Fascism: An authoritarian government, normally right-wing, relying on nationalism and rigid social organization to maintain a select group in power. In all cases, fascism is opposed to classical liberalism which fascists will usually equate with either anarchism or (post-1917) with Marxism.

Marxism is a different story–and should not be seen automatically as a synonym for “Soviet”. There’s a big difference between Marxism and Leninism and a chasm between Leninism and Stalinism (which IS basically the USSR’s version of fascism).

In any event, fascism was and is popular with many without realizing they support an ideology which will eventually destroy their freedom. Introduced in Italy in the 1920s, the Fascists promoted order and a better economy–and provided it. Fascism is a big part of what National Socialism became (the Nazis)–the Nazis promised economic improvement, a return to respect/repudiation of Versailles, law and order/defeat of the Communists–and provided it. In Japan, post-1918, the military took over the government, strangled civilian interference as it geared towards a war economy, using nationalism to promote war with China (which is why World War Two should really be considered as going 1931-45…too often Americans and the West think Europe-first and look to Hitler’s invasion of Poland on 9/1/39 as the start of hostilities).

So, the question is–do you stand with Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, et al? No? Then congratulations, you’re ‘antifa’–anti-fascist. Don’t believe everything you hear or read about terms. You may be surprised by digging deeper–for instance, what the heck does ‘high crimes and misdemeanors‘ mean? Is the 2nd Amendment meant to secure liberties or suppress them?

Anyways–back to fascism’s characteristics for a moment. Fascists have certain things they support. Where do you fit on this?

  1. Democracy fails to provide order. It is unstable with the constant elections and switches of who controls the levers of power.
  2. The Chief Executive should have the final word on what government policy is, unconstrained by a legislature.
  3. Exercising power/seeming forceful will lead to ‘national rejuvenation’. (I put that in quotes–not my term, it is from a 1990s textbook, but it SURE LOOKS like ‘Make America Great Again’, doesn’t it?)
  4. Free trade is for schmucks. The nation should be self-sufficient.
  5. Foreigners, those who ‘do not share our values’ are dangerous. Immigration should be curtailed.
  6. Economic inequality is not bad. It shows the natural superiority/inferiority of those individuals.
  7. Military force should be used domestically to insure order.
  8. State/regional governments exist to carry out the will of the national chief executive and his desired policies.
  9. Reverence for symbols of the nation and use of the flag, the military, and past heroes to promote stability and furtherance of the Chief Executive’s policies.

Interesting, huh? The issue of representative government vs. authoritarian rule is nothing new–it was the basis of the American Revolution. Those revolutionaries fought against centralized power, believing the more power concentrated in one place or a select few hands, the more corruption would occur, the less government would reflect the people and their needs (this was known as Whig ideology). Franklin observed that those who give up their essential liberty for the sake of security, wind up with neither. Look at the increased use of executive orders, changing where budget item funding goes without Congress doing anything to intervene–we near the point where DC, the president and Congress are the 21st century London, King George III, and Parliament.

So, if you get accused of being Antifa as a pejorative, you’re in good company. If they were alive, these guys would be on your side:

  • Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Bill Sherman
  • George W., T.J., and James Madison
  • FDR–along with every Republican he defeated
  • Dwight Eisenhower, whether as SHAEF commander or President of the United States
  • Elulard Luchell McDaniels known as “El Fantastico” (along with James Peck, Patrick Roosevelt, and Paul Williams)
  • Winston Churchill
  • Anthony Eden
  • Josephine Baker (yes, that Josephine Baker)
  • students of the White Rose

Look, the list goes on…including pretty much every man who took part in Overlord in Europe or the Marines’ island campaign in the Pacific or the Army fighting north through New Caledonia and the Philippines. It includes men like Carter and Reagan who fought the Cold War against the Soviets, who tried to put American ideals at the forefront, to show what this nation is capable of being–not perfect, but always striving for greatness and to live up to the premise ” We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Be antifa. It’s the most American thing ever.

Family Memory (XI)

Back in 1976, we had a big family vacation.  I went with my mom and sister, Papa and Grandma Haas, and my Uncle Karl’s family and we rented a cabin up in Canmore, Alberta.  Back then Canmore was a secluded place with roughly 1,500 people.  And then Calgary got the Olympics…and Alberta found shale oil.  Today Canmore is nearing 15,000 people.  The place we stayed (and where Julie and I stayed on our honeymoon) are now condos for rich people.

