Shining Eyes

It’s not often a sports-crazed blog writer gets the opportunity to quote a conductor in a post. But what Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, says about defining his job is and how he gauges his successes and failures is important. Very important advice to being an effective leader. It basically is a two-step process.

  • Trust is the first step.
  • Shining eyes are the second.

If you spend time in a leadership role as a coach, teacher, mentor, librarian, or any supervisory position, I hope you can take away something from Zander’s wisdom and experience.

Trust

You have to trust the people you are leading. You trust them not by mere faith alone but through preparation and practice. You need to sell them on your vision. Have a well-designed plan and know what you want to accomplish as the leader. Now, go and get them to believe in your plan and in your philosophy.

“It’s one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming. Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, ‘I have a dream. Of course, I’m not sure they’ll be up to it.” ― Benjamin Zander, Conductor & Teacher

Shining Eyes

This is a product of passion. Humans, especially the teenage humans, have well-honed bullshit meters. They sense if a leader is simply going through the motions. The feel the energy and the passion if the leader radiates energy and passion in front of them. Zander may have put it best when he talks about making that connection as a conductor.

“My job was to awaken possibility in other people. I wanted to know if I was doing it. And you know how you find out? You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you are doing it. If their eyes are not shining, you get to ask a question. And the question is this: Who am I being so that my players’ eyes are not shining? “ ― Benjamin Zander

Next time you are in front of a classroom, locker room, huddle, crowd, or even in a one-on-one conference, look at the eyes. Are the eyes shining? If so, congratulations! You have made an important connection as a leader. If not, try to figure out changes you can make in order to light up the eyes. The chance of a dream succeeding often relates directly to the number of shining eyes.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Training

A Story of Two Cats

I am not a cat person. Never really have been. Never really will be.

But, there have been two cats in my life that wiggled their way into my dog-loving heart. Is there is a common factor between these two felines that has raised them above a “leave me alone and go catch mice” relationship?

Why yes there is.

They’re badasses.

BAD ASSES.

Big Bad Bud was one of a kind. He didn’t really like people and he was a killing machine. Birds. Mice. Rats. Squirrels. If it moved and/or pissed him off, it was dead. I can’t find the video or the photographic evidence, but Triple B once killed an adult squirrel and laid its lifeless body in front of the back door. I know, many cats do this. But do they also eat the squirrel starting at the head and leaving only a fluffy tail on the doormat? I don’t think so.

And the really incredible thing about Big Bad Bud was he only had one working eye. The other one was blind when we adopted him. Much to my dismay, we had to give him away when he got old, got cranky, and started to become nasty toward our other cat and some of the kids who hung out around the house.

We gave Bud away to some friends who live in the country and needed a mouser for their outbuildings. It was a match made in heaven. Bud fulfilled his duties wonderfully for a period of time until, one day, when he disappeared. Common sense states the elderly cat was caught by a coyote or wandered off to die in the woods. But for me, I believe in the Legend of Big Bad Bud. I believe he is still out there wandering Washington Co. hunting and surviving on his own.

The other cat is our current senior feline. Willie. The family we adopted Willie from was moving and could no longer keep him at their new residence. They asked if we were interested, we said yes. They thought Willie was around eight-years-old when we took him in. That was twelve years ago, making his age now around 20. He adjusted to Hays House life pretty quickly. Until his first Christmas at the house and he peed on the Christmas tree and was permanently banned to the life of an outdoor cat. He went out. He rarely complained. He, like Bud, was also not a fan of people.

The past 12 months, Willie has been slowing down. He is truly showing his age. He’s fought off several bouts of unknown illnesses, worked through the introduction of a new cat, Nala, and worked through the death of his respected friend and housemate, our chocolate lab, Sophie. I’ve known for the past few years that his days were numbered and getting close.

A few weeks ago, he got backed over by our Yukon. He hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. He’d been down and sleeping most of the day for about 3-4 days. I thought he was a goner, but he rebounded. He was still kicking but kicking it slowly. Willie never sleeps under the vehicles. Never. When we turned on the SUV to back out of the driveway on a Friday evening, he must have not woke up and the rear tire ran over him.

This time, I thought he was a goner for real. He crawled to his spot behind the garage and wouldn’t budge except for his labored breathing. I sat with him and tried to make him comfortable. I almost called the vet to get him put down. I convinced myself to give Willie until the morning and see if nature took its course during the night.

