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The Bench Is Not A Fun Place …

15 Sep

You hope at the very least that they have a moment when they hear the cheer. The clapping. The loudness. You hear the woo-hoo charged with such energy and enthusiasm that it reverberates in the air.

You’ve heard it before for your kid and hoped the start of a new year on a new team, that you’d hear the roar again, at the very least from you.

But instead it was silence, frustration, and disbelief. I rubbed my forehead and face in anguish. It was painful to watch.

It was one of those times you tried to find something positive to say or remember about the performance and nothing … absolutely nothing came to mind.

I had one of those parent moments where I couldn’t believe what was happening but it was happening because my eyes were watching it, so I just sat there stunned.

I was watching everything fall apart, just completely sink. From the top of his game to being third string. As a parent and sports enthusiast it was tough to face.

He had the worst … and I mean the worst game of his life, where everything that could go wrong did. He forgot how to pass, how to shoot, how to move fast, how to defend. It’s like he had amnesia and forgot how to play the game. It hurt to watch him self-destruct.

It hurt to come to terms with the terrible plays and effort, it was disappointing to know that he was just a body out there, not making an impact at all … well … he was, but a negative one.

That’s one thing I tell both my kids … did you make an impact? Did you do better than last time?

Both answers were no.

I mean just yesterday my daughter continued making strides in her first year of soccer. The way she continues to improve as a player every game only makes me believe that we’re just scratching at the surface of her potential. I’m excited at what she can do and what’s to come for her.

My son, however, has started his journey this year at an all-time low, and I’m troubled by it. I’m having a lowly parent moment where I feel there’s nothing I can do for my kid. No matter how many pointers or words of encouragement I shout out nothing was getting through and the slump snowballed into a disastrous state of play.

It’s the first time I couldn’t see a positive. It was an epic failure and it sat there for all to watch and the oohs and ohhhs could be heard.

The performance will hang over him like a Scarlett Letter and he’ll have to dig and fight his way out. He’ll have to work twice as hard now to even earn half the time he had before. It’s slipping away.

I’m thinking maybe it’s time to rewatch Rudy, or Hoosiers, or read the sports biographies of comeback underdogs. Perhaps rewatch Nadal’s Championship match in the U.S. Open, because the bench is not a fun place if you’re an athlete. It’s not great if you’re a parent either.

This uphill battle is going to be tough. I’m wondering what Coach Taylor would say …

Buen Camino my friends…

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Channeling My Inner-Coach Taylor

31 Aug

I saw myself doing it at one point in my life, don’t remember when I thought I could pull it off but I totally saw myself with the whistle and Coach Taylor attitude.

But I hadn’t committed myself … not until my daughter saw Megan Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn on the screen during the World Cup and asked who are they?

Oh I’m playing soccer this year, she says. That will be my sport this semester.

Soccer.

The one sport in my entire athletic repertoire that I did not play. I watch it every four years and catch Vela whenever we can go to the stadium. I reported on it during my newspaper days. I know the ins-and-outs, but hadn’t played on a team before.

But there she was … inspired by World Cup fever and so I was left with a decision. I had my run-in with this AYSO bunch before … you know the disaster that happened with my son a few years back, so I wasn’t sure I could handle another logistical nightmare.

I had to think about this one.

You see, I had signed her up to play but she was waitlisted. You know the lies about the Wait List. I was like here we go again. And then I got the message … you know the one … ‘calling all volunteers’ but with an extra twist. If you’re player has been waitlisted we give priority to people who volunteer.

Priority.

And there it was … the trap. The offer I couldn’t refuse …

Coaching. Coaching your kid’s team, along with other kids you don’t know, who may not always listen, and whose parents might be THOSE parents, the ones that come out on the news brawling in a full on cage match because of a bad call on the field.

That gave me some pause.

But there could be positives …

Time for Jim Carrey’s YES Man to make his appearance. And he did. My perspective shifted and it no longer seemed like a trap but an opportunity. An opportunity to try something new with my daughter, a double journey.

Now I was a little hesitant because I come from the old school philosophy that you shouldn’t be a coach if you’ve never played the sport. But I already knew the sport, I was athletic enough to pick up some skills and vision was something I already possessed.

So I asked her would you be all right if I helped coach the team, and her response was you coach me all the time at home.

So there it was … I’d officially get a clipboard and whistle and help lead this girls 10-U team.

Let me tell you, some girls at this age aren’t as enthusiastic about playing soccer or should I say doing drills to help you get better at playing soccer. It was funny to watch the different personalities on the field. I wasn’t sure how things would pan out at our first game.