It was rainy today (not necessarily when I finally publish this) and since it is spring, my thoughts turn to baseball and the combination made me think back to that trip.

When I was a kid, I took my ball and glove everywhere.  You can play catch in a motel parking lot or a deserted road–like the one that ran through those cabins where we were.  To the west of them was a line of mountains (I can’t remember their names).  It made for awesome sunsets.  Those mountains would force clouds to climb up and over and that took time, so that they didn’t move fast once they were on the eastern side where we were.

So one afternoon after we’d finished sight-seeing, I convinced my grandfather to play catch with me.  Rain was expected so we weren’t going to be going anywhere else and he said yes.  He was always happy to play catch with me–basically because I was the favorite grandchild (for family members reading this–it’s true, don’t hate).   We went out and started throwing west-east with his back to the mountains as the clouds came over the mountain range.  The clouds moved so slow.

We played catch as they reached the highway–the clouds moving a couple steps of space per minute–and under those clouds, it was a downpour.  Where we stood, it was still sunny.  Every few minutes we’d move a little further to the east until the road started to bend to the north-south.  At that point we started playing catch north-south until the rains reached the edge of that road.

And then we walked inside, perfectly dry having enjoyed a nice game of catch under sunny skies.

That’s it.  No big moral, really.  Just an awesome hour with my grandfather that has stuck with me now for nearly 44 years.

Critical Friends, Colleagues, and ‘Yes Men’

This may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t have a ton of close friends.  Apparently, there’s a limited demand for associating with people who pretty much tell you directly what they are thinking–and give concrete reasons for it.  Go figure.

With this friend-thing, I’m good with the limited number .  I suspect they feel the same way–better to have close friends who call it like they see it.  Thinking about it, it’s probably why I’ve been friends with most of them for 30+ years now.  We don’t get to see one another often, but when we do–we pick up right where we left off the last time we got together.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world honestly.

**So would you consider checking out my book?  It’s under $5.00(!) and you’ll get 27 essays on coaching–all told to you straight!**

I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a couple of good athletic directors (Matt Hensley, Ron Riggle) who are that same way–I knew/know exactly where I am with them.  At Allen in Kansas, the AD was in Iraq, but the school president was as good to work for as Matt and Ron (and the fill-in AD, Randy).  Always the same thing–they tell you exactly where things stand; it makes life so much easier as a coach.

I’ve felt that way about assistant coaches as well.  I’ve tried to have coaches helping who are confident in giving their ideas–and keep giving them even if I don’t implement them.  They haven’t always been bad ideas–they just don’t fit with what I’m thinking in the moment.  Sometimes they can’t be worked in during the competitive season, so we come back and experiment with them in spring–evaluate their usefulness for the next season.

If you don’t accept criticism or critical analysis of what you do, how can you expect to get better?  This isn’t just a coaching/teaching thing–it’s frustrating to watch politics.  There’s no effort to do things better, there’s a happiness to do nothing but argue in an effort to ‘win’ (whatever that means).

Do you accept criticism?  How do you deal with change?

For me, I’m pretty good with it (I think).  Usually.  At least in terms of my coaching.  When I sat to write this, I reflected back on the past 23 years of being a head coach–I’ve mentioned before that last year was 30 years in volleyball for me, a big anniversary I guess.  So how have I changed/dealt with feedback?

  1. Started emphasizing the importance of off-court leadership development in HS athletes.
  2. Reduced my ‘yelling’.
  3. Changed HS camps for more ‘fun’ based on comments from a team captain
  4. Changed from drill-oriented, block practices to game-like.
  5. Permit music.
  6. Explain less, let kids play more.
  7. Changed our serving ‘system’
  8. Changed our defense.
  9. Adjusted team rules based on athlete feedback.
  10. Have created some stuff for team-bonding–some on-court related, some not.

So there are ten things right off the top of my head.  Some of them are big changes.  I don’t think it’s coincidence that #7 and #8 came in 2015 and helped start our run of qualifying for Nationals.  #4 and #9 came with 2012…that was the first year we made Nationals in school history.  The others?  Well, they just make life in the gym more pleasant or helped transform young athletes in to better adults.

The catch is–have a reason for your adjustments.  Don’t make them as knee-jerk reactions or ‘change for change’s sake’.  You have to have a logic if they are to be effective.  If they’ve been suggested to you, it also helps if you ask why the other person feels that way, how they came to believe their suggestion is a good one (and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES BELITTLE THEIR IDEA–because it takes a lot of courage to go to your boss and suggest a change in how things work).

