Month: September 2012

Birthday Wishes

He has an annoying habit of walking behind me. Sometimes it’s to talk with friends, other times coincidence, and at times I fear it’s just to distance himself from me, or avoid something I might have to say. The car isn’t much different…I’m Morgan Freeman and he’s Miss Daisy. The other night leaving the field was different. We walked out together. I didn’t have much to say, and neither did he, but we were shoulder to shoulder, one old, the other young, but undeniably getting older.

She’s not a kid anymore either, more like a woman. I don’t spend as much time with her one on one, and I regret it. It’s taught me though to cherish the little moments when she smiles or asks me how my day went. Over the last two years, I’ve worried most about her, but lately I’ve been feeling better. I went to her football game last week and we talked. The kind of talk a father lives to give, about life, goals, and plans to achieve them.

They are spending more time together, have some common friends. They still fight, fuss and know all the things to say that hurt the most, but those times are fewer. I sense a respect and comfort in each other’s company made easier by their own self-confidence.

I have lived with less character in 41 years than they have in 14. They are my pride, my joy, my twins, Bryson and Holland.

Happy birthday! I love you.

Dad

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Busted Feet and Broken Dreams

Our pre-season conditioning program took us to the track yesterday for the mile run. Our varsity guys ran in heat one, and senior captain Graham Sweeney held off a late challenge from Nick Quintana for the win.

Heat two was far more compelling for several reasons. First, Jake Wolber ran down Jacob Tague on the final lap for the win, and second for the contributions of Argenis (Zola Budd) Santiago. Argenis against the advice of everyone at the track decided to run barefoot.

Inspired to silence his haters, Argenis ran a blistering warm up lap beating everyone to the line before heat one. In Heat two, he put in a game effort finishing fifth in sub six minute time relieving himself of having to run again next week. Post-race he began fiddling with his feet, and was heard saying, “I got a blister, but it doesn’t even hurt.”

I reported for open gym today, and noticed Argenis was a no show. I asked his twin brother Jesus where he was, and elicited the cryptic response, “he got injured.” For a moment, I was fooled into thinking he had suffered a mystery injury at home, but was informed that his feet were so blistered from his barefoot mile that he was unable to play today.

The barefoot mile was an absurd showing of bravado from a player who remains on the fringe of making the team, and cost him an invaluable day, if not more of actually playing basketball.

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A Letter to the Seniors

I recently handed out personal letters to each of our seniors in preparation for their final year in high school. All seniors must come to the realization that this will be their last opportunity to accomplish any of their High School goals. Unless they have the IQ of a kiwi in which case we’ll probably see them next year. But most seniors fail to grasp the fact that they won’t be coming back until it’s too late, whether it’s denial or the inability to see the big picture. And as a result they tend to not make any goals or plans for their future.

So in those letters to our Seniors I was honest with them about their abilities, and their potential role on the team. But most importantly, I challenged them to make personal goals for their final year of high school. Everybody wants to play in the NBA, go to college, and win a high school championship. There’s no question there, but how do you do it? Unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer or a magical lamp for them to rub to accomplish these dreams. Instead there are smaller goals, like rungs on a ladder, which must be made and surpassed before any dream can be reached. These goals must also be separated into two categories and prioritized. Those two categorizes are Personal goals and Team goals.

Personal goals can range from increased strength and speed to more measurable marks like improved shooting percentage and a better assist to turnover ratio. These personal goals should challenge you to do more than you ever have before or push you to try something new to improve as an overall player. After making your goals the next key is to establish a list of ways to accomplish those goals. If you want to improve as a shooter you’ll need to put together a game plan that consists of finding and using different drills and scheduling time each day to shoot.

I understand how difficult it can be to stay focused and organized as a senior in High School. Though students never really seem to understand but us coaches were once in High School too! Even though the distractions have changed names, the discipline it takes to be successful hasn’t. While making your goals you should take some time to decide what is most important to you and make that a priority, but remember you only have one basketball season left in High School and those 20 plus games go real fast. And if you’re worried about having a car or a job or a girlfriend, DON’T. Since I graduated High School in 2007 I have had 3 different cars, 5 different jobs and 4 different girlfriends. There will be plenty of time to worry about them in the future, trust me.

You have a rare opportunity to write your own story and dictate how it will end because you know exactly where and when the line is drawn. Players like Yao Ming and Greg Oden would have done a million things different if they knew when one chapter of their basketball lives was closing and where others would open. And as you write your final chapter as High School seniors realize that your teammates still have time left and can learn some valuable lessons from you. A team is only as good as its’ worst player. Don’t pass up a chance to share your experiences with others.

Your team’s goals should be something that you’ve been talking about with your teammates throughout the off season. If you haven’t, then you need to start talking NOW. These goals need to be agreed upon by the team and should reflect the team’s mission for that season. As a senior, you are inheriting a leadership position whether you want to be a leader or not and know that the rest of the team will look up to you. My fondest memories of playing basketball in High School were actually the team events we had off the court. So much stress and pressure is placed upon you on the court that it becomes therapeutic to blow off steam with your teammates, whether it be a cookout at someone’s house or a Christmas party. A team unified is a team that cannot beat itself and in return only has one opponent on game night instead of two. I challenge you to organize at least one team function where everyone is invited to something other than basketball and see if afterwards the team doesn’t come closer together.

