Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mentorship Multiplied

Since I’m an undisciplined person by nature, I need exert extra effort to conquer certain fundamental tasks such as fitness, proper nutrition, and even daily flossing.  (I now practice all three daily, but it took me many cavities and many weight fluctuations to come to the point where I perform these disciplines as a matter of non-negotiable, second-nature, daily routine.)  In fact, I’m developing a list of about 10 categories of personal disciplines--but more on that later.  My point is that some disciplines are easily quantifiable (e.g., running mileage, minutes of music practice), while others are much harder to define or measure (e.g., time invested in a marriage or in a child).  It is the general area of mentorship to which I feel called to step up my personal discipline efforts. 

Give or take, I have 28 nieces & nephews, a grand-nephew, and 150 Jugheads, plus friends’ kids and young adults (including 39 Jughead grads) whom I know on various levels of trust and intimacy.  To be blunt, Wendy & I feel like we could easily make a full-time job out of loving various people in our lives who have needs ranging from simple encouragement to survival skills. While Wendy & I were investing time with an 18-year-old family friend this fall, I quipped to the young lady that I have to make a conscious choice to spend time even in casual conversations, lest I allow my personal disciplines (and need for down time) to unduly dominate my schedule.  In other words, whether socializing with my relatives or going out of my way for an adolescent or young adult, I need to discipline myself to make mentorship a habit. 

One prayer of late is that as I endeavor to mentor others (esp. Jughead leaders and other assorted 15-25 year-olds, as they are open to it), they will in turn be fruitful in their own efforts to pass mentorship along to others.  Mentorship is not always convenient, but what a harvest of peace and righteousness is yielded when we invest our time, talents, and treasures in people rather than only in self-focused pursuits!  I don’t aim to give up on my seemingly “self-centered” disciplines, but I’ll multiply my disciplines by increasing my bold & deliberate mentorship of others--with hopes that a little investment will go a long way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Serenity, Courage & Wisdom

I am often fascinated by human behavior, including my own.  It takes a lot of wisdom to discern what needs changing and what needs to stay the same (by choice or circumstance).  As a Type-A, goal-oriented, driven personality, I seem to constantly be seeking to balance how to improve my life with how to contentedly enjoy my life–while accepting shortcomings and obstacles that no amount of discipline can remedy. 

I’m reminded of The Serenity Prayer that my mom hung in our Roseville kitchen:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr).  We live in an uncertain world, and there are a myriad of things (internal and external) that we cannot change.  I believe that the wise, fulfilled life is lived with a maximum effort to steward our time, talents and treasures while holding all things loosely.  Serenity, courage and wisdom are precious virtues, and they’re three things for which I regularly pray to increase in my own life. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Ministry of Being There

I don’t have a Facebook page.  Yes, I know that the social pressures of getting one may someday get to me, as all four of my older (!) siblings now have one along with most of my 27 nieces & nephews and nearly every teenage and young adult Jughead past and present.  However, one of my stubborn hold-outs to being more savvy with social media is that for better or for worse, the nature of my youth work is that of being present—that is, more or less “all in” socially when I’m in someone’s physical presence.  Of course, I always find tasks to fill my time in any setting (such as working in the gym office), but what I lack in staying connected via Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and better promptness in responding to email, I try to make up for in terms of a face-to-face ministry of interpersonal communication. 

I’m not saying that I have the moral high ground of how I interact with people; I’m just saying that the way JH is run—with dozens of people gathered for kinetic and highly social activities for three or more concentrated hours on a daily basis—causes me to not crave staying connected in cyberspace since I invest much time staying connected in “humanspace.”  That’s part of why I make a big deal out of learning and using names at JH while asking the kids to avoid using electronics.  Our modern lives are often isolated enough; real-life, human-to-human contact is what sets JH apart from social media.

So, while someday I may have the energy to dive in and get a Facebook (and discern how many hundreds of “friends” I should accept), I’ll meanwhile focus my social energy on the mutual blessing of live, interpersonal human contact.

Make Your Time Count!

