Play Like a Champion for Christ: How Fr. Michael Brady Built a Bridge Between Sports and Spirituality to Enrich the Lives of CCHS Students

When Fr. Michael Brady was approached by a Central Catholic football player about helping their team recover from a difficult season, he was somewhat blindsided.

“I was kind of speechless because I didn’t know what to do. I was never a student athlete when I was growing up so I wasn’t sure how to do that, and the coaches didn’t know how to incorporate me into the program. So I said, (to the players) ‘What would you guys like me to do?’” says Fr. Michael.

After meeting with the football team, Father Michael, the coaches and the players decided to implement changes to create a more positive, uplifting environment for student-athletes to thrive. Fr. Michael agreed to say Mass for the players before every game day, to be present on the sidelines at practices and games, and to serve as a liaison between the players and their coaches to “stay on track, so to speak.” However, Fr. Michael soon decided he wanted to take his ministry with the football team further, sensing there was more he could do to support and connect with student-athletes. So, he started to do some research.

“I realized the church has so many resources out there, so I started doing some research on sports spirituality and character development… I asked the bishop if I could go on sabbatical and learn something, so what I did was go out and see what the best practices are in bringing spirituality to sports. And what I found was the University of Notre Dame probably does, what I would consider, the best job at that. So I brought back the ‘Play Like a Champion’ program from the University of Notre Dame.”

The beauty of the “Play Like a Champion” program is its universal application to the various personalities that make up the Central Catholic family. Although originally working to promote a positive environment for athletes to grow and succeed, the program also calls students to be champions in their studies, extra-curricular activities, and every other aspect of their lives. Additionally, coaches and teachers are called to be champions in their respective ministries, doing everything they can to help the students under their care become the best they can be. As Father Michael says, “We use it (the “Play Like a Champion” program) not only in athletics, but in academics, to build a bridge between our coaches and our teachers, because a coach is a teacher and a teacher is a coach.”

According to Father Michael, the overall goal of the program is to combine athletics, academics, and spirituality through the efforts of coaches, teachers, and spiritual leaders to cultivate the best possible atmosphere for students to find purpose and meaning for their lives. “What we try to do is create a well-rounded experience for the students and student-athletes, so they become an image of the Gospel when they leave here and try to become the champions of Christ that God is asking them to be.”

However, sports specifically remain an enormous aspect of campus identity. When asked about the importance of sports at Central Catholic, Father Michael explains, “The reason why this school focuses on sports, and I would say almost all Catholic high schools and colleges do rely on sports in the sense of formation, is because sports are a vehicle to bring the Gospel to our students.” Almost ninety percent of Central Catholic students are involved in sports or other extra-curricular activities, a pattern that is strongly encouraged by the faculty and staff because it teaches students important life skills that will help them succeed in all that they do. Team sports, Fr. Michael says, are especially important because they teach discipline, cooperation, and integrity: “Sports are a big part of who we are to form our young people to become the men and women God is asking them to be.”

Much of Father Michael’s focus is centered on helping students identify how to apply God’s will to their everyday lives as high school students. One example of this can be seen during Father’s “sport Masses,” which take place during lunch on game days for student-athletes. In his homily, Father Michael identifies students that have been “images of Christ” for that week, whether that be by encouraging a teammate on the football field or exemplifying personal excellence in the classroom.

Sport Mass is, in many ways, the ultimate metaphor for the fusion of sports, spirituality, and community that is at the heart of Central Catholic High School.  “I was talking to some of the student-athletes the first year I was doing this,” Father Michael says. “And one of the student-athletes I was talking to didn’t make it to Mass that day. So I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you come to Mass?’ And he says ‘Oh Father, I had too much homework and I had this and that.’ And his teammate was there and he says ‘Hey dude, you’ve got to go to Mass, because that’s where we bond.’”

While forming meaningful connections between being champions on the field and champions for Christ is important for high-schoolers, Father Michael asserts that his biggest hope for students is that they continue to live faithful lives as they become adults and take on the world. He hopes that students will embrace their roles as ambassadors of Christ, representing the virtues of faith, character, and integrity to each person they encounter throughout their lives. In the words of Father Michael, “Everything you do should be through the lens of our faith. It’s hard to do every single day, but you have to practice at it. Just as you have to practice at sports, your faith is being practiced; you’re constantly striving to be the best that you can be.”

