The Death of Rock and Roll

Quick–can you name the latest great rock-and-roll band?  I can’t.  I don’t like them particularly, but the name that would come to my mind as most-recent would be ‘Soundgarden’ (and their heyday was the 90s…).   So, I used the magic of modern technology and began searching the internet for collected wisdom of the subject and what I found…was not encouraging.

A warning–>there’s going to be R/NC-17 language in this from quotes that have been selected.  If bad language offends, you’ve been warned!

Some sites list a guy like Eminem as a rock musician (what. the. hell.) while others are including Brittney Spears and Avril Lavigne (jeebus).  When you go across multiple lists, what you get is a consensus of a few names: Radiohead, The White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, and…U2????  Look–if U2 is in your top 20 for the 2000s, you know rock is dead.

And it is…not just opinion either.  It is dead, killed by people 60-and-older.  Permit me to elaborate.

What is rock and roll?  By use of the original slang, ‘rock’ is short for hard alcohol and ‘roll’ is short for ‘roll in the hay’, so that basically rock and roll is all about drinking and promiscuity.  That’s why parents hated it from the very beginning–first because the music was by blacks (welcome to the racism of the 1940s-50s…which sadly the past few years has shown was never eradicated) then because of Elvis the Pelvis gyrating his crotch, causing teenage girls to scream with orgiastic fury.  From there it became about skipping school to drink/have fun (the Beach Boys) to the drug-fueled late 60s and the late-era Beatles, the Doors, the Rolling Stones and The Who.  This continued through the 70s with the advent of punk rock to the 80s with metal–I want it louder, more power–to the 90s and the grunge of Seattle/the Pacific Northwest.

And then…poof…nothing.  Why?

Because ‘rock’ music was coopted by a group who can never like rock–by definition–>old white people.  Rock music, by definition, is about rebellion.  Old people are never about rebellion.  Rock is not supposed to be liked by parents and grandparents.  It’s to be despised.  Parents of the 50s hated rock, their kids grew up and learned to hate the music of the 60s, then the arguments that punk and metal were nothing but loud noise.

Until…the Boomer generation grew old and sentimental.  Their bands–such as the Rolling Stones or The Who, the Police, Bruce Springsteen, etc–continue to tour and make millions.  To attend a Billy Joel concert his last time around, tickets were $150 for the nosebleeds.  Elton John–even more expensive.  What 25-yr old can afford shows like that?  That means rock-and-roll has become sentimental, about remembering the good old days (that likely never were…) rather than saying ‘F-you’ to the establishment.  No one able to pay $100+ per ticket is there to challenge the system or establishment.  They are showing they are part of the in-crowd, not rebelling.

Rock is dead.

Or is it?  After all, what is more important–the way a song sounds or its attitude.  You want rebellion, you can easily find it in music over the past twenty or thirty years–the problem for a lot of those old white people…it’s coming from sources they actively dislike.  You want rock music? Fine.

I’ll suggest that rap music has taken up that banner.  Rap is rock.  Ask those older people what they think of rap and the slightest reaction you’ll get is a cringe or maybe they’ll make a comment “Hey, I like that group that did stuff with Aerosmith” (which was Run DMC…back in the 1980s) or “Will Smith is cool.” (Also great, but in terms of rebellion, Smith is as rebellious as Chubby Checker).  Ahhh, bring up some others–Eminem was mentioned earlier, 2Pac, 2 Live Crew, Ice Cube, NWA, Geto Boys (now 30 years ago…), etc.

Want controversial lyrics?  Rap has them by the bucket-load. Let’s go:

