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Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Family –

As you know by now, I have a very opinionated stance on life, sport and where the two intersect… hence my mantra: “Sport is Life.” What I’ve failed to realize, while compressed in my own narrow-minded view of sport is how different things are and how much sport as I used to know it has changed.  I suppose I’m somewhat of a dinosaur in my “Ole’ Ball Coach” approach… a hopeless sport romantic who longs for the good ole’ days.


There used to be a time when being a part of the “team” meant something more than just a potential collegiate offer…when individual stats didn’t matter as long as the team got the win…when there was actually pride in one high school - not transferring to three in four years… when parents and coaches were on the same page and more concerned about the character and behavior of young people; not their playing time and “touches”…when schools and school districts were more concerned about what student-athletes were going to learn through their sport experiences than playing politician (saying all the right things and doing absolutely nothing)… when someone called you “bro” it actually meant they thought of you as family… when you worked out and ran on your own because you knew it would benefit the team - not because mom and dad got you a personal trainer… when you refused to quit – even though you were tired, sore and felt like you were going to die… when it was ok to have just a football pep rally before the big game because everyone was a part of the fun… there used to be that time….remember?

Now-a-days creating a championship culture in high school sport would seem to be just as taxing (if not more so because of parental involvement) than collegiate or professional championships. As I took a minute to step back and objectively look at the big sport picture a few “inevitable truths” caught my attention:


1.       High school coaches have to game plan in order to give players a chance to be successful (and usually teach or work elsewhere because they don’t get the luxury of big collegiate and professional contracts).
2.      High school coaches are expected to win… regardless of the situation (winning has become paramount… not the athletes’ experience).
3.      High school coaches deal with untimely injuries (especially in public schools… there’s no ability to legally recruit players so one injury can be devastating to a team’s depth chart, roster or season).
4.      Not all high school staff personnel get along (Duh… that’s just a given).
5.      High school coaches work with young people who have character issues  (unlike the collegiate and professional ranks it may not be a social media circus that requires politics or mass conciliation… it’s truly about helping someone become a better version of themselves).

Wait; wait… before you get all sideways about the aforementioned understand that I’m not minimizing the hard work and dedication that’s required of my collegiate and professional colleagues. All I’m saying is; the same pervasive attitudes that are seen on Saturdays and Sundays both on and off the field are the same attitudes we see in high school on Monday thru Friday.

Hmmmmm… Does the word entitled ring a bell anyone??

Yeah… figured it would. Lemme ‘splain -

We live in a world of instant gratification… if something’s not done right (or at least the way we think it should be) we take it back and get a new one… or if we make (in our best estimation) the wrong decision we just close ranks and move on. We have instant coffee, instant grits, instant tea, instant access, instant rice… hell we even have Instagram!

However, the one thing that will never be categorized under instant gratification is sport. The will to work, sacrifice and give selflessly are all critical ingredients in the “success formula” that sport teaches. The ole’ ball coach relies on these very principles and counts on them to be steadfast.

But here’s some food for thought along those same lines ---> Think about this one…

Think back to when we used to remember phone numbers? All of the them: home, mom’s work, dad’s work, school, church, best friend’s house, other best friend’s house, grandma’s house, aunt’s house, uncle’s house and a couple of your really cool distant cousins’ houses. There was no cell phone contact list to scroll down (well maybe that one ratty piece of paper or note pad that was by the house phone).  Now there’s technology and all kinds of storage devices that don’t require us to use that skill set any longer. What happened? Simply put… we forgot how to remember! Yep… we forgot how to remember... just think about the last time you misplaced your cell phone for 10 minutes.


Along those same lines are the omnipotent changes in sport that involve technology, social media and the almighty dollar. There is no discretion, there is no privacy and quite frankly I believe those three things perpetuate a specific lure… a certain draw that makes it much more attractive to call attention to an individual instead of seeking strength in the proverbial numbers.

If selflessness and teamwork aren’t taught through sport where on earth will our young people get it? Everywhere they turn society screams, “Me, Me, Me!” “Get yours and worry about everything else later.” “What team? I AM the team!” Character development isn’t being taught… but physical training is out of this world. Don’t you find it odd that we all say sport is “90% mental and 10% physical…” yet we spend 90% of our time working to perfect that 10%? At what point do we tip the scale?

Let me close by saying I love technology AND social media… you’ll find me any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon Tweeting away and watching any number of “big” games while at the same time enjoying some group texts with some former Notre Dame teammates of mine, sending and receiving a couple of e-mails, and occasionally writing a short jargon-filled blog. In short, I’m just like you… with one small exception.

