Monday, January 24, 2022

Joey Jones and Coach Bryant

 Every Jan. 26, I post a remembrance of Coach Bear Bryant who passed away on Jan. 26, 1983. These posts are on my blog, jayopsis.com, as well as this site.

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This year, I am so happy to post a couple of memories from Joey Jones.

This is Joey's bio from wikipedia:

Playing career

Jones is a graduate of Mobile's Murphy High School. He played college football for coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. Jones lettered with the Tide from 1979 to 1983, graduating with a degree in business administration. As a wide receiver, he tallied 71 receptions, 1,386 yards and 15 touchdowns. He ranked third among Alabama's career touchdown receivers and seventh in career receiving yards. He was named All-SEC as a senior and chosen to participate in the Senior Bowl. He was a member of the University of Alabama's All-Decade Team for the 1980s and played professionally with the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League and the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons.

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The iconic catch when Joey was with the Birmingham Stallions

Coaching career

In 1989, Jones took his first coaching job as an assistant coach on the Briarwood Christian School staff in Birmingham, Alabama. After two years at Briarwood, he took the job as head coach at Dora where he led his team to a 24–11 record over three seasons. In 1996, Jones was hired as the head coach at Mountain Brook High School. At Mountain Brook, he led his team to the 1996 Class 6A state championship game, four region titles, two semifinal appearances and three quarterfinal appearances. Jones went 101–27 over ten seasons in charge of the Spartans.

After compiling a .767 winning percentage as an Alabama high school coach, Jones was hired as the new head coach at Birmingham–Southern College, where he led the team to a 1–7 record in its first season in NCAA Division III football in 2007. Jones was the first coach of the Panthers since 1939, when the football program was disbanded.

After only one season at BSC, Jones accepted the same position at the University of South Alabama in February 2008. He was the first coach for the Jaguars and was in charge of creating the program. The team began play in 2009, and joined the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) in 2012 as members of the Sunbelt Conference.

Jones led South Alabama to a 23–4 record in his first three seasons at South Alabama as Division-I FCS independent. After initially struggling after moving to the Sun Belt Conference with a 2–11 record in 2012, the team has since improved and posted a winning record against in-conference competition. The 2014 season saw South Alabama selected to the 2014 Camellia Bowl, their first bowl game.

On February 22, 2018 Jones was hired as Special Teams Coordinator at Mississippi State University.

Joey is now retired from football and now enjoys spending time with his family and splits time between Orange Beach and Birmingham.

JOEY JONES ON COACH BRYANT

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" I have many wonderful memories about Coach Bryant...but a couple that really impacted my life in a positive way. I signed a scholarship at the University of Alabama in 1980. Upon arrival, I soon found out that my ego would be in check as I looked at the depth chart...my name was 6th on the list...crushing my world.  After all, being an All-State receiver out of Murphy HS, I was thinking maybe 5th string..Ha!  I felt as if Coach Bryant didn't even know my name. Well, I kept on working through my freshman year and didn't play much.  So hopes were high going into the next year because one receiver graduated and moved up to 5th string.  To make a long story short, at our 1st game vs LSU, four of the receivers ahead of me were injured.  Here was my chance! The next game, as I was somewhat nervously warming up for the game, Coach Bobby Marks, who seemed more nervous than me, grabbed my face mask and said 'don't you get me fired today!' The second series, Walter Lewis threw a perfect deep pass to me and all I could think as the ball was traveling 60 yards in the air was that "I better not get Coach Marks fired".  The ball landed perfectly and I caught it for a 50 yard TD pass! Soon after that, Coach Bryant came up to me and put his arm around me and just stared in my eyes and smiled.  My confidence went straight through the roof. From that point forward, I felt as if I had finally proved myself to him.  Coach Marks phrased it this way...'You have gone from the outhouse to the penthouse'.

Through this experience, he taught me to 'earn my stripes', that no one would be 'given' anything. 

After he retired, we were on the elevator together.  He asked me if I liked to bass fish.  I said yes and he responded 'when it warms up this spring, I would like to take you fishing'.  I said 'Yes Sir! Can't wait!' And then, a couple of weeks later, Coach Bryant died.  I felt like he was my second father..a man who taught me how to earn my stripes and be a gentleman off the field. I am forever grateful to have the honor to play for him....but I sure would have loved to catch a few bass with him and just talk about life.

