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Posted: April 22, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Now, I have seen it all.  Before my daughters recent orchestra recital, I was patiently waiting for the doors to open.  I like to get their early, so I can tailgate in the parking lot with other parents before getting a good spot to watch the mad rush for seats when the doors open 20 minutes before the initial warm-up.  Hey, our orchestra is ranked, and we have a talented group of musicians.  There are some future all-america candidates plucking and strumming on our home stage.  I think for district music contest, I might be able to get some of the dads to paint big green letters on their chests to show our school spirit.

On this particular night, my tailgate was not in its normal location.  I was late arriving due to a middle school track meet, so I was by “that” group of parents.  You know who I am talking about.  Their kids are the “best” and they are constantly complaining about things.  As I fired up my grill and got some cello-shaped burgers sizzling for the other guys who would be joining me, I overheard two mothers in a heated discussion about the orchestra.

“I don’t know what the director is thinking,” one mother huffed. “Seriously, my daughter plays much better than the first, second, and third chair viola.”

“I know,” the other mom nodded. “It’s the same thing in the violin section.  My daughter is obviously better but she doesn’t get the solo.  I mean, it’s ridiculous.  What is that director thinking?”

I am sure you have all dealt with this at your own orchestra, band, and choir tailgate parties.  Those parents who aren’t at the rehearsal and aren’t at the practice sessions that think they know who should be where during the performance.  Lately, I have been hearing more and more of this.  It is like a disease spreading through a third world country.

The bad mouthing even continues during the performances.  How many times have you heard things like, “I can’t believe the director keeps that girl as the first chair, did you see that vibrato?” or “That base player must not even get lessons, did you hear those notes?” or “His plucking is killing the chamber group, why doesn’t the director get him out of there?”

It has gotten to the point of ridiculous to hear these things at a concert.  I have even seen parents ripping their child after a performance, rehashing each note on the way home or parents shouting down the director because their daughter didn’t get the solo over another performer.

I know what you are thinking… Why don’t I take my kid out of orchestra?  The parents of my daughter’s school are crazy.  What is wrong with people?  Why would I allow this to happen?

Yeah, I am not talking about orchestra am I?

This is the sports world!  This is what parents do to their coaches, teams, kids when it comes to athletics.  It starts when the teams first get competitive, and the kids are young.  Too many parents think they know because they watch the performance or even sit at a practice.  I am hear to tell you that most parents don’t have a freaking clue.  The older your child is, the more they know and the less informed you are as a parent.

There are four basic roles: coaches coach, players play, officials officiate, and spectators spectate.  That’s you, parents; you are the spectators, so cheer when it’s appropriate, be proud of your kid, and let the coaches coach, the players play, and the officials officiate.  The biggest problem in youth sports are looking back at parent when they look in the mirror.  Quit being part of the problem.

Here are 3 things you can do to make the experience for your athletes better.

1. Wait 24 hours before contacting the coach about something that bothers you.  Too many parents get upset without all the facts and make a rash decision to say something right away.  Coaches are finishing up a game, worked up because coaching is intense, and then a parent drops an unexpected bomb.  Coaches get defensive and the outcome will not be favorable for anyone.  I have been there as a coach, and it is hard to hold my tongue with that parent.

2. Make your athlete talk to the coach if something bothered them.  Our athletes need to practice talking to people in authority in a respectful but sincere way.  It is a great life skill to be able to approach your boss appropriately.  In addition, players know what goes on in practice.  They know their own level of effort.  Parents, your kids don’t tell you the whole story when it comes to the team.  In fact, most of you don’t know as much about the sport as your kid does, let alone what was said in the team meeting, on the practice field, in the dugout, on the sideline, etc.  You don’t have a clue, so make the player be responsible.  Then if they didn’t talk to the coach, you can tell them to quit complaining about it.  I often find that kids don’t ask the coach because they know the truth.  Think about it parents.

