Monthly Archives: August 2010

Striving to Excellence: Harrison Bergeron

Rest Day Read (SR-44)

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.”

Masterpiece, an absolute masterpiece in only 2200 words. Mr. Vonnegut published Harrison Bergeron in 1961. It was relevant then and still (maybe even more) relevant now. Think about it. Think about our education system. Actually, pick any system. Excellence is thwarted, mediocrity is preferred. Kids, adults, athletes, etc., all who strive to excel must fight through many hurdles in order to succeed. They inadvertently become stronger spirits because of these efforts. Success isn’t bringing everybody down to a level of mediocre equality. Success is achieved by allowing excellence to push forward, creating a draft that pulls everything with it. Everything is made better for everyone.

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A Coach Hays Rant: Compartment Syndrome, Supplements, Etc.

Rest Day Read(SR-43)
Mystery Illness Strikes 12 High School Football Players
by Dean Shabner, ABC News
Compartment Syndrome, Rhabdomyolysis, Affect McMinnville Players
by Amy Judd
Compartment Syndrome Hits High School Football Team
by Dr. Michael Smith, MD @ WebMD
Creatine a Culprit in Oregon Compartment Syndrome Cases?
by Kim Carollo, ABC News Medical Unit

When I first heard and read of this “outbreak” of Compartment Syndrome/Rhabdomyolysis in Oregon, I can honestly say the warning bells started going off in my head. Why did this happen? What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future? How much is too much for high school athletes?
I tried to find articles to present all sides of the story. I don’t know if you can blame creatine supplements.  I don’t know if you can blame the adults for pushing the kids too far, too early in too much heat. I do know that wherever the blame lies, the behavioral factors must be prevented in the future.
I am a firm believer in The Performance Triangle (Hydration, Nutrition and Rest) for high school athletes in training. In fact, I published an article on The Performance Triangle several years ago in a football magazine called Gridiron Strategies. The article covered what I preached to the kids I coached and trained over the nine years I was allowed to work with athletes. I am not a believer in supplements, except in very, very rare situations. Whenever a kid asks me about creatine or other supplements, I first ask them to tell me what exactly the supplement does. They rarely know (Creatine phosphate, for example, helps restore muscle energy stores after extremely long intense work). They just heard by word of mouth that Product X really works and usually are doubling or tripling the recommended dose! I would explain how the supplement works then have the athlete log in a notebook their food, fluid and sleep habits over a week period. After looking at the weekly log, we can find a hydration/nutrition/rest solution to help them out 99.99% of the time. I only advised one kid in nine years to try creatine phosphate. He worked his butt off daily, ate well, drank well and slept 8+ a night and was able to benefit from the supplement taken at recommended dosage.
I believe HARD WORK IS THE MAGIC. I believe kids develop a body confidence and positive self-image through their hard work. I believe kids develop a trust and belief in themselves through their hard work that cannot be equaled. I think supplements rob this from athletes. The confidence is developed in the supplement, not in themselves. There is no magic pill, there is no easy way, HARD WORK IS THE MAGIC.

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What Happens to a Linebacker’s Neurons?

Rest Day Read (SR-42)
The Brain: What Happens to a Linebacker’s Neurons?
by Carl Zimmer (Discover Magazine July-Aug, 2010)
“The brain floats in a sealed chamber of cerebrospinal fluid, like a sponge in a jar of water. If you quickly sit down in a chair, you accelerate your brain. The force you generate can cause it to swirl around and shift its shape inside the braincase. The brain is constantly twisting, stretching, and squashing within your head. Given the delicacy of the organ—a living brain has the consistency of custard—it is amazing that we manage to get to the end of each day without suffering severe damage.”
“It turns out that axons are remarkably elastic. They can stretch out slowly to twice their ordinary length and then pull back again without any harm. Axons are stretchy due in part to their flexible internal skeleton. Instead of rigid bones, axons are built around structural elements, mostly bundles of filaments called microtubules. When an axon stretches, these microtubules can slide past one another. If the movement is gradual, the microtubules will immediately slide back into place after the stretching stops, with no harm done.

If (Dr. Douglas) Smith delivers a quick, sharp puff of air, however, something else entirely happens. Instead of recoiling smoothly, the axon develops kinks. Over the next 40 minutes, the axon gradually returns to its regular shape, but after an hour a series of swellings appears. Each swelling may be up to 50 times as wide as the normal diameter of the axon. Eventually the axon falls apart.”

“Smith’s research also suggests that even mild shocks to the brain can cause serious harm. If he hit his axons with gentle puffs of air, they didn’t swell and break. Nevertheless, there was a major change in their molecular structure. Axons create the electric current that allows them to send signals by drawing in negatively charged sodium atoms. A moderate stretch to an axon, Smith recently found, causes the sodium channels to malfunction.

Smith suspects that such a mended axon may be able to go on working, but only in a very frail state. Another stretch—even a moderate one—can cause the axon to go haywire…in a runaway feedback loop. The axon dies like a shorted-out circuit.

This slower type of axon death may happen when someone suffers mild but repeated brain injuries, exactly the kind that football players experience as they crash into each other in game after game. Cognitive tests like the ones at this year’s N.F.L. combine can pinpoint the mental troubles that come with dysfunctional or dying axons. There is precious little research to indicate how long a football player should be sidelined in order to let his brain recover, though, and Smith’s experiments don’t offer much comfort. Preliminary brain studies show that axons are still vulnerable even months after an initial stretch.”

