Tag Archives: Compete

Competing: Part Two

“Winning is not a sometime thing: it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do the right thing once in a while; you do things right all the time. Winning is a habit.”  -Vince Lombardi

 

This quote from Coach Vince Lombardi sat at the top of every Clay Center Community High School summer conditioning, winter conditioning, and baseball offseason workout sheet I put into the world. You want to know what sits at the core of my parenting, coaching, working, writing, and life philosophies? It’s pretty much all in that quote (Plus, I’d add “smile and try to be nice” in there somewhere).

If you’re a regular reader of The Coach Hays blog, you might wonder what sort of burr attached itself to Hays’ backside to get him so worked up about competing and winning and losing. I owe you at least that since you’re taking a few minutes of your valuable time to read this.

Here’s the deal. A week or so, I ran into a young man who is going to be a freshman next year. I asked him if he was excited about summer conditioning and being a part of the high school program. He said he was but that he was very nervous. I told him that was okay. It’s good to be nervous because it means you care enough to want to do a good job. He looked at me sideways and provided the classic and wise response of a rising eighth grader, “Whatever…”

I ignored the lack of enthusiasm in his response and continued on to ask how many in his class were going to play. He paused, counted the fingers on one hand and deftly moved to count the fingers on the other. Half expecting either the right shoe or the left to be shed next, he answered, “I think there’s only going to be about six.”

“SIX!” I responded.

He answered in the affirmative, although taking a step away from me slightly shocked at the intensity in my response.

I took a few deep breaths and asked him why so few.

For the record, I can live with just about any excuse for not wanting to play a sport or participate in an activity. Everyone has their own interests, likes, and dislikes. Football, especially, is not for everyone. I’m honestly and truthfully a supporter of kids doing what they enjoy. If there are only six kids who want to do the work and enjoy playing the game the right way, so be it. But this excuse I heard sucked the life out of me.

“They don’t want to lose.”

It made my coaching heart hurt to hear this.

What was left out of the youth sports experience for these kids? Did they not experience or learn the joy of sports lies in the joy of competing? Where is the system did they not learn that failure is part of becoming a “winner”.

I thought of all the things I’d do if I were their coach. I thought of the quote from Vince Lombardi for the first time in several years. I thought of the years coaching and the fun we had competing and preparing. I thought of all those football and baseball games where we went into the contest knowing we always had a chance for success because we prepared the best we could.

Somewhere along the line, did these kids miss playing in such an environment? If so, I don’t know where or when or who. It doesn’t matter. There are no fingers that need to be pointed. All that matters is these situations is that it can be changed in an instant. A coach or a parent or a program director can change the philosophy from a pure win/lose focus to one where the focus in on getting better every day by being challenged every day.

Failure is all part of the process of achieving success. Dream big, fail, regroup, work, and try again. Repeat until you succeed and then dream bigger.

My hope and my expectation are that these dozen or so young athletes will eventually change their mind and continue to participate in football next fall. My advice to them is to give it a try and get past the fear of the unknown that comes with a big life change from middle school to high school.

Coaches, parents, and athletes. It’s up to you to make things better.

Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.

You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do the right thing once in a while; you do things right all the time.

Winning is a habit.

Develop good habits and good things will happen. Keep the focus on improvement, not W’s and L’s. In the end, if you learn just this one thing from sports, you will be a winner…no matter what your won-loss record was.

Hard work is the magic.

 

 

 

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Competing: Part One

Something’s been bugging me lately. On the surface, it’s sports related. Scratch the surface, though, and it seeps into many problematic areas of American life in 2019. Sports, academics, parenting, politics, etc.

Competing.

  • Trying hard things.
  • Challenging yourself and accepting being challenged.
  • Winning.
  • Losing.
  • More important, winning and losing with class and respect for the opponent.

I’m calling this post “Competing: Part One” because I foresee several posts on this subject. I think I have things to say, things to work out, things to question, and things to learn. To kick off this exploratory project of the problem of competing, here is a post I wrote in 2013.

When Everyone Wins, Nobody Wins

There’s a trend in amateur sports which threatens a healthy future and perhaps even their survival as we know them. This disturbing trend is the misconception that competing means winning.

