Thursday, July 2, 2009

Learning from the Pros

I was watching the tennis match between Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva today and could not help but be in awe at the high level of play between these two highly talented athletes. Although it was a semi-final match, it seemed like a championship game in which both players were a point away from winning. The game ended at 6-7, 7-5, and 8-6. Contrast that to the other semi-final game, in which the other Williams sister, Venus, whooped the top-seeded player, Dinara Safina, 6-1, 6-0.

I used to watch tennis growing up in which the top stars in the game were Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, and Monica Seles. I found great joy in listening to the grunts of the women and found a number of occasions to mimic, or maybe to mock, their sound. Seles was special--she had a double grunt. Although I lost interest in pro tennis later on, part of that has been rekindled during my year at Ciszek hall--a number of the guys watched tennis, and I found myself again enjoying the matches. Here I am during the beginning of my first year at Ciszek at the US Open.

When you watch two highly talented individuals play tennis at the top of their game, it's like watching poetry in motion. There are just moments during the game when your jaw cannot help but drop--all you can say is "wow..." You are glued at those times when the crowd gasps in nervous anticipation as the players continue to scramble for the ball while hitting out-of-this-world shots. These players are passionate individuals who have worked extremely hard to get to where they are today, and the fruits of their labor often result in great beauty.

In many ways, I find great inspiration in watching a well-played sports game. You can tell that a number of these players excel for a sheer love of what they do and a will to be at the top of their game.

I think God wants all of us to always be on our A-game, to give it 110%. Our A-game, however, is not meant for our own self-glorification. True pros not only make themselves better but inspire those around them to be better as well. And, they often acknowledge and offer gratitude to the people in their lives who have helped them and shaped them into the individuals they are today--without them, they would be nothing.

When Fr. Kolvenbach says: "We should recall that mediocrity has no place in Ignatius' world view", I think that is meant as an exhortation to be people on fire, to live with passion, to excel in our lives in things both great and small. That doesn't mean that all of us need to get 4.0's or get the MVP award. But, it does require sweat, and it most certainly involves a special kind of love.

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