Tag Archives: high school football

The Best Years?

There’s a nugget of life advice often given to high school kids, particularly high school athletes. A nugget that is so off-the-rails I cannot believe it has survived

“These are the best years of your life.”

Best years? Lord, I hope not! The best years of your life in high school? That seems kind of depressing forecast on the power and potential of each young athlete and student.

The BEST years?

No, but they are special years. They are years in which the high school students are afforded unique life opportunities. They are special because the future is a blank and open canvas.

Teenagers, listen up! You may feel a giant load of pressure right now to define your future. The system will tell you that you should have the specifics of life cemented firmly in place by graduation day. WTeenagers, when that day arrives and this pressure mounts, fling off this weighted jacket of the system’s expectations.

The canvas of your future should be painted with your passions and desires and likes and dislikes. 

It’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you are 18. It’s okay to say no to the dreams others have for you that aren’t fit for you. It’s okay to try something and fail and then get better for another try.

So why do we so often call these high school years the best? They aren’t. Or they shouldn’t be if you pursue your dreams.

Why do we, as adults, anchor kids down with low expectations? Teenagers grow up. Teenagers have great value even though they often bury or masks their potential. And sometimes, kids just need to get away and find another environment in which to blossom.

There’s an old coach’s saying. “The best thing about a freshman is that he becomes a sophomore.”

I believe in that saying and an expanded version which reads,

“The best thing about teenagers is that they become adults.”

As a coach, as a teacher, or even as a parent, remember those teenagers who are driving you absolutely bat-poop crazy today, have the potential to be awesome and productive citizens in the near or far future. They need dreams, resources, and some adults to believe in them.

Believe in your kids.

See the good in them.

Recognize their potential.

Help them down the path to fulfill their passions.

Make them work to achieve their dreams.

Be there to help them rebound when they fail.  Give them the space to back up, reassess, grow, and attack time after time until the dream is a reality.

Develop in them a strong gluteus maximus rubberi, so they know how to bounce up when life knocks them on their ass.

And please people, stop it with the “best years of your life” advice to teenagers. Teach them to believe in the potential of tomorrow. Teach them to work and to fail and to bounce back.

The high school years are special years. Enjoy every minute and every experience. But graduating high school is not the endgame. Life is the endgame. And, if my math is correct, most of us hope to have much more life to experience after high school.

To each and every teenager I ever had the opportunity to coach, I am proud of the adults you have become or are becoming. Your best years were definitely beyond any of those years you spent on a sports field with me.

Keep the faith in yourself!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Rants, Uncategorized, Writes

Football Is NOT Life: 2015

I wrote the blog post, Football is NOT Life, in 2010. I re-post it every year at the start of the season as a reminder to myself and to you. When first published, I was two years out of my bad breakup with football coaching. The obsession with coaching the sport was waning and life, my real, actual life was beginning to seep back into its position of dominance in my psyche. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. Football coaching— coaching, in general—has a tendency to take over the way one thinks.

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. Parents, be your child’s biggest fan, not their biggest critic. 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.

(originally posted on September 21, 2010)

FOOTBALL IS NOT LIFE 

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 opened the package of Oreos and left 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, (preferably 1% or skim).

Football has it’s proper place, it has its 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.

I think Coach Paul Lane said it best with his prioritization of the sport,

“Faith, family, and football is a game we are lucky enough to play.”

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

Unruh from scoreboard

Leave a comment

Filed under Rants

A Past Post – “Game Of Tears: September 14, 2001”

(Author’s Note: Of all the things I’ve written on this blog, this post from 2013 is something I am probably most proud of. I really had forgotten about the football events around the 9/11 disaster until last year. For some reason, it all came flooding back in a full-bore emotional wave. It was tough to revisit; it struck an emotional nerve, a serious emotional nerve. This 9/11, say a prayer, take a moment to remember, be a little nicer to your fellow man, and smile away the small problems in life.) 

It was Football Friday Night in America. Maybe it shouldn’t have been. Believe me, it was hotly debated before the decision was made to move forward with the week’s scheduled games. This was no ordinary Football Friday Night, this was the Football Friday Night a mere 80 hours after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. It was also only one of two times I’d been brought to tears associated with a football game, either as a coach or a player.

CONTACT/S: 30 Exhibition -ACP

In the grand scheme of things, football is not life. Sure there are ups and downs, wins and losses, injuries and triumphs all associated with this great game. Even so, I’ve never really felt the need to cry over a sport, even one I am so passionate about. But on that night, September 14, 2001, standing on a football field in my homeland of Wyandotte County, KS, tears streamed down my face from the emotion of that awful week in American history.

The powers that be in the state decided to go ahead and play the scheduled games that Friday. I don’t envy the people who made that decision; it had to be a difficult one to say the least. But we needed to move forward, we needed to establish a normalcy in our own backyards. We needed  to find some way to accept the inexplicable tragedy and restore some means of logic into our lives.