But I helped prepare them the best way I could … The Coach Taylor way. After all they’re still learning dynamics, skills, and team cohesiveness. So positive attitude and the ball movement we learned in practice is what I focused on. As the head coach led the offensive strategy and lineups, I focused on defense and mental state. Fun was an important part of the formula if the players were to last in the heat of mid morning.

And in the end … they did a great job. They hustled and ran hard. We won 5-1 and I was happy to see the butterflies go away and the confidence build up in my daughter and the other players. Step by step they found their way on field of dreams.

In the end, I was glad I wasn’t one of the parents sitting in beach chairs on the sidelines. I was the one running the sidelines helping athletes become better players, helping them gain their confidence.

I was a coach … for the first time … officially. Although I still need whistle.

Buen Camino my friends!

Learning From Mistakes …

20 Oct

One of the best parts of sports I enjoy, aside from awesome shows like Friday Night Lights and movies like Hoosiers and Miracle, are the teachable moments that happen often throughout the season and in the playoffs.

We pay attention to the hardworking players who let their game speak for itself and point out that being flashy might not be the best avenue. This whole dabbing thing drives me up the wall.  I enjoy celebrating goals, 3-pointers, home runs, and awesome defensive plays, but dabbing … ugh … it’s in poor form. It’s really for the other person, not so much for yourself. I know there’s going to be all kinds of trash-talkers and show-boaters on teams, giving kids bad examples to follow. They’re always there. Most of the time, though,  jumping and fists up in the air are instinctual forms of celebrating. That big YEAAHHHHH yell is genuine exuberance. You can’t contain your happiness so you just soar.

I’m trying to teach my kids to soar. Not be flashy just soar. But I found out they don’t need lessons in soaring, just in learning from their mistakes so they can soar again.

As I’ve mentioned before … this is a House of Sports and all games involving our favorite teams are on our television. Watching the NLCS playoffs and cheering for our Boys in Blue during the postseason is something we do every chance we get. I remember cheering for them back in the day with my Dad hoping for El Toro, Fernando Valenzuela, to earn the win.  You see we had Fernandomania and continued to bleed Blue ever since. It happens with everyone in their own city with their own team, I imagine.

And as with any playoff series mistakes happen, over, and over, and over again. The only point I can make after my frustration subsides is  … What do you think they learned from that there? What would you have learned?

Don’t beat yourself … let others try to beat you … let them earn their win.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

This was the common theme for the most recent series. It’s something I often put out there to my kids … the whole “you better empty out your tank when you’re out there, give it everything you got and don’t let anybody out-try you.”

That’s my thing … don’t let anyone out-try you. They may be faster, they may be able to throw the ball farther, they may score more goals, but they better not out-try you. You need to Ninja-Warrior Up! No matter what mistakes you’ve made, learn from them and get back out there. And that’s something my kids pointed out during the series. Mistakes and getting out-tried. It happens. But if you learn from it, you can make a comeback and so our team did.

I’m all out about comebacks and the underdog. I’m all about Cinderella stories and defense winning championships. I’m all about earning the win. I’m glad my kids got to see the ugly parts of losing and winning, as well as the good parts of trying. I’m glad they got to see what can happen if you get it together, even if it took seven games.

You can make it to the next round … and see what happens next.

Buen Camino, my friends.

 

 

 

A New Discovery

24 Jun

All or Nothing.

It sat there on my list for a while and then in the middle of a Thursday night I decided to hit the play button.

Remarkable.

The amount of intensity, drive, and humility surprised me. I heard of it, but had never watched it before. The All Blacks changed everything.

The Haka alone is a mesmerizing part of their tradition. A moment of connecting to their past, to their culture, and to their present The Haka is a hallmark of New Zealand rugby.

The-Haka

The All Blacks performing The Haka

And the thing is they don’t do it for the cameras, or for the show, they do it for themselves, as a way to connect and prepare for the battle that is about to take place. I appreciated the connection and tradition.

I had no idea what rugby was about, but this series schooled me.

As far as sports documentaries go, this one changed my perspective. Rugby is a brutal sport, asking athletes to be warriors on the field, yet demanding that teamwork , heart, and unity be at the top of the list. What’s best for the team is a mentality that drives them all. Talented and humble. These are values I try to instill in my son and values I found among the All Blacks Rugby team from New Zealand.

Now I know there are rugby teams all over the world and they may share these values as well, but it was something about the All Blacks that drew me in. Just as the championship eras of the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Yankees, the All Blacks seem to have  fierce following across New Zealand and the globe.

And I’ve just discovered them.

Now it wasn’t so much their domination of the sport, but the added down to Earth characteristic of these players and their heart that stood out. They’re there to win, no doubt about that, but what drives them is not letting their teammates down, not letting their families down. The unselfish play is necessary.

