Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Reed Football Field Debacle

I’ll disclose upfront that this post addressed two organizations I have history with, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) and the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association (NIAA), so there’s definitely some joy in sticking it to them a little.

This week the NIAA moved the state semifinal game between Sparks, Reed and Las Vegas Liberty  from Reed High School to a private school in town, deeming Reed’s field dangerous and inappropriate for a playoff game. I rarely agree with anything the NIAA does, but in this case they were absolutely right. Reed’s field has been an embarrassment for years.  Hard dirt covers huge parts of the playing surface, a goalpost has been bent for at least five years and the whole place looks like it’s been abandoned.

 Like neglectful parents attempting to justify feeding children donuts for dinner, the WCSD addressed the minimal actions they’d taken, “the safety of our student athletes is a primary concern at the Washoe County School District. In order to provide the best playing field possible at Reed High School, district personnel have consistently worked on the field this year, providing aeration, seeding, watering, fertilization, sanding and leveling.”

 The bottom line is whether through incompetence, lack of money or lack of interest, Reed’s administration and the WCSD have failed to provide the minimum any program should expect, a safe place to play.

I don’t know whether Reed’s admin, the WCSD or the taxpayers are more to blame, but I do know this is typical for Reno. ¼ of one percent of educational budget is allocated to athletics in Washoe County. (In Texas, it’s between 1.5 and 2.5 percent. Modest, but at least 6 times what we provide.) I also know this isn’t the fault of Reed’s football program. They do an outstanding, professional job and should be able to focus on coaching rather than field maintenance.

An underlying theme of my book is the difference between how Texas and Nevada view athletics. This incident makes the point very well. In Texas, there would be no argument that this field isn’t appropriate for a semi-final playoff game, much less a seventh grade scrimmage. In Reno, people actually have the gall to argue, that because the embarrassing condition of this field has been allowed to slide for years that it’s really not so bad. Substandard support has become the norm here and it’s the coaches and kids who pay the price.

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Third round playoff preview and Travel Plans

Unfortunately three of my teams didn’t survive the second round. La Marque fell to a good Coldspring team, Idalou was blown out and Harlingen lost a close and controversial game against Valley power Sharyland. The good news is that five of my original eleven are still playing after Thanksgiving. Stamford scored a ton of points beating Panhandle( pictures here), Carthage dominated defending state champion Navasota ( If you have three hours to kill, here’s a YouTube video of the entire game.)  The Calhoun Sandcrabs upset Flour Bluff 27-20, Aledo continued to roll, beating Boswell 75-14 and the Cedar Hill Longhorns handles the Hebron Hawks 42-21.

This weekend has Stamford vs. Sundown, Carthage vs. Silsbee, Calhoun vs. Cedar Park, Aledo vs. Canyon and Cedar Hill vs. Abilene Cooper ( Radio Link).

Wish I could be any of these places, but I’m still in Reno. I booked my first trip back to Texas since I came home last year. I’ll arrive at DFW two weeks from today on December 12th, in time for the semi’s and will stay through the State chapionships the following weekend. I’m looking forward to being in Texas again and catching up with some of the people I spent time with last year. I’ve got my fingers crossed that some of my teams will still be playing when I arrive. Good luck everybody and have a happy Thanksgiving… Time to start cooking the turkey.

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Le Marque Chapter Exerpt

I decided I’ll post an excerpt from each chapter of Kiss a Fat Dog. Chapter One covers the La Marque High School Cougars. Hope you enjoy it and CTS!!

… “Remember, you’re at La Marque. Best fans in the world, but they also know everything.” Defensive Coordinator Lawrence is very confident about tonight, telling his charges, “This defense, right now, is about where we were in the fifth or sixth week last year.” Coach Jackson expects the Tornadoes to come out flying, but thinks they’ll fade once the emotion settles down and as long as the Cougars don’t give them an excuse to think they’re in the game.

