Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Compound Interest of Football

Early morning, a little James Taylor crooning in the background and that oh so sweet morning cup of coffee. Dang, if life were a pond, there wouldn't be a ripple on it.

Opportunity season is really picking up its stride these days. Round these parts, we are half way through our second nine week "development" phase in the weight room (aka Iron-Den) with both the JV's and the Varsity. Am really, really impressed with the work-ethic in there. These young people have so much on their plates every day and they really bring it in the weight room and support each other through and through. I really admire their focus, intensity and tenacity! We are also working hard on getting our g. 4-7's rolling with an 8 man spring league in March and April. Between us and our gridiron brothers up the road in the green and white, we are looking to have 120 hopefulls out banging round in the mud having the time of their lives. Registration at the HS level, a big fundraiser and getting another great group of parent boosters together is also in the offing over the next two weeks. Beyond that it is camps and 7's. Sooo many rewarding and ultimately helpful opportunities.

Targeted, focused effort is so much better than ad-hoc and inconsistent participation. In so many areas of the program, it again and again is like the compound interest of football. If you are going the extra-mile, doing things right and spending time and effort even marginally better than you otherwise would, it all ads up. A daily positive difference may seem incremental or hardly noticeable, but when you take that difference and add it up day-after-day, week-after- week, month-after-month during Opportunity Season, there it is on the first snap of the season lined up next to you. There are no lies and there is no faking who has made a habit of making the extra targeted effort a part of their lives and program.

One of the great reads about competition in all times and literature was penned by Coach Frosty Westering of Pacific Lutheren University in a book called Making The Big Time Where You Are. He used the analogy of a three sided coin. One side is Being The Best; that side is the least important side as you really have no direct control over it...your opponent has a say and it is an inconsistent and wildly emotional roller coaster that you can influence but never control. The second side is Being Your Best; this side is hugely rewarding and you have all the control in the world over it. The ride here is emotionally stable and you can set and achieve the bar continuously while gaining self-confidence all the time. The third side however, is the edge of the coin, "The Winning Edge" and it is called Giving It Your Best Shot; this is to say, that if you goal set Specifically, Measurably, Attainably, Reviseable and Timely... SMART you can over time find the shortest and most efficient road to your goals and self/organizational improvement.

Frosty used the analogy of Baseball's .333 hitter. He rightly said that these guys were at the top of the major league game. The .233 hitter struggles to stay in the Majors. What is the difference between them? Well, Mr. .333 is getting one more base hit than his .233 counterpart every ten times at bat. It doesn't seem like much but when you get a team of fellows with that extra 1 base hit per 10 there is a hec of a lot more guys on base and a hec of a lot more scoring.

Coming back to Football: If in small ways not only the athletes, but the coaches and the entire structure of the program is seeking to make even incremental, but consistent positive improvements across the roster and table of organization, then the program as far as I can tell is giving it it's "Best Shot". The program has the "Winning Edge" on its side.

Frosty, wherever you are (heaven I am sure)....thanks! Some advice to anyone who is interested, go buy his book. A great personal step towards "giving it your best shot!"

All the best gang!

Time for another cup of Joe.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why? Internal Debates and Musings...

Ah yes, another Sunday morning sipping on coffee with my chum Shaddow the Border Collie sleeping at my feet. It's dead quiet inside and out, bit of an overcast and you can smell a distant but early whiff of spring air outside. Couldn't be more relaxed except for that dang hamster doing wind-sprints on its wheel inside my skull. He's always working-out it seems, but I can't really hear him til things settle down "outside".

Well, today an old but seemingly repetitive shout-out from the past has been rattling around the ol' noggin. What the hec is the purpose of all this football stuff? Time, energy, and as one 19th century German philosopher used to mutter, "Sturm and Drang" (Storm and Stress) of it all. The easy reply is's a hell of a lot of fun and the people involved are fun to be around. Further, there is a joy to the teamwork and a sense of accomplishment that is unique with each passing day, week, month and season. Still, why does it feel so immediate and important? Why does it occupy such a big chunk of life and at times feel all-encompassing?

