Blog - Grand Valley State

Teaching and Coaching Today's Youth

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This is primarily intended for baby boomer generation teachers and coaches but can hopefully be helpful to all.  Self-disclosure - I am a baby boomer.  How often do you hear teachers and coaches say "kids today are different"?  Teachers and coaches have always been saying that because every generation IS different.  That doesn't mean they are better or worse, it means what it says it means, i.e. each generation is different.  But as leaders, we always translate that into "our generation did things better".  There are plusses and minuses to every generation and how they did things, but the important thing is to try to understand how this generation is different so we don't all become old "fuddy-duddies" in our teaching and coaching.

Some things about this generation are obvious.  As an example, they are certainly more advanced technologically than any other generation. Their parents are, more often than not, too involved in their athletic and academic careers at the scholastic level and at the collegiate level (see my blog on Advice to Parents of Athletes).  But some other things are not so obvious and are more important to understand.  Let me share a couple of thoughts and observations and you apply them to your situation.

I like to read about history, especially biographies to find some insight into why yesterday's leaders thought and acted the way they did.  In my readings, I have often come across the phrase "they had to grow up quicker than they should have had to" when describing the children of World War II vets.  So many families were left without fathers as their dads went to war or unfortunately met their ultimate fate in that war.  Many children had to grow up fast because they were thrust into situations of responsibility that required them to think and act more like adults.  Then we baby boomer children came along and we grew up during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.  Perhaps we didn't have to accept responsibility like the WWII children did, but we knew there were more important things in the world when we were growing up than how many points we scored or what letter grade we got in a class.  I can remember when I was about 12, my older brother was of the age that he went through the draft that our military had at that time.  I can vividly remember the fear that my parents had that night and the palpable relief and thankfulness they had when my brother's number was called very late, thus meaning he did not get drafted.  I also remember the riots and other struggles during the Civil Rights Movement and it seemed clear even at a young age that there were more important things than whether I struck out or not or made that free throw or not.  Don't get me wrong, those things were very important to me, but I do believe I somehow had a sense, maybe conveyed to me through my parents, that there were so many other things far more important than my athletic achievements or my GPA.

Fast forward to today's youth and I'm not sure they have that same sense.  In so many ways compared to the children of WWII era vets, our children's lives are so much easier.  Technology has made all of our lives easier and while today's youth have had societal challenges like every generation has had, I do think their lives to date have been filled with more peace time than any generation before them (and that's a good thing)!  That's probably debatable given the fighting that has gone on in the Middle East, but my sense is that today's generation feels more than others that those wars are so distant that they don't impact them like previous wars impacted us.  I also think that most kids today have not had to get an actual job before college like it seemed every kid did in previous generations.  So one conclusion one could make about the current generation could be that they have not had to "grow up quicker than they should have" but rather that they "grow up later" today than ever before.  Some examples of this can be seen in couples getting married later, having children later, starting careers later, etc.  Again, neither is right nor wrong. But as educators we must understand it is different and adjust accordingly.  One area I believe this is being manifested is in the increase of mental and emotional issues kids today seem to be having.  More kids today are having issues with depression and anxiety.  They struggle with coping with problems more than ever before.  I recall having high anxiety as well when I was their age but again, somehow I had a sense that my athletic performance and letter grades I achieved were really insignificant in the big picture of things.  And they truly are.

So how do we as teachers and coaches lead today's youth?  A couple of things seem to me to be very important for us to understand.  One is that we need to acknowledge that they haven't had to mature as quickly in coping with problems as other generations have had to and be looking for signs that kids are struggling with mental and/or emotional issues.  We should not hesitate to have them seek counseling.  We must eliminate the stigma of getting kids help with their mental and/or emotional issues.  If they turn their ankle, we send them to the trainer.  We must look at mental and emotional issues in the same vein, i.e. send them to a professional (counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist) who knows best how to deal with these issues.  We must also realize it is ok for them to be on medication for these issues if their doctor says so.  We think nothing of taking medication for issues below the neck, so we also must understand that in today's world with all of the advances that we have made with medicines, that it is ok to take medications for above the neck also.  And lastly, I think all of us adults need to back off of children at a young age with the constant pressures we put on them to succeed at everything, whether it be sports or academics.  One train of thought for this is that the high cost of college today tends to make parents push their children more than they should so they can obtain a scholarship, academic or athletic.  No question the financial pressures of the high cost of college cause pressures all the way down to today's youth.  Then peer pressure among parents makes this worse, which eventually trickles down to the kids.  We as teachers and coaches need to understand this and sometimes we need to take action to take pressure off of today's kids.  Sixty and fifty years ago, I think coaches could be really tough on kids because they could handle it better.  Today they don't handle pressure as well.  Again, that doesn't make them better or worse, it is just different and we need to educate accordingly.

