Tag Archives: Football

Ray Lewis

“If tomorrow wasn’t promised, what would you give today?”

Here is a little video inspiration in honor of the upcoming retirement of Ray Lewis.

When he was at University of Miami and early in his NFL career, I wasn’t a fan of Ray Lewis or many of his Hurricane compadres. I held utmost respect for the way he played the game, though. He changed the game and practically single-handily killed the traditional college football option game with his speed and tenacity, but I wasn’t a fan of how many of the ‘Canes carried themselves in life.

After some early ups and downs off the field, Ray Lewis changed. Besides becoming the most dominant NFL defensive player of his era, Ray became a leader. With this metamorphosis, I became a huge fan of his.

Ray Lewis, to me, has become an example of how we men can grow and change into better human beings. The video of his inspirational locker room speech to the Stanford Cardinal basketball team is the perfect example of Ray’s leadership and core beliefs.

Thank you, Ray Lewis, for an exceptional NFL career. Congratulations on your retirement. Many of us fans look forward to what the future holds for you as a father, retired athlete, and life mentor to young players everywhere.

 “Effort is between you and you.”

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A Wave of Football Memories

A funny thing struck me this morning, a lightning bolt of memories whose beauty and simplicity opened the floodgates. Our local high school, the high school where I coached football from 2000-2008, is playing one of our biggest rivals at home Friday night. This morning Coach P. Lane sent a message asking if I still had the records and scores handy for games played against this rival during our coaching tenure. He explained the local sports reporter wanted these results for his preview article. I was able to piece together scores from 2004-2008, but had to dig deep into the memory banks to remember the W’s and the L’s and eventually had to rely on the power of the internet to dig up results.

CCCHS vs AHS (Coach P. Lane Era)

2000- Win
2001- Win
2002 – Win 26-7 (Thanks, Coach K. Unruh)
2003 – Loss
2004 – Win 30-22
2005 – Loss 16-6
2006 – Win 41-21
2007 – Win 28-10
2008 – Loss 13-12

What struck me as an unexpected surprise during this walk down memory lane? The flood storm of people and memories from those years instead of the W’s and the L’s which seemed so vitally important at the time. I mostly remembered the kids and the fine people I coached with and against. The stadiums and smells of concession stands and locker rooms. The bus rides and the pit stops on the road to distant games. I remembered lining up for pregame on 9-14-2001 at Piper High School in Kansas City for a moment of silence and a listening of our national anthem with tears streaming down our faces. The extended football family tragedies and the injuries which almost shattered your heart. Above all else, I remembered how much fun we had playing this great game of football.
I will miss this year’s game to attend a retirement party for a co-worker of 24 years; a priority now which wouldn’t have been just a mere few years ago. But, there is one thing I’d like to pass on to the young men playing on our home field and those playing on the thousands of sports fields across the country Friday night.
Gentlemen, it is important to learn how to put the requisite work and effort in order to try and win a game. It is not easy. It is important to work together as a true team, every man doing his job on every play. Never forget, though, the memory of the W’s and the L’s will fade into oblivion, it is inevitable. But,  you will never forget the teammates who stand next to you night after night at practice and line up toe to toe with you under those wonderful Friday night lights. You will never forget the blood, the sweat and the tears sacrificed in becoming the best individual and the best team you can be.

Good luck and good health.

Play hard and have fun.

Every man, every play

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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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I Don’t Care If You’re Chinese, Japanese Or Turpentine-ese.

It was sophomore football, the entry level rung of athletics at Washington High School. Three feeder junior highs thrown together to meld together as a team in the short pure hell period of three-a-day practices in the sweltering Kansas August heat. In reality, what that entailed was the two poor sophomore football coaches had to try and piece together a starting 11 from a group that came in with three starting quarterbacks, three starting centers, there’s tailbacks, three nose guards.

Well, you get the picture. It was almost like three different teams squabbling every day to be the “one” on the field. To make matters worse, the new head sophomore football coach just happened to be my junior high coach, Coach P. So naturally, every starting position won by an Eisenhower Jr. High player was favoritism and cronyism at it highest.

It was very frustrating and at height of our early season misery, we lost our opening game. The third string QB, a Japanese American kid, lost his temper in practice and stated yelling at the coaches accusing them of discrimination. He said they didn’t like him because he was Japanese. Coach P made us all run and run and run and run for lack of a better spur of the moment solution to that accusation.