I appreciate Coach Bryant for so many things.  He was the most sincere man I knew...what you saw on TV was the same man on the field.  A very competitive coach on the field and a 1st class gentleman off the field. He always had a plan, and a way to achieve that plan."

I also want to mention that Joey's book, "In Good Hands" is an excellent recollection of the transition from Coach Bryant's last season and Coach Ray Perkins first season at Alabama.

Click on the link below to view it on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Hands-Joey-Jones/dp/0932919014

Friday, January 21, 2022

Team Culture, Discipline, and Relationship Capital

I guess the hardest part of coaching in this current culture is the need to correct and train without getting into a firestorm of issues where misunderstanding and inappropriate responses complicate and often cancel the ability to see real progress and change.

As coaches, we need to train athletes about our clear and reasonable expectations and, today it requires a little more patience and a lot more individual time to educate these concepts. There just isn't a lot in culture right now that fosters the type of player we need to be to help a team succeed.

If my players aren't leading..... am I training them how to?

And these aren't taught by lectures, they have to be framed and modeled throughout the program.
Unfortunately,  the 'whack a mole' approach doesn't work if there isn't significant relationship capital there. I am not saying we don't give consequences for inappropriate actions or attitudes, but we have to be clear in the expectations, we need to be businesslike in administering discipline, and we need to evaluate what tools are best to use in the process.

And the reality is that parents are a huge key in this. When I used to administer school discipline as my job, the parent response was the single most important indicator of whether I could help a kid or not. If they were supportive of the process, we had a chance. If they decided right away that the kid was right and the school was stupid, I knew that it was unlikely I would ever be able to correct behavior.

This doesn't mean I was always right, but the parents willingness to support and join in the process as so important. It takes hard communication to get on the same page in those times, but crucial to any real change.

I developed a list a few years ago that tried to strike a comparison/contrast as another way of picturing the type of team we are trying to be.

Now, to use the term "Make Me Proud" or "Disappointing" does not work if I am not developing the type of relationship where that even matters.

What keeps this from merely being a weight-room sign or meaningless sloganeering?

There has to be real conversations about where players stand in these issues with a freedom to be where they are, who they are, and a positive plan for growth in the areas where a player is weak or has fallen. Honest question- is anyone ever really perfect in these areas?... sometimes it is a front where we hide from any chance to improve.

I think it would be interesting to see if a team's leaders would make up a similar chart about coaches.... what makes them proud of me or what disappoints them? Here are some guesses.

Standing up and fighting for them.... makes them proud
Spending time with them to hang out.... makes them proud
Knowing a lot about them- family, girlfriend, interests.... makes them proud
Not mocking or demeaning them in front of their peers... makes them proud

And I think each coach always needs to ask a simple question...

What am I demanding in my life that is comparable to what I am demanding in theirs?

These are never ending issues, but it HAS to be a big WHY someone is a coach. Without these efforts, we are merely twisting in the wind of a game that really never loves us back. Numbers, records,  and schemes will fade... but the relationships matter. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mental Mindsets and Football- Offseason Challenges

Now that high school and college football is over and we begin to prepare to watch what should be exciting playoff games of NFL football, I wanted to write some thoughts about areas we can all continue to press in on and develop as coaches.

As I spend time with other coaches and dive into the amazing content available online, I think the schemes we use today in the game are as complex and diverse as in any time in the history of the game.


No doubt football is a scheme game- but scheme alone can not consistently win games. And I think a scheme is only as good as the players ability to execute it. It doesn't matter how much I know as a coach, what can my players realistically do with explosive effort and confidence?

I am also continuously challenged to see if I can explore how the new generation of players I coach think, learn, see, interpret, interact, and adapt. This is a generation of smart phones and social media. These students have more screen time than reading time. 

I also think we can explore ways of preparing them for situations BEFORE we encounter them as a team. Can we find time and communication to process these situations and pre-dispose them to respond in the best way possible as competitors?

Mindset of Each Week

As much as I admire the process that Coach Saban has brought and the ability to prepare and play each play without expectations of the eventual outcome, even he admits that the preparation for that type of play can be influenced by rat poison, and we even learned this season about the 'yummy' rat poison. So there is a chance to address the climate of a week of preparation be exploring the team dynamics of these types of weeks.