The more a fella sits down and asks questions like this, the more answers appear. The more answers that present themselves, the more more questions that appear. And so it goes.

This state of affairs begs the question: Is there a core reason that compels one to have Football as a central fixture in one's life over the years and decades?

Hec, since I was first able to recognize football as football, it has reigned supreme. It has always been as much a part of me as my arms or legs ever since I can remember. Across all sports and certainly in Football people seem to say "Love of the Game" which seems to be the answer on a broad and popular level. It seems cliche, but really it is a simple way of explaining a broad and complex notion. To this child personally, a more specific and concrete answer has always seemed to be needed and so the inner conversation and back and forth has gone on. The questions and debate becoming more acute with age.

Sitting back and looking at a life lived to date, the question presents itself: Why? Why? Why? Could not all the energy and emotion go into making a buck or following other pursuits to their fullest conclusion? What is the price and purpose of this lifetime relationship with Football? What mark will it leave when I depart? What opportunities were missed along the way? What book was not written? What fortune not made? In the end, what was the purpose of it all and will the footprints of a football life be washed away like footprints on a sandy beach as the waves come in? Is it all pointless? Was I born to do bigger and better things but am missing the boat cus of ball? The answers to these types of questions can be profoundly disturbing.

Well shoot, these questions were raging one day and depression was fast setting in. I think I was mowing the lawn at the time. Why does football play such a big part in my life and am I missing my purpose or calling for a damn game?!! Then it happened, an idea or better put, an outlook crept into the debate. It went something like this: The world has a limited supply of Shakesphears, Ghandi's, Steven Kings, Beethovens Bill Gates, etc. types. and son, that just isn't your purpose in life. If there is a God (I don't have the answer to that, but pesky and persistent suspicions have always cropped up only to have terrific wrestling matches with my aethiestic and agnostic wrestling team,) maybe His purpose for me isn't that grand. Maybe, just maybe the purpose is to do some work at a a smaller level and maybe, just maybe, Football is the vehicle for doing that work first with myself and perhaps to help others do their own work.

Now I am going to say right now that I don't mean to be arrogent or messianic. That is sooo not me or what I am all about. I am just saying that a lot of things suddenly made sense and it brought a refreshing sense of purpose and meaning to life's experience to date. Ball seemed to be a lot more "worth-it". For a chunk of years now I have kept this experience close to the vest as I am a pretty private person when it comes to my personal life. Recent global events/trends have however, have conspired to give me the courage to share it.

Ok Gridiron, what the hec do you mean?

Well folks here goes: We are headed into some serious, serious tough economic times the likes of which havn't been seen since our grandparents and great grandparents went through the Depression in the 1930's. Maybe even worse in the short term. In fact, for a variety of reasons the challenges are going to be bigger and more complex this time round.

So thinking about the gathering clouds the old question showed-up again in a new set of clothes. What the hell are you doing engrossing yourself with this Football thing in times like these? Is your head in the sand? Gang, I quickly got the sense of being Nero playing his fiddle whle Rome burned all round him. This morning though, another answer equal to the task seemed to present itself:

I am going to paste the hyperlink that gives a little insight to my answer but am asking you not to click on to it until I tie this thing up;

The answer: Football is a vehicle for all sorts of good work for all of us who participate. I firmly believe that it is not the x's and o's, the hours of training on the field and in the weight room that counts. I totally believe that it is HOW YOU LEARN THE X'S AND O'S AND HOW YOU LEARN TO TRAIN AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND PART OF A TEAM THAT COUNTS! It is the moral choices about right and wrong, self-gratification versus extending beyond yourself that counts. It is "THE WAY", "THE ZEN OF THE GAME" that counts. Once we grasp these philosophies "we are equipped for life". If being a small part of transmitting such ideals is my lot in life then AWESOME! It is worth it. The winner's circle isn't what is going to count, the road to it is.

