Tag Archives: Sports

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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Why Free?

Not too long ago, someone asked me why I don’t charge for the baseball skills and hitting camps I offer. It’s because I’m a saint…okay, okay, quit giggling, I apologize for that “little” lie.

Honestly, I’ve thought about it. As a civil servant working at a state university, with twins in college, and a teacher wife taking graduate course work, heaven knows a few extra dollars wouldn’t hurt.

But, I don’t charge a dime.
Why?
Because, nobody ever charged me.

My father, Joe Hays, never charged me for his help.

My brothers, Pat, Tim, Dan, and Tom never charged me for their time or help.

The kids in the neighborhood and my friends never charged a solid quarter for the pick-up games, the whiffle ball games and the home run derby contests.

Coaching influences Bernie Hansel, Bill Patch, Ray Kistler, Don Dumovich, “Easy” Ed Hernandez, Forest Miles, Bruce Gibb, Steve Burleson, Ron Koster, Rex Carlson, Barrett Long, and Dennis “Harpo” Hurla never charged Mike Hays anything to help him get a leg up in the game of baseball.

So, what gives me the right to charge? Nothing.

If I charge kids, who pays? Their parents, right? Now, those parents who emptied the wallet to pay for these lessons will naturally have high expectations. And, as sure as 2+2=4, these high expectations directly transfer to the kid.

Here’s a little sports secret: Stressed out, high anxiety athletes at every level do not perform well. The pressure and the expectation put on a kid after their parent’s monetary investment is something I do not want to make the kids have to deal with.

In a nutshell, here’s what we focus on in our camps:

  • Teach fundamental sports skills.
  • Teach them to be done with a relaxed and efficient body.
  • Practice, practice and practice these skills until they are second nature.
  • Now, the most important step, teach them to have fun playing. Teach them if they work at the skills and they learn to relax and perform, then success will follow. Success = Fun.

There is a lot of discussion in our community about money and extracurricular sports activities. Sports are important to me, always have been, always will be. But, I know sports are not life.
Sports are not at the core mission of what we do as communities. That is why they throw the “extra-” in front of the “curricular”.

Please, support your extracurricular activities with a positive mindset. Support them by providing the coaches and the programs with the budgets and salaries they need and deserve. But, never, ever forget to keep them in perspective.

Perspective. That’s what makes the difference.

Do sports because you enjoy doing sports. As a parent, fan, administrator, coach, or player, put sports in the proper context and savor every second you are fortunate to be involved in them.

Coach and teach sports without trying make a fast dime. I calculated my pay rate one year when I coach both football and baseball at Clay Center Community High School and it came out to be just over $5.00/hour (AND that did not include summer football conditioning hours or baseball field work time that year. It was too depressing to even calculate all that.).

Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love the sport and love passing it along to future generations just as those in the last generation passed them along to you.

Finally, a little sports disclaimer:

Sports are not life.
Life is life.
Sport are for enjoyment purposes only.
Enjoy them!

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Gladly Eat Crow

Dear Sports Parent,

Your kid will not turn pro. Your kid will be very fortunate to even get an opportunity to play in college.

The numbers do not lie.

  • Baseball: 11.6% of college players play professionally, 0.6% of high school players do.
  • Football: 1.7% of college players play professionally, 0.08% of high school players do.
  • Men’s basketball: 1.2% of college players play professionally, 0.03% of high school players do.

…And for women, the numbers are just as bad, or even worse.

  • Women’s basketball: 0.9% of college players play professionally, 0.03% of high school players do.

(Numbers from Business Insider. They note these numbers may be a little low since they include only professional opportunities in the United State, but as they say, “But either way, the chances are really, really small.)

I will gladly eat crow if your particular child overcomes the statistics. I will gladly celebrate a kid who has the drive and tenacity, perseverance and discipline, to do what it takes all day, every day to make the above scenarios come true.

Who wouldn’t want to see it?

No matter, follow this advice on being a sports parent Coach Paul Lane put into our team handbook for the football parents. He is a wise man.

  • Be your child’s biggest fan.
  • They don’t need you as a personal trainer.
  • They don’t need you as a personal coach.
  • They don’t need you as their agent.
  • They  need you to be their biggest fan.

Support.

Lift.

Drive.

Feed.

Care.

Do these things because they are your kid and they need your support. It needs to be all about them, not about you.

Show them the joy of playing sports.

Share with them the joy of sports.

Show them an appreciation for hard work.

Show them you appreciate their team work.

This parent/child relationship is the most important (and most undervalued) relationship in sports.

Be your kid’s biggest fan. Please.

sports parent list

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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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Coach Hays Rant: The Questions?

Recently, I read “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). It is the first book in the new All the Wrong Questions series. You may remember the author’s previous book series, the wonderful A Series of Unfortunate Events. The new book chronicles the career beginnings of the 13-year-old Lemony Snicket.