Scary. That what this is. Scary for parents, coaches and administrators of athletes, especially football athletes. This research in the cellular mechanisms of brain injuries by Dr. Douglas Smith at the U of Pennsylvania Center for Brain Injury and Repair, shows a problem much deeper than previously thought.

I’ve read reports of dementia, speech loss, headaches, ALS-like syndrome and even severe depression associated with multiple concussions in football players. I remember my own players asking me things like, “Coach, let’s go to the bake sale and buy cookies”, DURING football games. On ESPN radio several years ago, Merril Hodge, an ex-NFL player with the Steelers and now ESPN analyst, told his story of a two year period after he retired (due to head injuries) where he could not even walk around the block at his own home because he would get lost.

Fortunately, many groups, led by the NFL, have taken the first steps in identifying, treating and preventing traumatic brain injuries. Hopefully, the more we learn about the causes of the damage, the more we can begin to formulate treatments and preventions.

As football starts for the 2010 season, please be careful out there young men. Be smart and keep your head out of the game!

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All-Star Football Quote 2010

I have seen hundreds of great quotes in my years in sport.  Football probably leads the pack in the sheer number of great quotations.  I have listed a couple examples from my vast collection:

“Winning is not a sometime thing;  its an all the time thing.” – Vince Lombardi

“He who is not with me is against me.” -Luke 11:23

“Winners do the things that losers will not do.”  -Unknown

“When the opponent puts their head on the chopping block, chop it off ” -Coach Hays

But as I was reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, I came across what may be the best football quote ever.

“Oh dear,” said the woman (a very British woman), paling slightly.  “I’ve never really like the Yanks (Americans)…you can’t trust people who pick up the ball all the time when they play football.”

How can you argue with that?


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Ah Kansas, I’m kneeling. Ah Kansas, please.

Rest Day Read (SR-41)
Salina by The Avett Brothers
Salina, I am as nowhere as I can be.
Could you add some somewhere to me?
Ah Kansas, I’m kneeling. Ah Kansas, please”

I do love this opening line to Salina by The Avett Brothers. Not the most flattering of lines for my home state, but there are days in this state where I kneel with them and beg for mercy. I am a “born and raised in Kansas” Kansan. I love this state, but things can get brutal here, especially on the meteorological front. I can relate to the sentiment of the Avetts. Yesterday, for example we are moving about 25 government, industrial strength picnic tables from Milford Lake State Park in Wakefield, Kansas to the site of an outdoor wedding of one of my favorite former football players, which is to be held this week in Clay Center, Kansas. It was 103 degrees F with a 110 degree heat index. Ah, Kansas, I’m kneeling. Ah, Kansas, please!

My highlight of the day is represented in the conversation below. At one point we had to fix a flat on a borrowed pick-up pulling a borrowed trailer on which we almost lost a wheel when the lug nuts came loose. We had finished the trailer wheels and several ex-high school former football players were waiting for the tire to be put back on the truck. We were sweating and sharing ice water out of a plastic squeeze gatorade bottle someone, who will remain nameless, apparently stolen from their former high school athletics department. Here is a conglomeration of the discussion that occurred, with Editorial G-Rated Word Substitutes [EGRWS] added where appropriate.
“Dude, this sucks!”
“Why does it have to be so durn blasted [EGRWS] hot?”
“It’s August, in Kansas, you idiot.”
“No, I mean it is always either too hot or too cold in this flipping [EGRWS]place!”
“That ain’t no bull-oney[EGRWS]!”
“Dude, this sucks!”
“I just don’t fudge-cicle eating [EGRWS] understand it. Why is it so hot here in the summer but so freaking [EGRWA] cold in the winter?”
“You got that right, winter and summer are real son’s of britches [EGRWS]”
“Look on the bright side, boys. We get about two days of the most perfect weather on the planet in the spring and maybe four or so perfect days in the fall. Maybe these are just the price we have to pay…”
“Hays, kiss my astronomy [EGRWS]”
“Just an idea.”
“Hey, why don’t you guys get off your Assisi’s [EGRWS] and get back to work! Tire’s fixed.”

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St. John the Baptist Relics Found in Bulgaria

Rest Day Read (SR-40)
St. John the Baptist Relics Found in Bulgaria
from the Focus Information Agency
“The relics found in the reliquary on the St. Ivan Island close to the coastal city of Sozopol over the week belong to St. John the Baptist, Radio FOCUS – Burgas reports.
In the reliquary archaeologists found part of a hand, part of the face and a tooth. An anthropological analysis will be made on the relics. The reliquary is made of alabaster and of marble, as archaeologists initially assumed. It was opened by a commission of experts. The relics were handed to the Bulgarian Patriarchate, which will decide where to place them.
According to historian and minister without portfolio Bozhidar Dimitrov, it will best to place the relics at the St. George church, located close to Sozopol. The reliquary on St. Ivan Island was found on July 28.”

St. John the Baptist. One of the special births, one of the special saints. St. John the Baptist. I can relate to him probably more than any other saint. The madman in the desert preaching “REPENT! For the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand!” Radical message, clearing the road for the coming of the Messiah. What an impression he must have made with his preaching. Probably a little scary.  But, he would have the honor of baptizing Jesus, even though he felt he was not worthy to do it. God knew who He could trust with that job that is for sure.
St. John the Baptist, a man of conviction. Preach the Truth, no matter who he would tick off, no matter how much trouble or how unpopular with the powers that be he would become. He would become such a threat to the establishment, it would cost him his life. I imagine those relics found in Bulgaria brought great strength to the monastery on St. Ivan Island.

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