Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Steeler Way

The Pttsburgh Steelers, with another  team of virtual nobody’s, are in the Super Bowl again.  I heard something astounding about the Steelers the other day on ESPN Radio.  Since 1975, the Steelers have had only seven sub .500 (losing) seasons. That means over that 35 year time period, in an age where the very league they participate in (THE NFL) legislates parity and a organization quality cycle, the Pittsburgh Steelers had winning seasons 80% of the time. That is a remarkable success rate that goes far beyond the raw athletic talent on the field.
How do they do it?  (Here are the humble opinions and observations of Coach Hays)
A. Plan
The Steelers ownership have a vision of what they want to accomplish.  They paint the picture of what their vision looks like and post it on the wall for all in the management to see.  They then sit down and decide how they want to go about the business of attaining the goal.  In other words, they develop the personality of what their team needs to be. Once they know what they want to do and how they want to go about doing it, they take their picture of their goal vision off the wall and cut it up into pieces, much like a jigsaw puzzle.
B. Personnel
The Steelers ownership goes about finding the people that fit each piece of the big picture puzzle.  First the outside frame pieces are found and assembled, the right general manager, a top flight scouting staff, the right head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators and position coaches.  Now, the magic begins.  The aforementioned group watches hours of film, performs thousands of scouting visits, hundreds of interviews to find, select and sign the individual athletes that fit perfectly, like a glove, into each of the puzzle pieces.  Once each piece is found, the often undervalued ability in the NFL  to coach each of these pieces into a proper “fit” in the puzzle picture occurs.  Finally, the goal and vision picture is now ready to assemble from the pieces.
Personnel Note:
37 men on the Pittsburgh Steelers 53 man roster for the Super Bowl are homegrown draft picks or un-drafted free agent signings.  Here is a list of their first round draft choices of the past decade.  Impressive.
2001 Casey Hampton (DT)
2002 Kendall Simmons (G)
2003 Troy Polamalu (DB)
2004 Ben Roethisberger (QB)
2005 Heath Miller (TE)
2006 Santonio Holmes (WR)
2007 Lawrence Timmons (LB)
2008 Rashard Mendenhall (RB)
2009 Ziggy Hood (DT)
2010 Maurkice Pouncey (C)
C. Performance
Through the course of the season, the organization goes about the business of working through the peaks and valleys of a 16 game NFL season in order to hang the picture back in a place of esteem on the wall.  In the case of 2010-2011 season, that place of esteem is a return to the Super Bowl.
Calm and steady, moving forward one step at a time. Every man does their job on every play. Blue collar, hard hat, lunch pail, sprinkled with a healthy dose of Pittsburgh attitude.  That is the Steeler Way.

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Did You Just Call Me a Wuss?

Rest Day Read (SR-72)

Are Americans Wusses or Just Fond of Trash Talk?

by Jeffrey Zaslow in Wall Street Journal

[Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell belittled the NFL for postponing an Eagles-Vikings football game because of a snowstorm. “We’ve become a nation of wusses,” he said.]

[Gov. Rendell says he was stunned by the interest in his comments, but on reflection, he now understands why his words stung. “Our country was founded by incredible risk-takers,” he says. They were an army of farmers and shopkeepers, and they fought knowing that if they lost, they’d be hung. We seem to have lost our boldness.”]

[The United States defined itself by its pioneer spirit. “We were the brash Paul Bunyan nation with a don’t-tread-on-us culture,” says John Strausbaugh, author of the 2008 book SISSY NATION.]

[“We’re now a culture focused more on safety than freedom,” says Steve Olson, a 41-year-old IT manager in Savage, Minn. He dates the change in America to sometime between 1984, when “baby-on-board” signs were first seen on minivans, and 1988, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lawn darts.]

[Ms. (Lisa) DeNoia was bothered by coverage of Gov. Rendell’s remarks. In a letter to him, she wrote: “We’re not a nation of wusses. We’re a nation of fearless, bumbling morons in pickup trucks who like to drink beer, go shirtless in the freezing cold for football, and drive in blizzards.” She argued that true leaders are mature enough to make unpopular decisions to protect the public’s safety.]

“Did you just call me a wuss? Meet me back here then in 20 minutes, I need to get my gloves, my mouthpiece, headguard, my inflatable body suit and my Chuck Norris SAFELY KICKING ASS, THE WALKER TEXAS RANGER WAY manual. You are getting a good old fashioned butt whipping today, my friend!