Maybe I am getting old, but it seems far too much emphasis has been placed on their letter grades or their athletic output instead of on them reaching their full potential.  I would suggest that we need to get them focused on improving and let the growth and development proceed.  Sure we all want to expedite their growth and development as students and as athletes, but we are probably defeating the purpose in many cases by adding pressure on them to succeed.  In today's world , we might get better results in many cases if we keep the focus on the process, i.e. keep the focus on improving, and take the focus off of the results.  Some food for thought.

Thoughts on Sports for the Holidays

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Just thought I'd share some random thoughts on sports for you to ponder over the holidays:

Colored turf

After watching, on the same day, football played on Eastern Washington's red turf in an FCS playoff game, and then watching the Idaho Potato Bowl on Boise's blue turf later that night, I am VERY thankful we installed traditional green turf in our stadium two years ago.  I had people ask me if we were going to install a blue or black turf (Grand Valley's colors) and I politely told them no.  In my mind I was saying, "NO WAY"!  Watching those games confirmed it for me, especially since the uniform colors of at least one of the teams was the same as the turf.  Perhaps you get used to it, but I had a tough time following the ball in those games.  I realize some teams wear all green on green turf, but to me anyway, somehow the brown football stands out better on green than on the other colors of turf.

College sports vs. pro sports

People seem to fall in two camps - those that prefer college sports and those that prefer professional sports.  I've worked in college athletics for 31 years so I obviously prefer college sports.  As an example, today there will be only NBA games on TV and I doubt I will watch 30 minutes total of them.  But I will watch almost every bowl game that is on TV (Ok, not all of them as some are obviously meaningless).  It's not that I dislike everything about professional sports, but I will almost always choose to watch a college game of any sport over a pro game of any sport.  My brother, who obviously possesses a lot of the same DNA as I do, would prefer professional sports.  He lives in Phoenix and is a huge fan of the Suns, Cardinals and D'backs.  I suppose a lot of this depends on where you live.  When you live in or near a city with a professional franchise, it is natural that you would become a big fan of that team and thus, professional sports.  When you don't, I think it becomes more natural to gravitate toward a college team to follow, often one's own alma mater.  I like college sports no matter who is playing because even at the highest level of Division I, the players come mostly (note not all, but mostly) from a region of about a 150 mile radius of the school.  That lends itself to a little more loyalty to the school, a little more school spirit and the same "local" following and geographical pride the pro teams have.  In my opinion, there seems to be more emotion and competitive spirit throughout all of college sports.  I don't believe that exists as much throughout professional sports.  Again, neither is better than the other or one is right and one is wrong, but which is your preference?