  • “Fuck the police! Comin’ straight from the underground; a young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown and not the other color, so police think they have the authority to kill a minority…”   –NWA (29ish years ago…yet still relevant today)
  • “You see, me and my homies like to play this game.  We call it Amtrak but some call it the train.  We all would line up in a single-file line and take our turns at waxing girls’ behinds…”   –2 Live Crew (this is mid-80s, but I can’t think of another song before this so blatantly open about a sex-act generally socially unaccepted)
  • I just might wait for his motherfucking ass on a rooftop next tour / Buck his dome cause I’m known to play for keeps / Lay low to the flow and keep it neat…” –Paris, discussing his desire to assassinate President Bush
  • “This shit is run by fake Christians, fake politicians.  Look at their mansions, then look at the conditions you live in.   All they talk about is terrorism on television, they tell you to listen, but they don’t really tell you the mission.  They funded al-Qaeda and now they blame the Muslim religion even though Bin Laden was a CIA tactician. They gave him billions of dollars and they funded his purpose / Fahrenheit 9-11, that’s just scratchin’ the surface…”   –Mos Def
  • “First off, fuck your bitch and the clique you claim / Westside when we ride, come equipped with game / You claim to be a player, but I fucked your wife / We bust on Bad Boys, niggas fucked for life / Plus Puffy trying to see me, weak hearts I rip / Biggie Smalls and Junior M.A.F.I.A. some mark-ass bitches…” –2Pac (and if I have my slang right, he’s threatening to kill a bunch of people here…not just show his dislike…)
  • “Beat that pussy up like it’s Emmett Till.” –Lil Wayne
  • “I’ll rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” –Tyler the Creator

Get the idea?  Offended?  Some of these outright disgust me.  I think the ideas are reprehensible, vile.  Some of them make me wonder who could ever listen to this stuff….right there–rock-and-roll…an older generation offended by the message.

But there’s power in dissent and rocking the boat.  Rock music changed society.  You can see this in examples like “Fortunate Son” or “Masters of War” from the 1960s.  You can see the power in a mega-event like Live-Aid or Farm-Aid.  Great power.

Rap has multiple examples of this as well:

  • When They Reminisce Over You” Pete Rock and CL Smooth, the story of success even without a dad being present, the power and importance of positive male role models
  •  “Fight the Power” Public Enemy  Considered one of the 10-15 best rap songs of all time…a bit of a surprise (to me) given Public Enemy’s reputation.  There’s no denying the song’s power though.
  •  “It Was a Good Day” Ice Cube  He doesn’t get shot by police or gangsters, his car doesn’t get stolen because he’s driving with the top down.  No one cares that he’s a black man in a nice car–it was a good day….think about the fact that some people exist in a ‘world’ where it’s a good day just to not be a crime victim–and also not to be abused by police.
  • Mosh” Eminem  Nothing says that rap has to be about single-race social issues.  Eminem gets that.  If the system is broke–it affects everyone in the long term.

Is there a lesson here?  Sure.  Rock’s not dead–not its spirit.  It’s changed form, morphed away from what people born from roughly 1945-1964 have spent the past 20 years co-opting, into a form few adults can stand…and even then, as adults accept rap, it’s changing forms yet again–always in ways that make adults wonder what the appeal is (such as mumble-rap….).

So I’ll end with lyrics from one of those old bands of men who thought they’d be dead by the time they hit 40…from Pete Townshend and The Who: “Rock is dead.  Long live rock!”



Altering Educational Approaches

Back in May 2019, I had the opportunity to go through the U.S. Marine Corps’ Leadership Workshop.  Great learning experience and I wrote about that here.  Since that point, I’ve been trying to keep their ideas in mind as I think about teaching.  That’s important because a lot of what they do falls in with John Kessel/USA Volleyball’s belief in game-like drills being superior to blocked training.

It’s also important to realize (and many do not–especially school administrators) that coaching and teaching are the same thing.  The only difference really is that in a gym/training situation, sitting is rarely involved and you don’t always have access to a blackboard or computers/technology.

I came across a meme that got me thinking again and when I went looking to find out who to attribute it to, I couldn’t find it.  I did find a very similar quote though from seventy years ago.

  • Margaret Mead: “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
  • Found Meme: “Don’t teach the subject, teach the student.”

Consider your approach.  I’m spending a lot of time reflecting this fall since it’s thirty years of coaching for me–but I also started as a teacher back in 1991.  This applies to me in a gym and classroom.

1 – Is your approach less effective than you’d like?

It is great to know the sport, the technical details.  It’s great to know the numbers and metrics and what they can do for helping your team succeed.  The thing is–success is not going to come from showing your knowledge, it is going to come from what your subjects do with what they hear or see, what they are capable of understanding.

If I’m teaching European History, it’s great that I think Niall Ferguson’s “Pity of War” is an important, controversial book and I can cite his economic numbers and such–but what if I’m teaching 10th graders?  Instead of detailed numbers, how do I create a situation that forces them to think?  What if you give them the big test question in advance? “What do YOU think was the most important cause of WW1?”  That’s great–but it won’t work in a 4th grade/Intro to History setting.  Maybe there, by knowing the kids, your goal is for them to know that WW1 is the first modern war, the treaty at the end leads to WW2…that events are linked cause-and-effect, and then see if they can find other areas where other historical events can be linked in similar fashion.