Types of Weeks
  • Games Where You are Favored by a Lot
  • Games Where You are Favored
  • Games that are a Toss Up
  • Games Where You are a Big Underdog
It isn't enough to say 'control what you can control, don't read the social media chatter, don't listen to the talk in the hallways, etc. Instead talk about the reality of the prognosticators, how it affects teams, how it impacts 'inner talk ' and discuss strategies to preparing well and being ready to compete at the opening kickoff.

Once the game gets going, all of the 'talk' about the game is now over and the flow of each game takes on its own narrative. But we can also prepare teams on how to respond to each and every game flow by mentally rehearsing those moments and how to best respond as competitors on a team and the unique role each participant plays to create the best opportunity to win. We need to talk about these situations BEFORE the storm arrives.

Types of Games
  • Early momentum or early difficulty
  • Sloppy Slugfest
  • Mistakes-
  • Up easy early
  • Down by more than 1 score
  • Down by a lot
  • Defensive showcase
  • Offensive showcase
  • Weather impacted
  • Crowd noise
  • Injury shake-up
  • Big Hole but digging out
  • Overtime
  • Pressure Packed Do or Die Plays
Discussing these things, and not all at once can create mindsets to keep teams in the best mental condition to win.

STOP THE TAPE:

One thing I will do with my players from time to time is to stop the film at some point in a game and ask questions: What were we thinking? How did we feel? What were we saying to one another? What was our body language like? Did we BELIEVE? If you had it to do over, what would you do differently? Did you encounter this in practice? Can this help you prepare differently in the future?

SITUATIONAL FOOTBALL

These types of mental rehearsals should also take place among coaching staffs. Over the years I have made a list of game situations that we don't handle well because they are rare and sometimes hard to process because of  the speed of the moment.

Situations a Lot of Teams Don’t Handle Well

Sky kicks- If you study teams that like to sky kick, you can steal a big return against them if you are willing to work on it. 

Kick-offs into a big wind- prepare your team for what I call the big drop.... these kicks are often muffed

Kick-off with a 15 yard penalty help- a lot of coaches just bang it out of the back of the end zone. These are great opportunities to squib kick or sky kick or even do a surprise onside. 

Team Expecting a Onside Kick but you have time and time-outs- Against most hands teams, a kick-off team can squib or corner kick deep and rally down to pin the other team deep. Then you can use timeouts and force a punt and may be in better shape to score. 

4th and short- on defense, be careful about using your all out goal line calls to stop a 4th and short in the regular field. I have seen teams break out into a long TD without back end run support.

Pinning teams inside the 10 or 5- in high school football, you ought to consider experimenting with your field goal team and angle kicking out of bounds. It is a scrimmage kick and you can coffin corner better with your FG unit.

Overtime and 2 point plays- do our players know what we believe in?

2 minute and 4 minute situations- it's funny how much we talk about these situations... but do we really practice them live with clocks and real game situations?

Red zone mindset, especially versus spread teams- I think coaches should continue to preach a need to dig in deep as the field shrinks. A lot of teams move well from 20 to 20, but spread teams have a hard time scoring TD's if the defense knows how to use the smaller field to play in less space. A lot of spread teams have no answers for corner and safety blitzes when the top of the defense is no longer a problem.

Resting players is an art- I have always suggested we study basketball coaches and how they steal time for a good player to reserve energy. Sometimes we think running them on and off is a help, but running on and off the field can wear out a lineman if you aren't careful. I have always cringed when I see a big defensive lineman run around and celebrate a big sack in the 1st quarter of a hot early season game. Would it serve him better to save that energy?

Finally, exploring the mysterious realm of human nature and the human heart.

Have you ever considered how many factors work against the dynamics needed for team success? These factors are external AND internal. And, the foundational principles required for team success are found primarily in traditional values that are being lost in our secular society.

There is no such thing as a perfect team and I have NEVER watched a perfect football game. It's funny how mistakes that can cost you from winning are often made in games you win- it's just that a team overcame those mistakes.

But the reality of never achieving perfection is no excuse from an intentional and passionate pursuit of perfection.

A Championship Team is made up of individuals who are pursuing an ideal of a TEAM- where group success will be valued higher than individual success. But group success is enhanced by individuals giving their individual energy and talents with everything they have.

As we deal with the dynamics of the reams we coach, we HAVE to spend time on the "inner man' the place where fear, anxiety, and doubt war against the desire to fight and win. 

We have to spend time (without being boring) working with our players the transcendent virtues of championship teams.

