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  • Reverend James Squire

Next Man Up

Photo b Joshua Eckstein

Photo by Chris Moore

March Madness and Easter coincide this year. One of the friendships that I have valued over the years is my connection to Jay Wright and his family. His children attended EA, and one of those children,

Colin, was a key student spiritual leader in our school. Villanova was recently eliminated from the competition having gone deep into the finals. What is more impressive is that Jay’s team lost 23 days of practice due to the Covid-19 virus, and his two captains were injured and could not play in the March Madness games.

There was not one “woe is me” statement from Coach Wright to the press. He was sad the captains would miss this key part of their basketball lives, but he went immediately to what any great coach would do. He said, “Next man up!” and pulled from his bench and had a successful ending to a crazy year. I am sure that he will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame, perhaps even this year, not only for being a great coach but also for being a great mentor of young men. Some of his players are entering the “transfer” window or the window into the pros. His reaction is to help them in any way that he can. Their gain will be his loss.

I have played sports most of my life, although I am left now with just the ability to run, so my view of mentoring is to be a good coach. I have been blessed to work with student leaders, particularly in the area of their leading in developing the spiritual life of our school. I like the diversity of students who are elected as the spiritual leaders called the Vestry. Some questioned who were elected as not “being good enough”, but the Holy Spirit has never provided me with a student who was not just right to grow in that position which was a highly valued part of the community. During elections it wasn’t unusual to have 24 students run for 4 positions.

I don’t see any distinction between being a coach or a mentor. The opportunities are the same. “Next man up!” is an important part of developing a leader or player. It communicates that everyone is valued and may be required to take on the important task of making a difference.

To mentor others, you must talk less and listen more. I measured the success of any Vestry meeting by the few words that I had to speak. A mentor or coach is a resource who enters the conversation when a perspective or change of plan is needed. I always believed that student leaders should be just that, real leaders in real situations that require tough decisions. Keep in mind that Jay Wright is not going to play in the game, his players are. He takes a time out when a change of plan or strategy is needed and “trusts” the team to execute it. If someone asked Jay who are the most important people on the team, he would not respond with “me.’ He would say the players. I felt the same way. I would say the student spiritual leaders.

We had a very successful and meaningful chapel program that always got high marks when evaluators from the outside came in to look at the entire school. They clearly got the message that it wasn’t me that made it great, it was the student leaders. That is the truth. It is why a coach or mentor has to be humble. There is that old adage that “there is nothing that you can’t achieve, if you let other people take the credit.”

The student spiritual leaders gave up quite a bit of their time having luncheon and evening meetings. It was a commitment. Each student who runs for the office has to give a short address in chapel about why they are running. They reflect on the commitment and their faith. If they are going to be with each other so much, it is the mentor or coach’s job to be make sure they enjoy their time with one another, particularly as they take on a large negative piece of feedback from someone in the community as chapel addresses were available on the school website. The mentor helps them jell. Jay always communicates to the press what a great group of guys he has on his team. Vestry meetings were a high point in my day for the same reason.

Students’ time is precious and so is practice time particularly during the Pandemic. Everyone should leave a meeting or practice feeling that their time was not wasted. In fact, they have to feel that it was valuable. Time is a gift. One year when the seniors were leaving at the end of the academic year for college, the other members of the team gave them each a pocket watch with the inscription, “Watch Your Time! Rev.” I never realized how often I made that statement. It is one of my core life ingredients. Never waste a moment! It became the title of my first book Watch Your Time, about the ethical life.

Stop. Listen. You can hear it in your soul! “Alleluia! Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed! But listen! There is more. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)


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