Archive for October, 2010

Coming to Grips

October 29, 2010

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

I have recently been having a bit of an identity crisis and watching the trials and tribulations of Brett Favre over this past week has really helped me clarify my own thoughts.  (Note – I am thinking of his injury, not his text messaging debacle.  I don’t want to think about that).

Brett's body is breaking down but he just can't give up his identity as a football player

So, I am definitely noticing that my speed and soccer ability is slipping, and quickly.  I guess practice is necessary – who knew?  At this point, I can still contribute, but I hope that I will have enough self-awareness to realize when I am no longer a contributor.  I just cannot and will not become one of those people on the soccer field that is completely unproductive.  Where others watch and say “I bet she was good back in the day.”  I don’t think I can handle that.  As an aside, I would say Brett Favre is getting pretty close to that point.

Realizing that my days as a soccer player are numbered has raised a whole host of issues.  Whenever I have been asked “tell me about yourself” in an interview, cocktail party, facebook profile, etcetera, there are a few key pieces of information that I put out there – soccer player, Steelers fan, Pitt fan, animal lover, and avid reader.  Usually in that order.

Yes, obviously I work and am also proud of my family, but I made a commitment to my mom, and then myself, to have an identity separate and distinct from work and family.  I don’t want someone to ask about me and my first answer to ever be my job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I don’t want it to define me.

On the other hand, as many athletes know, the sport you play and love is part of your identity.  A sizeable and significant part.  In terms of time, I have been a competitive soccer player for about 2/3 of my life and really don’t remember a lot of details about the other 1/3.  The sport you play is a source of pride and really does define who you are.  So, what do you do when that part of yourself goes away?  Being a former soccer player really is quite different than being a soccer player.  So, if I am no longer a soccer player, who am I?  The rest of my key pieces of information about myself are really quite passive and, by definition, watching others participate in their identity – Steelers fan, Pitt fan.  Having been an athlete for so long, I have major issues with the passivity.  So, I have been on a quest to find some other activity to replace “soccer player” in my own personal definition of self.  You might think this would be easy, just take up another hobby.  But, that’s the issue, soccer was not just a hobby – it was a passion and something that I lived on a daily basis.  This is what really got me thinking about Brett Favre.

It was not until I started grappling with this issue for myself that I really felt sincere sympathy for Brett Favre…especially now that his ankle is broken in two places and a piece of his ankle has been torn away by a tendon or ligament.  Ouch.  Listening to the talking heads over the past few days, many are implying that it would have been better if Brett had retired after last year.  While that might be true, I do not think they consider the accompanying identity crisis that would go along with retiring.

Hines Ward loves playing football

Watching him play the game, you can tell that Brett is not just “doing his job” but instead, loves the sport he plays and is fortunate enough to get paid for it  (as an aforementioned Steelers fan, I have to put Hines Ward in the category as well).  For Brett, retirement is not just quitting your job and removing that piece from your identity, but in his case, his job, passion and identity are one in the same.  So for him to say “I’m a football player” means a lot more than just a profession.  In my mind, when he contemplates retirement each summer he heads back to his farm, rides around on his tractor for awhile and loves it.  Then, a few months pass and the questions set in – so is this who I am now?  Am I a farmer?  A Wrangler jeans spokesperson?  Husband to Deanna?  A former-football player??  My guess is that he is not satisfied with any of these answers and does not feel that any of them come close to defining him the way football did.  So, he literally flies back to football (insert applicable team) around August each year.  It’s in that moment that he feels calm and settled with who he is.  That’s a lot to ask a person to give up.

While my situation is not at all like Brett’s in many ways, I can understand and relate to the identity crisis piece.  I have been struggling with this for about two years, and have finally found a few other options/possibilities.  First, I had to come to grips with the fact that no matter what I picked, it would not and could not be as wrapped up in my identity as soccer.  Nothing can compare, based solely on the amount of time that I have spent playing soccer and all the memories and friends that have accompanied those experiences.

I have been talking to many folks about this over the past few years – family, friends, colleagues – and, to a person, everyone that I talk to says, “You should try running.”  Well, I hate running.  I am not sure if it’s because it was always used as a form of torture and torment in any sport I played or what, but I hate it.  Additionally, I am not good at it to warrant using it as a replacement for soccer.  What about biking?  Also not a viable option.  While this does not seem likely, I can’t seem to safely ride a bike.  Seriously, I fall off more often than not and end up injuring myself.  So the saying “it’s just like riding a bike” really makes no sense to me.

So, I have recently started two activities that I have come to love…neither of which I could have pictured me doing a few years back…kayaking and teaching group fitness classes.  First of all, kayaking is amazing – every trip up (or down) the same river is different.  You are not so much competing against others, but against the river itself.  It can be a relaxing float trip or an amazing workout as you paddle upriver.  Unfortunately, it’s not a year-round activity here in VA.

Is this the way most people see fitness instruction? Yeah, probably.

Now for the second one – teaching group fitness classes.  When I tell my friends that I am doing this, I generally get a puzzled look and then laughter.  I think they are picturing some sort of Aerobics-Shana Barbie with lots of brightly colored spandex.  They are probably not too far off.  While it does not fit my natural, sarcastic personality, I am really enjoying it.  And it actually has more similarities to soccer than you might think – there are aspects of coaching, improvement as you practice, group suffering, and a feeling of accomplishment when you are done.

