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Afterglow...

Paul MacCormack

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We had a feeling that we were on to something. An idea for an event that was so far out of the industry box, there was no packaging left. We sincerely hoped that it would have a lasting impact on the attendees; that the small space created would open a door to new possibilities and a fresh way of approaching what it means to be a Superintendent. We had no idea the impact our first retreat would have.

The beta version of the Mindful Superintendent Leadership and Wellness Retreat has come and gone, but the legacy left behind is just the beginning. Twelve of us gathered in St. Peters, Prince Edward Island to take a mindful pause, introduce some new ideas, and share. The openness and vulnerability shown by the participants was staggering. The turf conversations were inevitable (and amazing) but it was the chats that went deeper, way down into the root zone, which left the most indelible footprint.

The openness and vulnerability shown by the participants was staggering. The turf conversations were inevitable (and amazing) but it was the chats that went deeper...

Our weekend was loosely defined, but had definite purpose. The absence of a written itinerary left some feeling a bit unstable… but that was intentional. There was a master plan and a ton of organization involved, but there was also enough space built in to allow things to meander. This intentional space created the room for something special to emerge. Intentional spaciousness works like that — it creates the breathing room we require in order to be spontaneous and more receptive to openness and possibility.

The first day was devoted to introducing the practice of mindfulness. We talked about the value solitude, presence, awareness, and the power of pausing on purpose. After a morning of learning and discussions, we took to nature to practice. A two-and-a-half-hour silent hike through the fields, forest, dunes and coastline of nearby Greenwich National Park turned out to be the perfect way to demonstrate the immense power of taking time for silent reflection and solitude.

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A 2-1/2 hour silent hike through Greenwich National Park demonstrated the power of solitude.

Some of the most impactful and important parts of the weekend were the natural, organic discussions which occurred. There was purposeful space created to allow them to occur, but the nature of the discussions was left open ended. Our evenings were dedicated to the conversational flow of ideas and the group responded beautifully. Topics like team culture, stress management, anxiety, divorce, and what it means to be a woman in turf yielded wonderful insights. A concept everyone connected with was that as Golf Course Superintendents and more importantly, human beings, we all suffer. At any given time, our level of suffering changes, but we are all in it together. This realization really brought the group together and produced many illuminating conversations. 

Topics like team culture, stress management, anxiety, divorce, and what it means to be a woman in turf yielded wonderful insights...

We also had a good deal of fun. The whole vibe was meant to be relaxing and restful, but there was definitely an element of active fun built in. We played golf (horribly for a bunch of folks who spend most of their time on golf courses) at the nearby Links at Crowbush Cove and had a blast. Our wrap-up meal was a lobster dinner at my parent’s cottage and I’m not sure we could have laughed any more. They say that laughter is good for the soul, and trust me when I say our souls were just fine after that meal.

The last day of the event was dedicated to discussing leadership and culture. Chris Tritabaugh delivered a wonderful seminar that wove together his direct experience with his extensive knowledge. All involved were completely in the moment and the resulting discussions and observations were amazing.

There isn’t enough room left on this page to express the amount of gratitude I feel for making this event a reality. So many people worked so hard to make this possible and I would be remiss if they were not mentioned…

  • Frank Rossi & Chris Tritabaugh – Thank you both for the many heartfelt conversations which preceded this retreat. The inaugural event would not have been possible without your belief in and support of the idea itself. Your presence in St. Peters was powerful in creating the cohesion for the weekend to play out as it did.
  • David Kuypers & Syngenta Canada – I cannot say enough about the support we received from David and his group. David was able to see the vision right along with us and then made all things possible with the sponsorship of the event. Our gratitude for Syngenta Canada’s support is immense.
  • Karen Milligan and her staff at The Inn at St. Peters – For the last event of their season they went out with a bang. Their kind attentiveness to our group and wonderful food and hospitality were second to none. We sincerely hope to be back another year.
  • Andrew  & Brad – These two professionals worked diligently to capture the essence of the event on video. Their patience and creativity were a pleasure to witness. We are really looking forward to the their creation. 
  • My wife Jill, and children Maria, Lucas & Clara – They put up with a great deal most of the time from the likes of me. Thanks to them for giving me the space to make the retreat happen in the midst of a very challenging autumn in our family. 
  • My mom & dad, Ann Marie & Ray – The hosts with the most sent us off beautifully with a lobster dinner at their cottage on Sunday night. It was a very generous, typically Maritime way to cap off an amazing weekend. Also, a big thanks to my father for driving and sacrificing his time to make sure everyone was where they needed to be all weekend long.
  • My staff at Fox Meadow – Events like this simply cannot happen if you don’t have complete confidence in your team. Thanks so much to Finn, Paula, Sean & Trevor for always going above and beyond to help things run smoothly at Fox Meadow.
  • Peter McCormick and the team at TurfNet – If Peter hadn’t taken a chance and given me the space to write The Mindful Super blog all those years ago, the idea for this event may never have materialized. The blog was essential in creating a community of readers  considering the concept of mindfulness and its application in the lives of superintendents. 
  • To Leasha Schwab, Brad Allen, Eric MacPherson, Sean Tulley, Chris Zugel, Miranda Robinson, Michael Vesely, Pat O’Brien, and Max MacKenzie. Your openness, flexibility and courage to participate in this event were so inspiring. The way this group of strangers came together and shared so much of themselves created a very special bond. Thank you so very much for being the seed for something which hopefully grows into a positive changing force in our industry and in our lives in general.

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So where does this event go from here? It’s hard to say really. The momentum is strong and the vision for the future is healthy and vibrant. Stay tuned…

 

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