Category Archives: Coaching

The Silver Lining?

I love good ideas. I love problems. I love trying to figure out ways to solve problems. It’s the coach, the competitor, and the scientist in me. Some people probably say that it’s mostly the a$$hole in me but I digress.

First, a huge “THANK YOU!” to people who read my previous post, The End of an Era. It was a post about the school district’s decision to sell the iconic football stadium in Clay Center, Kansas. If you wish to share your favorite Unruh Stadium memories or histories, please add a comment on the post. I’d love to learn more from your stories!

One of the comments on the post completely blew my mind. It’s a great idea about what to do with Unruh Stadium after the school district moves out. The individual points out that since the city pretty much gave the stadium to the school district by selling it to them for one dollar, it’s only right for the school district to give it back, especially as they’ve invested very little in its physical upkeep over the years. 

Basically, the community gave USD 379 a gift in the 1990s, and perhaps it’s time for USD 379 to return the gift. 

Give it back. What an idea!

Why?

The commenter suggested that once returned to the city, the stadium could be used for public recreation. One thing that has been on many citizens’ minds over the past 15 years is the need for a real and actual Clay Center City Recreation facility in town. A group did a study a few years ago and drew up some nice plans for a facility but, if I remember correctly, the location was an identifiable problem. I agree the current stadium complex would make the perfect home for a Clay Center City Recreation facility for decades to come. 

Picture three youth soccer/flag football fields on the current football field with seating and facilities already available. Next, imagine a future recreation building/parks department office complex with courts, classrooms, and community space at the south end of the Unruh Stadium. (The area currently being developed adjacent to the Clay County Fairgrounds could be sold, shared with the Fairgrounds Board, or kept for a future city development site.) With some time, investment, and TLC, it could be a stellar recreation facility. Just as important, it’s something our capable Parks & Recreation Department could maintain.

Taking a lead from the economic benefits that the Clay Center Aquatic Park brought to the local area, an even greater economic benefit can be tapped by making Clay Center an area hub for recreation activities. Youth sports, tournaments, leagues, adult activities, exercise classes, arts and crafts, and a place for the community to be a community. 

The western corridor entering Clay Center exudes much of what Clay Center is. The Aquatic Park, Huntress Park, Schaulis Field, Montel Field, Brade’s Park & Shelter, Campbell Field, and Otto Unruh Stadium. That corridor is as identifiable with Clay Center as the Courthouse or Downtown or Utility Park. 

It’s part of what we were as a community. 

It’s part of who we are as a community. 

It’s part of what the community will become.

Silver linings can be found in every cloud. One just has to be willing to rip the cloud apart sometimes to find them.

Finally, one also has to be willing to sit down, talk to people, and exchange ideas to solve even the most daunting of problems together.

That, my friends, is how communities move forward in a positive manner.

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The End of the Era

The USD 379 Board of Education is moving forward on building a new football stadium and selling Otto Unruh Stadium. Unruh Stadium will likely be demolished as the land becomes a commercial venture. It’s a sad day for Clay Center and for an iconic community structure but we look forward with reserved optimism to what the future holds.

If my memory serves me, the City of Clay Center transferred stadium ownership to the school district for $1.00 sometime in the 1990s. Basically, the city (the community) gifted the iconic structure to the school district since they were the site’s primary users. 

I regret not trying harder over the past twenty years to convince USD 379 school boards and administrators to be better stewards of their stadium site. I apologize for not being a better advocate of Otto Unruh Stadium and demanding better from our local leadership. 

I dropped the ball on doing my part to improve things and rally community support for action. Several times while working at Campbell Field I’d walk past the rag-tag, chain link fence entrance at the south end of the football stadium and get totally pissed off at how bad it looked. If you’ve been to Unruh Stadium, you know this fence. It’s been bad since I attended my first Tiger Football home game in 1994. (Mini Rant: Couldn’t we have spent $20-30,000 at some time to have an exceptional local masonry company put in matching limestone walls and gates or, better yet, a limestone arch entry/ticket booth extension ramping up to an ADA-compliant seating area?)