Have we gone too far in America? Have we swung too far to the side of trying to make everything as safe as humanly possible that we actually have become weaker? Safety is good, don’t get me wrong, but have we taken it to the point where we are worried more about complete prevention from bad things rather than preparation for bad things. We work to completely prevent the bump on the head, the cut on the arm or being bullied in school but we do not work to prepare ourselves and those we love to deal with these things.

We will fail, we will lose, we will get hurt. These things are all part of life and part of living in a great free society as we do. We need to be prepared to deal with these things so that we may learn and move
forward as better individuals and society.

If we give everyone a trophy, we basically give no one a trophy.

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Pancakes, Well Done.

We decided to have breakfast for dinner.  Frick and Frack had things to do so we needed to get it on the table quickly.  Frick made potato pancakes, Frack sausage and scrambled eggs, the Mom pancakes.  All was good in the world.  The table was set and the Mom put the last four dollops of batter on the griddle.  Being in a hurry, we sat down, said grace and ate.  Stories from the day were told, with jokes and laughter sprinkled in between.  Also around the table, brown dog and black dog begging for food.  It was the usual Hays family dinner.

About 25 minutes into dinner, Frack gets up to leave for his event.  He walks into the kitchen and says, “Umm, I think we forgot the pancakes on the griddle.”  We turn to see smoke billowing from the griddle on the stove.  The Mom ran into the kitchen and pulled the griddle from the burner.  Those pancakes were burnt, burnt, burnt black.  The Mom, with a few choice words, took the griddle outside and dumped the pancakes onto the back porch.

She returned and sat down at the table wondering why none of us noticed the pancakes burning.  Dead silence pervades the table.  I looked to Frick, no comment.  I looked to Frack, no comment.  I looked to black dog on my right hip, I looked to brown dog on my left hip and say the only thing that pops into my head,

“Nice job of warning us of eminent danger, dogs!  Maybe you two need to watch a little more Lassie.”

Laughter takes over.

Four things I learned from this incident:

1. Pancakes may be an effective and cheap insulating material to protect the space shuttle on re-entry.

2. I LOVE breakfast for dinner, especially when potato pancakes are involved.

3.  Dogs, especially ones not possessing Lassie-like rescue skills, will eat anything.  Even very crispy, blackened pancakes.

4. NOTHING beats laughing and talking around the dinner table with your wife and kids.  Well worth being engaged to the point where pancakes are forgotten and subsequently burn on the griddle.

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We must remember, so that we may never forget.

Rest Day Read (SR-70)

“I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

I know we have all heard and seen excerpts from this great speech many times, but we must continue to listen to the message. We must remember, so that we may never forget.

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Coach Lane’s Ball-On-A-Stick

Coach Lane’s Creations: Ball-On-A-Stick

Back when I was coaching football, if we coaches needed something, Coach Paul Lane would always find a way to take care of us. Always. The admins gave us a budget and support that could generously be described as nada.  But Coach Lane made the most of every penny, quite a few which were his own.

If I said, “Coach Lane, I could sure use a measuring stick to check offensive lineman splits on the fly during practice.”, lo and behold, a 5 foot long “T” PVC pipe Split-O-Meter would appear with a “T” piece our standard split length of 3 foot.  Plus he added a feature of a painted black region in the middle of the PVC pipe for measuring our shorter split of 2 foot.  Amazing!

If I said, “Coach Lane, I could sure use some pull-up bars that connect to the steel roof supports of the wrestling room.”  Presto!  I would show up Monday morning and there are half a dozen pull-up stations, made of iron pipe securely connected into the supports.  Remarkable!

When I needed some way to hang homemade gymnastics rings from those same supports, the chains disappeared from the Lane home’s porch swing and found themselves placed into action. (Poor Mrs. Coach Lane’s beautiful porch swing was temporarily out of commission. Sorry Mrs. Lane.)

But, one of the greatest Coach Paul Lane’s feats of engineering was the Ball-On-A-Stick.

Ball-On-A-Stick.  A ball, on a stick, that we used to simulate football snaps for defensive line drills.  We wanted our d-line to react to ball movement cues and not verbal or sound cues from the opposing QBs, so we used the Ball-On-A-Stick in our drills.

