COACH’S JOURNAL May 11, 2015 )

joyfulnoise

This is my ‘new’ place to write. It is not always coaching or even lacrosse that is on my mind, but the whole facebook journal thing ain’t IT for me, so I am done with that I think.

TOP 3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT COACHING A TEAM

3)            For the most part they (participants) all want to be there every day. It is not chemistry lab after all.

2)            The final exam results are posted on just ONE board, pass/fail. Ties do not exist. There are no ‘moral victories’ for me.

1)            What is accomplished in practice can never be ‘numbered up’ or measured. Oh, I forgot. I just love being around boys-to-men.

 

VIEWS FROM A DEEP POCKET

Recently someone approached me about doing a sort of editorial or column. What he called it is a “Soapbox” for Flip Naumburg.

HEY YOU, GET (up) ON THE BOX!

He got my attention with the “Soap Box” idea, though, no doubt. I try to think (to myself) that I am not that opinionated, but truth is that perhaps I do ‘fit’ best standing on that soap box because in my life I have shown a multitude of ‘boxes’ that I do NOT fit in. I also think that if I said to someone close to me that I thought I was NOT really opinion driven, I think that person would actually burst into laughter, but really, at the end of the day, philosophically, RIGHT is not what I am going for. Clear observation and objective thought is the way I try to gain understanding. I also have some “My way or the Highway” thoughts always lurking.

So it says the first post (this one) should be an “intro post”. Well, I love to write, but when it is all about ME, I admit that I get some big time ‘writer’s block’. I will try.

I THINK I DID NOT FIND IT, but rather lacrosse found me!

I fell in love with lacrosse a long time ago. I started late, but I think I had a stick by the ninth grade or so even though my first love every spring was still baseball. When I first saw lacrosse being played I think I couldn’t take my eyes off the field. The game had all the speed and excitement anyone (me) could want. Lots of goals were scored, but still ‘they’ played intense defense, too. Violence was there to be had by all, not just big dudes. There was a time when I played baseball and I also carried a (wooden) lacrosse stick that my lacrosse-playing friend hooked me up with. I took it everywhere I went. You really had to pick them (sticks) out back then (60’s) carefully. They (sticks) really were all different. I found myself playing around with the solid rubber ball and my lax buddies more and more and I loved to watch lacrosse games A LOT. The ‘team’ part of the game seemed so critical to success and that definitely pushed a button for me. So many different sorts of roles were there for different kinds of players. I was drawn, too, by the fact that really any position on the field had major star possibility in any given game. How cool is that.

NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST ‘FAMILY’

I made it all the way to DIII lacrosse in college, at Colorado College, and truthfully that was perfect in my mind. I wanted to play intercollegiate sports in college. I had to. I got my degree, but I majored in lacrosse for sure, and just as surely with a minor in ‘Family’. I actually majored in Anthropology, and I guess it is ironic that I learned more about the power of family being a part of lacrosse ‘family’ than I did studying cultural lineages and other, more real anthropological family science.

HEY, DOC (Doc Stabler, that is)

I fell for the whole stick thing quickly as well, as I always liked crafting stuff. Pockets just pushed my buttons. I had pocket passion, and I was lucky in college because my coach, Doc Stabler had all the lacrosse sticks left over from the 19th century I think, so being in his basement was a bit like being in Utopia for me, albeit it all cat gut and leather and wood, things that no longer exist. I started Rock-it Pocket in 1987, but I started learning in Doc’s office in the 70’s, surrounded by his boa constrictors and gila monsters. The first of my lacrosse patents was issued in 1990. Later, Warrior approached me to design the first head for that new company that was just stressing out Brine and STX, the two companies who had their own way for a long time in lacrosse. Warrior was the young ‘bully’ who showed up in the early nineties. I’m all in (or was), and I have been a part of R&D in lacrosse with a few different companies over the years.

CATBIRD SEAT

One of the first things I did upon college graduation was to build a monster stick out of wood that was exactly (more or less) 4/1 scale of a lacrosse stick and you could sit in it, a chair. It took a lot of sand paper, but stringing it at the end while lying on my back on the cool concrete floor was one of the great joys of my life.