When I woke early Saturday morning and went to check on him, he was gone! I couldn’t find him anywhere around the garage. I wondered if a dog or coyote or something took him off during the night. But when I trudged through the house and out the front door to get the newspaper, there he was lying in his third favorite spot by the front porch. Alive but not kicking very well. Again, I thought about a trip to the vet. Again, I thought if Willie got his three-quarters dead-self moved across the yard, he deserved the gift of time. I gave him until Monday.

I raked and mowed leaves. In the middle of the process, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Wille! He is standing on all four legs. Moving 10 feet or so, and lying down for a rest. Incredible.

Every day I gave him another day before getting him put down. Every day he survived and improved. Limping and moving slow, but eating and drinking again. This past week, less than two weeks after the accident, he showed up to greet me one evening when I came home from work as he’d always done. Walking normally with a slight limp. I hate to get sentimental, but I just about cried. Willie is one incredibly tough cat. He doesn’t know any better than to survive. He has to be on Life #8.99999.

BADASS.

So, we will see what the future brings for Willie. In the meantime, the next badass cat at the Hays House will have big shoes to fill to follow Big Bad Bud and Willie.

My kind of cats. Badass SOBs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads, Writes

R.I.P. Weighted Bat

Well, the weighted bat thing goes way back. Way back to the ankle weights and wrist weights days. The shorty shorts, the knee-high white tube socks and wide terry cloth head and wristbands days of old. Just as these signs of poor fashion judgment have gone by the wayside, it’s time for the weighted bat as a way of supercharging your bat speed to go away also.

To be more specific, it’s the weighted bat swing training in the cage or in batting practice that needs to go away and not necessarily the heavy bats themselves. A baseball or softball swing is not an equivalent movement to say a squat or a deadlift. The baseball swing is a much more complicated movement, an intricate sequential firing of small and large muscle groups from the trunk to the torso that generates force across a linear and rotational plane. This force culminates at the point where the barrel of the bat makes contact with the baseball and, if all goes right, the ball flies off the bat.

Swinging a heavy bat in bp or in the cage only throws off the balance of muscle coordination a hitter works so hard to develop. Somewhat of a surprise is training with a lighter bat also does significantly increase bat speed. This is a surprise since research supports this methodology in speed training and other similar specific sports skill development. Swinging a bat is a just too much of an intricate physical process.

It takes thousands of correct reps and drills to develop a nice swing. Timing and speed are much more important factors to develop in your swing rather than pure strength. Strength training for a baseball athlete starts with the lower body where explosive strength and flexibility are the keys and moves to the core muscles of the torso. A strong core is essential for any athlete because it acts as a chain to transfer the force generated in the lower body to the upper body. Without a strong core, the energy generated in the load and step portion of the swing is left in the lower body and doesn’t transfer to the bat.

(On a side note, a throwing athlete like a quarterback, a pitcher, or any other baseball position player, should avoid straight military presses or any shoulder weight training which promotes an unbalanced muscle support of the joint. The shoulder joint necessary for overhead throwing motion is susceptible to injury if there is not a balanced training of the muscles surrounding this complex anatomical joint. This subject is a pet peeve of mine in the high school weight rooms where the specific needs of the throwing athlete are often ignored. But THAT is another rant for another day.)

All that negative stuff said, I still like the weighted bat in the on-deck circle for a couple of reasons.

  1. Use the weighted bat or “donut” ring it to get loose with a routine of several windmills front and back using both left and right hands, followed by a side to side rotational stretch.
  2. Mental edge. In the research that showed the use of weighted bats to gain bat speed was false, it was also shown the batter perceived his swing was faster. After swinging a heavy bat, the hitter “felt” his swing was faster. Handling a weighted bat in the on-deck circle can trick your brain into thinking your actual bat is as light as a feather and your swing is lightning fast. I don’t know about you, but give me a shot of confidence in the on-deck circle any day.

Hopefully, as with the Bug Squish, we can put the myth of using the weighted or heavy bat to develop bat speed out to pasture. But unlike the Bug Squish, I think there is value to using a weighted bat or a “donut” weight in the on-deck circle.

And to repeat…

One of the best pieces of coaching advice I can offer is this: Do not simply teach sports skills or coach simply because that is the way you were coached. Times change. Do the work. Research and field testing are constantly making improvements to the what we understand about sports science. Technology gives us access to this information like never before.  Ask questions, search the web, watch coaching video, or attend clinics. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the tools they need to succeed. When the players find success, they enjoy the sport. When they enjoy the sport, you can get more out of them.

