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Coach Flip Naumburg's Journal
Sunday, October 24, 2010
OUTLAWS AND PIONEERS
We have just this last week of fall ball and the three games next Saturday in Golden. It seems just as well that CSU lacrosse is headed for the ‘box’ indoors for the shorter weeks to come as winter is definitely trying to make its premiere showing here in Colorado in the days to come. No matter what happens next weekend in Golden, the fall has been a sterling success in so many ways, and it was punctuated to some degree yesterday as our very own Cooper Kehoe was summoned to play with the Denver Outlaws in their scrimmage with D.U. in Denver. The pros were short a few guys as most of that team does not, in fact, reside in Denver or the vicinity, and so Alex Smith offered up the Coop. This is something great that can happen because there are no NCAA compliance officials looking over the shoulder on this one. Cooper from Cal showed well while playing in the heady upper level environment, too, scoring a couple of Kehoe style goals and gaining some valuable experience and confidence.
GOOD GOALS NEVER GET OLD
So, there are three (?) more days for outdoor practices, and even though it stands as the finish, the battle cry remains the one that calls for the team to improve every single day.
WHEN IT RAINS IT SOMETIMES POORS
I started to write today in one of my other somewhat misplaced blogs over on Vail Lacrosse Shootout dot com. I was writing in detail about why and how my love as fan for the Phillies and the Broncos came about and delving further into why these two cases of love without limit came to pass and how they run so deeply. I was mostly lamenting the painful ‘Main Line’ finish for my rooting portion of the 2010 baseball season which came last night when the Phillies lost their final game of the season to the upstart and hungry San Francisco Giants, game six by a score of 3-2 in a very tense struggle. However, I will have to get back to you on that, as much as it does still hurt today because I had the Bronco-Raider game on in the background and it became impossible to ignore what that was as fan or writer, even with the baseball sting still fresh and pinching me so hard.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE TOM JACKSON?
I must go on record as a fifty year long Bronco fan that what happened in that football game today would rank as the absolutely lowest all time moment for that once proud franchise. It is a team that was born in 1960 and also went close to 15 years before they ever even approached a season where wins outnumbered losses. Look it up. It hasn’t always been just about Super Bowl aspirations and the John Elway, Mike Shanahan vintage of football in Denver.
FIRE IN THE HOLE
All that be as it may, this was without any doubt the most pathetic and discouraging thing that I have ever sort of watched. I say that because I did mostly just listen because I couldn’t watch even the replays, and literally within minutes the Broncos were losing at home to their archest of hated rivals, the Oakland, Los Angeles, Oakland Raiders by the score of 38-0. Halftime was still way off and we (Broncos) had pretty much done everything and anything that a football team could do wrong, including ‘quit’, which to me is the true cardinal sin for any team or anyone.
WAY PAST GUT CHECK TIME
It was just by the way that the final score eventually became 59-14 today because it was way over way before the first quarter was, and against a team that entered the game with an identically mediocre 2-4 record that the Broncos were sporting coming in.
I have never seen a team of any kind less prepared than the Broncos were on this day, and that includes anyone, any time, or anywhere. It was suggested by one CSU lacrosse alums on Facebook that the Broncos could be beaten by Mullen High School, which is a great high school program, and he probably picked that school in particular because they (Mullen High School) also likely could beat either of the two major college football programs in the state , C.U. and CSU as it is, and any way one might choose to view what is, they (Mullen) certainly have, in Dave Logan, the superior coach of all the teams mentioned.. It is truly a dismal era for ‘upper level’ Colorado football.
DO IT TONIGHT PAT
It’s my blog, so I can write whatever I want. This Bronco thing is the most unforgivable and disgraceful part of the Colorado football scene now or ever, and it is my opinion that the coach, and he certainly knows who he is, should be fired tonight! Do not wait for tomorrow or the end of the season or for one more minute. This is not a work in progress. This is not “He’s young and needs time”, and blah, blah, blah. This is something that Mr. Bowlen better grab by the ears because there is no coming back from this without that (firing coach). This not about talent, although the Broncos basically have very little of that to begin with, but they are all professional football players that train and practice as their livelihood. It is not about just having a bad game or day at the office. Unlike last night’s Phillie loss, this is tragedy of the highest order, one without room for debating about why it took place the way it did, and breaking things down into what exactly went wrong is not even close to where the first step must be taken for the Denver Broncos.
I will go back and finish my Phillie lament later, when I can, but not tonight, Josephine.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Last Saturday, October 16 -
TWO GAMES RUNNING 25 MINUTE HALVES
CSU 5 BYU 3
D.U. 8 CSU 3
TIS THE SEASON TO BE AN ‘AGGIE’
This past Saturday brought one more in the long line of Indian Summer days that we have been experiencing and pretty much loving here in Colorado for this entire Fall. CSU lacrosse was in Denver to play a late afternoon doubleheader. These two tilts could arguably be called the most revealing pair from the fistful of games that make up this year’s Fall-ball schedule. We learned a lot about ourselves playing at the Air Force and those two games down there the week before, but we were better and it all seemed somehow worth more for us and the team development at D.U. the other day.
I think our team valued itself and the way they played in a way that, if team were a stock market entity, the share price was on the rise throughout the day, from the opening whistle of game one with BYU, and right up to the final buzzer of the D.U. game. TEAM RAM Inc. had reached its highest recent value by the close of the lacrosse, or at least that was the ‘ticker tape’ that I read.
There is still one more ‘trading’ session with three games to be played in Golden a week from this coming Saturday. Perhaps the most noteworthy of those three affairs is the match-up with the reborn, revitalized, and always arch rival Buffs from C.U. We rarely play a drama free game with them no matter what time of the year the calendar might say it is, so it should be a fun and challenging part of wrap day for Fall Ball.
THE BYU MISSION
The first game we played the other day, the one with BYU, was an interesting one. We scored and led early, and that is worth pointing out because it can become something that is very important in games when the clock never stops between whistles. The running timepiece often makes a game seem to go by in just a flash. If you get behind early it can tend to make things get a little frantic real fast.
As for a description of the game itself, it felt like the game was being controlled by us and being played at the tempo dictated by the Ram style, but the Cougars are talented and they know what they are trying to do out there on the field so it never became or appeared easy for CSU. If one glanced up at the electronic scoreboard at Barton, D.U.’s fantastic little lacrosse facility, they would pretty much see a two-goal game going on for the most part. They played us plenty close enough on that scoreboard, but in the end the Cougars never did get that NEXT really key goal that they might have needed to get all the way into it and or win. Instead we got those few most important scores and kept our space. The Cougars stayed in the hunt for most of the game, though, and never let it get totally away from them.
DE-FENCING THE YARD
The defense was Ram tough, too, in that they held BYU to very few really good shots, and in general the defensive commitment to keep the opposition out of the middle of the field in front of our goal was clear and obvious. We did not have many defensive breakdowns, and even at just three goals allowed there were a couple of the Cougar scores that might have been prevented. We made a few mistakes on things that we could or can control that allowed something bad (goal) happen. For the most part, however, we were not allowing this other very major rival of ours very many good scoring opportunities.
D(o).U. FEEL LIKE I DO?
We lost the game to Denver 8-3, but I’m sorry, this was a very encouraging game and even score for Ram Lax. The Pioneers are obviously extremely talented and I do not pretend that we could beat them or whatever, but we were in that game. We scored some real quality goals, and whatever that means exactly I do not know, but they came about from working as a unit and not from one player’s skill or a lucky bounce.
We had good possessions throughout the game and we also cleared the ball and got it out from our defensive side of the field and over to the offense pretty well. We made few unforced errors in general and even though we are perhaps overmatched when playing an NCAA Division I playoff caliber team such as D.U. is, the game never looked like a mismatch, and we got pretty many good looks at the D.U. goal while we were at it.
They (D.U.) played a lot of players right from the get go, no doubt about that, but they are all Division I players. The big, no, huge left handed dude drove one from behind the cage and slammed it home like it was his job, and another kid ripped one right past our goalie from what one might coin three-point range, but for the most part we made that team execute at a high level if they were to find offensive success, and as a team on defense we got some great stops. The Pioneers never just made us look bad when they scored. We made them earn whatever they got for the most part, and I put a lot of stock in the fact that we held them under 10 goals when all was said and done.
In general, we controlled the things we are able to control inside the lines at a high level and that looked good on the game. It was a good spectator game to watch.
The CSU goalies all played well. At the end of the day we have pretty much defined the three that are at the top of our current goalie pyramid. Each one of those three played an important half or even more, and all three had team leading and worthy performances in the all important phase of the game that is the protecting of our goal.
On the Denver day the goalies got a lot of help from the type of team defense we played for both games, and that helped to dictate the types of shots the other team would or could take and where they might just come from. This makes for shots that the goalie, any one of them, is a little more familiar with, and in theory that helps him to see all things well, and perhaps to make a save happen just a little bit more or more easily.
CHANGING A LITTLE OF THE GUARD
“Chunk” is about to step out of the goal to take a shot at close defense and the long pole position. That puts us ‘down’ to just 5 goalies. I’m pretty sure that one or two of them will ‘Red Shirt’, but either way, the top 3 are in place and give us a strong big game corps as we get moving into the 2011 season.
Overall and for the day the team played in a way that naturally tends to help make a goalie look good, or even outstanding, and for me that has always been the perception of choice. This all happens best (defensive success in an offensively tilted sport) when there exists a team resolve about certain things.
START WITH A FACE OF STEEL
We are very fortunate right now to have a great situation for face-offs with a threesome that is pretty quick on the draw and a nice mixture of youth and experience. As a group they are mostly giving us ball possession off of the face off whistle, regardless of which team may have just scored a goal, and, of course, to begin a period.
Each game so far this fall has pretty much begun with the ball firmly in our grasp following a clean Scott Gelston face-off play. This has given us a good scoring opportunity right off the top, and that includes the games with Air Force and D.U., both of which are of course solid Division I opponents. This kind of possession trend looks very good on a team, and with Scott as a senior, that all-important game phase would seem to be reaching for its potential zenith right now and for this Ram generation. Perfect success at the face-off square is impossible, as in one team can never win them all, but dominance is not an unobtainable goal and is something well within the realm of capability for this team.
