Building a Clay Center Public Recreation Plan

I believe in the power of community recreation. Recreation is one of the foundations of community wellness and an important piece of the economic development pie. The goal is singular—to provide the largest number of kids/adults/seniors with the most opportunities to learn and grow—for the least amount of money.

Last week, I attended the Public Recreation budget hearing with the Clay Center City Council. I thought the city made an excellent decision to increase accountability in the Public Recreation budget by combining all the accounts into one budget. My hope is this allows for money to be spent on expanding recreation opportunities in the future.

In the public comment session of the budget hearing, I asked the city council what the six-month plan was for recreation in Clay Center. In 1 year? In 5 years?

The reorganization of the department has been in place and active for over a year and has been in a planning stage for the past three years. Yet, there has been little change in operations. Hence, my question about a Clay Center Recreation Plan.

As things sometimes happen when one attends a meeting, one asks a question and when nobody has an answer, the question gets turned around. I asked the question about a vision and a plan and then the mayor asks if I had any suggestions for a short-term and long-term recreation plan. As a matter of fact, my cohorts and I have ten years of ideas!

But before I submit my thoughts on recreation, I want to see what ideas people in and around Clay Center have. I want to pick the brains of parents with kids of all ages. I want to hear ideas from adults of all ages of what they’d like to see offered as community recreation. I want to hear from current high school students and young adults who’ve recently left town for work, college, or just to escape…what do you wish you had while growing up in Clay Center?

Here are a few things to think about while you’re pondering ideas to pass along:

Opportunities

We have a great network of youth sports and youth activities offered through clubs and individuals. My ideal Public Recreation system is a hub to provide support, advice, promotion, and access to facilities for these existing organizations while providing new activities and services to fill the gaps. These new activities should not all be about sports. Hobbies, games, community reads, arts, etc. should all be included. An ideal Public Recreation is not just for young children and offers recreation opportunities to all citizens of all ages all year round.

Limits

As you think of things you wish to see in a Public Recreation Department, keep in mind there are fixed limitations.

  • Mill levy is controlled by law and generates around $27,000 per year. Any increase in funds will need to come from participation fees, sponsorships, etc.
  • The new departmental organization actually reduced manpower.
    • Old Parks Department
      • Director
      • 2 Employees
      • Part-time recreation director
    • New Parks & Recreation
      • Director
      • 2 Employees

If you have any ideas, I want to know what you’re thinking! Please leave a comment here or on the Facebook post or email me at: coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com.

And, as always, feel free to share this post with people you think might be interested in contributing a few good ideas.

Thank you, CC!

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“Never be good for any thing.”

What good, Isaac’s mother and the servants wondered, was such a bookish boy? The servants thought he was “silly” and “would never be good for any thing.”

         – from Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure, 2017, Candlewick Press

Ten years ago, I was getting ready for what would become my final season of coaching football. The reasons why that ended are inconsequential. Things happen. In these ten years, though, I’ve learned a lot of new things and done things I never dreamed possible. One of the highlights has been seeing those young men I had the honor to coach become awesome husbands, fathers, business owners, farmers, teachers, coaches, and citizens.

That is a pretty sweet feeling.

I like the quote above from a great middle-grade nonfiction book called, Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d. As you can see, most of the people in Isaac Newton’s young life, the locals, the servants, and even his own mother, didn’t think he would ever “…be good for any thing.” That’s pretty harsh! It’s extremely harsh when you think that nobody in one of the greatest scientists to ever walk the planet’s young life believed in him. Not one person saw the potential in the young Isaac.

The same happened to many of those young football and baseball players I mentioned above. Some were as ornery as all get-go. Some weren’t the greatest of athletes. Some weren’t even able to spell “honor roll” on the best of days. Some of these kids were told or shown on a daily basis they did not matter. They didn’t fit the mold so they deserved no attention or breaks.

Teachers, parents, and coaches, don’t be the one who tells the kids in your life they “would never be good for any thing.” Find something positive in everyone no matter how deep you have to scrape. See the good through all the bad.