With volleyball, I love numbers and data–but I also know my players.  If I go into an explanation of serve-speed related to air friction maximizing the ball’s float combined with the optimal ball height crossing the net, I will have a dozen sleeping girls.  If we watch a video, I know they’ll zone out–unless they are given something specific to watch for or are writing/working in conjunction with the video.  I tailor the goal to my athletes and their ability level.

**This is where the Marines reinforced my approach–>they made a big deal out of their instructional methodology.  They start at Square One with everything.  It avoids shortcuts that could cause problems with later concepts, but it also provides a morale/confidence boost for trainees as they master each proceeding level of a skill.

2 – What is the root of your frustrations? (Because all teachers/coaches have these moments)

For quite a bit of my instruction vocation, I’d get frustrated at my students and athletes from time to time.  I still do, but what frustrates me has changed.  I’ve gotten better (but I’m not there yet) in keeping the focus on teaching kids rather than the subject).  That means when I get frustrated now, it’s usually one of two things causing it:

  • The kids not performing up to their potential/what I know they are capable of achieving
  • Silly bureaucratic paperwork that gets in the way of teaching/coaching

Paperwork kills everything (and isn’t the focus of this particular blog…), but that first one is a killer we’ll come back to in a moment.  What used to drive me nuts:

  • Not giving correct answers on tests / not doing specifically as instructed on the court
  • Points on the scoreboard / speed reaching a drill’s goal

Can you see the difference in my frustrations? (I hope so…otherwise I’ll have to write another blog….)  My frustrations now are about their potential, what comes next for them in their development while the old me was focused on arbitrary goals that aren’t necessarily related to them as individuals.

So–you’ve got a choice as an educator.  Do you try and change all of the young people you work with or do you change yourself and your approach?  It seems hard to change yourself, but it IS easier than changing everyone else around you.  I changed, I evolved.  I think I am more successful from that.  You can be, too.  Some ideas:

  • Before an assignment, tell your kids what the objective of it is.  Afterwards, ask if it was successful.
  • Take suggestions on ways to reach your objective.  Kids know kids better than adults.  Just because you ask for opinions doesn’t mean you act on them.  You may be able to mesh their ideas with your knowledge to create something better than what you do right now.
  • Match objectives to their knowledge/skill level, not yours.
  • Show to your students that you are a learner as well–learning how to teach better, learning them better, learning new perspectives on the subject matter.

There are people out there who think that changing how you coach is a bad thing–that it is because kids today are soft, ‘snowflakes’.  Poppycock.  Education has always adjusted to apply ‘best applicable practices’.  That’s what you are doing.  Be confident.


It may be ‘Christian’, but it is not Christian to Support Trump

I said it.  I can prove it.

For the record though, I’ll also note that by the standards applied by many today, I’m not Christian anyways.  I don’t go to church, I don’t believe in the tenets of the major faiths (there’s no way, no how that a priest actually turns wafers/wine into the physical being of Jesus, nor is the Lutheran belief that the actual intake of wafers/wine creates Jesus in those substances…or however it goes esoterically…you get my point and that’s what is important).  I’ll tell you the Bible isn’t the literal truth, too.  It’s a collection of stories and morals–and that what we take as literal truth wasn’t meant as actual truth.  (It’s like the most recent non-coaching blog I did–what does ‘high crimes and misdemeanors‘ actually mean)

And before I really get going–I’m not sorry this time if you get pissed off.  I’m only going to be sorry if you stay closed-minded and don’t think–think about current politics, think about where you put the importance of morality and integrity in your personal value-tree.

You see, you can’t be an actual Christian–as defined by the majority of Christian theology and tradition and support Trump.


God’s a bit touchy about idolatry–whether Old or New Testament.  That gets defined as “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed”.  Trump can easily be described with each of those–having committed sexual assault, having had multiple affairs while married to multiple wives.  He’s put money above all else–defining his importance that way–and now potentially having sold out his nation for personal advantage.   Using this definition (Colossians, if you are curious), Trump’s been an idolater his entire life–standing against anything the New Testament teaches.  Trump has no humility.  He supports others even more corrupt and oppressive.

