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Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Quick Thought

Family –

As I sit here today waiting on a series of marginal bowl games to be played, I thought I would take a moment to quickly pen some thoughts on an issue that we have seen resurface over and over again in sport.

What happens to the professional athlete after their playing days are over? How do they adjust to “normal” society? No big deal you say? I beg to differ… lemme 'splain.

I was fortunate enough to catch yet another ESPN 30 for 30 series episode called: “Still Standing: The Earl Campbell Story.” For those us who may be late thirty somethings or forty somethings we remember Campbell for his hard-hitting, punishing, super-human running style… so much so that some of us (me specifically) wanted to “be Earl Campbell” in the football game at recess during the late 70’s and 80’s.

In the 90’s Campbell’s health took a turn for the worst and it was widely believed that football was the cause. After watching the ESPN story all speculation of that misnomer were laid to rest by Campbell’s doctor and the football legend himself. Campbell suffers from a degenerative nerve disorder called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy or for us tongue-twisted mortals --> CIDP.  It wouldn’t have mattered whether he played football or not, he most likely would have suffered from this condition… did football accelerate the process? Perhaps...perhaps not.

Earl Campbell
Photo: AP
This condition caused Campbell to slowly lose strength and function in his arms and legs… what’s worse he had three previous back surgeries which were terribly executed riddling the former superstar with crippling pain and discomfort.  In his chronic state of pain, use of pain killers and alcohol to survive and due to the fact that his super-human body was now failing him, Campbell could have taken a road most recently traveled by some of our more beloved NFL retirees. Instead he did what he had done throughout his life and career… FIGHT.

Here’s where the adjustment to life after the game comes in –

After the crowd stops cheering and the game continues to live on in the mind and in the body how does one turn it off? Is it simply that there were too many blows to the head or is there something deeper perhaps psychological that manifests itself in places the naked eye can’t see.

I’ve often said there are many similarities between professional athletes (specifically football players), soldiers and prisoners… yes prisoners. Before you condemn me for putting the three in the same sentence consider the following similarities:

    All three wear uniforms
    All three are usually aggressive in nature
    All three use numbers for identification
      All three have a hierarchy of command
    Their agendas are usually set by someone else.  
     There are stiff penalties for breaking the rules (in some cases death)
    There is no easy transition into “normal” society once “your time is up”

I’m sure the list could continue, but why belabor the point. Life is a fight… each day presents new challenges and as Campbell so profoundly said at the end of his episode: “Please America don’t feel sorry for me… because you’ve never seen a human being have more fun on a day to day basis than I do.”


As someone you inspired as a young boy by the power and strength you showed as a player, Mr. Campbell you continue to mentor and motivate from afar as you crash through the defensive walls of life's challenges.  I’m truly proud that you are… still standing. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shut Up!

Family –

After a bit of a hiatus and some personal encouragement from a few close friends I’ve returned to submit a pre-holiday offering. With all the excitement about Notre Dame’s long-awaited return to glory and Manti’s historical run at sweeping every possible award in the nation, it’s been great to sit back and take it all in… finally.

Nevertheless, controversy is what drives media so here goes…

Why do sports commentators, especially NFL commentators, take such an edgy stance? What the hell is that all about?  Lemme ‘splain…here are a couple of examples.

Example One: Has anyone ever paid attention to Cris Collinsworth's verbal assault on the wallets of the defensive players during the NFL Sunday Night Game of the Week? Seems that if there’s a questionable play or even a play that might draw attention from league administrators Collinsworth spews out, “that’ll draw some attention from the league office,” or better yet, one of my favorites;  “his check is definitely gonna be a little light come Monday morning.” Why would he DO that? Maybe I’m just being sensitive, but even as a former offensive player I realize that game is about putting points on the board (unless you’re the Jets) and putting the defense at a disadvantage. I understand player safety is a concern…but really are we just realizing the barbaric nature of football? I think we’re a few thousand collective head trauma, dementia and suicide cases in arrears (RIP #55).

Example Two: What the hell was Rob Parker read more thinking about? He has the balls to question Robert Griffin III’s blackness? This young man has been in my humble opinion phenomenal this season both on and off the field. When anyone speaks of RGIII they speak not only of his athletic superiority, but also his character & integrity. Sooo let me get this straight-- since his fiancée happens to be white and he distances himself from drawing ethnic comparisons because he wants to be known as a "great quarterback" not just a "great black quarterback" he’s not “down with the cause?” Ok – I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but I’m black… I didn’t get the memo about “the cause.” Why in the world would someone want to create a problem for RGIII? Hmmm… he’s articulate, athletic, successful and educated; sounds like he’s holding “the cause” down just fine. Now if you wanna go rob a liquor store, although he's really fast and might get away, I doubt he’ll be signing up for that. I guess we all know who the “cornball brotha” is now. Sit down!