FACE THE FACTS
Most games have at least 20 face offs even if it isn't that high scoring. That makes for a number that contains an awful lot of potential team empowering possessions. Every face off starts off mechanically, in a way or place where the ball is literally up for grabs. Without a doubt winning a large percentage of the face-off chances and turning them into a quality ownership-of-the-ball period can give a team an increased level of overall confidence.
UNDENIABLY THE FACE OFF IS A FORCE
Statistically, winning face-offs at a high percentage rate is usually pretty much immediately reflected in the greater number of offensive opportunities and shots taken by a team.
Potential is put in place following a clean face off win that presents many ways for a team to go about quickly putting numbers up on the scoreboard.
SOMETIMES IT IS SUDDEN - SOMETIMES YOU CAN SEE IT COMING
The face-off can always have a huge and sometimes sudden impact on a game, and we learned the painful part of that lesson on our very last play of the 2010 season. Meanwhile this Fall we are getting a real good idea of how much it might be able to bring to and have a very positive impact on this team.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Well, it is actually now Monday, October 11, but hey, in half an hour who will care anyway? So, as I started to write on Saturday morning, son #2, Jordan brought to my attention a bunch of water on the kitchen floor which turned out to be a totally flat lined refrigerator cooling system and all the stuff in the freezer was indeed half melted. This little issue took immediate priority and most of my Saturday to accomplish a solution, to the point where I was unable to attend the Colorado Lacrosse Hall of Fame dinner in Denver that was my Saturday evening plan. As it turns out, all that was really nothing, just a precursor, because Sunday morning was actually really something. My family awoke to a pre-dawn house evacuation plan already in action before my eyes were open when I was alerted by the local sheriff that there was a raging brush fire about 50 yards from my house, and it was, in fact, burning on my land. I sort of dressed and stepped outside and sure enough there was a sun-bright yellow/golden hallow glowing from just beyond the ridge that is not twenty yards from the south side of my house. I could see the wind fiercely blowing thick grey smoke to the southeast and away from my house, so any surge of immediate fear that I might have felt was somewhat calmed, but there was definitely a fire down below, and I mean RIGHT down below.
WHAT A WORLD
In the end it all became a fairly benign wildfire experience, but it began with semi-chaos at the controls. We proceeded to leave the premises as instructed, and were subsequently treated well as my crew and some of the others with nearby homes were herded down to Fire Station #4 to wait things out. The TV was on and we were supplied with tasty breakfast burritos that were somehow provided by Q-dobas. No one was hurt and no houses ended up burning or anything, although I did an interview news spot that landed on channel 7 later the same day. The news thing was serendipity-like as those guys (cute chick with microphone and middle aged cameraman just basically chased me down on the road near my house later on as I was returning home (again) with groceries to put in our new but empty refrigerator (remember the refrigerator thing?). I let them come up and take video for the cast that would air at 5:00. It did, too, right at the top. It was the lead news story for Denver television? They do love their disasters, don’t they, whether real tragedy or just close enough for a lead story.
NOTHING LIKE A GOOD BRUSH FIRE I GUESS
One of several really weird parts of it all was that during the event itself and by the time we rounded up the kids and tortoises and dog and got to the fire station down the hill, it (fire) was already being shown live on channel 4 in Denver. I mean I literally had not been awake for thirty minutes and I was sitting in a fire station watching flames from a fire that was burning at my house.
My immediate questions were things like, are there news people just poised and placed everywhere on earth in case something newsworthy happens? It’s not like I live in a neighborhood or anything. Just ask my wife. We are remote/rural for a fact, and also, how the hell early does Q-dobas open on a Sunday morning anyway!?
OUT DAMNED SPOT
Firefighters, many of them, spent the entire day in pursuit of hot spots amidst the charred remains of a couple of acres of scrub oak, and when the smoke had clear it also became obvious that the fire had emanated not from a camp fire at the Horsetooth Reservoir campground on the other side of the road below my house, which was my original thought, but rather from a spot that was basically right out in the open and not really very close to anything that might normally have anything to do with humans or their activities. Arson investigators came to the house and asked questions and seemed to think it was not a fire intentionally sparked by anyone, yet they also seemed somewhat clueless as to how it might have actually started.
MESSAGE FROM GOD?
There is a road close to the burned area, but not seemingly near enough for a flicked cigarette butt or whatever to have been the culprit. So my next question was how does a fire start in the middle of a field at 4:00 in the morning? There had been no lightening, unless it comes without thunder sometimes because I know what it sounds like when lightening touches down close to my house. In fact it once stuck my house, and loud is a word that does not do that sound justice.
The land is so dry right now, that is also a very real fact, and if the wind had been coming towards my house instead of the neighbors to the south, there is no doubt that the flames could have found a way to climb the substantial rock ridge that is that part of my ‘yard’. With all that was going on not being a curious enough occurrence, the first rain we have had in literally months was beginning to fall at this precise time just before dawn.
My intention was not to steal the ‘thunder’ from our first fall lacrosse competition, but it was very hard to not write about these events when I did finally return to the computer keyboard where I now sit.
WE NOW RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING
Yesterday (actually three days ago) fit the “if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait a minute” profile, but the same concept sort of carried over for the whole lacrosse day as well. No part of any of it seemed routine or carried a consistency to it. We had our first baptism under fire/playing against people with different colored shirts opportunities yesterday when we traveled on an overflowing, stuffed to the gills CSU bus to The USAFA to play both the Academy as well as the brand spanking new Division II Adams State Grizzlies. The team we traveled was so large that we needed several car pools to come along as well, dinghies for the mother ship if you will, to handle the 60-something total players that we currently roll out with. We aren’t even bringing a trainer or two anymore, because the school no longer supplies medical staff in any form, even the most basic lightly trained way. Man, I do not miss that part, the part where you have to beg for bare necessities from the school and still don’t get them supplied. It seems worse than counterproductive for the school to not supply trainers. For one thing it is a league or conference rule to have trainers with each team. For another it seems like a liability of legal issue possibilities that just wait in the club sport wings for something tragic to occur. Meanwhile we (lacrosse) own some kind of $2000 deffibulator life saving machine that I’m sure no one could ever find or pull out if we were to actually need it at a game or practice. Having someone that can tape an ankle? Ice at hand for the pulled hamstring? Not a chance.
WEATHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
When we left the Fort for the Academy some 100 miles to the south in the early afternoon, we were still very much experiencing this perpetual Indian Summer thing that has been going on in Colorado. It is approaching mid-October and we haven’t had a hint of a freeze or frost, even at night. Every day has emerged from the night laying in wait, a position of being one more hottee, another beautiful day masquerading as summer. All this while Halloween rapidly approaches. The deciduous trees must be so confused about the whole leaving thing.
When we arrived to the playing field site it was still warm but a cooling process had definitely begun to take place, and actually by the end of the first game with the Falcons it was windy, chilly, and I had put on all the layers that I had brought with me, the ones that were for the just in case’ scenario that would surely not arrive. I try to always be at the ready for Colorado weather conversions, but the truth is that on this day I had more polo shirts in my pack than I had Underarmor layers to keep me warm, and consequently I was freezing by game’s end. So how would I make through the second game, which would be played in at night with falling temperatures? One might say I got lucky because the USAFA had an electrical melt down that affected only the field we were on, its lights and electronic scoreboard.
The end of that first game was played in pretty much what one might call darkness as they worked feverishly somewhere other than where we were to identify and correct whatever the electrical problem was. Fortunately for all parties involved they have an indoor arena at the Academy and the subsequent 2 games played took place inside that field house where it was fairly well lit and certainly warm, albeit it all happened somewhat later than originally planned. I cannot tell a lie. I was glad to go inside. I had played in there back in the seventies, but it remains a most adequate facility. They are building a new one, though.
AIR FORCE SCRIMMAGE
I am not sure of the final score. After the electronic scoreboard continued to show a 2-0 score for a time well after that was the actual score, all bets were off. Two Cadets had a scorebook, but admitted quickly to never having kept score at a lacrosse game. I’m thinking they might have never even been to a lacrosse game at all, but I suppose that wouldn’t make sense. Surely they were connected in some way to these events. The final score when all was said and done was something close to 12-6 Air Force.
TREAD LIGHTLY, OR, IS IT LIGHTLESS?
So, from the almost get-go, the electronic scoreboard showed penalty time, but not actual time. The game clock was being kept somewhere else. I was not clear on where that somewhere was, but it was above and behind where we were standing on the sidelines, and not immediately accessible to anyone apparently, so that’s how we rode, getting the time pony express style while playing at the facility rich USAFA. Oh well, fall ball I guess, but it would seem that the officials might have been the right people to be using to keep time and score, but what do I know. At any rate we were supposedly playing a full game time wise. It was not like most fall lacrosse games where the clock runs and there are no horns for substitution. We had lots of clock stopping and horn blowing going on.
IS THAT A TIC OR A STUTTER?
I think it was still in the first half when the field lights, which had not yet taken much if any affect, actually went off, and the 2-0 no longer lingered up on the scoreboard. Whatever power fed this field that sits a couple hundred yards from the field house was now definitely all the way off and we were on our own with Mother Nature and luminosity, or the coming lack thereof, although there was still ample natural light as the second half began. That would cease to be true at the end of the game.
IT’S JUST THE FIRST HALF AFTER ALL
We played okay as the game began, but we were lacking in confidence and or swagger. We had not played yet. There was nothing for us to really draw upon to process the puffing out of our chests, although we (Scott) cleanly won the first face off to get the other team’s attention, and we had a couple of decent early possessions as well, but as the game unfolded we could capture no real momentum and the Falcons scored first. By the way, one of the referees queried upon seeing the Gelston if this might be somewhere around Scott’s 6th year at CSU. I laughed. He hasn’t even been a five-year plan. He somehow has managed to do all that lip flapping that makes him so noticeable in just the standard 4 years of college.
STEP UP TO THE MYSTERY TOUR (Beatles)
We started a freshman goalie, one with great promise to go with his 6’5” length. He let in one or two early shots, ones of the type that I am saying he rarely will again. I think we as coaches might have not put him in the best of all possible situations to find early success, but I think ultimately he did anyway. Initiation versus a Division I team, playing on a new team for him, and away from the campus that had only recently become his new home after leaving home (as in Mommy) for the first time was a lot to put on one so young, but even with all that going on he settled down and made some very efficient saves as the game went on, and he gained some excellent, albeit quick, ‘college’ type experience. There is no doubt that sooner or perhaps later there is more than just potential with this goaltender, and there is nothing to be lost in October while there is so much to possibly be gained.