If you’re not the person in charge, you have to have the courage to tell your head coach what you think and be able to give your reasons–but also remain respectful if your information isn’t used.  That’s tough to accept–that after you give an answer and explanation, your head coach decides to go in a different direction.  You HAVE to do it though–a good head coach does not want or need ‘yes men’.  A good head coach wants to hear well-reasoned ideas whether  about playing time, drill ideas, or scouting reports.  Be confident with your colleagues!

If this sort of stuff interests you with classroom education rather than on a volleyball court, I have a second blog over at the Dietz Foundation.  There’s no charge for reading things over there either!


The US National Anthem

I wrote a blog post quite a while back on the Anthem and how it was selected. We chose poorly, actually choosing the worst of them all. This was a political decision, given that one of the choices was written by somebody *gasp* Jewish. The one selected also tacitly/implicitly endorsed slavery which was important during the post-Wilson 1920s with Southern writers and the Daughters of the Confederacy rewriting American history.


Well, I’m all about learning. I got to listen to a song titled ‘Lift Every Voice’ that is usually referred to as the ‘Black National Anthem’, often as a way to dismiss the song or make the song seem political. So I went a-lookin’. I had no idea the song was written in the early 1900s. Hearing it, listening to the lyrics, it absolutely should have been considered for the anthem. While it may be meant for black Americans, it’s message is universal, whether black, white, born here, or immigrant.

If you haven’t heard it, it’s well worth four minutes of your life:

Here are the lyrics:

Lift every voice and sing / Till earth and heaven ring / Ring with the harmonies of Liberty ;let our rejoicing rise / High as the list’ning skies / Let it resound loud as the rolling seas / A song full of faith that the dark past has taught us / Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us / Facing the rising sun of our new day begun / Let us march on till victory is won / Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast’ning rod / Felt in the day that hope unborn had died / Yet with a steady beat ,have not our weary feet, come to the place on which our fathers sighed? / We have come over a way that with tears has been watered We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last / Where the white gleam of our star is cast.

It’s not quite La Marseilles, O Canada, or Der Deutschlandlied, but it’s up there. (Those are the three greatest national anthems, followed by the Russian-Soviet one)

And then you have the current anthem, written by Francis Scott Key who supported slavery and was brother-in-law to Roger Taney, SCOTUS Chief Justice responsible for the Dred Scott decision:

Oh, say, can you see? By the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air.
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In fully glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution!
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. We love it so much, I think you do too.

Isn’t it obvious which is musically better?

“Lift Every Voice” has no chance of being adopted as a national anthem now. The fact it is labeled as ‘Black National Anthem’ means people hate it just for that subtitle. It’s a pity. It would’ve been a much better alternative (like the other anthems in the linked blog post) to the Star Spangled Banner.

Specialization and the distortion of sport

I don’t know what I believe on this, by the way.  Some of this, I guess, is observation, some opinion, maybe some fact.

“Does specialization actually help a sport or does it distort it?”

Since I love baseball and it should be discussed year-round like volleyball, I’ll use it as my starting point…

In baseball, teams used to put a lineup out there and play.  There’d be a starting rotation and then another 4-5 other pitchers to throw when the first pitcher stunk or there was an injury.  But then things changed, especially in the last half of the 20th century.  Some of the changes:

  1. IF and OF would shift depending on who the hitter was, leading to the extreme Ted Williams shift created by Lou Boudreau–that’s the one you see now with only one guy covering half the field.
  2. Great defensive players who are poor batters would come in at the end of a game when that slot wouldn’t be hitting again if the hitter was a poor defender.
  3. Fast guys would pinch-run for basecloggers in situations just like #2.
  4. Batters began platooning–facing only starting pitchers of the opposite hand.
  5. Pitchers started coming in to relieve more often–matching the hand of the person at-bat.
  6. They decided pitch counts prevented injuries, so pitchers throw less, so they can throw harder, making poor hitters worse, etc.

You even have situations with ‘designated catchers’–guys who only catch specific pitchers, you had the creation of the DH in 1973 for guys who couldn’t field at all, and you’ve had roster expansion to bring more men on to the roster in these specialized roles.  Long ago, for relievers you had: long, short.   Then it became: fireman, middle, short.  Then it became stopper, fireman, middle, LOOGY, long.  After that, closer, short, middle, LOOGY, long, and ‘one-inning only’.  LOOGY=Lefty One Out GuY.