We have to take time and find creative ways to teach trust, brotherhood, integrity, encouragement, perseverance, relentless optimism, hope, forgiveness.

For the average football player, talking about these issues in a way that is more than cliche' is almost impossible. It means learning to honestly communicate and learn vulnerability.

Without a commitment to these shared values, a team can never really become a team. 

Take time this off season to think through HOW we can accomplish these things in a way that is creative, fun, and more than ritual. It could be the missing piece of your team and the ultimate winning edge.










Friday, December 31, 2021

The Problem with Goal Setting and Resolutions

 This is an update of a process I started in 2014 and it has benefitted my life. I want to share with some of the upgrades I have incorporated.

As a Christian, I am always impressed with God's gift and allotment of time. It is so interesting.... we live in a linear world at this time...one day we will be non-linear and I am convinced that we don't understand either one.
Why are resolutions and goal setting processes so unsatisfying? Because we live under a curse and time is running out; our mortal lives are in a steady rate of natural decay. 
As soon as we make some progress in one area, we look around and find so many other areas that have suffered.
This does not mean that we don't set goals or put in plan a process for improvement.... to do nothing is WORSE. But I have a system that I follow that has helped me find a good pace and perspective of these actions.
STEP #1 - WRITE A LIFE PLAN
Daniel Harkavy is a pro. He and his ‘coaches’ make a lot of money going into companies and helping them improve in areas of business and profitability.But Harkavy and his group (https://www.becomingacoachingleader.com ) WILL NOT move into business planning UNTIL the client writes a ‘Life Plan’.
 Harkavy writes: “Most people initially discount the ‘life planning’ part of our coaching process…they say to us ‘We don’t want any of that fluffy (life planning) stuff’… but since ‘life planning is non-negotiable with us (they have to do it). Most of the time they end up telling us how glad they are that they went through the process. Immediately after completing their LIFE PLAN, they consistently tell us that they have already received their money’s worth… (pg. 58).
So why is the big plan so important, and why do groups like Harkavy’s choose this approach over ‘goal-setting’?
Because goal setting is endless. It creates frustration when we fall short. It creates momentary exhilaration when we achieve them- but always has a ‘let down’ afterward. And it can create a life where we set goals for simply ‘achieving a goal’ but the goal may not be a wise course of action for our time or priorities.
I find this in almost every instance. When we won the football state championship in 1998, the quest began for the next one. We did it again in ‘99, but it seemed less enjoyable and then we did not do it again until 2003. Were all of those other teams unsuccessful?
Hal Higdon has an entire section in his book, “Marathon- The Ultimate Training Guide” devoted to ‘Post-marathon Blues”.“We focus our lives on this one event for 5 months- and then its done” reflects a Melbourne Beach, Florida runner “Now what?”
NOTHING WRONG WITH GOALS- But instead...think about “Achievement” and “Success”
As a football coach, around 2005 or so, I began to try and differentiate the difference between ‘success’ and ‘achievement’. This was spurred on by a conversation I had with Coach David Cutcliffe.To me ‘Success’ is when you live and conduct your affairs in line with your ultimate call or mission. ‘Achievement’ is the accomplishment of achieving short and long term goals. 
Example: For a football team, I define achievement as : 7 win regular season- playoff qualification- region championship- perfect regular season- advancement in the playoffs- making the championship game- winning the state title- ALL NOBLE AND FUN ACHIEVEMENTS. And you may or may not hit some or all of those.
But SUCCESS were things like: Did we become a team? Did we learn to fight? Did we learn to love our brothers? Did we learn to sacrifice? Did we play with class and character? Did we learn to persevere? Did we learn how to finish? Did we learn how to improve every week? Did our leaders lead? Did our team follow coaching and leadership? These provide a way to be successful EVERY SEASON.
If these are true: You can have achievement WITHOUT SUCCESS and you can SUCCEED without achievement. And if I had to choose… I choose ‘success’ but usually, they go hand in hand.
This is why goals WITHIN the context of a life plan makes more sense. If the ‘Mission’ is in clear view- the goals serve to be a tool of support and the exhilaration comes in the stream of walking in your ultimate purpose!
ONE MORE STEP ACROSS THE LINE……
In ‘Ages of Faith’, Alex de Tocqueville wrote, “the final aim of life is placed beyond life”.
For a Christian believer, the life plan HAS to have the finish line past the mortal end.
The PLAN or MISSION keeps you on task…. without an ULTIMATE AIM, you are likely to be living reactive…less proactive… frequently distracted… doubling back… or in Bible language – children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.(Ephesians 4:14 ESV)
I love the definition Harkavy uses about a LIFE PLAN:
‘In essence, Life Planning is nothing but a process of accumulating net worth in THE MOST IMPORTANT ACCOUNTS OF YOUR LIFE!”
Harkavy Life Plan Process:
  • Identifying IMPORTANT accounts (spouse, family, spiritual life, health, service, career, fun, vacation, charity, dreams, community, finance, development, etc)
  • Writing Action Steps to fulfill a ‘vision’ for these accounts
  • Prioritizing time/goals/decisions in light of ALL the important accounts
  • Write/ Review/ Adjust/ Share/ Teach your plan
 in 2014, I developed an entire devotional series around developing a mission statement and learning about the call of God on our lives. There are still four devotional books on Amazon that have devotions for the first quarter of the year. You can find the first book here: Devotions for a New Year
All of this has caused be to change how I do resolutions....
Instead of making a new year's resolution, I take a year to do monthly 'house keeping' around my life mission statement.
My calendar is based primarily around the energy I need for a successful school year....
My year always goes something like this:
In January - I take some time to pray through my year- evaluating the year before and thinking about future desires. I usually take a THEME for me as a point of emphasis. 
February is a FAST of some kind= 28 days to do without. One year it was social media- last year it was caffeine- what am I addicted to? What types of things are idols in my life.
March is either Momentum march or mediocre March and I have to get in the first few weeks to see how I am doing...... it basically is 'hang on until Spring Break'!
April is very important- It is the real beginning of my year. It is 'the cruelest month'- it is a tough eating and exercise plan and very regimented- but it is a good time to do it because of the nicer weather... nature helps here.
May is 'mission statement'- this is where I re-visit- God's primary calling, His secondary calling, changes in my life purpose statement...
JUNE/JULY- Energy and joy- I love summers- the longer days- key planing
August- "ALL IN" - PEDAL TO THE METAL
September/October- Priorities/Prayer- execution. A commitment to quality.
November- ‘No Gain November’… this is when I usually do the worst on eating. My main goal is to weigh the same or less on Nov 1 and Dec. 1. This year I did awesome- but December was a bust.....
December- Reflection, Rest (Christmas Break), and Evaluation. The most critical part of evaluation is going back over the goals in specific areas- spiritual, financial, family, home improvement, physical, and professional.
Here is the bottom line- God builds in re-starting points all the time because we slip and fall all the time.
New months, new weeks, new days, and here we are...New Year!
Do you feel distant from Him? It is never a mistake to come home!


