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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How We Win...in Life ~ "The Plan"


Family –

I was sitting here contemplating what to write about when it occurred to me that I could give you a little background on my sport experience and put a "Sport is Life" spin on it at the same time. I played under the legendary Lou Holtz at the University of Notre Dame… any player who played under Coach Holtz can tell you we probably worked harder than any team in the country at that time, but it wasn’t without objective… we had a plan. As a matter of fact we had something called: “The Plan: How We Win.” That same plan that coach gave us to win in football can also be used as a catalyst for our success in life.

Lemme ‘splain.

Each week when we had our team meeting Coach Holtz would go over “The Plan” with us to make sure we understood what it took to be a successful team. No matter who we played he would go over “The Plan” in our team meeting both at the beginning of the week and the night before the game (just to make sure we understood what it took). Here it is:

1.       Out Hit – We had to be more physical than the team we played on Saturday. Being physical allowed us to impose our will on an opponent.

2.      Fundamentals – Being fundamentally sound would allow us to gain an advantage over a team who was less focused on the little things.

3.      Seven Areas: These were the meat of “The Plan” and were a critical part of our success.

a.      Turnovers: Protect the ball on offense and get takeaways on defense
b.      The Bomb: Don’t give up the big play on defense and create big plays on offense
c.       Missed Assignments: Knowing what to do insured we didn’t make mental mistakes
d.      Third Down: Convert third down on offense and get off the field by forcing a punt on defense after third down
e.      Foolish Penalties: This one speaks for itself
f.        Goal Line: Punch it in on offense and get stops on defense
g.      Kicking Game:  25% of the game is special teams… we had to make a difference in this area

4.      Togetherness: No one ever came between us. We won together… we lost (on occasion) together.

5.      Don’t Flinch: No matter what happened we believed we would find a way to win… we believed in ourselves, our coaches and each other.

These same principles can be applied in our lives today….how? I’m glad you asked – lemme ‘splain again.

1.       Out Hit: We can’t literally “Out hit” anyone in our daily lives but we can have a tenacious attitude and refuse to lose. At the end of the day this part of “The Plan” was all about attitude – period.

2.      Fundamentals: Our fundamentals are nothing more than our core beliefs. Who are you as a person? What do you fundamentally believe to be right or wrong? Remember, integrity is who you are when no one’s watching.

3.      Seven Areas:
a.      Turnovers: when you have the ball, keep the ball. In other words, make the most of every situation. You never know when the opportunity will come again.
b.      The Bomb: Big things happen, but not by accident. It takes hard work and preparation to make big things happen in life.
c.       Missed Assignments: Seriously? How can you possibly not know everything there is to know about your craft? As professionals that’s what we’re paid to do. Get after it. Missing an assignment at work can cost you your job!
d.      Third Down: Sometimes things don’t always go as planned, but you have make it happen. Whatever “it” is if “it’s” going to happen you have to make “it” happen.
e.      Foolish Penalties: Well…err… guess there’s no easy way to say this – You can’t do DUMB stuff. Be smart, use common sense and keep your reputation intact.
f.        Goal Line: When you get your chance... make the most of it. There are no free lunches.
g.      Kicking Game: There's no such thing as small things when it comes to your livelihood. Take every opportunity seriously because little things add up. I mean it takes 100 pennies to make a dollar right?

4.      Togetherness: As I said before sometimes life throws you a curve… you have to keep it together. Try to keep company with like-minded people. Like attracts like… there’s no question here.

5.      Don’t Flinch: No matter how difficult things get, no matter how dire the situation you must keep the faith and believe that you can make it. Everyone has challenges in life, but there's no need to stress out… just get it done. Believe in yourself!

“The Plan” became part of my life in the fall of 1990 and has been part of my daily thought process since. Thank you Coach Holtz for sharing an infallible life plan with me. I didn't always understand as a young man what you meant... but now I am completely aware of the incredible guidance you gave.

Perhaps there is something in this post that gives you pause for consideration as you move forward in your life’s journey. Maybe personally...maybe professionally... maybe even in your relationships... who knows? Only you can answer those questions. 

If nothing else, please always remember: “Sport if Life.”




Saturday, February 16, 2013

Making Sense of it All


Family –

Amidst being peppered with the disturbing news of natural disasters in Europe, good times gone badly on the open seas and celebrity athletes’ lives in peril I wanted to bring yet another humble submission of thought-provoking jargon for you to consider.