BE THE BALL
I guess when all is said and done we played well enough against an opponent such as this, but we could not penetrate that non-functioning scoreboard for too long of a time for the game to ever be in doubt. We tried, but we could not get that first score on the books for a while. Later, as the game wore on, we played and executed much more like we wanted, and in the end the score reflected pretty well what the game was. We played them close, but not quite as close as we had hoped for. We did one thing absolutely great, and I’m not sure if this is an oxymoron, but we were great at not quitting. Our leaders led. The players kept their heads up for the entire game and that really reflected the character of this group. As the light dimmed and winning became less of a possibility, they shined their brightest as a team and I don’t know what more a coach could ever want.
I don’t think we, as a team, should be satisfied with how it all went in that first game, but they, as a team, should be very proud of the overall game that they played, and really, and I know it was just a scrimmage for the Zoomies as well, but we kind of put it to them a little in the second half, and there was some glimpses of great mixed in as well, so my take on that whole thing as an entity or as a game is a pretty good one, and I think now just what I thought then, and have often said, and that is that you build a team over time. You cannot, should not, do not keep the BIG score on every play that you do or do not make, and at times we do a little of that. The scoreboard is indeed the report card, but it must not be the main judge of what things are. Scoreboards ultimately take care of themselves, but perception must be a process, a work in progress, a search for truth. Only then can we see the light. Who cares what John Paul sees as the CSU vs. AFA October score as he sits in the office of his multi-million dollar ’club’ lacrosse facility in Ann Arbor? Certainly not me. I am much more concerned with what I see in the eyes of Jack the goalie or in the body language of Cooper, our keyhole.
DAYLIGHT SAVED US NO TIME ON THIS DAY
By the time the game was over it was actually dark.
Our second game of the day/night doubleheader somewhat immediately followed the first one as we moved it all inside. The 2 games we played could not have been more different in so many ways. We were now in the totally controlled confines of a building, not out amongst the weather element. We were playing a Division II team, and not a Division I one. The Adams State Grizzlies were less than a week off of playing their very first lacrosse game ever, and Air Force is pretty much the oldest lacrosse program in the state of Colorado.
TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE (Mick Jagger)
The score was about the same, only the outcome this time favored us. The crooked numbers were turned upside down to where we won something like 12-5. It was a contest, but the outcome was also never in doubt.
HOW CAN I GET YOU TO DRIVE THIS BABY HOME TONIGHT?
There was an old yet familiar piece of this new Adams State program puzzle. Their coach, Jason Lamb, is, of course a very familiar foe for this old coach, but I admit that it was strange to see him rocking the color green after all those years working the sidelines in that BYU blue. He has done an amazing job in a short period of time and with no, that is zero, assistant coaches. The Grizzlies were not yet match for us to be sure, but he had already brought in kids that can play. That did not surprise me I suppose. He is Mormon (Missionary is part of the plan), and he used to sell cars. Those facts and his ability to coach automatically make him a triple threat. He can recruit, apparently even to Alamosa, Colorado, which, and I don’t meant to be exactly Flip, is not quite the same as getting great football players to want to go to Miami and play for THE “U” in front of thousands and thousands of beautiful people, mostly 20 year old girls that like to party. I guess all that put together didn’t surprise me as much as how well they already played as a team, but maybe that shouldn’t surprise me either, because all they did was exactly whatever Lamb told them to do. If this was not Pavlov’s dog in lacrosse coaching action, then I have never seen control as a blueprint for coaching. That is how he coaches.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS?
This coaching style is not exactly representative of me at my apex to be sure. I had some things that I demanded as a coach, and one of them was the paradoxical idea that a certain percentage of who we were and how we rocked had to come from inside them and not all just exactly from my perfect playbook. At times and with certain teams I had my most focused eye on a vision that showed the light on making my team look as if they did not really even need a coach. That lit my fire, and doing some or all this while still playing with the discipline and grasp for the situational moment that can only come from a strict coaching structure was what I was going for. That was sort of my little game within the game thing. I am all about Mike Roth (too long for here). I hated teams that called everything every minute and got all the ‘right’ people in the game all the time and things like that. That was rarely who I wanted us to be. I won’t say never because I have coaching commandments that have no compromise, but that same concept is also what made it easy, no, actually effortless to hate the BYU’s of the world as an opponent, and how I always thought that because we could step outside that box when necessary that we could always get to a place we had never been, a place that ‘they’ (most other teams) could not, and my competitive fires came from being a hater. I did not call the coaches I competed against every week to chat. I hate it when my attackmen get friendly or chummy with the other team’s defensemen.
Anyway, any way that I look at that team, Jason’s now team, I commend them for the game they played against us. They were short on numbers while we played most of 60 guys, but they were long on heart, and I find that remarkable for how new this team is.
EVERYBODY WAS KUNG FOO FIGHTING
It is hard to evaluate us as a team in this nightcap game, because I think any evaluation gets lost in that same number of 60-ish guys we were using/trying to get into the game. Everyone on our team was wearing the orange shorts that represented receipt for the small but still significant dollars they had paid to play fall ball.
IT’S IN THE GAME!
I thought we did some things very well, in that second game, however, and the family thing was feeling pretty good, even if still far from perfect. Again, it is not easy to have 60 happy players after a game, or even two games.
P.S. I LOVE YOU (Beatles)
The post-game handshake after the first game with Air Force was almost interminable. The second one took awhile, too, but not so much because of the Grizzles from Adams were only numbered in the teens.
STYLE AND RIGHT ARE NOT THE SAME THING
Coach Smith addressed this Ram team for a few minutes as they were sitting all together in the stands after the second game, and it was almost ten p.m. by then, I think. It had become a long day. Everyone refers to Alex as Coach Smith. He is 30. In my 50’s there were like two refs that insisted upon calling me Coach Naumburg, and you know who you are, J.D. Everyone else pretty much always called me Flip or just Coach. That is the way I wanted it, too.
I love the way Alex has come to do that thing I always used to do, which is to tell the refs when we are off-sides and stuff like that rather than always trying to get away with it by calling a time out or fighting too hard for one lousy call or whatever. He wants to see the game played right, and not just to always get THE call, or to always be right. That is where I have seen the greatest growth in his coaching game. He no longer wastes valuable energy on refs when he could be using that same energy to empower his team, a far superior use of the zen.
So, anyway, I took a moment just then to gaze out onto the field below as the more than 40 Zoomies were doing their stick drills, readying themselves to play the final game. It was hard not to note the stark contrast of the picture in front of me of Jason and his 16 or 18 greenish clad Grizzlies as they sat in a circle on their side of the midline, looking very much like a team that had already spent all that they had brought, and maybe a little more that they didn’t even know they had brought against us. That is not even to point out that they had driven all the way from Alamosa that day as well. That has to be a long drive because it is a long drive from Alamosa to pretty much anywhere. The sight of them just oozed fatigue from where I was standing, and I don’t mean soldier clothing fatigue. There they sat, ‘preparing’ to summon up something extra, a little more energy to put toward the next task at hand, which was a ‘full’ game against the ultra conditioned Cadets, a group that by the way had the luxury of that span of time that comprised the length of our game with Adams to eat and otherwise refresh themselves to play a team that truthfully was not yet ready to compete with even a J.V. Air Force team. But there it all was, and that’s how it is nowadays.
DO WE GET PAID BY THE HOUR OR WHAT?
I can only wonder what that AFA vs. Adams State game looked like. I admire that the Grizz wanted to play the two games for the experience, but I can’t see how either team would or could get much from the one that they were about to play. Oh well, I was more than ready for my Subway sandwich which I knew waited for me on the bus. Bye bye.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
PASSION IS THE KEY
As coaches we always talk about things like family and how important it is that going to lacrosse practice be the thing that you most look forward to on any given practice day. I am sure it almost always is in fact the best part of their day. Why else would they subject themselves to people yelling at them and blowing whistles to make them run and things like that? You have to love to play. At the same time loving to play is not enough. We have a group/team right now that loves to play. They love to play together, too. These are great push points for team building. We have built some good team stuff this fall so far. The days of reckoning are now upon us however, and I’m sorry, I cannot tell a lie. I watch us play and it just looks like they are ‘playing’ to play. No more and no less. We have plenty of talent to take us most of the way. I do not doubt that, but our team's character development needs more than a booster shot in the arm
I don’t believe that we are ready for what is about to happen, even if it is just fall ball and all. We will be playing against players who's job description includes playing lacrosse at a Division I level. They will not simply drop the ball for us and things like that. If there is magic in the air it will need to be because we put it there.
NEW BALL GAME TIME
Yes, we came so close last year in Denver, and we had a great, cohesive group, and we could taste a championship almost, and there was a bad call that helped to cascade Simon Fraser to a rain-soaked victory over us in the 1/4 finals at the National Tournament, but we lost not just in that moment, and in many ways we finished where we belonged. We were not robbed of anything. What killed us in that final fateful play was not just the moment or a fluke or a bounce or a bad call. Nor was it death by making a 'killer' mistake on the field. In fact the last play went just as we planned, well, everything except the wrong team scored the overtime goal, and despite all the talk and rehashing, that is the only fact that matters.
FALL BALL DOES = LAX LIGHT FOR ME AS A COACH.
The fall is for many things, but it is not for driving a team in a specific direction, but rather to find out where they want to go. I have always had a fall ‘agenda’, but it has never related specifically to the Spring one. Too many things can change. Drop outs, girl friend pregnant, whatever. Autumn is for many things for student athletes, and one of those is not for me to tell them who or what they should be, either collectively or as individuals. I am much more a sounding board than I am a chalkboard when the calendar shows October. At the same time, the teaching begins on day one. One of my great hopes is that none of the freshmen get caught for underage drinking or whatever, not can they feel how and when the #2 slide package works best.