Another year is upon us, and by virtually every measurement, we’re riding on a wave of success and nostalgia seldom seen in our company’s history.  Juggle Jam 13 (and three seniors teaching juggling at gym classes in May) led to our most active summer camps ever, the biggest IJA trip ever, and now our biggest company ever.  While we’ll miss the large Class of ‘11 as well as the former coaches, we have a strong leadership team eager to continue reaching high and reaching out.  To the 115 “veterans” returning from JJ13, as well as to the 34 rookies exploring their various niches as Jugheads, I say: make your time here count! 

Whether you’re a Jughead for a single year or a decade, the time will prove to fly by when all is said and done.  Take advantage of every chance to be involved, from attending Jingle Jam to creating a routine for the Winter Showcase to going to camps & festivals as time (and money) allows.  Every club day, every season, every year, and every individual career offers such promise.  Learn to initiate your goals, ideas, involvement, progress, and friendships.  Don’t sit back and wait to be helped or to advance or to make friends; ask for help and start friendships.  If you dream to be a student leader or a Juggle Jam soloist or to graduate as a Jughead, let the coaches, assistants & volunteers help you.

I’ve heard it said, “The world belongs to those who show up.”  Kids, “show up” this year. Whether you stop juggling by the end of middle school or you juggle through senior year, end with your heads held high—with no regrets.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10 Minutes for the Average Jughead

As an all-weather fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I find it an interesting stat that in the average NFL game, the players are only active on the field for about 15-20 minutes for the three-hour game.  Of course, this doesn’t include timeouts, half time, or commercial breaks, but it also doesn’t include when a running play is stopped yet the clock keeps running.  As is common knowledge, NFL players earn a lot of money for this relatively brief amount of action, but just think of the thousands of hours of training it takes to even last that long in one NFL game: weights, nutrition, team meetings, training camp, travel, and always striving for a better tackle, faster speed, or better read on the opponents’ strategy.

An odd topic for my annual post-JJ column?  On the contrary: it occured to me just a week before JJ13 that the average Jughead only spends about 8-10 minutes on stage during our 2.5+ hour show.  “Rock This Town,” a club vignette, a slide show appearance, “Reach”...that’s it.  But in my estimation, no one can truly quantify the efforts of the average Jughead to actually get to the JJ stage (physical skills, social growth, courage, commitment), nor can anyone quantify what those “10 minutes of fame” (or the journey thereto) does for the heart of the average Jughead. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.”  Similarly, this company celebrates each child whether as a star or as an average member (but to paraphrase Lewis, “I’ve never met an average Jughead.”).  May the blessings of this month follow each Jughead for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Turnover, Adjustment, and Optimism

For some reason, this year we faced unprecedented mid-year roster turnover from fall to winter.  However, a surprising number of kids filled some of those vacancies in Monday Rec., while Advanced Club was simply reduced to a more “intimate” roster of 28 rather than 36.  Similarly, this year’s senior class of 12 Jugheads matches our largest class from two years ago.  The gaps left by the class of ‘09 are sure to be repeated by the departure of the class of ‘11, not to mention the gaps that will be left by forthcoming changes in my coaching staff.  However, just as our clubs have adjusted since the mid-year turnover, and the company adjusted two years ago, I’m optimistic for future adjustments. 

Meanwhile, let’s relish JJ13 and the end of this school year (and era, for many), knowing that the company will be left in the good hands of new upperclassmen, new (or returning!) coaches, and new ways for us to continue developing youth through juggling as has been done—in ways that I can neither count nor take glory for—since 1994.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Juggling the Heart, Mind, and Will: Parts 1 & 2


Even with my unique vocation, I very rarely use the word “juggling” as a cliche.  However, in the middle of another school year with this company’s inevitable (and mostly predictable) trials, the leaders and members truly have a juggling act on their hands. Like basic juggling, the world often consists of threes: e.g., the states of water (solid, liquid, gas) and the branches of our government (legislative, executive, judiciary). In working with large numbers of kids in a wide range of ages and expectations, our challenge in JH lies in juggling the human dimensions of the heart, mind, and will.