 

Published in Central Catholic High School’s Alumni Magazine, Spring 2018

Craig Jones: Central Catholic’s Youngest Commencement Speaker

When Craig Jones was invited to come back to Central Catholic High School as the 2017 commencement speaker, he was surprised and deeply honored to return to his alma mater and share his experiences and wisdom with a younger generation of Raiders. “It was an almost out-of-body experience to be on the other side of the page,” says Craig. Reflecting on his own graduation, in which he was valedictorian, he remembered being inspired by the words he heard from the 2012 commencement speaker, Matt Emerzian, author of Every Monday Matters. “He accomplished so much by that point in his life. He made impactful, positive influences in the world, which is pretty amazing to do, and to me, to be included in the same sentence as a fellow commencement speaker at Central is pretty awesome. So hopefully I live up to the others who have had the honor of speaking at Central.”

As Central’s youngest commencement speaker at the age of twenty-three, Craig felt a special connection to the graduating class, as he was in their position only five years prior. “I was just there, literally. I went to school with a lot of (the seniors) older siblings…I just wanted to focus on giving the graduates something tangible and relatable to them,” Craig says. The three pillars of Craig’s speech were to work really hard, to trust yourself, and to go out and embrace the world. These are more than mere talking points for Craig Jones; these are the assets he has continually practiced in his own life, leading him to substantial success at such a young age. In speaking with Craig, the notion of hard work was a common thread throughout his journey post-graduation from Central Catholic, in college, and beyond. He recognizes the importance of giving your one hundred percent in every aspect of your life, regardless of whether or not that work is recognized or validated by others.

Craig began his career at Stanford University as a preferred walk-on, inside line-backer. He set out to prove himself early, trusting in his abilities and working hard to make his goals a reality. This effort began to pay off in 2013, when he was awarded “Stanford’s Outstanding Special Teams Scout Team Player or the Year” as a sophomore, and he continued to advance by starting on several special-teams his junior year. His incredible work ethic and positive attitude gained him the respect and admiration of his coaches and teammates. These successes led to an incredible culmination of all the long hours and hard work Craig had put in throughout college in his senior year on the team: his head coach surprising him with a full-ride scholarship. Craig shared his moment with teammates, who went wild with enthusiasm, lifting him in the air and hollering with joy. When asked what he missed most about football at Stanford, Craig was quick to acknowledge his teammates, who have become his close friends. “That’s what really made it so special: this really unique family, similar to what we had at Central…it’s definitely something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Currently, Craig is living in New York City and working as a sales analyst for Redbull. He works on many cross-promotional campaigns, working with other businesses to find common interests and make connections to grow the brand. In this stage of his life, Craig continues to focus on perseverance and building positive connections with his colleagues. When asked about his current postion, Craig says, “The most rewarding, and also challenging, part of the business that I really like is (working) with people, and they don’t always want what Redbull wants…creating a story and showing them that actually your interests are aligned to a certain point and creating a joint plan going forward.” He also spoke of the joy he receives from seeing the tangible realization of his work, walking into a store and seeing a promotional campaign that he helped create, or uncovering an exciting, telling piece of data after analyzing a spreadsheet document. He is excited and optimistic about his position with Redbull and the experience he is gaining from his time with the company.

So what’s next for Craig Jones? This is the question he has been receiving from everyone close to him. As Craig says, “My friends are joking, ‘Okay Craig, when are you doing the commencement speech at Stanford?’” However, his current mentality is not to worry about where he will be in five years, in terms of his career, or in his relationship with his girlfriend, who is living in London and working for Bank of America. He plans instead to focus on the present, staying enthusiastic and diligent in his career in business. His current rotation at Redbull is for eighteen months, in which he hopes to “work really hard in this period of time, and see where opportunities arrive after that.” Whether he is working for Redbull or another company, in New York or abroad, he knows he will keep pushing forward and climbing further up the ladder, embracing the world and all it has to offer.