Although technological advancements are everywhere, apps are being consistently updated, rules incessantly changing and even perspectives occasionally changing; I will never compromise the importance of sport in lieu of how a few conveniences have impacted an already entitled society.


Monday, June 30, 2014

You're Kidding Me Right?

Family -

As we move into the Fourth of July holiday I thought I would quickly give you some perspective on an article I read recently… I hope you enjoy my spout.

When I read sports magazines, articles or postings I usually try to keep an open mind… ya’ know… take a look at things from different perspectives and try to grow from what’s being shared in some way. I would guess that you, the ones who are actually taking the time to read this blog post, do the same thing or in part feel the same as I do.

My usual standard of delectation was completely thrown when I read an article in ESPN the Magazine’s July issue about the Washington Redskins’ recently signed DeSean Jackson.
Now let me be abundantly clear, I am not a Jackson fan… but did come to respect and understand him a bit more after reading the article. What I didn’t appreciate at all, was the incredibly insensitive, skewed, and racially charged quotes from Dr. Harry Edwards that obviously ESPN couldn’t wait to print as said quotes pertained to the future of the NFL and its players relating most specifically to Jackson and his alleged “affiliations.” 

Just in case you didn’t read the article, allow me to share the small but very poignant section that sent me through the roof… please… allow me to set the stage.

ESPN the Magazine writer, Cord Jefferson, had done a pretty good job of framing why DeSean Jackson’s path had been such a challenging one… from childhood, through college and now as a successful, productive professional with the latest trending topic being attached to him, Jackson had fared well in performing on the gridiron and staying out of the proverbial stereotypical pigeon holes of current or former NFL players. In my mind a great job by Jefferson… helping people get to know who Jackson is and why he is the way he is… bravo!

Here’s the section of the article that made me lose all respect for Dr. Edwards (who my very well be one of the most renowned sociologist and sports historians in the world) or anything he has to say moving forward:

An HBO Real Sports/Marist poll from October of last year showed that 66 percent of Americans with a household income of $50,000 or more had heard  a great deal or a good amount about football head injuries, compared with just 47 percent of nonwhites had heard nothing about football-related concussions, compared with 12 percent of whites. ‘In a decade, the only people who are still playing football will be African-Americans and working-class people,’ says Edwards. Edwards predicts that as the talent pool skews even more black and working class, the “baggage” that comes with these players will only become more prevalent. So, he says, the NFL needs to find ways to better understand players’ struggles to balance career over background. ‘What the Eagles were dealing with in terms of trying to come to grips with DeSean is what the whole league should be preparing for,’ he says. ‘Because that’s who’s going to be playing football. To think you’re not going to find anybody in football with baggage is preposterous’ [1]

What I don’t completely understand nor appreciate is where Edwards’ perspective is coming from and how he, of all people, could put such a slant on what will happen in the future of the league. First of all, who uses a “poll” that was taken on HBO’s Real Sports as a credible source for scholarly research? It’s all opinion… just like this blog post. Look people… I could always attach a poll to one of my blog posts, cite its results and throw some jargon behind it; does that make it (the results) worth anything more than the keystrokes it took to put it there?

Who cares that over 60% of the NFL is African-American versus only 12% in 1959? What does that even mean? Have we truly returned to the age-old stereotype of “there goes the neighborhood” since the African-Americans (code for “Niggers”) and working class (code for “White Trash,” “Beaners” and anyone else who isn’t of means) have arrived? Why is it important to underscore what’s already being over publicized? I mean… did you really need to use Aaron Hernandez as an example?[2]

Just so I’m clear… Is the implication here simply that African-Americans and Working Class People have more “baggage” than people of means? You’re kidding me right? That may be the single-most unrealistic, uneducated thing I’ve ever heard a supposed scholar say. 

EVERYONE has baggage… even those with means… the difference from my opinion is that African-Americans and Working Class People don’t have the strength, time, energy, power, clout, standing, nerve or patience to ignore the issues they have. They simply deal with them the best they have the capacity to and move forward. Just because a class of people has the wherewithal to live in a comfortably uncomfortable state of plausible deniability doesn’t mean they have less baggage! C’mon Harry… dammit; you’re from East St. Louis for cryin out loud!