Everybody wins!

Next R.I.P topic? Swing repetitions! How many swings at a time is effective? How many is too many? The answers may surprise you.

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Rants, Training

GM For A Day: Free Agent Edition

Here’s my rapid free agency analysis of what I’d do as the Kansas City Royals GM For A Day. They missed a great opportunity to trade these players for some future value because they wanted to squeeze a few more marketing dollars from the fan base. Not trading at least the Big Three (Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas) throws the rebuild from a potential 4-5 cycle to probably a 7-10 years cycle. It won’t be another 25-30 year cycle, I promise…

The Royals under Dayton Moore built the modern model of competing in the post-steroid (???) age. Draft well. Trade smart. Put together a core group. Let them lose 90-100 game and slowly get better over next two seasons. Make a run at a championship by bringing in free agent pieces to the big puzzle picture. Don’t get attached, use veterans to get draft picks, retool, and repeat.

The Royals management played the plan to a “T” until it came time to let guys walk out the door. The Gordon signing sent the plan reeling. An organization that should have had at least two World Series championships and four playoffs appearances fell short without even showing their face in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Free agency 2017-2018 needs to be focused on getting back to the plan. Cycle back to first base and start again.

What would old Coach Hays do?

(Royals Free Agent List as obtained from MLB.com)

Eric Hosmer

  • Let him walk and go cry in the closet for a week. I love the way the kid plays, but he’d bankrupt the organization. Signing him at even 75% of his market value will handcuff the organization for years. They could have possibly pulled this off if they’d shown some discipline and let Alex Gordon walk.

Alcides Escobar 

  • Keep. Escobar can be signed for a reasonable amount. He is a proven defender. His offense fits into a 7-9 in the order batter. He’s a known swimming in a swamp of unknowns. Also will allow the club to try and sell the potential of Raul Mondesi for a couple young arms.

Mike Moustakas 

  • Sayonara, Moose! What does Moose’s production mean in terms of “W”s? Not much. Let me put it in simpler terms. He had a club record 38 homers in 2017 and didn’t even crack 90 RBI’s (85). Solo HRs don’t win baseball games.

Lorenzo Cain

  • Walk. He is 31. At this age, he is already physically breaking down. Money spent on Cain might be money spent remodeling the training room.

Jason Vargas 

  • Walk. He doesn’t have the arm stamina anymore and may not get it back. He should have been dealt at the deadline before his arm withered and he floundered the second half.

Melky Cabrera 

  • Walk. He was in the way of younger outfielders. Bringing him in for the second half of 2017 hindered development of Bonifacio, Orlando, and Soler. The future was now for these young guys. Melky was a waste of time.

Peter Moylan 

  • Keep. He showed promise in the bullpen. Ned just wore him to shreds by mid-August.

Trevor Cahill 

  • Keep him & hope to hell he finds himself. (That’s the subject of my next Royals GM for a Day post…Hope to Hell These Guys Find Themselves.)

Mike Minor

  • Keep. At his price point, it would be a waste to not find out what he can do for the next 2-3 years.

So there’s my Royals GM for a Day, Free Agent Edition. What would you do? Please leave your ideas in the comments section. I’d like to read your ideas! And stay tuned for the next Royals GM for a Day, where we’ll look at the returning roster and dream.

Leave a comment

Filed under Rants, Uncategorized, Writes

R.I.P. Bug Squish

Squishing the bug.

Man, we used to teach this back in the day. Why? Lord knows!

Let’s squash the bug squish, once and for all. In 2017 terms and technology, it’s embarrassing to admit I fell under the spell of the bug squish back in the early 2000’s. The Load/Step/Swing philosophy of hitting I teach today used to be Load/Squish/Swing of yesterday. It’s crazy the way these things spread.

I don’t know how it happened, but the bug squish got out there in the world and people kept passing it along as the secret to good hitting. Looking back through the lens of speculation, it was probably a remnant of early video analysis or maybe just observation.

When you watch a good swing in real time, it looks like the back foot “squishes the bug”. It can be misinterpreted as this back foot, combined with the old school maxim of “pushing” off the back foot, made the outward twist of the batter’s heel look like the initiator of a good swing. It doesn’t though. The back foot twists after the swing starts and the movement of the force from the front foot strike to the hip rotation result in the back foot movement.