Example Three: There’s no doubt that last night’s NFL game had to be the biggest waste of television airtime since the launch of Jersey Shore… that aside I noticed a bit of a tickle in the voice of the commentators after the game…literally laughing at the performance by the Jets. Mike Tirico whom I think is a consummate professional was almost uncontrollably laughing when he opened the post-game segment with Gruden. The biggest surprise to me was how aggressively Steve Young and Trent Dilfer great quarterback that he was (NOT)… hehehe launched a verbal attack on the entire Jets organization. Not just opinionated statements but an adamant ranting that almost cost Young to lose his voice. They were literally calling out the owners to make “wholesale changes” in the organization. Why would you challenge a professional sports team’s owner? Wow! My thought was that if anyone could relate to the Jets’ philosophy of playing great defense and winning with a marginal quarterback it would be Dilfer… anyone remember the 2000 Ravens? I played under Buddy Ryan – Rex and Rob Ryan were assistant coaches on that team… no one works harder to prepare than they do – at some point it has to be about the guys getting paid millions of dollars to do a job that they don’t execute. Now don’t get me wrong coaching has its fair share of responsibility, but at last I checked Rex didn’t throw four picks and drop a snap late in the game when the Jets had an opportunity to win.

At the end of the day whether you like them or not sports commentators have a job to do… and given the complexion of this blog post I guess they do a pretty damn good job.

Oh… and P.S.  Manti Te’o IS the rightful 2012 Heisman Trophy winner!

Jus’ sayin…

Friday, October 5, 2012

Commentary of ESPN 30 for 30: “Broke” – Part II

Peeps –
After careful consideration I’ve thought better of doing a three part commentary on ESPN’s 30 for 30: “Broke.” I mean, in honesty I don’t think any measure of conversation about this recurring issue will help and frankly it only further frustrates and humiliates those who have fallen victim to the cycle. So that said this will be the last post on this issue…
“Stand down!” Part two begins now…
Part one of our series laid the basic framework for the series talking about the known issue of athletes leaving the professional game and having nothing to financially sustain them. The proverbial question is always: “How did this happen?”
Here are some things to consider and although they aren’t excuses they are all part of the reason athletes end up financially challenged.
1.       Experience – Most don’t have experience handling this kind of money and usually they go from nothing to a multi-millionaire over night.
2.      Maturity – When athletes (for all sports) “turn pro” it usually happens in their late teens or early twenties…not the most mature time in any of our lives – planning is the last thing on anyone’s mind
3.      Keepin it Real – This may be more of a cultural thing, but “remembering where you came from” is a huge thing in the African-American community. So instead of what many call “Catholic guilt” many Black athletes carry their own version of not leaving their roots behind – which unfortunately always includes paying the way of all those who were close to him “back in the day.” There’s a type of “proving” that money and fame hasn’t changed you… the last thing you want to be known as is a “sell out.”
4.      Parent(s) – This may be the single most difficult issue for any athlete. For some, being able to “take care of momma” is a huge thing. Especially for the large majority of athletes who were raised by one parent (usually mom). What’s even worse is when momma expects her son to take care of her and really lays it on… how can he say no?
5.      “It Can’t Happen to Me” – In my humble opinion this is the biggest mindset change that needs to be made by professional athletes. Yes, it can happen to you…yes, there is an end in sight…yes; you need to make plans for life after your professional athletic career ends. In essence life is just beginning when that life if over.
6.      Education – Speaking of life after professional sports… did they even get a degree? What business professional skills do they possess? Can they do anything other than play sports?
7.      Baby Momma Drama – I refuse to even waste the ink explaining this one…in a word – DUMB.
8.      Poor Investments/Advice – Again, broke yesterday and multi-millionaire today. They have to invest in something… NEWS FLASH - all investments aren’t good investments. Unfortunately, those hired to protect the livelihood of the athlete are usually boosting their own livelihoods while sucking the monetary life out of the one they should be protecting…as long as they get their cut it really doesn’t matter. Whew! Cutthroat!  
9.      “Living the Life” – Along that same line, buying multiple homes, luxury cars, yachts, thousands on custom jewelry, clothes and spending thousands more in clubs in the VIP lounge with the entourage. Really… It doesn’t last forever… as Mike Ditka says: “Stop it!”
10.   “I’m Gonna Have a Long Career” – Here today and gone tomorrow… one never knows if coaching changes, trades, injuries or any unforeseen event will arise. Trust me… I went from being a starter in the league to unemployed in a matter of months after my head coach got fired. It happens… Living each day as if it’s your last doesn’t mean spending like it. Frugal is a smarter way to go.
So my question is: “If abuse is a cycle, drug addiction is a sickness, alcoholism is a genetic disease and they all have treatment programs what do we then call the proto-typical broke professional athlete situation AND how do we treat it?”  I don’t think a couple of days at the rookie symposium will change the culture.
Does anyone have an idea? Maybe someone will listen and take note…let’s hope so.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Commentary: ESPN 30 for 30: “Broke” – Part I