Behind this philosophy, we are eroding the joy in competing. We are smashing the inherent joy of working hard for a goal, by lowering the bar to give everybody the “win”. We continually are diluting the competitive structure to allow the most winners. Let’s hand out a ribbon to everybody, whether they earned it or deserved it. That’s unhealthy.

ribbons

One of my favorite movies is THE INCREDIBLES. One of the best lines in the movie is when the antagonist, Syndrome, tells Mr. Incredible he is creating superpower technology he’ll eventually sell to normal people. Syndrome says, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

Is that where we are going? Are we headed in the direction where only winning matters, so we need to make sure we create a system where everyone wins? That, my friends, is not a system which promotes the values and life lessons intended by sport. Teamwork flies out the door and the disciplined and dedicated approach to self-improvement soon follows. The reward for preparation is severely discounted. Using failure, or the potential of failure, to drive a desire to improve is swept under the rug.

Honestly, most of the true innate joy in sports is in competing. The joy of competing is in the working of one’s tail off to get better day after day in practice. The joy is in the going out on the field to give every last milligram of fight and intensity to compete with purpose, pride, and passion, win or lose. That’s what competing is.

Wins and losses will fall where they may, the competitive effort awards the athlete to a higher degree than any medal or trophy or ribbon. In fact, as much can be learned about oneself from a defeat as from a victory. Three of the most talked about football games in our tenure (even years after the games were played) were against 4A state powerhouse Holton Wildcats. These three games were massive, epic battles, games which felt like two rams rearing back and hammering horns together for four quarters.

These boys, now men, still talk about those games with a gleam in their eye. Do you know the common factor in those three Holton games? We lost. We played out heart out, we fought against the odds, we ignored the preconceived notion we were underdogs and vastly over-matched. We still lost. We ENJOYED those games enough to remember every detail ten years later, despite the final score.

THAT is what I am afraid to lose as we slide down the gravel slope to the pit where competing = winning.

In fact, I felt we found out more about who we were as human beings in how we responded to a defeat. We found out so much about ourselves as players and coaches by how we picked ourselves up from the muck of failure and worked to become something better. And for us adults, who’ve survived our share of hardships in life, isn’t that a great lesson for young athletes to learn?

Athletes remember the competition. The defeats and the victories often fade over time, but that feeling of having competed to the maximum of one’s abilities leaves a trail of satisfaction and has staying power.

As parents, coaches, and administrators let’s turn the tide, let’s once again turn our focus to the promotion of competition, instead of a focus on winning. We don’t need to eliminate losing. We don’t need to a ribbon or a trophy to be a winner.

We need the joy of competing to the best of our ability to make us winners.

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It’s Only JV

I left the house with purpose of mind. As soon as the local high school baseball practice was over, I’d jump on the field, rake the pitcher’s mound, rake the batter’s box, drag the field for tomorrow’s home JV baseball game, and get home in time to eat dinner with my wife. Thirty minutes…tops. Life has been a little crazy lately so I thought nobody would really mind if we just did the basic field prep work and went home. I told myself it was only a JV game. Get the field playable and forget all the bells and whistles of a normal varsity home game.

We finished the mound. We finished the batter’s box. I ran the finish drag around with the mower while RC hand-watered the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box. Well, it was only a JV game. 90-minutes later, I am raking the limestone track around the backstop with the new sprinkler laying down a fine spray of water on the dry-as-a-bone dirt and I pause to look at my watch. 90-minutes. Yeah, I missed dinner with my poor wife.

I continued to rake until everything was in its pre-game place.

I know it’s only JV game, but there is no “only”.

Every game matters. Every game is important.

A game deserves the very best of what we can give.

Every play, every pitch, every possession.

Life is like a JV game. It’s not often in the spotlight. It is not all glory. It is work. It is getting better every minute of every day. It is giving your best even though the crowd is small and nobody seems to really be paying attention.

This environment is where you get better. Get better at your game, your art, your career, your very human-ness.

Put your time in. Do your very best. And then wake up and do your very best tomorrow.

Hard work is the magic.

IMG_2900

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Core Competitors

It’s all about how you compete. It’s all about how you develop players who compete.

Success hinges upon this one factor. Competing. 

Competing needs to be a way of life and a daily approach to the task at hand. It is developed through constant challenge and drive to squeeze a little more out of what is in the arsenal.

And I’m not just talking about the championship caliber athlete or team, either. I’m talking about taking the average Joe. I’m talking about teaching him the basic fundamental techniques, teaching him the basic philosophy, and infusing in him a philosophy to compete every single day.

