Category Archives: Rants

A COVID-19 Exercise: What Next?

As we transition from the first phase of COVID-19 into what comes next, I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. No, I don’t mean recovery-wise, I mean what do we do next to make sure we are prepared when the next pandemic threat knocks at our nation’s door?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do some reading and studying and maybe even ask for your opinions on the subject of “what’s next?” One thing that is 100%, minted in gold, true is we CANNOT respond to the next pandemic disease threat like we responded to this one. As a nation, we got caught with our pants down. We failed to realize the looming threat. We failed to imagine it could happen to us. We failed to respond rapidly and with intent and the virus spread like a wildfire.

We tried to throw cow poo to cover over the problem while telling everyone it was chocolate. The best nation on the planet with the finest people, a great health system, and all the data we needed fell flat on its face. It will take years to recover from the loss in life, health, security, economics, and trust in our elected officials. Years.

The blame falls on everyone. We should have done better. Period.

We can do better. We need to do better. We should demand better from our leaders. We have the plans, the data, the institutions. What we lack is a cooperative system that has a green light to track, analyze, and respond to international, national, state, county, city, and neighborhood threats. This type of system has been bouncing around in my head for weeks. Sound impossible? Maybe. But think about a system you rely on daily and that you really don’t give a second thought to its complexity.

The weather report.

Meteorology relies on data collection, analysis, and modeling to predict what will likely occur in an hour, a day, a week, months, etc. Maybe the weatherman gets a rain shower wrong every now and then but they rarely miss the big threats, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

In public health and infectious disease, we have data, we have analytical tools, and we have computer models. What we need is to make the infectious disease reporting system and response as rapid and as commonplace as our weather service.

I envision a system that can give officials rapid, accurate, point-specific information to help them make decisions about how to best implement responses, resources, and social contact initiatives.

Can we do it? Absolutely!

As they said on the Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology.”

It’s a question of do we, as a nation, have the resolve to do it.

Lives are at stake. We cannot accept the loss of 50,000+ Americans to a pandemic again. Never, under any circumstance or political environment or world events.

We need better leadership. We need to use our resources. We need to understand and react.

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again! ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men.

AWIPS-3-head-workstation

 

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Paul Harvey Wisdom

“Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.” – Paul Harvey.

I miss Paul Harvey. I didn’t always agree with everything he said but I always learned from his common-sense approach in studying our country and our world. This short quote is one that is peppered throughout his 2003 Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. The links to his Landon Lecture are below. It’s worth a few minutes to watch it or to read it.

It is a quote that always pops to mind in times of national unrest. We are a great nation when we are a disciplined nation. We are not a great nation when we become haphazard, unfocused, and selfish.

Where we go as a nation in 2020 depends on our collective individual ideals and actions. The question becomes a matter of discipline and sacrifice so we can ensure the future of our republic.

Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Click here for a transcript of the lecture.

 

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A COVID-19 Exercise: Theoretical effect on local hospitals

Note: This post is the product of my brain working quite a bit on the COVID-19 pandemic issue. It is not meant as any kind of official public health or medical advice. I’m a molecular microbiologist. I’m not a doctor or public health official. There are people A LOT smarter than me supplying official information. There are also many buffoons spewing idiocies out there. In difficult times, knowledge is power. Do the work. Find the truth. Ignore the myths. The most valuable tool we have right now is the same powerful tool we have at our disposal every single day of our lives. Our brain.

On 4-9-2020, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), through their excellent COVID-19 Resource Center web page, reported 1106 confirmed COVID-19 positives with 263 requiring hospitalization (a 23.8% rate). These numbers got me thinking about how my small Kansas town and our excellent local hospital might be affected by the coronavirus. 

I did some calculations on what might be in store for our local medical resources if the coronavirus becomes community transferred in our fair city. Information on our local hospital’s website says they are a 25-bed facility. In an emergency, I imagine they can swing another 5-10 beds but I don’t know for sure.

Doubling times are important in a contagious infection scenario. They mean it takes X number of days for the number of infected individuals to be doubled. The latest I heard last week was that COVID-19 was running at a doubling time of four days, so I included that in the table as well as an eight-day doubling timeline. The whole goal of social distancing and flattening the curve strategies are to extend the doubling time as far as possible. By stretching out the timeline of infections, as you can see in the table, a community can keep the number of infections and patients needing medical services within the limitations of the local medical system.

