Monthly Archives: August 2018

Football Kickoff 2018 Retro Post

The summer has flown by. They have a habit of doing that when one gets old. It’s football season already! I haven’t written any football posts in a long while. I’ve been a little busy AND I am a newly-minted grandpa. (Side note: This grandpa gig is pretty awesome!)

In lieu of a fresh new look on a fresh new high school football season, here’s a retro post about one of those awesome snapshots of memories from my football coaching days at Clay Center Community High School.

I wish a rewarding season for all the players and the coaches. Get better every day and HAVE FUN!

Go Tigers!

The Snap

The sound. The sharp snap of a chin strap being fastened. It is a beautiful sound; a quick click of metal fastening to metal, followed by the crisp echo as the sound waves move through the plastic shell of the football helmet. A beautiful sound.

We have a unique situation for football in our town. Our stadium, the historic Otto Unruh Stadium, built in the depression by local workers using local limestone, is across town from the high school. So, for the games, we had to ride buses from the school to the stadium. Some may look at this as an inconvenience, but I always thought it was pretty darn cool.

First, it gave the kids a game-mentality to associate with the stadium. We knew when we went to Otto Unruh Stadium, it was game time. We knew it was time to go to work and take care of business.

Second, the bus ride was kind of fun. After a home win, there was nothing better than to drive back across town with cars honking, people waving, and a bus full of singing, happy, sweaty, stinky, beat-up-but-not-feeling-a-lick-of-pain teenage boys. If we lost? Let’s just say the mood was a little more somber.

The most awesome thing, though, was the bus ride out to the Unruh Stadium. We made that ride in total silence. Yes, you read that correctly. 40 teenage boys fully dressed out to play a high school football game, riding in a school bus on a 10-minute drive across town in complete, utter silence. It was one of the many brilliant ideas of Coach Paul Lane.

The kids all knew the Coach Lane Silence Drill, especially on the second bus which carried most of the lineman and younger JV kids. Coach Lane and I were coach riders on that bus. Every once in a while, most often early in the year or riding out for a freshman or JV game, one of the younger kids, pumped up on nervous adrenaline, would say something. A simple hand up by me or a stern look from an upperclassman would silence the bus again.

photo (13)

The best part of the ride would happen after we crossed the bridge over Huntress Creek and prepare to turn left on “C” Street. As we came off the bridge, the sun would be falling over the limestone grandstands of the stadium a few blocks west of the bridge. You could feel the intake of breath throughout the bus. There was our house in all its glory, decked out with the orange and black flags, and the other various decorations associated with Friday Night in America. The scoreboard would be on and the lights may already be on, Otto Unruh Stadium was ready. Our stadium.

The Coach Hays part of the Coach Lane Bus Silence Rule was when we turned the corner on “C” street, everyone was to be strapped up and ready to step off the bus with fire in our eyes. The part which I hope stays fresh in my memory for the rest of my life would happen right there. The moment when the bus driver would turn the corner and behind me I would hear, no I would feel, the snap of 40 chin straps being fastened in almost perfect unison. It gives me chills just to think about it. That beautiful sound of the snap, 40 times within a second, and spread out just enough to where I could almost hear each individual snap.

The bus would continue, the silence would continue, and when Coach Lane stepped off the bus inside the stadium, Rocky, our radio announcer in the booth, would start “Welcome to the Jungle” at the second Coach Lane’s foot hit the ground. Friday Night in America, boys and girls.

I miss that ride. I miss that sound probably more than just about anything from the coaching days at CCCHS. In my head, the echo of those snaps lingers. I can only hope when I am on my deathbed after I see the faces of my family and after my life flashes before my eye, the very last sound I hear as I turn the corner toward my glorious stadium, will be the “SNAP!” of a chorus of football helmets.

 

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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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