As I sat yesterday watching yet another thought provoking episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series about athletes and their mismanaged funds I couldn’t help catching myself jaw-dropped. Since this is a subject that renders many opinions I thought it would be a good idea to launch a three part series to discuss the age-old issue of athletes reportedly “losing everything.”
So here goes part one…
Admittedly I too, although having a short career in the NFL, never thought I would see the faces of those who came forward to speak of their money “woes” as former professional all-stars and potential hall of famers. I mean, really… these guys made a ton of money. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!
Keith McCants All-American Linebacker
and first round draft pick
Photo: AP

Some of their stories were horrific…even an admission of guilt/abuse from former NFL superstar Bernie Kosar at the hands of his father and a former teammate of mine and NFL top five draft pick (Keith McCants) admitted to having issues with saying “no” to loaning money that he knew he wouldn’t get back.
Say wha?? Wait, you loaned money full on knowing that you wouldn’t get it back? What the hell were you thinking? Wait…that’s part two of our series – don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s get back on track.
Here’s a standard question: How is it that these men were so ill-equipped to handle the pressures and expectations of their immediate fame and wealth as professional athletes? I mean, athletes are taught from day one how to pick up the blitz, turn a 6-4-3 double play and run the perfect pick ‘n roll right? Did anyone have some advice on how to handle the sudden fame and fortune that was literally dumped on them as they entered their professional athletic careers? Or are we to assume that since they were “collegiate athletes” they understand how to manage these situations by osmosis?
Hmmmm….let’s see. A large percentage of professional athletes come from nothing and have no experience with money,  money management or how to handle the personal albatross that comes with wealth and fame. Honestly, fame isn’t that big of a deal since most athletes who play at a high level have a level of celebrity that follows them…but once you add money, wealth, greenbacks, paper, green, cash, grip, ducketts, stacks, riches, squilla, dough, ends, flow or whatever your designation for lots of money might be, there seems to be a fundamental disconnect with how to handle the pressure associated with the change.
Everyone… I mean EVERYONE wants a piece of you. Agents, financial planners, investment companies, family members, friends, gold diggers are all in line to get their “fair share” of what these athletes have worked tirelessly for. What’s worse they stand in the proverbial line with a sense of entitlement… as if these athletes actually owe them something! Son of a… can you imagine the nerve? What if your parents decided they were entitled to a percentage of your $50k/year job? How would that go over?
I keep revisiting our institutions of higher education and wondering how much they really educate student-athletes beyond the specific sport they play. No, I’m not suggesting it’s the sole responsibility of colleges and universities to make athletes aware of the wiles that await them upon their exit from the isolation of the NCAA…but what I am suggesting is (again) a more proactive approach to better equipping them to handle what could happen.  
Look…it’s no one’s responsibility to manage your money. What you earn is what you should protect right? As I said before the expectation is that these kids (usually 20-22 years old) are supposed to manage funds that mount to what many of us will never earn in a lifetime. Seems almost impossible... Honestly would you expect a podiatrist to perform open heart surgery…?

Probably not.
Just sayin…

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Athletes Need Sport

Peeps –
I thought I would create a quick post today to lend some insight into the mindset of athletes and why sport is so important to them…both on and off the field.
We’ve discussed in previous articles that athletics are important in developing young people and how coaches are vital in steering those teachable moments for them. Today I want to take it step further and speak to how much sport impacts the emotional stability of athletes given life’s unforeseen events.
Speaking from personal experience, football has been a savior for me. Coming from a town of three stoplights in North Central Florida there was really nothing to do…sports, especially football, was all there was... When things were difficult off the field, I always had practice and games to look forward to as my outlet. No matter what was going on in my life – that small two and a half to three hour block of time for practice and games was something to look forward to.
Even at the collegiate and professional level we can see how athletes gravitate towards their teammates and the sport they love in order to help them cope with difficult situations off the field. Let’s look at Brian Urlacher from last season… he lost his mom during the week of a game. Just like most athletes, Urlacher was exceptionally close to his mom calling her his “heart.” Urlacher went home for a couple of days to spend time with his family and then returned to the team in time for the game that same Sunday. Urlacher’s extended NFL family was a huge part of him being able to effectively deal with what otherwise would have been an even more devastating loss.