Has any of this made the game better?  Or has it distorted it?  There are few high average hitters, almost no contact hitters, and burners like a Rickey Henderson or Tim Raines–not a single one in the majors right now.  Heck,  I think Rickey had more steals in his best season than any American League team had last year. [Check:  Incorrect.  The highest team was Cleveland with 135.  Henderson’s best was 130.  …I thought it was 140.]  Baseball has become about ‘three true outcomes’–walk, strikeout, homerun.  But is that better?

It has certainly limited the major leagues to a certain type of athlete–if you are not massive, you’re not reaching the big time. Are there exceptions? Sure–but the first name you’ll give is Jose Altuve and the fact we’ll all name the same exception shows how rare this has become because at the end of the last century, you can run off successful short players like Puckett, Morgan, Patek, and Rollins…even throw in Eckstein if you feel like it. On the ‘stocky’ side of things, you’re limited to Pablo Sandoval and Bartolo Colon now. It’s unlikely someone shaped like a Boog Powell could get to the majors now. Anyways, just a couple examples of the point.

So—what about volleyball?  Obviously you can’t see me writing–but there’s a big delay in here.  There’s an existential/existence ‘crisis’ within U.S. volleyball right now–is the sport becoming too specialized? Not just by position, but by sport variations…I mean, you have: beach, beach doubles, beach fours, sitting, and indoor.  With beach doubles/fours, you’ve got men’s/women’s/co-ed stuff going on.  Indoor–you have the gender breakdowns, but then you also have the metric rules used by the entire world and the imperial rules used by US high school teams.

The rules for each are different, meaning that the emphasized skills are also different.  Someone who plays baseball can certainly play softball…but there are multiple versions of each of those sports out there (Chicago has an infatuation for 16″ softball and out east there’s a baseball league playing with 19th century rules–other than throwing at a runner and nailing him equaling an out).

Back to regular specialization…US volleyball permits so many substitutions, there’s no incentive for teaching all skills to all players. The emphasis becomes taking the best passers and making them better passers and the best hitters and making them better hitters. In girls volleyball, when is the last time you saw a middle hitter remain in the game to play back row? How often do you see an OPP remain in to play back row when they are a big, tall hitter? At the college level, this doesn’t really change. A MH who can pass is removed from the MH to play left or right side. Outside hitters who are not 6’4 are shifted to play defensive specialist or libero. (If I recall, there was a club program…KIVA??…that had 5 of its 7 regulars a few years ago become college liberos because none of the were taller than 5’10).

If the objective of youth sports is to increase participation and promote physical fitness–does specialization promote this or make those goals more difficult?

I think within club volleyball and college volleyball (other than perhaps NCAA D3), the solution is to switch to the rules the rest of the world uses with limited substitutions. This would promote skill balance. It would also mean smaller teams–which leads to resistance because smaller teams means le$$ $upport and other con$ideration$. It also requires more coaches–which would mean a better infrastructure for coach education and a conscious effort of club administrators to rein in the behavior of parents who drive young coaches (and referees) away from the sport.

High school VB (and possiblly D3) is different. The objective is participation and a positive experience. The solution to balanced skills noted above doesn’t work as well with high schools where teams already have 15 people per roster on their varsity, JV, and fresh-soph teams. While it’s feasible and easily done to create additional travel teams–there’s no easy way of adding additional HS teams. Is it better at the HS level to have 15 on a team with liberal substitutions or with international rules? How many of those 15 quit if there becomes NO chance of getting in a match? –and that’s *important*. Some coaches will say ‘you shouldn’t play for playing time anyways’ but the reality is that’s a component…the chance to play and there are already coaches gung-ho to cut HS ‘deadweight’ to maximize competitive potential…no way those kids will stick around with reduced subs.

This is all a bit rambly, but I think it’s an important thing to consider. There are broader implications for specialization beyond the realm of sports. Specialized History Classes are one example. So it comes back to certain things:

  1. Why do you coach?
  2. What is the objective of the sport at the level you coach at?
  3. What promotes long-term interest in volleyball?

and the most important one:

4. Are the decisions we reach as adults, are we doing what is in the best interests of the kids?

Family Memory Aggregation I->X

Just a listing of the family memory stuff so far…a couple that didn’t get numbered are in here, too…so 12 links!