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Jayopsis.com: 2021 Summary and 2022 Plans

 

It was another interesting year for my blog writing.

A quick run down of 2021:

Total all-time page views as of 12/29/21 403,588

Most read post of 2021: The Rewards of Real Risk in High School Fishing  922 page views

2nd most read post of 2021The Rock Cross Club 492 page views

It wasn't a great year for writing.... any year that I write less than 40 posts... that is a down year.

Part of the issue is that I have put a lot of time into the development of "Winning Edges" and that will show growth in 2022.

As I begin to plan 2022, I would appreciate prayer. The last 2 years have been really tough mentally, physically, financially, emotionally.... some of it Covid related and some of it is just big life changes (weddings, the loss of my dad, etc).

The word I seem to be considering in January is "Recovery".... but time will tell.


Something Bigger Than the Moment to Handle The Moment

 

It was an outstanding season for the 2021 Briarwood football team. The team finished 10-2 with the 2 losses coming from the two north semi-finalists and the 6A State Champion.   

Very few people remember that BCS went 9-14 the last time the Lions played 6A competition. 

Coach Matthew Forester and this group of Lions have fared better in this latest move up and is currently 18-5 in class 6A the last two seasons. The reasons for the difference are complex and not fully attributed to coaching. 


These factors need to be considered to evaluate the success despite the fact that BCS is the smallest school in Class 6A (considering the 1.35 multiplier). And the road continues to be tough in finding teams to play for the next two years in 6A. The 2022 schedule is still unfinished and we are finding it hard to get teams to play.

Over the last few weeks, the following thoughts have been too dominant in my mind to not flesh out in words.