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o
Photo: Associated Press

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o lost not only his girlfriend, but his grandmother within hours of each other last week (read more). How could anyone stay focused on a game? I mean, it’s just a game right? Still Te’o remained with the team in order to help rally the Fighting Irish to a huge win against Michigan State. His brothers (teammates) and the extended Notre Dame family came together to offer a huge showing of support for Te’o as be battled the emotional exhaustion of loss off the field.
The media would have us believe that these two athletes were making a huge personal sacrifice to stay with their teams. That, in part, is true. However, I would argue that it was just as important for them to be with their teammates for support and strength through sport as it is for them to be with their immediate families in these devastating times of grief.
Please understand that I am in no way trying to minimize the pain that these two men have endured. I'm merely trying to shed some light on the fact that sport is so much more than just a weekly competition... sport is life. Simply put, without sport where would we be?
Are these two instances a coincidence… or by design? I'm sure there are other examples that we can take note of throughout athletic history... give it some thought. Michael Jordon holding the NBA World Championship Trophy after losing his father and openly weeping on national television - sound familiar?
What about you?How has sport lifted you up during a dark point in your own life?
Hmmmm…. Again seems sport has proven itself to be about more than just wins and losses.
Long live sport!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who's Responsible?

Peeps –
First, let me apologize for the absence of Coach Holtz on TNNDN Network’s “Ask Oscar” radio show last night. The good news is that Coach has promised to do another show soon and we will more than make up for the time. Work on polishing up those questions and be prepared to fire at will!
That said there was a point raised on last night’s show about the NCAA, universities and where their responsibilities lie with the athletes who are “Violating Team Rules.” I candidly said the NCAA should impose some sort of monetary fine system that would, in fact, hold not only the student-athlete responsible, but the institution of the student-athlete more accountable.
Again, I’m not condoning the behavior of student-athletes who in fact break team rules. Yes, there is free will involved… free will on both parts – student-athlete and institution. Policy is policy. If you break the laws there are consequences. Simple right? However, where is the institutions responsibility for the athletes they employ? All employees offer “benefits” to those who work for them (at least if the employees are legal to work here in the United States).
Are we so naïve to believe that the institutions who benefit greatly from what these student-athletes accomplish in their respective fields of competition are “giving” the student-athlete something for free? Do you really think the “free” education isn’t paid for every day?

Tyrann Mathieu
Photo by: Kevin C. Cox
Here’s my bottom line idea regarding the NCAA. If the institutions who employ these student-athletes are the sole beneficiaries of said revenue generated by the student-athletes (i.e. jersey sales, ticket sales, pep rally ticket sales, hats, programs, t-shirts, etc.) then why aren’t they subject to the same punishment as the student-athletes who break the rules. In essence they “own” them. When you’re an owner you can’t just turn your back on the business and let the brunt fall on the shoulders of the employees… or maybe you can. It’s happening daily.
The issue is that institutions want to win so terribly bad they will afford a high risk student-athlete an “opportunity” knowing full on well what the highest probable outcome will be. When said student-athlete “fails” to “live up to his or her potential” the institution walks away with no penance to immediately find another commodity with which to fill the vacated spot. I’m sorry, but where is the fairness in that? Have we reduced our young people to nothing more than money-generating entities to be tossed back at the first sign of ugly? So you’re telling me the coaches and administrators don’t know about the issues these kids have in advance?
Call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you’d like, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if the NCAA imposed a monetary fine system for the institutions regarding the violation of its substance abuse policy of say $150K for the first offense, $500K for the second offense and loss of ALL scholarships in the program for a year on the third offense I’d wager some changes to who, what and how the recruiting process might change. Not to mention a proactive stance by the institutions to get their “commodities” the help they need. Help extending far beyond just what they (student-athletes) can do for the institutions, but rather for themselves. Look, coaching is supposed to develop young people. How can we say we’re developing them when in essence we’re using them… and when they’re no longer usable we turn our backs on them and replace them using a seemingly infinite “lead” source?
Damn… my head hurts. Maybe I've concussed myself from banging my head on the proverbial "it ain't gonna change" wall.
Just sayin'

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Adding Insult to Injury"