My role as coach has changed a lot over the last two years. I step farther back as time goes on. I do not want players to get mixed messages from coaches and Alex Smith has his agenda and methods. He is a great coach and the reigning National Coach of the year in the MCLA and the Rocky Mountain League as well. He earned and deserved both. I won it (National Coach of the Year) once, in 1999, but only because ‘they’ all turned around when it was done and we were champs, and all of a sudden they had no one else to bestow it upon. We (CSU) had come from pretty much nowhere and in the process of unseeding the mighty BYU Cougars (Thanks Cal), upsetting the Sonoma politically incorrects (Cossacks?), and then finishing the deal by derailing, no, crushing the Simon Fraser Klansmen (also defunct, politically way not correct nickname) and that juggernaut that was supposed to easily win that 1999 National title. I used two goalies, but not by halves. I gave the one of them who had more talent but less seniority just one game to win, the middle one, the hard one, Sonoma, and then I knew the other one could handle the rest because our defensive talent was just great. We had Luke Leonard on defense, who was basically Champ Bailey or whoever that guy is that neutralizes your best guy, upsetting the opponents progress and process.
So, that night they had to give the award to me even though I so didn’t fit the perfect coach perfect hair mold (Sorry, Jason, you are a fantastic coach. Why else would I have spent all those years just trying to beat you. I knew that if we could beat BYU then all the others would have to get in line behind us, and history pretty much bears out that exact truth.) Anyway, the process of choosing the highest coaching honor in our division totally changed after that year of 1999 when we won our first. It was never knee jerk again, but rather a full on politically correct process that chose the ‘king’ of coaches before we ever got to St. Louis, Dallas, or wherever.
To add briefly to this line of thought, and I've never admitted this, but after it was over I couldn't wait to get rid of same Luke Leonard, and did everything I could to discourage his return.
It was weird, but when I knew he was coming to CSU in the fall of '98, and somehow we got his ass eligible academically, I told my son flat out that we could win a national championship now with this kid, and of course we did. He was totally a Division I talent, maybe the best close defenseman I ever coached, but when it was over I felt just a little like a prostitute, dirty and a little bit cheap, however. Why? Because other than talent Luke was pretty much everything I didn't want in a player on my team, but I put up with much because I wanted it all and I wanted it now, and I knew I needed the piece he brought to the puzzle.
In my heart my teams would always be made up of a group that was ever destined to come alive by having its own unique character, and the process was always about character building and helping others around you to be more, do more. He was not a good teammate and he valued the family as little as possible I think, and treated players that weren't so good as if they were somehow inferior or worked for him. We won alright, but I knew I never wanted to 'do it' that way ever again, and we didn't.
All I ever wanted in college lacrosse coaching life was to play the late games in a given tournament (highest seeds), and to play in that last game on the last day of the season. It was never more, but never less. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the lower seeds fall all over each other in the 11:00 and 4:00 games as I/we relaxed and prepared for our mission later in the day. I was never compelled to watch and film teams we were going to play. Sometimes I avoided that with purpose. I used some of that technology, but I never married it. There is too much potential heartbreak for my tastes when everything is planned so carefully. But no doubt that the more of that waiting to play the prime time game there was the more confident I became, and the more I liked it.
CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN
I always say that one of the great things we did as a program was to win it all in what was our first trip to the final. We didn’t have to come back and beat a door down that we had already knocked on. We blew the door right off its hinges the first chance we got. We never knocked and we never looked back after that, and even though we only won four, we played in that last game every single year for like seven years, and we got there in many different ways.
IN IT TO WIN IT
I never talked about winning championships every day in practice. I talked about things like don’t screw up my drill, or if you don’t catch that ball in practice how can you ever hope, as a coach, that they will catch an identical pass in a game. Adrenaline? Puhlease, although I will never forget that over the shoulder catch that Naga made at Invesco that one year at night in a huge moment of the game, and after never having caught an over the shoulder pass before in his entire life, and I smile even now when I think of it and that as a moment. Over the shoulder passes are banned in my ‘system’. No, really, I’m not kidding! Everyone else practices them every day. I hate them.
My greatest compliment for any given player was pretty much, “You don’t suck”. I’m thinking that often the biggest goal for my team was to never have to endure my hissy fits when it was ugly for me to watch practice. One of the greatest scorers we have ever had I tagged “Prima”, as in, well, you know. He drove me nuts counting his points and things like that, but that is what lit his fire My aim was not to totally extinguish it. Fire is power. I also had no desire to pretend that I didn’t hate that part of his ‘game’.
QUALITY IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN QUANTITY
I have never been the poster boy for the Dale Carnegie (everything positive) teaching method. I am much more, as many know, a rider on the “Know the truth and the truth will set you free” train. It is the local, not the express. When, in my opinion, we sucked, I pretty much said it right out loud for most if not all to hear.
REDEMPTION IS JUST A WORD
In 2006 I knew we would win it all. It wasn’t because we had ALL THAT talent or all that motivation for redemption after I backed us out of the 2005 tournament because we had a senior captain who was found to be ineligible academically. Yeah, that stuff was big, but my central thought was that we cannot have senior leadership that does not consciously choose to do the right thing at all times. We could have fought it and won and gotten in the tournament. There is almost no doubt about that. Hell, it might have been one of our best teams ever in 2005. We could have won it with or without that player. We were stacked with the Timmy Frquahars and all that, but truthfully I do not regret that I didn’t fight the ban sanction that came down upon us. I might have won a challenge, and yes, I think UCSB owes us a ‘thank you’ for that one they got in 2005. I will, however, always feel badly for Nick Harper, and that he never got that one. He missed another due to injury. That one would have been HIS, but at the same time I know in my heart of hearts that he got what he needed from playing here, even if it were nothing more than the whole “Nothing but Money” thing, which was ‘just fall ball’ I guess, but not losing a game in Las Vegas for like 8 years is enough for him. I know it is. We were awesome in Vegas, and he was our identity during the center of that Ram storm. One might say that was a time of legend. Every MCLA team in America feared us. That was so cool.
So, 2006 was/became the year of redemption for us. It wasn’t our most talented team. Timmy, Nick and others were gone. I knew that, but I also knew we would win it all as long as I didn’t screw it up. Our goalie, Pete Jokisch, wanted that championship enough for everyone, and I knew that if I just let Pete be Pete that all that winning and losing stuff would take care of itself, and it did. Pete drove us there with our system working perfectly. He made it work perfectly. We stayed focused all season long in the collective effort to define who and what we were, and it wasn’t with a lot of fiery speeches from either Pete or me. We just shined like it was our time because it was, and you know it wasn’t easy. We trailed a great C.U. team by three goals as time wound down in the Championship game, and we did not even blink, and then we just blew them up to win going away, 8-7. If you think about it, we only scored 4 goals or whatever in the first 55 minutes of the game and then we scored 4 in the last four or five. That doesn’t just happen, it is always happening all season long by what you bring every day in the lunch box. In the end we simply would not lose and that was all there was to it.
2006 DEFINED US IN MANY WAYS
In fact, I am saying that Jason Lamb might still be in shock to this day from that year because I think he felt like that was one of his best teams at BYU ever, and he might just be right, and we just beat them badly and in every phase of that tournament game in an almost workmanlike way, and that took us on to the finals. I’m pretty sure that Jason entered that game with us in 2006 thinking only that losing was not even a possibility. I think it didn't even occur to him.
PIRATES AND ARMADAS
Nobody was calling us ‘club ball’ later that night, though, even if Dylan Peble did paint his face and carry a pirate flag when we stepped on the field of play, and I guess I was wearing the big Pirate hat they gave me, too. Not very dignified I suppose as I look back, but that team excelled, loved each other, and had fun every step of the way. Isn't that the real to do list?
RAMS AND BUFFS
That final the next day was no joke either. C.U. was good and they were hungry, tired of being the bridesmaid but never the ONE. They had not beaten us in years. We had already beaten them twice that year. It's hard to beat a team three times. Everyone says so. So do I. Still, we just took their emotion and we pretty much used it to our advantage. Even though they totally had us, the outcome was never in doubt. Not one of us thought we would lose, even as it stood 4-7 with three minutes left in the game.
I did a good job that year, but in my heart that one (Championship) will always be Petey’s, and by the way, everyone fears Arizona State for this upcoming year, and for good reason. Great talent, great coach to be sure, and they may just do it or whatever, but in my opinion they should have won it this past year, 2010, that’s when it was all there for them. Michigan could have been had and so could have Chapman, at least that’s what I think, and they (ASU) had the redemption motivation built right in with all that talent. Now they have to go back to the same door if they want to get in.
My goal was never for me to get Coach of the Year, and I’m almost ashamed about how little I cared if Plonkey (Napi, whoever) made All-American, but of course he/they did. I know I should be out there pushing ‘my’ player to get his props, but I NEVER did. A great example of that was Pat Coy (D 2001?). At first I liked him because he was a defenseman I could look right in the eye (short), unlike Ryan Robichaud who towered over us all, but he (Coy) was pretty much impossible to control. He couldn’t catch worth a damn (ever/still). We tried to never put him in a place where that was important. Pat totally made a mockery of our team defense because he just slid whenever he felt like it, which made it hard for everyone to be on that proverbial same page and work in a cohesive way. It also made it impossible for opposing coaches to figure out where we were sliding from. In reality it was easy to figure because we didn't slide from a place. Coy slid, and it was just that simple, and it didn't matter where he was, but the other coaches kept searching for something that was a ghost and it worked to our advantage when all was said and divied up.
Once Pat fouled out of a very important game in Michigan in less than a quarter. All of a sudden I was naked and Coyless. I'm like how can no one make me aware of this? Yeah, like it was someone else's fault. It happened so fast, though, and I was busy keeping the chaos that all those penalty minutes cause down to a minimum.
DON'T BE COY ABOUT IT
Pat's mouth was also a constant source of irritation to us all. Two things very conspicuously happened because of or in spite of all this. First, hacker and basher as he was in my ‘NO WHACKING” defensive plan or shall we say system, within a year he 1) was feared by all who played us, and 2) was making all the individual All-star, all whatever teams, and I’m thinking to myself, “What game are these people watching?” The other truth that came to be was that I figured out how to get the best for us from, or in spite of him. I paid closer attention to how many personal fouls he would be accumulating, yes, but I also let him be Pat Coy, and the symbiotic synthesis of all that was a defense that other teams just flat feared.
IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT GETTING BETTER
They’ didn’t know what else to do, so they gave me that Coach of the year thing in 1999. It was never my goal, never. And it wasn’t my goal for any of the years that followed. It fell in my lap, and all I have to say about that is thank you very much. It’s in my trophy case and no one can come and take it away from me. It is not there because of my brilliant X’s and O’s, however, and by the same token, it is not there simply because I was blessed with all this talent either. It, in my mind can never be ALL either of these dynamics.
