Coaching Part 3: A Player’s Impact on Me

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For my final part of my three part blog on coaching, following up Coaching Part 1 and Coaching Part 2: More Than Just a Coach, I want to end by telling about how my time coaching has impacted me.

After spending the better part of five months building a relationship with these kids and helping teach them useful things to use in life all while teaching them the game of football, the season came to an end.  At the end of the year banquet I had the pleasure of speaking about roughly a third of the players and presenting them with their certificates that the schools gives everyone.  I found it so simple to speak about all of these kids because each one has improved in so many ways that that first day of summer weights in June.  It was honestly tough for me to see the season end and not be able to spend time as a team for a few hours every day. These kids really grew on me and I enjoyed the three hours we spent together every day.

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There were many moments throughout the season that truly made an impact on me, but there is one imp articular that I would like to talk about now.  One of our kids, who absolutely works his tail off and really helps us out daily on the scout team, which is the team that poses as the opposing team in practice to give the starters a good look at what they are going against that week in the game.  Anyways, one Tuesday at practice I could tell something was wrong with him; he was becoming extremely frustrated quickly and just was not being himself.  During a water break, I took him off to the side to ask if he was ok, he immediately responded assuring me he was fine.  I was not going to keep at him about it, and I told him to come talk to me if he wanted to talk.

As practice continued, he was still not acting himself, and after one play where he did not make the tackle he broke down crying, as if all that was built up inside him was escaping him.  Knowing he was not acting himself that day, I walked over and took him aside while the others practiced.  Asking him to calm down and relax, after a few moments he calmed slightly and began to explain to me why he was not acting himself today.  It turns out it was exactly one year ago to that day that he and his mother got in a big fight and he had to go and stay at a foster home for a little while.  This was obviously a huge memory that he will never forget, and this day every year will.

I had never been faced with someone telling me this but I knew I had to be strong and assure him that I was there for him and everything was going to be alright.  After a few minutes of him letting out his built up frustration and tears, and me acting as sort of a therapist to this sensitive situation he thanked me for allowing him to vent to me and release his built up frustration.  I told him that is what I am here for and to come see me after practice before he went home.

Throughout the rest of the season I would check on him and make sure everything was ok with him.  Make sure he is staying up on his homework so he is able to keep his grades up and continue to play.  It was sort of as me and him had a special bond after that. I will never forget that day and the story he told me.

This was just one of the laundry list of examples I had from that year.  But you have to always be cautious of what is going on in other peoples’ lives. Not everyone may have the best home life and sometimes all they need is someone to talk to and someone to actually care what they have to say.  That kid is now a junior in high school and he will text me now and then and sometimes I will text him just to check up on him and make sure things are going ok.  I am not still his coach, and he is not still my player, but we will always have that connection that was made that fall day.  I am glad I was able to help him out and be there for him during a tough time he was facing.  I hope the words of wisdom I gave him will stick with him throughout this life, because I know that day and the story he told me will stick with me for the rest of mine.

Coaches are not just there to teach you how to play football. They are there to teach you life lessons that are used as a stepping stone throughout life.  Players also have the ability to change coaches lives and by the stories they tell them and the moments the player and coach experience together.

Comment on your thoughts to this blog below and follow me on Twitter at @daberner

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Coaching Part 2: More Than Just a Coach

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To expand of my most recent blog post titled, Coaching: Part 1, I want to take a moment to describe how I made an impact while coaching.

wooster1When you are given the opportunity to coach young children, it is an enormous opportunity to change their lives and made an impact on them. As I said in my last blog, going into the opportunity we knew we had a large task at hand.  After the first day, that task became even larger.  We were taking this challenge on full force, with every intention to succeed and make them remember freshman year of football.  Teach them qualities they will be able to use and make it a stepping stone to bigger and better things throughout their lives.