Coach P had a temper. Once in Jr. High, he blew up at our lack of focus and execution and kicked us off the practice field. We ran toward the school locker room like convicts on a jailbreak. Our football field was inside the school’s track and when the rambling herd was mere yards away from the track, Coach P screamed, “And don’t you dare step on MY track!”

Forty-some kids in full football gear came to a screeching halt. We froze with fear. What were we supposed to do? Nobody dared look back to Coach P (who was probably back there laughing his ass off at us idiots). Finally, after what seemed an eternity, one of the faster running backs at the front of the group slipped out of his cleats and tip-toed across the track. One by one, we followed suit and when everyone has crossed over and, after Coach P had time to quit laughing enough to yell, he screamed, “I said get off my field!”

Forty-some boys sprinted across campus in stocking feet approaching the locker room at near world record speeds.
Our second game that sophomore year was against Shawnee Mission South at their practice field, which was next door to their expansive district football stadium and track. We fell apart on the first half. Coach P silently walked the team over to the stands of the district football stadium for halftime. The team began to sit on the lower level and Coach goes on a rant. “You don’t deserve to sit on the front row. To the top. Now!”

We marched way up to the cheap seats and sat down. Coach P lets it fly. I don’t remember much of what he said because I avoided potential eye contact by watching normal, happy people walk and jog around the stadium track. Coach pointed to an old man jogging on the track and shouted, “Now there’s somebody who knows the value of hard work. You boys need to take a lesson from him.”

Surprisingly, the old man on the track stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and ran in the opposite direction never passing our section of stands again.

Shortly thereafter, when he’d scared most of the bystanders on the track away, I heard him say something that has stuck with me for years. He talked of teamwork. He talked of common goals and the value of putting the team in front of any individual. His final words were most telling. “Boys, I don’t care if you are Chineese, Japanese or Turpentine-ese, I am going to coach you equally and with all my energy. But, I promise you, I will always start the kids who work the hardest and earn their spots.”

He turned and walked away. We continued to get our butts kicked in the second half, though we did play more like a team. The third string QB quit the next day and with his departure many of our squabbles and internal problems left as well. We probably finished around .500 for the season, I really can’t remember. But I do remember having fun the rest of the season and becoming good friends with former junior high rivals.

I always carried a little bit of Coach P around with me in my coaching career. Coach everyone who walks through your locker room door to the best of your ability, every day. Because…

“I don’t care if you’re Chinese, Japanese or Turpentine-ese…”

I’m going to coach you.

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Resiliency

Resiliency is  vital in tough situations. Resiliency with a little humor and smart-assedness is my favorite. I particularly like these photos from Fayetteville last week after the firing of the University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino for “misleading and manipulative behavior”. (For details of this story of the downfall of one of the absolute worst  character coaches in the profession, see here.)

You may not consider a college football coach scandal is a “tough” situation, but for some of us who are, or were, in the eat, sleep and live your favorite teams category, it is a tough situation. At a proud, tradition-rich football school like the University of Arkansas, there is A LOT of eating, sleeping and living Razorback football.  I do like the humor, the smart assedness, and the resiliency shown by these men. I laughed for an extended period when I first saw them. True, it is a sad, embarrassing situation for all involved, but here are a couple guys who have taken the first step to normalcy in their turned-over-on-its-head college sports fandom experience. I would bet these guys are ready to move onto the next coach, the next season; to put on their Hog hats on a fall Saturday afternoon and head to the stadium. That’s resiliency.

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The Wingbuster Story Finale: Shut ‘Em Down Boys!

The planning is done, the presentation is done, the preparation is about as far as we can take it and now we’ve run out of time. It’s time to take it to the field.

I could never sleep much the week before playing the double wing offense. Around Thursday night and all day Friday, it was tough to even eat. I’d worry about everything. Did our kids know their jobs? Were they physically, mentally and emotionally ready for how tough this game is going to be? Then the litany of “What if’s”. What if they come out in some funky new offense? What if they spread it out? What if they break tendencies? What if, what if, what if…

But the biggest one, what if the Wingbuster doesn’t work first time and our kids lose confidence? That’s is the question that bugged me the most. If it didn’t work, I would have totally let the boys down. And letting the boys down was always the fear which drove me to go the extra mile as a coach.