I am definitely still working through all of this…obviously.  I just hope I can come to grips with my identity without soccer well before my ankle or knee is in two pieces and everyone is saying that I should’ve stopped playing years ago.

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Concussion Talk

October 26, 2010

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

The recent rash of head injuries in professional sports, specifically football, has had me thinking a great deal lately. First of all, I am thankful that throughout all of my years of athletic competition that I never suffered a severe head injury….or have I?

Hits like this are becoming way more common ... OUCH!

It seems to me that the increase in head injuries is due in part to a few different factors. I will be the first to admit that as players get bigger, faster and stronger that the occurrence of severe injuries, particularly to the head, is bound to increase. You simply can’t avoid that fact.

I would also argue that poor technique has contributed to the phenomenon. When I was a kid we were taught to tackle with your butt down, your head up and to wrap up the ball carrier. More and more often I am seeing players simply try and drive a shoulder into a ball carrier or a receiver. It is this lack of technique and the inherent difficulties in trying to hit a moving target that I believe has led to some of the increase in head injuries.

Lastly, I feel like this point has not been addressed as much, but I believe (but who am I really?) may be one of the most important factors. Paranoia. Anytime someone gets the slightest bump on the head the game stops for 10 minutes as the trainers come out and put a player through a battery of tests to determine the severity of the injury. The trainers take that player’s helmet away and despite his objections to wanting to get back in and play he is forbidden. The NFL is a business and a very lucrative one at that. Each team is a corporation, and again, very lucrative. The commodity that the NFL and each franchise deal in is the product on the field and the quality of the product is dictated by the players that take the field each Sunday. It is most definitely in the best interest of each individual franchise, and the league as a whole, to do its best to protect the product. As a result, I believe that a lot of people may be a little quick to diagnose a concussion, or at the very least may be a little slow to rule out a concussion.

Which as I write it down, now seems a little counter-intuitive. But I see it as a short-term vs. long-term thing. In the short-term is where the product is hampered by a player being out, with the assumption that holding a player out for precautionary reasons will strengthen the long-term outlook of the product.

It is thought that repeated concussions eventually led to former Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters' suicidal death due to depression.

I want to point out that I am not advocating putting anything above someone’s long-term health. I am merely stating that given the nature of the argument and the vast amount of negative press that has come with it, I think that that has had an effect on how some of these injuries have been diagnosed. There are other things than a player’s health which are being considered and this is leading to more and more people erring on the side of caution to the chagrin of some and the applause of others.

I played tackle football for two years in middle school, four years in high school and four years in college. That’s 10 years of tackle football. Add that to 13 years of competitive basketball and 13 years of baseball a few years of track and field mixed in and I can think of one instance where maybe I could have been diagnosed with a concussion. ONE TIME in a combined 36 seasons of competitive sport. It happened my senior year of football in college when I made a crack-back block on a defensive lineman. I weighed maybe 185 at the time and found out after the game that the d-lineman weighed 270. I remember hitting him and thinking “OUCH”. But really, I just shook my head a few times, grabbed some water and I was good to go. I did have a runny nose like you would not believe for the remainder of the game, but other than that I was ok…at least I thought I was. I never really asked any of the trainers to take a look at me, which is perhaps why I did not get diagnosed. I almost guarantee that today, had that happened I would have been told to not go back in the game and I would have missed some time after being diagnosed with a head injury, which is why I feel that it is a little bit of paranoia and extreme caution that has led to this increase in injuries.

I liked what Joe Paterno said about head injuries when he suggested that football go back to a single-bar facemask or even no facemasks. What better way to cut down on head injuries than getting players to stop leading with their heads for fear of mashing up their precious grills?

Actually, I don’t think that would work and really I don’t see any great ways to fix to the current rash of head injuries. Guess it just comes with the territory of being an athlete. You accept the risk that you may get hurt while doing something that you love. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be playing.  Let’s hope this kid is okay and keeps playing!

Superstitions

October 22, 2010

By: Rachel Buck
Assistant Sports Information Director

Everyone has his or her own quirks. One of mine: I tend to be über superstitious when it comes to my favorite sports teams.

Alright, start the lecture, I’ve heard it all: players make their own destiny; what you do off the field has absolutely no impact on what happens off the field, etc., etc. And I know all the facts are true. I know that wearing my 2003 Marquette Conference USA Champion shirt doesn’t help MU win, but I still do it…why?

Like I said, my superstitions reach all my favorite sports. I have one Minnesota Wild shirt that I can’t wear if I’m watching a game, even if it’s on TV. And, when I go to a game at the Xcel (Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul), out of the four seats I can choose from, I always sit in seat No. 3.

At Brewers games, I’ve stopped keeping a scorecard. Even though I love doing it, the Crew loses almost every game when I keep one. And while this sounds crazy, it is a proven fact. I was a season ticketholder for four years, and during that span I told someone about my scorecard jinx. He made me hang on to the scorecards from every game I kept one, and at the end of the season, all but two of the cards were losers. And don’t tell me this argument is invalid because the Brewers consistently post losing seasons…I went back and did the research, and over those four seasons they went 194-130 (.599) at Miller Park.

Bob Uecker Brats -- So delicious!