Being pissed off on these occasions, I’d resolve to go to Stuart Administration Center and ask the superintendent to quit complaining about all that’s wrong with Unruh Stadium and do something right for the facility. I never did. I’m disappointed in myself for not taking a stand for our facilities and demanding more from the tax dollars being banked in the district’s capital outlay fund. 

Unruh Stadium is just a sports field. In the grand scheme of things, sports are not, and shouldn’t be, one of the top five priorities of a school district or a community. Nevertheless, Otto Unruh Stadium is a sports field that has deep meaning and history for our community. As the legend goes, it was built brick by brick by Clay Center citizens from locally-quarried limestone and funded as part of a WPA-related project.

The basic coaching tenet and philosophy “Brick by Brick”, which guided the latter half of my nine seasons as a Tiger Football coach, was based on the history and design of Unruh Stadium. To this day, I firmly believe we build better athletes, teams, and communities, and do better and deeper work when we create better bricks and build one brick at a time.

I’d hazard to guess I’ve spent more time in the shadow of Otto Unruh Stadium than many folks. As a fan, parent, coach, strength & conditioning coach, graduation speaker, baseball field volunteer, tour guide, etc. I’ve had a lot of experiences there. 

I’ve cheered in the stands, yelled at officials, been penalized, lost heartbreaker games, chased foul balls, won thrilling victories, dealt with gut-wrenching injuries, and ran the stadium stairs in Unruh. 

I’ve been a baton dad, band dad, proud dad, and a dad watching his kids learn to ride bikes there.

I’ve given tours to first graders and ended each tour with a session of top-of-our-lungs primal screaming underneath the stadium. I’ll never forget the pure joy and the smiles on the kids’ faces as our screams echoed off the walls. 

I’ve seen hundreds of senior pictures, team pictures, and family pictures taken against the backdrop of the stadium’s limestone walls.

I’ve dodged tornadoes, thunderstorms, power outages, sleet at March baseball games, and long 110°F summer American Legion tournament days inside the protection of Unruh Stadium.

I’ve “felt” the roar of the Tiger Bike Night event from the home locker room prior to a Tiger Friday Night in America football game.

I’ve “Touched the Sign”.

Many who read this will say, “Hays, you’re just a sappy, pigheaded, and sentimental old fool who needs to get with the times.” Maybe so. Oh hell, I’m about the sappiest, most pigheaded, and mega-sentimental old fool out there! It’s okay, though, because it drives my passion and sometimes drives that passion a touch too far. 

However, I’m also one who can recognize and see the potential in the people and the places we have in our community. I know the value of responsible leadership, the value of responsible tax dollar expenditures, and the responsibilities inherent in elected, paid, or volunteer public service. 

The ultimate trust must be earned by consistent action, not lip service. Lose the public trust and lose the ability to lead.

Good luck to USD 379 and to the Tiger Legacy supporters as we move forward on the new stadium project. Brick by brick. 

I’ll leave with one nugget of sports field wisdom I’ve learned over the years through time, trial, and toil:

Sports fields are easy to build. Sports fields are hard to maintain.

It’s up to us, the Clay County community, to be better stewards and demand better stewardship of our new and shiny things as well as our older and time-worn things. We cannot afford to sit back as we watch our community’s gifts deteriorate by design, lack of will, or lack of resources by our leadership.

Tiger Family always!

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Filtering

I listened to former MLB pitcher Mike Boddicker on a Kansas City sports radio this week and he said something that activated my coaching radar. With his years of pitching expertise, the host asked him to theorize why the Kansas City Royal’s young pitchers were struggling so much. Thoughtfully, he responded that perhaps too much information was being fed into their heads. He said with so much to think about swimming in their heads while on the mound, their physical performance suffers.

Bingo! I think Mike Boddicker might be onto something here. I’ve written many times about this before in sports. Most sports are doing things not thinking things. That’s why things like muscle memory and daily practice are so important. When a player is on the field in the action of a game, thinking, in particular overthinking, is bad news.

