A Beautiful Day of Baseball

May 15, 2018.

Clay Center Community High School hosted a 4A baseball regional in Clay Center for the first time since 2002. That was a long time to wait.

But when I was sitting out there watching the four teams, it was like a slice of baseball heaven.  The crowds were great and supportive. The teams played their hearts out. Watching the three games on the renovated Campbell Field put a smile on this old coach’s face.

Thank you, Clay County for the donations of time, skill, funds, materials, prayers, and the new scoreboard to help make this renovation project possible. It truly is a field of dreams to us old baseball people and something we hope the young baseball people will be able to enjoy for years.

The power of a “for the community by the community” project.

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Graduation Speech 2018

Thank you, Clay Center Community High School Class of 2018 for the opportunity to be the guest speaker at your graduation ceremony. Here is the transcript of the speech if you or your people are interested. Hopefully, you can look back on it years from now and ask your classmates, “Do you remember that fool who gave our graduation speech? I wonder what he’s doing nowadays.”

I dedicate this speech to all the athletes I’ve had the honor of coaching, especially the ones who’ve struggled to find their place in the world.

Graduation Speech 2018
Otto Unruh Stadium
5-13-18
Mike Hays

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Thank you for this honor to speak today.
Congratulations to the parents and families! Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Today is special. This all around us is special.
This is a special place. It‘s a community where people have supported you through your games, performances, academics, and employment opportunities.

This place is part of who you are. It is part of what you will become.
No matter how far you travel or where your dreams take you, you will take a piece of Clay County with you.
And wherever you go after leaving these seats as graduates, Clay County will always be here for you.

Graduation Advice

Be yourself.
Be the best you that you can be.

Toy Story 2 illustrates a great example of staying true to who you are. Woody has been taken to Big Al’s and is waiting to be sold to a collector. He looks at the faded name of “ANDY” written on the bottom of his boot.
ANDY.
The name that represents belonging to and being a part of.
ANDY.
The name that gives Woody purpose.
What happens to Woody when the Cleaner shows up and wipes those four letters off his boot?
He loses himself. He gives up trying to get back to Andy and the others. Gives up and floats away from all that is important to him. He’s tempted by the TV star life after discovering Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.
When the name disappears, so does the very core of who he is.
In the end, it takes a monumental effort by Buzz and all Woody’s friends to bring him back to himself.

What name is written on your foot?
Who or what do you choose to belong to?
What name gives you purpose?
Is it a name that’s written in permanent ink or in pencil?
Is it a name that provides solid footing or is it one that causes you to slip and slide away from who you really are?

Find out who you are and stand behind it.
Let your faith be your compass.
Let your conscience be your map.
Never forget the name you’ve written on your foot.

Graduation Challenge

My challenge to you is something you probably won’t find on any of your graduation cards.
Go out and fail.
Dream big, take calculated risks and fail.
Regroup, and get better. Then try again & again & again until you succeed.

I wish you a lifetime of successes forged in the fire of failures.
I want you to dream big and go make it happen.

As we dive headfirst into the digital age, I challenge you to do great things. And great things take effort.
Do not fail by lack of effort or by not daring to dream.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your power.

I want you to discover new ways of farming and ranching.
I want you to discover new ways to teach kids.
I want you to bring new products to our everyday lives and new ways of creating art and stories.
I want you to teach us old folks how to use technology without allowing technology to use us.
We need you and we need your talents.

Every Graduation Needs a Mascot

My proposal for your graduation mascot is Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Do you remember what Tigger is known for?
Bouncing.
As you turn the tassels today, take a lesson from Tigger and be bouncy!

You were bounced on someone’s knee as a baby.
You bounced off almost everything when you learned to walk and run.
You bounced around on the playground during recess.
You’ve been bounced on your rear end by schoolwork, sports, jobs, relationships, and personal trials.
But, you kept bouncing back and here you sit. Graduates.

Your bouncing days are not over. They’re just beginning.
Life will knock you for a loop over and over again.
Every time you get knocked down, bounce back up.
Sometimes our biggest victories in life are simply getting back up after a fall.
Keep bouncing!
Just like Tigger.

A Graduate Game Plan

Hard work is the magic.
It’s a simple truth.
Everything worth having is worth working for.
Family, career, hobbies—even that truck you can’t peel your eyes away from on the dealership lot—are all worth working for.
Put your signature on your every action.
Show up each and every day ready to do the work.
Attack life with purpose, pride, passion, and persistence.
Hard work is the magic.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!
Take advantage of “today” every day.
Live life to its fullest.
It’s the only one you’re given.

While bouncing along the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger’s been known to sing,
“The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things.”
I say,
“The wonderful thing about Clay Center Tigers is Clay Center Tigers are wonderful things.”

Remember who you are.
Remember where you come from.
Remember where you’re going.
Never forget,
The most wonderful thing about YOU is that YOU are a wonderful thing.