My 1982 World Series Fever hat has been banned from all games, as has my grey hoodie and grilling any brats other than Usinger’s Bob Uecker brats at the tailgate (that one was fed-no pun intended-by my friend Cassie).

For Marquette, as previously mentioned, I pull out the 2003 Conference USA Champions shirt for big games the boys need to win. In case that shirt is dirty the 2003 Final Four shirt can also be used, but it is just a little less successful than the conference champ shirt. My mom even gets in on the action, knowing that if she watches a game and they are losing, she needs to turn off the TV (this has been proven to work almost every time).

The lip balm incident was when I went off the deep end

And then there is the point where I went off the deep end…my friends will never let me live down the infamous lip balm act of 2002-03. Toward the end of the season, I had a certain tube of lip balm I always had at games (the fact that I never lost it is amazing to me…I feel like I lose a tube of balm everyday). When MU had the ball, I would pop the cover on and off, and when the opponent had the ball I would leave it in my pocket. Every game I had the lip balm they won (during that span MU won 15 of its 16 final contests), even on the road, including a great game in Louisville. The lip balm followed me to Indianapolis and Minneapolis for the tournament games, but in a fateful turn of events I forgot it when I went to New Orleans for the Final Four. And they lost. I will never live that down, both because Marquette lost and because I was borderline insane for those two months.

It really doesn’t matter what sport, I always do a little fidgeting when watching a sports team I care about. Badger hockey and football, the Capitals…I even catch myself when I’m working W&L games. And working in sports information, sometimes the biggest superstition I hold is whether or not to include something in the game notes. Every team that I’ve worked for and had to write game notes, I’ve struggled with mentioning a player goal streak, team winning streak and any other sort of streak that could come to a screeching halt just because I happened to put it down in writing for the masses to read. My bosses have had the same sort of behavior, which makes me feel a little better about it, that maybe it’s just the conditioning for the job that makes many of us a few cards short of a full deck.

Like I said before, I KNOW that my actions have no bearing on a final result. Yet when I’m watching a game and telling myself I’m crazy for following the superstition, I continue to act on the behavior…and then feel really great when the team gets the W, with a slight indifference if it goes in the other direction. And if I don’t partake in the superstition and my team loses, I feel a small sense of guilt.

Reading over my story one last time, even I think it sounds ridiculous that I am justifying my actions and trying to give solid reasoning to something that I have no control over, but I know I’ll continue to partake. If anyone can help me get over the crazies and permanently put aside the superstitions, suggestions are welcome. Until then, I’m going to go home, put on my lucky Minnesota Wild sweater and watch them play Vancouver tonight.

Coaching Role Models

October 19, 2010

By: Bryan Snyder
Head Volleyball Coach/Assistant Athletic Director

I really enjoyed reading Adam Hutchinson’s blog entry last week about athletes as role models, and over the past week, I have thought a lot about the people whom I consider “role models”.  Much like Adam, one of my parents has been the major role model for me throughout my life, and since neither he nor I are big on a lot of words (and because I don’t think he has ever been on the internet and won’t be able to read this anyway – he is OLD SCHOOL even though he is not that old), I will just say … THANKS FOR EVERYTHING DAD!!

I also thought quite a bit about who my role models are with regards to my career.  When I was younger, I only really cared about the athletes when I was watching sports or following certain teams.  However, as I have gotten older and as I began my career in coaching, I began reading more books about coaches and written by coaches, as well as paying more attention to how certain coaches responded in certain situations and how they coached their teams.  So, I thought I would share my list of favorite and least favorite coaches – I started with a top 5 and a bottom 5, but the top 5 expanded to 9, which I think is a good thing, since it seems that I see more good in coaches than bad.  Here are the top 9, to be followed by the bottom 5:

9. Tommy Lasorda – Los Angeles Dodgers

This is one of those things, I really can’t explain.  I have always liked the Dodgers, even though the Cincinnati Reds are my favorite team, and I think the main reason is that I love their uniforms.  The Kirk Gibson homer in 1988 is also the “miracle on ice” for people my age.  Lasorda always seemed to be respected by everyone and the Dodgers were always contenders under him.

8. Andy Reid – Philadelphia Eagles

I am amazed at the consistent level of competitiveness that Reid’s teams display in the NFL, where parity reigns.  They have not really ever had a true “superstar” (although I would argue Donovan McNabb qualifies, I know Eagles’ fans would disagree) or the best players at any position, yet they are always a factor in the NFC, and their run of NFC championships earlier in this decade was very impressive.  He seems to get the most out of his players and teams, and they are all extremely loyal.  Plus, someone who can keep a job for that long in the Philly sports market without being run out of town must be doing something well.

Don Shula

7. Don Shula – Miami Dolphins/Baltimore Colts

Those who know me will say this is a “homer” pick, but Shula has the most wins of any coach in NFL history, is 6th in all-time winning percentage, won 2 Super Bowls with two different franchises, coached in 4 different decades, and is the only coach in NFL history to lead a team to an undefeated season.  Plus, he was the only coach I really liked when I was a young child and he played at a Division III school, so he had to make the list.

