Thank You Coach

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.

  1. Have fun
  2. Be positive in your words and actions towards everyone
  3. Have good sportsmanship (treat everyone with respect)
  4. 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.

2017: The Crap Sandwich

Mid-December 2017

I am sitting here today with a back and leg that won’t stop hurting. They are the remnants of a bacterial blood infection that put me in the hospital on my usually favorite day of the year, Thanksgiving.

I feel between numb and nauseous most of the day remnants of the medication to treat the pain and to wipe out the remaining bacteria. Not to forget treatment for the side effects of the medication. Then there’s the medication for my usual ailments; anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart burn.

My Craptastic Crap Sandwich 2017

It’s been almost a perfect end to 2017. Let’s review how the year started:

  • A reality TV “star” was sworn in as  President of the United States
  • Cold War WW III flashbacks really have messed with my head and sleep habits

Those feelings continue to persist and the thoughts that come to mind are pretty consistently:

  • How do people fail upward?
  • The philosophy that most people get promoted to their highest level of incompetence.

Then the thing that I look forward to almost every year for what past two years turned to crap too. The youth football season was a complete bust. Even though you, son, and all the kids on the team said they had a fun season, which is most important to me, we finished 0-9.

But while the kids had fun, some of the parents on the team were not happy and I got the worst feedback of any coach in the league. I have four rules. Every one of the kids said we met all the criteria for the rules.

  1. Have fun.
  2. Be positive.
  3. Learn something.
  4. Hug your mom.

The parent feedback was that kids didn’t have fun, that I was not a positive coach, that I failed to teach and worst my number four rule was thrown in my face.

That was the feedback that hurt more than any other. As a member of the team was leaving the field with his mom, I yelled to him to ask if his mom was yelling at him for not working on rule number four. He said no, and I said, “you need to work on it finger tackler.” Apparently finger tackler was a bad thing to call him even though the kid was trying to bring kids down by grabbing a handful of jersey and kept hurting himself. The point of hug your mom was two-fold:

  1. Tackling involves wrapping up like a hug.
  2. You should hug your mom, because you never know when her or any of us won’t be there to hug.

I also had to deal with the fact that we live in a new day and age where we need to shelter kids from, among all things,being told they are fat. In the first week of practice one of the kids said to one of our big boys, “Get out of my way fat ass.”

The fat kid was starting to cry when I said, “So what, he has some fat?  That gives him an advantage that you will be thankful for some day. You need all types of body shapes to be successful in football. I have been fat all my life, it paid for a trimester of college. My little brother still to this day calls me by my grade school nickname, fatty.  You are out here exercising, you are doing you best to be in the best shape you can be. Not everyone can be the perfect body shape, be proud of who you are, even if it means being proud that your fat, but you still need to exercise and eat right.”

Three kids became part of the fat kids club and they were proud of it, but a parent overheard that and thought it was just the most awful thing to do to a child. Interestingly enough, the two other parents besides myself that were the parents of two of the three fat kids felt the season was great and for one of them who was having their fourth year of football he had the greatest season he had and for the other who it was his first year, he is coming back for more.  I also know that all of them were in better shape at the end of the season than they were in the beginning.

So what, some kids carry a little extra weight, genes are a funny thing. You work your ass off and strive to be healthier almost every day I am not going to shame that kid for being fat, I’ll celebrate it as an advantage. That is all I care about and I really just want you to be proud of who you are and that is most important.

Then there was other feedback that I showed up to practice late.

Yep. I was unexpectedly putting in extra hours at work due to a merger, but everyday I sent a practice plan to the assistant coaches and made sure someone was there.

Then there was the fact that I used foul language, but with one exception where I was very concerned about player safety I know I apologized and corrected myself.

Then I used the words shut up with my son and sometimes loud. Even though I received permission to use those words with other kids, I never did.

Then I was not using the positive coaching alliance approaches, except for the fact that I almost followed it by the letter of the law and tried incorporating at least one new thing every week. And, although every player said they had fun, they learned something, that the season was a positive experience and they all left with rule number four which I hope they remember for the rest of their lives.