It isn't that simple. A + B rarely = C, even though I know that the Michigan coaches live by that equation and they have won three in a row, so it makes my argument somewhat transparent I suppose.
DAY TO DAY IS DAY BY DAY
I very much miss crafting practices. I do not miss dealing with fighting for field privileges, travel planning, and collecting money. I know I can’t have it both ways and that’s okay, but the bottom line is that my steps are in a toe to heel direction and not a heel to toe one, and I don't know if I will ever get comfortable with that.
HERE’S WHAT I GOT WAIT, I GOT NUTHIN’
For me, recruiting was always about “If you build it they will come”, and I still believe that to be truth. I love the internet as a recruiting aid, but what I really always wanted was for kids to go back to their high schools and bring me another one kind of like him by simply conveying how great it was to be part of ‘the CSU family’. I’m not sure, but I think I NEVER won Coach of the Year inside our league, and on that one I must admit that I thought I should have gotten it pretty much every year for about ten of them. I didn’t. It always went to Jason Lamb, his perfect hair and pristine methods, or it went to the John Galvins (C.U.), you know the guy who came in and made a big splash on a program that needed a cannonball for change. It’s all good.
PLACING FOOT SQUARELY IN A ROUND MOUTH ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING
I have been writing this ‘journal’ for more than ten years. In that time I did learn that I need to be a little careful what I say or write about what, lest someone or, God forbid, their mother would get upset. So, yes, there have been times when I have been conflicted. At the same time what is the point of writing only things that please people or that they want to read or hear? There is nothing particularly compelling about all that.
WOOOH, WOOH (Anne Stone)
We have a booster club that sells t-shirts and stuff, but it is not the first time we have sold a sweatshirted hoodie, I can assure you. All that stuff takes passion, renewed and reglued every generation.
I do not have the unrequited “Booster Club” mentality, but at the same time I do love having a booster club.
I KNOW, I AM THE DINOSAUR
I apologize if I offend, but this team I see now plays to play. They like to play lacrosse and they are pretty good at it. That is good, but it isn’t enough. I have given the "You know other teams practice and want to win, too" speech many times over the years. We did not invent "wanting it". You have to figure stuff out for yourself, and not just do what the coach says to do. That is just my very small opinion. Each player must find the Warrior within. Then we become a very dangerous tribe.
GET DOWN WITH YOUR BAD SELF
When they (players) fill out the player profile form we hand out and have since I got here, they write as their goals two main things nowadays. They want to win a national championship (because they know we can), and they want to get playing time. Yes, these are great things, but to me they are far too vague to qualify as real personal or team goals. Personally, I admit that the first thing I look at on that form is the answer to the question, "Years Played", as in 6 or whatever, and not how many times they made the "All Whatever" team.
And in the end, winning a championship is not something you set out to do. It is a thing that happens naturally, even organically when you do things a certain way and with progression.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
THE FALL IS ALWAYS A BALL
As we merge into being way into the 21st century and as I get older, the changes around us seem to come faster than shots in a shooting gallery. I mean bang-bang seems to be no big thang, but the bang can often be a big swing in technology or whatever, as in gotta have a Blackberry becomes gotta have an Iphone in the blink of a pixel.
IT IS WHAT IT IS But what can it become?
The future can and often insists on being a fickled finger for fate to flow or somehow go through. Maybe the future holds more possibility in the arena of the ‘it is what you make it’ aspect of life, but the ‘it is what it is’ also always manages to play a major role in both day-to-day as well as long term operations. No matter what, how, or who makes up the team dynamic, every year and every team is pretty much completely different from the one that it just was. Does anything I just wrote make any sense?
NEWS GUYS AND OLD GUYS
For CSU as a lacrosse team comprised of playing players, the different make-up of this new year may not seem so dramatic at first glance. There are many familiar faces, back and happy together, including many that return as sophomores from last year’s exceptional freshman class. With them they bring the experience of having gone all the way through the wars one time, and with that the confidence that shows in how they conduct themselves. The body language I see on the field would seem to say a lot of “Been there, done that”, and I like it. It is a look that only comes from experience, and used right, experience will serve you well.
By the way, other than being somewhat chronically superstitious I have never bought into much of that sophomore slump concept. I have always felt that in most cases the best thing about a freshman is that he does indeed become a sophomore, as in it’s all good, really. It’s not like they signed a big contract as freshmen that they have to live up to as sophomores, at least not on my teams. You build teams by building people, but never just some of them. To build a team machine you pretty much need to get all the parts working pretty good. Too much reliance on what will or should be is a recipe for heartbreak.
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
My thoughts in the summer have never been about projecting exactly what the new group or any of its returning somewhat more mature players will look like. I make notes. I do not even want to try to write a script.
So, anyway, we have a very strong returning Ram nucleus. The core group came in large and seems to get nothing but stronger after the 10 or 12 practices we have had so far. There is a lot of experience, and some good senior leadership. They bring hopefully the inner hunger that comes from having the last season not end on the last day possible. Every year you must make “Impossible is nothing”, a new concept for a new team to embrace, and then you have to live as well as love it.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
We lost Andrew Stein to graduation. He was probably one of the best defensemen to ever play here. We will miss him and his quiet leadership so much, but then you turn around, and we as coaches knew that we would be returning a large number of very good ‘poles’ and that would likely be a real strength of this next group. We knew that, but who knew we would get a half a dozen more really good poles that can really play lacrosse? Play to your strengths, that's all I know. I would like to see this team dominate the field between the boxes. We could. There is much work to do, but we could.
However good they or we become, it will be very different without Stein being there. He always brought a lot to our table.
THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD
I told one of the freshman poles at practice yesterday that it was going to be very difficult not to play him. I know it sounds weird, but that is pretty much high praise from me. He’s got skills, and he’s got a motor, too. Why would I ever do anything to discourage a player like that?
Often players need to wait a year to get real playing time here, sometimes more. It is not at all a rule or anything. The best players play. Still, it often takes a while to earn that game time. However you view our current situation, there is nothing wrong with depth, and depth that is ready to step in or step up can never be a bad thing. The hard thing becomes having enough roles and or games. Sooner or later they do all get a chance to show their stuff, though.
THE MAGNIFIVENT SEVEN
A really nice thing to have on a lacrosse team is continuity within the goal tending position. We have had the ‘luxury’ of Alex Jacques being our starting goalie for the three years preceding this one. It is just simple logic that having the same goalie the next year is helpful in the building of the new defensive team, and whoever the goal tender is, his personality almost always has a significant imprint on who you are as a team. That is the nature of the sport and how its played. It is not a revelation that just popped out of my keyboard.
Alex the goalie has moved on through graduation as those darn kids will tend to do whether you want them to or not. There will be a new goalie starting that first game in February. That is a lock, but the only one as far as I can tell. Yes, there are two hard working goalies returning, both seniors, and you can throw in another who was a prototype Red Shirt here last year. That (3 goalies) doesn’t seem too complicated until you look at 2011 and the three or four more really good goalies that are freshmen. There are seven players that would love to be that guy in that first game, and I’m guessing that 4 or 5 of them see that as a real possibility, as in thinking they are good enough.
So, I’m looking around, and granted, I have not seen a lot of the new guys, and obviously none in game action, and I’m thinking that a couple of them will just stick out, or another couple will drop off and be gone. But, as I watch more I see how much talent we are blessed with, and all these kids love to play the game. They come in many different forms as well. We’ve got the experienced tough guy who has been waiting and working so hard for this time coming. He is solid fundamentally and has never flinched an inch in the goal, not ever. He has every right to think it is his time. We have another senior who is quick, plays smart, and uses his abilities to their best. He’s had the experience of a lifetime of getting shot on daily by his twin brother. You couldn’t go wrong with him as your last line of defense.
Then we have all this new goalie blood with new and different kinds of talent. We have the one from Oregon who towers above the goal and makes saves looking down on the shooter. He has good skills already. It is difficult to simply dismiss him now as the future king. He could play right now in a lot of programs. There are three other new ones who also have had very shiny moments in the early practices, so you certainly don’t want to discourage any of them. At the same time, for the most part it is very difficult to have two starting goalies, let alone seven. I guess we will just have to see how it all shakes down.
THE FORCE BE WITH US
This is a whole new kind of fall schedule that Alex the Coach has put together. The most notable part of it is that we will play/scrimmage against two, that’s 2 Division I opponents. Two weeks from Friday, on October 8, we will travel to play at The United States Air Force Academy for two games, one with AFA, and one with the new, but widely known, Division II program from Mesa State in Grand Junction. Along with those fighting Mavericks I think I will need to learn a few other new Division II college sport nicknames in the near future. That seems to be a wave of activity in college lacrosse these days. There are several popping up in the west these days. I am talking about Division II lacrosse that is not only new to the institution of higher learning, but also comes all packaged as a sanctioned program with paid coaches and stuff like that. This trend is hard to not notice, and it is happening at medium sized schools with great facilities that are trying to reach into a longer demographic. Adams State will have a lacrosse program for crying out loud.
Then we practice a couple more times and the we play another doubleheader, this time at D.U. We will scrimmage the Pioneers at their house in Denver and as a bonus we will play with B.Y.U., too. The Cougars will come all the way from Provo by bus, so maybe it’s not just basic Fall ball that is on the Mormon lacrosse mind.
On October 30 we will have three more games in Golden against local teams that we know, most notably a new and very promising C.U. Buffalo team with a young coach and a very fresh and energetic perspective.
FULL FALL STARTS…..NOW!
These games in the Fall will all be shorter, running time style games, but however you time it they are also great opportunities for us to see, well, how we match-up as it were.
Needless to say everyone is pretty excited about what is on the very near horizon.
CSU did something close to what I have had in my mind for our practice field ever since I arrived here. We are back to currently practicing on old #11 or whatever it is now. They lowered the playing surface, though, and made it level. What a concept, but it definitely does not drain as well. It hasn't been used, well it actually wasn't even a field for over a year. Lowering the field created a burm on the west side of it. I think they should have done something a little more dramatic and where people could sit several deep as the ground rises and then that could have been the premiere game field for club sports. You’d never have to move the stands for seating either. Oh well, nobody asked me and that is definitely dirt already moved, so that change is done. I like being back on that field that really is centrally located in the heart of the CSU campus.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Being together with so many from the CSU lax family one night recently, and actually twice in less than a month for the blessed events of matrimony, got me thinking about what kind of moments wind together into the mix that makes up the great coaching experience for me, and that night last week was not just, “Isn’t it cool to see all these guys together still and again some ten years after the last whistle at CSU and yeah, that’s family! It was much more than that. The realization of the depth of the CSU lacrosse connection is almost staggering.
