Category Archives: Rants

#Coachism101: Character

It’s been a tough few weeks to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. One of my greatest sources of pride in being a fan of this organization is, for the most part, that it’s been run the right way. With character and class. There have been a few instances in the past where they’ve gotten away from this cornerstone of the Hunt Family, but these situations were usually dealt with and corrected. Situations where they’ve brought in questionable character, things went south as things are predicted in these situations, and then the organization made changes.

As we sit on the heels of Marcus Peters, Kareem Hunt, and now Tyreek Hill, it is time once again for the Hunt Family to make changes in their operations. Listening last week to the emotion and frustration in the Johnson County’s DA in his press conference about dropping charges against Mr. Hill and his fiance was difficult. That paled in comparison to the sickening feeling a few days later when KCTV5 released the audio tape of Hill and his fiance talking about their child. Chiefs need to make organizational changes now. There are things more important than winning.

I could rant at length about the character decisions the Chiefs have made over the past few years in the name of winning. I’ll spare the rant, though, in favor of a couple of coachisms from the past.

 

“Nothing you do on the field can make up for being crap off the field.”

 

“I’d rather lose with character than win with criminal.”

 

Coaches and parents, talk to your athletes about these situations when they arise. Hold your athletes to the expectation for them to be good human beings above good athletes.

Sports are bigger than winning.

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MLB Opening Day 2019

Major League Baseball Opening Day!

It’s one of my favorite sports times of the year. Every team and every fan base holds tight to optimism. Expectations run side by side with imaginations.

Hope, however slim, for a pennant is still alive and well in every fandom.

If we do this…

Or

If we can only do that…

Maybe, just maybe.

Win or lose, though, it’s still BASEBALL SEASON!

I’ve renewed my subscription to the MLB At-Bat app so I can listen to any radio broadcast each and every day of the season. Plus, MLB TV offers one game a day for free. Major League Baseball on the radio is one of the true joys of my life. It’s the perfect medium to follow an almost perfect game while still accomplishing other things, like gardening, biking, walking, writing, reading, mowing, etc.

As a lifelong Royals fan, I’ve never been more excited at the prospect of winning only 70 games in my life. I like this young group the Royals management has finally put together in Kansas City. I was so disappointed last spring when they lost their confidence in their young talent and kept or brought in a bunch of mediocre veterans. They wasted over half a season of development time and probably lost at least one future season where these kids will grow up to compete for a division title. 2017 and 2018 were huge missteps for an organization who seemed to understand what game they had to play in order to be cyclical competitive as a small market team.

To their credit, they woke up and ditched the sentimental philosophy for the youth movement in August and Royals baseball was exciting again for a few months.

My 2019 KC Royals Outlook

Until Salvador Perez got hurt, I had notions of a 2019 season hovering around .500. Without Salvy’s leadership and guidance of the young pitching staff, I predict they’ll win around 72 games in 2019. Pitching will be better. They have three solid starters in Keller, Junis, and Lopez with some potential veterans like Duffy to fill into the fourth or fifth starter role. The bullpen HAS to be better than it was last year (RIGHT?) and may result in a 10-win increase over 2018 when it sucked.

Defensively, I think they’ll be one of the best teams in the league. Their outfield speed alone shrinks real estate and keeps runners from advancing. The young infield will be solidly built around the middle of Merrifield and Mondesi, two players ready to break out as MLB stars.

The problem on offense will be consistently getting on base and scoring runs. Their roster will need to learn to work counts more efficiently and be aggressive with their speed on the bases. The young hitters will have to take some lumps and work their way up the learning curve. I am hoping for Alex Gordon to bounce back at least a little bit offensively and earn some of the money he’s made the past three years. Jorge Soler has potential. You can see it in flashes since he came to KC. He’s one of those guys who needs to stay healthy and keep his swing within himself. If he can have the breakout season I expect he has inside him, we might be able to hover around the 80 wins mark.

Final Royals 2019 answer?

Between 72-80 wins and if things fall into place, we may sniff the .500 mark. And listen, in the AL Central, .500 may be enough to win the darn thing this year.

Whatever happens, enjoy some 2019 MLB action!

I know I will.

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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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