Monday, May 29, 2023

Opinions...and the PGA Championship

Credit goes to Shaquille O'Neal who opined "Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. I never knock a man for having one." I thought that cliche/quote was coined long before him! Regardless, I appreciate his generosity. How's that? 

From time to time, I grow weary of hearing opinions. Too often they are charged, entitled and condescending. I hear them quite often without asking for them. But the 2023 PGA Championship changed that narrative. From the second major of the year, I was reminded that sharing our opinions can be fun, playful and provide good insight into one's personality. Next time, members of your foursome weigh in too heavy on something, consider seeking their opinion on the following.

  1. Walk and. Talk—yes or no?!
    If you are a sports fan, it should come as no surprise that the interview space has now encroached upon the walk from the tee box to where a golfer's drive ends up. The days of waiting for the post game presser to hear from an athlete are long gone. 

    From inside the dugout to the sidelines and on the way into or out of the tunnel, coaches and athletes alike are grabbed for a quick conversation. 

    Golf fans call it "walk and talk." Although it has been part of other tourneys, the PGA is the first time I saw it underway. I noticed that Tony Finau put on wireless earbuds after his drive and I thought to myself "What is going on?" I quickly realized golf now shares the same space as other sports. 

    I didn't need to ask my trusted friend Charlie, a true student of the game what he thought of it. I knew. His principles for disapproval and disdain were grounded. Others love the insight they get from a golfer and to hear what is going on inside the mind of greatness.

    Questions loom large on how it affects a golfer's game. In the meantime, ask your playing partner what he/she thinks!

  2. Battle or Beautiful? What do you prefer?!
    The PGA Championship was once the fourth and final major of the year. Because scheduling around the NFL and the Olympic games, albeit every four year, this tourney falls between The Masters and The U.S. Open. That May time slot means that weather may present a real challenge at many a host site.

    Located in upstate New York, Oak Hill Golf Club in Rochester brought hearty wind and driving rain. While this is certainly possible under sunny skies—as seen at many a U.S. Open, it's just not a given that May equals warm weather. And truth be told, when I watch a golf tournament I just love seeing warm weather. Perhaps its my version of displacement but I want to see pristine skies, perfect conditions and the dream of what could be. Though I live in California, it just doesn't feel that way...

    My former colleague and friend Tom, is life long fan of the game who watches every major from start to finish (he's retired). He said "I absolutely love when a player has to battle the elements." He wants to see how they handle not only the pressure to win but the added challenge of hitting through long rough that is doused in rain, teeing off into strong gusts of wind." He certainly has a point, I just want to live vicariously through these golfers—their game, their ability and the warmest and sunniest of places to play.

  3. Amateur or Pro
    One novel aspect of the game of golf, and in particular the majors are the exemptions and the inclusion of amateurs in the competition.

    As seen at many a Masters or US Open, one of these qualifiers makes his or her mark. This year was no exception. The story of PGA club pro (Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club), Michael Block was incredible, inspiring and interesting.

    In "How did Michael Block qualify for the 2023 PGA Championship? Qualification criteria" Joseph McMahon writes, 
He has played in five PGA Championships, including this one. It’s his seventh major, but it’s his first time making the cut in one of them. In the final round of the PGA Championship he starts his day on Sunday T8 and is paired with Rory McIlroy. He is one of 20 club pros to be invited to the event, but he’s the only one that everyone is talking about. 
Block hasn’t won a PGA Championship or a Masters, US Open or British Open. He isn’t a Senior PGA Champion and he hasn’t won one of the last three Playes Championships. 
What Michael Block did do to qualify was finish T2 at the 2023 PGA Professional Championship.  
And in case it needed to get any better, Block recorded a hole-in-one on the 15th hole during his final round Sunday. According to The Athletic, this is what you need to know: 

  • Block entered Sunday at even par playing with Rory McIlroy.
  • Going to the 15th tee, Block was 2 over for the tournament.
  • Block’s hole-in-one brought him back to even par.
  • Block finished with a final-round 71. Because he finished T15, Block qualified for the 2024 PGA Championship. 

