Today I went through all the posts that I have done on this site and noticed one pretty significant missing component, appreciation and thanks for a lot of people that provided opportunities for many of the posts that I have made. So today, I start a process of trying to rectify that one person at a time.
Yesterday my sister shared a post on Facebook with me that they were making sweatshirts to celebrate Coach Bob Hyland’s 50th year of coaching at St. Marys Springs Academy in Fond du Lac, WI. I was immediately compelled to buy a sweatshirt and write the following post in response to The Springs post, I wrote the following response.
Thank you Coach Hyland for being a great influence on the person I am today, a sentiment that many can most likely share.
It definitely took a lot of living for me to realize all the lessons he was teaching me starting in grade school and was still teaching me the day before I got married more than seven years after high school graduation.
The day before I got married, he personally delivered a small gift that didn’t come close to the value of his delivering it. We spent ten minutes or so talking and he gave me a hug and handshake when he left.
There were more times than not, especially after I got what ended up being a career ending knee injury my junior year, that I did not have appreciation for Coach. This was especially true through a less than spectacular individual performance in my senior year.
Even though we had a 25 game winning streak and I got to play in three state championship games at the Springs, my most vivid memory of playing for him is him breaking a wood clipboard over my helmet and him screaming at me. All I remember of what he said was that it started with, “BALLS OF A BLUEBIRD FEYEN…”
After those four words all I remember was him screaming and all the droplet spray I was getting with him inches away from my face. Most vividly though he never broke eye contact and what I noticed though was the eyes weren’t mad. The eyes told me that he cared.
I’m not sure if what made him stop screaming was that he realized I didn’t hear a thing he said or the fact that I saw through the anger.
The next day he showed up to practice without his wood clipboard. He had taken the hardware from a clipboard and attached it to a clipboard shaped piece of a thick rubber tire.
I never saw him use that clipboard on someones head, but I also know he never yelled at me ever again.
From the ‘Balls of a Bluebird Feyen Day,’ I still made mistakes but he never yelled at me again.Instead, he would always pull me aside and look at me in the eye and talk to me about what had happened and I would usually never make the same mistake twice with the exception of releasing downfield to take out DBs on a draw because there was never anything better than decleating a 100lb DB as a 300lb offensive lineman.
From that day forward, he talked to me just like he did on the day he showed up at my house the day before I got married.
I always thought when he stopped yelling at me that he cared less about me than the other players that he yelled at. However, what I believe since the day he showed up at my house with the gift, I’m sure Carol Hyland [his wife] picked out. I believe he realized after be broke that perfectly good clipboard over my helmet that he could just talk to me or maybe he thought I’d be less distracted by trying to figure out, ‘what does he hate about balls of bluebirds.’
Right or not I carry with me 29 years after playing my last game as a Ledger, the lesson that treating people as individuals is important to reach them in a way they listen. It is something that serves me as a person, a professional and as a youth sports advocate.
Thank you Coach, I’ll wear this sweatshirt with pride.My reply to St Mary’s Springs Academy Facebook Post on February 25, 2021
Continuing to add to the pride that I will wear the sweatshirt with, Carol and Coach reached out to me the day after I made the post. They thanked me for doing the post and gave me reassurance that the reduction in yelling was something that was the result of Coach’s recognition of my ability to take direction in that way. He reiterated he cares, as I ultimately recognized he did. The message specifically thanked me for the kind and unkind words, which actually made me feel a bit bad for how I worded the post in some areas.
My response to that was simply:
Not a bit of it was meant to be unkind, just the reality of the situation that made me the man I am today. I spend every day working to support better youth sports experiences, founded two hockey related charities, have an amazing wife and two kids that are for the most part polite and respectful. You [Coach and Carol] both gave me opportunities that I would have never had if it weren’t for you. Kids are sometimes just too stupid to recognize the opportunities they are given [when they are given them].In response to Coach and Carol’s Facebook Message
I’m fortunate that Coach and Carol are both still around and I have been able to keep in touch with them as much as I have, some of the little upside that there is to social media. However, not everyone that has played a big part in your life will be around forever, in fact I have lost some of the greatest influences in my life already.
So please remember, life in the big scheme of things is short. Your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your teachers, your coaches, your mentors, your bosses, your peers, your friends as just some examples will not always be there. Always be sure to say thank you and know that in almost all cases they care about you and have good intentions.
I’ll leave you with this, my rules as a coach for my players since I started coaching at the kindergarten level have gone four deep and they’re not bad rules for life in general.
- Have fun
- Be positive in your words and actions towards everyone
- Have good sportsmanship (treat everyone with respect)
- Hug your mom every chance you get, but especially after every practice and game
To learn more about Coach, here is a podcast where he is interviewed about his 50th year at St Mary’s Springs.
Bob Hyland is the Wisconsin’s all-time leader in career wins as a head coach and his ability to get his St. Mary’s Springs and was named the 2019 Associated Press coach of the year. Coach’s overall record stands at 477-107-2 in 49 seasons with the Ledgers and the program has also finished as state runner-up nine times, putting Springs’ championship game appearance total at 26. Coach is the #3 winningest active coach and #6 all-time winningest coach in high school football history.
While I know nothing of the Springs years and how they molded you, I sure remember the grade school years. It feels a privilege to get a peek into the person you are now, over 30 years on from 8th grade graduation. Thanks for sharing parts of your journey.