 

Originally Published in Central Catholic High School’s Alumni Magazine, Fall 2017

The Bright, Profitable Future of Streaming Platforms

According to a 2016 report from The Music Business Association titled “Music & Millennials,” young Americans in the 15-19 age range are utilizing streaming services for 51% of their overall music consumption. Unlike their parents, AM/FM radio comprises only 12% of their listening. In the very near future, as these trends continue, streaming is expected to universally become the dominant form of music consumption. For this reason, the music industry is changing dramatically, requiring new legislation and resources for musicians and songwriters to be appropriately compensated for their work. Due to the tenacious efforts of the movers and shakers of the music industry, the future of streaming is bright and will prove to be a superior business model for the modern digital age.

In the past, artists and songwriters have raised countless concerns with streaming platforms. The most famous example was in 2015, when Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to Apple Music after the platform did not pay artists, songwriters, or producers during listeners three-month free trail. The mega-star wrote: “I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3-month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.” Swift previously raised concerns about Spotify when she pulled her entire catalogue from the service, explaining that she considered the company an “experiment” that she was not interested in participating in (BBC). The underlying issue that Swift and many other musicians have had with streaming services is the nebulous, unstructured methods used to keep track of music streamed and make sure the artists get paid appropriately.

Traditionally, in the “hits model” of the music industry, providing compensation for artists and songwriters was simple. Artists worked with their labels, who worked with distribution services, to get their albums in record stores, then everyone involved got a percent of the profits. However, with streaming, there is no uniform method to ensure that everyone is getting paid. Streaming services have been unable to obtain mechanical-publishing licenses for all the songs in their catalogue because the meta-data to retrieve all the necessary information about who contributed to a specific song does not exist. Because of this, many songwriters make little to no money for their work. Michelle Lewis, an up-and-coming songwriter who penned the song “Wings” for Little Mix, told The New Yorker: “We were emerging from this bubble, and I realized, ‘I have this hit. This is going to be good! Nearly three million streams on Spotify!’ And then my check came, and it was for seventeen dollars and seventy-two cents. That’s when I was, like, ‘What the fuck?’” Lewis’s sentiments have been shared by countless other songwriters who are not being appropriately compensated for their work, simply because Spotify does not know who to write the check to.

Another factor that contributes to unfair compensation for songwriters is ad-supported plans, such as regular (non-premium) Spotify and Pandora. These platforms do not make enough profit from ad-revenue to pay artists and songwriters fairly from free spins, so this business model is seen by many people in the music industry as highly problematic. Additionally, it perpetuates the belief amongst consumers that music is an invaluable commodity. Spotify and Pandora listeners should instead be highly encouraged to utilize paid subscriptions, so they begin to understand that work goes into music production. Music should be purchased as any other commodity (even indirectly through a subscription).

Fortunately, many steps are being taken to improve the nature of music streaming and ensure financial growth in the future of the music industry. An extremely important part of making that happen is the introduction of the Music Modernization Act, a bill that will literally usher the music industry into the digital age. According to David Israelite, the president of the National Music Publishers’ Association, “The MMA is the best hope for songwriters to achieve fair royalties and payments in the digital age” (Billboard). The Music Modernization Act will create a new agency to administer blanket mechanical licenses for streaming services. This will allow artists to be paid individually on a much more timely and equitable basis. Additionally, the bill calls for a database of all published music that will document each individual that worked on the track to ensure everyone gets paid for their contributions.  If the Music Modernization Act is passed, it will prove to be an important step in legitimizing streaming services as key players in the music business. It would allow songwriters and artists to be paid fairly, which would in turn encourage them to support streaming platforms.