I wish they had more of that value present in other sports. I mean I know there are a lot of unselfish players out there in every sport, but the light rarely shines on them. It’s given to the players with flash. The click-bait.

I appreciated that talent, hard work, perseverance and team unity were central to this series. That even though it is an extremely intense, physically and mentally demanding sport, that character and team matter most. It’s give it your all. Leave it out there on the field. With The All Blacks it really is All or Nothing. There’s no in-between because you only got one shot to wear the jersey on game day.

I’ve only just scratched the surface and can’t wait what else I discover.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

 

 

Inspired and Ready For a Comeback Win

24 Feb

It was an inspirational story that unfolded in three periods, the kind of story that pulls at the heart because you’re not really hoping for yourself to succeed, you’re hoping for someone else.

It’s the kind that every parent has when they’re cheering for their kids. I don’t think I ever had that shoot-for-the-win-as-the-clock-winds-down fantasy when I was playing sports. I wanted to win, of course, but I was never the buzzer-beater dreamer. I was more of the playmaker and defensive beast. And I had hope back then, just as I do now. But now with kids it’s different.

My hope sits with them. I hope for them, I want them to experience the win, feel what it’s like to get a victory hug from your teammates, feel what it’s like to have a redemption win, feel what that’s like.

So when my son’s team lost their hockey tournament in a shoot-out, after the score remained the same in sudden death overtime, my heart broke a little because I wanted that so much for him. But I was still proud of his effort, of his heart, and defenseman skills. I wanted to show him that regardless of the score he should be proud of himself too. And the thing is … he was.

He smiled as he got his second place medal for his weekend tournament and I was too … but I still wanted that for him. Just like parents everywhere, you want them to feel that sunshine glow. Just like fans everywhere, you place your hopes on your team and wish them to victory, not because you want something for yourself, but more so because you want that feel-good-feeling for them, the kind of feeling I got from watching the US Women’s Hockey team win the gold.

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It was an intensely stressful and dramatic moment of exuberance. I jumped off the couch, pumped my fist in the air, and said what every hockey fan that had seen Miracle had said … YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Late Wednesday night, I witnessed the come-from-behind redemption win that had been in the sights of the women’s hockey team since the Sochi Olympics.

It was the kind of game that had this House of Sports residents fully engaged and putting all her hope on a young goalie, the kind of hope that makes players faster, stronger, and more skilled. You hope that the best version of your player is out there and that you did what you could to support them. And it is this kind of inspirational play that you hope catches the spirit of your kids.

And I’m happy to report that watching the women’s hockey team play Canada for the gold was an inspirational testament that resonated with thousands of people and found a spot in the heart of my kids.

Congrats to the women’s hockey team on a job well done. Earning some medals and inspiring future generations of athletes to give it everything they got. My son is ready for this weekend’s game and he’s ready for his Miracle making a comeback kind of win.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

It’s Pretty Awesome To Be 99

7 Feb

He can’t wake up at the crack of dawn with you to lift weights, he can’t run the hundreds of drills with you at the stadium, and he can’t be there for the physical therapy when you’re down and out. But you best know that he is definitely in your corner and roots for you with everything he’s got, because he’s got your heart.

Being a player and pouring everything you got out there on the field is one thing … but being the person who roots for you, who’s in your corner, and wants you to have it … that’s something powerful, that’s the X factor. Being in a House of Sports my whole life, I can say I know a little bit about this.

While everyone in Philly was basking in the SuperBowl after glow of taking the crown away from the Big Bad Wolf, I happened to get lost in the story of the 99-year-old fan who witnessed the awesomeness of his team mark an important first time.

This Philly fan that went by the name of Phil Basser and it just made me smile to know that he got to experience the exuberance of such a moment live and in person. When you watch someone witness a bucket list adventure the emotion gets to you. Some people never get to see it happen and you feel bad that they’ve missed out some how. I mean they lived their life and did the best with what they had, but as we all know we can’t control the future of others. We can only control ourselves. So it’s hard when one of your dream of all dreams is in the hands of someone else.

I could imagine Phil as a five-year old with his Eagles t-shirt clapping for that touchdown, or probably watching all the close calls. But this past Sunday was probably the best way to imagine the little sports fan. I didn’t even know Phil, but I was happy to see the camera pan over to him and witness his reaction to one of the best underdog wins I’ve seen this year. To know that he got to live one of his dreams of all dreams made me heart feel good, because as an athlete and fan myself, I’ve felt those feelings. So I know … I know.