3. Don’t ever tear down another player or coach in front of your athlete.  Cheer for everyone to do well, regardless of whether your child is playing or not.  Most infighting on teams is due to parents talking at home and the players taking it with them to the team.  I have seen good kids polluted by parents who don’t know how to keep their mouth shut about something they don’t know much about anyway.  Great teams can be strangled by soured parents.

By the way, my daughter rocks the cello in orchestra, hurdles in track, and babysitting on Sunday mornings in the toddler room.  I think my tailgating idea will catch on sooner or later at the orchestra concerts once the weather warms up..  Now, where did I put those bow shaped brats.


I just don’t get people.

The news broadcast tonight on the local affiliate in Omaha gave me a gem to contemplate tonight.  Cameron Mayfield, according to the report, committed what prosecutors are calling a felony arson because it falls under the category of “Hate Crime.”  What was this hate crime he committed?

He burned a rainbow flag that he grabbed off of  Ariann Anderson’s and Jessica Meadows Anderson’s front porch at 12:30 in the morning after going out drinking.  The Andersons witnessed the entire event.  Mayfield and the Andersons don’t know each other.  The article is actually comical because a normal human being who spent any time on a college campus gets what happened. (article)

Okay, the dude is 23 years old.  I sort of remember 23, but it is a little hazy.  Now, the following is all speculation.  Guy is walking home from a local pub because he doesn’t want to get a DUI.  Dude sees a rainbow flag next to a Husker flag.  “What the heck?” he says to himself.  “Who puts a Hawaii flag next to the SKERS?!”  It makes perfect sense when you have been drinking.

In no way do I condone the actions of Mr. Mayfield.  He was wrong to burn the flag, but is it a hate crime?  No freaking way!!

The guy made a mistake.  The guy did something stupid.  The guy needs to pay restitution.  The guy needs to be cited.  The guy probably had a rough week and was blowing off steam.  It wasn’t right, but it wasn’t a hate crime.

Now, the Anderson couple, they are priceless.  Listen to what they said.

“What became so clear to us after Saturday night, is that the intent really does make a difference. Seeing him waving that burning symbol of a controversial, and inherent part of our being(s) as a minority, in front of our house as a clear message, made it scary. It made it an attack as opposed to a prank.”

They have filed for a protection order against Mayfield.  Again, here is what probably happened (total speculation):  Dude lights the flag on fire in the street and then he imagines he is in a war movie because the guys at the bar were probably talking about their favorite scenes before he left.  I can picture him waving the burning rainbow flag while yelling “Bring the rain!” (which is a line from one of the Transformers movies, a favorite of mine that I will say to my kids or the neighbor kids in the back yard when I am beating them into submission in a game we are playing.)

No, I am not literally pounding on them so child protective services calls do not need to be made.  Again, let me point out that I don’t condone this action by Mayfield… I feel like if I don’t restate this, the LGBTQ community may retaliate against me, which by the way, probably would not be considered a Hate Crime.

The real question here is this… WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD?

Yes, Mayfield did something dumb.  I don’t condone it, but not a hate crime.

Try having a Nebraska flag on your front porch in Boulder, Colorado.  You want to hear hate; they don’t like us much out there.  I would be a minority in Boulder.  If they burn my flag, is it a hate crime?  Nope.

You ever see how fans treat officials.  Being an umpire isn’t easy.  I have had a few slurs thrown my way, and umpires are definitely in the minority.  They hated me at times, but it wouldn’t be a hate crime.

Hypothetically, I have Christmas decorations in my yard.  Some drunk high school kids who are part of the LGBTQ community come by and trash my Nativity scene by kicking the crap out of my wise men.  That’s right, not a hate crime.  Hate crime doesn’t apply to Christians who have property destroyed.  I don’t hear an outcry of hate rhetoric for Christians who are targeted.

Aren’t all crimes committed out of some form of hate.  The real issue here is this, dude was dumb, dude pays up, life should go on.  Don’t kill the guy for it, don’t ruin his life, don’t grow this into something it isn’t.