Good pro franchises

Although I am not a huge fan or follower of professional sports, there are several franchises that stand out as ones that maintain a high standard of excellence over time.  The ones that come to mind for me are the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, the New England Patriots in the NFL and the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals in MLB.  These franchises come to mind for me because they stand the test of time!  Some pro franchises seem to do well for a while and then lose some players to retirement and start all over again.  When you dissect what makes them so good, and what makes them good with different personnel playing for them over long periods of time, the one common denominator is great leadership.  Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichek, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and the current managers of the Braves and Cards are outstanding coaches.  The other characteristic those franchises seem to have is owners who don't need to be the center of attention.  Again, I don't follow pro sports well enough to know all the good owners and all the bad owners, but these franchises seem to have owners that have hired good people to run their teams and then they get out of the way.  The opposite of this would be Jerry Jones and the Cowboys and whoever the latest owners of the Knicks are.  Both of those franchises seem to get a lot of attention for being VERY mediocre.  It is well documented that Jerry Jones is a meddlesome owner/GM.  I have to believe the other leaders in the NFL laugh at Jerry Jones and all the sound bites he appears to crave.  My guess is that most of them are hoping Jerry will continue to meddle into everything and keep them mediocre.  The last time they were really good was when it appeared he allowed Jimmy Johnson to run the show.  The really good franchises have a program and they stick with it.  The other thing they do extremely well is they recognize when they have greatness on their teams and do everything they can to keep it.  They also aren't afraid to release older players when they lose their abilities due to age.  Again, the Spurs and Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili come to mind.  Tom Brady and the Patriots keep winning even when it seems they do not have much talent around him.  The Braves had a core of great pitchers for many years and now have another great core, as do the Cards.  New England is notorious for releasing older players right before their talents diminish and someone else signs them for a lot of money and they aren't as good.  The Cards appeared to do this in letting Albert Pujols go.  Conversely the Knicks keep signing high priced players that might win a 1-1 contest but aren't any good at making their team better (Carmelo Anthony comes to mind).  One other important common denominator in great coaches is their ability to teach their sport.  All of those coaches for those franchises are known as great teachers.  The one thing good teachers of sports can do is they can evaluate talent better than others!  College coaches who are great recruiters can also do this.  Any fan can see the natural ability some athletes have, but they can't spot the intangibles that some players have that makes their team better.  The great coaches can spot the intangibles in athletes, and then develop that talent.

College football playoffs vs. BCS system

I have written about this before and watched with amusement at all of the "noise" being made about the new DI playoff system that is coming into being next year versus the current BCS system.  As I have said before, I think the BCS system has worked very well for what it was designed to do, i.e. match up the top two teams to play for the national championship.  For most of the years it was a pretty clear cut decision, just like this year (Florida State vs. Auburn).  The fun will begin when they go to 4 teams, which by the way, is nothing more than a "plus one" system than the one they have now.  They have done a good job in labeling it a "playoff", but it really only adds one more game to the process.  But that committee probably realized this year how tough their job will be.  After FSU and Auburn, you had Alabama, Baylor and Michigan State as 3-4-5.  OK, who do you leave out?  If they stick to their principles of giving preference to conference champions, Alabama doesn't get in.  That probably wouldn't sit well with the Tide followers or the SEC fans as a whole.  If they don't put Baylor or Michigan State in the "Final 4", those conferences will scream bloody murder.   I can hear the cries of SEC favoritism already.  And then of course (and this is UNQUESTIONABLY GOING TO HAPPEN) everyone will say they need to increase it to an 8 team playoff.  Having lived with a playoff system for the past 18 years I have been in Division II, I GUARANTEE the cries to go to 8 will begin next year.  SOMEONE will feel it was unfair they got left out.  Again, good luck to the committee.  The other thing about DII and DIII that never gets talked about and kudos should be given to all of the DII and DIII coaches and student-athletes who go deep in the playoffs, is that those people play 14, 15 and in some cases, 16 games during a season.  That's an NFL-like season folks for 18-22 year olds.  AND, THERE IS NO BYE WEEK IN DII/DIII!  Playing that many games in college in a row with no break (reminder DI teams, as well as the NFL teams, all have a bye week) is a grind!  It takes a high level of mental toughness to maintain excellence in the sport of football over that length of time, which is probably one reason why DII and DIII kids are better prepared for "real life" than DI kids.  Nothing is handed to them and you don't see many attitudes of entitlement among kids who are on partial or no athletic scholarships!

Kudos to Michigan State

I have to give two huge kudos to the folks 90 minutes to the east of us.  First of all, great job by Mark Dantonio and their football program for winning the Big 10 and making it to the Rose Bowl.  The Spartans have (somewhat) quietly established themselves as one of the top few programs in the Big 10 and have done it in a very blue collar, consistent manner as typified by the great leadership Mark Dantonio has provided.  Re-read my last three sentences under "Good Pro Franchises" above to see why Mark Dantonio and the Spartans have been so good over an extended period of time.  The second kudo to MSU has to go to Mark Hollis and his staff.  I believe they made a GREAT decision in their Rose Bowl ticket plan by making sure EVERY Spartan ticket holder would receive at least 2 tickets to the Rose Bowl game from the MSU allotment.  That took guts to do as it appears it was a change from their stated policy.  Just like officials during a game, sometimes you just have to "get the call right".  It sounds like the Big 10 commissioner came through with some more tickets for MSU to satisfy the high demand for tickets for this game, but before he came up with those extra tickets, Mark made the call to ensure all of their season ticket holders would get at least 2 tickets if they wanted them.  The reason I believe that was a great decision is that it is critical for all schools, especially those that are so reliant on football ticket revenue for their annual budget, to sell as many season tickets as possible.  If you are a season ticket holder at MSU regardless of where your seats are located, you want access to the "special" stuff, like Rose Bowl tickets.  Getting shut out of Rose Bowl tickets might cause long standing season ticket holders to give up their season tickets and MSU cannot afford that to happen.  Plus, it was a show of loyalty to all those people who supported them for many years.  I "get it" that you have to make sure the boosters at your highest level are taken care.  No question you need their continued support.  But you also have to take care of the "little guy" as well.  Those are some of your best supporters through thick and thin and MSU not only recognized that, but took action to reward them for their support.  So kudos to the MSU Spartans and best wishes for a great experience and a victory on Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl!