The public health issues rise exponentially once the illnesses overburden the system. It is vital to stay under these critical numbers and to stay within the limitations of our medical systems. As you can see in the table below, for our community hospital, in theory, the key period will be how fast we go from around 50 total positives (~10 patients hospitalized) to 250 positives (~50 patients hospitalized). If we don’t alter the doubling time of 4 days, our medical system will go from adequate to overwhelmed in about ten days. Ten days!

Bottom line. Stay home. Do what the local and state authorities advise. Be safe. Be kind. Help each other out.

# of COVID-19 Positive Cases Local Hospitalization (at a 20% rate) Days @ Doubling Time = 4 days Days @ Doubling Time = 8 days
1 <=1 0 0
2 <=1 4 8
4 1 8 16
8 1.6 12 24
16 3.2 16 32
32 6.4 20 40
64 12.8 24 48
128 25.6 28 56
256 51.2 32 64
512 102.4 36 72
1024 204.8 40 80
2048 409.6 44 88
4096 819.2 48 96
8192 1638.4 52 104
16384 3276.8 56 112

Here are a few things I’ve posted elsewhere about COVD-19:

Novel Coronavirus 2019: Scientist Roundtable

April 6, 2020 Facebook post about antivirals.

What are antivirals? They’re medications that reduce the virus making more of itself. They do their job in a variety of ways from affecting the genes being made into functional proteins to the proteins not being able to be put together properly to make new virus. They don’t completely kill the virus. They are effective because they can reduce symptoms or shorten the length of infection.

What antiviral drugs aren’t are miracle cures. You don’t inject an antiviral and expect to be protected or to stand up and walk out of ICU in a few hours. They may have serious side effects that may cause more harm than health so the balance has to be weighed between the doctor and the patient. That’s why antivirals and vaccines and all other drugs undergo extensive testing to give the doctor and patient the best information to make the best decisions.

Antiviral drugs are important in new outbreaks. In pandemics, like we’re in now, reducing and shortening hospital stays is vital. But, we have to remember one of the first tenets of medicine as we move to use existing antivirals in novel scenarios, “First, do no harm”.

The best way to stop pandemics? Prevent pandemics. That, my friends, is something I’ve been thinking a lot about and will write about soon. It’s time to elevate infectious disease defense to the level of national defense.

Have a good day! Stay safe. Be nice. Help each other out.

March 31, 2020 Facebook post on Social Distancing

Unacast has some interesting data tools they use to track movement by GPS. Below is a link to their Social Distancing Scoreboard.

Yesterday, Dr. Lee Norman of the KDHE talked about the importance of the stay-at-home order. At our current ~35% reduction in Kansan movement, the infection doubling time is around 3.6 days. If we can get to a 45% reduction, the doubling time increases to ~6.5 days. At a 55% reduction, it jumps to almost 10 days.

Why is this so damn important, you ask? Because at 55% reduction & 10 days doubling time, Kansas has ample medical resources to handle it. 45% & 6 days pushes the health systems to their limit. The health system becomes stressed and overloaded at our current 35% reduction or anything below that.

Stay safe, friends! Minimize movement and help each other out, if only with a wave and a smile.

 

NY_Foundling_Hospital_-_Operating_Room_-_circa_1899_-_Byron_Company_-_MNY25924

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Sports & Life 2020

Sports are not life.

Sports are not life.

Sports are not life.

Sports are not…

The struggle is real. At least for me. Sports run in the background of my life. Always have. Probably always will. The spread of the SARS-2 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the sports world to a screeching halt right at two of the peak times of this sports fan’s life, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the start of the MLB season. Honestly, I no longer live on the edge of my seat over either these events as I once did but I do enjoy having them available to pay attention to.

The SARS-2 pandemic has also brought together two of my life’s passions, sports and microbiology. Public health and safety have warranted decisions recently that are highly unpopular with the sports side of my psyche. I miss my sports. These same decisions make perfect sense as sound preventative measures with the microbiologist side. Bottom line: People in positions of responsibility were forced to make very difficult decisions in a short amount of time. 

Great leadership is rational in irrational situations. Real life wins out over the sport’s life every time. As it should.

I feel bad for the athletes and coaches who did not see a 2019-2020 dream fulfilled with the magic of a postseason, especially the high school athletes. The only wisdom I can provide as a salve to soothe this unprecedented situation is this somewhat out-of-left-field food analogy.

