Showing posts from 2011

We need a fullback!

When I went to Columbus the other weekend, I stayed with Lisa, a good friend who is a world-class competitor in dog agility and a dog trainer, who was adopting a border collie puppy. She was in charge of watching the litter (of only four, all boys, five-weeks old) for a week, so while I was there, I helped socialize and look after them.

We had to rename them all to keep track … one in particular was my favorite because he scrambled out of my arms to the end of the couch, plopped down and proceeded to watch the NFL game on tv. The markings on his head (above), combined with a funny quip from Coach S this season in the press box (“Boys, I just need someone who can carry the tater!”) resulted in his nickname of “Tater.”

The best part: my friend decided little Tater is the one she’s keeping from the litter. Instead of traveling to do agility, Tater will be a dedicated therapy dog – trained to go into nursing homes, hospitals and the like – to be a comfort to patients and their families.

Dear Class of 2015,

I know it is with a heavy heart that we all left the 2011 football season. It is never easy to end on a loss, especially one so contentious.

I hope you know how much success we had as a team and as individuals.

The joy of coaching for me happens when the lightbulbs illuminate in each of you, whether it’s on the field or off. That critical moment transfers potential into actual – theoretical into real.

There are 100 examples from this season … and to the last minutes of our last game. I’ve written about joy and the role I think that plays in motivation, and I’ve experienced the heartache with each of you in failure, loss and regret. I hope that we’ve set a strong foundation for you as leaders of the future, each with a different skill set, each with a different motivation, but each with a lightbulb switched on.

I hope you’ll take to heart the advice of Coach W and Coach L – we lose games in the weightroom, in the off-season, on the weekends. The will to win is defined by choices we all mak…

At our doorstep: Girls Football

In the past week, my emotions have gone from over the moon, to overwhelmed with fury.

The week started with the national news carrying Pinckney, Mich., senior Brianna Amat who was named homecoming queen at halftime and who, at game's end, kicked her team's winning field goal.

Usually, I'm less than thrilled with journalists focusing on homecoming queens who happen to play football. It seemed, around 15 years ago, that the girls all either were kickers or they set an example unreachable for most other girls who might hear the story and be interested. After all, many more girls can play football than ever could be nominated homecoming queen.

Still, as a girl who had the chance to play high school football, I looked for any story about another girl who shared my interest. In those days, there were few.

In a Barbie world, Amat was honored by her classmates in her No. 12 jersey. I am willing to wager $100 that in ten years, she'll be more thrilled about how she helped her team …

Joy & Rain

I wish I would have had my camera at yesterday's practice - our second-to-last with the freshmen this year.

I think every player and every coach should get at least one day like it: steady rain, puddles and mud to paint white towels, pants and socks in a new shade of gray.

My receivers were so excited to jump in puddles and get dirty that it made me laugh. How can you not appreciate the sentiments - and have a little fun? So, the deal was this: if you dropped the football or caught the ball with your shoulderpads, it was pushups / updowns / situps and if you wanted to do them in the puddle ....

Of course this meant that almost all of them did take a bath in the mud - which I'm sure their moms & dads LOVED on the way home. The good news was that their practice clothes got washed for today (not a cloud in the sky) and the showers in the lockerroom were used probably for the first time in at least ten years. The other thing I can say is that we did the pursuit drill at the end o…

Golf Tournament

Realized looking back at the blog, that I never wrote about the Greeson Golf Tournament that I ran for the football program as a fundraiser in May. Here's a few images to capture the day:

Roles & Rockdale

This week has been hard for me - lots going on during my work hours - and didn't make it to practice on time once. For me, this is crazy.

We had a terrible practice as receivers on Monday during offensive individual time - I made them run around 140 yards and then they had about eight wind sprints as a team. They were not happy. I was disappointed. The difficult thing is trying to coach up and keep a group of seven kids interested and motivated to work hard, when they are all at such a wide level. One in particular gets under my skin because he is constantly begging to play.

In my experience, I get it but as a coach, if you want to play, you work HARDER, not ask more. I have one player who absolutely never complains but he also does not understand all of what we are doing. If we get to be in a smaller group, he's the one who'll often ask very small detail questions - for example, at the midpoint of the season: "Why does the receiver point to the ref when he's on the…

Slumping in the shadows

I found this photo and I love it because it reminds me of the fight we had on our hands three weeks ago on Varsity. An hour or so to the Northeast was the opponent we were expected to beat.

But, as things go in football especially, things are not usually as they appear.

It was a dogfight - after our varsity guys went up three touchdowns, we allowed them back in the game to tie at 21s for halftime. A shutout in the fourth quarter left us to play for overtime - always a little risky in high school and college.

It was a tough loss all around - the 12th straight for our program since last season - and one that hit everyone especially hard. I guess being in all types of games myself as a player and now going through the gamut as a coach, the feelings are pretty much the same.