Thank you and good luck!

Bonus! Every good story has a good story. This is what happened (well mostly what happened) the night I told my family at dinner about the invitation to be CCCHS’ graduation speaker.

Me: Mr. Young called today and said the senior class invited me to be their graduation speaker.
(Long dramatic pause while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 1: What would you wear?
Me: What?
Kid 2: You know you can’t yell, right?
Me: I don’t yell. I get excited.
(Long dramatic pause #2 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 3: You can’t cuss, either.
Me: @#$%! I know that.
Wife: Are you going to do it?
Me: (Long dramatic pause while I roll on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.)
Whole Family: You mean to tell us you can look in those seniors’ eyes and tell them “no”.
Me: But there will be SO MANY people there. And it will be hot. And… And… And…
Wife: Well, are you going to do it?
Me: I told Mr. Young I’d think about it.
(Long dramatic pause #3 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)

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Courage to Create

There are so many things one wants to tell young people. The well of advice from us older folks overflows and sometimes floods uncontrollably through and past the minds of our advice-targeted youth. I believe in the power of youth. I believe we can help them achieve great things if we have the discipline to allow them to grow into their potential.

I ran across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt this week in the Brain Pickings post, Theodore Roosevelt on the Cowardice of Cynicism and the Courage to Create Rather Than Criticize. 

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…

The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.

This piece from President Roosevelt’s 1910 speech is timeless. It’s an important piece for both the young and the old. We need to strive to be the best we can be. We need to strive for greatness instead of limiting achievement with the ceiling of cynicism and status quo.

There is no glory in being the best by trouncing on heads of others.

TR may have said it best, “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.”

Stand out by standing up. Be a positive force. Dare to be great and then go be great!

Hard work is the magic.

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Generation S.O.B.

It’s the 2018 graduation season. Millions of people will be turning the tassels, walking across stages, admiring their diplomas, and then moving to the next stage in their lives. Congratulations! And good luck.

After the last card is opened and the final “Thank You” note is stamped for delivery, I have a challenge for you. Well, I have a challenge for more than just you graduates; I have a challenge for everyone from the college graduate down to the high school freshman.

You know how people love to put labels on generations of young people? There are the Baby Boomers,  The “Me” Generation, Generation X, Generation Y, and The Millenials, to name a few. While these labels tend to be used by the adults in power to identify, they also carry with them a negative connotation. The labels are often used to discount the power of a younger generation and brand them as just naive kids.

But there is power in youth. There is potential and energy and new ideas. What youth lacks is experience. That’s what we adults can provide. Check that, experience is what we adults must be there to provide. We adults have used our ideas and our energy to solve the problems of our time. Maybe we were successful on some fronts; maybe we weren’t so successful on others. A given in life, besides death and taxes, is that problems will always exist. Solve one and more pop up.

Look around at the state of things for the past decade. Are we adults solving problems? Or are we avoiding them? Do we have the ideas and the tools to solve the problems we face? Or are we throwing up our hands and walking away when our old ideas and tools fail?

That’s why I’m challenging the young people to step it up and face our problems head-on. The big problems can’t be solved through bickering and fighting and pointing fingers. The big problems are solved through multi-faceted solutions. Solutions built on discoveries. Discoveries that you are going to bring to the table.

I’m challenging you young people in college and high school to become Generation S.O.B. Generation Save Our Butts. (Okay, I stink at acronyms, but my only idea other was Generation Butt Savers…)

I’m challenging you to learn, to think, to communicate, and to dream. Train and discipline your individual talents. Use the incredible array of tools you have available. Work collectively to bring these individual talents together. Put the pieces in place to build a problem-solving force the likes this world has never seen. Use your potential and your energy. Glean experience from us older folks and from your own trials.

Generation S.O.B., I’m counting on you!

Dream big.

Demand better.

Let it rip!

Leave the world a better place.

Be Generation S.O.B.

Hard work is the magic.

 

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Good Sports: Wakefield Recreation Association

We have some pretty cool things going on in our region. This post is the first of the Good Sports series, which I hope will become a long-running series highlighting some of these feel-good activities and organizations.

The spotlight today is on the Wakefield Recreation Association (WRA). Wakefield is a small town in Clay County, Kansas. It has a K-12 school, the Kansas Landscape Arboretum, Milford Lake, a plethora of outdoor activities, and great people. My special guest is one of those awesome Wakefield citizens, Ashley Dumler, president of the WRA and a teacher at Wakefield School.

MH: Welcome, Ashley! What is the Wakefield Recreation Association all about?

AD: Our philosophy is entirely based on community involvement. We want young and old and everyone in between participating and not just physically, we want all types of involvement. Our goal is to transform this community into a family.

