Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rebuttal from a Coach

In the interest of fairness, I recieved a rather long rebuttal to my earlier rant about coaches. So for the first time ever here are comments in full sent by a "guest" blogger:

"I read your “Where is the Decorum?: Coach heal thyself” and while I agree with some of your points and could also point out some characteristics of youth referees if pressed J, I took personal offense to the “Coaches at all levels should be required to … pay a fee to get the privilege to coach our young people.”  Just wanted to remind you that we do.  I paid for the background checks, I paid for a course to get my copper card to coach youth wrestling, I paid for a USA wrestling membership, I pay for water and ice on occasion for practices and games because it is not necessarily provided but still our responsibility.  I pay a little extra for the appreciation party at the end of the year.  We also have to make the majority if not all practices and games while other parents may be able to “skip” a few for other commitments, and also we wait behind with other people’s kids who are “just a few minutes late” picking them up, no big deal, right?  We also pay for the right to have other parents who focus solely on their child and tell us he needs more playing time or if we would just do this (meaning let their child play running back) the team would be better, etc. etc. after watching practice or the game for 5 minutes when we have been practicing and evaluating for weeks.  We are even tutors on occasion when some kids can’t seem to pass a simple grade check in school because the parents are not capable of helping (all it takes is effort which is what is wrong with America).  I have been mentor, tutor, male role model, friend, financier, bus driver, whipping boy and scapegoat all so my son gets to be coached by me (really who better J )and because I am a sports nut.  We receive absolutely no compensation for our time whatsoever except for the occasional “thanks, coach”.  I think we’ve paid enough.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a knowledge based quiz however, but I think we know how that will turn out, in my case at least.  Just some other side of the coin perspective for you bro."   

So there you have it, I have been rebuked. But since this is my blog I have the final word and we all know I wasn't talking about the kind of coach that takes the time to write such a convincing response. So we can agree that both officials and coaches need to be role models and be professional. We can also agree that the coach above is exactly the kind of coach kids need.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Married to Me Appreciation Day

So I was perusing the Runners World website today and I read this blog post  .I very much enjoyed the post and at the end of it the author challenged us to write a blog about our wife. The premise of the post was that runners wives put up with a lot and they do. I am a runner and my wife puts up with quite a bit, like just yesterday when I went on a 3 hour run and then came back and tracked mud on the kitchen floor. But I got to thinking that not only does my wife put up with my running but she also puts up with... well me in general.

I will be the first to admit that I am a very hard person to live with. I am macho, egotistic, somewhat self centered, demanding, picky, and at the same time oblivious. I find it hard to show emotion. I care for people deeply but often they don't even know because I suck at telling them. I think about telling them usually after they leave the room. Mostly I act pretty grumpy. My kids call me sour marshmallow because of the grumpy outer shell that surrounds the gooey inside. I try to work on these things but after 22 years in the military I think my brain is hard wired for a low BS tolerance and unfortunately it thinks most people and things are BS. Over the last 6 years of civilian life I have been slowly trying to retrain myself to be a more caring and thoughtful person however so far I am a dismal failure at that. My wife on the other hand is very caring and thoughtful . I thought I might list some of the things she does for me that I very much appreciate in no particular order.

She makes awesome rolls and fry bread
She irons my dress clothes because I am a freaking wrinkle bomb waiting to explode
She puts flannel sheets on the bed and lets me sleep with the window open even though she is freezing
She reminds me to take my clothes out of the dryer and then after I forget she does it.
She lets me officiate sports and be gone many many weekends and nights
She lets me work as an Emergency Medical Technician(see above)
She waited for me day after day, month after month when I was deployed overseas keeping our family together
She brought 4 wonderful children into my life who I would die for( that is a true statement)
She knows I like pie
She lets me watch Football/Wrestling/NASCAR/Baseball/Gun shows without once asking me to turn the channel
She lets me run and bike and swim whenever I want as I try to stay active and keep a little of the competitive spirit alive.
She tells me I am handsome and not fat even though we both know she is fibbing
She has moved all over the planet with me to 7 different states and 2 countries, leaving her friends behind at every instance.
She makes me laugh

And the list could go on and on. I can't possibly list everything my wife does or has done. And sure it hasn't always been a bed of roses, whose marraige has? But we have been married 23 years. That is 23 years of growing together and learning each others likes and dislikes, fears and hopes. I wouldn't have done it any other way.

