All About Those Basics

(AP Images)
(AP Images)
Several weeks ago, I read an article documenting legendary football coach Vince Lombardi’s decision to begin the 1961 NFL season by covering the most fundamental skills with his Green Bay Packers.

“This pattern of focusing on the basics has been a hallmark of many successful coaches,” wrote James Clear, the article’s author. “For example, basketball legends John Wooden and Phil Jackson were known for having a similar obsession with the fundamentals. Wooden even went so far as to teach his players how to put on their socks and tie their shoes.”

I like this idea of occasionally returning to what is elemental in our work or lives, making sure we are still in touch with the foundations of who we are and what we do, before moving forward.

For me, this concept speaks to the Lenten season. In a very tangible way, our faith is stripped of many adornments: fonts are emptied of holy water, masses often grow quieter and more introspective and we refrain from food, activities or behaviors that may be hindering us or cluttering our lives.

There is a subtle temptation in the spiritual life to get caught up in minutiae. People who are involved in the day-in-and-day-out matters of the Church can become steeped in issues of little relevance to those who do not share their faith, distracted by issues that, while not totally insignificant, hardly constitute what is really important.

In this coming back to square one, Lent offers the chance to explore in the simplest terms what our faith actually means. What do we really believe? Why do we believe it? In what areas do we feel doubt? What gives us desolation? What gives us consolation?

If Vince Lombardi is any model, we see that it is only with a clear understanding of these fundamentals that we can advance into the exciting new territory to which we are called.

For the record, the Green Bay Packers won the 1961 NFL Championship.