Finals Week, May 1988

I was talking with someone recently about being a college student, that you’re free to do what you want when you want.  It got my mind wandering back to Iowa State–so I wrote some blog stuff about those good ol’ days.

It also reminded me that sometimes–I’m an idiot.  ID-10-T.

We turn back the clock to May, 1988.  Finals week.  I’d been suffering some restlessness and was antsy to be done with school so I could head home for a month before heading to New Orleans to work the Republican National Convention (back when Republicans were rational and reasonable…really–those days existed once upon a time).  When you get antsy, sometimes you let details slip through the cracks.

At big schools, they publish the schedule for Finals well in advance.  Sometimes there are conflicts and students are often permitted to reschedule exams if the published schedule has them taking more than two in a single day.  Beneath those schedules or sometimes listed separately, specific classes were assigned to certain times–regardless of when you had your class.  These were large classes or classes with numerous sections.  It permitted a single standardized test to be used–and to avoid cheating, that listed class took priority over the normal schedule.

By May of ’88, I was a seasoned, jaded veteran of six semesters–just like the core of Foster House….we few, we happy few.  I knew how things worked, where I had to work, where corners could be cut.  Junior year of college is a glorious time.

So when the Finals schedule came out, I jotted it down.  It was a good schedule.  A couple tests on Monday (noon, 2pm), a couple on Wednesday (8am, noon) and then I was outta there.  Perfect.  The first test up was Physics 111–Physics for the Non-Science major.  It wasn’t as easy as you’d think and to this day, I ALWAYS get confused by the difference between centripetal and centrifugal force.

So we get to Monday and I get to the Physics II (the name of the building) lecture hall half an hour early–a chance to get focused, skim my notes, and pray I had not (again) confused centripetal and centrifugal.  Other than that, I’m ready for it.  All I’ve got to do is get something like a 65% to guarantee a ‘B-‘ in the class, so there’s no real pressure.  I’ve got this.

And then students start coming in and I notice something, something I had not noticed all semester.  The class is about 85% women (which at the Iowa State of 1988 was amazing since enrollment was 60-65% male at the time).  It must have been all the sweatshirts and winter coats and that I actually paid attention in class rather than to the people around me (also, paid attention to the pain of sitting in wood seats from 1910 constructed for 5’6, 140lb people).  I start thinking, “Wow, I’ve missed out on a lot of daydreaming potential.” (Sue me, I was 19)

The TAs show up, start passing the tests upwards towards the top of the lecture hall.  I took one, passed tests along.  Time to get down to business.  I look down and realize I’ve made a massive error.  Huge.  Immense.  The test I’ve been handed is “Fashion Merchandising 101”.  I’m in the wrong place or the wrong time.  I’m in trouble because it’s hard to pick up a 65% when you’re a no-show for the test.

I was able to calmly get up, turn the test back in and explain I was in the wrong room.  I get out in the hall and I can’t find a test schedule.  The school paper?  None are in the stands.  Physics office–they can tell me…closed for lunch.  I’m now entering “Batman carrying a bomb and being unable to throw it away” mode from the Adam West Batman movie.

I go to the other Physics building–only high-level tests going on there.  I’m now more than 15 minutes late to wherever I’m supposed to be.  Today, I’d describe the feeling as being like Gene Hackman right before Eastwood shoots him in ‘Unforgiven’.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to end.  I just wanted a B in Physics.

I decided to head a building over–time has blurred what it was, but I think it was the Armory and the Navy ROTC on the southeast side of the building.  Finally there on their bulletin board, they’d posted the schedule.  I had the wrong day.  It wasn’t one of the special classes or anything that had a priority–I’d written down the wrong date.

30+ years later and I still remember my panic.

 

 

Statues, law enforcement, and balance

First, the title for this blog post sucks. It’s not just about those things, but it IS about those things. I needed a title, so…there it is.