I love you Sparrow

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where Is the Decorum? : Coach Heal Thyself

So I don't normally whine about things that I know I don't have control over. I also know that this subject has been discussed ad naseum by many many people, generally complaining about the younger generation. I however am not going to complain about young people, the people I am going to complain about are older and should definitely know better. The people I am talking about are so called youth sports "coaches." As I have related in the blog before I officiate sports from high school down to the elementary school level. Officiating is generally an enjoyable experience and the State High School Sports Associations keeps a pretty tight rein on unsportsmanlike behavior of coaches,players and fans.

Youth sports or those sports for younger individuals that are generally played outside the auspices of an official organization, however are a different story. Different leagues have wildly different standards  between them as to who can be a coach and how that coach should act. This is fine, I am all for free enterprise and letting the market decide on the best process. However, what generally happens is the process is no process and if your kid or kids participates in the sport you're a "coach." There is where the problem lies, none of these so called coaches have any idea how to be a coach. They think because they watch a sport on TV that they know everything about it and their coaching technique amounts to browbeating the kids and yelling at the officials. Few if any of these Vince Lombardi want-a-be's actually take the time to study the rules or any coaching techniques that involve positive reinforcement. Oh they may throw the occasional " Have fun" when they are talking to their minions but the say it halfheartedly in an attempt to be politically correct.

Youth sports in my opinion is the time to positively model the good aspects of competition and being a member of a team. This is the opportunity to give the children involved good character traits before they grow up and the sport becomes more about winning conference championships than building character. Unfortunately rather than acting as a team in concert with the officiating staff to promote good game play and good sportsmanship too often coaches at these lower levels try to prove they're the next Bill Bellicek or Dan Gable and they run up the score, continue passing when ahead by 35 points, or just plain humiliate an opponent. This is bush league at its finest.Coaches should be modeling the good sportsmanship that they expect from others.

Coaches at all levels should be required to pass a knowledge based rules test, and pay a fee to get the privilege to coach our young people. Where are your manners, shame on you Coaches, heal thyself

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Operation Display Determination 1985

In 1985 I was a salty know it all member of the "Spec 4" Mafia assigned to Weapons Platoon B Company 1st Battalion 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment 82nd Airborne Division Ft. Bragg NC. I was assigned as the gunner for the main gun of our 81 mm mortar section, a somewhat prestigious position given to the lower enlisted guy who had managed to stick around the longest without getting chaptered out. The All American Division as the 82nd is known, was and is the only Division size paratroop unit left in the US Army. The army of the 1980's was different than today's military. It was struggling to make a cohesive professional force as it also transitioned from the draftee army of the 1970's to an all volunteer army. Times were a little turbulent, like the summer we had to walk to every training exercise closer than 12 miles because the military had run out of money for fuel.
Some of my good friends were Roger, Richard, Don (Duck), B.J., Bobby (The Ragin Cajun) , Mark,and Ernest T. All of these guys were awesome friends, some got out of the military and I lost touch, some like Duck who proceeded me into Special Forces made the military a career like I did.They say you never forget your first and Weapons platoon was my first military unit and I will never forget the characters that belonged to it.

In 1985 our unit was deployed to the European part of Turkey in an Emergency Deployment Readiness exercise called "Display Determination 85." Every platoon provided two soldiers to act as an advance party and I was chosen to be one of those two for our platoon. The other soldier accompanying me was a "newbie" to our platoon named David. Dave had come over from the 4/325 stationed in Vicenza Italy so he was familiar with Europe where my only trip overseas at the time had been to the Sinai Peninsula. The 4/325 would be redesignated the 173rd Airborne Brigade some years later. We departed North Carolina via C141 cargo plane on our way to Turkey and after a long and very boring flight we landed in Istanbul and unloaded our CONEX containers and vehicles for the move farther west. We convoyed west along the highway until we entered a tent city built next to a Turkish Commando base. The Commandos would be participating in our exercise but I never really saw them during our time there. We spent the next two days reconning the drop zone and preparing for the arrival of the rest of our battalion who would make a night mass parachute drop after flying straight from North Carolina.

I was tasked to be the jeep driver for the Drop Zone Safety Officer (DZSO) so at the appointed time and place I was dozing off in the sparsely cushioned seat of an M151 jeep when I heard the unmistakable sound of low flying aircraft. The DZSO was taking wind readings and talking to the lead aircraft via the radio that was on the other seat of the vehicle. The wind reading was 10 knots gusting to 13 knots which was the maximum limit for a static line parachute jump such as the one being attempted. Either way it was a little windy and pitch black. By straining my eyes I could make out the darker outlines of the aircraft against the night sky. Suddenly I saw little green chem lights shooting out the tail of  multiple aircraft as the heavy drop of vehicles and equipment was released prior to the jumpers. These chem lights were attached to the cargo parachutes rigged on this equipment. Heavy drops were normally released at the leading edge of the drop zone so as not to clutter the rest of the landing area for the personnel.

