Friday, October 28, 2011

"Excuse me coach...."

So I coached Sam's soccer team this fall. I'd like to say my reason for doing so was altruistic; that I wanted to teach the kids the proper way to play the game, develop their skills, and let them have some fun. Or even that I wanted to spend more quality time with my son. And while those factors certainly did play a huge part of my decision to coach, the tipping point for me was the fact that if I coached the league would refund Sam's registration fee. The way the season unfolded was karma’s means of punishing my somewhat impure motives.

To be sure all of the kids on the team were great. They were well mannered, polite, even funny at times. The biggest issue with them was that they were, well, well mannered and polite on the field. To be fair most of the games we played were pretty close. Most of the games we played were within a goal or 2. And the kids did show improvement throughout the season--a number of them started using the inside of their feet to kick instead of their toes (though the kid I worked with the most on that didn't), they started to pass in the latter part of the season, and I even got them to start trapping the ball with their chests.

The one thing I couldn't get across to them was the need to be aggressive on the field at all times. A good number of the goals we gave up were simply because my players didn't think to challenge an opponent when they had the chance. I did a drill with them that basically pitted them one on one against each other in an effort to get them to be more aggressive. They loved the drill and they got to be very good at it. Even my least aggressive players were fully engaged in the drill. But those efforts never quite translated to game time.

The other aspect that drove me batty was focus. There was one player with consistent issues with focus, but at times during the season lapses in focus cost us dearly. A couple times the kids playing goalie let in goals because they forgot they could use their hands even after a reminder. Sam let in goal because he was daydreaming rather than watching the game--indeed I'm not sure he was even aware that the ball was in the net until I said something to him. And then there was "Steve" [name changed].

Steve is a good kid--very polite and nice. His parents are both very nice and polite. Steve though was THAT kid. Steve simply had the attention span of a gnat. During one practice we did a simulated kickball game in which I would roll the ball to the batter who would kick the ball to teammate in the field and then run the bases until the teammate got the ball back to me. Pretty much just a game of kickball sans the outs. Before we started I even asked the kids if they played kickball before and only 1 (not Steve) said she hadn't. Steve was the fourth batter for his team-- he had a chance to watch the others play and get an idea of what was going on. For reasons I don't know when it was Steve's turn to run the bases he kept running to me trying to take the ball. And he kept doing it--after the first time I explained to him what he was supposed to be doing, he again ran to me to try and take the ball. And again after the second, and after the third, and so on. And sadly this type of thing carried into the field, where several times Steve would do the exact opposite of what we had been doing all season and what he had been taught. The truly sad part is that when Steve was paying attention he actually did some brilliant things. And he was by far my best goalie. But in the field I had no idea what Steve was going to do from one play to the next and neither did he.

Needless to say the season didn't go as well as I had hoped at least from a wins and losses perspective. We only won once. This isn’t to say the kids didn’t progress. As alluded to above for the most part their skills did improve throughout the fall. But the wins didn't come. We only got blown out in one game, and I'm still mad because I think the other team ran up the score on us and were poor sports about it, and the kids were close to winning a couple others. But alas the lack of aggressiveness and waning attention spans usually caught-up with us--though in a number of games we dominated the second half, we just couldn't score.

Perhaps, if there is an issue here it's mine. I tried not to project too much onto 6 year-olds but its hard not to have expectations especially when they practiced so well. But again they were 6--not 16--and maybe I was expecting too much. I had visions of how the game should be played and taught to that expectation. Maybe it was my vision that was at fault.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sam and Camping

Saturday I took Sam camping at Pike Lake State Park where they were having an Outdoor Adventure Weekend. We did a lot of stuff and just before bedtime I asked him what his favorite part of the day was.

"Shooting a booby gun!"


"You know, a booby gun..."

"You mean a BB gun?"

"Oh yeah..."

Sunday morning as I was getting the fire ready to make breakfast, smoke blew into his face. I told him the old adage that smoke follows beauty.

"Oh", he said. "I'll go stand by you then."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kicking Around The End of Summer and the Beginning of Fall

"School days,
School days,
These are Golden Rule days,..."

I'm not sure this is true or ever was true, at least not in my lifetime. But nonetheless the summer has again passed by and school is upon us. As usual there were more plans for things to accomplish during the summer than were were actually accomplished. Somehow the fates, the weather, and an incredibly annoying case of stubbornness conspired against us. Which isn't to say that the summer wasn't busy. Indeed for Sam and Abby this summer may be the greatest summer they ever experience.

Sam again played T-Ball this year and, unlike last year, showed remarkable improvement. His throwing motion was much improved and he was very enthusiastic about moving to the ball in the field--sometimes overly so. If and when he decides to swing the bat with some authority, he'll be a really good hitter. In the back yard and off to the side, he would swing pretty hard, but when he was actually at the plate not so much. Still he managed quite a few hits on balls pitched to him. (I should explain that in this league the kids were given so many pitches from their coach and if still unsuccessful the tee was brought out for them to hit off of.)