I won’t go into the details of the mud slide incident, but lets just say what qualified as fun in the 1980’s has a smaller fan base in 2017. It also qualifies a coach as an embarrassment to the program versus being the best coach ever.  I did get that feedback as well.

Enough about all that jazz, I knew midway through the season that I was not going to coach next year.  Which some parents took issue with me sharing that with the kids as well. I only shared it so they knew that I was not taking over the offense because of our record, but because I wanted to focus on one facet of the game and utilize my assistant coaches better so I could watch my son play defense.

Son, I know you will excel in football as you have in hockey with a new voice at the helm. Don’t ever forget the four rules. Especially the fourth rule.

Football is not life and death, for that there is the bad things come in threes country song year-end of 2017:

  • Cheddar (our 16-year-old beagle) died
  • I left my job and got sick the day I got the LLC for my business
  • I was given a 50/50 chance to live and 30% chance of paralyses

A definite topper to the crap sandwich.

Time to Move Forward – January 2018

The year may have been mostly a crap sandwich, but there were so many things that brought me joy last year. Most of them come from the two of you.

Son, you had a great Association Hockey season, the families were a true hockey family and your teammates for the most part helped you grow more than any other teammates you had in the past.  Not to mention you boys took home your fair share of hardware.

The Association season was followed by a great AAA Hockey season and a baseball season that was amazing. You played most of the baseball season with a broken wrist, but you didn’t miss an at bat or any play in the field.  You even hit a home run the first game you played with your cast on.

Then there was  the great part of your football season, I loved to watch you play. You were amazing and my desire to just watch you play was another reason that I will be on the parent sideline next year.

Finally for sports, you ended the year starting another Association season of hockey with a great coach. Your team is truly a team and the hockey family we have is just as amazing as the one you had at the beginning of the year. They have been instrumental in making sure you have had a good season and so generous with their time, money, prayers and love. You also continue to grow as a player and as an individual. When your coach calls you a team leader I light up with pride.

Beyond sports, you continue to perform at a high level academically, you have blown me away with your clarinet playing and you have grown up big time.  You’re maturity scares me at times, because it reminds me how quickly you are growing up. The things you used to need help with that you do on your own make me proud and sad at the same time.

Baby girl, you have grown up so much too. You hit four (going on 40) this year. The world is yours to be ruled by you according to you and if you hit an obstacle you always try to move forward. You began ice skating this year (no hockey plans still) and are skating with kids that are mostly two or three years older than you. You have brought me so many great memories watching you swim, although I am pretty sure by next summer you will not be able to jump off my head as you continue to grow.

As we continue to grow as a family and individuals we have also found a wonderful church. The Well has been a great to us and I hope that we all can continue to grow with our family at the Well to make us better people.

Kids, at the end of the day; you, our family, our hockey family, our church family and our friends and your mom are there for me…and Remi (our new dog) too.  Your mom especially has shown all of her super powers. Your mom is the best role model you can have. Your mom is penultimate professional, nurse, chef, taxi driver, hockey mom, wife, mom and so much more. All of us are lucky to have each other, but without mom, I am not even going to guess.

Family, friends and love will get us through everything, including a crap sandwich of a year.

 

 

Black, White or Gray. Which would you choose?

Throughout my life I have always been worried when I don’t know what’s coming next. However, in raising the two of you I have become more comfortable with that because kids are about the most unpredictable things in the world.

And puppies…puppies are unpredictable too.  Your new puppy Remi has reminded me of that. You go 16 years without a puppy and you completely forget how hard they are to deal with. Thankfully your mom is about as good as they get when it comes to dog whisperers.

People refer to things being black and white when they are clear. People, including me, love clarity. A clear direction, clear steps on how to get where you’re going, clear plans to how to overcome obstacles that might come up and a clear finishing point. However, life only has one ultimate finish, death. Even death to some is just another journey’s beginning.