However on this particular night after flying thousands of miles in total darkness and conducting nape of the earth low level flight for 2 hours prior to the jump the Air Force got it a little wrong. The lead sortie of aircraft released their equipment in the center of the drop zone which did two things. Number one it pushed their troops off the edge of the drop zone forcing many of them to land in a water filled canal that was 500 meters from te trailing edge. Number two when the trailing birds adjusted for the error they dropped their troops smack dab on the equipment that had been previously dropped. Factor pitch blackness and high winds into the equation and you had a recipe for disaster. After all jumpers where away we started driving across the drop zone using blackout lights trying to estimate the number of injured and confused paratroopers. Along the way I happened to find a few members of my platoon and they hitched a ride to our platoon assembly area. A few of them like my friend Roger had actually been dragged by their parachutes down the shallow canal like bobsledders on their back. He told me how he struggled to release one of his canopy risers as the water kept flowing over his helmet and into his mouth and nose. After finally releasing the riser he stopped being dragged but he had to retrieve his soaked rucksack and sodden parachute and start navigating to the assembly area. He was especially upset because the disposable camera he had in his ruck was ruined. He was very glad to see us. As dawn approached all individuals were accounted for and we started hearing the war stories and rumors of injuries, things like our battalion commander slamming full force into a large truck that was on the drop zone (this one was true he was sent back home and spent 3 weeks in the hospital) or the guy who landed in some village and was arrested by the local police ( not true).

We moved out on foot and for the next two weeks we walked and walked and walked all over the Turkish countryside lugging our heavy mortar equipment with us. Occasionally we would get a fire mission and we would run some dry fire drills dropping imaginary mortar rounds onto imaginary reference points or objectives. The whole time we conducted the exercise I never knew where we were on the map and it was all I could do to slog through the muddy freshly plowed fields. It was 3 years later when I attended Ranger School when I was taught the importance of keeping all members of your unit informed. I give our platoon leader an F on that little skill. Every night we would set up the guns and sleep beside them, waiting with one ear next to the field telephone for the sound of "Section!!!" which indicated an incoming fire mission.

Eventually we made it back to the tent city for some R and R prior to leaving to go back to the States. The first night in the tents we managed to obtain some Turkish Arak, which is a liquor similar to Sambuka or Raki. If you have never had any of those they are all clear and taste like black licorice and will kick you butt. We mixed this liquor with the dried fruit we pilfered from our first generation Meals Ready to Eat to make a jungle juice par excellance'. After about 2 hours we where howling at the moon and rolling through the bonfire outside the tent. Bobby burned his hand in the fire but we told him to quit his whining and have another canteen cup full of the juice. The next day we all had heads the size of fresh watermelons but we were told we would be getting a cultural tour of Istanbul. This was actually pretty cool, we visited the Grand Mosque and other attractions. I bought a little ivory jewelry box for some reason. I kept the box and 2 years later I gave it to my wife who at the time I hadn't even met. She still has it. Later on that evening we went to the Kervan Seray night club and were treated with a show featuring traditional dancers. We drank a bunch of beer and things were going along well until we reached the beer limit established by the chain of command and also discovered we had been locked into the night club. I guess the muckety mucks didn't want any drunk and testosterone filled paratroops invading downtown Istanbul. Disheartened and half sloshed we used all the money we had left to bribe one of the waiters to provide us with some alcohol. He delivered us ten bottles of the most god awful red house wine I have ever drank. Of course we proceeded to polish those off and the night ended with us doing jump commands and Parachute Landing Falls off the tables of the night club.

The next day we poured ourselves into the planes taking us back home and lifted off for our refuel stop in Madrid Spain. The flight back was no picnic as this was still the Cold War. Our route took us close to the airspace of some Eastern Block countries and our pilot did some pretty nifty evasive manuevers when he reported we where being shadowed by two unknown MIG Aircraft. I expected a air to air missle to come through the fuselage at any moment. Eventually we landed in Madrid however and had a 4 hour layover that was prolonged when after takeoff our landing gear woudl not retract and we had to make an emergency landing back at the airport. Rumor had it the Security Police had the bomb sniffing dogs out giving the plane a once over.Finally we landed back at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg. I was happy to be back in the States.

Post Script: As I write this blog entry it has been one year since my good friend Roger was killed in a bicycle accident. Airborne All the way