Block is both the best exemption and a notable exception but I don't usually cheer for amateurs in a major tourney. Call me Eeyore or "the Grinch," but as my friend Jimmy O'D said "I didn't pay to watch an amateur play." I agree. Golf is an unpredictable game. Part of its appeal is the story line that allows for us mortals to play with and against the greats....but this isn't what make a tourney great to me. You?!
Opinions are funny things. They can be kind and generous, cutting, critical and even obtuse.  They can also be important, helping us to understand what we think and why. Opinions can even be teachers—revealing important truths or insights into human nature, our beliefs and preferences, dreams and desires. As a teacher, I work hard to help students develop informed opinions, for young people believe "everyone has a right to an opinion." Sure, but a discerning one, a careful or creative one makes for a more thoughtful conversation or deeper dialogue. 

So maybe we start with asking opinions on matters of play and preference more from there and see where it takes us. Just a suggestion; not an opinion. 

Photo Credits
Brooks umbrella
Shaq Quote

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Lessons from Lunch Duty: Grunt Work and a Servant Mentality

Every job has its own version of "grunt work"—the task you don't want to do, but you must. I dare you to find a job without it. While some teachers enjoy grading, for me, I think of it as "grunt work." When I played school as a child, I loved this task. Today, I have to repeat to myself my aforementioned motto: "The only way is through" to get the job done. That being said, there's another job I dread even more: lunch duty.  And, at St. Ignatius it is a responsibility assigned to every person in the building—from the president and principal to counselors and teachers. I mean it when I say I'm so happy I finished my two point five week assignment this week. Hooray!

Truth be told, I think about lunch duty a lot. It is a necessary good and a necessary evil. The good is I learn a whole lot about my students for they are in their natural domain. This is where their true personalities emerge. It is interesting to see who they hold as friends and how they interact with others. This is also where I see that many students are inconsiderate and lazy, sometimes even downright rude. They put their feet on top of tables and ignore the trash they leave on the floor. Some leave entire plates of uneaten food for someone else to throw away. That one crushes my soul. It could be different. It should be different. 

I have had lunch duty for 20 years now and my gripes today are the same as they were five, ten and twenty years ago. I wonder, Have we, the educators, failed? Why have we let young people get away with this? Or, What does it say that students are okay with leaving their trash on tables and on the floor? What type of person leaves a mess behind? Again, could it be different? Shouldn't it be different? 

I have all kinds of ideas and potential solutions. Most involve consequences. Other require doubling down on the discipline to get it right. But the one that appeals to me most—the urging, promoting and celebrating a servant mentality.

The entire football program heard about the servant mentality from 49er All Pro Safety, Talanoa Hufanga. He shared where it came from and what it looks like. I think he was as proud of this mentality as all the success he's had on the field.

As I wrote in "Inside an All-Pro Mindset: Thank you Talanoa Hufanga," he said, "I did yard work and I was a janitor. I was raised to have a servant mentality. That means you always keep a humble heart. You show up on time, and always show respect for your family." 

Upon reading that post, my colleague shared a social media post of another football player who has embraced a similar mentality. As tweeted by Dov Kleiman,

After a recent NFL rookie event, #Colts 20-year old QB Anthony Richardson, decided to stay behind after everyone else exited and clean up a big mess left by the players so the staff wouldn't have to.

Richardson explained that it was unfair to expect the staff to clean up the mess left by the draftees. He insisted on staying to help until the room was completely tidy, even though he was given the option to leave after NFL Executive Troy Vincent told him: "You don’t need to do this." 

Richardson told Vincent: ‘We left this room in an unacceptable condition, and it’s not right for us to expect the staff to clean it all up.”

I read this post and any uncertainty about what a servant mentality might mean was gone. Words that come to mind are responsible, humble, and honest. How Ignatian.

