which is the American had a wonderful impact on the morale of the city. It's exactly what we needed to get our eyes up off the ground and looking up..." Pop flies, foul balls into the stands and home runs are but a few ways that the American past time gets us to look up. And thanks to Aaron Judge, America is doing it once again.

Every day I battle getting my sophomores to look up. While their eyes are not on the ground, they are fixed to their device. Although I do not allow cell phone usage inside my classroom, their eyes are rapidly moving from Tik Tok reel, to imessage, to their fantasy football standings and more. During class their iPads are to remain closed until instructed otherwise but as soon as they enter my classroom, they sit down and scroll what and where they can, until the bell rings. While not all students engage with their tech during this window of time, a good number do. That is, except for class on Wednesday, October 5. 2022.

When students walk into my classroom, the drop down screen (think of a small movie screen) highlights the agenda and that night's homework. While some teachers have a clever thought or quote of the day on their introductory slide, I usually have a photo or work of art related to the curriculum. However, after the Yankee slugger broke Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a single season the night before, I simply put the photo you see here on the screen.

Students looked at it. Many even talked to someone sitting near them about it. These 15 year olds knew what this was about and many had their own opinions to share.

"It's just the American League home run record!"

"Judge is so yoked. He should have that record."

"He said himself that he views Barry Bonds' 73 home runs as the number to beat!"

"I love that he gave #61 to his mom!"

I let the conversation run its course. I wanted to hear what my students knew and had to say. I shared with them the article I had been reading about the man who caught the long ball. 

As written in Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run ball is valued in the region of $1-2 million, experts say

Cory Youmans – sitting in left field with a front-row seat – was the lucky fan who caught the historic souvenir at Globe Life Field.

A Dallas resident and Texas Rangers fan, Youmans said he doesn’t know yet whether he’ll keep the ball, and after making the catch – an event that prompted euphoric celebrations – he was escorted from the section of seats by security.

Should Youmans sell the ball, he could be set for a handsome payday.

“In the last week or so, our colleagues at Memory Lane auction house have guaranteed to pay the person who catches the ball $2 million,” Bobby Livingston, Executive Vice President of RR Auction, told CNN.

I added "I know that his eyes needed to be looking up in order to get that ball. Remember: keep your head up. Good things can come your way." I think there was an eye roll after that preaching.

Whether or not it is the most impressive record in all of sports, incredible feats like Judge's 62nd home run of the year do more than serve as a talking point. I believe transcendent moments create a space for us to be present to one another. This is not something I take for granted. There are ever more challenges to living in the moment, standing or sitting still and looking up. However, thanks to talent, desire, passion, and achievement we are drawn to something more. St. Irenaus said it best, "The glory of God is the human being fully alive."

Photo Credits
Judge photo for class
Profile smile
Judge's mom

Monday, October 3, 2022

Our Most Valuable Resource: What Athletes Already Know

Not sure how he does it. But Matthew Kelly always has at least one item in Ideas and Inspiration that gets me to hit click. This week, 5 Secrets to MORE ENERGY! grabbed my attention and snapped me out of my post-lunch food coma. Thank you, Matthew. 

Watch and listen. The Catholic author and social media influencer makes the bold claim that energy—not time— is our most valuable resource. In fact, he states that for too long we have been subscribing to myths such as stress is bad, money drives performance, and down time is a waste of time. He speaks to how each of these cultural beliefs is not true. I think he's right. Do you agree?

The five ways to increase your energy level are not difficult to practice or remember. In fact, they aren't even  that surprising. As you view, consider for yourself: Is there one way that you need to practice? Is there one way that you can applaud yourself for making a regular habit? Is there another way that might be missing? I'm sure Matthew Kelly could have named 10 more.

I would argue there are at minimum five spiritual ways one can increase their energy level.  Here are a few that come to mind.

  1. Practice gratitude. Thank God for something specific and something different every day.
  2. Offer a new intention during daily prayer.
  3. Forgive....or pray for the grace to forgive.
  4. Sing a new song unto the Lord. In other words, offer a new prayer or let religious music be your prayer!
  5. Serve others with love. MLK and Mother would agree.
Athletes know the importance of energy. It takes stamina, endurance, vigor and strength to finish the race, to win the game, or play your best. To name the practical yet "secret" steps to make the most of this precious resource, his message is clear.

I challenge all coaches to invite their athletes to consider the sport specific and spiritual ways one can get more energy. Now that's a good investment!

Photo Credits