Family –
Thanks for all of your support from our last entry “Violating Team Rules.” Seems you guys like the edgier side of my writing. That said I want to quickly follow up with another post which is somewhat of an extension of the aforementioned piece.
First, let me say that I have no respect for Lane Kiffin, USC or anything about the program. Since Pete Carroll left in the dark of night that program (although stellar in athleticism and recruiting) has, in my opinion, really become… for lack of a better word disappointing. 
Wait…! Let me ‘splain –
In the last entry I talked about how student-athletes needed to be helped right? Not saying that they weren’t supposed to be disciplined for some irreverent action, but rather someone (namely the institution of their employ – yes, I believe student-athletes are university employees) should take a proactive approach in possibly preventing the issues before they arise.
Now, let’s go back to the summer of 2011. USC linebacker Simione Vehikite was arrested and charged with not one, not two, not three, but four felony counts and sentenced to a year in prison read more. Whew! Talk about “violating team rules!” Although I’m not minimizing the seriousness of drug use… but really… this is a far cry from smoking weed!
Here’s the really sleazy, USC part about it. When Vehikite was dismissed from the team, his back up (walk-on Will Andrew) stepped in…but now that Vehikite is back, Andrew is out of a scholarship.
Are you kidding me?!?!?!
Isn’t this what sport is supposed to teach our young people? If you work your butt off you get an opportunity right? What the…? What message is being sent here?
Look, I’m not saying Vehikite doesn’t deserve a second chance. We ALL make mistakes… and hopefully the young man has learned from his. I’m all for character development. At the end of the day, he’s a kid… kids do dumb stuff… luckily he still has an opportunity. I’m sure he’ll make the most of it.
What about Will Andrew? So now after earning a scholarship he’s just left out in the cold? C’mon! I don’t know Andrew and I’m not even sure what caliber player he is, but what I do know is that when the team AND the university needed him he was there… what did that get him? Maybe a handshake and a “thank you.” The handshake might even be a stretch coming from Kiffin.
What is this incident saying about the state of affairs in intercollegiate athletics? Are our institutions of higher learning picking and choosing which infractions lead to suspensions and dismissals? Are some players more expendable than other? Is there truly one set of governing rules upheld by the NCAA for everyone or is the scale slightly tilted in order to secure the most wins?
Wait… is this all about winning?
Damn… I guess winning really is the most important thing…
Just sayin’.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Violating Team Rules"


After careful consideration I've decided to take a closer look at the epidemic that is sweeping the country. More and more student-athletes are being suspended for "violating team rules," so I thought we would put the situation under a microscope to see what's really going on.
Yes, it’s official that the Honey Badger will not be at LSU this fall for “violating team rules…” Cierre Wood will not be starting in the backfield for the Irish for the first couple of weeks of the season due to “violating team rules…” Kansas suspended its long snapper Justin Carnes for “violating team rules…” Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers was suspended for “violating team rules” then transferred… Auburn suspended wide receiver DeAngelo Benton for “violating team rules” and now three wide receivers from East Carolina were just suspended for… yup - you guessed it... “violating team rules.”
What the HELL is going on here?!?!?!?
This really pisses me off… simply because the schools are so concerned with their precious little images and the endowments coming in from alumni that they’re in denial about the truth.
Wake up people… we have a problem! A problem that's been around since Moby Dick was a minnow!
First let’s cut the crap and put it out there that “violating team rules” is code for he tested positive for or got caught smoking marijuana, weed, chronic, pot, Mary- Jane, blunts, skimbibbidy, wacky tobacky, Maui Wowee, sticky-icky or whatever you want to call it.
Has anyone bothered to wonder why all of the sudden these kids are getting suspended in droves?? C’mon – you can’t be that naive.
Here’s a question that maybe someone can answer for me: “Why is it that division 1A colleges and universities have huge budgets in their athletic departments, but not one penny is obviously being spent on substance abuse treatment and/or prevention?”
Someone…? Anyone…?
In my humble opinion these young people need help… not suspension. Wait, before anyone comes unglued – I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t be disciplined for their actions, but what I am suggesting is that these young people need guidance and help. I know it might be news to some programs out there, but there’s more to life than just athletics. Agree with me or not (as I’ve said you can always start your own blog) these programs are aware of the problems these athletes have.  
Is it really a big secret? “SSSHHHHHH… don’t tell coach we smoke weed!” Really? What? Is everyone becoming Jim Tressel and “unaware” of what is happening in the program? Whatever… You mean to tell me that no one can help? Wait.. no one cares to help?
From this poor man’s perspective these institutions of higher education need to live up to what they promise these athletes and their parents when recruiting them – “take care of them.” Taking care of them doesn’t mean giving them money or a car or some lavish place to live. Helping them means living up to your end of the bargain as much as they’re supposed to on Saturday afternoon! Help them become better people… help them with their issues… help them with their studies… help them PERIOD!
Violating team rules… psssh…what a joke! #SMH

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Defining Your Cool..."

