Shot on Goal and A Shot into the Head

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014


Our son’s lacrosse team plays in it’s high school regional championship tonight. The winner advances to the state championship on Saturday. Owen has been part of championship teams since he was 7 years old on his first soccer team. I don’t really believe that he yet understands how rare and even lucky is that level of achievement. They’re not the favorites tonight which is fine because they were not the favorites in the three previous games either.

Despite the pre-season promise for this team, the odds turned against them when their All-American teammate injured his knee rendering him unable to play at all this season. So, they regrouped, wandered a bit and found their stride in time for these play-offs. Regardless of tonight’s score, they’re the darlings of the tournament and share a collective achievement that time and its sidekick, experience, will burnish.

I drove to a morning breakfast meeting thinking about this evening’s contest. I want to find the occasion to thank publicly the injured All-American who participates in every game by instructing and rooting for his teammates. If you are familiar with lacrosse, he’s the face-off man as well as scoring mid-fielder making his absence twice as deep. His father volunteered to fill the role of Assistant Coach when the actual Assistant Coach left for higher ground because he felt that the All-American-less team had few prospects (True!).

I envisioned telling the boys that their achievement reveals one of the keen messages of team sports: that the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. I imagined myself thanking the Schmidt family for the superior example of finding a way to contribute to the team after Thomas injured his knee. I want them to know that perseverance in the face of adversity is the manifestation of character, individual and collective. How we compete describes our essence.

Then I had breakfast with the young woman who has a bullet in her head.

From a good family not far from our home, she was first curious then trapped by adults preying upon naive middle-schoolers. A calamity of compounding bad decisions led to a drunken binge, a flat tire in the middle of the night, a helping hand from a ‘man in a white SUV’, his robbery of her cigarettes and $4, his gunshot to the back of her head. This was in her second year of college.

Her junior year began with a crack addiction supported by a 24 hour per day concentration on lying and stealing to support her habit. Now she is a financial manager at TROSA in Durham, North Carolina having completed its two year drug rehabilitation program.

After the breakfast discussion, 25 local business types toured TROSA’s 470 bed facility and its $13mm per year revenue-generating enterprises including the landscape business, long distance moving services and frame shop. Their CEO, Kevin Mcdonald, is the most self-effacing executive that I’ve ever met despite his credential of building this business only aided by his wits and the commitment of the residents.

Again a moment for me where I was reminded, embarrassingly so, that my day does not consist of problems, my life is abundant with opportunities.

Kevin’s son is on the Jordan lacrosse team, one year younger than our son. Kevin and I sit together at the games because we like to compare ideas about what sports can mean and how sports can be interpreted to mean more than they do.

Now I’m wondering what did I learn at TROSA this morning? What is the essence of its achievements and success? It’s in the front part of the dictionary: acceptance and accountability.

Jordan High School’s lacrosse team began the year with bright prospects for success. Events conspired to derail the this path. I now believe that they accepted this and in a minor way, compared to the enormous change in behaviors demanded of the TROSA residents, and, maybe each in his own way, have agreed to a modified set of accounts and accountability.

There has to be a measurement to the contest tonight, aka the score; maybe there will be one more lacrosse game on Saturday night. That would be fun. What truly matters has revealed itself with the promise that many others, who may rely on these boys in the future, will benefit as a result.

Bonus comment: on one of the walls in the TROSA dormitories are handwritten phrases of resident advice and observation including:

Rule #1: Don’t Worry about the small stuff in life.
Rule #2: 100{915b2618a7c304f461205894c34b2284541042d3c677679407e2f30838792dcd} of life is comprised of small stuff.


The Weekend of The Future: Ensigns, Graduates and Over-Time Goals

Monday, May 12th, 2014

When it all occurs at once, it’s usually too much to absorb. On occasion, the confluence of events reinforce one another. As I journey into retirement, curious and unsure simultaneously, I wonder what it will mean, what defines it, when this phase will end. Am I gracefully approaching the can’t-be-too-distant shore or am I swirling in a whirlpool soon to disappear (I’m avoiding the image of heading down the drain)?

I feel as though mine has been a complete life even if the measurement is that I’ve done and seen more than I ever expected. If 40 is the old age of youth, then nearly 62 is the youth of age on my scale. My big thrills now stem from the victories of others. This past May weekend brought me a joy that one experiences when one is a child at Pontchatrain Beach or a teenager at an evening Mardi Gras parade or other precious moments that announce themselves in advance.

On Friday morning, I presented the George Herbert Leadership Award at the Naval ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at North Carolina State University. With treasured younger friends on Friday afternoon, I attended the NROTC Commissioning in the glorious Chapel of Duke University. My elder son flew from Naples, Italy to witness on Friday the graduation of his delightful girlfriend in Boulder, Colorado. That Friday evening, my younger son scored the winning goal, in overtime, to help his high school lacrosse team advance, contrary to prediction, into another round of the State Championship Series. On Saturday, I refereed 5 games girls lacrosse, ages 6 to 12; in the evening, we participated in a dinner for the seniors of Senior Prom, our final prom of four (2 boys x 2). The dinner felt like adult wrens awaiting the first flight of their brood.


As I read the New York Times, I can persuade myself that “it’s all going to hell in a hand-basket’ wondering exactly when the adult world conspired to devour its young. My frustration and insight may be well-founded and it’s misplaced. The future is as bright and brighter than any other future. There are capable and motivated young men and women, the sons of Marines and the daughters of doctors, eager to serve their country; the bonds of love remain strong even from afar; sports are not life and they can teach you plenty about self-sufficiency to get through life.


A dedicated paragraph about the Senior Prom. I’ve been the Grinch each year as I make fun of how involved are we helicopter parents. Closely on the heels of the modern rock-star quality weddings of the average couple are the Academy Award quality prom parties with photo shoots, pre-dinners, an appearance at the actual prom followed by the after-parties (I kid you not). Until Saturday evening, I considered this ceremony to be the Age of Everybody Gets a Trophy and An Orange Slice gone wild. As the handsome young men and the 18 going on 28? young women described to me their near futures – at Boston University to study electrical engineering (girl), bio-mechanical engineering at NC State (boy), medicine in Indiana, play lacrosse in Virginia – with bright eyes, deferential demeanor and sober enthusiasm, I grew up.

It’s going to be alright. It may be different. They may be challenged. And they are more ready and more capable than we, the adults or, at least, this one, may understand fully. I’m taking the point of view that what really scares the bad guys are these guys because they are so independent, optimistic and adventurous.

It may not be time to exit stage right or otherwise fade into the shadows; it is time to pass the torch to a newer generation of Americans. I know that I am and I believe that we are all better off for it.