This week I found myself traveling amongst the motley trying to get from place to place in a timely manner without completely losing my mind. I considered my trip successful, not in having sold any of my wares, but in being able to secure exit row seats and in 100% of all cases having no one sit directly next to me (anyone over 6’3” can feel my pain… although Matt Poston obviously has NO clue).

I happened to sit in the same exit row as a southern gentleman from Macon, Georgia on my flight through Atlanta and he and I struck up a short conversation as the plane began its initial decent into Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He was quite polite and asked me if I “had conversations on airplanes” because he had, “noticed (I was) really busy working away all flight.” I said, “of course,” but in retrospect I probably appeared a bit anti-social looking like one of our “Generation Y” Millennals connected to my laptop with white ear buds and a skull cap completely immersed in my work.

He asked me a series of questions… still not having introduced himself by name and I answered them all with common courtesy. After I was done, he then began to tell me about himself, still with no official introduction by name. What he said then really caught me off guard…. “I’m seventy-four years old and will be seventy-five this year. I figure I have one more year to work and then figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.” 

Apparently my face was masked with confusion so he was compelled to explain further. “You coach football (since what I did was one of the initial interviewee questions)… I would love to be able to work with young people and just enjoy the rest of my life.”  He continued, “Football is such a great game. You work for months to get in shape and get bigger, stronger and faster… then you only have a few weeks to enjoy the fruits of all that labor. That’s kinda where I am. I’ve worked all these years and now I want to figure out the next stage in my life.”

I was somewhat taken aback by his statement because here I was sitting with this seventy-four year old man of obvious means who was still trying to make sense of it all… And at the end of the day all he wanted to do was coach. 

Wait... say wha??? 

For all the bitching and moaning I do about my life and the decisions I’ve made; to put it all in perspective things could be a whole lot worse… really! Not in any way implicating that this southern gentlemen had any regrets for spending years of his life in what seemed to be a thriving career (being close friends with a governor holding office and the like). I was just given a reminder that coaching is important…leading is important…mentoring is important… and loving what you do is important. Although means are important there is nothing more important than being happy with who you are and what you do.

So here’s the moral to the story for all of us “would-be” coaches out there… we are truly blessed to do what we do. Sport (just in case you haven’t gotten the memo) extends far beyond our competitions, practices and even our gigantic egos about who knows what better than whom. We have a tremendous responsibility to the student-athletes we mentor as much as we do to ourselves and our families. I mean… isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Ya’ know? Help them make sense of it all? After all sport is life right?

Thanks Mike from Macon, Georgia for the quick “gut check.” I needed that…

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All About Legacy


Family –

I wanna switch gears for a second and ask you to take a long hard look at what you would want your legacy to be. No… seriously… this isn’t one of my backhanded attempts to trap you in some twisted joke or play on words… honestly, what would you want your legacy to be? Have you given any thought to it… at all?

When I hear the word LEGACY is sounds so rich and so very powerful… yet it doesn’t take a rich and powerful person to have a tremendous legacy that extends beyond monetary boundaries. The word legacy is defined as either: “a gift or something handed down by predecessors or ancestors from the past.” How great would it be to have your life be a gift to someone else? Not just in terms of what you could provide for them, but legitimately enriching their lives by just being there?

Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of attending a couple of “life celebrations” (I hate to call them funerals) and attending those events always calls to mind a few things. First… my mortality. I am no longer the strong, young twenty-something… with nothing but youth and time on my hands.  As I ease into my forties I think about how ridiculous I must have looked to those who were then in their forties…wow! Thank you for tolerating my utterly primitive and uninformed behavior - (which leads to yet another skill to be mastered tolerance/patience....to be continued).

 The second thing that has given me cause for pause in the last few weeks is: “What do I want my legacy to be?” After listening to people at these attended "celebrations" speak about their loved ones, how they represented themselves and the tremendous impact they had on the lives of those they touched my wheels really started turning…

Here are but a few of the questions that I sought the answers to as my mind began spinning about the concept of “legacy:”
What will your legacy be?

Ø  What would be said at my "celebration?"
Ø  Would what was said be truthful or an “edited” version of my life?
Ø  Who would attend?
Ø  Would they come because they truly missed me or would they come to see who else showed?
Ø  What would my kids say?
Ø  What would my Grandchildren (if I’m old enough to have them) say?
Ø  What would my spouse say?
Ø  Would my nieces and nephews bother to come?
Ø  Would any of the young men I’ve coached throughout the years attend… and if so... what, if anything, would they say?
Ø  What about my colleagues and co-workers… what, if anything, would they say?
Ø  Will I have made a difference in the lives of those I knew… for the better?

