JUG and the Cut List

teacher smiles at podium, wearing glasses, questions written on dry erase board behind him, framed photos in distance
Robert Bergman '93

I proctored JUG the other day. For those who don’t know, JUG is detention in a Jesuit school. As I sat there monitoring the students, my friend Dr. Callahan entered, and we had one of our most interesting discussions. I looked around the room and said to him, “You know, even the kids in JUG are good kids.” He replied, “All of our kids are good kids.”

This began a discussion we’ve had multiple times throughout our long friendship. We use it as a way to remind ourselves that we work in a wonderful place full of wonderful people who do wonderful things in their lives.

He proceeded to tell me a story about a young man, who during his Insignis Project, told a story about how he got cut from every sport he went out for his freshman year and then decided to do something else—he joined the theater, learned to play guitar, joined the choir, and learned to paint. Insignis is our senior capstone project where every senior presents what he has learned about himself over four years in conjunction with the Graduate at Graduation. I’ve found it an enlightening and enjoyable experience since its inception.

Dr. Callahan noted that this young man was not the exception to our student body; this aspect of resilience and humility is a De Smet Jesuit student tradition.

How many times has a young man come to us as the best athlete in his sport from his club or grade school team and then been cut from the freshman team? My bet is countless. I was a good third baseman and I loved playing baseball. On my first day of tryouts, I dove and caught a line drive and I’ll never forget what Coach Greg Vitello said, “Now, that’s how you play third base.” I beamed, I walked on air; the varsity coach said that about a kid trying out for the freshman team.

Two days later, I found my name on the cut list.

When I got home and told my mom and dad, they said, “Well what are you going to do now?” I had no answer. Little did I know that the answer was waiting for me the next day at school when Coach Denny Cerneka came up to me and told me—not asked me—to come out for track and field to throw the shot put and discus. I found out years later that the two coaches had talked about me after I was cut from baseball and Coach Cerneka decided to grab me and make me do something new and different. I went on to have a very mediocre career as an athlete, but when I started teaching and coaching, I coached shot and discus for 15 years and enjoyed it. It allowed me to get to know kids on a more personal level, and I coached some wonderful athletes.

We rarely realize how significant our life experiences come to be. My situation isn’t original or unique—it happens often behind the scenes where the teachers talk about our students and encourage them down different paths than they ever could have seen for themselves. Some students have the courage to find their own paths after setbacks, and others need a push—or even a pull, as in my case.

As students, while we are in the moment, we rarely see the bright side of a setback such as serving a JUG or being cut from a team; however, if we have the courage to trust those moments, an entirely new prospect may arise on a road we didn’t know was ours.


Usually, I listen to books on my drive to and from work. This past summer I decided to listen to The Lord of the Rings in its entirety. I’ve read the complete work twice in my life, and many years ago my former colleague and friend John Grigaitis encouraged me to return to it but I could never find the time to start. So instead of reading it, I thought I’d listen to it. The story continues the adventures of the Hobbits with a change in main character from Bilbo to Frodo. After Bilbo returns from his journey to defeat Smaug he writes a book called There and Back Again and also composes many songs and poems about journeys. I’d like to end with one of them that I find to be quite inspirational.

Roads Go Ever On by J. R. R. Tolkien

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still 'round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

 

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