Posts Tagged ‘sports’


Posted: May 5, 2015 in Uncategorized
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I was notified today by an Omaha World Herald article that I am about to hit my midlife crisis.  I am almost 42, and according to Spotify, a streaming music giant, that is the average age for a midlife crisis to occur.  Of course, a music website can calculate my midlife crisis by tracking the music that I listen to; what was I thinking?  We are in the age of technology, I guess.

The problem is that I thought I hit my midlife crisis two years ago.  I thought I was a high ability midlife crisis-er.  I was fast-tracked in the world of midlife crisis.  Thank you, Spotify, for ruining my utopia at 41.  I guess I didn’t hit my crisis already.  Crap, things can get worse! And I don’t even use Spotify… How did they know?

I really would like to chat more on this topic, but with the Ash Borer Beetles coming soon and a midlife crisis in about 6 months, I really need to focus on more important things.  Maybe Spotify can tell me how I can get to a soccer practice and two track meets on opposite sides of town all at the same time.  Yeah, didn’t think so Spotify.

Is anyone going to be at Bryan High School on Friday so I can have you skype me into my daughter’s races?  I don’t have time for a midlife crisis now… I have three daughters in sports.


Let me begin by saying that I don’t understand much about music.  I was in my small-town high school choir and had a total of two speaking lines in my three musicals.  We had a great choral instructor, and we did well at competitions because of Mr. Mannasmith’s instruction, but I don’t know much about what goes into judging a district music competition.  Today, I got a taste of music competitions and judges.  It was something like eating a greasy pork sandwich that had been sitting in an ashtray and chasing it with a bottle of rat urine, neither of which there is any proof that I have tasted before.  Thank goodness there was no social media when I was younger.

My oldest daughter was slated to perform her cello solo at 8:54 am.  While standing in the hallway, awaiting what must be one of the most nerve-racking events of a musician’s high school experience, word quickly spread into the hallway that original music was required for all people involved in room 107: the judge, the musician, the accompanist.  It was an astonished buzzing and chatter.  Now, I fully understand what someone feels like when they know nothing about football and watch as fans complain about an official blowing a call.  I was proud of my daughter; she was confident and said she could do it from memory even though she had not practiced it that way.  And her accompanist couldn’t play because she didn’t have an original copy either, but my daughter was going to try.

We entered the classroom, and she waited for her turn.  I had the camera rolling… for 15 seconds.  Then she stopped and said that she couldn’t remember the rest.  She stood proudly and walked to where her accompanist stood, and then she broke down in tears.  From the other side of the room, I sat powerless and ignorant.  Her orchestra teacher hugged her and apologized.  My daughter moved out of the room as I followed.  Her teacher stood, as I hurried past to get to my daughter, and explained to the room of people that her students were going to follow the rules and they weren’t going to pretend that they all had original music.

Again, I was lost and wondering, “What the heck just happened?”  I hugged my daughter and tried to piece together what was going on.  A senior, who had been playing in high school competitions for four years, explained that in his four years, he has never heard of a judge for orchestra requiring original copies for the judge, competitor, and accompanist.  In fact, after more discussion, this appeared to be the only room with this stingy requirement.  Again, I am not an expert, not even close.

I don’t understand why they just didn’t let her play and then scratch the score or downgrade it for not having all original music.  These musicians spend hours upon hours practicing and preparing, sometimes hiring an accompanist.  Then one judge with his own enforcement policy or perhaps his own rules (again, I don’t know), screws the kids.

Here is what I do know: a bunch of kids worked hard to prepare and someone let them down.  Was it a high school orchestra director who didn’t get the right information to students?  Based on the discussions with the kids and my daughter, I don’t think so.  Was it a rule that hasn’t been enforced in the past that became a point of emphasis this year?  Possible, but I don’t think so.  Was it a judge who took the law into his own hands to make a point or to feel superior?  That is where I am leaning.

If it had been a high school softball game that I was coaching, I would have definitely had a discussion with the umpire, and there may have been an ejection.  But this wasn’t sports; it was district music competition.  The rules are different.  From what I can tell, everyone is afraid to ruffle a judge’s feathers by seeking clarifications about rules or asking questions.  I can see why.  An orchestral director who questions a judge could face years of revenge penalization to participants.

Sports have clearly defined rules.  An umpire can pass judgement and make a call based on what they saw happen, but the rules are the rules.  An umpire can’t just conjure up a rule change without coaches questioning it and a discussion between all officials and coaches to resolve the problem.  In this case of original orchestra music, are the rules the rules?  Or are judges with grudges making it up as they go.  Either way, someone let down a bunch of high school musicians who worked hard to prepare for a performance, and then had the rug ripped out from underneath them.  Judging by today, music competition can be just as violent as a tackle in football.  I know my daughter was hurting after her experience at district music competition.