The culture at Wooster was different then I was used to. That may be a result from the lack of support the parents and community gave the school and football team.  At the beginning of the summer, we had kids showing up late like it was no big deal, not giving it their all during drills, and other things that freshmen in high school would do if they didn’t know any better.  Many of them, this was their first time ever playing organized football, so they did not really have a clue what to do.  It was a long summer, with summer weights and double days occupying most of it.  But by the end of summer, we had the 27 kids on the team bought in to our team and our message.  We were going into our first game that fall, full of confidence, energy, and playing as a team.

Battling week by week, fighting through the fun times, and the not so fun times.  The 30 of us, including the coaches, grew so close together.  There were times the players did not like us, there were times the players did not like each other.  But fighting through those battles and overcoming adversity week in and week out was what helped the team grow closer together, and what helped these young men mature and learn. wooster2

We finished the season only winning three games.  I am not usually a big believer in moral victories, but I would say this team won the moral battle.  By the end of the season, these young men had learn discipline, how to be a team, what working hard can result in, a sense of brother hood and having each other’s’ back through the thick and the thin, and ultimately they learned how to face adversity and overcome it by working together.

To see the team grow from a bunch of kids who have never played before to a unified team who stand up for each other and go toe to toe for each other when in battle on the field.  Seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces as they play and the fun they are having with each other is one of the most rewarding feelings you could have as a coach.  Seeing one of your best players run a 60 yard touchdown to seeing the kid that didn’t get to play as much get in the game and make a catch or make a tackle, and the happiness and glee that overwhelms their face is such an incredible feeling. When the kids are having fun together, you know you have done your job.

You grow such a strong bond with your team throughout the season, I mean for six months I spent more time with these kids than I did with my Mother and Father.  Going back now and watching them play and succeed and do good is a gratifying feeling, especially when they come up to you after the game to tell you they are still living by what you had taught them two or three years prior.  Seeing the kids who became friends on the team their freshmen year who are the best of friends now, and who will continue to be is a special thing.

I hope I see these same kids’ years down the road doing something wonderful with their lives all while not forgetting what they learning during their freshman year of football!

Other coaches out there comment below telling about your first year in coaching!

Coaching: Part 1

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After writing all these recent blog posts about children in sports, coaches, and how sports impact people, I want to take a moment to tell about how I took sports and made an impact on others.

Three years ago I was presented with the opportunity to coach high school football at Wooster High School in Reno, Nevada.  My brother was given the head coaching position of the freshman team and he brought me on to be one of his coaches.  I had never been an actual coach before, but had been around football my entire life.

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Wooster was not near what it was during the 90’s, the years when they were a dominate program in Northern Nevada.  The lack of funds and support for the school and football program did not help at all.  I went to a school that was considered the model program in the state of Nevada for many years and going to coach at Wooster I knew it was not going to be the same.

Going in on the first day of summer weights in June was a prime example of what I was not use to.  We had 25 players come out first day, two of which showed up late, and one was wearing jeans. Me and my brother look at each other and instantly concur on the fact that we have a lot of work to do.  We were not going to back down to the challenge we had in front of us, that is not how we were raised.  We knew we had an opportunity to show these kids and teach these kids very valuable life lessons through the game of football.

Stay tuned in next blog posts for how we took the 25 kids we had and made an impact on them all along while they were impacting us.

Leave a comment below telling about your first day of freshman football in highschool!

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A Special Cornhusker Touchdown

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The Nebraska Cornhuskers just might have found a new running back at their spring game on Saturday.  Jack Hoffman broke loose for a 69 yard touchdown run on the last play of the scrimmage.  This was a very special play, and probably the best play that day, since Jack Hoffman is a 7 year old boy with brain cancer.  Jack lives in Atkinson, Nebraska and is a big Cornhuskers fan, and a big Rex Burkhead fan, a former running back for the Cornhuskers.

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Jack is on a two week break from his current 60 day chemotherapy regimen.  Nebraska Head Coach, Bo Pelini, wanted to give this young boy who is fighting for his life, a chance of a life time to be a part of the Nebraska football team.  Coach Fisher drew up a play for Jack on the sideline and then in front of more than 60,000 people at Memorial Stadium, Jack scurried through the defenders on his way to a 69 yard touchdown run.  As soon as Jack broke into the open field, both sidelines cleared following Jack into the end zone and raised him on their.  It was a very special and unforgettable moment for a special boy.