You were allowed to make this beautiful and delicious multi-layered cake during your regular season. You were able to put various amounts and flavors of icing on your cake during the early postseason. Some of you earned the right to further decorate your frosted cake with awesome plastic cartoon character statues or your favorite candy bits by qualifying for state competition. What you didn’t get—the thing pulled away from you just as it was being handed to you—was a chance to place the “#1” candle of top of your cake for the world to see. For this, I’m sorry. But please don’t forget you made an awesome cake which looks fabulous (Those My Little Pony characters are pure genius!) and that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.

Congratulations to all!

I know this doesn’t help the sting much but many of us appreciate and respect the work you put into the season. In a global infectious pandemic, like in a team, we are best when we are together. 

Good luck in the future and God bless us all.

And please never forget, sports are not life. Life is life. It’s there for each of us to make better for ourselves and those around us.

Be safe.

Be kind.

Help each other out.

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Fun? What do you mean, fun?

There’s been a coaching riddle that has perplexed me since 2002. The concept of “fun” in sports. It started way back when a very talented group of players were underachieving and had fallen into poor practice habits. After a players-only meeting to figure out their ideas to achieve more from practice in order to perform better in games, one of the three things listed was they weren’t having “fun” at practice. More recently, I’ve heard many a player who chose not to go out for a particular sport they’ve participated in previously, give their reasoning as “it’s not fun.”

Over the years, I’ve gone from utter disbelief (What do you want, a cake and a friggin’ party?”) to old man-get-off-my-lawn (It’s this stupid video game generation?”) to finally over the last few years wanting to study and figure out what “fun” actually means to a youth athlete. 

What struck me earlier this year was in order to put my thumb on the problem of fun, I needed to quit looking at the issue from the perspective of a middle-aged, white guy and try to turn back the mental clock to think like a teenage boy. It was scary at times and it was not always family-friendly content, but what I discovered was very telling. I discovered from my experiences as a teenage athlete to my experiences as a sports coach to my ability to empathize with today’s young athletes, a definition of what they mean when they say, “it’s not fun.”

Fun means satisfying.

Fun doesn’t mean clowning around all the time or having no desire to compete like I used to think. Fun means they desire a satisfying participation experience that makes it worth the time they invest when there are a thousand other things they could be doing instead. Fun means a satisfying environment where they feel safe, valued, and among leaders who, first and foremost, want to make them better humans through athletics. 

Sure, nobody likes getting their ass handed to them in a sporting event but I don’t think winning and losing is anything but a small fraction of this new definition of fun. Then again, the environment of competing—the environment of doing things the right way and getting better every day—often depends on having that satisfying environment directed toward daily physical, mental, and emotional improvement.

As we end the fall sports season and transition to the winter sports with an eye toward spring and beyond, coaches (and parents) take a moment to honestly evaluate your program, your young student-athletes, and, in particular, get a gauge on how fun/satisfying their experience is or has been. Throw your ego aside and make the necessary changes. Study other programs. 

Develop a fun/satisfying program. Develop an environment to which young athletes choose to be there rather than doing any of those thousands of other things they could be doing. Develop an environment that respects their decision not to participate but, time and place accordingly, welcome them back into the fold without ramification if they’ve found out they made the wrong initial decision.

A coaching warning, though. Providing this type of environment takes work and effort every single day. It takes connecting with the athletes on more than just a sports performance level. It requires an energy level above and beyond the call of duty. You check your adult problems and adult ego/arrogance at the door when you walk into the locker room. You make a difference one kid, one day, one drill, one game, one play, and one season at a time through consistency and direction. Competing satisfies an inherent human trait. Tap into it with everything you do as a coach.

Provide a satisfying experience and young athletes will follow you to the ends of the earth. And it will be fun.

Finally, as so eloquently stated in Field of Dreams,

“If you build it, they will come.” 

 

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Feet Feat

In the previous football coaching post, I talked about the important concept of open and closed gates for an offensive and defensive lineman. The ability to use your lineman body type as a tool to your advantage in creating or protecting space on the football field. Football is a game of real estate; it is a fight for space. The offense wants to create space and gain real estate while the defense want to deny advancement. It’s the story of humanity in a simple and physical game, I want that space.