Several coaches recommend I go to the pep rally in the gym after school. They tell me a La Marque pep rally is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I find out what they’re talking about, but it turns out I have seen its like before. The suggestive, rhythmic dancing from the girls in their skimpy sequined costumes may not be the norm in Texas, but I’d seen many similar high school groups in New Orleans during Marti Gras. The crescent of coastal Texas including Galveston, Houston and Beaumont has more in common with Tidewater Louisiana than other parts of its state. Texas is only one state, but it has more cultural regions than most countries.

After the pep rally, the Cougars come to the office to get their game uniforms, Navy blue jerseys with gold numbers, COOGS stitched below the neck, matching pants with ‘CTS’ on the right hip and blue socks. The players head to the cafeteria for their team meal and a short devotional by Pastor Lee before getting on the air-conditioned school buses that will carry them two miles to the stadium.

Etheredge Stadium is impressive, but not because there’s anything noteworthy about its architecture or size. The place is simple and functional; just two slopes of steel bleachers, topped by an adequate pressbox,  Spartan locker rooms, a basic scoreboard and a natural turf field. What’s striking is the care taken preserving the place. Though it must have been built 50 years ago, the 11,000 seat stadium looks brand new. Like a perfectly restored 1970 Dodge Dart, nothing showy, but clear reverence for the traditions this place holds. The field is perfectly manicured and stenciled, the Cougar paw painted at midfield for the game, as the buses arrive from La Marque at 5:00.

It’s another hot and muggy evening in Galveston County. The players, coaches and fans are already dripping sweat as the game begins. The stands are about half full. This is a rivalry game, but nobody expects much from G-Ball, and their fans don’t travel well.  Not one to overlook any opponent, Jackson has looked nervous all day. He’s a deeply superstitious man; on the sidelines he always dresses all in black and has several game day rituals that must be followed each week. He gives a stick of gum to the same chosen assistant during warm-ups, makes a point to find his young daughter in the stands who always holds up a self-drawn sign. A few years ago he wore something that wasn’t black and his team lost. Since then, he’s careful to stick to his routines.

During his pregame talk, Jackson reminds his squad of the linemen challenge tug-of-war they lost to new 3A rival Coldspring this summer. Coldspring taunted them after the loss, “Welcome to 3A.” To remind his team of this humiliation and hammer home the point that all must pull together to accomplish anything, Jackson has brought a thick length of rope for a player to carry onto the field each week. “Don’t let go of the rope” is the teams’ theme for the season….

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Kiss a Fat Dog Overview

By using Facebook and Twitter, I’ve gotten a lot of new subscribers in recent weeks… I’m told this type of thing has become very important in getting a publishing deal. Many newer readers have been asking me about when the book is coming out,,, what its about… etc.

So here are some details:

I’m almost done with (hopefully) my last major revision of the manuscript. A major literary agent has agreed to represent the book. Agents are basically the gatekeepers in the publishing business and they are very selective about what they represent, so this is a huge step toward getting this published. That said, publishing is a very drawn out process and I really don’t know exactly when the book will be out, but finding an agent makes some kind of publishing deal very likely and a nationwide deal possible.

What the book’s about–I spent the entire 2012 football season following 11 successful high school programs a week at a time. As a football coach myself, I was welcomed into all the meetings, onto the sidelines and into the locker rooms. I following my teams through the playoffs and three of my teams made it to state championship games. My journey had me living out of my car and motels from late July until Christmas Eve.  The teams have diverse demographics and are from all over the state. The schools are: 5A-Cedar Hill, Abilene High and Stony Point (Round Rock), Harlingen, 4A-Aledo, Port Lavaca Calhoun, 3A-Carthage & La Marque, 2A-Idalou, 1A-Stamford and 6-man-Throckmorton

I read Friday Night Lights when it came out and was amazed by the organization and importance of high school football in the state of Texas. But, as a coach, I have a very different perspective about the role of athletics in a well-rounded education. As well as a story about the eleven teams, this is a book about Texas football culture and the states unique model for public education.

I hope you continue reading this blog. I let it slide since the 2012 season ended, but will continue to update it more regularly in the future. If course, I’ll update any news on the books progress here first.