Coach Pelini and the rest of the coaching staff and the players of the Cornhuskers all made a very large impact on Jack.  This impact was a very simple idea that made a huge impact and will last forever.  Not only did the Cornhuskers impact Jack, but Jack made a large impact on the Cornhuskers.  For the players and coaches to see a young boy battling through brain cancer at such a young age makes them realize that things could always be worse.  When they think about quitting or giving up, they can think of Jack who is a fighter and does not quit or give up.  Incredible job by the entire Nebraska Cornhuskers community! Something that may seem so small and simple to you may be gigantic and impactful to someone else.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on this story! Also, follow me on Twitter at @daberner

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The Wrong Impact

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I want to continue with my current topic of making an impact through sports, and more specifically through coaching.  These coaches, mentors, or leaders have the ability to make a positive impact, but they also have the ability to make a negative impact on their players or followers.

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This past week, Mike Rice was accused of doing this very thing, negatively impacting a group of followers, his players and followers.  Mike Rice is the, as of Wednesday, former Rutgers University men’s basketball coach.  He was fired Wednesday as the result of a video that came out of Rice during practices verbally and physically abusing his players.  The video displays instances of Rice physically pushing, throwing and kicking the basketball at them, and kicking the players in several examples.  Examples of Rice getting in the faces of the players as well as yelling gay slurs at players were also displayed in the video.

Initially in November when the university found out about this controversial coaching style, Rice was suspended for three games and fined $75,000 and was required to take anger management classes.  As soon as the video was released to the public, things got a lot worse for Rice.

I saw the video, and I believe what Rice was doing in the video was wrong and was not a demonstration a leader or coach should portray to his followers.  It is almost like he infused fear into his players making them scared to come out and take a stand against him and tell someone of his behavior.  Although Rice may have positively impacted certain individuals at times, a large majority of the people involved seemed to have been impacted very negatively.  Rice did not only impact the players he was coaching, but his family, the player’s families, the Rutgers community and fans, the Athletic Director, University President, among several more individuals.  His actions, whether justified or not, resulted in a strong outrage from society ultimately resulted in a lot of people being strongly affected.

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When you are given the opportunity to be a coach or a leader, you have the ability to affect many people positively or negatively.  The actions you do on a daily basis or magnified when you are in that position.  If you are in a leader position or are in a position to make an impact on your followers, be aware that your actions are always on stage.  Every decision you make will impact someone.  Be the person that makes the positive impact instead of the negative one.

Have you ever had a leader who impacted you negatively? Comment below to share your story!

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Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up!

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On March 10, 1946, a boy that would leave a lasting impact on the many individuals, the sport of college basketball, and the world, was welcomed into the world. He was known as Jim Valvano, or Jimmy V for short.

Jimmy V began impacting the game of college basketball in 1964 as a point guard at Rutgers University, leading them to third place in the NIT in 1967. After graduating, Jimmy V knew he was put on this earth to coach college basketball. Only two years after graduating college, Jimmy V became the head coach at John Hopkins University. He migrated around the a couple other teams, Bucknell and Iona, over the following eleven years. He then finally landed his first big time coaching job in 1980 at North Carolina State University. It was at North Carolina State, that Jimmy V really made his lasting impact on the world.

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Jimmy V was not a very well-known coach at this time and the fans and the players at NC State were not too enthused by the decision to hire him because NC State had just lost their well-liked coach, Norm Sloan. He went in to this having to win over the fan and the players completely; he had to get them to buy in. This began the very first time he had his team in the gym. He explains his goal of winning a national title to the team, spiking their interest with every word he spoke. His first year at NC State was not ideal, they only had a five hundred record and missed the tournament. But each player still believed in Coach Valvano, and stayed together working towards their ultimate goal of winning the national title. Just three seasons after becoming NC State’s head coach, Coach Valvano led the Wolf Pack to winning the National Title. This was an absolutely incredible run they had to achieve this goal.