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.

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!

  So little time and so much to write.  I can’t tell you how many times since Easter that I have planned to write a blog entry only to realize I was much too tired, worn out, hungry, busy, (blah blah blah).  Since my last entry, we have had so much happen and there has been so much gnawing at me, but alas, the time to write came and went.

  Even though recent events have taught me to slow down, say no, and enjoy those precious to me, I still feel like the hamster in the wheel.  And this weather!  A May Day snow in Omaha was too much. I was in the car with my oldest daughter for the daily trip to school when I said, “Oh, there is something you don’t see every May 1… a snowplow.”

  The weather has made our three daughters wait patiently for their spring sports to begin.  One has missed countless track meets due to rain, sleet and snow. With three meets under her belt, she will head to districts. Another has endured soccer tourney cancellations and league games rescheduled, only to be canceled a second time.

  Our youngest has entered the world of “outs” in softball.  This is the first year that she is either safe or out.  It’s a great lesson.  Life isn’t over when you’re out; it just means you’re out.  It’s a part of the game. Hm… Game (moment for quiet reflection).  I think we sometimes forget that we play sports because we enjoy them. Every kid started playing because he/she wanted to have fun.  A wonderful biproduct is that they teach us all sorts of good things that we should know for life’s journey.  What do sports teach us?

  Be active.  Excercise is good.

  You don’t always win.  There is always someone better than you, and even if there isn’t, you can still lose because on that day they were better than you.

  Never make excuses when you don’t win.  It’s not someone else’s fault.

  Competition is good.  Our country is founded on this principle, and I think we have a pretty darn good country.

  It’s the people that matter.  No one remembers the score a year from now, but the people live with us forever.

  Mistakes are good, if you look at them the right way.  Those who learn from their mistakes are the ones who win in the end.  No one started out playing a sport and doing it right from the start.

  Practice, practice, practice.  If you want to be good at something, it just doesn’t happen over night.  You have to be dedicated and work hard.

  Parents are the only people who can ruin youth sports.  I am going to say this in love… STOP IT!  And I am talking to myself as well.


  Let the officials do the officiating, let the players play, let the coaches coach.  Parents, your job is to spectate, cheer, console, laugh, and help your child overcome failure, and your child will fail, and they will fail over and over and over.  If you don’t let them fail then you are doing your child a disservice.  Thomas Edison failed 1000 times before he got the light bulb right.  He must have played baseball as a first grader.

  I coach second grade girls softball, and most of the girls are actually in first grade.  We wanted to have them play up a division so they could be called out.  I have never seen so much failure in one spot in my life.  It is an hour of 80% failure, 5% success, and 15% dumb luck.  It’s like herding cats, and it is the most wonderful place on earth.  These pools of failure can be found in most parks this time of year.  Look for the kids in the colorful uniforms with team names like the Dragonflies, Battle Divas, or Pink Storm.  Their helmets don’t fit, and everyone has at least one shoe untied.

  The fields are brilliant green because every yellow dandelion has been picked clean by the outfielders.  The snacks and the pregame cheer are just as important as getting to bat, and the laughter from the stands of proud parents watching their children fail miserably floats on the breeze.

  Then something happens as they get older.  We start to keep score.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t like participation medals and a ribbon for everyone.  I am quite competitive.  I played college baseball and four sports in high school.  Mydaughters have that same passion. Well, not the first grader, yet.

  But the moment we start to keep score, well, things change, parents change.  Laughter turns to complaint.  Complaint about officials, coaching, playing time, who plays what position, and who made the error.  Parents turn on one another, and friendships fill with turmoil.  Been there, done that.  We as parents need to rise above the fray and lead by example.  Victory with honor is easy.  Losing with honor is more difficult.  Grace, that’s what we need more of.  Even though I am a parent, I still make mistakes, as all parents do.  I ask for grace.  I ask for forgiveness for my part in the negative side of youth sports, and I ask for those who know me to seek me out when I cross that line so I can remedy the situation.  Hey, I’m trying to teach my kids a life lesson. I make mistakes and ask forgiveness and I forgive those who hurt me. We all make mistakes, but not all of us learn from them.  That lesson of life will cost us in the end.

  That’s my two cents. (sorry, a little nostalgia for anyone out there who read my column for my college news paper.)