This summer, a lot of statues were pulled down. Most of these (Confederate generals/politicians) should never have been put up in the first place since they were traitors to the United States. We even name bases for them. Ugh. The thing is–not all pulled down were obvious villains. In one instance, a statue of Grant was pulled down, justified with the logic that he owned one slave, so he was part of the problem. In Wisconsin, the statue of Hans Heg was destroyed–because he was a white man from the 1860s–really.

In terms of context, Grant did own one slave, given to him as a gift. Grant was near bankruptcy at the time (he was never good with finances) and could have sold the man and erased his family’s debt completely. He didn’t. Within the year, he freed the man for $0.00. Indeed, while Grant married a woman from a slave-holding family, it is also documented that Grant chose to work beside the slaves and refused to give them orders. With Heg, he was an immigrant from Norway in 1849. He found many things unjust–and even ran for office on a campaign for prison reform (same as it ever was) and was an abolitionist from Day One–including aiding/abetting an escaped slave to reach Canada. Heg joined the Union Army to help destroy slavery, but was killed in battle at Chickamauga in 1863.

With law enforcement, there is a list of wrongdoing over the past six months that could fill a book, all documented since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. Sometimes, those pursuing wrongdoing find stuff like this, too, from three years ago. Believe it or not, al-Jazeera has created an outstanding visual article on this. It is depressingly repetitive to see the lack of accountability when police commit crimes, inevitably protected by police unions led by some who are even more reprehensible than those who ‘accidentally’ kill people while in uniform.

On the other side of the ledger, you have other officers saving kids from drowning or joining in a neighborhood basketball game after someone called in a noise complaint on the kids. You have the law enforcement personnel who have rounded up child traffickers in multiple states. The idea that all police are bad is wrong. No one rationally believes that–because they know the examples of good cops.

With statues and police, people do not wish to discuss. It has sadly become ‘you are with us or against us’. There can be no middle ground.

That is incorrect. There is no ‘middle ground’ only if you are seeking trouble–and even then, those all-or-nothing people are sometimes hypocrites.

If we are to topple a statue of Grant because of his temporary ownership of a slave, ignoring Grant’s actual achievements in ending slavery; if we declare all police to be evil or fascist because of the killings, beatings, and other illegal actions of some police, I have a question:

How can these people complaining, these people of total intolerance continue listening to someone like Michael Jackson? The Mamas and the Papas (due to John Phillips)? Ike Turner? Tupac Shakur?

*Jackson allegedly molested children who spent the night at his Neverland Ranch
*John Phillips sexually assaulted women and had an incestuous relationship with his daughter
*Ike Turner violently assaulted his wives/girlfriends
*Tupac was convicted of sexual assault (or the circumstances around his 1995 murder)

Do we ‘cancel’ Paul McCartney because he recorded with Michael Jackson? Do we ban Ike/Tina Turner recordings from classic rock/R+B stations? Should all recordings from Death Row Records be banned because of everything that happened during the Tupac Shakur era?

The same people who pull down statues, lump all police together have no problem listening to a multitude of musical artists who have committed violent criminal acts, ranging from murder to armed robbery. …I just listed the ones obvious to me–so essentially people pre-2000. I’m sure an internet search would reveal many more recent.

What about film stars? What about athletes? A dozen MLB players have been suspended for domestic violence in the past four years. Michael Vick did prison time (rightfully) for his part in a dogfighting scheme–but everyone still loves Ben Roethlisberger even though he was suspended for sexual assault (no criminal conviction though)…Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident ended his career. …hmmmm, Vick/Rice career-ending, Roethlisberger still playing. I wonder what’s different there?

it’s more complicated than what people want to believe. I don’t have a solution–other than to call out hypocrisy. If you are going to tear down statues, make sure you’re not endorsing/buying stuff from individuals who have done horrid things. If you are going to criticize police–do so but remember not all police are bad; the number of bad cops is way too high, but it isn’t 100%.

The problem is anger rules the day. No one wants to talk or discuss potential solutions. It’s easier to howl at the moon, point fingers at the other side and point out their faults.

Practical Implementation of Alternate Timeout Strategies

WARNING: This is a rather long post.