Moving in to College, AUG. 1985
Little Kid Profanity, Thump, Dammit, Dammit
Skipping School with Eric / Cubs Opening Day, 1984
Saving my Grandfather’s Life, MARCH 1945
Dad and College Orientation, JUNE 1985
Love and my Great-Uncle Don and Great-Aunt Evie
Where the Iron Crosses Grow, APRIL 6-7, 1941
Uncle Karl being macho
Mrs. Phelan’s Wedding Gift, 7/25/93
My Grandfather’s Visitation and a Secret Story
Mom going back to college
Great-Opa KO-ing Kronprinz Wilhelm

Family Memory (X): College Move-In, 8/85

Thirty-five years ago this week, I left for college. Definitely interesting as a 17-yr old coming from a small school, having dealt with horrible teachers. Today’s a big day, the last day before my youngest son heads off to college. It got me reflecting. I still remember it from my perspective–but since I’m labeling this a family memory, there’s more to it…

The night before, I think everyone was busy packing or had already moved in. The only person who hadn’t yet that I remember was Steve Schenkelberg. We went to a movie–wound up being a timeless one: Real Genius…still a great movie and by my sophomore year, I was on a floor of Chris Knights.

When the movie was over, Steve dropped me off at home and I watched ESPN. Pete had fallen asleep already, Mom got home from work around 1130pm, I talked with her for a bit, then went to bed. I fell asleep quickly, but I was awake early.

There was so much stuff put into the ugly blue Fairmount station wagon. Pete driving, Mom up front, me in the back seat…with the rest of the back crammed. And looking back, I needed about none of that stuff. All I really needed was a couple sets of bedding, a week’s worth of clothes, a backpack, and a typewriter (think ‘laptop’ if you’re a youngin’). Nah, I brought a footlocker and a duffel bag of stuff along with a suitcase. All sorts of unessential crap. Oh, well.

I don’t remember much of the trip up–whether I read a book, stared out the window. I wasn’t nervous at that point, but I remember the car was quiet. There wasn’t a lot of conversation and in hindsight, that’s how I know my mom was feeling really emotional. Reflection is inevitably 20/20.

On arrival, we had to figure out where to park with hundreds of other people moving in. Damn, Wallace Hall was huge. My high school had less than fifty kids. Wallace, part of the Towers Residence Halls, was ten floors with 60-66 (depending on overflow occupancy) people on each floor. That’s more than 600 people in the building–which was attached to Wilson Hall and its 600+ people…and Wallace-Wilson was an easy baseball throw from the other two towers, Knapp-Storms and their 1,200 students. There were more people on my floor (Lancelot) than grades 7-12 at my old high school.

It’s one thing to know that and another to open the car door in a sea of people and parents moving in along with veteran college students–and seeing a ten story building and a swarm of humanity. The chaos of waiting for elevators to move up…the hallways shaped like an H so it was so easy to get disoriented with which way to go, the smell of stale beer everywhere…pretty much part of the carpeting…a Towers’ tradition.

My room was 7312, tiny–and me part of three people in the room. Roger and Mohsin with Roger moving to a two-man a couple weeks later, replaced by Al who moved in from Friley’s temp housing. Skipping ahead, I remember that first night and the lights out–and seeing that someone had painted glow-in-the-dark stars and constellations on the stucco ceiling (that had been done in ’82…I know that because in October, the two guys who lived there showed up on a Friday night around midnight drunk wanting to see if the stars were still on the ceiling…they were; I wonder if they are still there now?).

I had the bottom bunk, my desk next to a window looking over at Wallace Hall. It took an hour to move in (waiting for the elevators was a big part of it). When things were moved in, it was time for my Mom and Pete to leave. There wasn’t anything else for them to do–and I was a college student now…no need for them to hang around. They were parents, being around them here felt uncool, awkward. Rather than insist on sharing a mid-afternoon meal or walking around campus, we hugged and they left.

The minute the ‘vator (using proper slang) doors with the dragon painting on it closed, I never felt more alone in my life. All the nerves and fear hit me in that moment. I went back to my room and…curled up in a nap. I was scared, not just nervous. How many people have teachers actively rooting for their failure when they go off to college? It sucks when those were your HS staff/teachers…

I got through it with a lot of calls home, a lot of letter-writing, and eventually making some new friends–thus my move to Westgate and Foster House/Real Genius-land in January, 1986. Like most kids suffering homesickness, I survived. I came out the other end of it all a better person.

