Our Cannonball Moment: Reflections From Athletics

Zoom window, screenshot. Participant images arranged in a grid pattern.

Dr. Maya Ozery, Executive Director of the Cooper Leadership Program (top left), and Tony Mazurkiewicz, Chaplain for Athletics (second from top left), leading a community gathering.

Headshot, Tony MazurkiewiczTony Mazurkiewicz, Chaplain for Athletics
During my third day of a 10-day quarantine as a result of exposure to a student-athlete who tested positive for Covid-19, I received a phone call from Mike Callahan, the head coach for the Georgetown University sailing team. With 12 national championships and 87 All Americans during his 22 years at the helm, Coach Callahan called to check in on my physical status as part of Redeploy Georgetown. Without an opportunity to lead his team on the water this spring, Coach Callahan stepped in where needed and embodied the athletic department’s values of excellence and integrity while also deepening our university’s commitment to cura personalis.

Given challenges like Coach Callahan’s and the countless others our athletic department continues to endure this year, Dr. Maya Ozery, the Executive Director of the Cooper Leadership Program, and I have been creating opportunities for Ignatian reflection and self-examination for our department. During the past two months, 15 Georgetown Athletic Department coaches and staff participated in two Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gatherings, with a third gathering planned for April 21.

At the beginning of each community gathering, the coaches and staff are invited to notice the parallels between the ‘cannonball moment’ (the traumatic moment that altered the course of St. Ignatius’ life) for St. Ignatius almost 500 years ago and the year of uncertainty and loss within the athletic program, our nation, and our world. A short presentation about the Ignatian themes of consolation and desolation follows, setting the stage for participants to look back on the past year through this lens and notice what they may have learned about themselves. Then, after reflecting on and sharing what is ‘most alive in them’ in the current moment, the participants conclude the gathering by considering how the community could help support them and how they could help support the community.

After our first two gatherings, I feel inspired and renewed by the participants’ willingness to enter into this process of reflection along with their self-awareness, resilience, and commitment to being their best selves as a path to stepping further into what it means to be people for others.

Here’s an opportunity to hear from them.

Headshot, Diana PulupaDiana Pulupa, Director of Athletics Communications & Creative Services Participating in the Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gathering was an eye-opening experience for me. I didn’t entirely know what I was getting into but when I found myself engaging with my colleagues and learning how our perspectives are aligned but, in my opinion, more importantly, how we saw things differently. Shining the light on new points of view and also doing a mental check-in was a breath of fresh air in a roller coaster of a year. Working one-on-one with some people who I considered coworkers and others who I have become friends with over the years, allowed me to feel more like a member of a team or family than I had prior to that moment. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering becoming a more active participant and leader in their department or workplace.

Headshot, Monique WhiteMonique White, Softball, Assistant Coach
The Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gathering provided the space for me to step out of my daily reality of to-do lists, routines, and stresses and into a space of internal reflection. It was refreshing to hit pause and check-in with myself and my colleagues on a genuine and intimate level. I enjoyed seeing people for who they are and not just for what they do. My biggest takeaway was remembering to give myself permission to prioritize a consistent self-care routine because when I do, I’m able to enter spaces a better version of myself.


Headshot, Megan ZarrielloMegan Zariello, Swimming & Diving, Assistant Coach
Recently, I participated in the Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gathering. As someone who has little experience of looking inward, much less so doing that through a spiritual lens, I was a bit skeptical before getting on the Zoom call. However, right from the start Tony Mazurkiewicz and Maya Ozery created an environment of inclusion and trust. The meeting allowed coworkers to talk through certain events over the past year through an Ignatian lens, and look inward on where we are now and where we want to be. As a coach who is pulled in many different directions, we often don’t take the time to think and truly ask ourselves the hard questions. For me, the biggest question asked during the meeting was “what is most alive in you right now?” As someone who can get lost in the ‘grind,’ this meeting allowed me to slow down and think about what gets me out of bed every day. I do believe that we all need to be doing that more often. Doing so can open up the thought process in order to consider the questions, “where am I now?” and “where do I see myself going from here?”

Headshot, Paul AllbrightPaul Albright, Women’s Rowing, Assistant Coach
Simply put, my experience attending the Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gathering was great. It provided an overdue opportunity to connect with other members of the department that I do not work directly with or have not stayed in touch with over the past year as we continue to work remotely. What’s more, we (especially coaches) are wired to put the needs of our student-athletes before ourselves with our primary focus being how to best support them through these uncertain times. However, an event like this gathering provided some much-needed ‘care for the caretakers’ and created space for each of us to reflect on our own experiences during the pandemic and, in turn, this will allow us to better serve our teams. I look forward to participating in similar events in the future so that I can continue to fill my personal ‘spiritual-mindfulness toolbox’ and stay better connected with my peers in the athletic department.

Headshot, Sam GreilSam Greil, Assistant Athletics Director for Equipment Operations
Sharing my personal moments, thoughts, and beliefs is not something that I am entirely comfortable doing with my colleagues, especially those that I do not interact with on a daily basis, but after attending the Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gatherings hosted by Tony Mazurkiewicz and Maya Ozery, I now feel a stronger sense of community within the Georgetown Athletics Department.

I felt that it was extremely important to talk with different members of the Athletics staff during these crazy times. Some are able to come into the office and work directly with student-athletes, while others are working completely remotely and haven’t interacted with a colleague outside of Zoom meetings. These last 12 months have had a different impact on students as well as staff and that was telling after this gathering. Being able to look inward and express your feelings, while also listening to someone express theirs was an intimate experience. You don’t typically have those conversations in the office, but we were able to because of the safe space that Tony and Maya created.

The consolation and desolation exercise brought about a new perspective of what this pandemic has caused, outside of the spread of the virus. I had never really thought of talking about how I have felt during this last year, but it was eye-opening to talk with another staff member about having the ability to take a step back from work and focus on yourself and your relationships with loved ones. I truly enjoyed this time to talk on an intimate level and realize how important it is to take a look inward in a world that is constantly moving and changing.

Headshot, Chris RayChris Ray, Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance
Participating in the Leadership and Ignatian Spirituality Community Gathering this past month gave me the opportunity to reflect on life. As we have all felt stress and anxiety in this extremely trying year, the opportunity to view these challenges through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality helped alter my perspective to one of more appreciation. The gathering also was an opportunity to share with others in the Georgetown community about something other than our usual day-to-day work interactions.