So, recently this happened. That’s my recent discussion of an idea I had that Ben Raymond ran wild with and the value of points independently and within the context of a match. There are implications for point-value ranging from substitution-usage to calling timeouts….these are some early thoughts on TOs.

Since Ben crunched the first graphs with point value, I’ve wondered how we call timeouts. I think they are ineffective but quite a bit of that could be because of when they are used rather than the timeout themselves. In any event, there are roughly 25 point combinations that tend towards having a larger impact on a set’s results than all the others. Roughly 2/3 of these occur early in the match while most of the others are at the end–in what we usually think of as ‘crunch time’.

Those early points are interesting to me–how many coaches resist calling a timeout at 4-4 because it is too early and they are worried about saving them for an important point in the contest? The catch is–that key point later on may not come and in the moment, you are faced with a current key moment, one that math suggests is more important than almost all possible combinations to come. Why not use it?

We’ve done some intrasquad scrimmages and we had the opportunity for one regular scrimmage…everyone else has been forced to back out due to quarantining. Sigh. Since none of these ‘count’ for standings, I limited myself to only calling timeouts at one of the listed key-leverage points. Wow–our conditioning regarding timeout use is strong.

TANGENT 1:
–>Does this carry over to other sports? Are basketball coaches using timeouts inefficiently? I’m reminded of Iowa State’s MBB team about 20 years ago–the coach was always questioned about his timeout usage and I remember his answer–he didn’t care about tactical adjustments; because he had a short roster (only 8 uninjured players), he used the timeouts to maximize rest time for his players. I haven’t ever seen another basketball team do this.

TANGENT 2:
If you like reading this, consider purchasing my book, Like Heck She Isn’t a Volleyball Player. It’s less than $5 and has 20+ essays written to make you think about how and why you handle your coaching (whether that’s volleyball or not).

So what did I find with this new timeout strategy? Quite a bit though obviously doing this for a total of 12x sets-to-25 and 3x sets-to-15 is not the largest sample size ever taken. Keep that in mind.

1 – As a coach, you really have to commit to this. It’s easy to rationalize away the early points–we’re just getting started, it’s a fluke point, there’s plenty of time to get on track. That’s not what the numbers say. The numbers suggest the first team to five drastically increases its chances of winning so right then, right now those timeouts are critical.

2 – With the critical score points, you’re going to find them popping up when your team has the serve. The first couple times, that’s going to weird out your players. With our regular scrimmage, it certainly weirded out the experienced officials. They were totally off-guard for the first couple sets when I called the TO just before we served. What didn’t happen was the need for a TO in the middle of a serving run–but if you’re going by the chart as a guide….that may be necessary.

TANGENT 3:
It is unpopular in baseball to change pitchers in the middle of an at-bat, but it has been showed to have a statistically significant increase in the chances of getting the batter out. If this is true and we consider a server to be a pitcher (since she’s sending the ball at the opponent…), would there be similar value in using the timeout in the middle of a serving run *AND* potentially subbing out the server after 2-3 points for an alternate server? With so many other parallels between baseball and volleyball being true, my instinct is to believe this will be the case in this instance as well…but I have ZERO ZERO ZERO hard evidence or numbers to back that up.

3 – There are points where coaches are conditioned to calling a TO. We may be up 11-10 and we want to call it after giving up 3-4 points when it is 11-14 or so. Nope. No can do with this. Curiously what I found was that we don’t implode without the timeout being called. Once we get past the expectation of a TO being called, the game goes as it goes. We give up a run of 3-4, get a sideout and get our own run of points back.

4 – Limiting timeouts to leverage points changed the mentality and focus of the timeout. This, too, is coach conditioning. Inevitably when you call a timeout after giving up 3-10 consecutive points, the timeout huddle is negative with a coach exhorting players to focus, limit errors, and a quick laundry list of mistakes with a raw delivery which could have a negative emotional impact on the athletes right when they are heading back out onto the court. With the leveraged TOs, it’s completely different. Since each of the 25-ish leverage-points is a tie score or +/- 1, it creates a natural focus on the importance of the moment. There isn’t a long run of mistakes to talk about–the reason for the timeout is the importance of the current point. It is on the NOW, not the past.

