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 lost my job
  • 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.

 

 

A Non-Career in Review

While I sucked at basketball and baseball, I was not a terrible football player.

Before my seventh grade year I attended the summer football camp at St Mary’s Springs. It was the first time i did anything remotely related to organized football. I was 6′ 2″ tall and weighed 300lbs. (I am the exact same height and weight today.)

I was also relatively fast and agile given my size, but growing up in Eden there wasn’t a football team for me to play on.

One of the coaches from the camp just happened to be the coach for Saint Mary’s grade school in Fond du Lac and my mom’s next door neighbor. Somehow I ended up on his team even though I didn’t go to school there.

The team went undefeated both years I played there. In fact I never started a game one of my teams lost ever.

Now there were losses I was part of, but my team my junior and senior year of high school team went undefeated as well.

I dreamed from the first time I put on a helmet that I would play pro ball and even when I knew the NFL was out of the question I still felt I could find a professional level I could succeed in.

That all changed though in one game in Two Rivers Wisconsin in my junior year.

Right before that season I was in the best shape of my life. I broke the 4.8 second 40 yard dash mark, benched a max 520 pounds and squatted a max of just under 1200 pounds. I also could do a seven mile run once a week just for the hell of it, but the coolest thing I could do was slam dunk a basketball.

At the game in Two Rivers I tore my ACL, MCL, LCL and a bit of meniscus to boot in my left knee. I was never able to dunk a basketball again and spent the next two years in and out of surgeries and on a mix of painkillers of various strengths and types.

I eventually did get a football scholarship to St Cloud State in Minnesota and even got a visit in my home from the Wisconsin Badgers head coach, Barry Alvarez, during the recruiting process.

It was cool to be recruited and cool to get the scholarship, but three days into practice before we even had pads on someone rolled my knee and I never wore pads as a college player with the exception of picture day.

It wasn’t easy for me to decide to quit playing football. In the letter giving up my scholarship; I summed it up as I didn’t feel I was quitting football, but accepting a new path and challenge in life.

I had no idea what I was going to do in reality, but it sounded good on paper.

I eventually ended up where I’m at today, but I definitely did not take the shortest distance between two points. I actually ended up taking several paths and accepting numerous challenges.

Life does not come with a roadmap, so you do need to be willing to navigate a bit in the dark when detours come up. It gets easier though because every experience you have and person you meet will help light the paths a bit more.

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