Protect Your Kids...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Coaches: Be bold and unafraid...

A quick story...

Everyone has memorable coaches or teachers that, at one point in their lives, truly inspired them.  Mine was my high school wrestling coach by the name of Dr. John Dahlem, who taught history and social science at Loara High School in Anaheim, CA.  When Loara needed a wrestling coach in 1970, he stepped on the mat and jumped right in.   

What happened over the next several years was simply astounding.

In an era before the "Masters" was a fixture in California wrestling, winning league championships was a benchmark of how solid of a program a school had developed. Between 1974 and 1984 (when he retired), his wrestlers won league titles in '74, '76, '77, '78, '79, '80. '81, '82, '83, and '84.  10 championships in 11 years!  

When I analyze his coaching career, Dahlem was an interesting parallel to Wooden in many ways:
  • Like Wooden, his early teams weren't immediately dominating.  But once he figured out his coaching style and learned the sport, his teams won more matches and league championships than any other team of the era.  
  • Like Wooden, he had an uncanny ability to teach and inspire kids.  For example, he used short, memorable maxims that triggered a desired action.  He then linked it to examples of how to apply them to other aspects of an athlete's post-wrestling life.  
  • Like Wooden, he also had a knack for making each player, no matter the skill level, feel like an important part of the team.  To this day, many of his players still contact him on a regular basis.
  • Like Wooden, he promoted a cohesive, "team" concept.  This is unique in a sport that to a casual observer is a sport of individuals (after all, when you wrestle an opponent, it's just you and him on the mat). 
  • Like Wooden had developed Swen Nader, Dahlem focused on making everyone, even the "spare parts", be the best they could be.  A testimony to this is that, while there were several very good wrestlers that went through Dahlem's program, only one in 14 years was a state champion.  
Dahlem's accomplishments were so profound that he was named the Orange County Coach of the Decade (chosen by the Orange County Register, which considered every school and every sport played in Orange County).  He was the first inductee into the Orange County Wrestling Hall of Fame.  He was eventually inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Not bad for a coach in a so-called "minor" sport like wrestling.  He then went on to become a well-respected high school principal, and retired in 2004.    

But the "amazing" hook to the story?

He never wrestled a day in his life.

So how does this relate to you, a potential coach or parent volunteer? 

Sometimes, a parent makes the unfortunate mistake of believing that a new coach's ability to coach can be judged by the previous playing experience he or she brings to the table.  In fact, I've even heard about youth league board members fawning over new youth coaches simply because they played college or pro ball.  

I wince when I hear this.  

Just as the performance of pre-adolecent kids has no bearing on how well athletes turn out in high school, previous playing experience has no bearing on how successful someone will be as a youth coach.  Put another way: lack of experience doesn't make you, as a new coach, any less valuable to these kids.  

My advice?  

Don't let the challenge of coaching intimidate you.  Instead, jump in with both feet!  

Make each day your masterpiece!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bitter-sweet day today...

 Resonate:  To have an effect or impact beyond that which is immediately apparent.
This might be a little too personal, so forgive me if this post doesn't immediately resonate.

Sometimes life sneaks up on you.  That happened to our family today.

We had just pulled into the gas station to fill up the truck with gas to take the kids to the snow when my wife, Heather, got the call:  Fred (her father) had just died. I recognized the relief in her voice when she told me.  I had the same feeling when my grandma died after a long bout with cancer.

You see, I've known Fred for nearly 20 years.  Fred was nearly 93 years old.  He was blind.  He couldn't hear very well.  He was too weak to walk.  But for the last 7 years or so, he seemed to realize his mortality and had actively tried to present a positive spin on his fate, his relationships, and his new-found dedication to his faith.  And, for the most part, he lived it well.  He always seemed happy to "see" friends and family, and loved talking about his life and times.  Sometimes, he forgot who his audience was (7 and 8 year old grandkids) and maybe disclosed "too much information" for their parents' comfort.  But you could never fault his honesty and enthusiasm to tell a wild story about "the good ol' days".  He was even the answer my then-7 year old son gave to one of our original life lessons on disabilities.  Under the "Know What's Important" section, Mac put Fred down as someone he personally admired for fighting through disabilities and making the folks around him better for simply being around him.  As an adult, I had almost missed out on this 7 year old's insight.  It changed the way I looked at Fred's disposition.

Over the last few months, Fred went downhill quickly.  He started suffering from dimentia, had completely lost he appetite, and was losing more than his fair share of weight.  He became reclusive.  Heather and my daughter had just visited him this last Friday, and she reported that his condition had really started to free fall.  He didn't know his own daughter, and was in many ways just seemed to be waiting to die.  Heather confessed that it would be a blessing if he was "taken home".

So today, it happened.

God bless you, Fred Maecherlein.

You resonate.

High School Coaching and BALL

So I was asked to help out a local high school pitching staff at the beginning of the school year by the Boy's AD and head baseball coach. I really like this guy's spirit and style of coaching.  Firm but gentle in how he corrects the kids.  Plus, he's really well-respected and liked by the kids outside of baseball, too (always a good sign).

Anyway, he simply wanted me to spend a month or so with him and step in and help the younger pitchers (freshmen) get a good handle on what would be expected of them...and maybe teach them a few tricks of the trade on the bump.  Nothing spectacular, just helping out a good guy who was short staffed and in a tough situation.  But he had a problem - the school had essentially no returning varsity pitchers from last year's team, and THAT team didn't exactly set the world on fire.

So after about a month, I was asked to help out all the pitchers and act as the team's pitching coach.  After I negotiated my $100,000 signing bonus (riiiiiight) and got my wife's permission to go back into coaching, I accepted with the condition that the coach allow me to implement BALL with the pitchers.  My quandry: would high schoolers respond to the same lessons taught to 7 and 8 year olds?  Good news - it turns out that they eat it up, as long as you treat them like adults and modify the questions to reflect a deeper understanding of the underlying messages.

In other words, kids like to learn as long as they see the point.  Maybe there's a message there somewhere...

Soon, some of the non-pitchers were asking me to do the lessons.  So the program expanded.  Now, all the ballplayers are using the system, and we started adding new units to the mix (like physiology, differences in chemical makeup of medications used to treat injury, danger of Performance Enhancing Drugs, etc.).  It's been pretty nice to see the light bulb go on in some (not all) of the kids' heads.

And to cap it off, last night the coach asked me if I wouldn't mind reviewing and signing a coaching morals/ethics contract (all the coaches sign them for this particular program - more on this later).


I knew I had a good feeling about this guy...

Make each day your masterpiece!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Well, here goes....nothing. Yet.

Welcome to the BALL Blog.  We'll be updating it every so often, but with the baseball season heating up, we're busy changing enjoy the ride, and keep your eye on the BALL!

We're currently developing a more elegant web site, where you'll be able to do all kinds of cool stuff.  The eventual goal is to have the lessons online and automated so that you can schedule them for delivery at the right times.

Make each day your masterpiece...