So it’s game time. I honestly cannot tell you one detail of any of the days we played Rock Creek. Too nervous, too many different brainwaves fighting in my head. My head is about ready to explode, then Rock Creek lines up for their first offensive play.

Here is a clip on the Toss play from my final presentation of the Wingbuster. It will give you and idea of how dangerous the play can be, followed by how the Wingbuster performs. The bad defensive examples are Rock Creek (Black) vs. Royal Valley (White). The good defensive examples are Rock Creek (Gray) vs. The Tiger Wingbuster (Black).

I can’t tell the emotion felt when we made the Wingbuster work like this. I don’t have the video from the first time we played them in 2004, but the first play was just like the second good defense clip above. Here we were, coming off an 0-9 season, playing this powerhouse of a team, pressure is cranked to MAX and we just knock the living $h!t out of them on the first play. I seriously could have cried right there on the sidelines.

Thanks to all the coaches who I begged, borrowed and copied from to design the Wingbuster. Thanks to my fellow Tiger coaches for holding the line and teaching the skills and duties at such a high level. Finally, a bubba-sized THANK YOU to all the Tiger Wingbuster players, from the superstars, to the role players, to the substitutes and especially to the Black Dog scout team players. Without your belief in the system and without your dedication to learning and performing the system we would have failed. Your tremendous level of individual and team pride would not accept defeat, no matter how difficult the challenge.

The Wingbuster: Every man do their job on every play.

Tiger Football.

EVERY MAN, EVERY PLAY

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Sharing is Caring: Football Version

Coaching freshman football with Coach Eric Burks was so much fun. He was the perfect guru for a novice coach, like I was, to start coaching with.  EB was the head freshman coach and coached offense; I was the freshman assistant and did the defense. His offense was simple and effective, but his real talent was connecting with the players.

The kids used to love that he called our best offensive play, 34 Power, “Bread and Butter”. EB told the kids “Bread and Butter” play is the one “go to” play everyone trusted and could execute in dire situations. 34 Power was ours for dang sure. Last summer, at a couple of wedding for kids who played on those teams, I could still walk up to the majority of those players ten years later and say, “Bread and Butter” which to a man would respond, “34 Power.”  Folks, in the coaching world, that is staying power.

Freshman boys are not the most responsible or most aware beings on the planet. I know this is a shock to parents, but it is true. We actually made a list we posted in the locker room to remind freshman football players of the equipment they would need to practice or play. Helmet, shoulder pads, pants, shoes, etc. etc. etc. all essential equipment to play organized football all had a reminder so the young man would not forget.

One Monday at a freshman road game, we unload the bus, dress out in the locker room, and get ready to take the field for warm-ups. At the very last minute, one player walks up to us two coaches and reports the obvious. “Coach, I forgot my pants.”

“Uhhh. Really? I couldn’t tell.” was the official coach reply.

Player number two slides up. “Uh, Coach. I forgot my shoes.”

Coach Burks lays into a soap box rant about responsibility, etc. He tells the two players to sit down and shut up, he will deal with them later, then we go out for warmups.  EB is po’d during warm-ups. Toward the end of team period, right before we go back into locker room for final meeting before the game, he breaks out a huge smile and elbows me in the ribs.  “Watch this” , he says as the team jogs to the locker room.

Coach Burks addresses the team. “Player One, you have shoes, right?”

“Yes.”

“Player Two, you have pants, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then Player One, you will wear the pants and shoes while playing the first half. Player Two, you will wear the pants and shoes and get to play the second half. Any questions?”

“Nope.” They say collectively and join the team breakdown huddle.

“Let’s get after it then, boys! One, Two, Three…”

“Tigers!” The team yells and runs onto the field.

As I walk with Coach Burks across the field to the sideline, I say, “You, my friend are a freaking genius.”

We had to deal with a couple upset parents, but after explaining the situation, they just shook their heads and walked off. I think we won, maybe we didn’t. Who cares, though, this far down the road? In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter much because what I will always remember most are the lessons I learned on that fall autumn day:

1. Sharing is caring and a beautiful thing (unless one player has pants that fit his 6’2 frame and the other player who must wear the same pair of pants is 5′ 6″).

2. Sometimes one player plus one player does indeed equal only one player.

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