You want to talk about hate crimes… what our government did to the Autobots in Transformers: Age of Extinction is a hate crime by our government.

If you don’t appreciate watching the Transformers, that is a crime…

but not a hate crime.  Now, when you are up against a real threat to humanity, that’s when you “Bring the Rain!”

How silly of me to think that the end would arrive in the form of a zombie apocalypse like I have been preparing for!  THEY’RE COMING according to the Omaha World Herald (March 12), and THEY are Emerald Ash Borers.  No, not a group of US Senators dressed in green for St. Patrick’s Day.  The Emerald Ash Borer is a metallic green beetle about a half inch long that will kill everything on the planet.  I know, I didn’t realize there were metal bugs, either, but it said “metallic green” in the article.

Of course, I didn’t read the entire article; who has time to do that with bell-to-bell instruction and data team meetings at school and my busy schedule at home? But I did read the title and at least a portion of a paragraph, oh, and the captions, so I get the gist.  In our state alone, the damage is expected to be close to a billion dollars when the inevitable attack by these cyborg insects is launched later this year.  I think North Korea is probably behind it.  Imagine, billions of these little genetic wonders infesting our “Good Life” in Nebraska.

Strategically speaking, before any major attack, an enemy army will send scouts ahead.  I knew that if I could intimidate the scouts in my neighborhood, perhaps I could stave off the destruction to come.  I needed the early troops to see that I meant business.  My first thought was what would former Husker football coach, Bo Pelini, do in this situation, so I quickly ran outside this morning and began cussing like a sailor while yelling at the small tree in my front yard.  This is war; bullying and intimidation was needed. When I finished, I turned red-faced to go inside.  Mrs. Johnson, the elderly woman who lives next door, stared at me in disbelief with her mouth gaping.

“Just saving the world this morning,” I called to her. “It was good to see you in church Sunday morning.”

She did not respond.  I am sure she was speechless that I was already doing my part to thwart the robot insect horde that was heading our way.  I tried not to speak of the impending doom with my daughter on the way to school this morning.  There was no need to worry her about the end of the world… at least not until after spring break. It could wait.

As I entered the school in the morning, I wondered what emergency plan was being put in place, just in case the Borers attacked sooner than later.  I sought out my principal, Mr. Alfrey.

He directed me to Mr. Kerns, our assistant principal, saying, “Jeffrey is better suited for emergency preparation procedures like this one.”

I was impressed at how easily my principal passed on this important issue to Mr. Kerns.  That is trust.

“I still can’t believe he goes by Jeffrey,” I commented. “You would think he would grow out of that at some point. I mean, the guy is going to be a doctor soon.”

“Glad I’m not sick,” I heard Mr. Alfrey mutter as he went back into his office.

I found Jeffrey chatting about data with a group of teachers sitting around him in the library.  He had the teachers mesmerized.   Their expressions showed just how engrossed they were in what he was saying.   It looked like the teachers were actually looking straight through Mr. Kerns, like he had them in a trance… blank, expressionless, unmoving.  They were totally dialed in, and I hated to interrupt the master at work.

But this was important!  The Terminator-like army being sent by Skynet to destroy Nebraska was practically going to maybe sometime probably going to enter our borders.  This student data Jeffrey was speaking about would matter no more if the Emerald Ash Borer made it to my school.

“Do you need something?” Jeffrey asked.

“Yes, defender of student achievement and Jedi Master of data, I need a moment of your time,” I responded reverently.

“Sounds important,” Mr. Eastridge said. “We will give you guys some privacy.”

As if shot out of a cannon, the entire group of teachers bolted for the library doors, clearing out in a matter of seconds.  I am always impressed by the dedication of our teachers to get to their classrooms.  I knew their meeting was supposed to go another 20 minutes, but I teach with so many devoted professionals; it is quite humbling sometimes.

I explained to Jeffrey about the article I had read about the Emerald Ash Borers and showed him the front page of the newspaper.  Then Jeffrey got a serious look on his face.  You probably have seen the look I am talking about on the face of your boss at one point or another.  His face looked like he smelled something nasty and he wanted to figure out who the perpetrator was without giving away that he was trying to figure out who it was.  I could tell he was serious.