“Talent is important. But the single most important ingredient after you get the talent is internal leadership. It’s NOT the coaches as much as one single person or people on the team who set higher standards than that team normally sets for itself.” – Mike Krzyzewski

To succeed, you must work harder than you ever have before. If you shot 200 shots a day last year, shoot 300 this year. Understand that being a leader is an everyday task. If you take days off or don’t give it your all, how can you expect your younger teammates to give it theirs every day?

“The second I let down, particularly if I’m considered a leader on my team. I give others the opportunity to let down as well. If the person out front takes the day off or doesn’t play hard, why should anyone else?” – Michael Jordan

I personally don’t believe in regrets, they tend to become negatives that can eat away at your confidence and ambition. But I do believe in missed opportunities, whether they’re non-mandatory workouts or a chance to get the team together away from basketball. To actions and attitudes during the season that affect the team and your goals. When your name is called before your final home game and your standing next to your fellow seniors, will you be happy with what you have accomplished? Did you meet the goals you set for yourself and your team? Were you a good leader? Did you give it your all every day? Only you can answer these questions.

Florida State! Florida State! Florida State!

The momentum of a big game builds through the week, and is usually defined by those around you. I had a text message exchange with an old roommate mid-week, and got an email from another that I hadn’t heard from in several months on Friday. This was getting big. On game day, I went to my son’s soccer game which between 3-6pm I felt was the biggest event in the world, and was verbally assaulted for not wearing school colors. This was a big game.

I must admit to being jaded. I attended Florida State 1989-1996. We lived in the top 5, played in several “game’s of the century”, and won a National Championship in 1993. The run continued through the 2000 season including a second title in 1999. The formula was simple. Routinely drill conference opponents 45-10, and have your season defined by three games…Miami, Florida and another upper tier cross-regional opponent. We among a few other schools formed the epicenter of college football. I spent a week in Tuscaloosa this summer, and felt the same feeling I had in Tallahassee. The season is not about hope, but expectation.

Beginning in 2001, Florida State slowly, but certainly lost this feeling. For several years the team would lose games to anyone and everyone, often close, but losses nonetheless. The believers would excuse the loss and talk about getting back to being “Florida State”. Unfortunately, when you compile three out of four losses against the likes of NC State, or drop four of your last six to Wake Forest every game is a challenge and there is no baseline for humiliation. It is here that expectation gives way to hope.

Alabama is a team of expectation, and Florida State is a team of hope. Alabama opened it’s season by crushing a then top 10 Michigan team. The difference in class readily apparent. Florida State opened with a trio of Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest with a similar difference in class. Last night, the played top 10 Clemson in a big game.

The game started with a long Clemson touchdown pass on third down, third and fourth down conversions before scoring on their second possession, and a growing sense that Florida State could not stop Clemson. Two missed FSU field goals in the first half and a flea flicker touchdown for Clemson on their first possession of the second half left the Noles down 28-14. Then something special happened. They fought back. 28-21, then 31-28 before snatching the lead 35-31. In totaln they reeled off five straight second half touchdowns and won 49-37.

They are now 4-0 having out-scored opponents 240-40. They are ranked 4 and have a favorable schedule ahead. It feels good, but there remains only hope as expectation is born over sustained success at the highest level.

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The long (and slightly anticipated) return of Little Wolverine.

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A lot has happened since my last post. There’s been plenty of soccer updates and a few sprinkles of American Football posts by The Arrogant One lately, but it’s time to start talking basketball again. This past off season and summer has been one I’ll never forget, and if the fan(s) will allow me, I’d like to share these past few months with you.

Some of our readers may already know but Mrcharm recently became the JV basketball coach at Hagerty High School. It was a great opportunity for him and even though the Winter Springs basketball family is sad to see him go, we’re all incredible proud and happy for him.

But his departure left our program in need of a freshman basketball coach and a new varsity assistant. Well I am happy to announce that I have accepted the position and am the new Freshman basketball coach at Winter Springs High School. I owe a lot to Mrcharm, for allowing me to work with him last year as a volunteer assistant, and to the program for accepting me and giving me a chance to have a voice of my own.

As we approach the last two months before our season begins (November 19th) I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how I got to Winter Springs and what the future entails. I’ve been working in sports television for the past five years, and have helped broadcast UCF and USF football and basketball games. As well as over 300 high school sporting events ranging from Cheerleading to FHSAA basketball finals. But when my dream of becoming a high school coach presented itself this summer, I was left with a very difficult decision. My job in television wouldn’t allow me the proper amount of time it takes to be a dedicated coach. So…I quit. I said goodbye to my television family after five years and now say hello to my new family.

And Family is exactly what we are and what we should strive for as a basketball program.