Professional sports and sports, in general, are becoming more and more data-driven. In my opinion, this is a very good thing. Having the information to make better choices about strategy and resources is never a bad thing. The problem we get into as coaches and as organizations is we fall in love with the data but we fail to implement the filtering of the data to our players or team members. 

Filtering?

It’s when the people at the top end of the organizational ladder analyze all the available data and “filter” the relevant data to the relevant people. In a perfect world, by the time the information gets to the individual player, only the most relevant information that individual needs to do their job is in their head. That player then practices within that context, repeating the action again and again until they improve, and then takes it to the field without having to actively think about it.

You can also think about filtering as an informed simplification. As Detective Joe Friday said, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Filtering is a lesson I learned as a green, somewhat dumb, and often overly-enthusiastic baseball and football coach. The hitters I coached didn’t need to have the dozens and dozens of physical cues involved in a swing swirling in their heads as the pitch was delivered. They needed only to load, step, and swing to attack the baseball. The mind can be a terrible thing when bogged down with too much information.

From experience, I know if I’m in the box thinking about where my feet are, what position my hands are in, if my weight is transferred, and, on top of that, the scouting report on what this pitcher likes to throw 1-2, I’m probably going to be taking a leisurely walk back to the dugout leaving the tying run on second base.

Thinking too much diminishes performance.

Same for football. Fast (quick) explosive high school football is the way we wanted to play the game. It’s the way we developed our players every day with everything we did from warmups to conditioning. We also knew the value of scouting and film study in order to give us the advantage to make up for what we lacked in sheer size and speed. The hours and hours of film breakdown of an opponent was a lot of information. Too much information for your average high school male athlete. Hence, we learned to filter. 

Although we knew as defensive coaches that on third and four in a shotgun spread formation with the back on the left and the right guard, #63, sitting slightly back on his haunches meant they were going to run their bread and butter, QB counter to the left, pushing all that info into a 17-year-old’s head probably meant that the 17-year-old was going to freeze on the field. Coach Dail Smith used to call it, “paralysis by analysis”. Busy minds = Slow feet.

To avoid paralysis by analysis, what do you do? You filter. In the example above, we knew all that information as coaches. Since the QB counter seemed to be one of their bread and butter plays, it was put into the top 6-8 run plays for the scout offense to run all week. We’d teach the linebackers to notice when the guards were sitting back on their haunches and attack. Basically, we take the 4-5 scout details and break them down to one or two for the players, work the recognition and skills repeatedly, and give them the best chance of succeeding during the game. And if we forced the opposing team to go to something other than their bread and butter plays? That was the icing on the cake. 

If you can beat me with your second, third, or fourth-best packages, you deserve to win. If you beat me with your bread and butter packages, I deserve to lose.

Data is cheap in today’s digital world. Programs like HUDL are so freaking awesome and provide so much data to a coach at any level. Sabermetrics and analytics are a sports nerd’s dream. But the downside is the sheer, daunting amount of data we generate. The important work for the modern coach and organization is to sift through the data, decide what’s important and who it’s important to, and then pass it down. A little bit of salt makes the stew better, but a handful of salt ruins it.

Filter the information to your players. Give them the basic knowledge they need without throwing a wrench into the gears of performance. Too much on-field thinking, paralysis by analysis, is a dangerous thing. Prepare your players, practice, and turn them loose to perform. 

Mike Boddicker might be right about what’s wrong with all these talented, young arms in the Royals’ system. Simplify and let the physical talent shine.

Load. Step. Swing.