5 – Calling timeouts when serving creates a natural positive feel–it’s being called at a moment when something’s gone right. It creates a moment to emphasize something that was done right–and emphasizing it in the moment, not several minutes later.

The Art of the Concession

As voting continues and it becomes apparent that Joe Biden has won the presidential election, it has me curious how the current president will handle his concession speech. In recent history, you only have Bush and Carter as sitting presidents who lose an election. Were they gracious? Why not listen and find out.


George Bush, 1992

Jimmy Carter also lost as a sitting president. His speech is here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?418299-1/president-jimmy-carter-concession-speech

Classy guys Carter and Bush. What about people who lost without ever being president?

Bob Dole, 1996

The best version of John McCain’s concession speech is via a link: https://www.azcentral.com/videos/news/politics/arizona/2018/08/28/john-mccains-2008-concession-speech/1120835002/

Things change when you have Boomers (my go-to for pounding on dead horses).

John Edwards starts it with nothing conciliatory. Kerry is statesmanlike but his comments that there must be healing with the election over suggest different feelings from other candidates who have lost.

Hillary Clinton after her 2016 loss

While offered calmly, Clinton notes divisions are deeper and that “I still believe in America” in insinuation that her opponent does not (whether she was correct or not is a different issue and irrelevant to concession speeches).

To be fair, not all Boomers are ingracious. Romney’s speech and many of his actions after his 2012 loss suggest he would’ve been a good president, one of integrity and morality.

Nixon’s concession, 1960…best after the 4:50 mark

Nixon was screwed out of the election. Listen to his reaction. He’s gracious to his opponent.

Then you have McGovern who lost in 1972 in the middle of social upheaval.

McGovern, 1972 concession

Since George mentions Adlai Stevenson…, here’s his:

1952 concession…

Kind, gracious words for the person who beat him (Ike)…and “It’s tradition to close ranks among Americans once an election is decided.”

And in finding these, turns out someone’s aggregated a bunch of presidential concessions speeches. They are on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xsZvY9op9l0

The only speeches with real hints of bitterness are those of 2000, 2004, and 2016…all Boomers. I suspect that 2020 will see a vindictive speech reeking of insincerity. Perhaps in 2024 we’ll make a final transition away from the Me Generation in power and maybe a return to the kinder gentler world of pre-1994 politics where we return to be Reagan’s shining city upon the hill.

Claiming Elections are Tainted–A Modern History

Really, the idea that elections have been stolen isn’t new, but accusations of it in American history are either really old (the first couple elections), the 1876 election–which was due to electoral shenanigans in Florida and a horrific compromise, and then the modern age.

Of course, there were shenanigans in 1960 when Kennedy defeated Nixon. There’s a good argument that those shenanigans cost Nixon the election but do you know anything about Nixon taking the issue to court? Nope.

While revisionist history suggests differently, most historians agree on what Nixon did. And that was? He did nothing. In the end, rather than send the election to the courts, Nixon went and congratulated Kennedy and told him he wouldn’t fight the results much to the relief of Kennedy (which put the US on course for a multitude of Kennedy disasters–Vienna, Vietnam, and his instigation of the Cuban Crisis).

Why didn’t Nixon fight when the evidence of tampering was pretty clear?

Because Nixon knew it would be a prolonged fight and that that would damage the system, throw the entire democratic process in doubt–something he felt the US could not afford to do in the middle of the Cold War with the authoritarian/communist Soviet Union. Nixon reasoned that there were always minor irregularities and it was possible some occurred on his behalf as well.

Nixon is known as a cold, calculating man, oft an opportunist, and yet in this instance–he put nation before self. It worked out for him eight years later when he was nominated by the Republicans again and won…with many people remembering his willingness to de-escalate in 1960 (thinking that that meant he’d be the man to de-escalate Vietnam and potentially begin reuniting the country…ahh, the foolishness of the Greatest Generation unaware of the terror their spawn would engender post-1994).