This year’s SuperBowl filled with Brady-haters, Fly-Eagle-Fly supporters, and awesome Eli Manning, Vikings, Doritos, and Sprite Commercials will definitely be remembered for one more thing … Phil witnessing the triumph of his team.

For underdogs everywhere … Buen Camino!

 

 

Sandbox List Adventures: Guatemalan Wayne Gretzky to The Rescue

16 Dec

So after a tough week and a disappointing business meeting … I’m gonna  take a bit of my own advice in order to turn a corner. I’m gonna have to open up that Blessed Project to change perspective.

And so … here I am reigning in my disappointment with chocolate and thinking about this Bucket List fail that just happened to me. Trying not to think about it and learn the lesson, actually, which is a little difficult during the chocolate-eating stages.

But even though my Bucket List Adventure didn’t pan out, thinking about my son’s brings a sense of pride and warmth to my heart and a smile to my face. Remembering that he got a chance to do something big, helps this defeat.

Looking at pictures and watching video helps me focus on something positive.

You see this one is every sports enthusiast dream.

This one fell under the highlight reel… and it ended up being a great outing. You see, I’ve mentioned this before, but just in case you’ve missed it … This is a House of Sports! We enjoy playing and watching them. And when the Olympics comes every four years … forget about it! All day every day. I guess it stems from the time I towered at 5-foot-3, tallest Guatemalan in the houuuuuse, and I swore I was a baller who was gonna make it big time. Showtime at The Forum. However injuries and reality being what they are and all … my balloon deflated and that never came to pass.

However my son … he made it. Guatemalan Wayne Gretzky got a chance to skate at The Staples Center during a L.A. Kings game and everyone was flipping out. Getting there early to check in our bags, watching the players warm-up, seeing my son walk down the tunnel and hit the ice, seeing him takes his first steps and then find his groove, all of that made everyone’s Bucket List.

I felt so happy that he was able to get this opportunity and even more proud that he didn’t waste it. He appreciated all the pregame routines and when he got on the ice … he went for it. While some kids didn’t even get a chance to touch the puck, my son went all out. Clear eyes, full hearts.

He hustled, took the puck away, then went left,  right then left again. He went around and through a couple of players made it to his goal, slapped that puck with an awesome swing, it skidded through a diving player …

And then …

Then by the hair on the chinny-chin-chin the goalie narrowly blocked that shot. My son put his hands up in the air, he couldn’t believe it. I smiled and gave him a thumbs up. Even though the puck didn’t find the back of the net, watching that move, seeing him go all out made my day, week, month.

That right there … that was a bottle-me-up memory which I uncorked today. Sandbox List Adventures working it’s magic. It brought a smile to my face, when I felt disappointment, warmed my heart when it was feeling cold, made me smile when I was sad, and changed my perspective when I needed to find a new one.

Guatemalan Wayne Gretzky to the rescue on a Friday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody Deserves A Highlight Reel

7 Mar

Sometimes they’re so hard to find, especially when it’s something so important and so meaningful. You want to find the right ones.

Words.

Today Peyton Manning had the right ones and sometimes that’s all it takes … the right words. Sometimes you don’t even have to do anything to prove your point. Sometimes the words have so much substance that they hit your gut and people listening to you feel what you feel.

Genuine. Heartfelt. Love. Happiness.

As a writer these are the emotions that I hope people feel when they read my stuff. But as I heard Peyton talking, he was speaking to millions of people but I think what he really wanted to do was to connect with the players, coaches, family, friends and fans that supported him.  He wanted to express gratitude for the opportunity given to him, to the places that said, yeah I’ll take a chance on you, and to the people who said, yeah  I believe in you.

And they wanted to pay tribute to him and his extraordinary career. I saw one of my favorite football players of all time retire today. Peyton Manning stood at the podium and delivered one of the best speeches I’ve heard.

 

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Courtesy of Amber Matsumoto

“There’s a saying that goes, treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be and he will become what he should be.”  –Peyton Manning

“When someone thoroughly exhausts an experience they can’t help but revere it. I revere football. I love the game. So you don’t have to wonder if I’ll miss it. Absolutely. Absolutely I will.” — Peyton Manning

“There’s a scripture reading, 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

Well, I’ve fought the good fight. I’ve finished my football race and after 18 years, it’s time. God bless you all and God bless football.” — Peyton Manning

After hearing his speech I picked up on a few good nuggets that struck a chord, but the thing that really stood out was that he said he’d missed the little things the most. The huddles. The handshakes. The steak dinners. The plane ride home with his teammates celebrating. Figuring out blitzes. Putting in a play. Talking football with broadcast crews. Handshakes on the filed after the game. So many little things that added up to this amazing highlight reel of football life.