6. Al Scates – UCLA Men’s Volleyball

I have heard Al speak on several occasions, and although I am not sure how great he is with X’s and O’s and technique training (although he has won over 1,000 matches, so he must be doing something right), the whole idea of the “blue curtain” gets him on this list by itself.  For those of you who are not familiar with the blue curtain, I will give you the cliff notes version.  UCLA’s practice gym has a main court, where the top 12 or so players play, and where Coach Scates watches, and it also has a second court on the other side of the blue curtain where everyone else trains under some of the assistant coaches.  When someone is not getting the job done on the top court, Coach Scates calls to his assistant coaches to send that person behind the curtain and to bring up the top player on the second court, whomever that happens to be at the time.  When practice ends, the players who are on the top court are the ones who will dress, travel, play in the matches etc. until the next time they practice and everyone has the opportunity to move up or down.  The stories about their practices are legendary, and anyone who would send Karch Kiraly to the back-up court has got to get some serious respect!

5. Jim Tressel – Ohio State/Youngstown State Football

As a die-hard Michigan Wolverines football fan, this one it tough for me to admit, but I think Tressel is by far the best coach in college football today.  He has restored Ohio State to national prominence and has made Buckeye fans forget the Earle Bruce/John Cooper years in the post Woody Hayes era.  Many people think Tressel is too conservative and plays it too close to the vest.  However, I see his coaching style in a different light – he always puts his team in a position to win by keeping the game close and he never takes unnecessary risks.  They have been “out-athleted” a couple of times in BCS championship games in recent years, but he has never been “out-coached” in those games in my opinion.  Ohio State does not have the athletes at every position like some of the other perennial top 10 programs, yet they are in the conversation every year, win 10+ games every year, and are more often than not in a BCS bowl game.  I would trade Rich Rodriguez for Tressel any day!

Geno Auriemma

4. Geno Auriemma – UCONN Women’s Basketball

I know that Geno’s style is not for everyone, and usually, I don’t like his type.  However, two things that really make me respect him are that he dethroned the bully of NCAA women’s basketball (Pat Summit – whom I also like), and that all of his players are extremely loyal to him, even though he is very tough on them.  Also, as a male who has had a great deal of success coaching females, I try to learn from things he does well and implement those things into my own coaching.

3. Bill Belichick – New England Patriots

The ultimate preparation coach!  If you have not read any of the books about him, I highly suggest you do so.  This guy has the best game-planning ability of any coach I have ever seen.  He is also all about the team, not the prima donna professional players who are worried about their contracts and endorsements.  Who else has linebackers playing fullback, wide receivers playing defensive back in prevent defense packages, uses their MVP quarterback to routinely run QB sneaks (when is the last time Peyton Manning ran a QB sneak?) and has the respect and loyalty of all of his current and former players (with the possible exception of Randy Moss, but that is whole different story).  How many times is Kevin Faulk going to destroy teams in the playoffs before they realize that just because he only had 30 touches all year does not mean Belichick won’t make him the feature back when the season is on the line.  Besides, I am fully in support of his game day wardrobe.  Coaches who get decked out for games (basketball coaches – this one is aimed at you!) are taking themselves WAY TOO SERIOUSLY!  Nobody cares what the coach looks like, and nobody should even know what the coach is wearing – the fans are there to watch the players!!!

2. Phil Jackson – Chicago Bulls/LA Lakers

The Zen master is one of those coaches that people either love or hate, and I am clearly in the first camp.  If it is so easy to win championships with MJ or Kobe or Shaq, etc. then why hasn’t anyone else done it?  Only Pat Riley in Miami (with quite a bit of help from D-Wade) was able to do that.  This guy gets the superstars to buy into the team concept while simultaneously getting the role players to believe that the superstar can carry the team – AMAZING!  He is talking out of both sides of his mouth at all times, and everyone only hears what he wants them to hear.  The Laker teams that he has coached have had some pretty good role players, but in Chicago, the list of characters he won with is unbelievable:  Will Perdue, Bill Wennington, Randy Brown. Stacey King, Scott Williams, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, BJ Armstrong, etc.  You are probably saying to yourself…”those guys are all good players”.  Wrong!  If they had been on any other team other than those Bulls teams with Jordan and Pippen in the triangle offense, they would have been no-names.  Also, Jackson was able to harness (at least most of the time) the incredible talents of Dennis Rodman (who should end up in the NBA Hall of Fame, but probably won’t) after Rodman had gone off the deep end – that in and of itself is enough to get him on this list.

Mike Krzyzewski

1. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke Men’s Basketball

For those of you who know me, this comes as no surprise, and just for the record, I spelled his name without looking it up!  I know all of the Duke-haters out there are cursing me and thinking about not reading the rest of this blog, and I understand where you are coming from, since I absolutely despise the Yankees and Notre Dame football for a lot of the same reasons most people dislike Duke.  However, when I became a Duke fan, (1984 ACC Tournament) North Carolina was the bully on the block, and Duke was the new kid in school who stood up to them – more on the Tar Heels later, I promise!  Coach K is a phenomenal recruiter, and as a college coach myself, I understand how hard that part of the job is.  There is so much negative stuff thrown around about Coach K and the Duke program that it is amazing that anyone would want to go there and play, yet year after year, he just lands one after another top level recruit … Kyrie Irving this year and Austin Rivers next year, anyone?  I also think Coach K is the best at teaching the players how to play the game, and then letting them play it.  They hardly ever run set plays, and even the ones they do run require the players to make decisions based on the situation and how the defense reacts.  He has overriding offensive and defensive principles that all of the players must adhere to, but after that, they are free to go play the game.  I think last year’s national title really cemented him as the best coach of this era.  That team did not have the great players like his other championship teams, but they played the best as a team of any team that I have seen in many years.  Also, the fact that he has won championships 19 years apart and been in final fours 24 years apart speaks to how he has been able to evolve as a coach as the game of college basketball has evolved during that time.