  • It’s not about facilities or about fields.
  • It’s not about snazzy uniforms or the newest and best equipment.
  • It’s not about peppy-ness or spirit or “rah rah”.
  • It is not about team functions and dinners and trinket/snack sales.
  • It is about competing. Every day, every hour, every minute, and every second.
  • It is about being a competitive clog in a competitive wheel and not settling for anything less than full-out effort by everyone.
  • It is about getting down and dirty every day to push yourself to get better.
  • It is about being up to the challenge and providing the new challenges every day.

Athletes and coaches, if you can understand this one thing and if you can focus on competing, you will be instantly headed in the right direction. Instantly.

You may not win every game, but you will compete with every ounce of marrow in  your body.

You will walk from every contest with your head held high and the respect of your opponent in your pocket.

It’s not about the WANT TO.

It’s about the “WILL DO“.

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When Everyone Wins, Nobody Wins.

There’s a trend in amateur sports which threatens a healthy future and perhaps even their survival as we know them. This disturbing trend is the misconception that competing means winning.

Behind this philosophy, we are eroding the joy in competing. We are smashing the inherent joy of working hard for a goal, by lowering the bar to give everybody the “win”. We continually are diluting the competitive structure to allow the most winners. Let’s hand out a ribbon to everybody, whether they earned it or deserved it. That’s unhealthy.

ribbons

One of my favorite movies is THE INCREDIBLES. One of the best lines in the movie is when the antagonist, Syndrome, tells Mr. Incredible he is creating superpower technology he’ll eventually sell to normal people. Syndrome says, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

Is that where we are going? Are we headed in the direction where only winning matters, so we need to make sure we create a system where everyone wins? That, my friends, is not a system which promotes the values and life lessons intended by sport. Teamwork flies out the door and the disciplined and dedicated approach to self-improvement soon follows. The reward for preparation is severely discounted. Using failure, or the potential of failure, to drive a desire to improve is swept under the rug.

Honestly, most of the true innate joy in sports is in competing. The joy of competing is in the working of one’s tail off to get better day after day in practice. The joy is in the going out on the field to give every last milligram of fight and intensity to compete with purpose, pride, and passion, win or lose. That’s what competing is.

Wins and losses will fall where they may, the competitive effort awards the athlete to a higher degree than any medal or trophy or ribbon. In fact, as much can be learned about oneself from a defeat as from a victory. Three of the most talked about football games in our tenure (even years after the games were played) were against 4A state powerhouse Holton Wildcats. These three games were massive, epic battles, games which felt like two rams rearing back and hammering horns together for four quarters.

These boys, now men, still talk about those games with a gleam in their eye. Do you know the common factor in those three Holton games? We lost. We played out heart out, we fought against the odds, we ignored the preconceived notion we were underdogs and vastly over-matched. We still lost. We ENJOYED those games enough to remember every detail ten years later, despite the final score.

THAT is what I am afraid to lose as we slide down the gravel slope to the pit where competing = winning.

In fact, I felt we found out more about who we were as human beings in how we responded to a defeat. We found out so much about ourselves as players and coaches by how we picked ourselves up from the muck of failure and worked to become something better. And for us adults, who’ve survived our share of hardships in life, isn’t that a great lesson for young athletes to learn?

Athletes remember the competition. The defeats and the victories often fade over time, but that feeling of having competed to the maximum of one’s abilities leaves a trail of satisfaction and has staying power.

As parents, coaches, and administrators let’s turn the tide, let’s once again turn our focus to the promotion of competition, instead of a focus on winning. We don’t need to eliminate losing. We don’t need to a ribbon or a trophy to be a winner.

We need the joy of competing to the best of our ability to make us winners.

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Football Is NOT Life: Reprise 2012

I originally wrote this post for me, to help me get over myself being down in the dumps over another year not coaching football. I wrote is as a therapeutic reminder that, even though I miss coaching dearly, this great game of football is not, and should never be, the MOST IMPORTANT thing in life.

I am re-posting the blog piece, Football is NOT Life, for you.  You know, you folks out there who have let things slip out of focus. The ones who are half crazed with the emotion and the frustration and the disappointment associated with sports, especially when things are heading south in a hurry.

Everybody wants to win, it is written in the marrow of our bones. However, not everybody can win and we need to remind ourselves there are worse things in life than losing a game of football, no matter how much it hurts.

Respect the kids and respect the coaches. Respect the work and effort everyone invests, no matter how disappointing the outcome is. Use games and sports to build character in our young people, not to expose poor character. Please read this post and think about it.  If it helps, then pass it on to the next person before we adults take all the fun out of this great game.