After Nixon, it was presumed that in future close elections that candidates would put the nation ahead of their own election and then…2000. Given the opportunity to do as Nixon did and back down, Gore gave in to pressure from within the Democratic Party and fought the election, forcing it to the Supreme Court where Gore lost the ruling–and set up the SCOTUS for the blame on the issue, pushing the Supreme Court further down the path of politicization.

And now we are in 2020, the day after an election that looks to be close enough in key states that a few thousand votes hold the fate of the nation in hand. The sad thing–both candidates have their finger over the red button, ready to escalate the fight to the courts.

In such a case–no one wins, certainly not the American system. Nixon avoided the courts to maintain the foundation of government, prevent doubt in the system and now, we have a president who has said for months that the election is illegitimate.

So when you disparage Nixon for everything he did wrong (it’s a long list by the way)–remember the things he did right as well…and remember that we’ve now had multiple elections 2000-onwards between the children of the Greatest Generation who consider the presidency a personal prize rather than a grave responsibility of service to 300,000,000+ Americans.

Family Memory (XII)

Growing up is unique for everyone. For me, I was short and scrawny (which leads to getting picked on quite a bit…). In 8th-9th grade, that changed. I gained a bunch of weight so I went from short and scrawny to short with a belly, so Mom had to go and buy me new pants since I couldn’t get into any of my others.

No more than a couple school weeks later, I get dressed, come down for breakfast, and Mom gives me that evil parent stank-eye. I had no idea why–I was just standing there. Clearly she figured I hadn’t paid attention to getting dressed and had put on an old pair of pants.

No–didn’t do that because the belly didn’t fit. The ones I had on though had a belly wide enough I needed a belt. She rolled her eyes, said “Bull shit” and told me to get real pants on. This confused me–because I HAD the new pants on. I told her that, so she got up, walked over to me and pointed out that the pants only came down to my ankle bone. I reiterated these were the new pants and they were loose to boot, so she grabbed my pants, tugged on the back (Moms, right?) and looked at the tag, uttering a line she picked up from my Grandma, “I’ll be shit.”…except Grandma always said ‘I be shit.’ with a more German conjugation.

See, I was wearing the new pants. I’d been sore for a few days and was told it was probably the flu. Nope–growing pains. In the space of a couple weeks, I grew 3-4 inches and all that pudge on my belly was gone…burned in growing me upwards (the pudge is back now to be fair). Over the course of that school year, I grew about six inches, going from a shorty to the tallest in my class.

I thought of that today when I sat down and my warm-up pants rose up over my ankles. I grew so fast in that week or so, I have ‘stretch marks’ scarred into my skin from how fast I grew that year. Makes me feel like a tree.

The Confederacy, the 1960s, and the Modern GOP

For purposes of this blog, the ‘modern GOP’ is defined as 1994 when the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives. It is a key point because modern history shows that is the point where politics go from collegiate to confrontation. It is opinion, but I believe the transition to the Baby Boomers in control of Congress and the presidency is what helped set us on course for the antagonistic policies of today.

Worse, the Republican ‘southern strategy’ of the 1970s wooed white Democrats in the south away from their traditional Democratic allegiance–a change they were willing to make politically given the failure to prevent the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and most other “liberal” policies from that era (on up through Roe v. Wade…which isn’t what people think it is anyways)

Thus, the Democratic Party, the party that was once the lobbying arm of slaveholders and then segregationists, changed as it shed its leaders to the Republican Party, transforming the GOP into the party it fought a Civil War to defeat (1861-1865), fought to transform in Reconstruction (1866-1876), and then much later, fought to force the beginning of integration against.

Is it true though? Has the Republican Party been co-opted into truly being the party of the Confederacy and the Redeemers? Might as well check numbers, right?

First–former Confederate states account for roughly 1/3 of the current population of the United States. That means we should expect about 1/3 of positions to be held by those people (yes, simplistic since many GOP politicians have no interest in representing the interests of many of their state’s population). So though we expect 1/3 of the spots to be held, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for that to be as high as 1/2 (50%) since I’m choosing a point where someone from Georgia becomes Speaker of the House as the jump-off point.