MH: We know how tight the budgets can be in a small town community. We also know the importance of recreation in the health and wellness of our communities. How does the WRA balance increasing financial demands with limited financial resources?

AD: Another goal is to make this affordable as possible. We’ve dropped our prices to $20 per child for each sport and we lessen the amount by $5 for each additional child of the same family.

MH: How is the WRA organized?

AD: About 6 months ago, it was decided that the city would take over funding and manage the funds of the WRA. They would eliminate the treasurer’s position and have a board of three- A president, vice president, and secretary. Debbie Brown, AnnMarie Striggow, and myself were the only three who applied. I am the president, AnnMarie is Vice President, and Debbie is secretary.

MH: With the recent partnership with the Wakefield city government, have you made any changes to the core philosophy of the WRA?

AD: We discussed with the city council what the vision of WRA would look like. We decided that we wanted it to be an association for everyone-not just kids.

MH: Recreation for all! I like that. Can you give some examples of recent or upcoming WRA-sponsored activities?

AD: For adults, we’ve offered Open Gym, a Paint and Sip Night, and we’re getting ready to offer a 30 Day Get Fit for Summer Program. Our kids have been offered a fundamental basketball program, a soccer league, and we’re getting ready to run a baseball and softball fundamentals clinic on Sundays in April. We will be running baseball and softball leagues in the summer as well. Our vision for the fall is a spirit squad and flag football program.

MH: Paint and Sip Night? That sounds intriguing. Tell me more about that!

AD: We hired Gloria Fowles from Clay Center to come down and run two nights where people could paint a flower picture on a canvas and sip their choice of beverage. Our turnout was great. We filled 30 of the 40 spots for the two nights. We can’t wait to hold more events in the future!

MH: As a sports coach, I’m always interested in the fundamental goals of a youth sports programs. What goals do you aim for with the WRA youth sports activities?

AD: When it comes to athletics, our philosophy is to do our best to build players based on fundamentals and not playing games. Parents like games, kids like games, and we understand that, but fundamentals are what build athletes. We want strong capable athletes entering our junior high and high school programs at Wakefield.

MH: How about non-sports activities to build strong minds as well as strong bodies?

AD: For those not wanting to participate athletically, we are also planning to add more events like a book club and a card night. We’d like to launch these in the fall.

MH: Recreation is an important facet of community wellness and economic development. How important of a role has the WRA played in the Wakefield community over the years?

AD: As an alumnus of Wakefield, I can personally say this organization is near and dear to my heart. I grew up participating in the WRA program, and I want my sons to continue this tradition.

MH: I’m all about a  “for the community, by the community.” philosophy in regards to improvements and activities in a small town. The success of these community-driven programs rides on the back of its sponsors, volunteers, and coaches. Who helps lift the WRA’s projects?

AD: I truly believe though “it takes a village” and we as an organization have been so blessed to have our high school and junior high coaches volunteer their time to coach. Who knows better what these kids need to be prepared than the coach who will be coaching them in a few short years? We couldn’t do it without our amazing volunteer coaches.

MH: How can the people of Clay County help the WRA succeed?

AD: We are always open to new ideas and would love to have anyone join us! Our meetings are the third Monday of each month at 6:00 and next month will start being held at the Wakefield City Building. For anyone interested in volunteering for our baseball/softball clinics, please contact me or attend our coaches meeting March 25 at 4:00 at the city building!

MH: For those interested in sponsoring or following WRA activities, how can they contact the WRA?

AD: You can email me at ashley.dumler@kcddesign.com, call me at 785-209-0214, or the city building at 785-461-5886. We also have a Facebook page!

MH: Thank you, Ashley, for filling us in on the good things going on in Wakefield with the Wakefield Recreation Association. You and the WRA are doing things the right way. Best of luck as you grow and serve the community. Enjoy the ride!

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The Bubba Conundrum

I’m a big boy. A lineman for life. “Husky” was my Sears Toughskin categorization as a kid. I loved coaching the big boys of the offensive and defensive line in my football coaching days. Loved it.

We called ourselves the “Bubbas”. The running backs/defensive backs were called “Bullets”. The TE/linebacker-types were the “Bricks”. Everybody belonged to a group, everybody in each of those groups trained differently in our strength and conditioning program.

I almost blew a gasket recently when I heard of a coach telling a big boy lineman he wouldn’t be much use to the team next fall unless he got into better shape. First, I hate this approach, especially with a Bubba. It’s tough growing up a big boy in a skinny boy world. When one tells a big boy the above criticism, what he hears is something he’s probably heard over and over in his entire life—that he’s fat, lazy, and/or of little value— instead of hearing that he needs to be in better shape. Second, the above criticism from the coach is delivered with no plan of action.

The young athlete was knocked into a dark pit by someone he probably respects and not given any plan or tools for climbing out. Modern coaches and parents need to be more positive in these situations. Point out to the athletes they’d perform at a higher level if they were in better condition AND then give them a vision of how we’re going to accomplish this. (The WE part of the equation is very important.)