BYE BYE BIRDIE

I Drove off more than one GF with my (too much) passion for the game. Andrew (teammate) and I could send all our friends off to the bars as we would talk pockets and sticks well into the night. I carried my lacrosse stick on airplanes and tossed them in the overhead until I was like 35, and that was before you weren’t allowed to do something that might resemble terrorist activities. Now it’s “I have an artificial knee and I’m wearing suspenders”, and they pull me over and pat me down every time.

JUST SAY VAIL or EIGHT DAYS AT 8000’

Perhaps my greatest lacrosse good fortune might have been to have, at a very young age, stumbled upon the responsibility of organizing and orchestrating the Vail Lacrosse Shootout summer tournament every year since 1973. It started in Aspen. It is the granddaddy of summer lacrosse events. My brother Steve had a PAD, and someone had a keg of Olympia beer, and the rest as they say is history. Plastic lacrosse heads and the Vail Shootout are right next to each other on the lacrosse history timeline. We moved to Vail in 1978. We did not run the tournament early on as much as it just grew and needed to be tended. Along with my best friend for life and my teammate in college, Jim Soran, I/we loved uniting a Rocky Mountain setting with some of the best players and teams in the world. It grew, the staff grew, too. I had opportunity to pick the brains of the best players in the world every fourth of July week because they were all right there next to me, in Vail. It helped me as a player and as a coach. Teams from Long Island did not play (or even organize) the same as teams from Baltimore, and neither did the individual players. I lived for and played ‘Masters’ stuff until almost 50, and that is another story.

I started coaching at CC right where I was right after graduation, and I coached here and there for a whole lot of years, most of my life, and mostly at the college Men’s level. I was at Pepperdine and UCSB early on as I lived the beach boy life. I also coached JV High school. The longest coaching stretch was the 15 years or so that I spent at Colorado State in the MCLA. In eight years we brought home 4 MCLA National Championships to Fort Collins.

TELL IT TO THE JUDGE

From 1999 until 2006 at CSU we played in every single championship final game that was held in Division I of the MCLA, except for 2005. In 2005 we had the number one seed going into the tournament in Minnesota. That would be #1. It was perhaps our most talented team of that era, if not the easiest to coach. I withdrew us, or should I say I chose not to fight an academic blunder that we made that made us ineligible. There are two academic checks during the lacrosse season in college. Players have to carry 12 hours of class for both checks. We made the first in March, but on the second one in late April there were two red lines. Two players had dropped classes and were below 12.. They know and knew better. If it had been the one, I would have fought it, and everyone knows we would have been allowed to compete. Other teams had appealed and won. I chose to withdraw the team. Why? Because the other one of the two red lines was one of our captains, and I am sorry but that will not do. I am big on leadership. So, I could say that we (should have) made eight straight finals appearances, winning four (maybe 5), but I do not care about that stuff (numbers). If I had it to do again I would do the same thing. Some players weren’t happy with me after 2005. Some parents weren’t happy big time with me. Two really good players (at least) left CSU, and one of them actually transferred “back’ to Division I (UVermont). I think he still loves me, though.

I might not have gone through all that if it weren’t for the fact that they (team) came back, and the so-called CSU “Vindication Tour” of 2006 showed perhaps the best overall leadership that we ever had and I do not mean just the captains. There was no lingering or lamenting (at least not too much) for 2005 as 2006 approached. There was new business at hand. This team demonstrated balance in the leading (older guys) and the following (younger ones). They could always find their balance as a team, too. We were committed and versatile so when something got a little broke it got a lot fixed more often than not. They truly did band like brothers and they won the National Championship like it was their job and they had fun together while earning it, every step. I think that is how it is supposed to be. It was not easy, even in the last, final Championship game, when we trailed by two with just a couple of minutes left. We had always been ‘there’ in that last game. CU had never been to a final. They were hungry, but even that close to the guillotine the Rammies snatched it away and really there wasn’t drama because it just happened very quickly, without hurry.

We dressed in black in 2006. We never wore black before, and have not since.

AAARRGHH!

When I was coaching at Colorado State my journal was pretty much live, on line and constantly changing, a vibrant part of not only our team family, but I think lots of other teams were reading as well because it was in fact on line. There was no facebook. It became lots of fun when I started to get letters from BYU wives, and they started calling us the ‘Pirates’ and we (CSU) ate that all up like chocolate soufflé. It was amusing to say the least. At some later point I was informed that what I had been doing all those years (writing down what I think, but on line) was actually something new, and it had a name, and it be “Blogging”. I did not know I was a blogger until I already was one. Then I started looking at all these ‘blogs’ out there, and I realized that it is NOT exactly what I do or did, so I do not know what to call this, but I do indeed think about it before I push ‘send’, you can be sure. At any rate I am just excited that someone other than me wants me to write.