So:

Republican House Whips:
7 years Illinois
19 years former CSA states

Speaker of the House:
8 years Illinois (ended involuntarily)
8 years other Union states (none from out west)
4 years CSA

Senate Party Leadership:
26 years, former CSA states

Senate Whip:
18 years CSA
2 years Great Plains
6 years southern/not part of CSA [Arizona]

73% CSA – House Whip
20% CSA – House Party Leader
69% CSA – Senate Whip
100% CSA – Senate Party Leader

Considering that the former CSA states make up roughly 33% of the US population…yes, the GOP has been taken over by the Confederacy’s rich white elite.

Now, what do we have for Democratic leadership 1994-present

Democrat House Whips:
20 years Union states (including Maryland which was pro-slavery in the 1860s and is sometimes considered southern)
6 years CSA

Speaker of the House:
6 years Union state (two separate stints by Nancy Pelosi – CA; the last southern leader’s stint ended in 1989)

Senate Party Leadership:
4 year Union
10 years Great Plains
12 years Wild West

Senate Whip:
16 years Union States
6 years CSA
4 years Wild West

So for the Democrats, we have:

23% CSA – House Whip
0% CSA – House Party Leader
23% CSA – Senate Whip
0% CSA – Senate Party Leader

Basically, as the GOP was taken over by the old Confederacy, the Democratic Party changed its leadership, shifting it away from Southern control (and yes, the Democratic leadership changes are a response to the initial GOP one).

I don’t necessarily have much to conclude–but it is without question that the southern white aristocracy controls the Republican Party.

The Value of a Point and the Consequences of This Info

Social media is a tool, for better or worse. We see the ‘worse’ on a regular basis but forget the positive. The positive is important here.

Through social media, I wound up having some conversations with Australian volleyball coach, Mark Lebedew who also coaches professional volleyball in Poland. Knowing he likes to ask questions, take possibilities to the breaking point (sort of volleyball deconstruction), I asked him a bit of a math-y question. He couldn’t answer it. Instead, he put me in touch with math/data/science expert Ben Raymond and his ‘Science Untangled’ website (untan.gl). It’s important to be aware that Ben did the heavy-lifting on the math for this project.

The premise starts with a baseball paradox. Assertion #1 is “All wins count the same.” Completely true. Assertion #2 is “Wins in the last weeks of the season are more important than previous wins.” This can also be true. If two teams are tied for 1st place and playing each other on the last day of the season, that game is critical.

Think about this with volleyball. All points are equal, but would you rather score a point trailing 19-5 or score the next point when trailing 24-23? Equal, but not equal.

Since points have different values at different points–what does that do to our thinking about what ‘crunch time’ really is? Shouldn’t we define ‘crunch time’ based on the importance of the current score to its chances on affecting the final outcome of the match? Are we training properly maximize our chances at key moments?

And what about the much-maligned worthlessness of timeouts? Timeouts are widely believed to have no real outcome on a volleyball set’s end outcome. Is that because timeouts are useless–or is it because they are not being called at high-leverage moments when the outcome of the game CAN be decided with a team huddle and discussion of the coaches with the players. There’s a second bit that comes with that. If 24-23 is the key point in a set, how often do you call timeout as the serving team? How often do you call timeout when your team is serving in any event? (I’ve asked that of four D1 head coaches and they do not recall the last time, if ever, they’ve done that…on my end, I did it five times last year–about 4% of my timeouts…and you’re reading that thinking I’m radical for those five TOs). I think research may show that 4% isn’t radical–that it’s radically low and that timeouts should be called by the serving team’s coach much, much higher than that.

In any event, that’s the premise. You can find the full article with the math and heat charts at https://untan.gl/point-value.html

By the way, if you think this is valuable, consider sharing your information and ideas. Consider helping people who provide this stuff to grow the game by hitting the follow button on their blogs. And finally–use the positive power of social media to reach out to other coaches and thinkers–share your wild ideas…because sometimes crazy ideas may lead to wild thoughts that turn out to have value.