As another season rolls around, coaches from 1st year to 30-year, take a minute to look around at the faces that show up in the locker room. Teachers, as the doors open on another school year, study the faces of the kids you are handed.

  • Make a difference in each of those individuals.
  • Make an impression on them and allow them to make an impression on you.
  • Believe in them even if you are the only adult in their life that does.
  • Let them believe and trust in you.

Cultivate something that will allow you to smile in ten years when those obnoxious, boisterous, and cocky kids grow up and become likable adults against everyone’s expectations.

Take it from an old ball coach, it is well worth it!

Never lose faith in your players, your students, your children. No matter how dark the days seem, grab tightly to that one strand of awesome in them that sometimes only you can see.

Because…if a good-for-nothing kid like that lazy, book-toting Isaac Newton can grow up to be SIR ISAAC NEWTON, then every kid has a chance!

Good luck to all coaches and teachers!

Make the difference in young lives.

Enjoy the ride!

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Getting Better: Extended Arms Baseball Swing

I’m not actively coaching a team but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning as a coach. An athlete and a coach should never stop striving to be better. Getting better every day has been a foundation of my sports philosophy from the time I first learned what a philosophy was. In other words, a long time.

One of the positive side effects of a “Get Better Every Day” philosophy is it often bleeds over into other aspects of life. Family, work, hobbies, etc. all fall under this way of approaching life.

If you’re not getting better, what are you getting?

If you’re not moving forward, you are sliding backward.

Even though I’m not actively coaching, I still try to learn as much as I can about the two things in sports I truly love. Hitting a baseball and blocking in football.

I subscribe to more email coaching newsletters that I’m willing to publicly admit. One of those, though, is a newsletter from Baseball Rebellion. I like their website. I like their approach. I like the scientific slant they use to teach baseball. It’s not overly technical. They use it to explain not overwhelm. Honestly, it’s kind of a baseball nerd’s dream.

This week’s newsletter featured their Ball in Back Arm Drill. The video is below.

We taught, and continue to teach, the importance of a short, powerful swing. Arm extension prior to the bat head driving into the contact zone results in loss of swing power. I have a trusted toolbox of drills to teach a tight front arm angle, fence swings, knee tee, front hand swings, bat throw, a consistent focus on pulling the bat through the zone instead of pushing the bat through the zone, etc. What I don’t have are solid developmental drills to help cure another common technical error in young hitters, the straight extension of the back arm.

Signs of swinging with an extended back arm are:

  1. Slow, wide swing arc.
  2. Swinging “over” the ball.
  3. Majority of contact results in weak ground balls to the opposite field.
  4. Rolling over (where the top hand moves over the bottom hand prior to contact).

These symptoms of extended arms on a swing are probably things you see a lot if you’re coaching or parenting the transition from coach/machine pitch to kid pitch. If so, do the work, find solutions, and put your kids through the drills to break this habit before it affects their ability to hit a baseball as they grow and mature. (And remember that one of the top reasons kids quit playing baseball is the game becomes no longer fun because they can’t hit a baseball.)

I’m going to do some work on the Ball in Back Arm Drill. I’ll do some more reading. I’ll get the trusty old George Brett Lousiville Slugger out of the closet, grab a ball, and see how it works. If it looks promising, I’ll work it into some hitting sessions with several of our older kids who struggle with the extended back arm and then to some youth hitters. I’ll report back my findings at some point.

If you try this drill or have tried this drill, share your experience in the comments or send me a message. And please go check our Baseball Rebellion and Baseball Excellence. Two exceptional resources.

Life (and sport) is an experiment. Get out there and discover!

 

 

 

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MLB Unofficial Commissioner 2018

I’ve been lax in my role as MLB Unofficial Commissioner so far in the 2018 season. My Royals are a dumpster fire so I’ve spent too much brain power figuring out their problems. Royals 2018 = Historically bad. The Royals and the Baltimore Orioles did something that’s never been done in the entire history of Major League Baseball. It’s the first time two teams have been below .300 at the Fourth of July point of the season. 

