Category Archives: Rants

Purposeful Planning 2

(I’m ready for some sports ranting! It’s been a while. Here is the second of what may be many coaching rants on the concepts of program building using one of my favorite concepts, The Four P’s: Purpose, Pride, Passion & Performance, as a starting point.)

Relationships, relationships, relationships.

At the heart of it all rests the relationships. It’s what makes a team a team. It’s what makes being a part of something fun and rewarding.

Coaches, the kids you coach will grow up. They won’t likely remember the win and losses near as much as the experience. Those W’s and L’s we fret so much over now, fade with each passing day. What resonates for life, what makes the difference in a life, are the relationships built within our program.

How many of us sit down and plan or analyze the relationship piece of our program? We spend countless hours with schemes, drills, tape, testing, and practices.

How much time do we spend looking at our kids and getting to know them? Their strengths and weaknesses. Their troubles and triumphs. Their past and their present.

How can we help them get to where we, as a team, need them to be if we don’t know who they are and where they come from?

What can we do as coaches to improve our relationship-building skills? First, we can realize how important the coach/player relationship can be in our modern youth sports environment. We may be the only positive adult interaction some kids get in a whole day.

We can take some time in the offseason to go down your prospective roster one kid at a time and take stock in what you know about each kid. Make it a point to establish a connection with the kids you don’t know very well. No, you don’t need to give each kid a questionnaire to fill out and then spend weeks memorizing each kid’s answers.

Getting to know your players involves one simple step, and as a bonus, this step is also fun and rewarding.

Talk to them.

Yes, it’s that simple. Talk to them every day. During workouts, practices, in school, and around town, talk to them. Give them crap. Listen to them. Argue with them over favorite sports teams. Whatever it takes.

Find a connection to each kid.

Work just as hard to nurture and develop that relationship as you do planning practices and games.

Relationships. They are powerful tools.

And you know what? Nothing’s better than to have former players become current friends.

 

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Purposeful Planning

(I’m ready for some sports ranting! It’s been a while. Here is the first of what may be many coaching rants on the concepts of program building using one of my favorite concepts, The Four P’s: Purpose, Pride, Passion & Performance, as a starting point.)

The bowl season is over. The Chiefs are out of the playoffs. MLB pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks. Time to relax, right?

Wrong.

If you’re a football or baseball coach or an ex-coach who still has football/baseball coaching blood flowing through your veins, it’s time to work. It’s time to get serious about a plan.

For the high school/youth baseball coach, you probably already have a good idea about who your kids are, what skills they have, and what they need to improve upon. Your goal is to develop a preseason plan that works all the fundamentals of baseball while infusing those skills with your philosophy or style of play. If you’re new to your program and unsure about what level your kids are, you still need the same plan. The difference is you won’t have the background data to customize your preseason plan as the returning coach does.

For a high school football coach, it’s time to get out those self-analysis notes you wrote down after your season ended last fall out for both you, your coaches, and your team. Review them honestly. Review them with purpose. Go back and watch each aspect of your team’s performance from the previous year. Be honest with yourself and remember this is not the time to sugarcoat anything. Burying problems doesn’t make you successful. Fixing the problems does.

What worked? What didn’t?

Who worked? Who didn’t?  

What can we do better?

What can each coach and player do better?

Now make a fundamental goal for the team. My football/strength & conditioning coaching fundamental goal was simple. Develop aggressive, athletic players who hit like a cannon shot. This meant making each of our kids a little faster, a little stronger, and a little quicker. With this in mind, EVERY single thing we did, every minute we did it, on every day we met absolutely had to be with the purpose of becoming a little more aggressive, a little more athletic, and a little more able to hit the opponent like a cannon shot every day.

The secret is in the PLAN!

For both the high school baseball and football coach, these next few months are vital to success. You need to have a purpose. You need to be able to sell that purpose to your kids every day. You need to have every coach in your program either on board with that purpose or on the job board looking for another job. These next few months are crucial to how well you compete. Take advantage of this time. It’s what separates success from failure.

  • Make the plan. I always say that you can’t deviate from a plan if you don’t have one to start with. Always be ready to move forward.
  • Make it detailed. Cover all the bases of what you want to accomplish.
  • Make it active, not passive. No wasted time, no standing around. Respect your players time as much as you respect them.
  • Generate excitement through your purpose. Kids and coaches will follow you if you convince them this is exactly where we want to go.

Good luck! Dream big and go do it!

Hard work is the magic.

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The Need for Science 2018

October 4. 1957. It was a Friday evening in Washington, D.C. The Soviet embassy was holding a party in honor of the International Geophysical Year rocket and satellite conference being held in Washington. Over 50 scientists from 13 nations were enjoying the festivities. The top U.S. scientists and officials were in attendance and running high on the confidence that within the next year, they’d be launching the first man-made satellite into near-Earth orbit. New York Times reporter Walter Sullivan was called away from the party to take an urgent phone call from work. After hanging up the receiver, he hurried to U.S. physicist, Lloyd Berkner and whispered in his ear. Berkner collected himself, tapped on the table until quiet fell across the room. “I wish to make an announcement,” he said. He raised his glass to his hosts. “I am informed by the New York Times that a satellite is in orbit at an elevation of 900 kilometers. I wish to congratulate our Soviet colleagues on their accomplishment.”