Practical Notes on Practicing in Masks

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about what our athletic department is doing to make sports possible during a pandemic. We had some early bumps–I suspect most programs paying attention do.

He was made fun of for it, but Donald Rumsfeld talked of ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ and that the real danger was the ‘unknown unknowns’. It may sound silly–but he is correct. We are at a time when a ton of stuff is unknown and trying to cover as many contingency possibilities as possible is tiring for everyone involved.

Anyways, we’ve been able to practice for the past month. Three weeks ago, my assistant and I decided that we would follow stricter rules than what our school issued regarding masks and began working towards 100% masks, 100% of the time. We got some eye rolls, got some ‘that’s not possible’ as well–but with a couple people I noted “Marines are wearing them for their training all day in 90-degree heat, 90% humidity…we can’t do this for two hours?”

We built up gradually over the course of a week. We could’ve done it instantly, but we took it gradually–there was no need in causing tension. The objective was to get to the point of 100% masks.

DAY 1: Worn during stretching/warmups (15-20 minutes)
DAY 2: Stretching, warmups, low-intensity work (45 minutes)
DAY 3: As Day 2, but substituting high-intensity for the low (45 minutes)
DAY 4: Stretching, warm-ups, low-intensity, and all 6v6 activity (75-90 minutes)
DAY 5: Full practice with the exception of a final, high-paced, high-intensity drill at the end (nearly 120 minutes)

By the next week, we were wearing them full-time.

It would be great if athletes had two masks/day–they do get a bit damp with condensation as we near the end of practice.

The first day or two, athletes pulled at their masks and straps. After that, they haven’t been a lot of problems. Some masks slip during play (not pulled down–real slips) and the kids forget to pull them back up without a reminder. Not a biggie. If we get a situation where they are sucking air from a drill, they walk to an unused portion of the gym, pull the mask down for 30-60 seconds, then come back with the mask up. This seems to work.

The real issue is volume. It is surprising in reality (no matter how much I understand it intellectually) to realize how much a mask muffles sound. I’m loud, I can project, but in a mask, I cannot be understood at the far end of our gym regardless of my enunciation or projection. It just isn’t possible. We’re spending extra time repeating things than we usually do–initially I did think it was ‘focus’, but by Day Three, we knew better. –If projection is necessary, I back way the heck away from everyone, do it, then put the mask up. I don’t think having the mask down for conversations at under 30-40 feet is necessary.

It is impossible to have an ‘intimate’ talk with 16 athletes and 2 coaches while following social-distancing. I think it’s going to be impossible to follow proper guidelines during a timeout. The best we can do to keep people relatively close while following distancing protocols makes me feel like a quarterback surveying a football defense.

We don’t assign spots in the formation, but when we line up, we have a couple hard-of-hearing and they get to be front and center. The formation takes up pretty much one side of a volleyball court. I’m not sure how we’re going to do timeouts like this–definitely won’t be any secrets between the two benches since there won’t be noise from fans…

Hope it helps.

On my end–if it helped, consider hitting “FOLLOW” for the blog here or finding the Dietz Foundation on Facebook and social media and giving it a like. That’s my non-profit dedicated to helping create better classes and give a boost to people entering the teaching profession.

“Fake News” / spin rate

This isn’t a political post–it isn’t intended to be that way at least. This is meant to be historical in nature, along the lines of High Crimes and Misdemeanors and Impeachment (a blog post without partisanship).

The world today is filled with people hurling insults and terms without really knowing what they mean. Antifa is another of those. Accusations of being Nazi/fascist/socialist/communist or the dreaded “liberal” are everywhere (and let’s not even go into the fact that liberal and conservative aren’t actually opposites…).

One of the terms that gets thrown out there regularly is ‘fake news’, most often an accusation that comes from the political right along with the implication that mainstream media has a ‘liberal’ bias and therefore posts lies and fabrications to promote a specific agenda. In return, the other side of the spectrum hurls similar accusations at Fox News for its biases even as it proclaims to be telling the truth/reporting the facts as they also deny a bias in regular media forms.