Why in the world would anyone believe that all of the sudden gang-related activity is becoming a threat to the NFL? Really? Pssshhh… How can anyone dignify that thought with a response other than; "Get a grip?" As long as there have been gangs, are gangs and will be gangs they had, currently have and will have some influence on the student-athletes who participate in sport; whether it be in high school, collegiate athletics or professional sport. It is what it is… and at the end of the day the decision lies with the individual.

What’s even more disturbing is the supposition that the NFL would actually take the time to “better understand the players’ struggles.” Anyone who’s ever played a down in the NFL knows it’s a business…just that… nothing more. Some may even go so far as to say it’s modern day slave trade wrapped up in a pretty little bow consisting of great ad campaigns, social media and billions of dollars… but hey… what do I know? I’m high school football coach. 

The article even further suggest that African-Americans and Working Class people aren't educated about football-related head injuries... which is why their children will be the only one's playing the game. This statement is even more bone-headed. So little Billy, whose parents have shelled out thousands of dollars since Pop Warner on private coaching and camps (since they have the means to do so) will all of the sudden pull him from football because of the possibility that he may get a concussion? Conversely little Leroy will be thrown to the wolves as it were because his parents are uneducated and earn less than $50K/year?

Okay, okay... where's the camera? I know I'm gettin punked... 

You know what? I may be overreacting a bit…I get that… I just have a hard time reading an African-American man's sententious remarks about the very culture he came from as if it’s some form of inoperable cancer.

People make choices every day… some good and others bad. At the end of the day as young people we didn’t have a choice in regards to where we were raised or where we came from… but we do have a choice now… we can ascertain with absolute certainty how far we allow our past to penetrate who we are and who we want to become.

DeSean Jackson obviously gets that… I would think a learned man more than four decades his senior would get it too… especially being a professor emeritus in sociology of sport at the very university Jackson attended…. Oh yeah… and played football with all the other Working Class People and African-Americans.


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#Sport is Life

[1] ESPN (ISSN #1097-1998) (USPS #016-356).
   Volume 17, No. 13, July 7, 2014, P.50.
[2] Ibid. p.50.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Do You Coach?

After being away from my laptop for a while and being intimately involved in several fundraising events and projects I thought I would take a quick minute to jot down some random thoughts about what I think it means to be a coach. Again, these are my opinions and they don't necessarily represent anyone's perspective but my own... so if you disagree you disagree. You can always start your own blog... 

Admittedly I originally started coaching with the intent of being a head football coach on the collegiate level and one day running my own program. I immediately began coaching in arguably one of the best high school leagues in the country; one that boasts the reigning high school football national champion and several other national powerhouses. I went back to school, got my masters in coaching, athletic administration and exercise science in an attempt to make myself even more attractive to potential suitors and set out to land my first high school head coaching job.

Suddenly everything changed….

I took a trip to Uganda in the summer of 2011 with my good friend Kevin Dugan. What I saw in that beautiful country made me realize there was much more to coaching than just “being the head guy” and “looking for an opportunity to advance.” Coaching was a gift... an honor... a calling that required tremendous respect for the game and an even bigger love for your fellow man. 

I would like to believe (in my own little simple mind) that I was given the opportunity to coach and teach young student-athletes in Uganda how to play American flag football... but in reality (what really went down during those 12 days) I was being taught what it truly meant to be a coach modeled by the character components of humility, respect and faith led by pre-teen kids from Uganda, East Africa.

True coaches are a special breed and are becoming more and more difficult to find. Don’t get me wrong there are tons of trainers out there… but a trainer in my opinion isn’t a coach. Anyone can lay cones on the ground and tell an athlete to run around in circles… but what, beyond that, is being offered?

When I think of a coach I think of my former head coach Lou Holtz; someone who instructs and teaches beyond the specificity of a particular sport and seeks to make significant impact in the lives of those he touches.

I’ve always said that if someone were to get 20 former players who played under Coach Holtz in a room and ask the same series of questions to that selected 20, they would get eerily similar answers to those questions. Not to say we were brainwashed or would give canned answers to said questions, but rather we would answer the questions in a manner that is consistent with our beliefs systems and probably, without fail, quote something from coach to underscore our stance.
Tony Dungy: one of the greatest Character Coaches
 in NFL History  Photo: AP-NFL

THAT has NOTHING to do with coaching football and EVERYTHING to do with making a significant impact on the lives of young men. Don’t get me wrong it was awesome winning most every game we played, but I’m sure my teammates would agree that our camaraderie and family culture also contributed to our success both on and off the field.