Coach Valvano’s ability to get his team to believe in each other, believe in having a vision, and ultimately accomplishing their vision was a gift he had that he passed on to his players. No one gave him a chance when he interviewed for the coaching vacancy at NC State. No one gave him a chance coaching in the ACC against Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. No one gave his team a chance to win a National Title at NC State. But Coach Valvano never stopped believing in himself and his team and he passed that attitude and passion along to his team who in turn never gave up and never stopped believing.

Coach Valvano’s never give up and not stop believing attitude did not stop when he stopped coaching. It continued all the way through his life, even after he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1992. One of the most historic memories of Jimmy Valvano, was his speech at the ESPY’s, a short time before his death. He spoke for several minutes about how precisious life is, inspiring and impacting people with every word he spoke. His most famous line from this speech was, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” This was the same message that he passed along to all of his players and that he lived by on a daily basis.

Not only was Coach Valvano one of the most impactful coaches in college basketball, but he was one of the most impactful people to live. The impact he had on many young men in the game of basketball, along with the impact he had on everyone who every met him or listened to his speech is like no other.

If you ever need a little inspiration, take a moment to listen to his ESPY speech and your life will forever be changed.

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Two Coaches that Made a Lasting Impact on Me

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I want to build off my most recent blog, Sports as a Child, concerning the importance of participating in sports as a child.  Throughout playing sports as a young child, I had a few bad coaches, many average, coaches and just a few coaches that truly made a lasting impact on me.

The first coach, Coach Cass, actually started out as my T-Ball coach, but that is not where the impact was truly made. It was not until I was a seventh grader and would go up to the high school where my oldest brother coached at to hang out at football practice from time to time. As I said, I had known Coach Cass since I was just a little guy, and seeing his passion, excitement, and dedication while out there coaching high school football was just absolutely unforgettable. Once winter came around, I would go up to basketball practice and see Coach Cass up there from time to time. Every single time I would see him he would always be full of energy and have a smile on his face. Once I made it to high school, and was able to actually have Coach Cass as my coach for the first time since playing on the small baseball fields out in Verdi, I was able to experience his passion and dedication on a daily basis. Sure he taught me many things about weight training, being in shape, and football, but that was not it. He taught me how to carry myself as a respected individual in society, taught me if you are going to do something then commit to it and give it your all, to wake up each day with a purpose, and to be passionate in what you believe in and the ones you love. Not only did he teach me these things, but he also taught several other individuals the same things and more. Everyone hated doing his pushups and shirt pushers, but nobody will ever forget doing them.

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The other coach, Coach Dalton, is a very inspiring individual. I surely was not the only person he impacted throughout his life. My first memory of meeting Coach Dalton was when I was going to daycare at McQueen High School and his Varsity football team, my brother was on it at the time, was watching game film in the room a few doors down and I was cruising my tricycle up and down the hallway. Coach came out and said, “Get off that tricycle and get in here and watch film with your brother!” Not really knowing what was going on, I got off the tricycle and wondered into the room and sat with my brother and the rest of the team and watched game film with them. I will never forget that moment. Coach Dalton was a very well-known coach and local figure around the city of Reno and I had a privilege of growing a close relationship from that one time on the tricycle, to the four years of football, to the morning talks my senior year when I aided for his first class every morning, to my graduation party, to going back and visiting him before he passed away. Coach Dalton used football as a way to inspire, teach, and get through to young teenagers. His love he exhibited to everyone was unmatched. His dedication and passion he showed for everything he did everyday will be something I will forever remember.

It is safe to say, I am not the only person these two first class gentlemen impacted. The impact they had on several people will last forever, and will hopefully be passed on through the individuals Coach Cass and Dalton impacted. There are many coaches at high schools around the country that inspire and impact young men and women on a daily basis. Do you have a high school coach that made a life lasting impact on you? Please share below!

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