So is there truth in there? What happened over the past twenty years to change journalism and news coverage, to remove the objectivity that we all ‘know’ existed before that point?

The reality–media is biased. Media has an agenda. It always has.

This is also not necessarily a bad thing.

Before the American Revolution, community leaders would publish pamphlets using pseudonyms touting a specific point of view. These would be posted at the city/town center on bulletin boards (pretty much where that term came from) for people to read or hear read aloud. These were not necessarily factual–they were meant to persuade, to stretch the truth. This is a lower-technology version of modern day social media.

It doesn’t get better later–in 1796, Adams accused Jefferson of intending to end slavery–at which point white women would all be raped by the freed slaves thus destroying the nation. Really. Did Jefferson take the high road? Heavens, no. Jefferson paid for a full page ad in the new nation’s largest newspaper; in it, he noted Mrs. Adams lived in Massachusetts, but John was always in New York and Philadelphia and always in the company of young boys…yes, Jefferson accused Adams of being a pedophile and homosexual…(see–not so different)

Southern newspapers lied about Lincoln’s intent if he was elected. When you think about this–you go “Of course, yeah…” The trick is to realize this went on before 1860 and has continued after.

William Hearst continued this with his yellow journalism, single-handedly stoking public opinion into the US provoking the Spanish American War of 1898. His version of the truth was…interesting, accepted as truth by many. Horace Greeley had done that previously, too.

Upton Sinclair researched meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses–it caused an outrage, but his journalism was wedged into thirty pages inside a book meant to promote socialism in the United States much like Frank Norris’ McTeague turned into a book supporting licensure for dentists/doctors when it was really about unchecked greed for income/wealth.

In World War One, American papers helped turn opinion against the Germans. Why? Could it have to do with most European news being provided by English telegraph/phone wires? Could it have been extra money funneled to newspapers from private English businessmen?

Even something like Pearl Harbor was spun for a certain view. The attack was a surprise and technically undeclared due to cryptology problems at the Japanese embassy in Washington…but it wasn’t really a surprise because the US military had already received orders to be on alert for an attack–the problem was they assumed the attack would come in the Philippines rather than at Pearl Harbor. In December, 1941, there was no reporting of American mistakes in this regard nor of the American executive actions which forced Japan into the attack (the embargo and freezing of Japanese funds in American-owned banks).

There are hundreds, thousands of these examples. One of the more famous was Walter Cronkite declaring the Vietnam War as lost after the Tet Offensive of 1968. No one called that fake news and yet–history shows that the United States dominated the situation, wiping out the Viet Cong and stymieing NVA incursions simultaneously. Tet was a great American victory–not a defeat. The media made it a defeat…fake news in action.

So why all of the hullabaloo today then?

Because it has been decades since media fragmented, where anyone who wanted to rant could in a public forum. For a century, that was a small group of journalists and reporters. Today–you can have your own blog up and running in five minutes. What we really have is not something new, but a return to what was ‘normal’ for the American colonies as well as the first 100-120 years of the United States.

The solution is simultaneously easy and difficult. When reading, consider the source and where you read it. Print and television have high standards they are required to meet in order to avoid libel/slander charges; those standards do not exist for internet-only sources. Internet-only sources can lie and distort to a much greater degree than established media currently. Always wonder what the goal is of the author and the publication–and just because you disagree with it, does not make it inaccurate or ‘fake news’. You should always think what the purpose of an article or column is–are you reading something intended as reporting or as an editorial/opinion (again, easier to determine with print rather than electronic media). Easy.

Except it isn’t. It requires critical thinking to do this. It requires a willingness to question your own values. Critical thinking, reading to critique requires active thinking–it’s hard work. It is also something rarely taught in schools now which is what makes this very difficult to implement as a solution.

If confronted with cries of ‘fake news’, ask the other person if they know the difference between factual reporting and opinion. Ask how they have come to their conclusion and why they trust the sources they are citing–and don’t let them off with providing a wishy-washy answer. Demand intellectual accountability. If we do this, eventually we’ll get through this silly-season. Of we don’t, Idiocracy will turn out to have been a documentary.