In recent times I’ve come to realize that the “mission” of a coach has been blurred by the current sport culture. Winning has become paramount. Even beyond anything else. So much so that coaches would rather cut corners and undermine the very sports they represent in order to secure said victories. Good grief… is that what we’ve become? Is there truly no “safe place” for us to go? Is this all there is… winner and loser?

Or nah…

Wait, wait… I don’t wanna get myself all riled up – I know winning is a major part of competing and if you don’t want to win perhaps you should look for something else to do. However, winning, in my humble opinion is nothing more than a by-product of so many other things that should be taught beyond the game… emphasis on the word “should.” What about character, focus, teamwork, patience, respect, honor and love? 

Hey, look, I’m not going to tell you that we hold hands and sing gospel hymnals at our practices, but there is a fundamental respect between coach and player.  As coaches we may dislike the action on a given play, but that has nothing to do with the athlete as a person… as a human being. No matter how sideways we may get at a given time we have to understand our place in the lives of the young men we mentor.  Some athletes have nothing else… no family life to speak of… no father figure… no discipline or focus… and God forbid having any meaningful expectations with what to do with their young lives… Tony Dungy laments is his New York Times Best Selling book Uncommon: "True respect starts with the way you treat others, and it is earned over a lifetime of acting with kindness, honor, and dignity." 

… enter Coach_______. 

Coach______ has been coaching for 12 years, played at Big State College and in the NFL.  He has a five year plan for what the program needs to raise money, assert itself in the community and get better on the field. He has a plan of how the program will grow and develop and there’s even a plan for how to win the coveted championship. Wow! This coach sounds impressive, right?

Resume and five year plan aside I would ask one question of this new coach who’s expected to take the program to the championship promised land: “Does Coach ______ have any idea how to make a positive impact on the lives of young people?”

In other words aside from winning… why do you coach?

Just askin….

Sport is Life

Friday, January 24, 2014

"Sherman, Sherman, Sherman"

Family –

I’ve done my best to stay out of the whole Richard Sherman “thing,” but some of the things I’m hearing out there are beginning to make me sick. Hopefully at some point we’ll all figure out this is about nothing more than sport, showmanship and popularity. How our sports media personalities missed this simple staging is beyond me… I guess sport media coverage has changed as much sport itself.

Hmmmmm…. Maybe that’s another blog post – nevertheless, I digress.

First of all I’m going on record by saying the man (Sherman) is genius… yep genius… and before you sport conservatives have a heart attack or come unglued; lemme ‘splain.

Sherman has single-handedly put the entire sports world on its ear by speaking his mind in a post-game interview… let’s get the basic questions out of the way. Was he crass? Yes. Was he abrupt? Yes. Did he speak his mind? Yes. Was he in the moment? Yes. Was it intentional? Yes. Is he dumb, a thug or stupid? Absolutely not!

How about this: Sherman asked that his Twitter faithful follow his teammate Derrick Coleman, Jr. (who at the time had only about 400 followers) and now Coleman boasts a verified account with some 34K followers! That’s just since Monday!!!

Hello? Is anyone out there listening???

Can you say media in the palm of his hand…? I knew ya could.

Richard Sherman isn’t a thug, a miscreant or an idiot. He is the son of educated people who attended one of the most coveted universities in the nation outside of Notre Dame… Stanford.  He is hands down the best defensive back in pro football and has the mindset and the swagger to back it all up.

Let’s look back a few years in sport shall we? Follow me now… don’t get lost…

Does anyone remember a guy named Cassius Marcellus Clay who later became “The Greatest of All Time?” Was there ever any doubt about what he was thinking or what he was planning to do in the ring? Nope… as a matter of fact the only shock the world received was when he didn’t win! Did you know that Ali is actually credited with changing showmanship in sport… by being on-edge, unpredictable and fun?!

What about this other guy who played corner in the NFL nicknamed “Primetime?”  Was he considered a thug or was he just ignorantly acting out? Hmmmm… whatever the plan he “prime-timed” his was into the NFL Hall of Fame and grabbed a couple of Super Bowl rings with the 49ers and Cowboys in route.

Anyone can say what is considered by many to be “the right thing.”  How great would it be to hear Peyton Manning say, “Brady got bitched. There was nothing they could do against our defense and my offense carved them up.” Instead he carefully chooses his words as if walking through the desert trying to avoid IED’s. In some cases completely repeating himself… not that I don’t love Peyton – jus’ sayin. Good grief man! Say what’s on your mind!!!!

In honesty it takes some stones to go against the grain on live TV… knowing that what you say will fall under the scrutiny of millions of viewers. But if you have a plan….all attention becomes good attention.