And then that’s when it hit me… Everybody should have a highlight reel. Everybody deserves to know that all the parts of their life, big and small, mattered not just to them but to the people who love them.

I realized my son and daughter don’t have highlight reels. We’ve got plenty of pictures that capture the most awesomely amazing moments, but no highlight reels yet.

So as Peyton retires he inspires. I start a new chapter in parenthood and I’m on a mission to  share their yearly Guat Adventures through highlight reel films. I’m not a computer genius, so this may take a while and you’re gonna have to wish me luck. But the words … the words I’ve got covered.

Hope you guys have your own highlight reels.

 

 

 

 

OMAHA! OMAHA!

6 Feb

There’s the Blind Side and then there’s the We-Didn’t-Think-You’d-Be-Here-You’re-Too-Old side.

I loved the Sandra Bullock movie and thought it was a great story, Oscar-worthy for sure. I liked that Michael Oher made something of himself, I liked that he didn’t give up, I liked that he made it … he made it! He’s also got that Cam player that everybody’s talking about, the new stuff that’s rising, that’s ready to be front page news.

But then there’s Peyton … my favorite player. The one I’ve been watching since Indianapolis.

Peyton-Manning

Peyton Manning

Everybody had written him off by mid-season, he had been replaced, and then the HGH allegations tried to discredit. It’s been a mess. They’ve tried to put him down, but he still stands, he still shows them he’s worth it. And I’m hoping his defense and line show up too.

They’re both underdogs, I guess. But I’m rooting for Peyton. I’m rooting for the 39-year-old that people think is too old.

I’m hoping for it … fingers crossed, ‘Believe’ sign written and blue and orange, and rally hat on.

Big Day for underdogs tomorrow. Nachos, hot dogs and carne asada coming out. All that will be missing is Dad, but I’ve got one of his hats to keep me company.

We’ll be waiting to hear the … OMAHA! OMAHA! and hope it comes back to Denver with a nice trophy.

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The Danger of Being a Jackass Avoived

19 Oct

I was recently reminded not to be a jackass, which tends to be important when you’re a parent.

You’re gonna have these moments … however your mission in life is trying to minimize them. As a person or parent, this should be a great guideline. And there I was on the tip of it, about to cross into jackass territory when my internal dialogue checked me.

The voice.

I heard it.

It wasn’t a scolding, you shouldn’t do this, watch your tone voice. It was a story. I had heard a story and it stuck with me. I had archived it. Didn’t know when I would need it, but thought it was important enough that I needed to keep it close. Being a sports fan and growing up as an athlete I figured it was just as powerful a lesson as Rudy, Hoosiers, or The Natural.

There I was on the soccer field watching my son and his Bad News Bears team trying to get the ball down the field. Just trying to get it to the other side. Now they’ve had difficulty doing this for the past few games as a number of members tend to kick it out of bounds.

Now seeing how my son is usually assigned the role of defender he never really gets a chance to lead the charge. I guess his ability to check people and clear the ball served the team better as a defender, closer to the goal.

So when he got the opportunity to kick the ball out of the box and down field, I thought he’d be eager and quick to blast it. But as they placed the ball in front of him, he turned trying to find an open teammate. Everyone appeared to be covered and it hadn’t dawned on them to try and move around or closer to my son.

So he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then I heard my voice.

Kick it! Just kick it!

Then I heard a few others saying … Hurry, kick it!

And he didn’t.

Not yet.

But after a few more seconds which seemed to feel like forever, he finally passed it down field to his teammate. This happened three times in one period.

So when he came in for a water break smiling about the fact that he was chosen to kick it down field, my thoughts were replaced by the story …

It was a high school football game and two Dads were in the stands watching their kids play the game. One of the players, John, was an all-star offensive player, always getting an opportunity to get his hands on the ball and gain first downs or score touchdowns. The other, George, was a defensive player who never really handled the ball, until that night.

There was fumble and George was able to pick it up. He took a step to the left, then a step to the right, and then got pummeled by huge offensive linemen. It was the kind of tackle where you could hear the crunch of the helmets. Everyone in the stands winced. The only thing people remembered about that play was not the fumble but the way George was leveled by the other team

John’s Dad put his arms around George’s Dad and just as he was about to give him his condolences, George’s Dad said …

“Did you see that? Did you see that! Those were the best two moves ever!”

George’s Dad didn’t see what everyone else saw. George’s Dad was beaming with pride as he saw the best offensive move his son had made to date.

So when my son came in smiling, I handed him his Batman water bottle and told him those three kicks were awesome. Maybe he’d get a chance in the next game to kick four.

The danger of being a jackass … avoided.

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