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Graduation Speech 2018

Thank you, Clay Center Community High School Class of 2018 for the opportunity to be the guest speaker at your graduation ceremony. Here is the transcript of the speech if you or your people are interested. Hopefully, you can look back on it years from now and ask your classmates, “Do you remember that fool who gave our graduation speech? I wonder what he’s doing nowadays.”

I dedicate this speech to all the athletes I’ve had the honor of coaching, especially the ones who’ve struggled to find their place in the world.

Graduation Speech 2018
Otto Unruh Stadium
5-13-18
Mike Hays

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Thank you for this honor to speak today.
Congratulations to the parents and families! Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Today is special. This all around us is special.
This is a special place. It‘s a community where people have supported you through your games, performances, academics, and employment opportunities.

This place is part of who you are. It is part of what you will become.
No matter how far you travel or where your dreams take you, you will take a piece of Clay County with you.
And wherever you go after leaving these seats as graduates, Clay County will always be here for you.

Graduation Advice

Be yourself.
Be the best you that you can be.

Toy Story 2 illustrates a great example of staying true to who you are. Woody has been taken to Big Al’s and is waiting to be sold to a collector. He looks at the faded name of “ANDY” written on the bottom of his boot.
ANDY.
The name that represents belonging to and being a part of.
ANDY.
The name that gives Woody purpose.
What happens to Woody when the Cleaner shows up and wipes those four letters off his boot?
He loses himself. He gives up trying to get back to Andy and the others. Gives up and floats away from all that is important to him. He’s tempted by the TV star life after discovering Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete.
When the name disappears, so does the very core of who he is.
In the end, it takes a monumental effort by Buzz and all Woody’s friends to bring him back to himself.

What name is written on your foot?
Who or what do you choose to belong to?
What name gives you purpose?
Is it a name that’s written in permanent ink or in pencil?
Is it a name that provides solid footing or is it one that causes you to slip and slide away from who you really are?

Find out who you are and stand behind it.
Let your faith be your compass.
Let your conscience be your map.
Never forget the name you’ve written on your foot.

Graduation Challenge

My challenge to you is something you probably won’t find on any of your graduation cards.
Go out and fail.
Dream big, take calculated risks and fail.
Regroup, and get better. Then try again & again & again until you succeed.

I wish you a lifetime of successes forged in the fire of failures.
I want you to dream big and go make it happen.

As we dive headfirst into the digital age, I challenge you to do great things. And great things take effort.
Do not fail by lack of effort or by not daring to dream.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your power.

I want you to discover new ways of farming and ranching.
I want you to discover new ways to teach kids.
I want you to bring new products to our everyday lives and new ways of creating art and stories.
I want you to teach us old folks how to use technology without allowing technology to use us.
We need you and we need your talents.

Every Graduation Needs a Mascot

My proposal for your graduation mascot is Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Do you remember what Tigger is known for?
Bouncing.
As you turn the tassels today, take a lesson from Tigger and be bouncy!

You were bounced on someone’s knee as a baby.
You bounced off almost everything when you learned to walk and run.
You bounced around on the playground during recess.
You’ve been bounced on your rear end by schoolwork, sports, jobs, relationships, and personal trials.
But, you kept bouncing back and here you sit. Graduates.

Your bouncing days are not over. They’re just beginning.
Life will knock you for a loop over and over again.
Every time you get knocked down, bounce back up.
Sometimes our biggest victories in life are simply getting back up after a fall.
Keep bouncing!
Just like Tigger.

A Graduate Game Plan

Hard work is the magic.
It’s a simple truth.
Everything worth having is worth working for.
Family, career, hobbies—even that truck you can’t peel your eyes away from on the dealership lot—are all worth working for.
Put your signature on your every action.
Show up each and every day ready to do the work.
Attack life with purpose, pride, passion, and persistence.
Hard work is the magic.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!
Take advantage of “today” every day.
Live life to its fullest.
It’s the only one you’re given.

While bouncing along the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger’s been known to sing,
“The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things.”
I say,
“The wonderful thing about Clay Center Tigers is Clay Center Tigers are wonderful things.”

Remember who you are.
Remember where you come from.
Remember where you’re going.
Never forget,
The most wonderful thing about YOU is that YOU are a wonderful thing.

Thank you and good luck!

Bonus! Every good story has a good story. This is what happened (well mostly what happened) the night I told my family at dinner about the invitation to be CCCHS’ graduation speaker.

Me: Mr. Young called today and said the senior class invited me to be their graduation speaker.
(Long dramatic pause while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 1: What would you wear?
Me: What?
Kid 2: You know you can’t yell, right?
Me: I don’t yell. I get excited.
(Long dramatic pause #2 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)
Kid 3: You can’t cuss, either.
Me: @#$%! I know that.
Wife: Are you going to do it?
Me: (Long dramatic pause while I roll on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.)
Whole Family: You mean to tell us you can look in those seniors’ eyes and tell them “no”.
Me: But there will be SO MANY people there. And it will be hot. And… And… And…
Wife: Well, are you going to do it?
Me: I told Mr. Young I’d think about it.
(Long dramatic pause #3 while family rolls on the floor in fits of laughter.)