I’ve seen “Christians” defend Trump by saying King David did all sorts of bad stuff, therefore it’s okay.  Except what “Christians” miss is that after David does all his bad stuff, God sends a prophet specifically to say everything David did was against God’s wishes.  When that happened and David was called out for his immorality, he immediately ceased the behavior and went back to the straight and narrow–and it still didn’t save Israel from being punished.

Did any evangelical leader call Trump out?–or did they rejoice and rationalize, happy that Trump would put other men into office like those evangelicals.  The question I’d ask is–what assurance is simply because a man claims the title of minister, pastor, or priest that those are moral or ethical men?  Trump worships himself, he is the golden calf; anyone he nominates must logically feel the same–because they have agreed to serve Trump and his goals.  Again, even with David’s repentance–check out what happened afterwards, the consequences his nation suffered.   Immorality has consequences.  Willfully, consciously endorsing that immorality is even more grievous…and “Christians” are oblivious to that.

The power of the presidency has become an idol for evangelical “Christians”.  They seek its influence more than anything else–the ability to force legal changes, even when a majority of Americans do not want those changes.  Essentially, these “Christians” have forsaken the primacy of their god for temporal, earthly power.  Now, I believe somewhere in the New Testament is a passage reading ‘render unto Caesar’–the lesson being that followers of Jesus should obey the Romans for they are the civil government, that Jesus is only worried about the spiritual and the hereafter, the realms of the Almighty.  For the sake of controlling government, these “Christians” have given up helping the poor and needy, they have built massive temples to their own egos–I mean, do you REALLY need a 10,000 person mega-church with theater/shopping complex for the lifestyle?  Somewhere in that pesky New Testament are a couple of key points.

  1. The New Testament instructs believers to pray in private.  “Do not be like the hypocrites who stand in public to be seen by others.  Go into your room and pray in private, unseen.”  That’s the gist.  I know it’s from the Book of Matthew.
  2. Matt also notes that you don’t need 10,000 people to have a church–you just need a couple people hanging out together.  Again, it’s about privacy–not interfering with the realm of Caesar, but focusing on the spiritual.

Christian teachings of the New Testament–and for “Christians” there can be no doubting the 100% truth of these words:

  • God is just, God is kind and those who are true believers will act accordingly
  • Christians should turn away from wrongdoing, confess them where they happen.
  • Have compassion for the poor and the outcast
  • Do not be a hypocrite
  • Do not preach hate
  • Do good deeds (that’s in Hebrews)

So how can you support the current president, work to re-elect him, in the face of all this?  You can’t.  If you are a Christian, rather than a “Christian”, you’re going to vote for someone else.




High Crimes and Misdemeanors

I try not to ever come to conclusions without being informed.  I like knowing things like history and context.  In today’s age of spin and internet distortion, that’s absolutely important; critical thinking skills are atrophying with each passing day.  I did a bit a couple days ago about the impeachment process.  That got me thinking about language–because we don’t use language in the same way as they did in 1787.

The first thought I had on that is the use of the word ‘shall’.  If you look at Article 1, Section 3, ‘shall’ is all over the place.  If you read today’s news, you’ll see many arguing that ‘shall’ means it is optional whether the U.S. Senate does anything if the House moves forward with the impeachment process–because in today’s world, ‘shall”s usage has changed, it is an optional sort of word.  The catch is, in 1787, ‘shall’ was used to definitely declare something for the future.  Instead of ‘shall’, today we should read in words like ‘will’ or a phrase such as ‘is going to’.  The word didn’t leave room for exception 200 years ago.

That got me thinking–and to the title of the blog.  What exactly are ‘high Crimes or Misdemeanors’?  When you read them, they certainly sound like criminal activities, right?  I mean–the word ‘crime’ is in one and ‘misdemeanor’ is a sort of action that breaks the law.  This is important because the Article covering impeachment uses the phrase very specifically:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”.

I have my opinions of current events but I can’t stand people who reach conclusions without knowledge of the system OR simply based on political/ideological affiliation.  (If you are conservative and think liberal ideas are automatically bad, you are an outright fool.  If you are liberal and feel conservative ideas are automatically bad, you are a fool.  If you fit either of those and are a friend of some sort on social media, you can drop me/block me/ignore me; I certainly will not mind.)