I have heard of athletes doing their part before. Back in 2015, I shared the story of the Mt. Vernon High school football team: Every athlete can be great because every athlete can serve: a new way to do so. In one respect, it is unfortunate that their servant mentality became the subject of a feature story...but in others, I'm grateful to read of the example they have set for others, and for me. A good reminder is never in vain.

My sense is that a servant mentality starts at home, but I think it can be cultivated at school as well. If both faculty and students model what this means and how it's done, on the most practical level our school be a lot cleaner. On another level, I believe we would have a stronger sense of pride and a deeper appreciation for what we have been given. We might even take better care of what we own and what belongs to others. 

Would we still need to do lunch duty? Sure. It's important to supervise young people but rather than engaging in frustration or disappointment, we might find more time to talk to them about what really matters. I'll leave that up for you to decide, but I have a feeling they may say their grade in your class. I guess we don't call it work for nothing.

Photo Credits

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Inside an All-Pro Mindset: Thank you Talanoa Hufanga

In need of my second cup of coffee, I walked into the faculty room and my eyes feasted on one of my favorite sites: a pink box. Donuts! Half of a blueberry cake donut caught my eye. Please and thank you.

It was so good that I leaned in for another (why not, I only had a half!). I would have picked up the the rainbow sprinkle varietal except the words of the San Francisco 49ers safety, Talanoa Hufanga were ringing in my ears. I want to give credit where credit is due. Thank you, #29.

"Huf" as he is known by his teammates, spoke to the football program at St. Ignatius College Prep on Thursday, May 2, 2023. His message has stayed with me and taken root. This post will share much more than the way his commitment to personal discipline has inspired me. I hope it will offer you a chance to consider many of the life lessons he has to share about building an all pro-mindset (which includes and a healthy diet!)

The all-pro safety grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon. That upbringing indelibly shaped his work ethic, one that he is proud to describe and pass on to young people today.

He said, "I did yard work and I was a janitor. I was raised to have a servant mentality. That means you always keep a humble heart. You show up on time, and always show respect for your family." 

The head coach SI football, Lenny Vandermade—also a graduate of USC,  said "I have to admit, I was expecting you to show up on Poly time and you were actually five minutes early. That is not typical of Poly culture."

Hufanga responded "I am always reminding myself to keep that servant mentality. It is so important to me to show that as a sign of my respect for my family. They have given me everything: love, support and in the hard times or when things are uncomfortable—they have been there. I honor that by giving my best. And yes, an easy way to show that is to be respectful of other people's time." 

I looked around to see if the other teachers and coaches in the room were as ecstatic about this message as I was. 

Hufanga did not develop nor deepen this mindset in a vacuum. He credited another All-Pro safety— Troy Polamalu for serving as a mentor. A 2o21 inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame, Polamalu told him, "If you want to be great, you have to start with your character, first. Do the small things right. Do service. Feed the homeless. Say "hi" to someone you've never talked to in class."

It might be a sad reflection on our society, but even just a simple greeting, a "Good Morning" isn't something we can take for granted. I always notice those kids who offer a smile or a hello. And I remind the others "it costs nothing. Free-99." 

Hufanga added "an all pro-mindset can even be applied to how your handle your friendships. This is where our character is tested and revealed. My friendships mean a lot to me."

Undoubtedly, Huf has taken Polamalu's message to heart. But the athletes in the room admitted that one of his choices were not small —it was big. In high school, Hufanga gave up social media." One of my students said "it's impressive, but I don't think it's something I could ever do.: 

Huf addressed this reaction. "I didn't go cold turkey. I had took what I think were strategic steps to give it up. For example, I had to be on social media for recruiting purposes, but every night I gave my phone to my Dad at 9:00 p.m. That was big. Eventually, I  came to a point where I went for about three years without it. Now, I have someone handle my accounts and what I need to know. It's an important way for me to block out the noise."

Every single student athlete I asked about Hufanga's speech commented on this choice. I asked them "To what degree is developing the best version of yourself contingent on blocking out the noise?" It was a good conversation. 