As a coach, you have no choice but to see a little more objectively the events that transpire, or the missed opportunities both as a result of what you could have done, and what your players could have done. It's key…

To the blackboard, batman...

Tonight's project: Paint chalkboard at house.

I have our offensive plan for the season - need to review all the formations and get alignment, assignment and execution straightened out for my guys.

Hope today's practice is less ugly than yesterday... tough with only four receivers but they are getting in shape! Need to study some DL tactics but Coach F and I work pretty well together. And so the season begins.

Our coaches .. our leaders .. our friends

I am ridiculously proud of the women pictured above - Sonic (12) and Knuckles (41) led our team this year - they drafted plays, watched films, scripted offense, dealt with personal issues between players and groups, encouraged, sacrificed, inspired and absolutely dominated our opponents on offense, defense and special teams. To Maine and Def.... thank you.

Getting old...

I'm not usually a fan of replicating other people's work, but this is meaningful to me now:

"You know, when you get old, in life, things get taken from you. I mean, that's... that's... that's a part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losin' stuff. You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game —life or football— the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it.

The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. ... And I know, if I'm gonna have any life anymore it's because I'm still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that's wh…

Some things never change ... and here's hoping some do

Right now, I miss Coach Mac from Team USA.

He's the guy that reminds you to savor the moments, no matter how small. To think about the preparation, to put your jersey on one more time. To remember that the name on the front is more important than the one on the back. To write in your journal about how you felt each day of the experience.

I have had a very tumultuous 2011 season personally, but I'm ecstatic to be ending where we wanted to be: the championship game. 10 days, 5 more practices, 1 more game. Seems like January was just yesterday - but then again, these last few months have been very hard for lots of reasons.

Personalities, situations, snafus - you-name-it and it probably went into this season for our team. I even got into it with Sheila during a game. Sugar Ray did earn her nickname in her last season, which I can appreciate.

It's been a hard road, but one I wouldn't want to walk without a few people I started down this road with five years ago. It's ha…


Lately there's been a bit of excessive awkwardness.

Right now the awkward comes in waves - washing my hair, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, eating food in front of others - everything is hard when you can't use your thumb on your dominant hand.

Luckily, there are some moments of humor:

Sponsor I work with in the Northeast: how's football?

ME: Pretty good – I fell straight on my thumb last night so typing is a little tough – my hand is swollen like an orange, so cross your fingers because we have a playoff game Saturday!

Sponsor: it would have been more authentic if you had a couple typos below - hope you heal up soon. What's the record?

ME:Haha! You crack me up … my English teacher mother would be appalled if she knew I sent out mistake-ridden emails….even with a thumb injury ….

Not sure if I've ever mentioned Josh in the blog but he's the to-be DH (dear/darling husband) although I kind of like the abbreviation for designated hitter in the baseball sense ... anywa…

Ay, ay ... ahem...

In the past month, I've been blessed to see six of my TEAM USA teammates long enough to catch up and make some memories. It's been a blast, and almost a blur because it's gone by so quickly.

It's interesting that we are all so changed after last summer - and the things we have in common are certainly more numerous than we ever could have imagined on our flights from all over the United States a little more than a year ago.

I served as water girl for my roomie Pickett & favorite LT / QB Mulli in NYC - and saw the first Sharks game since the playoffs in 2007 when we played each other. I basically lived with Adrienne for NFL Draft week and it was a blast to hang out with the Pittsburgh dynamic duo of Vaz & OG.

My kindred spirit Tarsha brought her skinny self to Atlanta last weekend and it was fun to rekindle our friendship. I so admire her resolve not only to become a tight end before she retires (I have no doubt she'll do it as fastidious as she is with her diet…

Four women in NYC

I'm coming live from NYC - on the upper west side near Subway stop 103. It's an experience that, like so many others I've written about in the last year or so, I never imagined I would have. My teammate Adrienne Smith (see former blog with Q&A from Sweden) is an amazing, inspiring entrepreneur who makes her living by tourism - a concept uniquely her own - and who has taken it upon her shoulders to build the TEAM USA brand from the ground.

She organized for a group of us including Sharon (Strong Arm) Vasquez and Olivia (OG) Griswold - who both play for Pittsburgh's team to come here this week and coach as a part of the NFL Draft week Play 60 youth football camps. The three of them are exceptional athletes who I loved hanging out last summer and am loving even more this week.