This post is also a reference to an often untouched on category in coaching.... the mental health of players and coaches. It isn't easy navigating expectations and the work required to compete.

Everyone in our small 'Briarworld" will understand the references and moments, but I always hope these posts apply to a grander scope and scheme of life and opportunity.

An Example:

On Friday, Sept. 3 our varsity football team pulled out that type of win that becomes memorable and special.

Our rival, the Chelsea Hornets came out and played an amazing football game against us. They sustained an energy and fire that seized early momentum and knocked us back on our heels as a team. Their coaches devised an excellent game plan and their players executed that plan to such a high level that we found ourselves down 14 points through much of the game. I have coached in enough of these types of games over the years to know that the regular outcome is a loss. And had we had any turnovers or missed opportunities in the 4th quarter of that game, we would have sustained a very hurtful loss.

Football is also strange that in the chaos and storm of physical competition, any number of things could have gone differently and the outcome would be impacted. These are the types of games where, if both teams played ten times, you would have 10 drastically different scores. Add heat, humidity, injuries, illness, penalties called or uncalled, tackles made, passes dropped... and you begin to see why sports have the drama and draw that keeps us showing up and being entertained.

But there are TWO factors I want to point to as an illustration from this contest that is important to giving yourself the best opportunity to win in those moments. There are SO MANY MORE than these two... we won't take time to discuss prior work and preparation, team culture, personal discipline, leadership, playing intense regardless of the score..... all of these things are well documented.

These two factors are 'dispositions' .... or to drill down a bit, possible even  presuppositional attitudes that can enhance winning at those moments where doubt, drama, and the opponent are at full hurricane force. And I'm not saying that one team had them and the other one did not. Having a disposition doesn't guarantee success... but it adds to the likelihood of it happening.

FACTOR 1- Something Bigger Than the Moment to Handle The Moment.

This is one I point to quite often as I work with quarterbacks. A QB is in a high profile, spotlight position that carries quite a bit of stress and expectations.

I tell my Qb's all the time, "there has to be something bigger than football in your life to be able to keep football in the proper place". For us, that bigger thing is faith... We point to a relationship to God through the good news message of Christ. When Christ is preeminent in life and everything is made subject to Him, then everything is kept in their  proper place. If Christ isn't at the top, then even good things can be mis-placed to god things and they all fail as idols. Football is a great game but it is a terrible god.

If we keep that perspective, we learn to handle both the victories and defeats as they should be. They still feel good and they still hurt ( I HATE to lose).. but we learn to accept the events under the sovereign hand of God... a good of great intentions (Romans 8:28 and many others).

The illustration I use to support this is from other sports.... I usually ask them, "Do you want to know why Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson  make putts to win majors, why Michael Jordan hits buzzer beaters, why Tom Brady drives the team in two minute comebacks and others choke?" And we all think things like talent, hard work, competitive fire (all true). But I think a huge factor is "they don't HAVE to" they are free to play a game, free to make the play, they are not validated by the moment... they already are secure in their position... they have done it before... they already believe in themselves.. and others believe in them. It is HARD to get there... you do have to do it the first time... but once you break through, it is easier to do it again.

One poor guy needs to make that putt to keep his tour card and Tiger just wants to add to his dump truck of previous wins and prize money- that isn't a fair competition!

This is a delicate balance... you can care so little that in the end you don't really want it...no- no- no...IT HAS TO MATTER! At the same time, if I can convince a competitor that he is already validated as a man.. he is already a winner.. he is accepted win or lose... then he is in a much better disposition to make those plays under pressure.

I also have to admit that competitors who tout 'faith' are open to ridicule and skepticism that can be justified. There are some who extol a faith, but it is only a slogan. I have always said a fake Jesus, a 'tag-on' Jesus always falls off during times of stress of failure. It needs to the authentic or it is a fraud.

Isn't it interesting how the media covered the BCS/Chelsea game was covered that night? (It is important to say that this post has nothing to do with the opponents that night- they played so well and likely have these same qualities... again, to have this disposition  doesn't guarantee a win...)

Alec Etheredge, Shelby County Reporter: "Trailing by 14 entering the final quarter, the Lions didn’t panic. Instead, they went to work."

After a false start, however, they eventually faced third-and-goal from the 7, which quickly became fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line with 38 seconds left.

Another penalty pushed it back to be fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but the Lions looked as calm as possible in the biggest moment of the season thus far."