That's enough musing for now.  Time to get some R & R over the holidays to gear up for a busy winter and spring sports season ahead.  GO LAKERS!

2014 will be a busy spring for the GVSU athletic administrative and support staff.  During a one week period, May 19-24, Grand Valley State University will host BOTH the NCAA DII Men's Golf National Championship (May 19-23) AND the NCAA DII Outdoor Men's and Women's Track and Field Championships!  We were awarded the bid for men's golf last spring and were notified this fall that we will be hosting the track and field championship.  The original school that was to host track and field had a facility issue and the NCAA called and asked if we would host.  GVSU answered the call to host and guaranteed a very busy spring for all of us - but also a very exciting one for GVSU and West Michigan!  Throughout the year, I will be posting blogs on updates on our preparations as I thought many would be interested in a behind the scenes look at hosting an NCAA Championship......in this case two of them!

GVSU has lots of experience in hosting national golf championships.  We have hosted 7 of them throughout our history!  So this is not a new exercise for us.  The Laker Athletic staff has always worked well with the staff of the Meadows, GVSU's championship golf course, and has really enjoyed hosting the best DII golfers in the nation.  Sometimes the weather in Allendale can be challenging, but like I always say, this game was invented in Scotland and they rarely have ideal conditions to play in there! 

To host an NCAA Golf National Championship (and we host the DII Women's National Championship in 2015!), it takes a lot of hard work by a lot of people.  The NCAA DII Golf Committee will visit GVSU in October for a site visit.  Here are a few things that are covered on the site visit that begin the preparations:

Schedule, manuals, awards, practice, range balls, officials, lodging (for teams, officials, committee), transportation,  golf course yardage, driving range, putting greens, parking, training room, drug testing area, media accommodations, concessions, parking, hospitality, credentials, volunteers, merchandise, marketing and promotions, disabled spectators, spotters, scorers, runners, webcast, program, signage, starters and scorers tents, flags, tee markers, hole markers, score sheets, scoreboard and evacuation plan.  There are more details but you get the idea - there is a LOT of things to think about and prepare for to put on the best championship experience for the student-athletes, which is the ultimate goal!

The committee and the officials will go over course set up with Meadows Golf Course Superintendent Ron Dahlin.  Ron is one of the best in the business and always has the Meadows in top shape every year.  For NCAA Championships, the USGA, whose officials govern the championship, will always make the course tougher than normal, just like they do for the U.S. Open, although it won't be quite that tough.  Ron and his staff set the course up according to the wishes of the officials and does a first class job of this!  Meadows general manager Terry Sack and his staff, including GVSU Head Men's Coach Don Underwood and Assistant Coach Byde Kephart, will work closely with GVSU Associate Athletic Director Walter Moore, who serves as Tournament Director, in being prepared for all of the details listed above.  You can from that list why we have to start preparations in the fall!  We have already had one comprehensive meeting of our staffs to prepare and will have them monthly as time goes and perhaps more as we get closer to May 19-23.  In the meantime, for now the next step is to have the site visit Oct. 2-6 by the NCAA DII Men's Golf Committee Chair Reid Amos, USGA Official Mike Pelosi and NCAA Assistant Director of Championships John Baldwin.  Following that visit, we will have another meeting to review our checklist of preparations per their specifications and adjust our planning accordingly.  