0 DEGREES OF SEPERATION
Kale Nelson (’03) works with and for Nick Harper (‘05’). So does Mike Hamm (’02). Kale also works at Mike Roth's (’01) Denver nightclub called Herman's Hideaway on weekends. Brian Linehan (’01) and Adam Sisbarro (’02) work part or full time for Pat Shanley (’98) and his valet service in and around the Denver area. Tom Fender (’08) works in a hospital group situation where the job came about through Garrett Fitzgerald’s ('08) mother, Maureen, who is large and in charge over there. Jack Genadek (’06) works with Garrett at the Fitzgerald’s investment firm in Denver. I am not sure if I got all the years of graduation correct, and in fact, I’m fairly certain that I did not. I also think I might be missing a few more or other similar connections, but the picture I paint is definitely one that goes well beyond simple coincidence. The ‘family’ really is connected in very meaningful and career oriented ways.
I did not mean to wander off my plan quite that far, so I am not going to go too far into detail. I was really thinking about coaching times and things that define that whole coaching thing for me. A moment that will always be etched like granite in my brain is one from my second full season, the spring of 1998. We were mid-way through our 4-game trip to Southern California, a trip where I shot my first and only boot to become officially a proud part of the CSU Ram family. That also is another story.
BODY OF WORK
This was a most important trip for our team development. I planned it carefully>
Us taking the next step in my little lacrosse program-building movie that had opened with me leaving Santa Barbara to head for Fort Collins was the 'srory line' that mandated us to go to California and beat some good teams in order to have a chance to get to that St. Louis/National Championship thing in May that I had heard about.
I had been living in California for 12 years and doing some or a lot of lacrosse coaching at various levels. I was aware of the (what is now) MCLA teams and how good they were. The first thing I did when I got to California was become the "B" Team coach at UCSB. The 1987 Gauchos were good. They beat Whittier for the WCLL Championship with a bunch of California kids that had spent the last 4 years working towards exactly that. They were hungry Gauchos. I love that kind of team. They also had Pete Reich for starters. He could dominate the face off and shoot over 90 on the run with both hands. I mean what do you want, at least talent wise. It was fun to show up there just then. Meanwhile Whittier was chocked full of Canadians recruited by one Doug Locker and they were the DIII real deal. It was good drama.
BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE
On the other side of the coin, we (CSU) were at best a disheveled bunch of individuals, not yet a woven fabric of family. As a group my 20 or so CSU lacrosse players pretty much thought Bennigans was as good as it got. Or at least that was my take. I remember thinking how weird it was to me that none of these Colorado kids ever wanted to eat someplace in a new town that they hadn't already eaten at back home (franchises). I was pretty much the polar opposite of that, but I was okay with it and we ended up having it more or less their way for the most part. At least they could agree on something, so there was that
QUICK STORY - NOT SO FUNNY MONEY
One of my early CSU teams was just going through the hung over motions in a Sunday game with Ft .Lewis. The team felt like they could beat Ft .Lewis while sleeping. No Knute Rocknyism from me could have changed that at that time. They were far from buying my big bang theory of lacrosse at CSU. At the moment we were struggling with the Skyhawks or whatever the hell they are called, and it was later in the game, and I was one pissed off Gaucho-er, I mean cowboy. So, I'm guessing it was like 10-8 for us. During a timeout I basically blatantly broke what is probably considered the First Commandment of college sport coaching. I said, "F-it all anyway" and then I offered that I would take the whole team to Bennigans if we made it to 20 goals. Now, 20 was possible, but way more than unlikely from where we sat at the time, which was 9 or so. To make the long story a little shorter they breezed to like 22 goals or something. The 22 was their way of showing ME. Twenty wouldn't have put it in my face enough so they got a couple extra, and two things were happening. First we were starting to have an identity and not just be 'club' guys, and then on top of that we were starting to build, as bribe-filled and disturbing as it all might sound, a level of trust for one another. When I think of it now I know it was wrong and then I think I wouldn't change a thing. What a great motivator, eh? Money. Who would of thought?
LIKE A VIRGIN (Madonna)
We weren't that great to be sure, but also the thought that we were not that far off crept into my brain. I scheduled that trip very carefully for maximum exposure and to play teams I thought we could beat, and so we were off to California for Spring Break 1998.
I can remember that first Saturday of that first real road trip. It was Spring Break on the calendar, but we (I) knew that this could not be just Spring Break. We were getting ready to really play in some meaningful games. I remember a moment when were about to play the UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles (Westwood) on the first game of that Spring Break trip. It was exciting as hell, but that wasn’t the defining moment I’m talking about so I'll just let that sit there.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BECOMING A RAM
Opponents on that schedule included, UCLA, LMU, UC Claremont, and then we finished with I think UCSD or San Diego State in San Diego in the rain and what was, as it turned out, our toughest hurdle of them all. For a long time in the 80’s and 90’s San Diego State was the best program in San Diego. I'm not sure why that is not true today. They should be good.
Anyway, this 1998 trip would be huge. We started out right by kicking UCLA’s butt on their grass.
PROGRESS and a little help from my Pookie
Yes, we were getting better that second season, but I would be remiss if I did not site one footnote, like the 11 points that Pat Shanley put on the board for us most every game. Those points did not come because I did such a great job of teaching Pat the finer points of shooting. For that matter I doubt if he ever shot for anything more that the 6’ x 6’ goal. He would just throw his body in there and, shall we say, 'get some'. Most of the time he probably missed the whole play anyway as he lay in a heap or as he was picking his frailish looking body up off the ground after he had taken some kind of lick. He scored 200 points in that year of 1998. That was and is a phenomenal number to me. Yes, we played a couple of teams that we could kill on the scoreboard, but we really weren’t really that good, as I have said. Often the other team would own far more ball time than did we, but then Shanley would somehow cram one in for us in the blink of an eye, squirreling his way in from behind the goal somehow. And so we got where we could play with the Arizona’s and the C.U.’s. on the scoreboard as our team defense began to find a happy place to live together as the sum of an equation and where fingers of defensive failure could only be pointed at me and not at one another.
At any rate in the end a goal is a goal, even if you basically only have one kid that can score them, and we lived there one year, that year. Thanks, Pat, for being so prolific, and truth be known, all of our Roths and Napolillis that followed are still jealous just a little of the way you could light it up..
MORE OF THE SHANLEY FACTOR
This getting to St. Louis importance was amplified for me by the fact that this 1998 was Pat’s last season and his only chance to get a taste of some St. Louis lacrosse brew. I wanted very much for Shanley to play in St. Louis. Wherever we were as a team and as a program, we had pretty much been carried there on Pat’s incredibly scrawny shoulders. I wanted some payoff for him.
NO FEAR Or maybe just a little on the caution side
I had wanted this challenging schedule. We needed it. Sonoma was the odds on favorite to get that at large National bid we wanted, and my guess is they might still be a little upset about the fact that we were chosen and not them to go to the city by the Mississippi that May. After all, they represented the ‘far superior’ WCLL but I avoided (?) UCSB and Whittier on our trip out there, the two California kings of the time. We needed to be unbeaten (thought I) out of conference to have a chance. I knew we probably weren’t quite yet ready for BYU, but we were way closer than I even knew. Then there was the CU obstacle. They were really good, too, but I already knew we could beat them. I'm not sure how I knew that. I just did. In my mind I wanted the National tournament more than any other of the available objects of desire, and I was willing to let the league chips fall where they may.
As a footnote CU had welcomed my ass to Colorado less than a year earlier in my very first game as CSU Head Coach by first shoveling snow from the Field at Folsom in Boulder and then trashing my brand spanking new Tierney defense to the tune of like 25-7.
MOSES FORGOT TO TAKE NOTES ON HIS TABLET
I had come into Colorado thinking I would prove to be your basic second coming in Fort Collins, and then the end of that day left me stunned and rudderless for a bit. We beat them the following year and more or less never stopped after that, but that isn’t what I came to write about either.
MORE CALIFORNIA DREAMING
So we started the trip with a big 10-goal (actually 11 I think) victory over UCLA. It was no big thing to beat UCLA then, but it seemed big, felt huge. I knew they were at least on par with my Pepperdine teams of the early nineties. I had coached against UCLA while at Pepperdine. We had far more depth thanks to the much larger number of high school lacrosse teams playing in Colorado so I knew we could beat the Bruins with or without too much up-coaching from me.
Talent alone would have gotten it done, but the margin of victory was about 15-4 and that was the whole deal for me. I went in the game thinking that if we could win by 10 goals or so with this UCLA team and this kind of team level, that would indicate to me that we really had jumped up from our previous plateau and were well onto a far better place, and that we were at least getting near the neighborhood where the Mormons lived. I was a little nervous, too. I didn’t do bed checks the night before. That wasn’t the way I wanted it built. My whole thing was about the fact that if I treated them like men as a group then they would also act and play like men in the games. I know I was pushing the envelope because these were boys. I crossed my fingers for a little leadership to jump in there.
If it were to be a close game, then numbers would tell me much of our story and where we resided in the national pecking order, and it would not be high enough. The margin was serious validation for me.
I remember sitting in a hallway inside the famous Pauly Pavillion at UCLA feeling like I was exactly where I wanted to be, and crazy as that seemed at the time. It felt good as we waited for our turn to going out and start playing in that bright California sunshine and it also felt good to be outside somewhere other than Colorado in the early spring, which I was still readjusting to. After all, the weather in Santa Barbara is pretty much perfect almost every day of the year and I missed it. Colorado made for some very cold spring lacrosse back in the day.
LMU, WHO KNEW?
As I look back I see that this Ram team had already begun the mission. We weren’t exactly great, but we were putting our stamp or mark on most games we were part of. There was a power greater than the sum of its parts thing and we had character. It was fun to watch the family become one. I preached family and always did, but it was THEIR family, not just mine. I was just Papa. There was a mission building process in progress. You could feel it to the point that talking about anything like that was superfluous. There was no time to talk. We had work to do. There became a style that we played that just made us look like us and no other. Much that we did told everyone who we were. I always was careful in an extreme way when looking for the fine line of being confident in a contagious way and not looking or ever acting like jerks or being too cocky. If you could just bottle that recipe......