A few weeks ago, one of the last remaining players that I coached stopped by the house one evening just as I was arriving home from work.  He stopped his truck right in the middle of the street and got out smiling ear to ear.  He opened his toolbox and pulled out the Ball-On-A-Stick. I was so happy I was virtually moved to tears.  I thought it would be long forgotten and discarded.

“I saved it, Coach. Out of the trash” he said. “Thought you might want to have it back.” (Can you see why I loved coaching these kids?)

Well, ole’ Ball-On-A-Stick has seen better days.  Coach Lane made a beautiful marvel of football technology with the fresh-off-the-showroom version.  New and shiny NERF football silicone sealed to a brand spanking new broomstick (Sorry, again Mrs. Lane), a real work of art.

The ball is held onto the stick with athletic tape now.  Why you ask?  Because a certain young center who will remain nameless, once thought of the Ball-On-A-Stick as a golf club.  But, #58’s golf skills were lacking, his golf stoke similar to a rusty gate and he duffed his attempted swing across the ground breaking the silicone seal and sending the NERF ball fluttering to ground 20 yards away.  To say I was mad, well…

The Ball-On-A-Stick has been tossed, slammed, fought over and trashed.  The poor handle was even bent one practice during a Coach Hays temper tantrum incident.

But it survives.  The Ball-On-A-Stick now sits next to my desk.  It is a reminder of how much fun we had.  It is a reminder of how well Coach Paul Lane treated us, the coaches, the players and the entire Tiger Football Program.

Now, if we could just locate that Split-O-Meter…

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Josh Hamiliton’s ESPN the Mag List

Rest Day Read (SR-68)

Josh Hamilton’s The List Cover

from ESPN the Magazine The List Issue, September 20, 2010

As we start the new year and re-evaluate ourselves, I thought the photo of Josh Hamilton’s arm tatoo, modified with his list of life priorities, is an excellent place to start.

GOD

HUMILITY

FAMILY

SOBRIETY

BASEBALL

If you don’t know Josh Hamilton’s story, he went from teenage phenom baseball prospect, to drug addict, to recovery, to determination-fueled comeback, to MLB MVP.  Quite an inspiring story.

Stay humble and don’t allow yourself to get too high.  Never give up when you get too low. ALWAYS trust in God.

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TIME

Time
I don’t know if it was the winding down of another year or the Doctor Who marathon or the accumalation of 46 and a half years or some other reminder of the constancy of continuum, but as we rip the wrapping paper off 2011 and kick 2010 to the curb, I find myself pondering Time.

Game time, halftime, overtime, time out, breakfast time, lunchtime, snack time, dinnertime, nap time, bedtime, work time, rest time, buy time, lose time, spend time, waste time, crunch time, summertime, wintertime, oldtime, timeout, time flies, time to fly, movie time, school time, party time, down time, up time, bath time, mail time, tee time, tea time, real time, good times, bad times, my time, your time, running time, dead time, .

Time as we define it is arbritrary, a man-made representation of the circadian clock of eons.  The Time of ages and of earth runs deep and beyond imaginable scale.  Older than old.  Older than dirt.  Older than even crayons.  Geologic Time.

Time does fly, constant and true.  Time moves in the rhythm of the universe, always forward, always plodding, always methodical.  Our God allows us to jump on the ride for our allotted period.  We need to make the most of this Time, this “our” Time.

Time is precious.  Ask a terminally ill person, someone on the furthest precipice of their Time, they will tell you how precious Time is.  Like the song says, “we should live like we are dying”.  Maybe we should redefine our birth day as our first step to death, the first day of the end of our life, the day our battery is charged to capacity.  Morbid, true, but would we waste less of our precious Time if we viewed it as a finite commodity?  Would we strive to enjoy our Time to the fullest, strive to be “the best me I can be”?  Would we appreciate our legacy and accomplishments more to the point where we would act daily to build them?  I would hope so.

As we turn the corner on another year, stop and listen to the constant ticking of the clock, that true biological clock.  Let’s attack life like with the knowledge that our Time is finite, limited.  Let’s resolve to be better every day.  It takes work.  It takes sweat.  Something worth having is something worth working for.  Don’t waste another tick of the clock.  Get out there and get after it. It’s TIME!

Note: If you think of more “times” to add to the list I have started above, just add it to a comment. Let’s see how many “times” we can accumulate.

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