Thus began the Space Race. The bombshell news of being beat to space by the USSR sent shockwaves across the nation. This was not supposed to happen. We were supposed to be first. We were, or we thought we were, the leaders in both military and scientific technology. But the 20MHz signal being emitted from Sputnik I as it orbited the earth could be heard by anyone with a receiver. In one day, the U.S. went from the perceived superior power on the planet to the perceived runner-up.

Why did we lose?

Because we became too comfortable talking about how awesome we were instead of being awesome. We didn’t do the work or invest the resources into developing the technology and, just as important, developing the scientific minds necessary to be as good as we thought we were.

On a bright side, though, the shock of Sputnik I woke us up. Under the calming leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, we invested the resources to tackle the technical issues of space flight head-on. We also did something at the grassroots level that paid dividends in returning the U.S. to the position of World Leader from the mid-1960s to recent times. We invested in the education and development of our young minds. We valued the greatest resource at our country’s disposal. Our youth.

As part of research around Sputnik I and early satellite programs, I came across this great paper published in The Mathematics Teacher (Vol. 58, No.4, pp.290-294) from April of 1965, Using high school algebra and geometry in Doppler satellite tracking by Robert A. Thompson of The Standard Oil Company. The paper rose out of a Standard Oil workshop at the 1962 NASA Space Science Fair teaching high school students to participate in one of the greatest citizen-science adventures of the 20th Century, tracking satellites by the Doppler shift of their radio signal.

My favorite part of this awesome article is a sidebar at the end outlining the Scientific Manpower Commission’s policy on promoting and developing future scientists and improving the general science education commitment in the United States.

I think these points are well taken and incredibly relevant. We’ve gotten complacent once again. It’s time to invest and value science education as part of a well-rounded education. It’s time to build thinkers from the ground up. Greatness comes in action, not in nonsense spewed from ignorance.

Major scientific problems are facing us. Will we be up to the challenge? Will we have the resolve to respond as we did in the 1960s?

I sure hope so.

And the 1965 Scientific Manpower Commissions policy guide is a damn fine place to start.

Scientific Manpower Commission policy guide

The Scientific Manpower Commission, an independent agency representing eleven major scientific societies, in meeting on September 23, 1964, issued a comprehensive policy guide on national scientific and technological manpower problems. Recent uncertainties in the job market and intensive development of means for scrutinizing manpower policy in the government indicate concerns calling for a statement of position. The Commission presented its guide to action in the following statement.

THE SCIENTIFIC MANPOWER COMMISSION BELIEVES:

1 That the nation is experiencing rapid scientific and technological expansion which will continue well beyond the immediately foreseeable future;

2 That the nation’s capacity for leadership in world affairs, for national defense, and for essential economic growth are increasingly dependent on a continuously expanding scientific and technological enterprise of high quality;

3 That long-term educational and recruitment policies must be formulated without adverse influence from the pressures of short-term fluctuations of supply and demand;

4 That strong, continued emphasis on science education is justified since such education is not likely to become excessive either for the nation or for the individual, provided its structure allows flexibility, stresses specialization only on the foundation of broad education, and . . . includes the humanities;

5 That scientific inquiry and technological innovation are human intellectual activities requiring a freely competitive and self-disciplined professional environment for maximum development and expression.

Based on these concepts, the policy of the Scientific Manpower Commission shall be:

1 To remind the nation regularly of the importance of conserving scientific manpower by realistic national planning, careful accounting, adequate recruitment and education, and proper utilization;

2 To stimulate the development and dissemination of realistic career information, and to encourage steadily the entrance of qualified students into the scientific and engineering professions;

3 To promote the development of educational programs in the sciences which emphasize a judicious combination of depth with intra and inter-disciplinary breadth, and, above all, quality ;

4 To recognize the importance of communication between scientists and the rest of society, and to urge the recruitment and training of science writers, library scientists and others who can aid in effective communication of scientific knowledge;

5 To remind the scientific and engineering community that an undergraduate major in science offers students a broad, liberal education relevant to the needs of society and that future manpower needs include science administrators and others who will apply their knowledge of science to responsibilities in an increasingly wide range of human activities ;

6 To encourage the proper utilization and professional growth of practicing scientific and engineering manpower, including constant reminders to individuals, employers, and professional organizations of their obligation to initiate and maintain programs of continuing education;

7 To encourage participation in the development in less advanced nations of scientific and technical establishments commensurate with their needs, and to recognize participation in this effort as a legitimate responsibility of more advanced nations;

8 To advocate strongly the study and identification of worthy targets of potential scientific endeavor, and the manpower implications of each; so that as scientists become available through shifts in projects, retraining of current existing personnel and new recruitment, new projects can be initiated on some established priority schedule without serious disruption in the employment of scientists and engineers.

 

  1. The Mathematics Teacher | April 1965

 

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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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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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