Abby wasn't involved in sports this summer--indeed I think her sporting career may be over. Yet she had an incredibly busy summer. Abby went to 3 camps this summer, one for horseback riding (thanks to mama and papaw), a girl-scout day camp (which Sam also attended), and an overnight camp that as it turned out wasn't as advertised. In between she was mostly at friend's houses or they were at ours. So she was busy. What we didn't get accomplished was getting her comfortable on her bike. In the Spring she had an accident on her bicycle and since then has refused to even think about riding. The odd part is that it's the easy part of riding a bike, steering, that's causing her the most problems.

Cindy's summer was filled with Girl Scout activities, library programs, and babysitting. She's taking over the role as leader of Abby's Girl Scout troop and thus was busy preparing for the upcoming year. She also applied to be a substitute teacher at Sammy's school, that is after the school district lost her initial application to be a library aide, and after she was told that all the lunch lady positions had been filled, pun intended. I suppose in a way this worked out for the best since I think she'll be happier as a Kindergarten and first-grade sub and the money is likely better.

As for me, I finally got a huge monkey off my back by passing my general exam. Of course that brings on a HUGER (I don't care that huger is not a word) monkey with the dissertation. Of course I think I would have been happier had I been allowed to skip the classes and the general exam and gone straight to the dissertation. At the end of the day, when I'm applying for jobs my worth will be judged by it and not by the fact that I got an A in Cost-Benefit Analysis. However, as of now I don't have a topic in mind, and that's kind of a big omission. To otherwise occupy my time I'm coaching Sammy's soccer team this fall. So far so good, but we haven't had any games yet.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Long Live the Sweatervest

Jim Tressel was forced to resign. And while ESPN pundits, SI writers, and other media members misguidedly chest-bump themselves and strain their shoulders patting themselves on the back, I can't help but think that a good man was taken down largely because, as my boss put it, "He did the wrong thing for the right reasons". There's no doubt that Jim Tressel screwed up. His fate was sealed not in April of 2010 when he didn't forward the infamous emails onto someone at OSU, nor even in September, when he signed the NCAA form stating that he was unaware of violations, but in December, when the situation came to light and he didn't disclose that he had been informed of players' transgressions. Why he didn't may always remain a mystery, and I'm not fully certain I even want to know.

That said I do think the man intended to protect his players and extract them from a very bad situation. There's no doubt that Tressel has a deep and abiding affection for his players. And they for them. That's readily apparent from comments they've made in social networking outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Current players, former players, even disgraced figures like Maurice Clarett have come to Tressel's defense. Ray Issac, the man at the center of Tressel's first brush with the NCAA, was very vocal in support of Tressel including asserting that there is no way Tressel could have known about Issac's extracurricular doings at Youngstown. (A point that seems glossed over by the media). My guess is that type of loyalty isn't an accident, but comes from the efforts of Jim Tressel and his staff to build a family of sorts.

And indeed Tressel's actions over the years shows that he was trying to build something bigger, that it wasn't "about the ball." For years Tressel has eschewed the practice of having hundreds of recruits come to campus, but has instead focused on a select few. His honesty with recruits has at times cost him; Fred Davis went to USC in part because Pete Carroll told him he would be a wide receiver, while Tressel told him he would be a tight end at OSU--Fred wound up at tight end. He put Tyson Gentry on scholarship after his tragic accident even though Gentry was a walk-on so Tyson's family wouldn't have to bear the cost of his education and his rehabilitation. And perhaps most tellingly, he reached out to, forgave, and got Maurice Clarett back into school when most, including me, would have turned their back on him. Thus, while some find it completely implausible that Tressel's motive was to protect his players, it doesn't seem out of character at all. Indeed if his motives were as sinister and self-serving as some suggest, then he went about things about as clumsily as one could.

And that's what makes this whole ordeal all the more tragic. It could have easily been avoided, at numerous places-last April by forwarding the emails on; in September by acknowledging he was aware that there may be issues with a couple players; or in December by acknowledging that he had been made aware of issues. The course of action he chose meant that the potential consequences escalated at each step until we reached this point. The odd part about time timing of the resignation is that it came before the release of the SI article, an article that as it turns out had little to nothing to do with Jim Tressel, aside from spurious dot connecting and an inane charge of raffle rigging from the 80's. Indeed nothing with regard to Jim Tressel changed from March 8th until his resignation, media claims to contrary notwithstanding.

In terms of the players, fan reaction to them will be interesting. Unfortunately for them, most are seniors and their tme to redeem themselves is short.