The four of us are coaching groups of kids who come in for a 60-minute flag football clinic, and we coached today alongside legends from the NFL including Donovin Darius, Chris Doleman and Natrone…

Fragile wins

Last night we were supposed to beat our opponents. We did it (69-0).
There were some ups (Kash returning almost three balls for special teams TDs, not running more than about 37 plays all night - even though we only played 2.5 quarters, defense not allowing any first downs.... and on...) and we had some lows (punted three times) but the main point was that for the extreme highs we had during the game and the individual performances:
Mick made some killer hits, Groupie had a really good game, OL pancaked like it was our job.
The extreme low came near the end of the third quarter when one of their players was severely injured. We haven't heard what exactly was wrong, but as we were leaving, the fire department guy told me that she was playing with a back brace. Not good.
Those situations are scary and make you think too much about how fragile life is - especially on the field. One bad hit, one crunch, one minute - you can't think about that when you're putting on your equipment…

Every day is training day...

After speaking to our new class of interns this morning, I broke in a new pair of cleats out on the high school field tonight. I hope the cleats will help solve some of the problems I've been having. Realistically, it won't make my plantar fasciitis go away, but if my feet can feel less like mashed potatoes, I'd be grateful. I'm scared of the giant shots.

USA teammate Okiima Pickett tweeted the other day that her arms are all bruised, and after yesterday's practice, the usual suspects are back for me too. Thankfully, my work functions requiring no sleeves are over for awhile. Coach S came to practice Wednesday night after being married earlier in the day. I know I won't be married during football season because those photos would require serious Photoshop or a longsleeved dress. No chance.

Not sure I can say that I won't get married in football season at all, because there's not much time off in my future. That's ok, though...

As I was finishing up my …

If you love something....

you will make it happen, no matter what else stands in the way. Sacrifices make the journey worth the result.

Practiced today with a girl who plays on her HS varsity team and is a kicker ... perhaps the sweetest girl I've ever met with a leg that can get after a 45--yarder no problem.

That inspires me.

Football is life. Life after football is more football.

I'm in the process of working on my retirement plan.

In approach shot (eight months ahead) to age 30, I won't be retiring from my 9-to-5 anytime soon, but I'm dreaming up my next big project anyway.

We'll call it my 401K - because that might be a good goal to add to my strategic plan .... 401,000 girls exposed to football.

The vehicle is a girls football clinic/tournament this summer or fall (or both), connecting up with girls from 6-18 and really focusing on skills, drills, teaching the game and sharing my passion for football. I was really moved when Mike McGee - Annika's husband - came up last weekend to accept an award on behalf of their girls golf tournament, and shared a speech on what it meant to him to manage her brand. Annika has done a wonderful job of becoming a true entrepreneur but also sharing her passion for golf with the next generation, and I want to do the same thing but on the gridiron.

For me, I think this brings together all the stories: from the g…

I'd like to call Walter Payton ...

This winter I read one of Walter Payton's books and I liked the focus. It was not on his dominant style of play but on his outside passions of fundraising for kids and his family.

Walter Payton is football.

But he was much more, as a person and as a football icon, and I'd give a lot to have the ear of someone like that right now.

I'm feeling the rush: of the commitments I've made with coaching and the passion I have for this game against the terrible feeling I might need to retire because I don't always feel the same.

The other day when I couldn't practice, I wanted nothing but to be on the field. Now that I've come back to practice, I don't feel that way.

Daily I'm torn between the time commitment I need to make (Saturdays at coaches clinics and studying film, making phone calls for the golf fundraiser and even just waking up early to go to morning sessions) so that at the end of the day, I am investing in my future because I can't play forever.


That feeling

Today I saw a smile on the face of a woman who was not used to accomplishing things like pulling weighted sleds around, let alone inside of cones at a football practice.

She smiled as her teammates cheered for her. Inside, she cheered for herself.

She wasn't going to finish every rep or run faster than anyone else, but she saw something inside herself tonight - and I think she'll be back for more on Wednesday.

When I saw her smile, it reminded me of why I love this game.

Sitting out tonight with my neck tied in knots of major proportion, I wanted to be doing all of it - the running, the stupid circuits, the pulling of a sled. I don't want to retire, but I play to feel that smile spread across my face as my teammates yell for "Extra Point"or when someone does something truly unexpected .... and right now, I haven't felt it yet this season. That makes me sad.

It's too much controversy, too many opinions, too little information, too many good intentions and not …

But linemen don't catch footballs....

Big things have been happening lately with football.
After my experience last fall with the traveling football team, I decided to ask for an adjusted role with more responsibilities this year to learn more about being a good coach. I was offered a job with the WRs for the 9th grade, and I took it with some apprehension.
After all, I'm a center.
But, we worked in the wing-t last year, which is not all that pass-driven, and I can certainly teach blocking.
Then we had a coaches' meeting last weekend and I learned we are working with adding a component of the spread offense. Sweet.
My weekends from here until spring practice will need to include some serious studying, whiteboard drawing, video-watching, talking to WRs and WR coaches and going to early AM meetings. I can't wait to see how this turns out, and I'm sure it will be ok.
After all, I'm a center. Learning offense is what we do. Stay tuned.