Family –

I had the opportunity to spend some time with some very intelligent, well-spoken young men on my radio show last Sunday. Malcolm Johnson and Bobby Brown lit it up on the “Ask Oscar” show with an intelligence and awareness of self that, in my opinion, has been missing from the many episodes before. One of the most profound things that came from the conversation was the quote from Bobby Brown: “You have to define your cool.”  
As I listened I thought… “What the…?” That must be some Bob Davies' bullshit...right? But as he further explained my thoughts continued to turn inward as I began to immediately self-reflect.
In all honesty, I was caught off guard by his response to my question regarding what he would say to an aspiring student-athlete about having success on the collegiate level. I guess I was looking for the traditional canned answer of staying focused and always being prepared, etc. – which is usually what that type of question calls for.
As I started to dissect his answer, I began to self-reflect on what my own “cool” would be. Wow!  I realized that even now, with the accomplishments, successes, failures, poor decisions and life experiences that I’ve had in my forty years, I still have yet to “define my cool.” Admittedly, I panicked a bit, but in the same vein an air of excitement was born from the panic. “This means I have the opportunity to grow,” I said to myself. Now I could finally, take the necessary steps to become a real, live human being!
Wait….not to get ahead of myself. To all those people I've offended and acted like a complete ass to – “I apologize” – to all those relationships I've taken for granted that had someone’s heart attached to it –“I apologize” – to my teammates (especially those at Notre Dame) and friends whom I took advantage of, while not even knowing I was doing so – “I apologize.” I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.
We’ve all heard it said that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem… I submit to you family, that the first step is admitting your wrong doing and asking forgiveness. I have a long way to go before I can define my "cool…." but thanks to my Notre Dame Football Family, I now know that’s what was missing in my life.
Guess there’s nothin’ like family right?
Go Irish… Forever... I'm off to define "my cool."

Friday, July 6, 2012

One For the Road...


In my examination of our role as parents in the last excerpt/post I neglected to give you a little background about that piece. As much as it was supposed to spark a specific thought process where you as the reader is concerned, it was also a cathartic piece for me as I began my evolution in positive coaching philosophy and style.

The following is the preamble to the "Ten Pearls of Wisdom for Parents" from earlier in the week. As you read through, you will notice small discrepancies in the timeline because this was written so long ago, but all in all I'm sure you'll get the idea.

Cheers for a great weekend -

The Long Ride Home

Thought we might switch gears today and examine one of the issues in youth sports that is overlooked more than Bobby Knight's behavior on the bench... the ride home after an athletic contest with parents. Some of the worst parenting and coaching in the world takes place in the privacy of the dreaded car ride home. Parents berate, condescend and over power young athletes to the point that many of them may lose all interest in a sport they truly love.

This was never more evident to me than with my own son. I've been his coach since he was old enough to walk. I've given him, in my opinion, some of the best coaching and advice that can be given to a young athlete. That said there's still a parent-child relationship to foster before athletics. Admittedly, I've always been tougher on my own children than other kids I've coached, but being involved with youth football this past season really opened my eyes.

This football season was my son's first year of tackle football. I had always heard how rabid parents were in youth football, but I thought it was a basic over-exaggeration (like most things concerning kids and sports where parents are concerned). I quickly found out how completely insane parents were about their children in youth football. Wow! Not to mention some of the egos involved within the administration of the league itself. Man, am I glad we waited to get involved! We were lucky enough to be on a team filled with good young men and coaches who actually liked and respected each other. Being a "consultant" I was shielded from most of the ignorance, but from time to time the head coach and I would have a chat about things that I only thought happened in collegiate or professional sports. At the end of the day it's just youth sports... not collegiate, not semi-pro, not professional - youth.

Hmmmmm... where is he going you ask? The answer is really simple. Parents (present company included), always want the best for their kids. However, we can all be a bit over the top when "critiquing" our young athlete's play. He or she may not be living up to whatever expectation we may have, but that's not for us to decide. Although they are children, and to a point they will always be children in our eyes, they need to take some responsibility and figure things out on there own. If it's important to them, they'll go for it. As parents and role models I believe it's our job to give them every opportunity to be successful... that's it. Present the opportunity, provide support and leave the rest to them.

I'm just sayin...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Some Thoughts For Parents...


Today, I'm adding another excerpt from my book Relentless Wisdom. This excerpt is specifically for parents... myself included. I know we love our kids dearly, but here are a couple of things to consider the next time you attend a sporting event that your child participates in.


1.      Ease up a little -No matter what you say, you will never be tougher on them than they are on themselves.

2.    They aren't you - So what you did at their age doesn't necessarily apply in today's sports culture.
3.    Let's be honest, some of them just aren't athletically gifted  - Just love them for who they are and be fine with that.

4.    Ask them don't tell them "How do you think you played today?" versus "I don't think you played well today." You might be surprised how in tune they are with how they performed.

5.     Don't assume - They may not want to play the sport you played as a kid. Their favorite sport could be completely different. Let them decided which direction to go.

6.    Always remember to tell them you love them - Sometimes no matter the approach you take, things can get out of hand. Just remind them that you love them and no matter what you're there for them.

7.     We're talking youth sports here - nobody is picking up a check at the end of the game... if so, sign me up!

8.    Relax and enjoy the game - This one is for me specifically. We've got to remember they're children and even the pros make mistakes. Let the coaches coach.. Our job is to lift 'em up.