In terms of the invetigation, I still maintain that there is a lot more smoke than fire. Aside from allegations that more players were involved than just the orginal 6, and some potential issues with Terrelle Pryor and cars, there doesn't seem to be much there, and nothing on the magnitude of what happened at USC or what may have taken place at Auburn (by the way, what was Auburn doing in the 4 months between when they were notified that there was a possible issue with Cam Newton and when the NCAA investigated the allegations?). While ESPN talking heads postulate on the likelihood of program damning penalties, there doesn't seem to be much there to justify them. Or maybe I'm being naive.

As for Ohio State, it will survive. A bit bloodied perhaps, but intact. It will get through this and be just fine.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The end of Winter/Beginning of Spring

Winter is thankfully drawing down to a close and spring is erupting, and with that a girl's attention finally turns to what's been on the boy's mind the whole time--baseball.

For the most part Winter was fairly uneventful. For the first time in 4 years neither Abby nor Sammy took ice-skating lessons and neither seemed to miss them too much, if it all. Last year Sammy took lessons and we thought did fairly well, or at least as well as most of the other kids in his class. But the instructors felt otherwise and suggested that he repeat the section for a third time. We declined. If he hadn't made sufficient progress through 2 sessions to advance to the next level then putting him into a third seemed like a waste of time and money.

So that left the Winter relatively schedule free, which wasn't the worst thing. Abby and Cindy busied themselves with Girl Scout activities which seem to never end and which they both seem to enjoy immensely. Currently they are heavy into planning for an overnight "camping" trip in April. I say "camping" because they will be staying in a lodge with beds, running water, electricity, and mattresses. It will however be at a Girl Scout Camp and they fully intend to cook some meals/snacks over an open fire and engage in outdoor activities. Still I think the Normandy invasion required less planning.

Sam has been pretty much open this winter. He's still too young for Cub Scouts (which he will greatly enjoy once he's old enough) and now occupies himself himself with all sorts of things, but none the same from day to day. He's very much into a stream of consciousness type of existence that can be both entertaining and frustrating.

When the weather breaks we're going to try geocaching. Geocaching is akin to a scavenger/treasure hunt in which folks with a handheld GPS plug in the coordinates of a cache and then traipse off through the woods or wherever to find it. Looking on-line we were somewhat surprised at the vast number of geocaches to be found within a few miles of our house and indeed within a few miles of house and/or within a few miles of pretty much everywhere we go. In a sense it's kind of creepy. But that aside it seems like it should be a lot of fun and a good way to get everyone out of the house this spring.

And getting out of the house will be important since neither kid will be playing soccer this spring. It's hard for me to admit but sports just don't appear to be her thing. She never really caught on to the concept of competing at least on the field, and certainly she doesn't like running in the least. I'm at least hoping that she will ride her bike more now that she has that mastered. (For those that don't know Abby was pretty stubborn about learning to ride and really only did so because I told her that Sam was very close to being able to ride a 2 wheeler--which he is.)

Sam is another matter. He's going to play T-Ball this Spring and though the games won't start until May, they will conflict with soccer. He and I threw a ball the other day with some success. He can somewhat throw and was starting to understand what the glove was for. His biggest issue is that he can't decide whether he wants to be a lefty or a righty, which is kind of a big deal.

As for me I'm taking my general exams right now and hope to have the second question wrapped up in a week or two and then onto the third question and then the oral exam--whooo boy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is thing on?

Yes, it's been a long time since I udpated this so I thought I would put up a few odds and ends.

  • Abby and Sammy are both in school and doing well. For Abby this wasn't much of an issue since she's been at it for a while, but we were sort of worried about Sam. But he seems to be having a grand time and even has a girlfriend, though he doesn't know her name or what she looks like. He does know that she sits at the Yellow table. So that's something....

  • After last year's debacle, Abby is finally in Girl Scouts! You may recall that last year the Girl Scouts asked Cindy to help form a new troop since all other troops were at capacity. She tried to oblige but they wouldn't return her calls or emails. This year, there was an opening in an already established troop that Abby happily filled. And Cindy is one of the troop leaders! So far they both like it a lot.

  • Cindy is still babysitting though not as much as last year. Unfortunately I don't think I'm going to get a raise next year (no one at OSU will) which means that most likely Cindy will need to return to work in the fall. I feel bad for her.

  • Angel continues to confuse herself for a hound dog and/or a cat. She REALLY likes to sniff things when we walk, which is fine when the weather is warm, but really annoying now. She's also taken to napping and sleeping on the top of furniture. I'm not sure why.

  • After years of threatening to do it, I'm now taking my general exam. I turned in my first question last week and have 2 more to answer. I'm hoping to get the next one shortly. If things go well I will be ABD in the spring.

  • If you're curious I'm PO'd at Pryor et al for selling stuff that I would have valued much more highly in their position and at the NCAA for punishing them for what is a fairly common every day occurence. In the end it was their stuff they sold.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Fish Whisperer

So over the weekend Sam caught 5 fish in about an hour and half and was upset that he got such a low number. The last time he went fishing he caught 8 in an hour.