The conditioning requirements for high school football players are different for the Bubbas, the Bricks, and the Bullets. The specific work/recovery demands require specific considerations for each group of players. Even the casual high school football fan realizes the differences in physical demands between an offensive guard and a wide receiver on any given play. The lineman’s job and the wide receiver’s job both use the burst energy supplied by the anaerobic energy systems but in different ways. The lineman is using power over speed. The wide receiver uses the opposite, speed over power. Power/Speed vs. Speed/Power

A high school football play lasts only 5.6 +/- 2.0 seconds according to a study published in 2006. The NFHS play clock is 25 seconds. Adding the variable length of time it takes for the ball to be marked and set before the play clock is started, the total time between plays is about 45 seconds. I know what you’re saying, “This Hays guy is such a geek. I just want to play football and hit people. I don’t care about math or physiological energy systems. Where’s my dang helmet?”

My answer is this, you don’t have to care. Not really. But, as a strength and conditioning coach, I HAVE to care. I HAVE to design training regimens that give you the best chance to perform and “hit people” like a cannon shot each and every play of a four-quarter high school football game. I HAVE to consider these geeky physiological demands in order to give you the power you need.

5.6 +/- 2.0 seconds work followed by 40 seconds rest.

Why share these seemingly trivial numbers? No, I don’t give you these numbers so you know there’s about 40 seconds to run to get a bag of popcorn without missing any action. I emphasize these numbers because everything we need to do to prepare our Bullets, our Bricks, and our Bubbas to perform needs to revolve around this conditioning ratio. About 8 seconds of intense work, followed by 40 seconds rest.

Sprints, lifts, med ball slams, swings, pull-up, sled pulls/drives, agility drills, etc. all should follow fairly close to this timing 75-80% of total training time. The wide receiver’s plan would include a high percentage of the speed-building exercises. The offensive guard’s plan would include a high percentage of the power-building exercises. The remaining 20% or so would be developing general fitness in order to support the basic foundation.

These methodologies are usually sufficient for the high school athlete. If athletes move up to high levels, the college or professional level, the methodologies become even more personalized and intricate.

Bottom line, give your big kids a solid plan. Instead of straight up criticism, give them a goal. Give them the tools they need to attain the goal and give them the support they’ll need along the way. Every football team is built on the backs of the big boys. You better figure out how to deal with them and understand their needs if you want to be successful.

Respect your big boys! #BubbaForLife!

 

 

 

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Lipstick on a Pig

One of my coaches from way back in the day used to have this saying about trying to be too flashy with your game. “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

Although I’ve never attempted to put any kind of makeup on swine, I understand the basic meaning of this old piece of wisdom. I’ve particularly become well-tuned to the spirit in this saying since I’ve become a sports coach.

To begin with, I think it’s all about being who you are as a coach, a player, or a program. Avoid trying to be something else. Be proud and be the best version of you that you can be. Strive to reflect this in everything you do.

I also think “Lipstick on a pig” means something that should be very important to a coach. The focus on the core goals of the program. As a coach, there is a fundamental need to focus on the important things—those things your program needs to succeed. Outside of this core mission, all else sits on the periphery.

Everything has to have a purpose and a meaning that’s all about the mission. A coach needs to keep everyone in the program riding the purpose and meaning tracks to the goal.

Unfortunately, in today’s environment, there are a host of distractions waiting to put lipstick on your pig. There are well-meaning distractions from parents and fans that pull the coaches and the players away from the goals. There are also the not-so-well-meant distractions by parents and fans which completely derail the program and make achieving any positive steps virtually impossible.

And as coaches, we often distract ourselves. We do things for the sake of doing things. We run schemes and shifts and motions without a hint of the purpose to gain information. We invest time and energy in shiny, new things, that provide little or no value to the goal.

Coaches, take a minute, step back from the program, and have an honest look at it.

  • What kind of distractions keep you from your core mission?  
  • What external distractions suck your time and energy and resources from where they need to be invested?
  • Are you spending more time running outside activities that detract from your program?
  • Is your training program laser-focused? Is every lift, run, jump, throw, sprint, and movement done with a sense of purpose in mind?
  • Is your philosophy consistent with your actions?

Coaches, in short, take a look at everything you do and identify where you’re wearing out that container of lipstick. Find out where you’re taking care of things not associated with your core goal. Everything needs to have a purpose. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. Those things are not worth the expenditure of effort and energy.

Never lose sight of the prize. Keep your focus, your performance, and your program on task. Don’t allow distractions to derail you from the track of success.

Putting lipstick on your pig may make for a fancy pig, but after everything is said and done, that pig is still a pig.

Develop a goal.

Develop a plan.

Do the work.

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