But I still listen to almost every game. They’re my team…for better or worse. 

There are a couple of issues which have been causing a lot of fuss over the past two seasons. The time it takes to play an MLB game and the defensive shift.  There’s been so much fuss, I’ve decided it’s time to step into my Unofficial Comish role and suggest a few changes. 

First, I have to rant against the anti-shifting crowd. Hitters have to adjust. Pitchers have to adjust. Managers, GMs, owners, scouts, and umpires have to adjust. It’s part of the game. Always has been, always will be. Hitters and coaches quit whining and start adjusting.  Common sports sense states if the defense is giving you an open third of the field, take advantage of it. Burn their strategy. Do what it takes to succeed. Be a competitor instead of a whiner. 

Okay, I feel better. Now on to my solution to those two current problems. 

  1. Put in a pitch clock similar to the shot clock in basketball. 30 seconds might be a good place to start and adjustments made until a comfortable length of time is determined.
  2. Each defender must start with both feet in their traditional defensive zone. The defenders can then shift when the windup starts. 

There you go. Simple solutions to complex problems. 

On a side note, with the limits on mound visits this year, why do managers still burn a mound visit to make run-of-the-mill pitching changes? Just stand up at the top of the dugout steps, call time, and point to the bullpen. Save the mound visits for strategy and technical visits. 

Enjoy the rest of the 2018 season! It’s shaping up to be a wild run to a World Series title.

Feel free to discuss or propose your own solution(s). My unofficial office door is always open to ideas.

Take care and “PLAY BALL!”

Unofficial MLB Commissioner is signing off.

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The World Book

One of the questions directed to the 2018 nErDcamp Kansas author panel was to name our favorite book. This is a tough question for me. To some, though, it’s an easy question and many of the authors listed book titles without hesitation. I’ve always been a little envious of the people who express such resolution and love for a book or books, especially when it comes time to name the books from one’s childhood.

href=”https://coachhays.com/2018/07/04/the-world-book/img_1587/” rel=”attachment wp-att-4377″> The nErDcamp KS 2018 Crew[/

I had a tough time learning to read. It was a struggle. I’d look at the page of text and see an overwhelming mishmash of words and letters. I’m sure that now I would have been diagnosed early and prescribed a program for my reading disorder, but those things were rare in early 1970’s education. Especially in a lower middle class Catholic school and even more so for an early elementary school kid who seemed to keep his head above water in class. I was lucky, though. I had parents and a few teachers who noticed my problem and put me on the road to reading. My most vivid, non-recess, non-field trip, non-playday memories of first and second grade are when my teacher or a volunteer aide would pull me aside to another room and work with me on the Controlled Reader projector.

In the dark, quiet classroom, I learned to focus on the left word of a sentence and move slowly to the right. I practiced and practice from one filmstrip to the next on moving my eyes from right to left. I practiced this without moving my head. Things got better!

Reading was possible.

(There’s a really cool Wired story by writer Lisa Wood Shapiro on how she works to overcome her dyslexia and how technology is helping people become readers.) 

We didn’t have a boatload of books around the house when I was growing up but we had some. I learned to be a better reader through the assistance of my teachers and parent but I still struggled through the middle grades to actually BE a reader. I loved the JUNGLE BOOK. The Disney movie captivated me from a very early age. We had a series of illustrated classics with about twenty pages of text per illustration. TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS, TREASURE ISLAND, a few other titles I can’t remember, and the JUNGLE BOOK.

I loved that book.

But I never read that book.

I picked the book off the shelf a thousand times. I looked at the pictures a thousand times. Each time I tried to read that book but I reverted back to seeing each page as an intimidating blob of letters and words. Frustration would set in and I’d snap the book shut and return it to the shelf.

I know I should have said something to my parents or teachers. I should have sought out help. But I was a big, shy kid and didn’t want to trouble anyone with this embarrassing problem.