JUMP IN THIS, JACK!
To put forth an example, we pretty much killed jumping Jacks west of the Mississippi by razzing other teams when they did the jumpers in warm=ups so mercilessly that they all just eventually stopped. It was like the Wave. It lived it died. You still see an occasional jumping jack or some kind of thing with a fancier modern name, but it was us that put the jumping jack on the endangered species list out here in the wild, wild west.
Some of who we were was me and my little stuff, but so much more came from them or the moment or whatever, US. There was a sense of urgency in me, I can tell you that. At the bottom of it all our heart and soul was Pat Shanley, a good old Wheat Ridge boy who was a senior, one who had transferred back to Colorado after being recruited to and spending a couple years at Chapman in the heart of Orange County California. Chapman isn’t exactly on the way to Fort Collins for Colorado lacrosse players, but we got a few that way just the same.
ON THE ROAD AND BACK TO THE TRIP
We used mini-vans when we traveled and after we got off the plane, although they never seemed that mini to me since you could get like 7 guys in one. Anyway, that’s how we rolled on the road. That was in place. I didn’t invent it. This was, however, the biggest/most important road trip that this infant program had taken to date. That is for sure.
IN THE BEGINNING....
During my first year I fought many small battles. But none of that meant anything to me compared to one very personal one that had nothing to do with anything at or about CSU. No, what I came to hate the most and most quickly was BYU, although that CU rivalry thing is incredibly intenense to the point where it still gets my attention now and then, but truthfully not so much lately. But becoming aware of this BYU thing..... that was something I had never before experienced, and it lit me up like a firecracker.
I was aware of BYU of course, I was not totally naive. The Cougars were in the WAC for football, etc., and they played against my Lobos (UNM), and there was something about students and missions in and around the Provo university, but basically it was all pretty new to me when I arrived at CSU.
SOMETIMES YOU ARE NOT EXACTLY WHERE YOU MOST WANT TO BE
I had not made the lax schedule for that first spring season of 1997. There was a BYU game in Utah over spring break, and it was then and there that my eyes were opened wide. They had a young aggressive forward thinking coach, Jason Lamb, and it seemed as though there would be some sort of national championship at stake for our club division of lacrosse, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of Rocky Mountain lacrosse. I was like, “Where do we sign up?” with the St. Louis thing. Well, it became clear to me right away that all the league winners (7) and one at large bid team would meet in St. Louis in May to determine the best, in the new national league of teams and we weren't going to be any part of it. I think they called it the USLIA, or something very close to what was the existing organization with the acronym USILA where the Syracuse’s of the world were sanctioned to play.
Anyway, my antennae were already up and out, but it became obvious to me almost immediately that we were nowhere close to being part of this conversation. BYU had been anointed to represent our league, the RMLC in St. Louis. The at large would come from the WCLL. That seemed sure. We were out of it and we hadn’t even played BYU yet. That got me kind of fired up. Then the truth came and as always, it set me free. They (BYU) had some kids that could really play. They were far better than us and beat us something like 20-11, but the truth was that it could have been any score they might have chosen. That’s how much better they were, so I had to sit there for the next couple of months and watch from afar as the Cougars literally waltzed their way to that very first national championship, beating UCSB in the final.
Coincidentally, UCSB was where I had coached before moving to Colorado and CSU because I DID NOT just get the UCSB job that was open and I had wanted so much. So, by being in the final I was also reinforced that the Gauchos had likely made the right choice by not picking me the spring before.
NO WAITING STEP RIGHT UP
Either way, I really got a good push into hating BYU in that first spring of 1997. I was mad that they were so good, that’s for sure. I was further enraged that they had been so generally arrogant as to not even consider us (or CU for that matter) as possible competition to get the right to go to St. Louis for the championship tournament. They had this whole, “We’ve already booked the rooms” look, and it just pissed me off. Then, they did, of course kick our butts, but I put some extra sour sauce on that, too, because I hated the way they did it.
CAN YOU SAY JEALOUS?
It’s not like I wanted us to be more like them. I didn’t, and history would later prove the veracity of that. No one could ever mix us up with the BYU Cougars. That March of 1997 they didn’t do anything to me personally or otherwise, not really. It wasn’t their fault that we sucked. I felt so patronized, though. We did suck, and yes, I already knew that, but the Mormons somehow made it feel even worse by being so ‘nice’ about it. There was no trash talk. It was nothing like that. It was the opposite actually, and that made it somehow worse. They had shown mercy on us. I hated that. Okay, you beat the crap out of us, but don’t come over here and try and make me feel good about it all after it’s over! That was how I felt. They were so gracious at the end that I wanted to puke.
TASTES GREAT AND WE DON’T CARE IF IT’S LESS FILLING
Meanwhile their program was a program. We were a bunch of YEAHOOS that (except for me and one or two others that did not go on that leg of the trip) couldn’t wait to get back in the vans post-game in Provo. For most of the Rams it was as if they were late for the Spring Break party already in progress at Lake Powell or whatever just a few hundred miles down the road so let’s get after it. It was sucking to be me but the fire was far past a flicker already and we were still in Provo. I flew home.
I now knew even more that I needed to “change the culture”, which is not a new coaching concept to be sure.
IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OR
While still there in Utah I realized something else. BYU was older, and some of them even had kids. What was that all about? That doesn’t seem fair somehow, and whoosh, I was aflame with a BYU hating fire, and from that moment on my Job One was how to get us to St. Louis the next year. I knew BYU was well past one year better than us, but there was that dangling “at large bid” out there. I knew even that would be tough because I knew first hand just how much the WCLL and the California teams thought of themselves. It would be tough to wrestle that bid away from that league the following year, even if we did get a whole lot better.
I learned from and with my friend Jim Soran from when we coached at Colorado College just after graduating from there that how you build the schedule can have a huge impact on what your team becomes. My approach has changed some as the years went by, but that philosophy never became a feather in the wind. It is rather the tether that can anchor your greatest goals, and it is simply a dynamic that includes who, when, and where you play and how all of that fits together.
After beating UCLA, next up was Loyola Marymount U. a few nights later. We were to play them at some local high school with a surface on the field that was pretty much weeds and dirt. I didn’t care. LMU has a great little facility now. So, we were getting ready to drive over from our hotel to the field. The vans were lined up. I had a little thing where I would often walk around and poke my head into the vans and say something before we caravanned to wherever we were going. When I got to the van that Shanley was driving I could instantly see how much this game meant to him. He was everything all at once. He was pumped and excited. He was nervous and a little scared. He had a look on his face that embodied where we were at the time, and that if we could get over this hurdle that we would be on our way to somewhere special. It was so intense that I just stopped there for a moment and took it all in. There really was no place I would rather be at that instant in time, and I was not going to just gloss over it. It felt like I inhaled a huge breath of meaningful oxygen all at once.
So, nothing big really happened. It is likely that Pat would have no idea what I'm talking about or remember that at all. It just felt really big for me. I had confidence after the UCLA game that we could take the Lions as well. I had almost a strange calmness about it all. I looked Pat dead in the eyes, and at that moment felt pure love for him and what he represented for me as a coach. This game truly meant the world to him, and that is what coaching is really. All I did was stick my head in, grab him by the head, and I just gave him a kiss on top of his head. I had never done anything like that before. I knew we were good to go, though, and in many ways we were. I said nothing, and I guess, as they say, the rest is history. We did get to St. Louis that year of '98. We didn’t win, but we came within a lightning storm/act of God from getting to the final. We did win it all the next year, 1999, however, and that little 1998 California trip was a huge piece of that puzzle. Anyway, that moment with Pat was one I will never forget.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
ON BEING THE CABOOSE
I have always liked train as metaphor. That whole, "I saw the light at the end of the tunnel (pause) but it actually turned out to be an oncoming train” was image fodder that I GOT, for example.
My father also used to say, “When they said brains, you thought they said trains, and you missed yours"…..and try as I might I could never figure out exactly what he was talking about.
MY BROTHER EINSTEIN, or I’VE BEEN WORKING ON and off THE RAILROAD
My brother was born in 1947, and he was five years older than I was, and I would say that in many ways he was way older than the sheltered ;baby' of the batch.
One hobby/obsession that brother Steve had was that he built these gigantic LIONEL Train set-ups in the 'cellar' on these huge plywood table tops that must have used 3 or 4 of the 4’x 8’ variety I suspect. The trains moved like real machines, too, loud, almost ferociously so. The table took up a lot of basement spacement, but it all was so much more than just a large train set. On the other side of the cellar, and it wastruly a cellar, comblete with pickle room and a door that when closed laid flat on the ground rather than standing at the ready for easy opening and closing.
Steve had built and painted mountains and ridges with forest green and timber log brown oil paints, I guess like he envisioned the Alps. The railroad tracks meandered as the train route moved up and fown through these mountains, which were carefully concocted in rock hard plaster of Paris for strength and maximum durability. When I think about it now I add the man hours of very intense working time.
He had this loading dock for barrels on none side of the tracks, and little do dads that moved barrels or whatever on the other. So Steve would put little somethings on a truck with a perfectly sized, crane and he did all this using perhaps the earliest joy stick species in America.
If all that wasn’t enough he could turn off the lights at night, and the chugging locomotives would show off their piercing lights brightly pointing the way while he also got your horns and whistles working, too.
There were little carefully hand-glued plastic houses spread neatly about and they included lights inside that lit up each little home. Steve could really rock the electrical stuff. It was as if the Alps had suburbs right there along the train route.
BOYS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
In retrospect I don’t know where to place myself in this little pre-Disneyland window-of life display. I think I just faked it a little. I did like the trains. I never got in the way, rarely helped him. I watched mostly. I probably acted like I was all about it, but I’m sure I was thinking that brother dude is 5 years ahead and 10 times more motivated and talented, and besides 'I just wanna play ball'. All that train excellence I had in the gene poll would be a lot to compete with, plus you always needed more stuff for the train empire. More was always better. Enough was never enough. I was not a ‘shopper’ for the most part. For me it never got too much more complicated for life success than having some sort of a ball and perhaps a helmet or whatever. I could always figure out ways to play with only myself. Others were nice but not necessary. We had plenty of grass and the big barn had walls.