And though there are a lot of factors that lead to us making plays under pressure... the fact that it really isn't life and death contributes to a better disposition to make the play.

This is hard to teach by the way and thankfully has been a part of our program for many decades though we fail at this many times.

Here is another way to put it- IF YOU ARE FREE TO FAIL (i.e. your life will still be OK if this doesn't work out) YOU ARE FREE TO SUCCEED. IF YOU ARE FREE TO MISS, YOU ARE FREE TO MAKE!

So, maybe I'm really describing a type of FREEDOM, not chained to the idol of validation.

And that is a part of the second factor....

FACTOR 2- A SUPPORTED PERSON IS A FREE PERSON

This is a little more difficult to explain... possibly controversial... but true.

In that game a few weeks ago, our coaches and players were free to just coach and play because for right now our football coaches are supported... i.e. not on the hot seat. There isn't a large group of parents or players standing in judgment of every decision and move. And because of that, people are generally trusting that when decisions are made, they are given the benefit of the doubt, and the calls aren't life and death moments as well.

When you feel like you are coaching for your job... I often wonder if you are really free to coach?

I experienced that personally as a previous head coach. At some point, I knew that there were significant people who had decided I wasn't a good head football coach and my tenure was in jeopardy.

And it impacted decisions... because I was anxious and thought way too much about how a decision might impact my job approval rating.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and get positivity to all coaches at all schools. I know that isn't a reality.. but a high school coach should never have to wade through the mess that college coaches are subject to.

When fans, parents, and even players begin to doubt a coach... then the opportunity to win in those pressure moment sis greatly diminished. And it saddens me because it is a self defeating disposition.

Let me take the Chelsea game as an example and show how that could have worked against us...

Let's pretend we have the opposite atmosphere and our coaches are making pressure packed decisions but the fans, parents, and players think the coaches are stupid.

When we got behind early? "I expected this.. out coached already"

When we throw a halfback pass? "That was a dumb call... what are they thinking!"

When we lined up offsides on that play? "see there... our coaches are idiots!"

And then we line up for the next play... does the negativity make us think we are going to make the play or does it already lend itself to the likelihood of failure?

Does the coach feel free to make a gutsy risky call?

Do the players trust the coach or do they hear so many bad things all the time that they actually doubt them?

See how it works? 

I talk to AD's all around the country and they will ALL just about say the same thing- positive parents/fans almost always lend to a better than expected season.

Negative parents/fans who whine and complain almost always are sabotaging their season before it even begins.

One AD told me on a zoom that his ______ program would never be successful until they graduate the professional critics and complainers. But the fear is that it pollutes the water for the next group coming... so it is never easy.

Again, it doesn't mean that coaches don't need evaluation and pressure from administrators to improve.

What it does mean is that coaches need to coach, parents need to parent, players need to play, and administrators need to administrate. If you get beyond your role, it leads to dysfunction.

I have many examples of that over the years...  some positive and some negative.

Don't misunderstand me here... there will ALWAYS be critics and distractors, I am not THAT naive. But championship programs have less of that and the MAJORITY of the support has to be positive to better enable success.

To the parents, I think it is the same solution- there has to be something MORE than the athletics experience to keep it all in perspective. I struggled with that as well. 

3 John "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth". (ESV)

Allow God to use the experience both good and tough to prepare your sons and daughters for their life. He is trustworthy and the Scriptures declare it so.

And it has to be more than words. 

After all, "Christian IS as Christian DOES"........

Friday, November 26, 2021

Selfies and Soul Deep Beauty

Forgive the title!


I sometimes think of the pushback that some people must have to all of us loons who post selfies with fish pushed out to the camera to enhance the view. In a world that for generations has called all fisherman 'liars' this may be the last gasp effort to include the genetic need to embellish the story.

But very few, except hunters and anglers themselves, understand what that pose has meant- going all the way back to your grandfather and his black and whites of impossible stringers.

BASS FISHING AND FAITH

2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Bass fishing is one of the ultimate joys of walking by faith. Even though there are small moments of 'sight fishing' (that has its own exciting reward), there is a pure deep joy of having life bump your lure as it sinks into the unknown abyss.

As you are working the lure, you do receive 'information'- current, a sense of depth, rocks, branches.... but suddenly there is a tap.tap of life. It is exhilarating.