Looking at this abridged list of questions from an objective position I can honestly say I believe my “report card” is pretty good. That’s not to say that I don’t have things I need to work on because I’m reminded daily of my short-comings.  However, I am willing to work on those things that aren’t as attractive as others…I mean let’s face it… there are definitely some things we shouldn’t pass on to our kids, right?

What I feel most blessed about is the opportunity I have each day to make a difference…to do something good for someone else… to have a positive impact in someone's life. Parenting, coaching, speaking, teaching and writing are all ways of making a difference…but if I wasn’t doing any of that would I still be considered a "good" person? Would it really matter what I accomplished? I'm sure it would matter to those whose lives I play a significant role in.

I've heard it said: “Think about your life in terms of significance. If you weren’t here... would there be people who genuinely missed you?” That statement has always stuck with me…and although I’ve made some really bad decisions in my life, I’ve always striven to be a person of significance. To my family, to the athletes I've coached, to teams I've been on and ultimately to myself.

Well....? What do you think? What will be said on your "day of celebration?" I think it's kinda shallow to think it doesn't matter what others think of you because perception is reality... regardless of right or wrong.

My legacy is far from being cemented…. and I can only hope I'm blessed with a few more years to work on that project. In the immortal words of Coach Holtz: "I refuse to believe God put me on this earth to be ordinary." I hear ya coach... I hear ya.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Conversation... with Me


Family –

If you are in any way familiar with my writing style you know I have a tendency to “jot down” random thoughts and somehow they end up on my blog. This time I thought about what a conversation with me would have been like some twenty years ago… then a twenty year old kid with the world (from my minimal experience) in the palm of my hand.  I only posed one question…. a question based on my background and where I thought I fit in the proverbial “grand scheme of things” as a youngster.

Please don’t judge... remember I’m was only twenty.

Here goes…

Question:

“Oscar, you're from a really small town in North Central Florida. Define for me in your own words what it means to be “the one to get out."

Answer:

Being the one to get out… hmmm? What exactly does that mean? That is as much a social caste vs. class question as any. Being “that guy” can carry significant meaning… not to mention significant pressure. How many times have you heard of some “great” ball player coming from humble beginnings and overcoming unbelievable odds to be where he is today? It would seem that it’s a sub-plot that many of us could turn into an after school special to air on Saturday morning’s right?

Oscar McBride circa. 1992
Is it a coincidence that this happens? Is there a specific criteria requirement in order for me to succeed? Must I come from a broken home? Does my mother have to be addicted to drugs and be unemployed? Am I the only one of my buddies at age 25 or younger who’s not either dead or imprisoned? Do I need so much anger, sadness and disappointment in my life to fuel my success? Is football (or any sport for that matter) my only way out? 

More importantly, when I get out, will I abandon those old habits and thought processes from whence I’ve come and run the risk of being labeled a “sellout” by my peers or do I continue to make bad decisions much to the chagrin and ridicule of the general public? 

Ultimately, I think it’s all about what fuels you… what you want out of life. How big can you dream and how hard are you willing to work to make those dreams real? At this point I figure there’s only two options for me…

Which way will I go? It would seem that the answer is easy to ascertain. However, pressure comes not only from inside my home, but from outside my home in the streets where I’m known as “one of a few lucky enough to get out.”

I hope this answers your question…

Never mind… forget I asked. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sacrificial Lambs


Family –

First, let me say I appreciate your continued support in following the “Ask Oscar” blog. I enjoy sharing my thoughts with you and it seems there is no shortage of content to post regarding sport and its effect on our young people and our society.

With that said…

I submitted a post a couple of days ago about the behavior of coaches and parents with regard to sport and the experience of the young people who participate. After thinking about that post for a while and literally upsetting myself, I started to think about the reasons why these kinds of things happen.

As I pondered some possible answers to my questions I figured there was no need to look any further than the school administration. Athletic directors are ultimately responsible for what happens in athletics as the immediate supervisor of that department. The athletic director usually reports to the principal so everyone is “on the same page” much like collegiate coaches report to the athletic director who ultimately reports to the university president.

So….

Why in the world would athletic directors and principals allow their student-athletes to be mistreated at the hands of coaches who could care less about the well-being of those they’re trusted to mentor? Why would you employ someone who has no regard for the young people they spend so much time with (in most cases more time than parents)?

