Tag Archives: Clay Center Football

Over. Done With. Gone.

Logically, our high school football season would end either when we lost our playoff game or we failed to make the playoffs. Makes sense, right?

Game over, mope around a couple of days, check in equipment, and say those awful goodbyes to senior young men who will never play organized football again. Over. Done with. Gone.

But that’s never the way it happened. Never.

Sure, we’d do all the stuff listed above. Plus, we’d have the requisite end-of-the-season banquet where I’d have to fake-smile my way through the whole ordeal because all I could think about were my failures as a coach that season (Although the player-produced highlight videos were always cool, no matter how few highlights we may have actually produced on the field that year.).

Even then, the season was never really over for me until the last game, the 4A state championship, was played. Somebody in 4A was still playing AND it wasn’t me. That was tough to let go. People still playing when I was not ready to be done. 

Until the point of the finality of nobody else playing, I was mired in the reality of our failure. I slept poorly, I worked poorly, and if you take a vote, I was probably a pretty crappy person to be around. The majority of my waking thoughts dwelt on what we did wrong and what we needed to do to get better.

Once the state title was safely in the books, I relaxed. I started to think optimistically about next year. I started to prepare winter, spring, and summer weight workouts with a hopeful smile on my face.

Did I say I relaxed? Well, apparently, when I relaxed at the end of the season, so did my immune system. About every year, come late November, I would get a God-awful, upper respiratory infection which made my life miserable right up to Christmas. I spent a month every postseason hacking and coughing my way through life. So much for optimism?

Coaching is a weird thing. It gets in your head and worms its way into the marrow of your bones. There are bad things I really don’t miss in the least of which I could rant for hours upon. But the good things and great memories far outweighed the bad and I miss those things dearly. These good things are the things which keep people coaching sports year after year.

Not money, not glory, not the fancy headsets, but the pure joy of competing and coaching young people.

But…as the great Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Putting football things on the shelf.

The pain of letting a season go. The pain of telling those seniors goodbye.

The bumps from slipping back into a normal family life.

Is everyone finally done playing?

Game over. Back to life.

Over. Done with. Gone.

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This Is Our House

“This is our house.”
You hear this quite often in sports.
Home field.
The home field advantage.

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At the western gateway of Clay Center we have our sports houses.
We have Unruh Stadium for football.
We have Kelly Campbell Field for baseball.
Our home fields. Our houses.

Campbell Shack Unruh Scoreboard 2

But our sports houses have not been taken care of very well.
Sports fields need maintenance. Almost daily maintenance.
Our fields and stadiums have not been maintained well.
They need some care.
They need us, the community.

Unruh Stands South

Campbell 1B Dugout

There’s been a lot of finger pointing about these problems.
Lots of blame, lots of ideas, very little action.
It reminded me of a phrase Coach Dail Smith would tell our football kids.
“When you point the finger of blame, remember three of your own fingers are pointing straight back to you.”

It was time to become part of the solution.

In late 2013, Rex Carlson, Larry Wallace, Jr. and I took on a project to renovate Campbell Field.
The mayor gave us the fancy title of the ad hoc Committee for Campbell Field Renovation.
Why in the world would we take on such a daunting task?

First, there was the eye test.
Things had fallen apart.
The playing surface was a mess.
Dugouts, mounds, bullpens, fence…all a mess.
Lack of daily maintenance, lack of water, and lots of Kansas wind did major damage.

Second, there was the ear test.
People were saying a lot of bad things about our baseball field. Many of these people were the same people who failed to raise a finger to help, who failed to hold up their promises and turned away from their commitments.
Their words stung. Their words lit a fire.
Their words fueled a change.

Third, we opened our own eyes and saw the work being done for area youth baseball. We saw kids enjoying the game of baseball all around us. We saw teams practicing and working to get better. We saw youngsters smiling and playing the game.

We knew these kids deserved a decent place to play the game.

We also knew the most important thing to accomplish was a renovation plan that could be maintained within the limited budget and resources of the city and the city recreation department. The plan needed to be smart, it need to be maintainable and it needed to maximize every dollar graciously donated by people and businesses of our community toward the project.

With the blessing and support of the city, we are working toward making Campbell Field a safe, playable, rural Kansas 4A high school baseball field. This is our goal. Our goal is not to build a professional or collegiate field. Our system could never maintain such a dream field.

Campbell Infield

In all honesty, facilities aren’t not the best of investments. The more resources you spend on them, the more resources it takes to maintain them. Our philosophy is to take care of what we have so our community can spend the bulk of their  limited resources on programs, not facilities.

We are getting closer to our goal and have set up a fund for donations through the Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation to help the common sense renovations of Campbell Field, Schaulis Field, and Montel Field. If you are interested in helping the cause through  a greatly appreciated donation or an in-kind donation, please contact Rex, Larry, me, or the CC Community Improvement Foundation for information.