 

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2nd Round Preview

Some huge games tonight. An interesting feature of the Texas playoff format, is that the biggest game isn’t always in the championship, but can be at anytime depending on how the brackets are arranged.

Story about the huge Carthage-Navasota game tonight. These may be the best two teams in 3A meeting tonight.

Another huge 3A (DII) game tonight with La Marque playing Coldspring.

I wrote about the wonderful Cedar Hill broadcast I heard last week. Here is the Link to the radio broadcast of Cedar Hill-Hebron tomorrow at 8 PM from Cowboy Stadium.

Calhoun is traveling to the Alamodome to play Flour Bluff. Here is a Video of Sandcrab supporters.

The biggest game in the Rio Grande Valley is between Harlingen and Sharyland. Attached is a Story about the huge game.

Couldn’t find much about Aledo’s game or any good links to the 2A game between Idalou and Ball in Midland, or Stamford-Panhandle. But I did include this picture from Stamford’s district championship win over Anson.

Good luck to everyone tonight. I’m hoping you all will still be playing a week from now.

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Aledo Article

A real nice article about one of my my teams Aledo and the coach, Tim Buchanan. Aledo got some unfair national attention this year. Includes a You-Tube video…  Go Bearcats!!!

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King of Sports Book Review

I just finished reading The King of Sports by Gregg Easterbrook and I don’t think I’ve ever both agreed and disagreed with opinions within one book as much at the same time. The book highlighted the many dark sides of the sport. Easterbrook made strong points in writing about how billionaire owners have used political connections to get tax subsidies. On college football, he talks about the corruption of both the NCAA and the bowl system. Pretty standard stuff, that’s been written many times and points that are tough to disagree with.

When he talked about the toll on football players themselves, my feelings were mixed.

  •     Youth Football- I agree with the author that pre-adolescences playing tackle football isn’t a good thing. I saw some little kid football this past weekend and it just reinforced my belief.  Football wasn’t designed for little kids, their bodies aren’t capable of playing the game correctly. At best the game is a waste of time for grade-school kids, at worst it’s dangerous. Tackle football shouldn’t be played until middle school.
  •       Concussions-An expose about football cannot be written these days without extended discussion about the dangers of concussions, so of course it was talked about Esterbrook was much more balanced than some, pointing out that girls soccer and gymnastics both are more likely to lead to concussions than football. Instead of condemning the sport, he suggested ways to improve the game like better helmets and rule changes.
  •       Year-around football- I absolutely agree with Easterbrook’s contention that the movement towards year-round is a bad thing. The problem is that the author never points out that football is the sport with the LEAST year-round activity.  Baseball, basketball and all girls sports are a lot worse when it comes to specialization. Every football coach I’ve met wants their players in other sports. Track is universally pushed by football coaches.  Baseball and football coaches often run summer and fall teams. Easterbrook sites the growth of 7 and 7, pro profit combines and some obscure youth league to make his claim. But most 7 on 7 is during summer, football’s traditional preseason, those combines ARE scams, but are never affiliated with any programs.  Finally, I’ve never even met anyone involved with year-round youth football.

·         High School football. This is where he really went off the rails.