So I did a little research.  Quite a bit of reading, actually.  I figured it was worth sharing the short version of everything.

The phrase ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ is roughly 650 years old.  It’s English and it goes back to the political power struggle between the crown and the nobility.  Who held what power and what could they do with it?  That’s where impeachment comes from–it’s the removal from an appointed legal office.

The English nobility was worried about that removal being abused by the King, so they came to a consensus that there had to be reasons for removal (which seems like common sense to us now–but this is at the dawn of representative government).   So what justified removal?  The phrase used for that was ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’, but that really has a specific meaning–and it isn’t criminal, believe it or not.  By the time the 1700s rolled around, the meaning was clear–high crimes and misdemeanors referred to someone holding an office and wielding that office’s power for illegitimate reasons, including but not limited to personal financial benefit.

So if we apply that to 2019, we have to first consider whether the House investigation should continue, whether the standards required by the Constitution are POTENTIALLY met for an impeachment trial.  Does Trump’s actions noted in the Mueller Report or with the Ukraine–or even in the tax returns he has not released–meet this requirement?

We don’t know.  It’s why the House investigation has to go forward.  That’s not a partisan statement.  That’s for the benefit of the nation.  We cannot have any question of whether the President is following the law while serving as the country’s chief executive.  The question then is simply whether the president’s actions meet the definition of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’.

Before doing the reading, I was more skeptical.  I saw the gray area, that what was being done was unethical, immoral, but not necessarily impermissible.  Now though with the definition and history of that term–and the way the Founding Fathers understood it–my personal doubts are far less than they were 24 or 48 hours ago.

I hope you understand all this–and that I tried to keep personal bias out until the end with what my conclusion is.

Impeachment (a blog post without partisanship)

Impeachment will now be in the news for a long, long time.  The problem is the usual–very few of the people actually know what the heck is going on.  Sadly, this includes the president who has actually said that this is a coup attempt.  There are others on the other side of the spectrum that don’t realize that if successful, it’s not going to be a political sea-change.  Mike Pence will become president and he is ideologically much more conservative than Trump ever has been.

So…the real question is–did Trump do something against the interests of the United States?  This could be something from the Mueller Report, it could be the recent stories of dealings with the Ukraine.  It could be a cover-up of personal financial gains while acting as president.  Did he do something illegal?

You may think he did.  The other side will argue it is a witchhunt and he has done nothing wrong.  Neither side knows for sure.  While Congress has asked to interview people, asked for documents to be turned over, the President’s administration has actively resisted this, tying up almost everything in the court system–a place where it could take well past the next election to sort things out.  This is where impeachment comes in.

With impeachment, the House of Representatives is carrying out a real investigation with a specific purpose.  It can ask for any/everything as evidence–and after the Supreme Court ruling during the Nixon investigation–MUST be turned over to the House.  There are NO exceptions possible to this.

Every shred of evidence will then be seen by the appropriate investigating House personnel.  There will be no doubt remaining what President Trump did or did not do.

If the House thinks it meets the criteria for high crimes and misdemeanors, they will vote to impeach the President and send it to the Senate–where the Senate will serve as jury and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court serves as presiding judge.  The House provides the prosecutors while the president provides his own counsel.  Handled just like a trial, when it is done, the Senate votes guilty or not guilty.

The question of guilt is a big one because there is only one penalty that comes with a guilty verdict: removal from office.  There’s no censure, there’s no suspension–the president is immediately gone with no appeal.

There have been two other actual impeachments previously, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.  Both were moved forward for blatantly political reasons.  In both cases, the president was acquitted (Johnson by a single vote) in votes generally along party/faction lines.  The most famous ‘impeachment’ never was.  That’s Nixon.  Rather than face impeachment, Nixon resigned from office when the Supreme Court ruled he was required to turn documents over to Congress.  Nixon’s investigation is testament to the integrity of both parties of that era–it was not handled in partisan fashion.  All members of Congress were concerned about the breaking of the law by Nixon’s associates and the cover-up of the criminal activity.

So–whether you support President Trump or oppose him, you should stand in favor of the impeachment process moving forward.  American government is supposed to be accountable to the people’s representatives–and those are the men/women of Congress.  Let the sun shine in on events, let the evidence be weighed and then hope that the members of both parties vote their conscience rather than their partisan affiliation.