9.    If they ask give an honest yet loving answer - If you get them to ask what you think...think before you answer. In most cases they’re hanging on your every word.

      10. Youth sports is about the experience and having fun - Don't let them forget that.

              Remember, behavior is modeled... what message are you sending them?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Different Perspective...

Good  morning folks -

I'm not sure if you guys are aware, but I'm an adjunct professor at Concordia University. The class I teach is called Sport Ethics. In this class we deal with all types of scenarios as they pertain to sports and some of the ethical situations that can arise. Today's post is a sample of what one of my students wrote about character education through youth sport. Enjoy!

A coach of youth sports has numerous responsibilities.  These responsibilities include both the athletic and social arenas.  As a youth coach you must teach the fundamentals of the game to promote future success and proper technique to prevent injury.  You must also instill character, morals, promote social standards, and develop cognitive skills. 
 One of the best ways that you can teach good character, morals and social standards is by modeling them yourself.  As a coach you are a role model.  The manner in which you carry yourself reflects what you value.  If you are always on time, organized, well prepared, and honest then your players will see that and begin to model it.  If you are consistently late you send the message that punctuality is not something that is important.  This is just an example, but is true of all character traits and values.  It is also important that you allow athletes at this level to have fun and show a lot of enthusiasm and praise for their accomplishments.  A positive atmosphere is something players should learn early. These are good character development traits to have in sports and life in general."
                                                                                                                                  - Casey Workman

Yes, behavior is modeled and kids act on what they see... the question then becomes what are you showing them... coach?


Monday, June 25, 2012

Responsibility...Take It or Leave It?

What's good everyone?!

I thought I would take a moment to jot down a few personal thoughts about: Responsibility.

We usually equate responsibility with a job (i.e. "I'm responsible for X at my job.") Sometimes we equate responsibility with our families in that we're "responsible" for providing as adults and parents for our children. We may even be responsible in how we manage our finances and relationships with others.

Today, I want to explore another direction within the framework of responsibility's definition - and that is... simply taking responsiblity for ourselves.


Taking responsibility for ourselves may be the one thing that is most difficult about being an adult. Of course when things are great and everyone is lovingly smiling at you it can be awesome...but what about standing up when things aren't great... when they're dark and ugly? I mean the very thought of "taking responsibility" for something that's gone wrong connotes a type of punishment or as we hear incessantly -the "karma's a bitch" thought process.

Let me be the first to tell you, I've had some great moments and I've had some dark moments that I'm none too proud of.  From legal issues to moral issues I've had it all in my 40 years. I'm sure you've had some moments like that too...maybe you feel as if you've let someone down or hurt someone so badly, but there's no way to take it back... yup, been there too. The immediate reaction is to grab the proverbial bat and begin to bash ourselves over the head with it... so much so that we work ourselves into a frenzied mess of mis-managed emotions. Ugh... not a good place to be, right?

Hey - people screw up! We sometimes make bad fact sometimes things are just downright, god-awful... in these times I remember my Big Nana saying, "Baby, you're just standing too close to the mirror."

Say wha?

I didn't really understand it back in the day, but now that I'm older and have a few more life experiences under my belt I get it. She was simply saying if we stand really close to a mirror we see all the imperfections and blemishes... no one can ever be harder on us than we are on ourselves. But when we stand back and take a look at the entire picture...hmmmm... not too bad... guest I can put the bat away.

You may agree or you may think I'm completely off base as I've said before these are merely my thoughts and opinions... but the one thing we can agree on is that we ALL at some point have "stood too close to the mirror."


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learning to Teach While Teaching: Trustworthiness

Dearly beloved; we are gathered here today...

Uh oh - my bad… wrong intro.

What's up good people? I hope you’ve all been enjoying health, fruitfulness of spirit and peace of mind since our last conversation.

Today we dive into our last topic in our Learning to Teach While Teaching Series: Trustworthiness.
Our young people today need to be taught the value of being trustworthy. Unfortunately, when they watch ESPN or any television show for that matter the modeled behavior is often less than helpful in teaching the aforementioned – there’s something I like to call (PMS) the “Predominately Me Syndrome” displayed everywhere. Professional athletes from football players to race car drivers show irresponsible, selfish behavior that fills the minds of our young people with what they think is acceptable.
It’s ok to do steroids…as long as I apologize. It’s ok to say disrespectful things to others…as long as I apologize. It’s ok to be unfaithful…as long as I apologize. It’s ok “go off” on my parents and coaches…as long as I apologize. Basically it’s ok to be a complete idiot…as long as I apologize.