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The new series is called All the Wrong Questions for a good reason. The young Snicket, according to his recently appointed chaperone, S. Theodora Markson, is always asking the wrong questions. The book is very entertaining and I recommend it highly, but it also raised a question is my coaching mind:

For a player, teammate, coach, or parent, what are the right questions?

I have been pondering this practical and philosophical question rattling about in my head for the past few weeks. I still don’t have a concrete answer. Maybe it would be beneficial to start with some of the wrong questions and then consider what the right questions may be.

The WRONG Questions

  • You lost? Again?
  • Why did you strike out?
  • Why don’t watch this videotape of your miserable performance with me?
  • Do you believe those umpires/referees/officials so bad?
  • What in the world was that idiot Coach Hays thinking tonight?
  • Can’t you ever do anything right?
  • Why didn’t you win?
  • What in heaven’s name were you doing out there?

The RIGHT Questions

  • Do you enjoy the game?
  • Did you give your best?
  • Do you feel you prepared yourself properly?
  • Are there things you’d do differently?
  • Did you get better?
  • Are you a good teammate?
  • Were you respectful of the game?

Next time you are involved in a sporting event, either as a player, parent, or fan, stick to the RIGHT questions and avoid the WRONG questions. Attempt to promote the sport in a positive manner, win, lose, or draw. I know it is hard, very hard. But I think you will be surprised how much more you can enjoy the sport by sticking to the spirit of the RIGHT questions.

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The Coach In Me

Measure of Success.

  • Take a team with enough talent to win 80% of their games, and push them to winning 90%. 
  • Take the team with talent to barely win one game and compete to win 50%. 
  • Take the kids who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time and make them exceptional at one thing. 
  • Take the kid who’s a natural and drive them to be stellar.

Fundamental skills every day.

  • One of the most incredible things I’ve witnessed in sports is Cal Ripken, at the pinnacle of his career, carry a tee out to home plate before team batting practice and hit a bucket of baseballs.
  • Skill work, done right, every time, every day.

Players win games, coaches lose them.

  • Let the players bask in the glory of success for all their hard work.
  • Step out to take the bullets for them in defeat. 

Make your players better,every day.

  • There should be times when they hate you. Push them anyway. 
  • There will be times when they are happy with their results. Point out their flaws and how to fix them. 
  • There should be days when they curse you, call you names, and regret the day you were born. Make them better, anyway.

Always get better.

  • Need to. Want to. Have to.

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Self-assess.

  • Be brutally honest with yourself. 
  • Push yourself harder than anyone else does. 
  • Work harder than anyone else does. 

Winning games is not easy.

  • It takes a lot of things to go right in order to succeed. 
  • Hard work is the magic.

Be honest.

  • With parents, kids, and administrators, no matter how hard the truth is.

Enjoy the now.

  • A very, very small percentage of athletes move on to a higher level of play.
  • Enjoy the sport everyday that you are allowed to participate.
  • This time is golden.

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The Rule

The Mrs. Hays recently brought up the subject of her need to develop a set of rules for her new classroom. I suggested, “Mrs. Hays is the Queen of this Classroom; diligently follow every word that flows from her mouth.”

She said that my suggestion was not really a classroom rule, it actually is a universal law. What she needed, she said, was a simple set of rules like the set of “No” rules you find at the swimming pool. No running, no rough-housing, no sitting on shoulders, no diving, etc. and so on. My train of thought and immediate interest in the subject waned with the memories of the hours upon hours of the young me sitting on hot pool decks kept prisoner from my friends and the refreshing, cool water by over-zealous lifeguards and their “No” rules.

With my husbandly duty of suggesting rules to the wife successfully completed, my mind drifted away to behavior rules I’ve run across or used in coaching sports. One of my favorites from my personal stable of behavior rules is this concise, to-the-point, original Coach Hays rule:

“Nothing you do on the field of play can make up for acting like a piece of crap off the field.”

Another one I like, which may or may not be a Coach Dail Smith-ism, is this one on keeping a well-ordered locker room or team bus:

“Your mother is not here, so pick up after your own self.”

But my all-time favorite rule on behavior came from the late Coach Melvin Cales. I lived with Melvin’s son, Monty, in college. As luck would have it, the college happened to reside in the same town as Monty’s grandmother. Melvin and his wife would often drive down and visit his mother on Sundays and then stop by our place on the way out of town. After the visit, Melvin would stop at the door and say to Monty. “Behave yourself.” Then he’d add the one line on behavior which I have repeated hundreds of times over the years to my own self, to athletes and most importantly, to my own children:

“Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read about in the paper.”

So there you have it Mrs. Hays, a rule for your students and, indeed, a great rule for life. Smart, sage, and simple advice from a smart, sage, and simple man.

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