Keeping an Open Mind with Young Athletes

So as I’ve noted, it’s been thirty years now since I got involved in the crazy sport of volleyball.  On a practical level, it means I’m closer to the end of my coaching career than the start of it–that’s a good thing and bad.  Bad because age hardens our views, makes us less willing to stay open to new ideas–it’s harder to do this with each year that passes.  It’s good though because I have past experience to inform my decisions as a coach (and human being).

To that end, I was thinking back twenty years ago to a time when I was coaching at the high school level.   Starting in 1999, I took over the junior high program and coached that as well.  I did that because of a serious problem–the junior high coaches only played their favorites.  Indeed, one coach referred to the remaining athletes as ‘leftovers’ and called them ‘nicknames’ of what you’d find in the back of your refrigerator—unacceptable!!  You can guess what that meant for the number of kids coming out for the HS team…none of those bench kids showed; why bother–if you don’t play in 8th grade, what are the chances you’ll get playing time in HS, right?

I don’t blame 13-14 yr olds for that attitude.  They were told they were spares, treated that way.  There was a different issue though–I coached at a small school which offered four different girls sports in the fall (which was too many, but not my call) and that meant good athletes went their own ways to pursue their favorite among those four (as they should!).

So…that meant when the freshmen showed up for practice in August, 1998, there were only five entering freshmen (one of those had to stop playing after a horrible car crash in the winter of 98-99 that she miraculously survived).  None were setters.  The starting setter had decided to go out for tennis and the backup didn’t want to play, having got into less than ten sets total in 8th grade.  Uh-oh.  That was a problem because we’d had one setter graduate and the other was a junior.  One setter to handle everything.  Can’t do that.

So I went to one of the sophomores who was quick and had good hands, “Hey, I want you to set this year.”

The response, “I’ll quit before I set.  I’d rather die than be a setter.”  (She’d gone to a junior high where the coach was a yeller and the tantrum target was inevitably the setter.)

In my mind I was thinking about everyone else that was a junior or a soph.  Remember, there were no setters in the freshmen class.  A couple days into two-a-days and I had *no* other setter.  Our fresh-soph and/or JV were going to be a train-wreck.  That’s when one of those freshmen came up to me, “Hey, um, Jim, um, could I, um, could I, um, like, um, try and set?”

This was a kid who didn’t play much in 8th grade–she was considered the 5th outside hitter, so she only went in if the first two backups sucked.  She had a couple things going in her favor though.  First, her sister was a sophomore and a ferocious competitor–so if Kate was half that, I’d be happy.  Second, she worked hard non-stop (again, just like her sister).  Third, I didn’t have anyone else.

That last was the key.  I didn’t have an open mind and if anyone else had wanted to be a setter, I would’ve chosen ‘anyone else’.  There’s the lesson.  Be open to possibilities, to work ethic and character.  Be open to possibilities.  Don’t look with what I call ‘today’s eyes’–what you see right in front of you; instead, look with ‘tomorrow’s eyes’–picture the future, how the person can develop physically and mentally.  That’s especially important when you are thinking about developmental teams.  Don’t worry about the scoreboard.  Worry about the improvement.

So off we went with Kate setting our fresh-soph matches and our JV matches.  Initially, her hands were crap and she got called a lot (because this was the era where everything was called rather than today where nothing is), but she worked hard and by the end of that freshman season, she was on the varsity roster for Regionals.

Her sophomore year, she earned a place on the varsity, started as part of a 6-2 until the other setter was injured, and then ran a 5-1 for the next 2.5 years, leading the school to  the two best years (still) in school history.  She did this through hard work, but also her leadership–she was kind to everyone, supportive of players on the bench because she’d been there herself.  At one point she had career records in the state for assists in a set and match and was top 5 for her career.  She went on to play for a top juco then walked onto an NCAA D1 program…having never been a benchwarmer until high school started.

Keep. Your. Mind. Open.

Kate offered me another lesson in terms of coaching young people.  After her freshman year, we had a talk about her setting, why she didn’t want to keep being a hitter.  I asked her why she came out for volleyball even though she’d been on the bench in junior high.  She was open and candid in a way that disappears by the time a kid hits college.