  • The Bug Squish screws up a proper and smooth weight transfer from the load to the step. It leaves too much weight on the back foot and results in a loss of force. And lost force = lost bat speed = not driving the ball on a line = not getting on base = making a lot of outs = not getting on base = not scoring runs = not winning games = NO FUN.
  • The Bug Squish screws up your balance. A good swing is built on the foundation of balance. Bad balance and you cannot build an effective or consistent swing.
  • The Bug Squish screws with a hitter’s mind. The hitter becomes so focused on what that back foot is doing, they don’t put all their focus on the ball.

No matter what the stance or the style, the best swings in the game all share the common factor of a good and consistent hitting position. Hitting position is the key. A simple lower body movement to get to hitting position only becomes a complex movement with the introduction of gimmick BS like the bug squish.

It’s 2017. It’s time to bury the bug squish for good. It’s time to look past these old sports coaching myths. It’s time to simplify hitting a baseball.

One of the best pieces of coaching advice I can offer is this: Do not simply teach sports skills or coach simply because that is the way you were coached. Times change. Do the work. Research and field testing and forward-thinking coaches are constantly making improvements to the what we understand about sports science. Technology gives us access to this information like never before.  

Ask questions, search the web, watch coaching video, or attend clinics. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the tools they need to succeed.

When the players find success, they enjoy the sport. When they enjoy the sport, you can get more out of them.

Everybody wins! Right, Crime Dog?

1 Comment

Filed under Coaching, Rants, Training

Halloween 2017 Read: I Am Stretched On Your Grave

“I Am Stretched On Your Grave” is an English translation of an anonymous 17th Century Irish poem called, “Táim sínte ar do thuama” This version of the translation is by Irish author Frank O’Connor. The music version was published in 1979 by Irish musician Phillip King and recorded by his band, Scullion.

This poem drips in sadness and grief. It paints an eerie picture as good as any classic gothic horror classic. It is the perfect poem for a windy, cold, and cloudy Halloween day in Kansas. Many Irish bands besides Scullion have recorded versions of this song. My favorite is the Sinead O’Connor version from her 1990 album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

Happy Halloween! Be safe and try to keep warm. And seriously, doesn’t “Táim sínte ar do thuama” just sound frighteningly awesome?

I Am Stretched On Your Grave

I am stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

When my family thinks
That I’m safe in my bed
From night until morning
I am stretched at your head

Calling out to the air
With tears hot and wild
My grief for the girl
That I loved as a child

Do you remember
The night we were lost
In the shade of the blackthorn
And the chill of the frost

Thanks be to Jesus
We did what was right
And your maiden head still
Is your pillar of light

The priests and the friars
Approach me in dread
Because I still love you
My love and you’re dead

I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm
And with you in your cold grave
I cannot sleep warm

So I’m stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

Written by F. O’Connor, P. King • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads, Writes

Post #400! The Alien Dog Attack Saga

Unbelievable! This is the 400th post on The Coach Hays Blog. Who knew so much stupidity could reside in one place? Certainly not me when I start this little shindig back in 2010. One of the first bits of stupidity was this serialized story called Alien Dog Attack. It all started with a picture and kept going driven by a single goal…to make my mother laugh. It worked.

For the 400th post, here’s Alien Dog Attack and links to the Parts 2-9. I just realized today I did not finish the story. There is no Part 10. I’ll work on it.

I’m also sharing this story in the celebration of the dog who inspired the story, our chocolate lab, Sophie. She passed away at a few weeks ago. She sat right next to me for the writing of most of these 400 posts. She gave the best writing advice, was a great sounding board, and she’ll be missed as old Coach Hays pushes forward to the next 400 posts.  As will the real Big Bad Bud, who was the baddest ass cat I’ve ever been around.

Alien Dog Attack #1

It’s here! Run and hide! The Hays house was invaded this afternoon. The mom was able to click a quick photo of the invader before we were forced to take deeper cover. We are currently fighting off the alien attacker from the dining room. We have lost the living room and the office already in the fight. Trying to battle the laser beam ocular weapon of the canine from outer space has proven most difficult. We just don’t have the weapons to hold out much longer…

 

Alien Dog Attack #2

Alien Dog Attack #3

Alien Dog Attack #4

Alien Dog Attack #5

Alien Dog Attack #6

Alien Dog Attack #7

Alien Dog Attack #8

Alien Dog Attack #9

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads, Uncategorized, Writes