I founded this company almost wholly dependent on heart (emotion).  A heart for youth; a heart to teach them new skills and share new adventures; and a heart to see them overcome personal challenges through the art and sport of juggling (despite my own recreational skill level).  As the company developed, the mind (intellect) was more and more incorporated into our success.  Studying world-class juggling; learning new muscle-memory techniques for workouts and rehearsals; discussing site-swap notation; and setting well-considered policies for a growing roster of dynamic personalities.  All along, the will (volition) has been a key: the drive to patiently teach beginners; keep middle schoolers interested; see high schoolers graduate; put on annual shows; attend IJA Festivals; and endure through two branches of Edina Community Education and the landlordship of two churches. 

What’s my point?  Well, just as this company as a whole has a trilogy of aspects that make us tick, individual decisions by myself, the other coaches, student leaders, and members in general often have complicated elements.  A teen might become disenfranchised because a certain club or special event isn’t as fun as it used to be, but that could be the heart talking--not taking into account the fact that circumstances change and nostalgia is often rose-colored.  A Rec. member might reach a plateau yet become self-satisfied, convinced in his mind that he’s better than he is and therefore lacking the heart to keep trying.  Both the mind and the heart of a coach or adult volunteer (or parents!) may waiver about yet another act of service for the kids, but the will often trumps both heart and mind, investing in the kids sometimes beyond any form of desire or logic.

This is a complicated company.  We have lots to juggle to achieve daily contentment, let alone success beyond our walls and years.  Thank you for praying for us whenever we’re brought to mind.  Juggling is hard work.


Last month I likened the act of juggling three balls to the three branches of our government and the three human dimensions of heart, mind, and will.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, “All the world’s a juggling act,” and achieving and sustaining balance can be tricky. 

As we enter full-force into our most active season of March through July, it bears repeating that juggling is merely a tool through which youth are developed here.  Yes, we work on literal juggling acts for shows and festivals through our clubs and camps, but the “magic” really happens when young lives learn the principles of balance in life that far transcend mastering juggling skills. Overcoming stage fright (in shows and in relationships), setting and realizing goals, and finding fulfillment in an eclectic community of youth from diverse ages and families are just some of the ways that JUGHEADS is a microcosm of life.  This is a safe place for kids to explore new avenues of self-expression—even if they “drop” in the process.  JH membership helps to foster new dimensions of balance through both silly pursuits (dancing & juggling in costume) and serious pursuits (growing in emotion, intellect, and resolve).

Welcome to spring at JH, where the developmental skills of juggling—both physical props and life skills—take center stage!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Year of Milestones and Challenges

Whew--just thinking about some upcoming events of 2011 is a daunting challenge.  The 12 seniors make up the tied-for-largest graduating class.  JJ13 has the glitch of an earlier Saturday start time (4:30) due to Edina’s Prom.  The IJA Festival is only 100 miles away for the first time in its 64-year history, promising more Jughead attendees and competitors (e.g., Ultimate Club, Jack Levy).  Legendary Jughead and Coach Billy Watson graduates from college and heads off to law school, leaving a hole in the coaching staff (the filling of which is already being thoroughly explored).  Despite all of these challenges and milestones, things for the “average” Jughead will go on as usual—and hopefully keep improving.  Our sizable roster will still include kids for whom juggling is a huge priority in their lives, and others for whom juggling is a sideline hobby with less pressure than other areas in their lives and schedules.

As Director, I admit that sometimes I feel burdened with the feeling that I’m personally responsible for each person’s experience here. However, one ingredient to this company’s success hasn’t changed since Day One: Generally speaking, what a child (or adult) puts into JH is what he or she gets out of it.  By necessity, my direct role in facilitating and inspiring the average individual’s experience has diminished over the years due to the sheer size of our roster and coaching staff.  However, if I get my wish (prayer) for the new year, it’ll be that the company will grow qualitatively even through the challenges of 2011.  A new coach here; a new take on running our weekly clubs there; a new skit or trick or dance move for JJ13...all will hopefully contribute to furthering changed lives through juggling in a company with humble origins, grassroots perpetuation, and God’s grace that has brought us safe thus far.  Happy 2011!