I hope a similar, common sense financial approach will be taken with Unruh Stadium renovation.

Unruh from scoreboard

A plan to fix the structural problems and maintain the facility for the long-term. A plan to address the ADA compliant issues with perhaps ramp/viewing areas (30-40 feet across) at the ends of the stands following the basic design Oakley, Kansas used on their WPA-era stadium renovation a few years back.

 

Oakley Stadium1

 

Maybe even redesign the player and fan space in the stadium by turning the current home locker room, men’s restroom, storage room,and referee room at the south end into a new men’s and women’s restrooms/concession area in that space. At the north end of the stadium, expand the visitor’s locker room into current women’s restroom and add additional showers in that space. A new metal building could be constructed for the home locker room/referee room/storage room in the grass area south of the stadium where the team bus currently parks. The fencing behind the stadium needs a face-lift anyway and could be moved to accommodate this structure.  If funds are available or raised, a limestone arched entryway/ticket booth addition would look great attached to the north and south end of the stadium.

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I thoroughly appreciate my years enjoying this view while coaching football.

It was a blast to have coached football and baseball in Clay Center.

It was an honor to be a part of something so special.

We do have something special in Clay Center. Believe me, coming from a 6A city school, what we have in Clay Center, with our fields, our fans, and our kids are all very, very special.

I think it’s time to go to work. It’s time to keep our special things special.

Purpose. Pride. Passion.

The Clay Center Way.

 

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Attitude & Confidence

It’s been awhile since the last Coach Hays rant. I am getting older, wiser, and possibly even settling down into a maturity level fitting of my middle-aged-ness. Well, maybe not completely.

We, as a sports community in our town, are working on turning around our programs. Turning around programs is an undertaking. Where’s the first place to start when undertaking such an endeavor?

It’s not facilities or fields, it’s not uniforms or equipment, nor is it pre-game/post-game events.

The start of change begins with attitude and confidence.

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Attitude

I used to start summer football conditioning with this speech.

“Would all 6’5″ offensive lineman please stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

“Would all 6’3″, 215 lb. safeties who hit like a cannon shot please stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

“Would all running backs who run 4.4 second 40’s stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

The boys would laugh a nervous laugh, there would be a few snide remarks concerning the mental stability of their coach, then I would deliver the goods in my outside voice.

“We don’t have those physical attributes here in our town.  We don’t have those physical attributes sitting here on this floor.  But, I know what we do have.  We have a lot of bad ass SOB’s sitting right here.  We have kids who will fight and compete until somebody makes them stop.  IF, and I say, IF, you listen to me and do what we ask you to do, this strength and conditioning program will turn you into a human weapon. You will hit people harder than they have ever been hit.  You will play with such intensity and fire you will wreck havoc and create chaos.  We may not be big, we may not be fast, but we can be weapons!”

That’s attitude. That’s the attitude we had to have to be successful, the attitude necessary to compete with teams bigger, stronger, and faster than we were.

It starts with attitude.

We need to put a chip on our shoulder and claim our place among the elite.

As Coach Lane once told the team in this quote from G. K. Chesterton,

“They don’t write fairy tales to teach children that dragons exist…They write fairy tales to teach children that DRAGONS CAN BE KILLED.”

Time to slay some dragons, boys.

Dream it. Work for it. Do it.

Confidence

The attitude has to be paired with confidence.

  • Confidence is developed through repetition and work.
  • Confidence is developed through technical proficiency of the sports skills.
  • Confidence is developed through challenge and overcoming failure.
  • Confidence comes from earned praise and performance.

Royals pitcher James Shields said something very interesting this past week in an interview before his start in the 2014 American League Wild Card Game. The reporter asked him when the season turned around for the team. He pointed to the players-only meeting after the post-All Star Game losing streak. When pushed for what happened in the meeting, I expected Shield relating a story of some fiery, arguments and challenges between the players. Instead, he said something very surprising.

He said two mid-season Royals acquisitions, veterans Raul Ibanez and Scott Downs, who both were picked up from other MLB organizations, addressed the young Royals in the meeting. From their outsider point of view, the two told the team just how talented they were and how much potential the rest of the league saw in the Kansas City clubhouse. Shield said he could almost see the light going on in the players’s eyes around the room, he saw the confidence of the team rise as the players realized they were, or could be, a top-notch team. Things changed from there. The young players needed a little nudge of confidence, they needed someone from the outside to give them this jolt.

Confidence, backed up by hard work and attitude, leads to success.

Confidence, backed up by hard work and attitude, means you can compete with anyone.  You can slay the dragons.

I believe in our athletes. I believe we can succeed.