And now for the bottom 5 – I will keep the discussion short, as I don’t want to offend anyone:

5. Bill Parcells – New York Giants, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, etc

Phil Simms played out of his mind for one day in his career, and that translates into Parcells being a genius?  I don’t buy it, and he has never had great success anywhere else he has been.  He also seems to leave every NFL team in worse shape than when he got there – coincidence?  Probably not.  I don’t necessarily dislike Parcells, but I do think he is highly overrated.  Besides, he looks too much like one of my most disliked athletes (Colin Montgomerie) for me to not put him on this list.

There's a reason Gary always wears a dark suit!

4. Gary Williams – University of Maryland Men’s Basketball

I am so tired of watching Williams sweat through his suit as he stomps up and down the bench telling the players who are not in the game all the bad things the players on the court are doing.  His act is tired!  I also have a soft spot in my heart for Ohio State basketball, and he completely hosed that program when he left.

3. Pete Carroll – Currently with the Seattle Seahawks

Slimeball!  Mercenary!  I don’t really have anything else to say about him.

2. Dean Smith – University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball

For the longest time, he was #1 on this list, but has recently been surpassed.  I once worked at a VMI-UNC basketball game when VMI needed some extra help because the game was being televised and they were on break.  After the game, I was walking in the lower hallways of Cameron Hall and passed Dean as he was on his way to the press conference.  All of the other people with me stopped him to shake his hand and say hello – I just walked past and got angry!  Sometimes in life, you just have to choose sides, and I bleed Devil Blue!!

Roy Williams

1. Roy Williams – University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball

For all of the same reasons I didn’t like Dean, I now don’t like Roy.  The reason he is at the top, is for the way he treated the Kansas players, fans, alums, etc. when he left.  Once he said he was “not interested” in the UNC job, he should have stood by his word.  What a traitor!  If he was interested in the Carolina job, there are many other ways he could have handled and deflected those questions.  I imagine Dean had something to do with the whole thing going down that way, so I guess they can flip-flop back and forth from day to day.  Also, remember when I talked about basketball coaches wearing coats and ties for games (see Belichick above)?  How hideous is that light blue blazer!?!?!

So there are my favorite and least favorite coaches who I try to model my coaching after.  I try to be like the good ones, and learn from the mistakes of the ones I am not so fond of.  Feel free to engage me in conversation about any of these – it’s always good to argue sports, which is one of many things I learned from my Dad!

45 Life Lessons and Five to Grow On

October 15, 2010

By: Kelly Mathis
Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach

As the leaves fall and the temperature seems to get cooler each morning I walk out the door, I find myself a little more anxious and excited for some odd reason.  I find this odd because as a native of Tennessee, the cold temperatures are rarely embraced. For me, I would rather be sitting on the beach, taking in the suns rays with the 90 degree temperatures.  Then it hits me that colder temps and changing leaves are the best signs, in my opinion, of the greatest time of the year… BASKETBALL SEASON!

Every basketball coach looks forward to this time of year!

So, this weekend starts the first official days of basketball season.  Our first practice starts this weekend and I am really excited to get on the court and begin my career as a collegiate basketball coach.  So as my blog due date approached, I thought and thought about what I would write about.  I could write about how excited I am to get started, adjusting to Lexington or the popular questions from others in Lexington about Tennessee Football and Tennessee Basketball.  Then I came across an article from an older lady, Regina Brett.  She is now 51 years old and writes for, The Plain Dealer, in Cleveland, Ohio.  I just thought I would share the article because I found it very true and words to live by, as I begin my journey into “the real world”…

By: Regina Brett
Cleveland Plain Dealer

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your family and friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
49. Yield.
50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

So What of Role Models?

October 12, 2010

By: Adam Hutchinson
Head Basketball Coach

This summer my friend Ben asked my opinion (via email) about the legal troubles facing a prominent sports figure.  We rapidly went back and forth about a number of legal fiascos that have dominated sports pages in recent years, but soon enough our conversation crystallized around one central theme.  We found ourselves asking (and echoing Charles Barkley’s famous Nike commercial from the 1990’s) “Do athletes have a responsibility to be role models?”

Charles Barkley

A little background on Ben helps to understand his opinions in our discussion.  We were college teammates in the early ‘90’s, and he was a GREAT basketball player:  lightning quick 1st step, could stop on a dime, finish at the basket, automatic mid-range game, and a very good 3 point shooter.  Ben translated these skills into a career as a professional basketball player in Ireland, Cypress, Malta and Costa Rica.  I offer only an abbreviated summary of his athletic career, since he was always more than a great player.  As long as I have known Ben (going on 20 years now) he has been a basketball philosopher.