 Yeah I know… it’s rough… conservatives take a breath… this will be over soon.

Let’s switch gears shall we?

For those of you who think that Sherman didn’t plan this whole thing you’re being somewhat shallow in your thought process. Let’s look at the details shall we? A close friend of mine always says, “The devil is in the details” so let’s see what a closer examination brings.

1.       He’s going to his first Super Bowl
2.      He’s in a contract year… BIG contract year
3.      He’s a leader on arguably the best defense in the NFL
4.      He made the “play” that helped solidify his team’s place in the Super Bowl
5.      He’s in a contract year… BIG contract year
6.      He’s the best cornerback in the NFL
7.      He wrote an eloquent letter dispelling any issues regarding his actions less than 24 hours later… and posted it
8.      Wait… did I mention he’s in a contract year… BIG contract year?
9.      He spun the “incident” into a web of racism and elitism that we all jumped on hook, line and sinker
1.     And finally… he’s in a contract year…. BIG contract year

We (yes, I include myself in the madness) are giving this man exactly what he wants… attention, controversy and a great platform to catapult him from the side stage in all but forgotten Seattle to an NFL superstar amidst making a game saving play in one of the best NFC Championship games ever played. 

Why wouldn’t he do something different knowing the cameras were rolling…? DUH!!

At the end of the day we all have our opinions about athletes; what they do, how they do it and whether we agree or not… that’s one of the fundamental joys of sport. But if anyone out there doesn’t believe this whole “incident” as I heard it called today wasn’t pre-planned... maybe you should take a closer look at what’s really going on before you jump in. Professional sport is changing people….pay attention.

“Oh Sherman, Sherman, Sherman!” (Mama Klump Voice – While Clapping Hands)!

"Oh... Sherman, Sherman, Sherman"

Sport is Life

Monday, January 20, 2014

What If...?

Family –

As I sit here today basking in the freedom of living in the United States of America and celebrating Martin Luther King Day, I had some random thoughts (as I often do) run through my mind. These thoughts made me ask the inevitable question: “what if?”

The obvious first question I asked was: “What if there was no Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?” I think this question is particularly poignant given the time and the rise of civil rights leaders. Medgar Evers was assassinated on his driveway in June of 1963 and Malcolm was assassinated in February of 1965 presumably by The Nation. At that time, King stood alone in his quest for equality using a non-violent approach.

I couldn’t help but ask myself: “If there was no Dr. King would I be able to enjoy the freedoms I enjoy today as an African-American? Would someone else have risen to the forefront to open American’s eyes to the blatant inequalities running rampant in society?"

Wait…wait… don’t click off just yet… this isn’t a Civil Rights history lesson – but rather a collection of thoughts that will I’ll bring to conclusion a little later…

Lemme ‘splain.

The aforementioned thoughts gave way to my thinking about how much sport has changed and how many African American student-athletes forgo their collegiate experience and completing their educations for the money and fame of the professional ranks.

Hmmmmm…. Let’s see.

There are 102 underclassmen leaving for the NFL this season (a new record number). Given the known demographic that 67% of all NFL players are African-American it would be safe to assume that at least that percentage number of student-athletes leaving early for the NFL are also African-American.

Let’s be clear here… I’m not suggesting that student-athletes should risk losing millions of dollars as a professional in order to stay in school… what I am suggesting is that maybe there should be a change to the letters of intent they sign out of high school.

Enter my second question: “What if the NCAA changed the national letters of intent? What if all student-athletes were required to reimburse the institutions that paid for them to attend and play sports?”

Check this out…

Let’s say a player left early for the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL. If there was a clause in the national letter of intent which stated that if a player left early he would be required to:

1.       Reimburse the college or university for half of the financial aid and benefits he received during his time there


2.      Return to the college of university previously attended and pay for his full tuition and books in an effort to insure he completes his education
would we have as many student-athletes leaving early for the professional ranks? 

Interesting concept isn’t it?

Again, this isn’t a quest to deter student-athletes from seizing opportunities presented to them, but rather adding a level of conscience responsibility to their thought process. I love sport…. especially high school sport, but once the “leap” is made to the next level there seems to be a fundamental disconnect to the ultimate reason student-athletes are called STUDENT-ATHLETES not ATHLETE-STUDENTS.

Anyway, I just thought I would share some of my random thoughts with you today… let me know what you think. I would be interested to hear your perspective.

Happy MLK Day!!

Sport is Life.