Gentlemen, you can do this. Puff out your chest and get to the business of being the best you can be.

W.E.B.A.T.T.

(We Belong At The Top)

 

 

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Apples and Crackers

When it came to coaching football, I was stupid. Seriously, most of the time, I was too oblivious to things going on outside of football while we were supposed to be doing football. Case in point, apples and crackers.

Apples and crackers? What in the heck do they have to do with football? Sit down, get a cool drink, and I’ll tell you.

It started with early season home JV games, you know those late August/early September HOT games. For this particular first home date, we played an area team who would bring both their freshman team and JV team over for a doubleheader. Me, as JV coach, thought (with the football coach’s blinders firmly in place) this would be a perfect opportunity to practice. Since our JV game would be starting a bit later than usual, we could get a full varsity team practice in. So, I made the last-minute, executive decision to practice instead of letting JV kids have some time off after school. Perfect. An extra almost-full practice. Priceless.

Well, maybe not. The first year we did this, we loaded the JV team up after the practice and drove to the stadium. We arrived about halftime of the freshman game. While standing around before warm-ups, a few of the kids talk about how hungry they are and how they had nothing to eat since lunch. Parents with high school boys are well aware of this time warp, which extends the hours between lunch and 6:00 PM into a seemingly 19-day fasting period for these youngsters. Long story short, I knew we would play like dookie and whine like cats in the bathtub if I didn’t find something for them to eat.

With the visual of 20+ angry mothers confronting me about not allowing their fine sons to eat before playing a JV football game, I scoot over to Coach Lane, explain the problem, and we coaches pool what little coaching cash we have for him to run to the store. He asked me what in the hell he should get for them. I went blank and when my brain kicked into gear, I blurted out the first two food items which entered my mind. Apples and crackers.

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Ten minutes later, after we are completely dressed out and the freshman game is about at the end of the third quarter, Coach Lane returns with four giant bags of Jonathan apples (my personal favorite) and four boxes of Zesta saltine crackers.

That night, the boys ate like kings. I’ve never seen young men enjoy a meal of two completely ridiculous “power” foods like those boys did that night. I was fortunate to grab two apples for my own dinner without losing a limb in the process. Those apples and those crackers disappeared in about two minutes. Smiles all around and life was good.

Game On!

Apples and crackers became a tradition for the first home JV game for the next several years. It was like a team banquet or something for these kids. Some still talk about it. The majority of the time, stupidity fades faster than a shot from a Roman candle. But, sometimes, there is a rare occasion where stupidity sticks and enjoys a long life. The incident of the apples and crackers was one of these rare events.

Live well, boys! Celebrate the start of the 2014 football season with an apple and a few saltine crackers.

Enjoy the snack with the zeal of youth.

Enjoy it for your football memories.

Most importantly, enjoy it for Friday Night in America.

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The Snap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Touch The Sign

When I was just starting out as a Rule 10 football coach at Clay Center Community High School back in the year 2000, I was a mild mannered, timid, and completely clueless football coa…SCREEECHHH.

Sorry boys for the stretch of the truth, please let me start again.

Okay, when I was just starting out as a Rule 10 football coach back in the year 2000, I was an excitable, raving lunatic, who was completely clueless as a football coach. There, I said it. Then something happened. I read the Blackie Book and I read Coach Otto Unruh’s book, HOW TO COACH WINNING FOOTBALL.

The Blackie Book is a compilation put together (and updated each year) by Coach Blackie Lane. It contains virtually the entire historic record of high school football in Clay Center. It is an incredible piece of history and if you haven’t seen it, you should make the effort.

HOW TO COACH WINNING FOOTBALL by the long time Clay Center and Bethel College head coach is a valuable slice of wisdom, both in the schematic football knowledge of the day and in the timeless methodology of coaching young boys into young men.

I read these two documents and became transformed by the tradition of football in our town. I realized what a heavy responsibility fell on one who coaches in this program and I vowed not to be a disappointment. I worked and read, and read and worked. I research and studied football coaching, football theory, especially offensive and defensive line play. But most of all, I studied strength and conditioning.

We aren’t big in CC, we aren’t exceedingly fast, and never really have been. But tradition holds these truths; we play hard, we hit hard, and we come after you every play of every game.

Tiger Tradition.

Another thing we started doing back around 2002 (or one of those years) was having each player touch the Otto Unruh Stadium sign at the south end of the stadium prior to pregame introductions. Fans may or may not have ever noticed this, but they still do it.

I don’t coach anymore, mostly because of the excitable, raving lunatic descriptors I used earlier in this post. Out of curiosity, though, I asked a couple current players if they knew why they “Touch the Sign” before home games. They did not know, but they were eager to find out. So, here is the reason you touch that sign, boys.