Ben was the first guy on our team to grasp that the SCIENCE of basketball is a strategy to score more points than your opponent, but the MAGIC of basketball is how teammates work together to accomplish that.  Any time we talk basketball, he never talks about his stats or honors or awards he won.  He always talks about key turning points in games and seasons long past, funny stories about teammates (like the one about the only teammate we had who DOES like to recite his career stats to anyone in hearing range), and the impact his coaches had on him as a player and person.

Following his retirement from professional basketball, Ben spent a year travelling the world (the whole thing).  He has since started a family and established a successful career in finance . . . all while maintaining a blog that often (but not exclusively)focuses on . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . the lessons he learned, the relationships he developed, and the memories he has from playing basketball.  Not simply an ex-athlete trying to relive the days when “he coulda been a contendah”, Ben is a family man, an established professional, an intellectual, and a true believer in the character building opportunities that sports offer (not to mention a poster child for D3 and Ivy League athletics).  And Ben believes that participants in sport DO have a responsibility to be roles models.  IN YOUR FACE Barkley!

I, too, am a true believer is sports, but I reached a slightly different conclusion than Ben.  Hopefully a little of my background will help you understand my opinions in our discussion.

Growing up in the 1970’s and early ‘80’s, my first exposure to big time sports was watching them every Sunday afternoon with my brother Jason and my grandfather in my grandparents’ kitchen.  Anyone who came of age at that time probably watched a similar TV: a small black and white job, with aluminum foil on the ends of the antennae, and pliers resting nearby in case you wanted to change the channel.  This relatively primitive device was enough of a window for my brother and I to become convinced that Julius “The Doctor” Erving was the coolest man on the planet (a sentiment I apparently share with our current president).  Back in the day, around the way, we all wanted to play the game like Dr. J.  The first 40 seconds of this video will help you understand why: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsqE_yKfkhE.   It is by no means an exhaustive display of his highlights, but it will only take 40 seconds to understand where I am coming from.

While I am on the subject let me say this:  Dr. J is hands down the most spectacular basketball player I have ever seen, and it’s not close.  We would watch Magic make a move, and the next day at whatever park you went to in NJ, all the guys would be trying to replicate it.  Same thing when Jordan played.  The day after he did the switch-hands thing in the Finals against the Lakers, EVERYONE at Spring Lake Park, including me, was simulating that move (simulating, NOT replicating).  I’m sure this tradition continues to the present day with current stars.  The stuff Doc did?  The only place you could even THINK of simulating that was on the Nerf hoop in your bedroom.

Jim Brown

Ok, back to my grandfather’s kitchen, where my brother and I watched most of the sports: baseball, basketball, football, tennis:  if it was showing on Sunday afternoon, we watched it.  And every Sunday, NO MATTER WHAT SPORT WE WERE WATCHING, at some point Grandpa would wake up and say . . . “Yep.  Good ol’ Jimmy Brown.”  Doc just did the up & under move in the NBA Finals against the Lakers?  “Yep.  Good ol’ Jimmy Brown.”  Connors vs. McEnroe in the US Open?  “Yep.  Good ol’ Jimmy Brown.”  Reggie Jackson hit 3 homers in the World Series against the Dodgers?  If that had happened on a Sunday afternoon, our cheering would have awoken Grandpa and he would have said . . . “Yep.  Good ol’ Jimmy Brown.”

Grandpa had watched Jim Brown do his thing, and somewhere along the way decided that Brown epitomized athletic achievement, and no one, in any sport, was ever going to match or surpass him.  I don’t know when this happened in Grandpa’s life, but I think a similar moment happens to all of us, in various areas of our lives.  I think of it as a tipping point of sorts; call it the moment when we cease to be young and start to become old, the moment when the future can never equal the past.

Oddly enough I have had 2 of these moments as a sports fan, both courtesy of the same guy.  On April 20, 1986 Michael Jordan went off for 63 in a PLAYOFF GAME, against a BOSTON CELTIC team with 5 FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS, in BOSTON GARDEN (sorry Kobe, but 81 in a January game against a bad Toronto team is not comparable).  I was 14, and because I knew no one would EVER approach that performance, that night I took my first step over the tipping point and started getting old.  6 years later MJ made me young again.

By 1992 Jordan’s dominance in the NBA was well established.  He consistently led the league in scoring, transformed a previously wretched Chicago Bull team into NBA champions, conquered Bird, Magic and Isiah Thomas, and was widely considered to be the best player in the league, and maybe ever.  I was not a fan of Jordan’s seeming arrogance, and was rooting for someone, anyone, to at least challenge the guy.  The 1992 NBA Finals brought a viable contender in Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trailblazers.  Drexler was a spectacular player, a future Hall of Famer, slightly bigger than Jordan and seemed to be equally athletic.   When asked about a point by point comparison between the two, Jordan conceded that Drexler was “probably a better 3 point shooter than I choose to be.”  Did he really say “than I choose to be”?!?!?  Yep.  Apparently his arrogance knew no bounds.

Jordan's reaction during his 6-of-6 performance from three against Portland.

Well I’ve heard it said that it’s not arrogance if you can back it up.  All Jordan did was set an NBA Finals record by going 6 for 6 from 3 point range in game 1.  So much for Drexler being a better 3 point shooter.  Turns out that while the rest of us were playing basketball, MJ was playing “I Can Do Whatever I Want Out Here, and Nobody Can Do A Thing About It.”  Needless to say, everyone in Spring Lake Park was shooting long jumpers the next day.