Sifting gold in a cabin, 13 Eldorado, Yukon Territory, 1898. (Asahel Curtis, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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The Favorite Place to Play

Coaches should always have a favorite place to play. This favorite place should trickle down to their entire team and organization. Everyone from the assistants to the players to the support staff should share a passion for this place.
What is the place?
Simple. It’s wherever the next game on the schedule is.
Because that’s what it’s all about. Getting your team ready to play the next game wherever it is.
Any other concerns, worries, or complaints steer the ship off course. There’s already a lot of other stuff to deal with in getting ready to play a game, especially at the high school or youth sports level, to detract from the goal of reaching that favorite place. A coach’s actions and demeanor matter. Negative thoughts spread to teenage athletes before anything can be done to prevent it and affect performance.
There’s a certain special feeling going to a game and seeing the field or the lights or the arena waiting ahead. A favorite kind of place lies ahead.
Anticipation. A touch of nerves. The heart quickens. It’s a special feeling.
So what’s a coach to do?
Put their head down and go to work whether you’re playing on the most pristine of fields or on something barely suitable as a landfill site.
Get ready for the next game, wherever and whenever it is.
Make the places and spaces we inhabit better. Leave a mark. All day, every day.
Isn’t that what life’s all about?
Above all else, enjoy the ride!

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$hit Work

I’ve been a molecular microbiologist for 33+ years. I’m just about as high as I can go on the university’s science technician ladder. Today, I needed to swap out three CO2 gas cylinders for our cell culture incubators. They weren’t completely empty but with the weekend approaching, I felt it wise to replace them before they could run out. The CO2 gas is vital to growing mammalian cells for our experiments. If the CO2 levels run too low, the cells will die. 

We have two fairly important experiments going on. One is a bacterial cell adherence experiment a visiting scientist is working on. Being a visiting scientist, time is limited, so the cells dying at this point would not be good if we want to complete this work. 

The second experiment is a gene-editing experiment I’ve been working on for almost a year. I’m trying to knockout a gene in a cell that’s could be vital for a bacterial pathogen’s entry into the host cell during the infection process. Needless to say, I do not want the CO2 to run out over the weekend and the potential gene-edited cells to die after 12 months of work. 

In short, properly changing the CO2 tanks is important.

The process of changing a gas cylinder is straightforward but it has to be done exactly right without leaks and with the proper gas flow to the incubator. The gas cylinders are stored in a locked cage outside the very north end of the building. One must use a cylinder hand cart to securely transport the empty CO2 cylinder all the way across the facility, swap it out for a full cylinder, and push it all the way back to the lab. Once in the lab, I installed the tank, check for leaks, ensure proper gas flow, and repeat.

On my second trip back to the lab with a full tank, a well-meaning coworker passed me in the hallway. The coworker laughed and said, “Why don’t you get a student worker to do that shit work?” I glared the best Coach Hays glare I could muster and the coworker politely skittered away.

But that question kept rattling in my brain as I went on the last round of drop-off and pick-up. 

$hit work? 

What the hell?

There’s really no such thing, is there?

Every job needs to be done or the system doesn’t function the way it should. The work matters. And if the work matters, it’s important it is done right no matter the size or the perceived importance of the task.

The same is true in coaching sports. The small work is often as important as the perceived important work. Coaching the lower-level or inexperienced athlete is more important for the long-term foundational success of your program than spending the majority of the time coaching the upper-level athlete. 

Just like in the lab, there’s no $hit work in sports coaching. It all matters but the work a coach does with the athletes who need it the most is often the most important thing one can do.

We’ve all heard the old axiom, “we are only as strong as our weakest link”. Those weakest links in our team, program, or organization might be considered the “$hit work”. Nevertheless, like the importance of properly changing the CO2 tanks, coaching up your weakest links makes the chain stronger.

Pay attention to the $hit work.

Do that work with purpose, pride, and passion.

Never forget how important the $hit work really is.

Agriculture in Britain during the First World War: Schoolboys fork out manure from a wheelbarrow onto an allotment during the First World War (via Wikimedia Commons).
Lance Cpl. Eithan Osborne dumps horse manure into a wheelbarrow during the Single Marine Program’s volunteer opportunity (via Wikimedia Commons).

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The Good Steward

The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. –Genesis 2:15

Stewardship. The job of taking care of something. Simple enough word. Simple enough concept. 

