Tag Archives: coaching

What Else Is There?

The locker room was quiet.  There was the hum of the showers, freshman who hadn’t played a minute but instinctively knew to be out of the way. The varsity players in different stages of removing their equipment. Our quarterback sat against the wall, still in full gear except for his helmet that sat between his feet. There was no conversation.

We had lost our fourth straight game. The season had started so well, 3-0. But now, it all seemed to be falling apart. Nobody knew why.

One of our best players was sitting on top of the equipment cart. He was tired. His hair was matted down with sweat. You could see the outlines of the helmet’s interior pads in his hair. He had run all over the field as our middle linebacker, taking down players with crushing hits. But now his shoulders slumped as he laid back against the wall. He had played a helluva a game.

“Coach, could you help get the tape off?” He slightly lifted a foot that was wrapped in athletic tape.

“Yeah, I can.” I grabbed a bucket and flipped it over to sit on. I snagged a pair of tape scissors from the medical bag and started in on removing the tape job from his left foot.

I was almost done removing the tape from his first ankle when I heard him sob. It was one big inhale and rumbling exhale that almost made me drop the scissors.

“Nothing seems to work. I’m trying my best… trying to keep the team up… trying to make the play… I don’t know what to do anymore,” he said as he tried to keep his emotions in check.

There are so many different moments in sports. There are moments of victory. There are moments of defeat. Moments of courage. Moments of glory. And once and awhile there are honest moments that move past the playing field to our everyday life. I felt that I needed to handle the opportunity with care.

I didn’t have the answers to everything going on during the season. It was a rough time for lots of people and for different reasons.

As I removed the last segment of tape on his ankle and switched to his right foot I thought about trying to be inspirational – some kind of Remember the Titans speech. The scissors made a soft ripping noise as I cut through the tape. I decided to be honest and direct…the moment called for it.

“What else is there?” I said and made eye contact with him.  He stared back, unsure of what I said. I continued, “What else is there besides doing your best everyday? Really? You can quit, you can throw in the towel. You can be average. No one really talks about that side of things, but it’s true.”

I pulled strands of tape free, placed the scissors in a way that would not cut his socks and continued, “So, tell me, what else is there?”

He shrugs, I know he is thinking about it, his eyes have that distant look, like he is seeing a deeper level of his life.

“In this life, on that field, in the classroom, you have a choice. You can fail. You can be average. Or you can give your best, everyday. I wish I could guarantee it would make everything better. That we would win a game. But I can’t. Life does not work that way.” I cut through the last of the tape. “What I do know, is that you can’t even hope to win without your best effort. You can’t remove the hurdles in this life, you can only choose how you attack them.”

He nodded his head. I collected the scraps of pre-wrap and tape off the floor and dumped them into the trash. He jumped down off the equipment cart. “Thanks, coach,” he said as he headed to his locker.

“Anytime,” I said as I put the scissors away.




Filed under Life

Power of a T-Shirt

With the extra time over break I spent time organizing my closet.  While I was working on my t-shirts I realized something… t-shirts are wearable scrapbooks, that bring back powerful moments in our lives.

Senior Year Swim Team

This is the front of my senior swim team shirt.  I was a diver.  I had high expectations my senior year.  I placed ninth at state my junior year, my first year diving.  But, I placed fourteenth, last, my senior year.  My best friend, who was a state champion, tried to console me after prelims (top 10 continue to finals the next day). This provided one of those friendship bonding lines; after I had finally told him what place I finished at he sincerely said, “I don’t know how you feel.”

The next shirt is the shirt from my first head coaching opportunity and represents one of my hardest decision as a father.

Pawnee City Team Shirt

This shirt was worn by every player on the team during warm-ups.  I was blessed to get the chance to be a head coach in my second year of teaching.  Even as I write this, I am flooded by the memories of the two seasons I coached.  Our first win, having a player crack his vertebrae during a homecoming game, running a crazy 2-3-3 defense (8 man) that allowed us to win a game.  But I made the decision to leave Pawnee City for my family and other reasons. I miss those players everyday.

Sometimes change comes from other people’s choices.

Centura Football

After Pawnee City, I was an assistant coach for the Centura football team.  Those eight years were filled with so many moments as a team, and for me as a coach.  A playoff game in freezing weather, a running back doing the spin move to make the touchdown after we had practiced that move that week, to not being apart of the team after eight years.

But there is something about being a head coach that fills or breaks your heart like nothing else.