So I grew up watching Michael Jordan, and was convinced on more than one occasion that no one would ever top something I saw him do.  It seems my grandfather had a similar experience watching Jim Brown.  I am certain that when my sons cheer for LeBron or D-Wade, at some point I am going to wake up and say “Yep . . . Good ol’ Michael Jordan.”  Does that mean MJ was, or should have been my role model?  Nope.

My grandfather’s name was Tump.  He was a man of few words, strong, and amazingly consistent.  He left the house every weekday at 5 am to work construction.  Rain, sleet, snow, hot, cold . . . it didn’t matter.  He was out the door AT 5 am, not around 5 am.  On Saturdays he would work around the house or the yard, take his grandchildren various places, maybe have a few beers with “Brother-In-Law”, and on Sunday he dozed in the kitchen while his grandsons watched sports.  When my brother and I would complain about chores Grandpa would remind us that “Any job worth doing is worth doing right”, and he lived by those words.

His daughter, “Ma” as I call her, is very much like him.  She worked first as a teacher and then as a principal for 40 years in the Newark school system.  She left the house every day at 6:45 am.  By the time she retired, she had YEARS of sick days accumulated (which she never used).  The job was never just a check to her.  Right up to the day of her retirement she worked to provide an education for her students and fought passionately for them to have a future that they or their parents often didn’t believe was possible.  Sometimes these students were sweet grammar school kids, and other times they were middle school and high school kids whose behavioral problems resulted in their expulsion from other public schools in the city.  It really didn’t matter, because all of those kids learned the same fundamental truth that I did:  when you became Wilma Findley’s responsibility, education was of paramount importance, everything would be done the right way, and it was not negotiable.

Which is not to say that I didn’t try.  Like all kids I hated chores, homework and bedtime.  As a teenager, whatever I was told wasn’t good for me was EXACTLY what I wanted to do, and tried to get away with whenever I could.  My success rate at this was a robust 6%.  I’m not kidding.  She even found a Catholic high school for me to attend, with Benedictine monks that must have shared a Vulcan mind meld with her.  My first week at St. Benedict’s Prep, I decided to toe the line, because I had seen this film every day growing up, and the ending never changed.  Several of my classmates had to learn the hard way as those cagey monks used their psychic powers to sniff out every teenage plot.  (Naturally the ONE time in four years of high school that I decided to ditch, I got caught.)

Fast forward 20 years, and as I coach my team who do I find myself quoting?  Benedictine monks, Grandpa Tump, and Big Wilma (a reference to Ma’s presence, not her stature).  When I talk to my sons, I find myself telling them that any job worth doing is worth doing right.  And of course my wife tells me that I remind her of  . . . Big Wilma.  I never told Ma this, but being compared to her is the highest compliment I have ever been given (spend a day or two around her and you will understand).  She has been my role model all along (as I suspect Grandpa was her role model), and as I have matured I have come to realize she is my hero as well.

So what of athletes as role models?  It seems clear to me that all of us have a responsibility to be role models, but mostly to people in direct proximity to ourselves, people who we see every day.  I certainly thank Michael Jordan for many thrilling memories, but I would never expect him to be accountable for my children’s behavior:  that is a job I share with my wife.  And heroes?  The most unappreciated heroes in America are the educators who commit their lives to enriching the minds, developing the spirits and raising the horizons of young people who don’t always have appropriate role models at home.

A Different Kind of Homecoming

October 9, 2010

By: Jan Hathorn
Athletic Director

This week I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Colonel Lee Cummings, Class of 1986.  My introduction to Lee was a chance meeting in the main office on Monday afternoon when he stopped by to see if Coach Miriello was in.  I wasn’t really listening to what he was saying until I overheard him say to Emily, our administrative assistant, that he was hoping to pass along something to Frank and the football team.  My curiosity got the best of me and I thought to myself, “I want to meet this person”, so I got up from my desk and went out to introduce myself.

Immediately we hit it off, because Lee doesn’t meet a stranger. He’s a proud alum who has an ease about him, and who immediately exudes loyalty and commitment when talking about those things which he loves – his family, his time at W&L, and his friends. He told me he was a former player under Coach Fallon and that he had something special to present to the football team.  As he is speaking, I notice that he is holding a sack or something in his hand and he notices me looking at it.

Chris Coffland '88 was killed in action last November

So he starts to carefully unwrap this sack, which turned out to be a military-green pillowcase, and while he’s doing so, he’s got a somewhat nervous but excited look on his face.  I even thought I saw his hands shaking as he so carefully and painstakingly took the brick out of the case.

Yeah, it was a brick.  I was somewhat surprised to see that this was all it was; I thought it was something that was fragile, because of the way he so slowly and gently removed it. But then I quickly learned that this wasn’t just any brick.  It was a brick that had Chris Coffland’s name on it, the #6 (Chris’s number) glued to two of the brick’s corners and the saying, “Lest they be forgotten” handwritten in white paint across the bottom edge. Lee then began to tell the story of how his unit, and several other units from the Boston area, staged an eight-mile walk to honor their fellow soldiers who had passed away in the war.  Each man who marched carried bricks with names of these fallen brothers in their backpacks for eight miles

I was, to say the least, very touched by the intensity of Lee’s pride as he showed me this prize possession.  We talked all about the walk, and while we did so, he very carefully and gently put the brick back in the pillowcase.  Not long after that, Coach Miriello came into the main office and, after some hugs and “welcome backs”, Lee went through the whole routine of ever so carefully removing the precious item from the pillowcase and telling Coach Miriello about the brick.  It was such a privilege to watch Coach Miriello’s face as he listened, and to watch Lee’s face as he so proudly told the story of the walk. It was even more inspiring to hear Lee tell Coach stories about Chris and the way that he lived life and played football: with a passion that went above and beyond the norm.