The Bible quote from Genesis speaks of stewardship. In the Book of Genesis, right after God creates the heavens and the earth, right after creating the seas, the plants, the animals, and then us humans in his own image, what does He do next?

He creates the Garden of Eden for Adam. He pulls Adam aside, shows him the place He made for him to live, and says, “cultivate and care for it.”

God tasks Adam with stewardship. God puts his trust in Adam to take care of something special. Think about it. The first thing God tasks us with as humans is to take care of Creation.

Genesis 2:15 is one of the most influential lines in the whole Bible in my opinion. This line is one that drives me in many aspects of my life. Leave things as good as you found them and, if possible, leave things a little better off.

Stewardship is the first job as humans that our Creator gives to us beyond “be fruitful and multiply.” The call to stewardship, though, kind of gets lost in the bit of Genesis that follows about the forbidden fruit. We sometimes need a reminder we are called to be stewards. We are trusted to take care of things.

Our first job from God, taking care of the gifts we’re given, might be our most important job. Yet, do we act as good stewards of our gifts in today’s throw-away culture? 

Have we allowed the things we are trusted with to rot and fall apart instead of maintaining them? It takes dedication, work, and will to be good stewards of what we’re entrusted with.

Globally, nationally, and locally, we are called to take care of the gifts we’re given, Whether it’s oceans, lakes, prairies, communities, libraries, schools, or even parks, those that came before trusted us to do our job as stewards.

Are we up to the task or do we fail at the job we were entrusted to do? Once we neglect our responsibilities as stewards, either individually or collectively, we lose the trust of others. And trust, my friends, is a tough thing to get back.

Stewardship builds community. The ground we all walk on as we go about our daily lives and share with our neighbors is a gift.

We have to take care of the gifts we’re given. We have to be strong enough to take the first step and do the job. We need to be good stewards.

Stewardship takes work. As Sirach says,

“Do not hate hard work; work was assigned by God.” – Sirach 7:15

Be a good steward. Start today with baby steps. Strive daily to make the world and community you live in a little better place.

Photo courtesy of Phil Frigon

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Core Mission

What is the main thing you want to accomplish? That’s your core mission.

As an individual, an organization, or a team you have a core mission.

What is your core mission? What is your objective?

Once defined, ask yourself if you are focused on that core mission. Or are you distracted with the fluff and distractions that are tangents to the objective?

It happens. All the freaking time. We lose our place.

Why?

Because the fluff and the distractions become easier to pursue and provide quick gratification. But fluff and distractions don’t get the job done. The fluff and distractions don’t lead to any satisfaction. They don’t make the team better. They don’t educate kids better. They don’t help a community or society become better.

The things that lie outside the core mission suck energy and joy. They create chaos and anxiety. They keep taking without giving any back.

A lifetime ago when I played baseball, I’d occasionally hit a batting slump. HItting a baseball was my one tool as a one-tool baseball player so if I couldn’t hit the ball, I was pretty worthless to my team. While in a slump, I almost certainly forgot my core mission inside the batter’s box which was to hit the dang baseball. 

Yes, the core mission was so simple. Hit the ball.

During slumps, my mind would race on just about everything except the core mission. I’d think “I can’t fail again.” “What if I leave runners on base?” “Wow, those hot dogs cooking in the concession stand smell really good.”

My focus and energy would be all over the place. Anxiety would go haywire. My hands would sweat. The pitch would come in and the ball looked like a tiny marble while my body felt like it was encased in Jell-O. 

Once I noticed I was paying attention to everything except the core mission of hitting the ball, I could take a few deep breaths, step into the box, and block out everything (including the hot dogs) unrelated to the core mission of putting the bat on the baseball. Like magic, the slump was history.

So if you find yourself or your organization in a slump, lost, confused, floundering, or in a state of chaotic anxiety, step back and refocus on the objective. 

Get back to the core mission. If you don’t even remember what it is, take the time to find out.