Centura Track Team

I was again blessed to be a head coach for the Centura track team from 2009 to 2011.  Life has a funny way of presenting hard choices to you.  Again for family I would have to give up the opportunity to be a part a great team.  I miss wearing the fluorescent shirt to practice; it meant a killer practice for the athletes.  I miss building a season, the beauty and tragedy that track presents for athletes…one shot at performing at their best. Like life, the three years as head coach was filled with both heartbreak and incredible success.

But it isn’t all about sports.


This shirt is from a year end project a student did for psychology class.  I have t-shirts from concerts, t-shirts of bands, t-shirts that represents all different types of moments from life.  So, what moment of life will you wear today?

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Where does the Learning go?

Photo courtesy of Centura student Angelica

What do your students do with their homework once you have handed it back?

Photo courtesy of Centura student Angelica

I battle with this issue even today, in some ways even more now that I do not have a classroom to even display some of the work my students would do.  What do my students do with their homework?  There are times that a worksheet is a great tool for a lesson, and I expect those worksheets to end up in the recycle box.  I might have used them as a note taking activity. Then using the worksheets, have a class discussion.  As a teacher I try to build assignments that intertwine or build on each other.  In the English Composition class, the students wrote two speed essays that are to be building blocks for their persuasive essay.  But are my students already condition to see their school work as disposable, and worse, unimportant?

Photo courtesy of Centura student Angelica

This morning I checked my kids’ homework, the same worksheets they have been doing all year.  My second son has a 100-math problem worksheet; he gets it right every day.  When can he do something else?  My second son also gets a ring of flash cards to study every couple of weeks.  When the unit is over, he hands that ring of cards back in.  Supposedly, never to interact with those words again (there is an app for that).

My second son has been participating in gymnastics this year.  We started him with the beginners, a 45-minute session.  He is a typical boy, knees and elbows always bruised or healing from a scrape.  He jumps, he tumbles, he would live in a jungle gym if he could.  Halfway through the first six-week session the gymnastics teachers asked us if they could move him to the next level.  He had progressed quickly through the basics.  If you have ever coached a sport, this is how it works.

Start with the basics; build on the basics to improve performance and expectations.  The basics are never forgotten; they are reinforced in different ways throughout a practice. Both the coach and the athletes also develop their expectations of performance as skills improve. Then comes game time, the reason for the basics.  The time to express the skills and expectations.  The really interesting part is that no matter if the game was a victory or loss, there will be a practice.  There will be adjustments, basics will be reinforced, and expectations set for the next game.

This morning I checked my second son’s 100-math problem worksheet.  He got it right again…

Photo courtesy of Centura student Angelica

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mo·ti·va·tion [moh-tuh-vey-shuhn] noun

  1. the act or an instance of motivating,  or providing with a reason to act in a certain way (dictionary.com)

During a conversation with a colleague, the idea of motivation in the classroom came about.  This discussion coincides with some ideas I have been thinking about regarding how we reach our students.  So, I am going to try to express a complicated web of ideas with the center being motivation.

As a teacher I have been frustrated.  I have stood in front of my room looking out on my students’ faces talking to myself, “How do they not see how great this book, or poem, or lesson, is?”  Sometimes, as teachers, we take for granted that everyone knows how powerful learning is.  But if we look at popular culture, it will remind you that they don’t.

Idea one: The Mountain

Let’s use a metaphor for a second. If we view education as a mountain, we understand that to see the spectacular view from the top we must climb.  And that climb is hard at times.  Even an expert mountain climber (or a well educated person) needs a hand to get to the top.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Sometimes we need to remember that our students haven’t made this climb before.  Sometimes we have to reach out to them and show them the way to the mountaintop.  The view is incredible; they just don’t know it yet.

Idea Two: Practice

What if the classroom was more like practice?  Take a second to think back to what practice was like for you. How many times did the whistle blow?  How many times did coach go off on some kind of motivational rant?  Sometimes coach got on your case, other times a “nice job” was all it took to keep you going.  You were pushed, you were challenged, sometimes you were down right dog-tired yet felt great.

What does a typical classroom look, sound, feel like?  I understand the difference in the environments, but why can’t we match the energy of practice to a classroom?  The techniques and tools are different, but not what motivates a person.  In an interview on Focus on the Family for his book, coach Joe Gibbs stated that a good coach finds what works with his athletes to motivate them, be it a challenge or a simple comment like “good job.”

Everybody needs motivation; I found it as a coach when we successfully performed on the field.  As a teacher I found it in the light-bulb moment.  We all need motivation, a helping hand.  Not because we don’t know of the importance of our jobs, but because sometimes the climb is just hard.  And we forget what the view is.

Courtesy of Flickr user rbbaird

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