We came to learn that Hufanga's choice to renounce something enticing did not stand in isolation. He said "I gave up drinking Monster and Red Bull and eventually soda. I came to find out that success in one area leveraged the likelihood of success in another."

I underlined and highlighted those words in my notebook. I realized his commitment to personal and self discipline is tremendous...but I wondered "Was it too much?" 
Yes, Hufanga has the "Mamba Mentality." He is proud to say he is "very competitive." But for the typical 15 year old sophomore in the room, were his words something that got them going or going home?

For me, I need all the reminders I can get. Hufanga was proud to talk about his Alkaline diet, commitment to hydration and adequate sleep. He believes these are the keys to maintaining the energy level he needs. Watch him on the field, and you'll see what I can only describe as high octane. 

He warms up for at least an hour before practice. He said "I do this by practicing other sports—like jujitsu, basketball or volleyball. This allows my body is get loose and get going." This is a good thing given that Hufanga gets extremely nervous and super serious during practice. He said "it's funny because you would think I would feel that way on game day. But I'm actually very calm when I have to compete."

Hufanga, a devout Christian said, "I do pray after every play, but my prayers have changed over time." He added, "I truly believe the prayers I offer have led to my success on the field. And yet, my goal is not to have the most interceptions, tackles and sacks.  My goal is not to be the best teammate I can be... to make my family proud in all that I do....and to honor God the Father." 

Such is the stuff of an all-pro mindset—lessons learned in the chapel at SI, applied in the faculty lounge, in the classroom, in our hearts and in our homes. Thank you Talanoa!

Photo Credits
Thank you David Arnott!
All Pro Action

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Four on Three: The Only Way Is Through.

If I see the neon light tunnel of Chicago's O'Hare airport when I leave this life and pass to the next, I may ask to turn around. In many ways, it has been my personal hell. I can't tell you how many times I have run through this passageway in a panic. 

It is a liminal space—a cold one. One that offers little to no auditory comfort. How many times must we hear, "the moving walkway is ending." Repeat, "the moving walkway is ending." And yet, one of my personal mottos was born from this very space. 

I believe: The only way is through. 

I say this to myself anytime I take on something difficult or demanding. Whether it is a physical, emotional, or spiritual challenge, I find comfort in this motto. 

Letting go. Moving on. Ending something. A medical procedure or treatment. Grading 100 papers. Running a race. A necessary conversation. The only way is through. 

We have to pass through places and spaces that are tough. We want short cuts, easy ways out, and even an alternative route. I am great at rationalizing the need for a another path. I can easily make an argument for an alternative method. But in my heart of hearts, eventually I come to accept: the only way is through.

Ted Lasso fans got a glimpse of this motto through the top player on the team, AFC Richmond's striker, Jamie Tartt. He said “If you want this to work, you have to stop going to me and start playing through me.” This scene might have been the climax of Episode 7; The Strings that Bind Us. 

At half time, Tartt stepped forward to share his realization in order for "Total Football" to work. After offending everyone in the locker room, he came to the drawing board to speak the truth. Upon centering himself in front of the diagram, his teammates and coaches stepped up and in. Tartt turned around to see them listening and shared his idea. It showed them the way. Not to....but through.

His insight was so moving that his teammate, Danny Rojas proclaimed "And there it is! Numero quatro! Sacrifice! Putting aside personal glory on behalf of the team." 

Without batting an eye, Ted said "
I like that, but it ain't number four."

While Jamie Tartt's speech speaks to selflessness—a necessity among individuals on a team sport—the motto of "through, not to" speaks to something different.

To me, to go through takes gumption and commitment. I think of putting my head down and grinding it out. This is not the time or space to seek an assist. It's about getting from point A to B....and not C, D or Z. Perhaps a motto is just one tool that can help.

I think there is a mystical truth to this motto that I don't have the words to express. Instead, they are something—like "Number Four" for Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond—that I will seek to uncover (not discover).

Hands in. Huddle Up. Four on Three: one! two! three! Together: four!

Photo credits
Light Tunnel