I recently spent some time at the home of one of our Seniors and enjoyed catching up with him and his parents.

Why is the Freshman coach talking with a Senior you ask?

Well I’ve been lucky enough to know this family for quite sometime. My very first year of coaching was over four years ago as a volunteer coach in a local youth basketball league. I had a mixed team of athletes and kids that struggled to walk and chew gum. One of those players was a mediocre sized guard with the athleticism of a man with old knees. We ran a simple offense, as not to confuse the players, with basic pick n’ rolls and dribble hand offs. But the offense gave the kids a chance to be creative and try to make plays. It was here where this guard made his biggest impact. His ability to dribble the ball, relative to the rest of the team, and get to the basket and finish made him an obvious pick as my point guard and my best player. We finished that season 8-3, winning the regular season trophy and losing in the tournament championship by only a few points. But if somebody would have asked me if I thought my point guard would ever play at the varsity level I probably would have laughed.

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But my recent visit to his house was about more than rehashing old times, we were discussing the possibility of him playing basketball in college!

I drove home that night incredibly proud of how he has grown up and the player that he has become. But I think I was more impressed with his family and the love and support I received as his former coach and continuing mentor. I couldn’t help but feel like we were part of a family. A family of other families. All supporting a basketball program and the development of its’ young players. It’s this support system that allows a program to succeed and to grow. And it’s the relationships you build and friendships you make that will stick with you for the rest of your life. The time spent fighting and bleeding and sweating creates a brotherhood that can’t be broken. It’s a special feeling that not many people ever get to experience. And it’s the reason I became a coach. So here is to my new family of 2012-2013!

Knee Slide Swag

When Cristiano Ronaldo silenced the Camp Nou with a counter-attack goal in the second La Liga El Classico, more than just a league title seemed to have been secured. Global football supremacy felt more appropriate. Real Madrid returned a team largely intact, adding only Luka Modric and Michael Essien, enjoyed a healthy, uneventful pre-season and claimed the Spanish Super Cup over Barcelona to start the season.

From that moment, little has gone right. The have played poorly, dropped two league games and fallen eight points behind Barca in the league table, been drawn into the Champion’s League Group of Death, and had their talisman succumb to a bizarre episode of sadness.

Today at home in their Champion’s League debut, Real Madrid played Manchester City. For 67 minutes they ran, pressed, possessed and shot at will against Man City, seemingly all the things a good team should do. They could not, however, do what winning team’s do…score a goal. Their tenuous control of the game ended when Yaya Toure won a ball, raced up field on a counter and fed Dzeko for a shock goal.

Real, the weight of their poor form undoubtedly sitting heavy upon them, had every reason to buckle. The did not. Twice in a frantic final twenty two minutes they drew level with Man City, and in the final moments Ronaldo placed a nasty, twenty yard dipping shot below Joe Hart and into the net giving Real a memorable 3-2 win.

Upon scoring, the formerly sad, now elated, Ronaldo raced to the corner flag with a knee slide before falling onto his back before the screaming fans. Fifty or so yards away, Jose Mourinho leapt from the bench and ran onto the pitch with his own knee slide followed by full arm extensions and rapid simultaneous double fist pumps.

It was a cathartic moment made possible by collective resilience, positive mental focus and unshakable belief.

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Patiently Waiting

I was at the Lake Brantley/ Oviedo football game tonight, primarily to watch AJ Coney, a lock down cornerback, punt returner and my JV point guard three years ago. As a freshman, AJ produced on of the most athletic plays I have witnessed in person.

We were playing at Lake Mary, and had the game in hand. AJ was standing just beyond mid-court when a Lake Mary player threw a pass up the sideline in front of the scorer’s table. AJ broke on the ball, reached something close to full speed and jumped to get the ball. He caught the ball, improbably stopped his momentum, landed on both feet inches from the sideline and broke up the floor. It was an incredibly athletic play, but equally impressive for the awareness.

In Lake Brantley, Oviedo faced an opponent that ran 85-90 percent of the time. For a lockdown corner like AJ, there was very little to do play to play. Midway through the first half, Brantley challenged him for the first time, and he made an acrobatic play to bat the ball away from the receiver. As the game progressed, Oviedo could not stop Brantley’s running attack. When Brantley scored to go up 20-7 on their first possession of the third quarter and followed with a stop there was a palpable sense that the game was over.

On the ensuing possession, Oviedo forced a third and long. Brantley’ quarterback rolled out under duress and through the ball up the right side of the field. AJ Coney, with every reason to be distracted by the score, by the lack of activity at his possession, broke on the ball and intercepted it. For the next ten seconds he sprinted, cut, lost his balance, regained it and cut the lead to 20-14. The Oviedo sideline was euphoric. The followed with a stop and a 90 yard drive to take their only lead of the night 21-20.

Brantley responded, and Oviedo never stopped the run losing 42-28. The lesson in this is from Coney, who displayed the focus stay fully engaged in a football game that was being played away from him, and the heart to take the only real chance he had to make a play, and change the game.

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