Father, Son, Sport Psychology

He was a bit like Curt Shilling taking the mound with the bloody sock (or perhaps more to his liking, Chase Utley patrolling the infield dynamically on one knee). My father, the Reverend Robert Naylor, running a 100+ temperature, having one useless knee (slated for operation soon), walked from the back of the 2nd Congregational Church in Greenwich, climbed up into the pulpit, gave a career defining sermon, and then returned to the pew. This was the final pulpit that he will call his own. Retirement was official as he returned to the seats facing the front with my mother by his side. It was all done with grace, theological weight, and true expertise.

I was once again reminded of the influence that fathers have on sons. I have said many times, that my father was the first sport psychology practitioner in the family. Quite often he could be found on the local Y basketball court “counseling” parishioners. A golf outing on public and private courses with fellow clergy for “brainstorming” was always a sight to be seen. The encouragement of young and old to be active and be playful at church was an enduring theme. Furthermore, he preached weekly from the ultimate self-help and performance enhancement book that predates Jim Loehr, Bob Rotella, or Harvey Dorfman. Through 37 years of being behind the scenes of one of the greatest shows in cloth I learned so much. Lots as a person, but more than a few things about being a sport psychology pro. Here are just a few of the tenets that strike me today:

  • Have fun and be creative. If it helps someone learn and truly “get” the message it’s a good idea. Keep it professional and strive to strike the right tone, but don’t hesitate to go outside the box on occasion.
  • It’s about people coming together. Acceptance without prejudgment or post-judgment connects communities and allows each to reach his or her potential.
  • Care. It takes effort. It takes a focus on others before yourself. It can be exhausting. Yet the beauty of caring about people and social causes is remarkable.
  • Ego is over-rated. It is easy to get blinded on the journey by basking our own glow. True sight comes from striving to see the beauty of others.
  • Be thankful. Appreciate an audience of one as much as an audience of thousands. Appreciate all that others share and teach you.

I could go on, but this list seems just right. The past two days could have been a victory lap for a career well done, however that is not how a true champion signs off. The tone and tenor of his words and actions had weight, clarity, and perspective. Much like a great slugger rounding the bases after a grand slam with a brisk trot and only providing a slight tip of the cap to adoring fans, the pastor returned to the pew with grace.

So much has been taught to a son. Lessons that flow in life and in work each day.

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