Those trains, wherever they might be by now must be worth a fortune.
HO-NO I MEAN REALLY HO-HO.
I was not supplying the Frontier for the harsh winter ahead, and using extra transformers to, well, power up my locomotive for the tremendous task of keeping America up and running. It was quite the spectacle he had going.
So, the farthest I got on that whole train display extravaganza was I built a small inner circle of a much smaller track, it was called HO I think, not near as fast or imposing as big brother Lionel. Like it may have even been a Japanese product. I do not recall much more railyard add on from my end.
The nude girls did grab my attention, however.
HIKE UP YOUR SKIRT A LITTLE MORE,,,,
He was quite the kid, my brother Steve. Knew who Hugh Hefner was at like 9 in the mid-fifties, and within a couple of years had his own version of the Playboy ‘Mansion” at the farm on good old Cold Spring Creamery Road and above the small horse barn and in the ‘studio’ that was part of the hay loft, that seemibly sacred place where he exposed and developed tons of black and white nude photos of my 13 year-old sister and an occasional friend or two of hers.
EVERYBODY OUT OF THE POLE
I wasn’t exactly sure WHAT that all was but I was sure that it was something…
At any rate, for me this basement time left far less available for that thing I MOST loved, which was simply chasing down and or catching/hitting some kind of ball. I knew from Day one that time used for ‘balling’ was never less than valuable in my somewhat lineal line of thought, ‘ball getting’ sounded like a..., no, THE job description to have from the day I saw what that ball thing was.
YES, IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL LACROSSE ALL THE TIME
It is a recurring thought. I have lost my way. I’m not sure where my next train of thought might take me. What I am looking for is just over there to the right of the train station…
DAY OF REVEVELATIONS
I have blogs here (web sites) and Journals there, and company writings, too. I have no clue where to skew anymore, but I did have a bit of an epiphany so I am going to try to go with it.
I am a slow learner so the epiphany might be closer to figment than anything else, but it has ocurred to me with certainty, well at least some of that, that I, in a most "Boss" kind of way am born to blog. We shall see how long it takes me to get over telling naughty little stories about my dearly departed big brother.
BABY STEPS TO THE TRUTH
Sunday, August 1, 2010
LOVE, LOV E ME (I) DO
Yesterday I was much more than HONORED to be an invited guest at the Mike Hamm wedding, where Vanessa and Hammy did the “I do” thing in a very upbeat yet time honored and traditional way. Before I go on at all, though, I must commend the couple on some of the logistical greatnesses of the event. The ceremony took place at the Trinity United Methodist Church, a grand old edifice in downtown Denver. The church’s architectural setting would satisfy even the most discriminating traditionalist with its giant pipe organ and hand carved curved mullions inside the stained glass windows that showered late afternoon light upon the pulpit. I mention this only because I also would not have been surprised even a little bit if Mike Hamm had gotten himself married next to a river somewhere or at Sullivan’s (bar and grill near CSU that no longer exists) for that matter. Mike has always marched to the beat of shall we say a little bit different drummer.
DOWNTOWN (Petula Clark)
The ceremony was neither small nor large or the least bit gaudy. The ‘family’ atmosphere was seemingly built and calculated right into those moderate numbers in attendance, It was big, but it was not.
For the reception, one needed only to cross correctly at the stop light on the corner of the cathedral and 'voila’ The Brown Palace Hotel lobby became just a few steps and a simple push through the glass revolving door which opened into the beautifully appointed lobby area. The late afternoon was soothing. There was no hustle, no personal bustle or oppressive mid-summer temperatures begging to hear the question, “Where else would I rather be?” Pretty much there was nowhere else one might have rather been. It was a good place to be and it was stress free. Anyway, it was a most pleasant very short 30-second walk from alter to alcohol, with ample ‘quiet’ time to help one get comfortable in and enjoy being in the concrete jungle.
While the lengthy wedding party picture taking was going on back at the church, a full-blown cocktail party erupted amongst the rest of us in the cozy confines outside the banquet room where the eating and ultimately the dancing would later take place. The photo interlude gave the guests the time and a place to ‘get comfortable’ with their Upper East Side surroundings. I think these people (Brown Palace Hotel) have done this sort of thing before.
There was good representation for CSU lacrosse spanning the turn of the century through the first half of this decade. There were only a handful of the laxers, but the cross section revealed many layers of the CSU lacrosse family. The first person I saw was Nick (Stanitz) Harper (A 2005) who was our first person then, too. He was a star, but also our face and image, too. Beneath his good looking exterior he was a tough kid. In many ways that’s who we were during that period, although I think he stands alone in the charming, single guy at weddings thing.
There were two sets of brothers that had played at CSU as well. The groom was one, and he has a twin, Matt, that played for us as well, although I defy anyone to find two more different twins. They did both play midfield and they both graduated in 2002. Being with them really brought to mind a couple of things that demonstrate what great teammates they were in our team family, a true band of brothers. Mike was great as a player because he knew just how to help the team in the best possible way. He could score two or three goals in a game and literally play a total of five minutes and touch the ball for less than five seconds for the whole game, whatever time it took to get it from Napi (A 2002) to the back of the net. He was uncanny and efficient, and a bit sneaky, too, but what I think about is things like the fact that he never let me, the family ‘preacher’ forget what family was. A practice session never came and went without me getting a hug from this Teddy Bear, not ever. It was a joy to motivate him because he loved the team so much and at times when we would be getting ready to play a game the next day or whatever, I would look at him and he just looked like he was about to explode from excitement. He alone could make me feel like I was Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi.
I have another story about the best man, twin Matt, that I’ve told a million times, but I think it is worth telling one more as this first decade of the 21st century begins to fade into the all new Facebook and Twitter age. When I say that Matt loved the team like no other I really am not kidding. Matt played four years and probably never missed one practice. He tried as hard and improved a lot, but the truth be known he did not play many important minutes in big games in those 4 years. In 2001 we had a great team. I had only the highest expectations for this team. I never felt as strongly that we would win a national championship. I felt it so strongly that I began to write this on-line journal that very year because I wanted to document the season. I suppose that is a somewhat arrogant approachI had always done journals as a coach, but this was the first time I typed it and posted on line and all that. Anyway, things went along beautifully on our path. Well, except for that disaster in Durango when we blew a big lead in the RMLC final and lost to BYU. Steve Austin (yes, old people, Steve Austin) led a Cougar comeback that practically was worth $6 million. Perhaps everything does happen for a reason and a few short weeks later we exacted our ‘revenge’ when we met and beat them in St. Louis in a National semi-final, which was probably the best game I have ever been a part of. I knew that semi-final was THE game. Whoever we would play the next day, and it turned out to be Stanford, could not beat us. So we had this rare and wonderful opportunity to blow out someone in the final (16-7) and there was no drama. As a coach the game was just there to enjoy. Our team was the best and it was playing at its best.
WHO CAN FORGET THE “HATER’S REVENGE TOUR?”
At that time other teams were just beginning to hate us and that passion did grow rather quickly. All the teams at the national championships were in the stands that day so the crowd was a good one. Somewhere early in the fourth quarter a chant began to build in the stands behind me. “Thirty, Thirty, THIRTY”, and I’m like, what is this? As it turned out they were chanting Matt’s number, as in he had been rooting us on in such a big way, running up and down the sidelines behind the bench, that everyone in the crowd wanted me to put him in the game, which of course I immediately did. That was such a cool thing and it stands as one of those defining, unforgettable family moments.
TRUTH THERE ARE NO DEGREES OF SEPERATION
Doug and Scott Priebe were in the Hammy wedding as part of the wedding and they also played during that time. Both took and take great pride in what they did with the team, being a big part of us playing in 4 straight Championship games, but what was defining about them and the wedding was that Mama Priebe, Chris, and Papa Priebe, Hank, were guests at the wedding as well. So our family of lacrosse was so strong that it also spanned generations. Those two not only supported their sons and them playing lacrosse, but they traveled pretty much everywhere we did and still keep up with the team even now. My wife, Ada, thought Hank was the team photographer back then because he was always there and always popping off pictures. There have been a lot of parents becoming good friends with other parents over the years. These are the things that really bring home what family means.
I know that I am not Ernest Hemmingway, Ken Keysey or Tom Robbins, but I have been recently ‘flatttergasted’ by people who tell me they still, after so much time gone by, begin their computer day with a stop at the ‘Coach’s Journal” bookmark, only to be disappointed by a headline that still reads CSU 10 Boston College 7. For those who might still ‘waste’ a little time over there, I dedicate this to you. I apologize for what they see, because it might just as well say, “Ground Hog Day Gazette”. For some reason I have not adjusted well to the change that took place when what I do on a keyboard gained an every day name, The Blog, and equally true is that what I used to do can never be what I do DO.
I am not really a big public speaker. I have never grabbed a microphone. They have always been dropped into my hand. Mostly all the people at the wedding had no clue as to who I might be. Yet I really wanted to make a public toast to express how much this group represented the values I hold so dearly. In the end I did my toasting in groups of two or three, and I chickened out on the whole public proclamation which had pushed so hard on my button this night.
It is true. I did have a not-so-finely tuned mixture of Corona, Margarita and red wine working for me, but not much, and the family flamed feelings I was feeling were in place before I took a sip of anything.
It’s easy to talk about family, and how that dynamic really finds a home on a team and in side the team itself. We (CSU) do walk around with a bit of an attitude that might make others think that we think we invented the word family as it is applied to the team and its success. Of course we did not. At the same time we all believe we took team as family to places where few have tread before. True or not this is a tremendous source of collective power, that, when used well has almost no limit.
This was my second Hamm wedding, having attended Matt’s several years ago, and being with the two of them reminded me of a couple of things that really bring our family concept home for me. I coached Mike Hamm for four years and he defined family for me in a couple of ways. He bought into the whole finding his role concept in many ways, making it extremely easy for me to individually motivate him, but the really great family thing about him was the hug he always gave me at practice every day. No matter how caught up I may have been in my little coaching world, Hammy, like I said, never left the premises without giving me a hug. He also never forgot that we were playing a game, and that it was the joy of playing that made it great. He knew in the same way that I know that the winning and losing will find its own way in a good way more often than not when you are a family.
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