She said it was because her sister told her I made sure everyone got opportunities to play, that I didn’t care about 8th grade or last year because that was the past (true enough) so she figured if she worked hard, she’d get a chance.  She also made the astute observation that with so few girls choosing volleyball, she’d have good odds of getting playing time no matter what.  As for the setting–why the change?  She said part of it was about playing time and knowing that would get her more of it, but really, it was more that she liked the thought of being in control, getting to make the decisions–because she felt she did that sort of thing well under pressure.

So there ya go…I get credit for a brilliant decision in converting the kid to a setter, but really…I lucked into it out of desperation.  Don’t be me.  Keep your mind open to all the possibilities offered by your players.  You may be surprised in a way that blows your mind.

Coach–Just be the best you you can be!

Historically, it’s pretty accurate to note that ‘There’s no fanatic like a convert.’  Once a person is convinced of an idea’s rightness, it becomes awfully hard to get them to re-open their mind let alone reverse course.  Some of the Soviet Union’s greatest supporters during the Purges came from the Western democracies–and even now some of those historians/modern Communists deny the genocide/atrocity of things like the Holodomor.  You hear of religious conversions–but rarely do you have individuals return to their original faith.  Some of this is because we don’t like mistakes–and a return to a previous belief could be perceived that way.

Anyways, this is about volleyball (but if you have a different sport as a specialty, it can be applied there as well).  If you lurk in coaching forums for VB, you’ll probably guess the two groups that generate fanaticism/fundamentalism: Art of Coaching (the original AOC) and Gold Medal Squared (GMS).   Inevitably, discussion always boils down to “AOC says you do ___________________” or “GMS tells you ______________ is the way you hit/block/pass/go to the bathroom.”  To be clear, AOC+GMS don’t go around saying this–it’s the converts.  Do you know why they don’t make those claims?  It’s because AOC/GMS know something….


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Coaches are always looking for ‘magic bullets’.  They don’t want to read a blog discussing philosophy that may or may not be related to coaching.  They want the perfect drill, the perfect technique, the perfect words that induce Dalai Lama-like enlightment so that players begin hitting like they are Neo in The Matrix.  They expect AOC/GMS to provide those.  (I’m thankful that I was never permitted to fall in to that mindset; Jim Stone always encouraged experimentation, creative thinking/approaches…good mentors do much more than answer questions!)

So what’s your point, Jim?  Actually, it’s meant as affirmation.  You aren’t going to be perfect.  Heck, reading this means you’re here trying to get better as a coach.  I’d bet if you didn’t already know AOC/GMS, you’ve clicked on those links to see what they are–and if you haven’t, go ahead and do so.  They are both treasure troves of goodness.  Getting better is what we all want.

So you don’t have great knowledge?  It. Is. Not. A. Problem.  Be *you*.  That’s what the kids need.  They need sincerity, they need a solid adult role-model (many of them actually).  They need to be free to make their own mistakes–and you making them and recovering/learning/dealing with them is part of that.

You can make up for a lack of something in different areas.  I’ve never played volleyball, so I had to find ways to make up for that.  I started by learning stats and how to apply them (because I love baseball stats and metrics…always have).  When I became a head coach, I made up for it by asking experienced coaches to come in and help run practices–never hesitating to admit to my players that those coaches knew more and that I was more interested in the team’s success than my own ego.  In time, I learned (still am) how to coach, how NOT to coach.  I made up for my deficits with the desire to learn and get better.  You can do that.

Let your athletes SEE you working at it.  They’ll run through a brick wall often as not if they see you working on their behalf.  They’ll do it for you…and then it will transfer and they’ll do it for the tradition and the program–and it becomes self-sustaining.

Several years ago south of here, a school forced a new teacher to coach the school’s VB team.  They didn’t have anyone else and she was new.  No choice.  She had nearly zero experience (hadn’t played since 8th grade), but she could learn and teach.  She told the girls on Day One the situation, but that if they worked, she’d work.  She bought a couple of books with various drills and during summer and pre-season, they went through the book, doing the drills.  She observed what worked, what didn’t.  She took feedback from the girls.  She paid attention to effort levels.  

Their success didn’t come immediately–but it came.  Three years later, the group of freshman who started with her won the first Regional title in 20+ years, going from something like 5-25 to 28-6….with a coach who started with no knowledge of the game.  None.  She made up for it with her personal commitment to the kids.

*YOU* can do that.  Your effort level is independent of knowledge.  If you make the commitment, athletes will follow your lead, I promise!