I found out it was a rough ride home for my mom. I didn’t find that out until after she died, though. She didn’t want Pete to say anything to me, didn’t want to put a guilt trip on me. Apparently she’d been upset on the way up, too. When they got in the car, not even out of the Towers’ western parking lot, she broke down in tears. She cried all the way back to Davenport, unable to even have a conversation with Pete who, rightly, left her alone. At that point, she was ‘losing’ her oldest child. The house would be quieter, there’d be no bickering, no arguing, no ‘complaining’ at the amount of food I’d eat, no more weekend evenings (until college breaks) with 6-10 boys downstairs gaming and eating pizza. I guess she was pretty upset for several days–and yet, when I called home three times in my first four days of college, she let on none of this, not wanting to interfere with my college experience or growing up. God, I miss her.

So here we are, the day before Mike moves in to a dorm, scheduled for tomorrow morning. He doesn’t want to do anything special today, maybe watch TV this evening and pre-load the car for tomorrow morning. He’s ready, he’s excited, he’s nervous–and I know he’ll get hit by nerves the minute I leave.

Me? Mike’s the last to leave. With the first two, there were no tears or big emotions with moving in to college–that came earlier when they left to study abroad for a year. Because of VB, Julie drove each to the airport. I remember coming home from VB knowing Erick wouldn’t be there and being okay with that–until Mike, age 10 or so, started in with a lip quiver and tears because he missed his brother…at which point I joined him in missing Erick. With our daughter, it was easier–she was the second child. She’d seen how it works, we’d been through it before.

Mike though is different–he’s the last one. This is it and he isn’t studying overseas. He’s going straight to college, just like me 35 years ago and he’ll be fine. He’ll thrive especially once he gets to start training with the track team. He’s going to be a great adult. We’ll be fine, too, in a while, after we adjust to being Jim and Julie more than being Mom and Dad.

I wonder when Mom got used to me being away–did she just pretend I’d be back later and pretend that daily until things got better? I wonder when I’ll get used to Mike being gone.

Move in is an end and a start all at once. I wish my mom was around to share this, to understand I ‘get it’ now in a way I couldn’t back then.

Family Memory (IX): Learning to Swear

I’m not sure what brought this into my mind–but it’s worth sharing.

Back when the world was young and our youngest son was just 3 or 4, we were sitting around one spring day–we being me and Julie–I don’t know what we were doing but we were in that house’s living room.  Our daughter was too young to do anything other than eat, sleep, or poop, so she wasn’t involved.  From out towards the front door where there were stairs to the upper floor.

We heard a thump, another thump, then a thump-bump.  He was broadjumping down the stairs, then he’d run back up and repeat.  Well, the second or third time he did this, we heard him making an exclamation with each jump.

Thump.  “Dammit!”
Thump. “Dammit!”
Thump-bump-bump. “Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

Now–do you say something or let it go?  It’s hard to be stern while you’re hiding a smirk or giggle.  We didn’t say anything, but Julie did make the comment that he must have picked it up from my mom and step-father.   Yeah, maybe.  They used profanity, but they’d always taken pains to avoid using it where he could hear–they knew how little kids are sponges with EVERYTHING they hear.

A couple days later, he’s in our front room, still out by the front door, playing with some Transformers…maybe it was Power Rangers…I mean, it’s been 20+ years now.  So once again, we’re a room away doing whatever.  This time he’s a bit louder.  “Where the HELL is Optimus Prime?”  “Where the HELL is the Blue Ranger?”  “Where the HELL is the dump truck?”

And again, we said nothing–no need to point out behavior that will likely disappear on its own.  It’s a kid imitating adults, nothing more.  But Mrs. Dietz was not happy–and again emphasized for me her concern over my mom’s language around our son.  So I did what you do in that situation–I called my mom.

I told her the concern about language, what he was doing.  My mom was not amused.  She gave me one of those hurt-mom speeches, that she wouldn’t cuss in front of him, that she knew we didn’t want that and that she said she had not profaned in front of him and she was hurt that I accused her and my stepfather of doing just that.  Yeah, I felt guilty after that, but our son had been swearing and language in the household I grew up in did include four-letter words.

Julie’s still convinced at that point that it is my mom’s/stepfather’s fault and worried that when we took them up there later that summer for a week or so he could come back and mimic other colorful words (the ones running through YOUR mind right now).

