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Turning a Slump Into a Hitting Streak

The Regis School of the Sacred Heart

Commencement Address to the Class of 2017

Last Sunday the New York Yankees retired the #2 jersey that Derek Jeter wore during his twenty year baseball career. He joins Yankee players like: Billy Martin, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Torre, and Mickey Mantle to name a few who've had their jerseys retired. It's a great honor to have your jersey retired, in fact it's a mark of greatest as a player.

Most of us know Jeter was one of the most consistent players in baseball, collecting over 3000 hits and playing in over 27 hundred games. While he was being interviewed during the retiring of his number, he told the story of how he handled his first experience with personal struggle.

Up to the point of being drafted he was a very successful athlete in Little League, Summer Ball and throughout his High School career. He was drafted in the first round by the Yankees and reported to the minor leagues at the ripe age of 18. Just four years older than most of you Regis' graduates today.

During his first few weeks in camp he had a major hitting slump and couldn't buy a hit. He got depressed and as he noted, cried every night in his dorm room. He would call his parents week after week, seeking their comfort and reassurance.

Who would have thought that such a successful superstar's career began with such struggle, failure, desperation, discouragement, and self-doubt.

When the interviewer asked him how he overcame the struggle he said, "although I struggled with failure, I also had confidence that I could do what I needed to do. I strung a few successes together and my slump turned into a hitting streak. Let me repeat what he said: "I strung a few successes together, and my slump turned into a hitting streak.

So, boys first I want to congratulate you. You've reached the finish line and you are officially high school students-you are no longer an 8th grader at Regis. I know for many of you –you've been ready long before today. You were longing for this day to arrive and now it's here.

You must feel satisfied about accomplishing a major challenge. For some of you it started here at Regis when you were only 3 years old, or for others it was kindergarten, or 5th grade or even just last year.

You kept to the task of reaching a goal and you achieved it. Crossing the finish line-or finishing what we start, is what all of us strive to do when we do ordinary things like reading a book, starting a writing assignment, or making a decision. Satisfaction comes when we keep to the task, see it through, and finish it.

Every time we're faced with a challenge it will be up to us to put in the work. Congratulations, only you know how hard you worked, or how tough it was on the days you didn't want to do what needed to get done. You can probably give your parents some credit and thank them for encouraging you, and telling you, "you can do it."

St. Philippine Duchesne, one of our Sacred Heart saints, who was a pioneer once said, "we cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self."

Now, for your reality check, let's be honest, the alarm clock will ring in late August and you will find yourself back at the starting line.

You remember what the starting line feels like don't you? All of you have run a race and you know what it feels like to doubt your ability, to keep up with the pack, or draw from your strength and reserves. You might tell yourself - I'm not good enough, or I'm better than everyone else. The voices in our head will always try to convince us we can do what we need to do. What is the voice in your head telling you –today, at this moment?

Is the voice in your head what your parents have encouraged you to be? Is it the teacher you had that wouldn't stop reminding you that you have what it takes to make a difference and get the job done? Was the voice a friend who tried to say to you, you could or couldn't do it? Whoever it is- you have a choice today, to carve a new path, and it's totally up to you. No one is going to do it for you. No one is going to hold your hand and promise you ice cream if you do what you promise to do. You're not in kindergarten or 5th grade, anymore, are you ready to get to work and show us what you can do?

I want to tell you what your Sacred Heart education has given you. But first stand and join me in thanking your parents in choosing the Regis School of the Sacred Heart.

Now take a moment to acknowledge your teachers who have dedicated their attention toward challenging you to learn.

We made a promise with your parents and you that we would teach you about spirituality, challenge you academically, show you how to help others, build a strong community of brothers, and pick yourself up when you make mistakes. I can confidently say all 33 of you have what it takes to live as scholars, athletes, and gentlemen.

So why will this make a difference once you begin as freshman at your high schools? Houses are not built on shaky ground, and your integrity and resilience is not built on false facts or cute sayings. It's built on your personal experience and examples of others who faced challenges and didn't give up.

Throughout your days here at Regis you have met teachers and administrators who have demonstrated what it means to not give up. And I guarantee you'll meet others in your high school who will inspire you to string together a few hits and turn a slump into a winning streak.

"Courage and Confidence, I can't repeat that enough." As St. Madeleine Sophie Barat said...That's what it's going to take to be successful. There are no shortcuts to success. It takes time, heart, grit, resilience, and a belief in yourself. You're ready and every one of you have what you need to make it.

So, let's go back to Derek Jeter and take in his accomplishments:

-Over 11,000 AB but also with, 1840 Strikeouts

-3465 Hits, yet he cried like a baby in his dorm room

-260 HR, but, yet he swung at a bad pitch that lost the game for his team

-1311 RBI, yet he sometimes doubted his abilities

-rookie of the year, 14 time All-Star, but suffered a fifteen game hitless slump

-5 World Series rings, 5 time gold gloves, but committed 254 career errors.

You see success comes with strikeouts, and doubts, and errors. And it also comes with heart, courage, and confidence.

As Philippine Duchesne said, "God does not require great achievements, but rather a heart that holds nothing back."

I wish you great success boys, hold nothing back, the world needs the strength of your leadership and the high moral fiber of your character.

Good Luck and Congratulations to you. The world awaits your greatness!

Dennis Phillips, Head of School

Commencement Address, 2017