Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snowshoeing, new classes and a local high school student death.

I just returned to my house after some snowshoeing this morning. It is, as usual in wintertime, beautiful here and all I have to do is strap the snowshoes on and walk around my neighborhood to enjoy all of our new snow. Any of you in NY, CT or MA who don't like YOUR snow can feel free to send it our way as we LOVE it here. Classes began on Monday for the semester and already many of our students have been to the mountains for skiing or snowboarding and I hope to be at Smuggs this week too. I was just in San Antonio, Texas last week for the NCAA National Convention and their temperatures were in the low 40's which dismayed not only the convention organizers but also the residents. As they were all complaining about their weather, I just laughed and many of them asked HOW I can possibly live in Vermont where it REALLY is cold and where we get so much snow - my response was to simply say that I just add another layer on and get outside and enjoy all of the amazing seasons we have here in Vermont. It was a good convention and as always, I enjoy talking with friends and colleagues from across the country about what we are doing at Saint Mike's. Geri Knortz is our Athletic Director and I also enjoy having the chance to talk with her at these conventions as we have an excellent working relationship and enjoy working with our student-athletes. On a very good note, Chris Kenny, Assistant Athletic Director compiles data on the academic performance of our student-athletes and he informed us right before we left for Texas that for the first time, our student-athletes overall grade point average was higher than the non student-athletes grade point average. Fifteen of our twenty one varsity teams had a grade point average for first semester of over a 3.0. Given all that the students have to deal with, between a full load of academic classes and a rigorous athletic schedule, I am very, very proud of not only our athletes, but also our faculty and staff who work so hard to accommodate game schedules, practices and who continue to push our student-athletes to perform at the highest level academically and athletically. It was also good to be able to "brag" about our student-athletes in Texas when others mentioned the ASR (academic success rate) which is such an important component of Division II athletics. Saint Mike's ASR was the highest in our conference (Northeast 10) and the second highest in the nation - not bad when we are talking about approximately 100,000 student athletes in D-II.

My classes so far are great - my first impressions are often pretty accurate and if the first few classes are any indication, it is going to be another great semester. I continue to work with my seniors on their post-graduation plans and will once again be utilizing the fine staff in Career Services to help students update resumes and finalize plans for graduate school or employment. In Sports Psychology yesterday we discussed whether or not Tom Brady's no pass interceptions record being broken early on in their game against the Jets played a role in the Patriots losing the playoff game - we also looked at something called "base jumping with wingsuits" on YouTube - check it out - it is pretty amazing and for me, pretty frightening but for some of my students, it was a rush - I enjoy this particular class the most when students tell me that they have NEVER thought about some of the connections between sports and psychology.

Yesterday morning Mount Mansfield Union High School, located just up Rte. 15 from the College in Jericho, VT had a young man die from what is described as self-inflicted gunshot wounds. What a horrible experience for his family, his friends, everyone in the school and that community. When a 15 year old dies we all want answers to the question WHY? I was interviewed on TV by our local Fox channel and asked what parents and others can do to try to understand and/or prevent something like this and all I could say is that we ALL have to become better LISTENERS to and for our young people - their lives are very difficult today with incredible pressures and we also have to become better OBSERVERS so that we all notice changes in mood, attitude, dress, academic/athletic performance/interest and IF/WHEN we see something that makes us nervous we HAVE to TALK about it with them - we cannot be afraid of the S word which today is not sex, but which is SUICIDE. I suggested that parents and everyone use this tragedy at MMU and the Tucson shootings as what our Dean of Students Mike Samara likes to refer to as "teachable moments" where we ask the young people in our lives how THEY felt when they heard that a 22 year old shoot those people in Arizona and how THEY felt when they heard yesterday during the day that a 15 year old had died at a local high school. Somehow WE have to get the message across that no matter what the problem is today, IT GETS BETTER and that there isn't anything that you can't learn to deal with - young people need to hear that they are loved, that they are valued and that WE are here for them, no matter what they are experiencing. If parents don't know how to help, then ask others who do. At St. Mike's we have four very wonderful counselors who are easy to talk with. We have faculty, staff, nurses, residence life folks, priests, security, administrators, coaches and people who are committed to making this a safe place for students to learn - LISTEN, OBSERVE and TALK with an not AT young people - a good formula.

As Fr. Mike and Mike Samara are fond of saying "God Bless" and as I say, please take good care and as always, please keep all of the members of our military and our veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers - I do.....


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