Well, we head down to her parents for a weekend.  It’s nice and her dad goes out to the garage to grab some fishing stuff and work on the boat with the “help” of his grandson.  While I’m standing there and Julie’s standing there, he let’s loose with a “Where the HELL is my second fishing pole?”  I gave Julie a look–and you know the sort of look…the sort that can get you hit by violent people.

Later, he was down in his home office, our son playing on the floor.  Want to guess?  You know it…he’s on the computer and let’s loose with a ‘Dammit!’

When we got back to Charleston, I called my mom (a good son, I’d call once a week regularly…this is before cell phones).  I told her.  Her response, “You should apologize to me for thinking I did that, dammit.”  The ‘dammit’ was intentional to rub in her point.  Hah–love my family!

Hard to believe that was 1997 or so.  It feels like yesterday, but it isn’t.  He’s as close to 50 now as he is to the age back then, my mom and stepfather have now been gone for years, and we haven’t lived in that house for 20 years.  Doesn’t stop a smile with this story though.

To Serve Man

No, this is not a cookbook.

Long ago when I was oh-so-young, I looked up to college coaches and administrators. These were people in charge of guiding young people from the end of childhood into adulthood, helping with the burden of being student-athletes (coaches) and making sure quality education was available for thousands of students every semester (administrators). Nothing destroys your naivete like being part of it.

It reminds me of something Bismarck reputedly said, “There are two things you should never see made: sausage and policy.”

In terms of prestige, others perceive me as near the bottom because I’m “only” a two-year college coach. It doesn’t matter the success or experience–where I work defines my status. If this post was written by Kevin Hambly, Jim Stone, or John Kessel, it’d be read by thousands–instead, if you’re reading it, you’re one of a few hundred. Perception is different than reality. Wherever you coach, you have young people in your charge. For me, I’ve got 12-18 kids and an assistant looking to me every day for assistance and decisions I feel will make them better VB players–and help them succeed with finding four-year schools and life after volleyball. The one difference? I have no Ops person, no team secretary (or strength coach, video coordinator, recruiting coordinator, 2nd assistant, etc), being a community college coach–you’re always busy.

Being busy (especially during 2-a-days), between practices, my assistant sometimes runs and grabs me food (I pay her back!) if she’s leaving campus between sessions. The problem is that after a week of this–or across multiple years–what begins as a favor from your assistant starts to feel obligatory, that getting food for the head coach is now part of the job description. You can understand the logic: he’s the head coach, ergo–do what he says. The assistant must do the plebian work because I, the head coach, have more important things to do (you may now kneel and kiss the rings).

This is BAD, horrible, unacceptable. Why? Because as coach, I am there to serve them. I work on behalf of the team. This is the opposite of something Mike Hebert argued–he said the players must do the work because he’s the coach, that the team is there for him. Nope. I strongly disagree. ANYTIME you are in a position of authority–teacher, military officer, business owner, minister, coach, you must remember your real purpose…to serve those who are entrusted to your care. Otherwise, you start to think you’re better than other people, that a D2 juco coach is better than a D3 juco coach, that being at a D1 juco makes you better than D2-3, just because the school is “D1” right on up to the silliness that NCAA > NAIA > two-year colleges.

I’m not innocent of thinking the wrong way. There are times I’ve put myself foremost, asked an assistant to do something I could have done for myself. It’s easy to do, easy to start down the path of letting favors become entitlement and then imperiousness. You must monitor yourself at all times to remember your duty: I am there to serve them.

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The thing is–this isn’t something that is limited to two-year college head coaches. Hopefully you are already thinking how this applies to your situation. This sort of self-evaluation regarding serving the team must happen at the high school level and four-year college level; there are petty tyrants everywhere across all sports. This isn’t just about coach-player relationships. This is abused within a staff and also between sports—-how often do you think a football coach will cooperate with another coach on scheduling or because the other coach has a valid point? There’s a pecking order in American athletics and woe be to the coach who stands up to it.

This continues up the chain of command. You see it with university departments, colleges within a university, and governing boards. Give a person a title like dean or director, let them have a police escort into the football game, meetings get rescheduled for a person when an outside complication comes up and–that feeds the ego! How many coaches or administrators put a check on adding privileges when they arise? How many say “Don’t give me a pay raise, give it to my assistants?” When’s the last time an administrator took a pay cut rather than see 4-5 custodians laid off? Somewhere, the definition of essential and important, the easy-to-rationalize ‘I deserve this because I work hard’ grabs hold. It’s a cancer. Eventually, those people take shortcuts, demand even more privilege, and they forget to follow the ethics and rules the system has in place–they no longer apply because ‘I’m important’.