Additionally, more consumers are paying for premium streaming services. According to Forbes, in 2017, revenue from recorded music grew to $8.72 billion, which is a $1.2 billion increase from 2016. By 2018, growth is expected to increase by 20%. Also, as the 18-25 demographic of Americans using streaming services gets older and enters the job market, they are more likely to pay for streaming verses non-subscription options. Students correctly have the option of paying half-price for ad-free music from Spotify and Apple Music, and this business model is hoped to create more full-price customers in the future once the student discount expires. These results are already being realized; 2017 saw a $1.7 billion increase in streaming revenue from 2017, and two-thirds of all revenue from recorded music is now made through streaming services (Forbes). This younger demographic proves that the demand for recorded music remains high, but it must be met in digital, modern streaming platforms.

The American consumer has proved that streaming is here to stay, but if the music industry remains innovative and flexible, there is no need to fear poor consequences. Streaming should be embraced for the potential and growth it has already shown and will continue to show in the years to come. With the implementation of the Music Modernization Act and the continued rise in numbers of paying subscribers, streaming will be a fruitful source of revenue for a new, fresh music industry.

 

Sources:

“Apple Music Changes Policy after Taylor Swift Stand” 

“Music and Millennials” 

“Will Streaming Music Kill Songwriting?”

“Senate Moves Forward on Music Modernization Act”

Album Review: “You” by dodie

Image result for you dodie
Image via iTunes

Dodie Clark (or dodie with a lowercase ‘d,’ her stage name) is a sunny, ukulele-playing Youtube musician well on her way to mainstream success. Her second EP, ‘You’ is an eclectic mixture of indie pop tunes and vulnerable piano ballads, showcasing the Londoner’s artistic range. With over one million subscribers on her Youtube channel, “doddleoddle,” where she shares original music and chat vlogs about her life, Dodie has already built a loyal fan base, but her new tracks come with studio polish and bold song-crafting and are sure to reach a much wider audience.

The album opener, “In The Middle,” is a departure from the singer-songwriter’s typically soft and sweet love songs. Instead, she sings sassy pop number about a threesome. As she says in a vlog, “This song, is because both of my exes were bisexual and I thought it would be funny to write a song about an imaginary threesome. It’s not a fantasy, it’s not like I wrote it because I wanted it to happen, I just thought it was funny!” And it is certainly funny; with lyrics like “I’ll be in the middle while you two get along,” and “You’d have so much in common/ Talk about your taste in women,” you can’t help but laugh and sing along. The song shines with spunk and creativity, which Ms. Clark has in abundance.

The six-song EP is full of standouts, ranging from the contagious energy of “In The Middle” to much more sentimental moments, such as 6/10, a song about feeling lonely and lacking the confidence to be yourself around others. Dodie even includes a fifty second piano composition, simply titled, “Instrumental,” a whimsical yet delicate piece that highlights the range of her talents. The album serves almost as a resume, covering the extent of her musical prowess. However, there is also a subtle theme that emerges as you continue to listen. Each song is a carefully crafted snapshot of Dodie’s brain in a turbulent time in her life, capturing the spectacular highs and heartbreaking lows. She focuses specifically one two areas: a painful breakup and her struggle with mental health, which she openly shares with her fans on social media. The intimacy and authenticity that Dodie shares online also bleeds into her music, making “You” Dodie’s most personal, honest work to date.

Dodie’s artistic vulnerability is perfectly captured in the song “Secret for the Mad.” The song itself is very simple, beginning with a single piano note played consecutively behind Dodie’s soft vocals. As the song grows, it relies on layered harmonies, appropriately reminiscent of a church choir. This track is a message to all the lonely souls who might be listening to just hold on, penned by someone who understands how isolating mental illness can be. Dodie manages to be uplifting and optimistic without being cheesy, which comes from careful songwriting and pure intentions. She concludes the song with the line, “I promise you it will all make sense again,” a simple, yet powerful statement that ties the piece together. This is where Dodie shines brightest: pinpointing complicated feelings and working through them musically to create something beautiful and relatable.

As Dodie continues to work toward the difficult transition from Youtuber to mainstream musician, she will continue to melt hearts and gain support through her message of resilience and authenticity. If her social media numbers and stream counts are any indication of what is to come, Dodie is soon to charm her way to the top of the music industry.

 

Related Links:

Buy ‘You’ on iTunes

dodie’s Youtube channel (doddleoddle)

dodie’s official website