We “Touch The Sign” before we take the field for home games at Otto Unruh Stadium as a tribute to all those who played Clay Center Football before us.

We pledge with that one touch we will play with honor, courage, intensity, and sportsmanship on our home field and in front of our community.

We promise we will leave the Clay Center mark on our opponent in defeat and in victory. They will know by their battered and tired bodies they played the Clay Center Tigers.

We play for 100+ years of Clay Center football:

  • 836 games, 453-337-46 record, a .542 winning %
  • 63% of all teams had a winning record
  • 10 undefeated seasons

We play for the early Clay Center Dynasties:

1. V.R. Vegades Era 1920-1926; 42-10-2, a .778 winning %

  • 1920 – 7-1 record
  • 1921 – 8-1 undefeated regular season. Lost to Topeka in playoffs.
  • 1922 – 7-1 Did not get scored on all season until last game, a 7-6 loss to Manhattan. Beat Concordia 101-0.
  • 1923 – 6-1, No TD’s given up the entire season. Lost final game to Manhattan 6-3 but only gave up 2 FG’s.
  • 1924 – 6-1, only gave up 3 TD’s all season.

2. C.A. Nelson Era 1930-1941; 69-27-13, a .670 winning % and 3 undefeated seasons.

We play for the Otto Unruh Era:

  • 1945-1966; 126-65-8, a .633 winning %
  • Won 3 Class A State Championships
  • 3 undefeated 9-0 seasons.
  • 1956 and 1957 teams went 18-0 and won 2 state titles.
  • 1963 team went 8-1 and won state championship. Only loss of year was to Manhattan, 7-6, on a missed PAT.

We play for the Larry Wiemers Era:

  • 1977-1994; 114-71, a .616 winning%
  • 1978, 1979, 1980 teams went 26-5, 2 District championships and 3 NCKL titles
  • 1980 team went 10-1, losing only to Andover in the regional final.
  • 1983, 1984, 1985 teams went 25-8, Substate, district and bi-district titles.
  • 1993 team went 10-1, NCKL champs, district, bi-district, regional runner-up

So, gentlemen, there’s the story behind why you Touch the Sign. Good luck and NEVER forget,

There is no #TigerFamily without #TigerTradition.

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2006 Summer Conditioning Theme: The Keys to Success

Keys to Success…

  •  Winners do the things losers will not do.
  •  Being successful often means working harder than the next guy.
  •  Having success builds success within the individual and the team.

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Green Standard Time

Back in the day, we did our summer conditioning at 6:30 AM. We chose 6:30 AM for three reasons. First, what the heck else were teenage boys doing at 6:30 AM? A few worked, but we were always understanding and appreciative of that. Second reason, it was when I could do it, be at work at a decent hour, and not get fired from my real job. Third reason, it was cool(er) than the oven of a Kansas afternoon/evening summer day.

Sure, it was early, but we worked hard and we worked fast. We wanted to make the dedicated effort of the boys to be there that early worth the effort of being there, so most of the time, I drove them like dogs. I think we made it well worth their while over the years. We worked hard, but we tried to make it fun. We blasted music, I dished out crap right and left, as necessary. We laughed, we cussed at each other and we grew as people.  I guess you would call it an intense, chaotic, comical, teenage boy atmosphere where everyone would go home, to convenience store, or to the doughnut shop, worn out and dragging.

One group of kids I always carried a tremendous amount of respect for over the years were the country kids from the outskirts of the county. Most of these were farm kids who made great sacrifices to drive 10-30 miles to get to town for workouts. But, no matter how much respect I had for their and their family’s  sacrifices, I could not, and did not, treat them any differently. They were expected to be there on time, ready to roll, just like everyone else was.

Which brings to mind Green Standard Time. There was a small contingent of kids who farmed north of the rural town of Green, Kansas. They would meet up every morning and carpool the 20+ miles to the high school. They were always 10 minutes late and they would always blame it on the senior-to-be of the group, who happened to be our star running back.  Every morning, we would start dynamic warm-ups at precisely 6:30 AM and sure enough, the Green crew would roll in about ten minutes late, the younger kid or two always behind the senior pointing at him and pleading at me with their wide, innocent eyes for mercy. Every day, I would rant for a minute then tell them to join the warm-up and get to work.

Eventually this ritual repeated itself so often, I knew it was time to honor it with a name.  One particular morning rant, I went off about how the other 45 young men, some of who lived WAY out in the sticks, found their way to be on time every day.  I continued to rant about how Green must be on a different time zone or something. Ding! There it was, the name. So from that day forward, from 2002 to 2012, these boys-turned-men live on Green Standard Time (GST).

Despite their tendency for tardiness, the men of the GST have turned into fine men, husbands, farmers, teachers, coaches and even fathers-to-be. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

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