In mere minutes, the angler responds to that sometimes subtle 'hello' with a rather violent and explosive hook-set that will result in 'game on' or the agony of defeat.

THE GOOD FIGHT

But that photo represents and even greater message- it is proof of victory. Bass fisherman in particular go through long lulls for sudden and swift battles to land the beast.

Years of experience and the expectations of competition can change the prolonged enjoyment of it all. In the past four or five years I have become better at using the rod and patience to enjoy the fight more than the landing.... but it is a core pleasure of the prize.

SOUL DEEP BEAUTY

Psalm 24
[1] The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
[2] for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

It would take a poet to truly capture the majesty of fishing. Wind, waves, clouds, birds, sunrise, deer... even the design of the fish and their lateral lines and muscular agility.... how can you capture a beauty that resonates deep in your innermost being?

Emerson came close.... (from Nature)- a few lines have been paraphrased....

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature....The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. 

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods (on the water), is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, -- no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Creator circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, -- master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and waters minister, is the suggestion of an hidden relation between man and creation. I am not alone and unacknowledged. The creatures nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

So next time you see me post a picture, smiling, and holding a bass..just know... it isn't narcissistic pride as it well looks like...

It is a poor expression of the worship and beauty of this rich experience that is more than therapy to me.


P.S.- I enjoy seeing your pictures and videos as well LOL

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Is There A Thanksgiving for the Hurting?


Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving.

Over the years, I have a way that I pray for people that may seem odd, and even possibly open to criticism. After a short silence and then some sort of pre-amble with the Lord, I just write down names. And as I write them down, I'm am giving their situation to God and pleading with Him to do what I can not do but He can. 

In these post Covid times, and possibly the fact that I am late 50's in age and tend to 'rub shoulders with the older', the lists grow long these days. The list today includes little babies in the hospital, and grieving families. It also includes a hurting nation with a landscape of division, strife, and want.

And you know well the foundation verse of the pre-amble- Philippians 4:5–7

[5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

But there is a question at the top of this post.... can there be Thanksgiving today for those in pain? 

Those in grief? Those who are lonely? Those who would give the world to forget or those who would pay it all to remember and see one more time?

And the answer? For those who refuse to give up faith, hope, and love..... YES!

Even if there seems to be no relief in sight... Remember the example of Abraham in Romans 4:17–22

[17] as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. [18] In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” [19] He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. [20] No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, [21] fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. [22] That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (ESV)

I don't know when, who, where, how someone may read this short post today- but here is Thanksgiving for the hurting:

If your marriage is in trouble, grab your spouse look them in the eye and say, "I am thankful for you" and count those positive traits instead of the downward spiral of transgressions and failed expectations.

Is there a broken relationship with years of distance and regret? Use today as a way to say "love, forgiveness, and thanks".

Is this is your first holiday without a loved one and the bitterness is so raw that you can't see a way to go on?  Bend your knee in thanksgiving and faith as you say , "Lord, they are not coming back to me, but one day I will be with them" and then rise and know that God knows your pain and He is patiently awaiting that day as well.

At the table today... though it is quite Ok to be thankful for what you have. To me the smell and taste of my coffee this morning is something to be thankful for... be even MORE thankful for the PEOPLE  in your midst and tell them, "I am thankful for you".

When we say thanks, we are actively showing faith, hope, and love because an attitude of gratitude is the fruit of those amazing virtues sprouting roots in our sinful hearts that are always prone to wander.

I find it interesting that 'gratitude' is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and I believe that part of that is that gratitude is a response to a perspective, a way of seeing. Without the fruit of the Spirit there would not be a chance to show gratitude in the waste land of the works of the flesh including  "enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy" and the list goes on in Galatians 5:20–21and it is not exhaustive because Paul adds "And things like these"!

So there is a beautiful table today- one that has a Biblical perspective of God, His grace and mercy, and pain is seen as a reality under his Sovereign control to be put away at the close of days, and we still bow and say 'thanks' and are thankful for His people and His purposes- then that is a HEALING table of Holy fellowship. We believe in His promises... including eternal life in His Son.

There may be a place and time today that the table is just one soul, all alone, with meager means and little to eat. Yet that person bows with gratitude and hope and rejoices in the promises of God.

Perhaps another place today. Feasting and luxurious... prestige and power. But if there is no true divine perspective, it will be another disappointment as the day ends in disillusionment and emptiness.

May your table today be overflowing with thanks.