After stewing for a while I decided to jot down a list of five “whys” that would explain the reasons this kind of behavior is tolerated. Keep in mind this is my list and yours may or may not be similar. You may think I’m completely off altogether… but I doubt it. Either way, this list is something that needs to be addressed… especially in high school sport. Here’s what I came up with:

1.       Administration has no idea what’s going on in athletics. In my mind this is a cop out and if you’re responsible for running the school you should have your finger on the pulse of every department.

2.       Administration doesn’t care to know what’s happening in athletics. A very sad but true fact. Especially if the program is considered “successful.”

3.       Administration cares more about winning than developing young people. This is tragic because if you show genuine respect and care for young people they will give you their best effort without question. At that point success (however it’s defined) is inevitable.

4.       Cash is king. Sometimes, especially in private schools, money makes all the decisions. Regardless of whether they’re good decisions or not. So if you have money you rule… otherwise you’re nothing more than a peasant.

5.       They’re just kids…they have no idea. Again, an unimaginable thought for someone whose primary responsibility is to protect the kids. I had a conversation with a couple of young people I know personally and they said the coaches at their school make them “hate” the sport they’ve enjoyed playing their entire lives.

Ugh… is this seriously what we’ve allowed sport to become?

I’ll close with this… we have serious issues in youth/amateur sport today. Between egotistical coaches with no people skills, parents who refuse to be realistic about their expectations for their children and school administrators who bury their heads in the sand what in the world are we supposed to do? At the end of the day, the ones who are sacrificed are the kids… battered physically and emotionally by their “coaches,” stressed out by their parents and completely ignored by school administrators... and for what - the sake of winning? Hmmmmm… and we wonder why they would rather just play video games. At least in their video games when something isn’t right they can hit the reset button or turn it off.

Hey!!!! Can someone please hit the reset button???

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How Far is Too Far?


Family –

I know we started a new series on professional athletics and finance, but I had a change of heart and decided there was no real need to beat a dead horse. Wealth mismanagement is as common as a cold and just like the cold there is no cure for it. So that series is officially scrapped.

First, let’s set the table for this new post shall we?

A friend approached me with a question about sport, coaches, athletes and parents so I thought I would take a quick minute to jot down some of my ever-present “random thoughts” to share with you.

Here goes…

There’s a local school here in Southern California who has suspended its head baseball coach for allegedly “bullying” the athletes and making them feel uncomfortable around him. This coach reportedly made fun of athletes, berated them and called them names amongst other things. Now,  I’ll be the first to say that the thought of an adult male intimidating and bullying a child makes me beyond angry… there’s no need for that type of behavior since coaches are supposed to be the life-line between athletics and education.  The idea would be to model the behavior we (coaches) expect from our players.

But wait…there’s more….

Guess what happened next? Ding! Ding! Ding! Yup… you nailed it… the parents hired an attorney and are planning to sue the school and the school district if this coach (who’s been there for several years) isn’t terminated. I had a chance to view the news broadcast (yes, the local media is now involved too) and one of the mothers along with the attorney were interviewed. They were adamant about seeking retribution against the district if this coach wasn’t immediately relieved. The assistant superintendent was also interviewed and basically said a whole bunch of nothing when asked about the district’s position given the allegations. The segment concluded with an interview with one of the current athletes on the baseball team who had nothing but great things to say about the coach and what he had done for him…

Confused? Yeah, me too.

So here’s my first question… how far is too far for a coach to go? As coaches we always push our athletes further than they think they can go… in most cases helping them achieve milestones that would have been otherwise unattainable. But what if a coach pushes too much? What happens if the coach’s motivational tactics become viewed as intimidating or bullying? Those are two very strong words in today’s sport environment. Simply put abuse is abuse no matter how you try to dress it up.

My second questions is: where do parents stand in all of this? I understand Californians would rather litigate than communicate, but where does that stop? Have coaches become so unapproachable and egocentric that parents aren’t allowed to have a conversation with them about concerns regarding their own children? Are the parents afraid to approach the coaches for fear of retaliation against the children in the form of lost playing time or physical punishment disguised as “character development?”

Hold on people we’re talking high school sports here! No negotiations for athletes, no free agency (although kids change schools like t-shirts nowadays) and no checks changing hands (unless you coach at a local private school in San Juan Capistrano, California).

What’s going on here!?!?!?!?