When things are not black and white, people refer to them being gray. The definition of gray is a color between black and white. While I enjoy black and white I know that things truly move forward and I have been happiest in my life in the gray.

The two of you make me happier than anything else in this world. You are the grayest of the gray. I have no idea what you are going to do next much less in your lives. What I know you have is potential.

Gray while uncomfortable is where all potential lies. This is true in almost every aspect of life. I not only hope for you that you become comfortable with the gray, but learn to embrace it and seek it out. Expand your horizons and never embrace clarity.

Seek adventure. Seek to always be better. Be better than you are today, tomorrow and ever day.


 

 

Politics, Religion and The Green Bay Packers

Over the years I have heard it said in different ways and in different situations that if you want to avoid confrontation, argument or heated discussion avoid the topics of politics, religion and the Green Bay Packers.  The third topic is one that I generally do not shy away from especially when around Minnesota Vikings or Chicago Bears fans; however when it comes to religion and politics I do tend to avoid those conversations.

I keep to myself because even at this point in my life I am not sure what to say about the topics, I don’t hold hard and fast on either topic to what my beliefs are, to some that is an issue.  For me, it’s just who I am.

When it comes to politics I don’t vote along party lines, I have tried to look at what the individual stances of the candidate are and make my decisions based on that.  I fully admit that it becomes more difficult all the time to separate the party from the person, but at least in every presidential election there has been one thing or another that has swayed my vote on an individual.

When it comes to local elections where it has been more difficult to know who the candidates are as individuals, I generally have never voted for an incumbent.  My logic behind this is pretty simple, I believe that a blend of individual perspectives is much better than a continued single stream of thought and I believe that in almost every situation.

A caveat to all of it, if I get a call from any politician after 9pm or they bother me at home they generally do not get my vote.  Some will call that a waste of a vote, but it’s my choice on how I vote.  It’s a right that my Grandpa B fought for and I believe in.

So what else to I believe in when it comes to things of a political nature.  Very simply I believe in individual freedoms.  I don’t have a strong opinion of how much government is too little or too much, because I think every situation and every time may have a different answer.  I would loosely compare this to being your dad, I generally want to let you always make your own choices; but when you don’t know enough about something I need to know that and know when to help you out.  People in general, including me, don’t always know what is best for them and I hope that government realizes where that is the case in situations where they can help.

In addition to the privilege of freedom, I also look for government to ensure our safety.  I’m honestly more concerned about our domestic safety and local law enforcement than the need for us to play the world police, but I’m not sure how the good old US of A can get out of that position.  In the recent years I think that a lot of good has happened from US involvement in foreign conflicts, but I think the cost of all that good has yet to be seen.

Then there’s religion.  I went to Catholic schools from 1st grade through high school.  I stopped going mass regularly when I was 13 years old because I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people felt they could break any of the then commandments and by going into a closet and telling a priest that they did it, asking the priest for forgiveness and then saying a few prayers they were forgiven. I still don’t quite get it and I know I’m oversimplifying, but I’m a simple person.

I also got asked to stop coming to theology classes in 10th grade when I started challenging the interpretation of bible stories based on other stories within the bible.  My theology teacher said that I had the best grasp of the bible that she had ever seen and that I was taking away from her ability to teach the other students who didn’t have that level of understanding.

Both of those things probably would give you the impression that I am anti-religion or anti-catholic, but that’s not the case at all.  Very much like politics I feel people have choices when it comes to religion including the choice to not have one.

Do I believe in a higher power, greater meaning to life, that there is something beyond our time on earth? I kind of hope so, but I want to make the best out of the life I have here on earth just in case there is not. What I think is important was kind of encapsulated in a quote I saw this week:

The quote might lead some to think they have my political and religious stances figured out and that is their choice to think what they want to.

I hope your mom and I give you the freedom to choose and the exposure and experiences to have the ability to choose when it comes to politics, religion and anything else. Although I’ll do everything within my power to hopefully make sure you choose the Green Bay Packers.

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