He listened and nodded.  When I was finished, he told me he would look into it and contact the district about what they were doing to prepare for it.  He is so smart.  I didn’t even think to contact the district.  I should have tweeted our district’s superintendent right away this morning.

When I mentioned to Jeffrey that I would contact the superintendent for him, he said, “Oh, I don’t think you need to contact him.  Why don’t you let me take care of that?”

Jeffrey is such a great guy, so willing to take on the leadership role on this important and possibly deadly issue.  The guy really is like Batman, you know.  They both are technology savvy.  Batman wears tights and a cape, and Jeffrey dresses in clothing that would look silly on most people, too. (Really, who wears sweater vests?)  Most importantly, both Jeffrey and Batman have smooth tops of their heads.

Well, I adjusted my lesson plans to let the students know about the coming invasion, but I have also told the students not to worry because our principals are on top of it and are working on a plan to protect us all.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Talk to your bosses about their plans to thwart the coming invasion.  To quote the philosophical musical, High School Musical, “We are all in this together.”


I spent the day at Kiewit Middle School in Millard. We explored using dialogue in stories and the students were creative and entertaining.  Their ideas were awesome!  I even ran into a fan who wanted a picture to send his dad.  #FoxRocks

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Special Delivery 

Posted: March 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

Spring is right around the corner and instead of thinking about flowers, bunnies and seasonal allergies we are looking forward to that one special week a year when Chris can visit schools to share The Phenomenon Trilogy…SPRING BREAK! 

Our first spring break delivery arrived today.  Get ready for an adventure Lyons, Nebraska. See you soon. 

Middle of Nowhere

Posted: June 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

Today we find ourselves traveling through the same desolate land that Christian, Sam, Alexis and Ray escaped from in my 3rd book, End Game right before they meet Captain Juke. Do you know what stretch of highway we are traveling?


Yep, that’s right, I should have been kicked out of the last game that I coached.  No, it wasn’t a state tourney game for high school softball; those days are over.  I was asked by my daughter’s high school rec softball head coach to be a sub for him because he was going to be out of town on business.  Of course, I jumped at the opportunity because I like to coach.  I will get to the ejection that never was but should have been, but I have some things I have to get off my chest first.

I knew about it during my 17 years of coaching, but this first year after coaching full time has brought more clarity to the issue.  A year in the stands when you aren’t worried about who the next three batters are and what the scouting report and the spray chart says, well, that allows a man to take it all in; gives a man time to ponder.  The issue that faces every team out there involves one key item, ROLES.  The question that no one asks themselves is “What is my role on this team?”

Don’t mistake this.  The players are the least of my concerns as a coach when it comes to roles.  Oh, there are players that don’t understand their role or don’t accept it, but there are a lot of people in the realm of sports that don’t understand the role they play.

Here are the roles in sports, and everyone falls into ONE role: Player, Coach, Official, Spectator, Trainer(medical staff).  You can’t do two roles or problems happen.

Take for instance the dad (or mom) on the sidelines that is coaching.  I can spot this early in games, especially the younger levels – before they get to high school – but it happens there too.  A player will look into the stands after a strike out or during a time out or when the ball goes out of bounds on a sideline.  If you are this parent, please stop.  You are undermining your team.  A player should never look to the sidelines or stands instead of a coach or teammate during a game.  If they look to you, then they are listening to you when they should be listening to their coach.  I understand that you think you are doing something good, but you don’t have a clue about what the strategy is.  You weren’t in the pregame discussion.  You weren’t involved in practice.  You don’t know.