Then something wonderful happened. A salesman came around the house and convinced my parents to buy a set of the World Book encyclopedia. My parents made a difficult decision to spend money we really didn’t have on this set of books. They even splurged for the annual yearbook!

I found my reading life in those encyclopedias. School work forced me to open them but the magic of information given in short bursts of text and pictures contained within was pure magic. Something clicked in my reader-brain. I figured it out.

I slowly became a better reader and a smarter kid. The set of World Book encyclopedias led to the Guinness Book of World Records which led to comics which led to the Hardy Boys which led to…my eventually reading the JUNGLE BOOK as an adult. And you know what? It was as fantastic as the story I held in my head all those years.  

So next time I’m asked at an author event what my favorite book was, I have an answer.

The World Book.

Hands down.

After my Dad died in 2015 and my Mom was preparing to move out of their house, she called and asked me what I wanted of their stuff. I know her “stuff” meant furniture, dishes, etc. but I, without hesitation said I would like to have the World Book encyclopedias and yearbooks they used for the past twenty years as a decoration on top of the cabinets in their kitchen.

My Mom laughed and thought I was joking. She still thinks that. She’ll probably never know how important those books were to me and how huge of a role they played in making me who I am today. I probably never really knew how much of a sacrifice it was for my parents to make the investment to buy this set of encyclopedias and the annual yearbook every year. These books are history. Part of our history.

Reading is reading is reading is reading.

Let kids read what works for them.

Reading is indeed a superpower.

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Joy in Mudville?

It was going to be a solid Memorial Day. I really only had one thing on the must-do list. And that was to clean the garage since, you know, it’s May and the weather will fall perfectly in the low 80’s, right?

First thing that happened, my glasses broke so I had to wear my old, scratched lenses pair.

Second thing, I was supposed to have a phone meeting this morning about a writerly project. It was a pretty nice morning so I thought (about 10 minutes before the scheduled start), “Hey, why not move the computer, notebooks, beverages, writing instruments, etc. outside to enjoy the outdoors?

So I scramble around and get set up. I powered up the laptop and logged in. Guess what? The low battery warning started flashing! I didn’t have it plugged into the charger properly. I rush into the house, get the charger, get the extension cord, and solve that issue with a few minutes to spare.

Five minutes into the meeting, a friendly bird deposited its friendly digestive waste material smack onto my laptop screen. Friendly bird is probably a slight misnomer as judging from the size of the poo spread across the screen, that bird may have been a condor. Fortunately, Mrs. Hays just made some handcrafted table coverings for the patio table and this particular one is very similar in color and design to the friendly bird poo.

With the monitor clean and clear, the meeting goes well and we’re cruising right along the road of creative accomplishment. The sun rises over the garage and is shining full intensity on the patio table. It’s hot and needless to say, the corner of the tablecloth dries rapidly. Mid-sentence, my phone beeps, and the line goes dead. My attention is drawn to the high-temperature warning on the phone and the small print advises me to cool the phone down before it will function.

Meeting over…

Third thing, the garage. Okay, for the record, there really isn’t a good weather situation to clean a garage. But instead of the hopeful low 80’s, slight breeze, beautiful May day I had in my dreams, it’s 98. And humid. And there’s barely a breeze blowing except for the one which continually slams the door shut. A miserable job made even more miserable.

Well, the garage is clean. The garage gym is in order and has shed its layer of winter dust and junk being stacked on, in, and around the exercise areas. Since I was already sweaty and dirty and grumpy, I went ahead and did the first FamFit workout of the year. There was also a bonus because I was able to catch a few episodes of our local radio station’s annual playback of their archived Memorial Day interviews with local veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars.

So, all in all, it was a successful Memorial Day 2018. I’ll get my glasses fixed this week. The writerly meeting went well. The garage is clean. My legs are sore as hell. I talked to my mother, had dinner with my family and am now watching my favorite team, the KC Royals. Pretty solid, right?

Oh yeah, the most important thing?

I’m thankful for the sacrifice of our veterans and their families who made my day, including all its trivial ups and the downs, possible.

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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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