How can you stop this? By constantly evaluating your own personal actions with a cold, hard, personal appraisal. Surround yourself with people of integrity. Don’t permit ‘yes men’ or sycophants to ride your coattails to their own cushy positions.

Think about that for more than a second! Look at how hires are handled in athletics–it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. That’s a red flag. That’s not ethical. Look at the limited number of minority hirings–it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and the ‘Old Boys Club’ is awfully selective with who they let in.

As a head coach–if your assistant gets you food. Down the road when you’re leaving the office, do likewise. If the secretary printed stuff off for you in a rush, grab stuff from the mail room for him/her if you go past there to save a trip later that day. Work with other coaches, help their teams if you can–scheduling, gym sharing, fundraising, community service, whatever. Have the courage to hold those above you to proper ethical standards.

Most importantly, keep yourself squared away. Remember what you should tell yourself daily: I serve them.

Practice Precautions for COVID

Volleyball coaches are wondering what to do in terms of trying to move forward with practices, both at the HS and college levels. I see this in multiple forums where the same question is getting asked repeatedly. That seems as good a reason as any to write up a blog.

This is the list of precautions we are taking for practices and matches (if people would just start wearing masks, taking precautions, and not being selfish bastards about their ‘rights’).

Before entering the facility:
1 – Coaches will check athletes’ temperatures. Over 100°F and they are not permitted in.
2 – They’ll fill out a questionnaire regarding symptoms–fever, cough, chest tightness, sore throat, fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, unexpected muscle aches, loss of smell/taste
3 – Each day they will be asked if they’ve been tested for COVID. If yes and the test is positive, 14 day quarantine and a negative test is required to return.
4 – Coach will report results to the athletic office immediately after completing the day’s testing.

If we do something outside rather than inside–practice STILL begins at the door with these daily checks.

Water breaks: Own personal water bottles required.
All doors which can be propped open will be to reduce the need to mutually touch surfaces.

Masks: Athletes will be provided multiple washable masks by the school (this may be difficult for a HS team’s budget)

There will be sanitizing supplies available for coaches–and coaches are responsible for sanitizing practice space before beginning (there will be a 15-minute extra space between practices for this to be done). Hand sanitizer bottles will be placed around the gym for easy and regular access of players.

One door to the gym is an entrance, another is the exit at the end of practice so finished/starting teams do not cross paths.

No showers.

Equipment will not be shared unless necessary (balls).
Social distancing will be maintained while instructions are given or play is stopped temporarily. Where practical, distance will be maintained during drills (such as multiple players waiting for their turn to participate)

Once players are in practice, they are not permitted to leave the gym for ANY reason other than injury or bathroom break.

ICE: The trainer will pre-prepare bags to be picked up from a cooler. The bag count will be determined at the start of practice.

The team will have its temperature checked before leaving (using daily procedure)

1 passenger per row (for us, 27 max passengers on the bus), alternating which side of the bus they siton.

Any stopping for meals will be done pickup/take out. No seated dining permitted.

No overnight travel unless qualifying for the National Tournament. Those restrictions TBD.

Visiting teams will be responsible for their own water.
Pre-match meeting will be one person.
No handshakes.
Officials/coaches will remain 6ft apart for all discussions.
Host team will provide sanitation wipes for each bench as well as disinfectant sprays.

Each bench will consist of as many chairs as the team has coaches. Coaches are responsible for carrying their own chair when teams exchange benches.

**It is possible, TBD, that there will be no exchange of benches after each game.

No more than 50 people in the gym (work staff = a minimum of 7 bodies…2 refs, 2 LJ, scoreboard/libero tracking, scorer, trainer), so 20/team, basically.

No fans.

Visiting team cannot be permitted into the gym more than 60 minutes before the matchstart time.

For a multi-team event, only participating teams can be in the gym. Other teams must wait outside. An additional 30-minute period will be between matches to permit custodial cleaning of the area–disinfecting chairs, ref stand, LJ flags, scorer’s table.

Dressing room/locker room will only be provided if it can meet Department of Public Health standards. Otherwise, athletes will need to change in the gym or before arrival.