  •        He talks about high school teams playing national schedules. (Again, he never puts it in perspective that it’s a tiny percentage of schools that ever play such games.)
  •          Sixteen game seasons (Very few teams go this long.)
  •         He makes the amazing claim that “Football has begun to detract from boys‘ chances of reaching college.”(His evidence? Girls are going to college more than boys and girls don’t play football. He doesn’t site studies that boys involved with extra-curricular athletics get higher grades and go to college at a higher percentage than non-involved boys.)  That very few HS players will play college ball and are thus “Thrown away” once their HS career ends. (I guess I was thrown away by this standard. At 5’4 I was a decent HS guard but had no hope of playing at the University of Nevada. NOBODY claims HS football is supposed to be a training ground for a career in football. The success of a HS program is NOT measured by how many kids get scholarships, few will and any that do are a bonus. HS athletic programs exist to teach character traits better taught outside the classroom. Period. I’ll never understand why HS football detractors so often need to point out the scarcity of players able to make a living from football. The same is true of every extracurricular. How many girls soccer players make a living from soccer, or band members from music, or theater students from acting?
  •          Coaching—Easterbrook makes strong statements about coaches. Some were flat out wrong. He claims that in parts of Texas coaches are hired by booster clubs, not school districts. I’d love to hear how this is possible given that Texas requires every coach of every sport to be a full-time school employee. He uses this to launch into a rant about how coaches abuse kids because they somehow “Don’t answer to anyone” Never mentioning a coach is under the microscope more than almost anyone, second guessed for every decision. He talks about too many coaches yelling at their kids and encourages more positive coaching methods. Again, this is something easy to agree with but very incomplete. There are bad coaches who yell too much, but Easterbrook doesn’t support the claim that this is a big problem within the sport. His only example of “Bad” coaching is television images of Lou Sabin yelling at Alabama players. I don’t know whether Sabin is a good or bad guy, but seeing someone yelling on TV isn’t enough to condemn him. Yelling is NOT inherently bad. I’ve known great coaches who yell a lot and great coaches who never yell. I probably fit somewhere in the middle. Some players respond well to intensity, some don’t.  Football is an emotional sport. A good coach knows how to use emotion to reach his players and coaches have to coach within their personalities.  Asking a mellow coach to be intense or an intense one to be mellow doesn’t work.  The bottom line is how well a coach takes care of the players and yelling doesn’t necessarily mean a coach isn’t loving on them too.
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Book update, 2013 season review and travel plans

                First an explanation on where I’ve been. Coaching without teaching took more time than I expected. I estimate that between practices, film and other planning I spent about 40 hours a week this season coaching football. I did work on the book some, but the hours I spent working on the current revision dropped during the season, and the blog was obviously forgotten.

The team I coached (North Valleys HS) finished a disappointing 2-7 in a very mediocre football area. Despite the poor record, this season ranked among the most enjoyable of the 23 years I’ve coached. After two years off it was great to coaching again. Also, 40 hour weeks was about the perfect amount of time and seemed like nothing compared to what I did most of my years as both a coach and a teacher. Finally, I appreciated just coaching one position (offensive line) without the headaches of being a head coach or coordinator

 Being a position coach is much more fun than having to worry about fundraising, purchasing, grades, discipline, being second-guessed over every decision, dealing with parents and administration, worrying about what the other position coaches are doing or even getting too bent out of shape over the scoreboard.  I coached my five guys and was grateful that the other stuff was someone else’s responsibility. Other News:

  • ·         The book—I got the manuscript to the point where I’ve begun shopping it around for a publisher… Actually, to be more exact, the process is to find a literary agent to represent the book and open doors with the publishers. A good agent can reach people in the industry that a first time author could never contact. The exciting news is that an established and prominent New York agent has read the manuscript and agreed to take it on. Further revisions and promotion are still needed, but this means the odds of Kiss a Fat Dog being widely published have just become much better.
  • ·         I’m heading back to Texas for the first time since my road trip to follow up with some of the teams I followed and see some good high school football. I hope to be there for the semi-final round through the championship weekend in Arlington. Obviously, my exact itinerary will depend somewhat on whether any of my teams are still playing… Got my fingers crossed on that, 8 of 11 of my teams survived through bi-district. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the trip. I miss Texas and it will be great to get back.
  • ·         I’ve really enjoyed following the games in Texas every week this season. With the time difference I would always get the halftime scores on my Friday Night Rivals app before my team kicked off.

Yesterday, I listened to the Cedar Hill-Temple game radio broadcast on the internet. It was a thrilling game with the      Longhorns overcoming a 28-7 halftime deficit to win in the final minute. What made it even better was the announcing of Cedar Hill radio voice Bill Howard. If you ever get a chance to hear him call a game, you’ll be glad you did. He does a great job and had me pacing the living room during the game.

I plan to update this blog much more often in the future, hopefully at least once a week.  If you’ve were a regular reader, I’m sorry it’s been so long, but there will be more soon.

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