Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Why Would You Say That?

So, this past weekend, the club volleyball team I coach participated in the Asics President's Day Classic in Omaha. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend from the team. Every single player got better, and I literally saw seismic changes in the course of just a couple of points.

It brings me, however, to the title of this entry. On two different times Sunday, an official or a coach who had been on the other side of the net told me that they were impressed that I coached my team all the way till the end. Huh?

My first thought was, that's literally my job. My job is to help these young athletes get better, learn from every mistake, and grow their competence and confidence in volleyball.

Then it hit me, and I've watched and commented on this a lot, but my humility (yes, I swear I have some), gets in the way sometimes. I felt like I was doing the bare minimum, but there are coaches I see ALL THE TIME who are doing so much less.

My style of coaching has always been super-engaged. It's the only way I think about it. I'm not trying to make a spectacle, though I know I sometimes do. I get caught up in the emotion of the match in much the same way my players do. Although I like to think that most of the time I can be calm and reasoned when need be, and I try not to get too hot-headed.

Though I've definitely not always been perfect, I try to take the lessons that I imperfectly use in teaching, specifically praise in public, criticize in private. The times I haven't stuck to this, I've tried to make sure I apologize to the athlete in question.

I certainly have tried not to scream at my players in front of a whole gym. I don't think that gets you any place as a coach and it sure doesn't fit my style. Again, the times when I have, I've tried to make it right with the athletes.

One has to acknowledge that all players respond to different coaching. There are absolutely athletes who thrive when getting called out in front of large groups. However, that's not my personality, and I know it comes off as artificial and contrived.

Rarely have I been without something to say to the players on the court. That's why it's so easy for me to coach all the way to the very last point. I've also seen some spectacular comebacks in my day, and don't ever want to deny the players that opportunity because it feels as though I've given up on them. It's not who I am.

Prior to now, did I think of my technique as teaching great lessons to my players? No. I really didn't. However, being engaged with your team every point conveys the message that they're still important, valuable, and can be successful, even if things aren't going perfectly.

One of the things I love about the club that I have the privilege to coach for is that's exactly what our club director expects. The expectation is that we coach the kids to improve every point and play the right way, and then winning will come. We know if we train the girls correctly in practice, and enforce that "We will get better every point" mindset, the wins will come in spades. The club season is a marathon, not a sprint. So far, every year I've coached with this club, it's been the case that the teams have been much better at the end of the season. I'm so grateful to still be part of the organization.

This whole, "Why Would You Say That?" thing got me thinking about something down the same lines that's always bothered me. The idea that dads "babysit" their own kids. I'm sorry, but that's unfathomably stupid to me, and kind of offensive.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized we say it for the EXACT SAME REASON as the coaching comments from the officials and other coaches I mentioned earlier. Other dads set the bar so low. The idea that dads only parent part time, or from time to time is sort of like babysitting.

If you read this and take issue with this last bit, that's fine. So far, in my marriage, the division of responsibility has been pretty good, I think (signs that I'm probably wrong....). I SO look forward to coming home every day and playing with Everett. In fact, I look forward to it more each day because I swear to God he learns how to do something new and fun daily.

I don't babysit Everett. I never have. I never will. He's my son. I parent him. Sometimes well, sometimes not as well, but I signed up to be his parent, not his babysitter.

Ideally, the type of coaching for which I received the compliments I did over the weekend would become so commonplace, no one would even notice me. Heck, I wish people didn't notice me coaching, because it takes the focus off the players who are putting their all on the line. I know, I know, I do stupid things on the sideline that naturally draw attention, but it's not to put the attention on me, it's to celebrate with my players; to show them that I'm with them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Dichotomy? Dichotomy.

With this blog, I often run into the same thing I run into with nearly everything: I have a great idea, then I don't get to a place where I can write it in time. I'm not good enough with my phone to do it there and frankly I type fast enough that I really need to do it on a computer.

One of the things I tell people about me a lot is that two of my favorite things could not be more different: NASCAR Racing and musical theatre. I love them both, and it's entirely my parents' fault.

I could really talk about either of these first as my story for loving either is based on time spent with family, but the NASCAR side came up today in conversations with a co-worker, so let's start with that.

My recollection of racing fandom actually started with open wheel cars, specifically Indy Cars. I really think we watched that more than we watched NASCAR and other stock cars at first. Dad, Jay, and I went to the inaugural Denver Grand Prix run on the streets of Denver. Watching races at a street track is not real exciting.