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Courage to Create

There are so many things one wants to tell young people. The well of advice from us older folks overflows and sometimes floods uncontrollably through and past the minds of our advice-targeted youth. I believe in the power of youth. I believe we can help them achieve great things if we have the discipline to allow them to grow into their potential.

I ran across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt this week in the Brain Pickings post, Theodore Roosevelt on the Cowardice of Cynicism and the Courage to Create Rather Than Criticize. 

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat…

The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.

This piece from President Roosevelt’s 1910 speech is timeless. It’s an important piece for both the young and the old. We need to strive to be the best we can be. We need to strive for greatness instead of limiting achievement with the ceiling of cynicism and status quo.

There is no glory in being the best by trouncing on heads of others.

TR may have said it best, “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.”

Stand out by standing up. Be a positive force. Dare to be great and then go be great!

Hard work is the magic.

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Never Satisfied

The internal drive. That intrinsic motor that fuels your efforts.

It’s a blessing and a curse. A means of frustration and a means of fulfillment. It’s about never stopping your development and attacking life with the purpose of getting better every day.

Never stopping.
Never resting.
Only looking back to get better at moving forward.

It’s what a coach does. It’s what a player does. It’s what a parent does, a teacher does, a writer does, a “fill-in-the-blank-on-whatever-kind-of-person-you-are” does.

Or should do.

The greatest enemy of progress is not your opponent. Nor your talent. Nor your situation.

Your greatest enemy is complacency.

The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you are totally, completely, and absolutely 100% ready to roll. Resting on your laurels is a sham. I’ve seen many coaches and players fall victim to this.

I’ve done it more than I’d like to admit myself. It’s hard to admit or accept when your efforts aren’t cutting the muster. But you have to fight through complacency. The best person to motivate an improvement is you.

It’s been said, “You are only as good as your last game.” Meaning that you are only as good as your previous effort.
This is misleading.

You are only as good as you dare to be tomorrow.

If you didn’t push yourself today, resolve to do so tomorrow.

Never quit striving to be better.
Never settle.
Never be satisfied.

That, my friends, is a winner’s heart.

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Getting Technical

I read an article about a 6’ 8” college basketball player who decided this spring to switch and play football at the same college. The football coaches were working to refine his big man basketball skills toward the goal of being an offensive tackle. It was a very interesting article and kind of reinforced my belief there are certain common physical movements which exist between sports.

The head football coach made a comment that the staff didn’t mind working with such a green athletes because many of their actual football recruits also show up with no, or very little, fundamental technical skill from the high school level. I about choked. It made me mad at first, but then I remembered how many times over the past five or so years I’ve noticed this lack of fundamentals in action at high school football games I’ve watched.

How can this be? Is teaching solid technical proficiency becoming a lost coaching art?

Fundamental technique is the building block on which winning programs are built. In baseball and football coaching, everything, for me, revolved around developing solid technical skills. Being sound technical offensive and defensive linemen allowed us to overcome a general lack of size, speed, and athleticism in order to compete almost every time we stepped on the field.

Years ago, one rival baseball coach asked me once how it was that our kids all seemed to be able to drive the ball on the line to all fields. I told him the truth. I told him we teach front-hand hitting technique and every, single thing we do in practice, in the cage and on the field is geared toward developing a consistent technical swing. He looked at me like I was nuts, shook his head and laughed as he walked back to his dugout.

At football coaching clinics, I always got a kick out of the “progressive” coaches who talked nothing but schemes and theories while laughing behind the old, highly successful coaches who talked about fundamentals and drills and perfection. Simple science.

By Snyder, Frank R. Flickr: Miami U. Libraries - Digital Collections [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Snyder, Frank R. Flickr: Miami U. Libraries – Digital Collections [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps it is too simple for some to understand.

It is not magic.

It is not simply innate ability.

It is hard work. And teaching. And holding the line. And being strict. And demanding. And sometimes being completely unlikeable to the players.

It is pushing to get better every day.

Technique matters. It’s not sexy or shiny or going to make a big splash, but…

Technique matters.

It gives you an advantage. Good fundamental technique and good preparation give the advantage of an extra step. In sports, even at the lowly high school level, this single step can be the difference between winning and losing. Being fundamentally sound gives your team the edge over an opponent of equal or lesser quality and levels the playing field somewhat against a superior opponent.

Make the commitment. Get technical and get better.

By Royalbroil (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Royalbroil (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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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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The Work Necessary

The Kansas City Royals are 2015 American League Champions!

The Boys in Blue are in the World Series against the New York Mets!

But a weird thing happened the morning after they won the ALCS over Toronto. Instead of waking up 100% joyful and ready to roll for the Series, I woke up thinking about two plays from ALCS Game 6 and how these two plays spotlight the value of coaches doing the work necessary for their players.