The link above is to a 17 minute video. It outlines two challenges that will effect this generation and the next one to come in a most significant way. Watching it, I was struck by how incredibly valuable the lessons of the football experience are going to be. In some sense, coaching and playing have never been more important.

This is saying a lot but the video I am sure will have you looking at where we are now economically and what is coming along with it. You may also come to the conclusion that we (our world and species) are going to need a generation of humans equipped to wield the power that is going to be in our hands with great wisdom and ethos. It seems that alot of what we all share and learn within our HS Football experience is going to transcend the game and help us in our collective lives ahead.

A leap make the call.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Opportunity Season

Back in the 1970’s the Olympic world was divided into two camps, West and East with the Cold War front and center in the arena of competition. There were big stakes involved from an ideological standpoint. What better way for competing systems of living to demonstrate their superiority without wading into Armageddon.

During this period the East Bloc countries dominated the wrestling mat. Now for you guys that have never wrestled competitively, each round may very well be the toughest couple of minutes in sport. Well, there was this young man from Iowa named Dan Gable. He dreamt of Olympic gold but faced the hard cold reality that the competition was near impossible to overcome. He was not deterred. He trained and he trained and he trained. Each session when he was at his physical and mental end he visualized his opponent training and would not quit. When there was nothing left, he pictured his opponent ending his workout and he trained on. The results, well as the story goes, he wrestled his way to the gold medal round and won without a point being scored on him along the way.

It is now mid-February. The last game of the season was played over 75 days ago. Some programs are cruising, some sleeping and some have taken a page from Gable’s life. The “off-season” would do well to be renamed the “get better season” or “opportunity season”. We cannot play one another but we can sure as hec compete against ourselves and fight those inner battles to be our best. Samurai did not suddenly transform into superb warriors on the day of battle. They were guided by “Bushido” which is the warrior’s way, code of living, actions and training. On game day this spring and in the fall, there will be no lies when players and teams line-up across from one another. Sloth and travellers of the easy road will be revealed as will those who met their inner challenge to get better.

In AA ball this year there will be teams who are gifted with classes of great athletic talent and those who will struggle in that area. There will be examples this year of the latter defeating the former. If your team has it all on paper this year, they had better have it all in their hearts.
Players and coaches alike, stop and take a look at your program. Which direction are you heading? If you don’t like what you see around you do you have the fortitude and importantly, the time to steer your direction upwards? The league is going to be lights-out competitive this year and if you close your eyes and picture it, there are some groups of gridiron warriors who are forging their minds and bodies for the battles ahead.

Now the focus of this message has been the physical but make no-mistake, it is a truism for all facets of the program: Organizational structure and integrity, supporting feeder programs, finances, playbooks, drill packages, program evaluation, self-scouts,facilities, practice and personal equipment etc. No item can go unnoticed or be considered too mundane. On game-day, the players and their coaching team will be the sharp-end of the sword but the thrust behind that sword, the force and the wielding grace that makes it truly lethal will be the work at all levels that has gone on in the months, weeks and days prior to that moment of truth.

Your opponent will always have a say and the only thing you can control is yourself. An old military axiom to finish: “The more sweat on the training field the less of your blood on the battlefield”.

Players and coaches alike, a tip from ol'Gridiron. No matter how physcially gifted, talented and accomplished you currently are, picture yourself going into a future contest against your mirror image, your identical twin in life. Now, when you pull-up tired and weary, when you want to have a loaf day, picture your mirror image still training, plowing through tiring and mundane, finishing an extra hour of work. Rise, rise and compete with yourself. Get better. Regret is the most expensive thing in the world and time is short. Give what you got now and then go find some more.

Round 16 weeks til Spring Jamboree ain't it?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

AA vs AAA Opening Shots In the Annual Jabberfest

To Borrow From The UFC...."Lets Get It On!"

Athletes: Invariably, AAA wins this battle. It’s purely a numbers game. Kids at a AAA school do not have superior DNA, nor do they wield supernatural football powers. In a bigger school with a bigger pool of students, one is simply going to find more big guys, more fast guys etc. There is a bigger pool of raw material to draw from. This said, there are terrific athletes in AA and as a proportion of their respective rosters/school catchment pool, there is parity.