Let’s face it… there are very few Coach Tony Dungy clones out there. Most coaches coach to win… and most of them have respect for their athletes, the parents and the institution of sport. There are, however, those coaches out there who coach for nothing more than themselves and could care less about the young people they damage in route to their personal glory. In that same vein parents can be just as selfish. If little Billy can’t be a starter on this team there must be something wrong with the coach and the school…. so let’s sue ‘em.

Wake up people! This generation needs sport… and we are doing nothing to help them realize how magnificent the institution of sport is or how important it is for their personal growth and development. Instead we stand behind attorneys and legal mumbo-jumbo fighting our personal battles using the kids and sport as mere pawns in the game. We’re losing sport, we’re losing our children and many of us, by the way we act, we have lost our minds!

Jus sayin…



Monday, February 4, 2013

Oil and Water: Professional Athletics vs. Finance ---> Experience


Family –

After yet another exciting weekend in sports and a great Super Bowl (in spite of Jim Harbaugh) I’m once again ready to dive into a sensitive subject regarding sport and life. As promised we’re starting our new series: “Oil and Water: Professional Athletics vs. Finances.”

In case you guys aren’t aware, I have no degree in finance or money management and I’m far from a guru went it comes to investment management or stocks and bonds. What I can offer is a perspective from a former professional athlete who has real world experience.

Let’s move on…

Topping our list of ten things that may be part of the reason professional athletes struggle with finances is probably the most common sense of all: Experience.

Lemme ‘splain.

Statistically, most professional athletes come from humble beginnings. How many times have we all seen a collegiate special highlighting a phenomenal athlete and heard the heart-warming story of how the athlete came from a broken home? Maybe a single-parent home where mom had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet? What about the athlete who’s one of four or five kids who had to play the role of parent to his younger siblings while mom worked nights to support their humble existence?

Does any of this sound familiar? Honestly, what would be so impressive about reporting on a kid who came from a dual parent home living in upper-middle class suburbia? That doesn’t really make for a good Saturday segment now does it?

With that it stands to reason that when our phenomenal athlete goes from nothing ( I personally remember scraping up $5.25 to buy a one topping large pizza from Papa Johns to share with my then roomie Aaron Taylor during our time at Notre Dame) to having no financial worries at all? 

How about going from scraping together a few cents to do laundry to having a bank account with six or seven digits and top that off with a Nike, Under Armour or Adidas endorsement deal worth another ridiculous sum of money? What is the first thing you think will happen? Do you think they will contact Franklin Templeton Investments or Charles Schwab to see how they can diversify their portfolios?

With large sums of money comes
HUGE amounts of responsibility.
Of course not!  Duh - Let’s go buy the most expensive car we can afford and spend another few thousand on a diamond crusted watch and a 36” diamond-studded chain that let’s everyone know we’ve made it… we are no longer bound by the chains of poverty and there’s no looking back! Let’s buy mom a huge house, a $100,000 car and set her up (cause that’s really what’s expected anyway) and make sure we take care of all of our siblings. Remember, we’ve never had money before so now that we have it the world is officially our oyster…. and where there’s oysters, there’s pearls.

Wait… where is the guidance? What about the financial planner who (for a nominal fee of course) takes the time to “show” this new, early twenty-something millionaire how to budget and protect his assets? How do they know what questions to ask? Further, what experience do they have in basic money matters and finance?

Let’s see…if I’ve never even held a gun before can I be expected to know the basics of firearm safety? If I’ve never gone fishing before can you expect me to know how to bait the hook? So how in the world can a kid in his early twenties who’s been struggling with money his entire life be suddenly expected to manage a multi-million dollar portfolio?

Sounds like a losing proposition to me…

Here are three ideas for professional athletes (especially rookies) to consider:

1.       Take some time to invest in your future… you’ve invested in yourself physically to be the best athlete you can be… why not learn how to manage the monetary perks that come with it?
2.      Surround yourself with a few people you know you can trust – not an entourage who are looking to scam some crumbs, but true mentors… they are truly priceless.
3.      Try frugality. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

Being able to play a sport as a professional is an incredible accomplishment. With that accomplishment comes tremendous responsibility… a responsibility that some athletes are ill-prepared to take on. As we all know sport has a sexy side and everyone wants a piece – unfortunately some people will take more than their fair share if given the opportunity…

Damn… does this mean pro athletes should sleep with one eye open??

Hmmmmm…. it might not hurt….