Whether you’re hitting a baseball, coaching a sports team, running a business, responsible for public health, operating a school district, or simply wanting to live a more faithful life, remember your core mission. Simplify, take a deep breath, and let the fluff and distractions fade away. 

Get back to doing what you do. Educating kids, playing right guard, getting your team ready for the season, or leading the most awesome nation on the planet, aiming your energy into the direction of the core mission works.

Keep the faith. Keep the eye on the prize. Do the work. Make your thing better and you’ll make everything around you better.

And Lord knows, in the Spring of 2022, we all can use a little less anxiety and better performance from everything around us.

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GM For a Day: 2021 KC Royals

If I had the honor of being GM of my beloved Kansas City Royals for a day…

Where do I start?

That’s hard because this season (and honestly for the past 30-odd years except for two months at the end of the 2014 season and the entirety of the 2015 season) has been an utter and complete disappointment. I start with a good, long and honest look in the mirror. I take all the excuses we’ve rolled out over the years about small market economics and competitive imbalance and lock them away never to see the light of day.

I realize we must do things differently in Kansas City. The success of 2014 and 2015 balanced on a razor-thin margin of error. We relied on a lights-out bullpen and an offense with just enough firepower to score just enough runs to win games. The 2014-2015 Royals weren’t a fluke or just a team that got lucky; they were a team that was very good at playing a limited game and found a way to keep most games within their margins for success.

I say we have to realize the need to do things differently because it’s so hard to win under the 2014-2015 error margins. It’s, without a doubt, why success has found KC for only two calendar years out of the past 35. Lightning struck and we were able to briefly catch it. You can’t be a competitive program if you build on the foundation of catching lightning.

The first place I’d rebuild in the Royals organization is the developmental side of things. Right now, we have talent up and down the system that we’d acquired through drafting and trading. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but look at history. 35 years of high draft picks and we’ve only had two playoff appearances? I’d say that’s an issue in dire need of addressing.

The Royals have done a decent job in the Dayton Moore Era drafting talent. Their problem has been they’ve done a poor job of developing their talent. Yes, even the 2014-2015 glory boys, Gordon, Moustakas, and Hosmer, never lived up to their potential. For example, you don’t draft a Gold Spike winner to only win Gold Gloves at a different position from where you originally slotted him in. The only players I can think of who really developed were guys who weren’t really big on the organization’s talent ladder focus, Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield. And by many accounts, these two players were highly self-motivated and worked to develop their skills with a chip on their shoulders.

Of my 24 hours as GM for the Day, all 24 would be dedicated to cultivating our developmental program. The whole professional organization needs to be a competitive endeavor all day, every day. One of my sports credos has always been, “In order to be competitive, you have to be competitive.”

It’s easy to say you want to win. Everybody wants to win. It’s human nature. At the upper echelon of a sport, everybody has talent. What sets apart the ones that are competitive versus the ones who wash out often comes down to treating every day as a competitive venture.

Get better. Do the work. Compete. Fail or succeed. Repeat.

The good organizations in professional baseball, especially the organizations that succeed in the “small market” arena, will often develop talent with a competitive edge. Whether a player is a #1 draft pick, a 20th round pick, or a free agent, they are forced into the competitive fire day after day after day. A competitive organization must have this in order to achieve its goals to succeed. 

The second thing I’d do as Royals GM for a Day is…

Hell, there wouldn’t be a second thing. EVERYTHING right now has to be about player development. You can’t worry about guys walking away in free agency at the end of their first contract. You can’t feel sorry for yourself in the economic context of the rest of the league. It’s a great place to play. It’s a great city to live in with one of the best fan bases in any professional sport. As the person in charge, I have to realize this and change my philosophy to fit the reality.

  • Acquire and develop talent.
  • Hire and train coaching within the system toward development. 75% of all resources should be invested in development.
  • Demand competitiveness at all levels.
  • Have talent ready to step up when players walk out the door for bigger paychecks.
  • Constantly analyze why players are developing to their potential and fix the problems early in the process.
  • Keep an open mind without compromising competitiveness.