However, that really wasn't the reason that NASCAR became our preferred form of motorsport spectation. It had more to do with the proximity to Colorado National Speedway (CNS), what is one of today's NASCAR HomeTracks.

We'd go watch the races on an occasional Saturday night and we started to watch what was then known as Winston Cup racing on TV once we got cable. Then, on a random off-weekend during the summer, a half-dozen or so Winston Cup drivers drove a short demo race at CNS and sign autographs. Now, among the drivers signing autographs but not driving was Richard Petty, the King. Ernie Irvan, Brett Bodine, and Michael Waltrip. They drove the short demo race in cars from the local drivers.

When NASCAR announced they'd finally be heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400, Dad put in for tickets, figuring it was about a million to one chance. He's often said that one of his greatest Christmas presents was the letter he got saying he'd been one of the lottery ticket winners. We were going to the inaugural 400.

There really is nothing like going to a major NASCAR race. Camping in the on-site campgrounds, making friends over a "colbeer," as they're often called, and just the whole atmosphere in the campgrounds is crazy, fun, and boundlessly energetic. Talledega is legendary for its party scene, but Bristol's campground is all night. I lost a lot of sleep listening to the *thump, thump, thump* "WOO!" of cornhole into the wee hours.

My favorite camping in Phoenix. It's spread out more than any of the other campgrounds, in the middle of the desert and much more serene. I'm not much of a partier and that's the kind of scene I've always enjoyed when camping.

The last few years, my dad and I have gone to Kansas Speedway for the spring race every year. It's close to Lincoln and really a great place and track and general experience. It's also one of the few times I get to see one of my long-time snowmobiling, race, and golf buddies, Mike. It's really a great weekend.

I get that people DON'T get NASCAR. I do. I'm sitting here on a Thursday night watching the Duels, the qualifying races for the Daytona 500. Often, I'll turn a race on, watch the start, then take a nap, then watch the finish. I'll be real, I get why people think it's boring, but I still love it. Even on TV it's loud, it's powerful, and the skill is mind-blowing.

I am anxious to take Everett to his first NASCAR race. When he has a sibling or more, I'll take them as well. If they hate it, I won't make them watch it with me or go to a race again, but I'm hoping they'll at least give the race a shot live.

While it's maybe not explicit up there, the fact that I get to go to the race with my dad, and often with my brother, is a big part of why I love racing. The association with great time with my family is a huge part of why I love the sport. Nights with the family are a big part of the reason I love musical theatre as well.

Now, my mom is a retired music teacher. I've never really asked my parents how my dad became a fan of musicals himself, but by the time I have a solid recollection, my parents had season tickets to the Temple Buell Theater in Denver. If there was a show they thought Jay and I would like, they'd get us tickets. They were usually right. It was also a time to put on some fancy clothes and head to downtown Denver as have a fancy meal as well.

Musicals also served as dates for me when I was, well, dating. Sometimes I'd take her along when my family went, but more often I'd pick up tickets and the two of us would go, including to Wicked in Omaha and in Denver, in less than a year.

Wicked's my favorite musical, hands down. Though I will say that Once is close behind. I love the songs and I could sing them out loud at any opportunity. I know I am not a great singer. I'm not delusional. However, I love belting those songs out. I also love the story: the humanizing of the Wicked Witches of Oz.

Keya and I are fortunate here in Lincoln, the Lied Center gets great shows through. It's also part of the University of Nebraska, so we got discount tickets as Keya was going through her PhD program. We've continued to support the Lied through donations and buying season tickets.

As was mentioned at the beginning of this, musicals and NASCAR are two of my favorite things. I mentioned to a friend of mine that if I had any advice for my 18 year-old self it'd be to define yourself. Don't let anyone else define who you are.

One of the my most valuable learnings in college was that it's okay to like whatever the hell you like (within reason), so if others are going to tell you that you should or shouldn't like that, don't listen. I became a lot happier when I listened to whatever music I wanted to, wore what suited me, and generally comported myself in the way that felt most comfortable. As soon as I cared much less about what others thought, my self-worth improved.

Yeah, it's weird to have a NASCAR tee underneath my Wicked sweatshirt, but it's who I am. They're two things I enjoy, and embracing those two sides of myself has made me happy.