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015          –   MANY FIELDS MANY DREAMS   –

So I am sitting there watching the big collegiate lacrosse game on TV and these guys (team A) are behind and desperately chasing the ball (Team B), trying to double team or whatever before the clock strikes midnight (game over). In fact everything and everyone is running around like chickens, etc. It’s fast out there! Everything is moving….., except the very ‘important’ 30 second, visible shot clock carefully set up behind each goal. It, the shot clock remains at 30, and in fact the game ends with the shot clock still at 30. Okay, so why do we have the shot clock exactly? How does it serve, as is, whatever that purpose is supposed to be? Nice clocks, though, for the last century that is. Looks like all the schools dug way into the old basketball shot clocks that have been stored someplace for the last 30 years.

However, if the Commissioner of the Big Ten is sitting in on the TV broadcast of a lacrosse game (yesterday), it certainly bodes well for the expansion of Division I Lacrosse in America! I think we hit the demographic Jackpot somewhere along the way.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER (I guess they can’t use that. It would be a COO!)

All great Coaches pretty much know their X’s and O’s. Team greatness for that coach, however, must come from his or her ability to MANAGE the people that they coach in order to bring out the best in ALL the people around them, and not just the players. I think it is hard to be 100% on all things all the time, but you have to choose your battles carefully, and you must be true to the TEAM that you coach by choosing which battles are worth what. This stuff is built daily, as in point of focus at every practice.

KUNG FU (It is true. I watched David Carradine weekly in the seventies, Grasshopper)

It is the road, not just the destination. I know. It is a cliché’ to be sure, but teams don’t connect all at once on a Saturday afternoon based on who they are playing or anything else, and sometimes your ‘best’ player isn’t your best player anyway, right? The players (hopefully) connect every time they pass the ball to one another, all of them, even before practice starts or whatever.

February 2015 – A rant

The game is certainly growing, and both genders, too.

START UP PROGRAMS – US LACROSSE (Lacrosse Foundations do) Does a great job with supplying teams and programs.  Lacrosse Outreach Foundation=lof, and others do a great service to the game and the sport.

GENESIS

Why do beginning, very young lacrosse players need the expense or burden of wearing equipment that weighs more than they do and is pretty costly to buy? I’m sorry, I am sure it makes a nice picture when the bottom of the helmet touches the ground, but why do we have to make everything more complicated and less cost effective as we “GROW”. Let’s teach them to play the way John Wooden liked, “Be quick, but do not hurry”. Take care of the ball, value the damn thing!

It is great to get them (little laxers) all whacking and playing by the time they are seven years old (4?), but why don’t WE get something going that is all about the stick and stick work.  Competitive connecting. I do not mean for them (kids) to have to count the number of passes mandated by rule. I mean for them to love to cradle! Anyone remember that? Cradling the ball, chasing your own stick, anyone?! Hello!

‘They’ want all the boys to understand the second slide by the time they are 10, yet they pretty much can’t even catch the ball at ALL by then, let alone under pressure. Yes, it is true, some can., but let’s teach them to ‘chew gum first, and before they start multi-tasking by chewing gum while actually walking. Do we want all the ones that are NOT great to become discouraged and or quit as quickly as possible, or do we really want to “grow” the game in a very INCLUSIVE way?

Kids/people/me fall in love with lacrosse, and they choose to play the game from that love. Truly, we know this, and that is what attracts them, not the scholarship carrot or whatever.  So why do I keep seeing new cases of 15 year-olds that are somewhat ‘burned out’ on sports in general, but lacrosse is my in particular? Maybe I just no longer see the truth. I am the ‘burn out’ perhaps. FUN is the thing. Winning is what happens, but I see a lot of whining and expectation in places where it used to just be about the joy of playing and competing hard.

It is not just about how to win. We are stripping beauty from its role in almost anything in modern society, but a beautiful game getting ‘less beautiful’, clouded by expectation more than inspiration. Everyone is so obsessed with the ‘magic bullets’ in life/lacrosse. I love magic very much, but not the bullet kind. You have to brew it up yourself……selves.

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