Before long, Lee and Coach were making plans to meet at the football locker room where Lee was going to present the brick to the team and tell them the story of Chris Coffland. Needless to say, I have thought about Lee and the brick all week.  What I can’t get over is the incredible depth of honor that poured out of Lee as he reminisced about Chris and their athletic experiences on the football field at W&L, where their friendship was forged.  I am so thankful that I met Colonel Lee Cummings, and as a result of my chance meeting with him, I am as proud as I have ever been to be associated with athletics. Whether he realized it or not, bringing that brick to the football team was a kind of Homecoming for Lee and Chris.  And in my 25 years of being involved in athletics, it was one of the most memorable and meaningful Homecomings I have ever had the privilege to be around.

Anatomy of a Boxscore

October 5, 2010

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

The 2010 Major League Baseball regular season has ended. 162 games have come and gone, and as summer gives way to fall, baseball’s remaining eight teams will duke it out for a chance to hoist the World Series trophy sometime in late October or early November.

With the impending close of the baseball season, gone will be any more chances for me to scour the box score in search of….well, nothing really.

I can’t really remember when it started, but I have always found myself in love with the box score, particularly in baseball and basketball. When my late grandmother moved from the Chicago suburbs up to Northern Michigan to be closer to my father, my siblings and I, she kept her subscription to the Chicago Tribune, which was great news (no pun intended) for me. I fondly remember lying on the couch at her house with the sports section laid out on the floor as I shifted my body so that I may be able to read the box scores spread out in front of me.

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian studied and saved every boxscore from 1989-2010.

As I sat there staring at this massive collections of numbers and abbreviations, I imagine that my inner dialogue would have sounded something like this

“Oh look, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now, just the Rays) were 0-for-13 with RISP in a 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.” (actual line from a game in 1999)

I would often follow my inner dialogue with a “hey dad, what does RISP mean?” and other questions of that nature. More often than not, my query was met with an “I don’t know, look it up,” from my father. So I would. RISP, LOB, WHIP, ERA, OBP, OREB, DREB, all of these seemingly meaningless letters, in fact, meant something and I needed to know what.

It didn’t matter that living in Northern Michigan I was rarely able to watch my beloved Chicago Sports teams play their games. By reading the box scores and the play-by-play, I was able to recreate in my head how my favorite teams and players performed. If I had been able to catch a game on television, Michael Jordan’s Bulls were actually on pretty regular, I would still scour the box score the next day for something that I had missed while watching the game.

Why the need to study the box score from a game that I had witnessed? What did I feel like I was missing, if anything at all? I really couldn’t tell you. All I can tell you is that I really enjoyed reading those box scores on the couch at my grandmother’s house. I like being able to tell her that Sammy Sosa was 3-for-5 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. She didn’t care that Sosa had had a productive day, she only cared that her grandson was lying on her couch not 10 feet away.

Upon going to college my fascination with box scores continued as I was now in them. Having been a football and basketball player in college I remember getting handed box scores after games and looking at them thinking “huh, I don’t remember that guy getting eight boards against me.”  I admit, sometimes I checked the box score to judge my own play and see my own stats, but often times it was to see things like the turnover differential, the time of possession, or differences in first and second half performances.

No matter the reason I was looking at a box score, it was still kind of cool to me that maybe someone else was reading my stat line to one person or another.

The box score and the need to scour it still have a certain hold on me. Perhaps that’s why I became an SID. I mean, my job is now to create the box scores and to study and analyze them. I have run the complete gamut, from fawning over the box score as a fan, to being a part of it, to being the one who creates it.

I still check the scores of my teams every night on my Droid and I spend time (probably too much time) looking to see who is in a funk, who had a bad night and who had the night off. I just can’t seem to get away from the allure of a box score and I kind of like it that way. Now that my grandmother has died, I still sometimes feel like I am lying on her couch lamenting how the Cubs could go 1-for-14 with RISP (that’s ‘runners in scoring position’ for the uninitiated).

Post Script

Ok, so now that I have been waxing poetic about the box score for far too long, I figured I would try and find a few that stuck out in my mind.

Below are boxscores from my junior year of college. We actually won the first game 80-61, but as you can see I had very little to do with that. I mean, who plays nearly 15 minutes and DOES NOT DO ANYTHING?!?!?!? Not one of my prouder moments and boy, did I hear it from the coaches later.

The second boxscore is also from my junior year. This one was a bit better, granted the team wasn’t very good, but still. We won this game 103-79. If I was going to call attention to myself with a terrible game, I had to at least get one where I played a little bit better.

ONE TO FORGET

Click to enlarge this boxscore

ONE TO REMEMBER

Click to enlarge this boxscore