I always enjoy thinking Royals GM for a Day thoughts. It’s how I like to enjoy being a sports fan who is also a coach. Thinking about how to make things better is always foremost in my mind when I watch a sports event from local T-ball to professional football and baseball on TV. 

Enjoy the rest of the 2021 MLB season! Never forget, at the end of the day, win or lose it’s still baseball. The greatest game on earth.

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The American Game

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. For me, it’s always been a great day. This year is extra special because the team that’s woven into my DNA, the Kansas City Chiefs, is playing for a chance to win their second straight Lombardi Trophy. 

The Super Bowl is a celebration of the game of football. Football has become America’s Game. Rightfully so. 

It’s the perfect modern American Game. 

A contest is scheduled.

Fans, coaches, and players prepare. They can even talk some trash before the game.

The game is played. The teams tried to bash each other’s heads in for four quarters. 

One side wins. One side loses. 

At the end of the game, we shake hands, go our separate ways, and then get ready for the next game. It’s play the game, enjoy it, and get back to work. 

See what I mean? It truly is America’s Game. 

A lesson staring us in the face about what we need to do as a nation, as the United States of America, moving forward into 2021 and beyond.

It’s easy to get sidelined by things outside of our control. It’s easy to become caught in a loop of emotion and lost in confusion. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s vital and important. 

Enjoy the Super Bowl today!

Cheer and scream for our team. Eat, drink, and be merry. Most importantly, be safe and be true. 

When the game is over, shake hands, and wish your opponent well. Then wake up tomorrow and get back to the business of being a good American. We need teamwork to put the greatest nation on Earth back on the right track. We need each other.

America’s Game is asking for you to chip in. 

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Live As If Your Players Are To Be Answered

I woke up this morning and stumbled bleary-eyed to the computer to check the latest numbers. No, not the 2020 Election numbers, the Kansas high school football playoff scores. 

When I opened up my laptop, my email program greeted me with its usual, “Hello, Hays. Here are your morning distractions!” On top of the inbox was one of my favorite daily emails, the American Football Monthly (AFM) Daily Newsletter. Today’s newsletter was titled, “How To Build A Winner”. I perked up. Everybody wants to win, right? Here’s a football coaching golden ticket!

I opened the email. The first thing to catch my eye was the AFM Daily Quote. In bright red font, it read, 

“Live as if your prayers are to be answered.” -Unknown

Fantastic life advice! One of those inspirational quotes to add to the bulletin board of quotes. Dream. Prepare. Be ready.

It would be nice to end it there but I have to be honest. I was, as I said, bleary-eyed while reading the AFM newsletter. My mind was focused on the “How To Build A Winner” article potential. My mind was on championships, plaques, trophies, being carried off the field by my adoring players…

Okay, okay. Back to reality.

I read the quote as, “Live as if your players are to be answered” instead of, “Live as if your prayers are to be answered.” 

One letter makes a big difference. I laughed off my error and clicked the link for the article. Then it struck me. That mistaken quote might just be the actual key to developing a successful program. That change in one letter can philosophically change an entire program. A coach should live as if their players are to be answered. Everything a coach does, from planning to development to schemes, needs to be done to provide an environment to allow the players to improve and give them a fighting chance to succeed.

No matter what a coach’s coaching style, he or she must have this basic relationship with their athletes. There must exist the understanding that the coach works toward answering their players’ needs. This is the trust that drives successful programs. This is the contract sealed by hard work and preparation to achieve a common goal. 

The players can trust the coach.  The coach can trust the players. It’s a two-way street.

If you want to know what the “How To Be A Winner.” AFM post said, check it out for yourself. I highly recommend signing up for the free daily AFM Newsletter. It’s great football nerd material that’s definitely worth your time.  

If you want a simple philosophy for turning your program around and developing better relationships with your players, then “Live as your players are to be answered.”

Who knows? Maybe your prayers will be answered.

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