Football is NOT Life! (originally posted on September 21, 2010)

I know this may sound highly irrational and maybe even a bit hypocritical coming from me, but contrary to what the t-shirts say, FOOTBALL IS NOT LIFE!.

Football is the greatest damn game ever invented, but it is not life.  Football is intensity, competitiveness, sportsmanship and violence, but it is not life.  Football requires immense strategy and teamwork, but it is not life.  Football provides education, drama, entertainment, and a solidarity which binds communities, campuses and fan bases throughout the nation, but it is not life.  Football is universal, it is played by presidents and paupers, genius and idiot, big and small, aggressive and passive, rich and poor, but it is not life.  Football should not be all consuming.  Football should not be the top priority.  I know this for a fact, I have tripped and fallen down this hole before (see my story).

Football can be like a package of Oreos, both need to be consumed in moderation.  You’ve been there, you open the package of Oreos and leave it out on the counter.  Sooner, rather than later, the whole package is gone and you don’t feel so good.  But if you open that package and only take a couple of Oreos and place the package in the cupboard for a later date, they not only taste spectacular, but last and satisfy for days upon days.  Football is not life.  It should be taken in moderation and/or with a tall glass of milk, (1% or skim preferably).

Football has it’s proper place, it has it’s proper perspective. Football is not the primary reason for the existence of high schools, colleges and universities.

Yes, football is important.  It is important to compete.  It is important to work hard to be the best coach or player you can be.  It is important to compete with purpose, pride and passion.  But I think Coach Paul Lane said it best with his prioritization of the sport, “Faith, Family, Football, in that order”.

Football is important to me.  But football is not life.  Let’s work to keep football in it’s proper perspective and place. I would hate for you to get a football belly-ache.

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The Wingbuster Story: Part One

The Wingbuster. I imagine when the approximately 300 or so former Tiger football players from that era in Clay County, KS hear those two words, it brings a sly smile to their faces. The Wingbuster was a football defense we packaged and the kids bought into in order to stop one of the most dangerous football offenses we faced, the Double Wing. This Double Wing offense run to perfection by an area school, Rock Creek High School.

The Wingbuster was so big, such an obsession for me, it will take a series of blog posts to try and give it justice. I probably spent a solid six months of my life researching, scouting, designing, presenting and thinking about this defense.

To understand the Wingbuster, one must first understand the motivation behind the obsession. Perhaps we should start with a one little detail about me;  I don’t like to lose. Period. Fear of losing is a great motivator. Do the work, give it your very best effort whether player or coach. Do everything you can within the limits of the rules to win. It is an excellent driving force.

I like Rock Creek High School. I really respect their head coach, Mike Beam, his coaching staff and the way they go about their business. But that offense, that stinking off-the-wall, need-at-least-a-week to prepare offense drove me crazy. The first four years I coached, we played Rock Creek only in freshman and JV football. Without the focus and preparations of the varsity program on preparing for freshman and JV games, we literally got the bejesus kicked out of us by Rock Creek four years in a row. We, the coaches or the players, had no clue how to defend the Double Wing and the Creek rolled over us for embarrassing losses.

In 2003, we went 0-9 in varsity football. I never, ever wish a goose-egg season on anyone. It is miserable for kids, coaches, families and fans. The last JV game of the 2003 season happened to be a road game at Rock Creek.  Our JV kids were starting to get things together and finished over .500 that season, but true to form, we got steamrolled that day against the Mustangs.

The week prior, in the biannual state scheduling meeting, guess who we draw for the home opener in the 2004 season–yep, Rock Creek. So, we are opening the varsity season playing a team that humiliates us on a regular basis, at home where there is no tune-up road game to work the kinks out, and, perhaps the worst thing, we were coming off a deflating 0-9 season. Crap!

But something happened that JV game day; something that lit a fire in me to do whatever I could not to allow us another ass-whipping at their hands in the future. Coach Wallace and myself were standing outside the visitors locker room waiting for our JV kids to dress out, when Rock Creek’s athletic director comes over and starts up a conversation. He happens to mention that, at the scheduling meeting the previous week, he gave Coach Beam the choice of opening up with us or another area school. The AD tells us, “Coach said to pick Clay Center because we always beat them and they’re way down.” Game on, brother.

I still burn inside when I think about that day. That hurt. That hit the pride hard. I knew right then and there we needed to do whatever we needed to do from November to August to win that game. So I went to work.

Next time- The research and the basics of the Wingbuster.

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