I saw this at a soccer game recently.  On a stoppage in play, a player came from the other side of the field and parents (not hers) were yelling that someone needed to get to her side of the field.  She hesitated, but ultimately stayed.  I later found out that the coach on her original side of the field had instructed her to move across the field.  It was the strategy of the coach.  So this player was hearing two strategies, the loudest being the parents who didn’t have a freaking clue about what the coach wanted the player to do.   Parents need to stop coaching.  If you are upset by my example thinking that as a parent you should be hollering directions to players, then quit being a part of the problem.  The players need to hear one voice of instruction/strategy during the game, and that voice is the coaching staff.

As a head varsity softball coach, I am accustomed to the second guessing that goes on from the stands, which is another example of parents stepping out of their role and trying to coach.  I don’t know how many times I have heard comments like “Why didn’t he bunt in that situation?” or “Why would he steal there?”  And every time it was player error because they missed a sign or went on their own accord, not a coaching mistake.  Yes, parents, I know it is hard to believe that little Johnny or Janey would take it upon themselves to do the opposite of what the coach has asked of them.  It was the player trying to be the coach.  Again, when we step out of our roles, teams encounter problems.

One season, it became too big of a problem for me, so I did something that my assistants thought was crazy… I had my players go home and teach their parents our signs.  Guess what?  My second guessing in the stands almost disappeared.  Our parents knew when the bunt was called but the player didn’t do it.  Now, that was an interesting second half of the season.  Parents, your job is to cheer, support, encourage, laugh, and cry with your son or daughter when they play their last high school game.  And every once in a while get on an official, but only just enough to support your coach… because that is the coach’s job to deal with officials.

I harped on my players about how to handle officials.  It’s easy as a player.  You say “yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, or no ma’am.”  A coach is a different story.  A coach is the instructor, game manager, personnel manager, and the “facilitator of discussion with officials.”  Do coaches cross the line sometimes?  For sure.  I have been there a couple times.  I have also heard parents make comments about how awful the coach was acting while dealing with an official, and usually that complaint is because the parent doesn’t understand roles or the game, or both.  In games, coaches often get into it with officials, but it is because that is the coach’s job.  Players should never argue with officials.  When a coach sees injustice according to the rules of the game, then it is their role to right that injustice.  Parents umpiring from the stands just ticks off an official.  It has never changed a call, but I have seen it cause an official to make more bad calls.  It isn’t because they are out to get that team.  It is because when half of the stands are chewing your butt, you just can’t focus or concentrate as easily.  I have officiated softball, baseball, football, and basketball.  The easiest by far is football because the fans are so far away from the field.  I only have to deal with coaches, and they know the rules.  Well, most of them.  Think about it, when the football ref throws a flag and calls holding, what do the fans in the stands say?  They say, “Come on boys, quit holding.”  When you watch it on TV at home, you say, “That wasn’t a hold.”  Think about it.

Parents, you are not the coach and you are not the official and you are not the player.  You are the parent, so excel in that role.  Just because you played the game doesn’t make you the expert.  I have driven a car for decades, but that doesn’t make me a certified mechanic.

A couple nights ago, I found myself back on the field as a coach, a substitute softball coach.  The umpire didn’t know a basic rule of softball, and that was where the “facilitation of discussion” started.  What the rule was or what the call was doesn’t really matter.  I was right, and she was wrong.  Three times I questioned the umpire on three different occasions.  The first time, the call was reversed.  The second time, the call was not changed, so I said my part and left it be.  The third time, she repeated a mistake from earlier and didn’t say my part and let it be.  No, I let her have it.  In fact, my goal was to get ejected.  Yes, sometimes a coach plans to get a technical or penalty or yellow card or in my case, ejected.  And she wouldn’t do it!  I was trying to get the boot, and it didn’t work.  So the game is over, and I look forward to stepping back into my role as parent.  Cheer and watch and every once in a while get on the official without really getting on the official.  As a soccer parent, I simply holler, “Girls, when the defender grabs your arm while you have the ball, you have to knock her hands away.”  Then I see the soccer official smile, and I know I have fulfilled my role as parent.  Then when the game ends, we go for ice cream because every player, whether tee ball or high school wants to have some ice cream.

Know your role to achieve your goal!