In my next blog I will next let you in behind the scenes for the preparations for the NCAA DII Men's and Women's Track Championships.  We've done golf many times before but this will be our first time for hosting an NCAA Track and Field Championship.  We know there will be a lot of work involved but we also know our GVSU student-athletes will get a chance to compete in the national championship in our new track facility and we are thrilled to have that opportunity as we want to pack the place with spectators to watch this exciting event!  Stay tuned!

This question was discussed this summer at a higher volume than ever before.  It's not the first time it has come up, but some high profile cases have put this question squarely in the spotlight.  Despite what most in the sports media would have you believe, there is no easy solution.  If there was, it would have been put into action by now.  I am not going to provide any solutions.  However, I will give you some things to think about the next time you get in this discussion at your favorite watering hole.

There are three ways of looking at this dilemma.

Some would say that yes, these kids are making millions of money for the school and they should be paid.

Some would say that no, they are getting their education paid for and that is valuable enough.

Some are in between.  They are wrestling with the ultimate question to ask with this issue:  "what is fair"?

For those that think these kids should be paid because the schools are making millions, it is just not that simple if you are trying to be fair about the pay.  Does the star quarterback deserve more than the offensive lineman?  Do you pay just the football and men's basketball players and not the swimmer or baseball player?  Do you pro-rate it depending on their status?  Can the department afford this or will they have to drop other sports in order to pay student-athletes (hint: the vast majority of DI schools can NOT afford this)?  I remember Chris Webber complaining that the U of Michigan was making money selling his jersey in the bookstore during the Fab Five's great run in the early 90's.  It is tough to argue with student-athletes in that position because they feel they are being used.  I know that feeling.  In the late 70's when I played basketball at the University of Toledo, I remember my teammates and I in a discussion after a game about the amount of money UT was making off of each game we played.  We were really good back then and we were selling out Savage Hall every night.  Back then the cost of a ticket was probably $5.  We were drawing 9,000 a game and we would say to ourselves, "they are making $45,000 a game off of us and we are only getting $195 in our monthly check to cover our room and board for living off campus!"  So yes, I understand where some are coming from on this.  Having said that, the schools also have a brand that existed long before any single student-athlete showed up.  Michigan basketball has a powerful brand with or without Chris Webber.  That brand also caused him to be seen on national TV every game and helped his marketing power.  There is a value on that as well that has nothing to do with whatever any individual student-athlete does.  So should the student-athlete that benefitted from that school's resources and brand have to pay the school back for the scholarship they provided if he made money off of the school's brand (i.e. went on to a pro career )?  Being fair on this issue is not easy.

On the other hand, the value of a "full ride" is significant.  The value of the education that student-athletes who are on a "full ride" is receiving is anywhere from $20,000 per year x 4 years = $80,000 at a public university to $50,000-60,000 per year x 4 years = $200,000 plus at a private institution.  I remember when I signed my letter of intent to accept a "full ride" and attend the U of Toledo.  I know my Dad was proud and appreciative of the fact that he didn't have to worry about paying for his son's education.  To this day I am VERY appreciative of this and hope I have given back in such a way that expresses that.  The VAST majority of college students are starting their professional lives with a LOT of debt these days.  That would be debt from student loans that a student-athlete on a "full ride" does NOT have.  So it is not something you can dismiss when you argue that the value of the "full ride" is enough for those student-athletes receiving one. 

So we must ask, "What is fair"?  I know my colleagues at the major NCAA Division I schools are asking themselves this and I am confident they will develop solutions which will be fair.  Perhaps there is an additional stipend for the student-athlete with demonstrated need or an additional stipend for the student-athlete whose jersey the school is making money off of?  Perhaps a savings fund is developed those individuals and put into escrow for the student-athlete to benefit from later in life for additional education or health care?  I don't have the answer, but I do know there is no easy solution.  Hopefully, I've given you a few more ways to look at this issue and you can come to your own conclusion.





Advice to Parents of Athletes

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I have spent my entire lifetime in the world of athletics (including being the parent of three athletes myself) and 32 years of those years have been spent working in intercollegiate athletics.  I've come to some conclusions on some dos and don'ts of being a parent of an athlete and I thought, with another season of athletics at every level approaching us, it was time that I share them in hopes that they might be of help. 