  1. When Alex Rios stole second base against David Price, a left-handed pitcher who allows unbelievably few stolen bases when he is on the mound.
  2. When Lorenzo Cain scored the game-winning run from first base on Eric Hosmer’s double down the right field line.

Both plays, at face value, look totally like big plays made through the exceptional speed and athleticism of those two athletes. But if you look closer, listen to the announcer comments, and the postgame interviews of players and coaches, you begin to see a whole different story.

True, Alex Rios and Lorenzo Cain are two incredibly gifted athletes but that is not what gave them the advantage and confidence to execute those clutch plays on one of the biggest stages of their sport.

What gave both players the edge was the hard work and analysis of the coaches and advanced scouting department.

Yeah. Coaching matters, scouting matters, preparation matters. Hard work IS the magic. Although both plays look to be just a couple of plays of guys running, the amount of time and effort—film study, the scouting report from the scouts following the Blue Jays for the past few months, transfer of that information to the player—are staggering.

Case One – Rios steals second base on a jump he takes off of the first movement home by David Price. Price is difficult to steal on. He’s left handed and although he doesn’t have a great move, he has a quick slide-step delivery which makes it hard for the runner to get an aggressive lead or jump. Scouting appears to have picked up on a tendency for him to sometimes forget about the runner and not give him a “look” when he’s going to pitch the ball to his catcher. For several pitches, he peeks to Rios before delivery to home. On this particular pitch, he doesn’t peek or look to first base and goes straight home, Rios runs on Price’s first movement and is safe with a stolen base–the VERY FIRST stolen base allowed by David Price ALL YEAR. Rios did not end up scoring, but it was a blow to the confidence level of the Blue Jays and added to the pile of things they had to think about.

Scouting, picking up on tendencies, AND being able to relay those details to the player = Makes the game looks easy.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/28898650/v525581583

Case Two – Royals third base coach Mike Jirshele and the scouts studied Toronto’s exceptional right fielder, Jose Bautista. They noticed he often fields a ball down the right field line and spins to throw the ball by turning his back toward the infield instead of opening up frontside where he would be able to see the infield all the time. They also noticed he almost always wheels to the blindside and throws the relay to the shortstop positioned around second base.

Coach Jirshele planned on taking advantage of this if, and when, the situation arose. Well, it arose. In fact not only were the players coached this during practices and meetings, but they were given a refresher before game six AND Coach Jirshelle revisited this with Cain and Hosmer BEFORE the inning even started since they were due to bat.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/135309324/v525692683

Preparation works.

As a coach, when you watch hours and hours of film or live action, you begin to see patterns. When you rewind and watch a play over and over a dozen times or more, the structure patterns emerge. These patterns become tendencies when put together and analyzed.

  • Tendencies allow a coach to focus preparation.
  • Tendencies allow a coach to focus teaching.
  • Tendencies allow a coach to give his players an edge.

The word “Coach” must be used as a verb, rather than just as a noun. 

As a coach, do the work necessary to put your team in a position to succeed.

Hard work is the magic.

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Be Indelible

I used to confuse the word indelible with the word inedible. So when I’d see a permanent marker with “Indelible Ink” printed on it, I’d think, “No $#@!, Sherlock! Who would want to eat a Sharpie anyway?”

Now I’m slightly smarter…well, enough smarter to know that inedible and indelible are completely different things. Indelible means to make a lasting mark—it means that something will not be forgotten or removed.

I like that.

Indelible.

I want to coach and develop indelible athletes.

I want to produce indelible writing.

I want to make an indelible impact on my communities.

I want to be indelible.

MarkerParticipate or Compete?
As an athlete, or as part of any organization, which are you choosing to be?

The participant shows up most of the time and, more often than not, jumps into the wagon to go for the ride.

The competitor is the one who pulls the wagon and makes everyone around them better. The competitor is the very definition of indelible. The competitor is never satisfied with their current efforts and performances. A competitor does the things the participator refuses to do.

What does a competitor do? Well, in high school sports, in my opinion, the competitor is the athlete who puts in the extra offseason work to improve at least 4 or 5 days a week.

  • Baseball – 50 throws & catches, 50 swings, 50 ground balls/pop-ups.
  • Football – Explosive power development, 25 starts and footwork reps, routes, and throws.
  • Basketball – 250+ shots a day, ball-handling skills, explosive power development.
  • Tennis, golf, volleyball, etc. – All need skills reps

All In
I am a firm believer in playing multiple sports and being involved in multiple activities, hobbies, etc. But, the work and the commitment to all these activities requires a monumental effort. The key is to, as the wonderful Mrs. Hays often says about life and work and parenting, “Be present.” Pay attention to the needs of the situation staring you in the face. Focus 100% on the task at hand and not 60% with the other 40% worrying about the next activity on you agenda.

Be Present = Go All In

Whatever you do in life, go all in. Jump into the fray feet first with a fully-focused effort. Don’t straddle the border with one foot in and one foot out. Hit the accelerator and give your drive and desire full throttle to make your world a better place.

That is the very meaning of indelible.

Go all in.

Compete, don’t just participate.

Leave a lasting mark.

Be Indelible

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