The gates concept relies on footwork. Of all the athletes on a football team, the casual fan would likely rank the lineman as a distant last in regard to who has or needs the best footwork. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. The big boys are the ones who need the best footwork. The lineman needs the footwork of a dancer to go along with the strength and mindset to be successful. 

Where the feet go, the body follows.

When I watch a sporting event, either live or on video, the first thing I’m drawn to is footwork. The feet can tell you volumes. Football, basketball, wrestling, track & field, baseball, volleyball, etc. all movement sports are built on the foundation of the feet. It’s so basic and so logical, coaches often overlook this fundamental factor in building great athletes enamored by speed and strength numbers. 

The football lineman must have good to great footwork to get their job done. Good footwork allows them to close gates to effectively create space or defend space. Don’t believe me yet? Then try this.

Stand straight, looking forward, and with feet shoulder length apart about an arm length and a half from a wall. Take a step with your wall-side foot and reach out and touch the wall with your near hand. Not hard right? As you stand there with your fingertips touching the wall, notice how balanced and strong your lower body feels. You feel strong and stable. You could push a hole in the wall if you felt it was necessary.

Now, stand back in your original position. Anchor your feet in place and reach out to touch the wall. Not so easy, right? Did you feel balanced and strong this time? Nope. You probably felt thankful that the wall was solid and sturdy or you’d be lying on your butt on the floor. 

That’s the importance of good footwork for an athlete. The ability to move with power, quickness, and speed AND retaining the power, quickness, and speed in your new position.

How do you develop good footwork, especially for the Bubba athletes?

For starters, movement skills emphasizing footwork must be a part of everyday training, 365 days a year. Foot ladder drills, agility drills, dot drills, etc. can easily be incorporated into the strength training routines or classes. With something so important to athletic success or failure, why a coach wouldn’t incorporate and emphasize footwork skill development is beyond me.

With the Bubbas, we use the T-board drills to develop the first three steps. The first step is a quick, short (6 inch) angle or stretch step just across the vertical board keeping the hips and shoulders square. It’s important to watch the athletes and make sure the hip follows the foot. Remember, where the foot goes, the body follows.

The second step brings the trail foot level with the lead foot keeping hips and shoulders square to the line of scrimmage then initiating contact with hands. The second step establishes the close gate and brings the lineman’s body to a favorable position with, importantly, the balance and power to get their job done.

Once contact is made the third step is used to establish hip leverage to seal the defender from the hole. The first three steps in a block are critical to an offensive lineman. The higher the level of football, the more important these technical bits become. 

The next steps are used to drive or seal the defender from the attack area of the play design. With our undersized, but athletic, lineman we had in our program, it was absolutely vital we had good footwork to put our bodies in a position of strength versus the defense. We use the board to establish good fundamentals or to re-establish good fundamentals on a daily basis. The teaching progression added bags and holders to the vertical board as an advanced drill. All repetitions are at full speed and each block finished to the coach’s whistle.

Where the feet go, the body follows.

Footwork development is an integral part of any athletic movement program. It takes focus and discipline and repetition. That’s not just what is required of the athlete. The coach must be more focused, more disciplined, and more attuned to the details as they watch each and every repetition. Nothing in this coaching business can be run on autopilot. There’s not a single aspect of sports coaching, especially in youth or high school, where the coach can put on the cruise control. 

Coaching is work.

Hard work.

And, if you’ve hung around here long enough you know…

HARD WORK IS THE MAGIC.

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Gates

As a former offensive and defensive line football coach, one thing I always look for when watching a game or scouting a game is open/closed gates. What is a gate in football? It’s the ability to stay square and create your space in the contact zone called the line of scrimmage. It’s the same concept as the gate on a fence. When a gate is closed, you can’t walk through it. It’s a barrier. When a gate is closed, you have to do something drastic, like climb over, dig under, or ram through it, to get through. An open gate is just the opposite. It’s no longer a barrier but an invitation to come through.

By Calum McRoberts, CC BY-SA 2.0

My football concept of gates on the offensive and defensive line is similar. When an offensive lineman or defensive lineman keep their hips and shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage, their gate is closed. When they turn their hips and shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, they open the gate.

A defensive lineman’s job is simple. They are assigned a piece of real estate, a gap or area, to protect. Nothing gets through. Nothing knocks the DL from their spot. The job is much easier and much more effective when they play with their gate closed. Opening their gate and turning their hips and shoulders open a running lane.