Coaching: This is a draw in terms of quality. There are exceptional coaches at both levels, there are middle of the roaders and there are guys who struggle a bit. Now that AA has shed some skin and the Tier 2 league is the gateway to varsity ball, there is certainly a high degree of coaching parity in the league and it is of good quality. If you take a good look at both leagues, there is probably more parity in the AA coaching ranks than there is at the AA level. The extremes are smaller and I therefore have to give the nod to AA for that reason.

Player Development: This year more than ever, it will be even more self-evident that player development at both levels is up for grabs. In fact, with the coaching being equal, one might say that with smaller roster sizes, the AA kids are getting more one-on-one time with their coaches. On the other hand, training with a larger pool of athletes and hence a bigger, faster practice environment, the AAA kids carry an advantage. Fact is, at combines and at Sr. Bowl, AAA players don’t stand out any more than the AA fellas. Quite frankly, player development has a lot more to do with individual staffs than it does with either league in its entirety. I have seen more than one AAA coach from a truly big school with a “loaded” roster rely on sheer brute force and athleticism instead of innovation and getting the best from each player. It is a very safe assumption to state that coaches with less to choose from will by necessity place a higher emphasis on player development in order to compete at the highest levels in their league. This is the case with a couple of the Catholic schools at AAA and is surely the case in AA’s elite. This one goes both ways for the reason’s stated above.

Player Exposure: There is more TV exposure for AAA. Everything else is even. Here is the deal however: Colleges on both sides of the border don’t tune into our year end broadcast or spend much, if any time watching cable broadcasts. What they do look at is video and combine results. A good athlete is a good athlete and all HS players have access to numerous recruiting sites, promotional sites etc on the net. Further, with the help of their coaches and the networking that takes place in the BC High School Football coaching fraternity, quality student-athletes (grades, grades, grades!) have their day with the post-secondary folks. Two exceptions to this statement of parity: AAA schools STM and New West have the track-record behind them of finding opportunities for their grads.

League Parity: In 2009 this will hands down go to AA. The AAA West Conference sinks all hope of claiming otherwise. The 2006,2007,and 2008 varsity playoffs have convincingly demonstrated that there is more parity in the upper echelons of the AA varsity league than there is in the AAA varsity league. If you want excitement and a game where you cannot pick the winner six weeks in advance, go see the AA varsity championship game.

Media Exposure: From a Television perspective, this is a landslide for AAA. The TV broadcast of the AAA Subway Bowl championship game; local cable broadcasts of AAA ball, and The Province Games of the Week are a testament to this. Alternative media sources like blogs, forums and Facebook are leaveners to some degree. The local print media around most schools is very balanced and Howard at The Province provides superb and equitable coverage across the board. Jesse Olsen’s BC High School Football report in 2008 got better each week and was certainly balanced.

Again, TV is AAA’s domain and an explanation is due. BC High School Football is ever evolving and a work in progress. For the past 15 years or so, AAA has been the organization's “elite” and "cause celeb" feature league. Wanting to put its best foot forward to the public and with limited resources, the league rightly chose to televise and promote the AAA varsity tilt as its showpiece.

The 2009 reorganization of BC High School football into three tiers is a result of growth and the tremendous competitive strides that many of the competitive AA programs have made. As listed above, by virtue of parity, AA is a more competitive and therefore exciting league than AAA. The fact is though, on a year to year basis, the giants still lurk at the AAA level and there is a lot of political inertia behind its being the feature gig.

Soooo, to give some advice to folks who chaffe at the idea of AA’s TV exclusion on championship day in the form of a paraphrase: Give unto AAA that which is theirs and give unto AA that which belongs to them.

What belongs to AA? The league is tougher to win, is up for grabs by a bigger pool of evenly competitive teams and the AA championship by that virtue is a rarer and harder won commodity. Some hi-lights and interviews during the Subway Bowl half-time broadcast would surely be nice.