Hmmmm… trustworthiness; that sounds like a really important word. What is the clinical definition of trustworthy? Trustworthy is defined as:

adj. deserving trust or confidence; dependable or reliable

Got it… so Merriam-Webster is saying there’s actually some responsibility in being trustworthy. There’s actually a level of expectation applied to someone who possesses this character quality. Being considered trustworthy is actually earned….wow - what a concept!

While playing at Notre Dame, Coach Holtz would pose three questions to our team as we began each year. It was his way of reminding us that we had a responsibility to our teammates, our coaches, our community and ultimately to ourselves to be the best possible young men we could be. Not just on the football field or in the classroom, but in life.

The three questions he asked us to consider were:

Can I trust you?

            Do you have my back? Can I trust that you will do what needs to be done for the team to be successful? Can I rely on the fact that you will put the team first?

Are you committed to excellence?

            Are you willing to sacrifice personal glory for the team in working together for a bigger more unified goal? Will you work hard each day to be the best possible version of yourself and in doing so make us stronger?

Do you care about me?

            Do you care enough about me to execute the previous two questions on a consistent basis? Even when you’re tired and worn. Even when others talk about you? Will you defend the honor of the team with your actions?

Even today at Relentless Sports we use those same questions in our philosophy of teaching character through team work and discipline. If you were to ask members of Relentless about the "three questions," most of them would be able to tell you what they are and what they mean.

Being a young person today is admittedly tougher than when most of us grew up. That said it is the responsibility of parents to set the foundation at home for their children. It then becomes the responsibility of coaches to model the behaviors that are acceptable in their programs which should mirror those from home. There was a time that we could get some additional help from our “celebrity” role models…

Unfortunately, we can’t always depend on them anymore.

¿Que Dice?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Learning to Teach While Teaching: Respect

Good day fine folks –

Today we continue to move forward in our Learning to Teach While Teaching Series:

Today’s Topic: Respect

I don’t really think I need to break out into Aretha Franklin’s all time number one smash single “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” for everyone to be able to understand at least in part how important respect is… I mean geez, if there’s a song written about it I’m guessing it must be pretty important. Motown greatness aside, today I want to really examine what respect is all about…and more importantly what respect isn’t.

The dictionary definition of respect is:


to avoid violation; held high or with special regard; the quality or state of being appreciated

Let’s break the definition down by segment and further examine how we (coaches, parents and student-athletes alike) show respect to each other. I think we’ll all be interested to see how it all shakes out.

Okay, let’s see… “to avoid violation” - Wow…seriously?!? So, if I violate someone by speaking ill or back stabbing do I truly have respect for them? What if I circulate rumors and filth in order to gain some sort of favor for myself? I am showing respect? Hmmm…this isn’t quite adding up. Mom always said: “one plus one ain’t three, baby.” I’m getting the picture.

Let’s look at the second definition segment: “held high or with special regard” – I’m guessing that since this is a verb, there’s more to it than just saying I respect someone… I actually have to show it right? How should I go about it? Is there a formula for respecting someone? Man, this is really enlightening…

 The last segment simply says: “the quality or state of being appreciated.” The last time I checked if someone was appreciated they were not only told, but were shown in action and in deed. I think what’s most disturbing is that our actions and deeds are polar opposites in most cases. I can look at you… smile at you… invade your personal space and yet I have no regard for you whatsoever… unbelievable. As my students say… “that’s totally creepy.”

We’ve all heard the saying: “respect isn’t given its earned.” That’s an interesting concept because based on the 14th century definition I don’t think the person who came up with that saying really understood what it meant. Sounds to me like the basic definition of respect is just to treat people well. You know, the “Golden Rule?” Anyone remember that from Sunday school? Some would argue that the second and third segments of the definition are what have to be earned – “special regard and appreciation”. I would then argue the mere fact that you’re a human being qualifies you for those. I don’t think anyone wants to be violated or unappreciated… that goes without saying – or at least I thought it did.


Why do young people show so little respect to “elders” today? Why don’t young people respect teachers? Why aren’t parents more respectful of teachers who, in essence, spend more time with their children than they do? Why don’t teachers and administrator respect each other? Why don’t coaches respect student-athletes for who they are? Why do teachers have a chip on their shoulders? Why do busy-bodies need so much drama? Why do we dislike the person who is happy? Why does negativity sell? Why does one person feel the need to control another? Why is power so important? Why do jealousy and envy exist? Why is retaliation always the answer? Why is there always an excuse? Why is this list of questions infinitely long?

I don’t know either…

In a nutshell this is my opinion… like it or not – agree or not as I've always said you can always create your own blog. Respect is something you give and until that other person gives you a specific reason to do otherwise you continue to show respect. In treating others with respect we inevitably respect ourselves… if I don’t have respect for myself then how is it possible for me to respect someone else…? Instead of reciting “respect isn’t given it’s earned” maybe we should say, respect is given, but common sense is learned.

I sure hope “the community” is listening…