The same is true for an offensive lineman. Their job is to create open real estate and running lanes on a run play. The job is to clear a path by using your closed gate-created space to either drive the defender away from the running lane, like a snow blade on the front of a truck, or shield a lane for the running back to use. 

For pass blocking, the offensive linemen need to provide a protective barrier for the QB in the pocket in order for the QB to feel safe, comfortable, and able to make the throws. Close gates are essential to provide a barrier from the rushing defenders across the line of scrimmage. Closed gates in pass protection reduce the attack alleys of the defense just like a closed gate of a fence makes it harder to enter. Only when a pass rusher breaks the blocker’s hip level does the blocker turn the hips and shoulders to adjust their gate to the threat.

Establishing good technical skills to be an effective offensive and defensive lineman requires excellent footwork, body position, and hand battle skill. Everything a coach should do in practice must be centered around those skills. The footwork is vital. It drives the placement of the hips which drives the placement of the shoulders, which drives the success or failure in a lineman doing their job. (What is good footwork? That, and how to develop good big boy footwork are coming soon in a separate post.)

Practice perfect every rep. 

Practice for perfection when the athletes get tired because physically and mentally tired athletes make mistake because they lose form. 

Practice, practice, and practice to keep the gates closed. 

Close those gates, Bubbas!

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Doesn’t Matter

It doesn’t matter what everybody else thinks.
It’s what you think that matters.

It doesn’t matter what everybody else does.
It’s what you do that matters.

It doesn’t matter what everyone else talks.
It’s the walk you walk that matters.

Be the best you that you can be.
Every day.

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Go!

3,2,1…GO!

It’s time for the high school football season! There’s nothing quite like Friday Night in America.

I’m excited to watch our Clay County teams in action. Go Clay Center Tigers! Go Wakefield Bombers!

I’m also excited for the K-State season and to see what my Kansas City Chiefs can accomplish in what I consider a “do or die” season.

The song that always popped into my head before a Friday night football game as a player and as a coach was Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones. Great beat and cadence of what it felt like inside my head before a game.  “Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet boy”

I think I finally found a replacement Friday Night in America song. Go! by the London electronic band, Public Service Broadcasting. It’s a song that hits the perfect pregame mental/emotional notes and, in this 50th anniversary year of the Apollo 11 mission, makes one want almost want to run through a brick wall.

Enjoy your opening week, everyone! I wish you joy and satisfaction this season.

Work hard and have fun!

But never forget…

Football is NOT life; it’s for a lifetime.

Friday Night In America

We did not come here for “spirit” or to be “peppy”, others will come for those.

We did not come here for peace, or love, or joy.

We came here to knock your pride into the dirt.

We came here to steal your dignity.

Friday Night in America.

Tiger Football.

3,2,1…GO!

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If you love it, do it.

Even though I don’t coach high school football anymore, I always get a little excited for the upcoming football season around this time of the summer. It’s a sport I’ve always enjoyed as a player, fan, and especially as a coach.

This is also the time of the summer where I started hearing about the local kids who say they’re not going to play in the fall. On the one hand, it makes me sad. On the other hand, I understand. Time commitment, work, school, and/or issues with the coaching staff are all reasons I’ve heard from kids in the past. I do understand these reasons.

My advice to these kids who are contemplating not playing a sport they’ve played in the past is pretty simple:

If you love playing the sport, play it.

Don’t worry about the details.

Don’t worry about anything.

If you love it, do it.

Compete and enjoy the process.

Don’t let others, including the adults, bring you down.

Play for the joy of playing. Find that joy you once experienced and find a way to live within that joy. Use it to fuel your performance. Use it to put on the blinders and play with the spirit of the game despite whatever crap swirls around you.

To all you young athletes on the fence about participating in a sport, this advice is for you. Like I’ve said many times, there’s no “I” in team, but there’s sure as hell is a “ME”.  Take care of your business, do your job, and don’t worry about the things you can’t control.

See? It’s pretty simple.

If you love playing a game, play it.

Play the game you love until somebody tells you that you can’t play anymore.

Good luck! Whatever your decision is, do it with confidence, do it with thought, and, most of all, do it with no regrets.

By The Library of Congress – Instilling love of the game early? https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51223119

 

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