At Tuesday practice the evening of the tragic events, all I remember is that we were shell-shocked. I don’t recall much from that afternoon except trying to establish some sort of normal practice within the quagmire of shock. And these poor teenage boys asked question after question of which there were no answers to.

After we watched the horrific images on television, we tried to cope with the unimaginable event as best we could for the next two days. America was attacked on its own soil by terrorist. As hard as it was, we tried to keep this on the periphery and keep a football focus in order to give the kids a place to escape the tragedy, if only for a few hours.

Friday came. Game day. We made a two and a half hour bus trip to Kansas City Piper High School. The normal pre-game preparations ensued as game time crept closer. I was looking forward to this trip because this game was in Wyandotte County. I was born and raised in Wyandotte County, it is in my blood. It is a tough-minded place that produced tough-minded people. The whole Kansas City family was there and my own family made the trip also. I felt a great sense of pride coming home coaching the visiting team against a school I really hadn’t liked since the misguided days of my youth.

Both teams lined up before the game in the middle of the football field. Uniform color did not matter one bit as the kids and coaches and officials stood together for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks. So there I stood in silence, the soil of my homeland holding me onto a planet tipping wildly out of control, questions and chaos threatening to punt me into the stratosphere of despair.

The moment of silence seemed to last forever and a day. There was nothing but stillness and quiet. No whispers and no jokes from even the most immature of teenage boys. No noise from the large crowds gathered, the traffic seemed to freeze in time and even the sun dove for the horizon in hues of orange across the cloud-tinged blue sky. Solemn. The very meaning of the word.

Then the National Anthem began and I think everyone within a ten mile radius of the stadium sang the Star Spangled Banner that night. It was beautiful. It was meaningful. Of the hundreds of times I’ve sang it in school and the thousands of times I’ve heard it at various events, it has never really hit an emotional string. But, this time, on Piper High School Field, mere days after terrorists attempted to destroy the very heart and soul of America, the national anthem hit home.

We sang it loud and we sang it poorly. Nobody cared. We were united. When we hit the last three lines, I think the true spirit, emotion, and meaning of the Star Spangled Banner flooded across me for the first time ever.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

I understood. The meaning was crystal clear. Our flag was still here, our country was still here, and it would take more than an act of terrorism to squash our spirit. The flood of emotions pent-up all week flowed down my cheeks in the tears. The horror, the sadness, the loss, the pain, and the total helplessness dripped with each salty tear from my eye.

I wasn’t sure whether it was right to play those games on the Friday night until that moment. It was the right thing to do. By moving forward with these sporting events it not only provided a distraction away from 24 hours of news coverage, it gave a reason for Americans to congregate and spend time with their community. It gave us a chance to begin the healing process.

We won more than a football game that night. We, as a group, learned to persevere and to move forward.

God Bless America!

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads

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.

photo (14)

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Rants, Reads

Season of Thirds

Coach Paul Lane, in his infinite wisdom, indoctrinated the mini-seasons within the high school football season in all of us players and coaches during his coaching tenure. It was a great concept to incorporate with a state system where your postseason hopes depended solely on your performance in the three district games at the end of the nine game regular season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Season One: The first three games. Figure out who you are.

Every team has a personality, every team has things they are good at and things they aren’t good at.  Every team has things which lead them to victory and things which drag them to defeat. This is the time to figure out these things. And, hopefully, at least one of these games is against a quality team, a team good enough to expose the cracks in the team.

Personally, I always liked at least one slobber-knocker early in the season to “wake” the kids up and make them realize how much harder they needed to work.

CC@Abilene2009

Season Two: Games four, five, and six. Fixing cracks and finding your stride.

Repair the cracks you discovered in Season One and get better at the those things that shine from the team’s personality. This is the stage of patience and development. Everyone settles into their roles on the team and, magically, the whole thing begins to move forward and grow like a snowball rolling down the side of the mountain.

It is also when high school boys begin to tire of the routine of practice, so it’s time to throw in a wrinkle. Wrinkles? Things like having the Bubbas (offensive lineman) run “no holds barred” physical pass routes while the backs try to cover them for their daily warm-up (Note: Bubbas ruled these passing games) or playing a physical game of “goal line stand” in the mud.

Tigers @ Royal Valley 2008

Season Three: Games seven, eight, and nine. THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

Districts. Four teams, three games, with the winner (and in our later years, the runner-up) advancing to the state playoff tournament.

The Championship Season.

During this stretch it’s time to press the foot to the floorboard and let the engine rev as the team heads down the road. It is time to get after it.

The time is now to put aside the bangs and the bruises, the nagging injuries everybody struggles with this time of year. It’s time to throw caution to the wind and get after it. An attitude of “take no prisoners” begins to flow through the really good teams and a fresh attitude of “second chance” excitement pervades the team who’s had a rough year thus far.

Everybody starts The Championship Season at 0-0.

Hope springs forward.

tigers @ Atchison 2006

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads, Writes

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

1 Comment

Filed under Reads, Writes

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reads, Uncategorized, Writes