As a baby boomer, I sadly admit that my generation has done a poor job of parenting athletes.  We have been WAY too involved in our children's athletic careers.  Our parents did a much better job.  For one, they did not feel as if their self-worth as a parent was dependent on attending EVERY one of their child's athletic contests, from 5 year old soccer through completion.  They were much more confident and comfortable that participating in athletics should be the choice of their child, not theirs, and did not feel obligated to attend every game, thus allowing their children to take ownership in the experience.  They also did not feel as if their self-worth as a parent was dependent upon their child achieving success in sports.  Certainly, parents of all generations enjoy bragging about their children, yours truly included.  However, when overdone, it does nothing but add pressure to the kid.  And kids today do NOT need more pressure put on them by their parents.  The drastic increase in mental and emotional disorders in high school and college age kids in the last decade are indicators that kids cannot live up their parents' expectations.  There are other reasons to be sure, but my experience with parents of athletes would indicate they are the leading cause of stress their children are feeling.  In a minute, I'll offer some advice on how to do a better job as parents.

Another suggestion I would make to parents is don't be the fan who is always trying to attract attention to himself or herself.  I've seen parents do this in a variety of ways.  The "know-it-all yeller of strategy to show everyone how smart he is" (I use "he" because it is almost always a Dad that does this) or the "screamer at the referees" are the worst.  Then there are some who have to be the "fan of the century" at their child's game.  I recall a parent of an opposing team who always dressed in the team's colors, in and of itself is fine, but had to wear pants with one leg one color and the other leg the other color, as well as wearing outlandish tops and hats.  He (again this was a "he") sent a message of "hey look at me" instead of letting his child and the team be the focus of the event.  It seemed obvious to me, as it does in most cases, the kid didn't like it and some clearly resent this immature behavior of their parents.  One thing is almost certain parents, your kid still loves you and will defend you, but MOST will not like it when you exhibit immature behavior and they will ALMOST NEVER say anything to you, because you are their parent.  My suggestion is to cheer as loud and as often as you can for your child and his/her team, and nix the other theatrics.  Nobody comes to the games to watch you.

Parents blame the coach way too often when things don't go right for their child.  Coaches will not be perfect, they never have been nor will they ever be.  In rare cases, coaches overstep their boundaries and are abusive.  I'm not talking about those cases.  I'm talking about the FACT that in every athletic contest there will be a winner and a loser.  Yes, some coaches have more competitive success than others, AS IN EVERY WALK OF LIFE.  But my experience is that 95% of the time that a parent complains about a coach, it always comes down to playing time.  If you sort through the complaints, it eventually will come out that if Johnny or Suzie were playing more, then they would feel the coach was doing a better job.  If, as a parent, you are always criticizing the coach, the message your child is receiving is that it is someone else's fault, and never my fault.  That is rarely accurate.  Another one I hear often is that the coach "plays favorites".  The answer to that is yep, every coach in every sport plays favorites - they always have and they always will!  99% of the time, they favor athletes who are more talented, have a better attitude, don't whine, and care about the team more than their individual success.  No question about it, coaches favor those kinds of kids so if your kid isn't one of the coach's "favorites", it's probably because he or she doesn't fit any of those categories.  Another one I hear is that "the coach doesn't give him/her confidence".  That's not the way confidence works.  Certainly coaches should try to motivate, encourage, etc. but confidence comes from success which comes from hard work and repetition.  In athletics, it might take YEARS until a kid achieves success (i.e. at the college level, it might not be until their junior or senior year that they achieve success and the primary reason is that IT IS HARD TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN ATHLETICS!).  I have always felt it is NOT the job of the coach to give out confidence like it is a store bought item, but rather it is the job of the athlete to win over the coach's confidence.  So if you want your child to play more, encourage him/her to work hard at what the coach wants him/her to do to gain the coach's confidence to put him/her into the game.  THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES!  Some other players may be better and that is a part of life in the real world, but eventually coaches will like hard working athletes with good attitudes and they will get their opportunity.

A friend of mine once commented, "I had three boys play high school sports, it took me until the third one to figure out that it doesn't really matter how well they do".  You see, his two older boys had gone to college, then to graduate school, and entered the work force as professionals and that is by far more important than how many letters they won in sports.  What is important though, are the many wonderful lessons that they can learn through their athletics experience.  One of the best ones they can learn is how to overcome adversity.  Every parent should be able to understand that they face stresses and pressures daily as adults in the real world, and there are hurdles to overcome ALL THE TIME.  That may be the best lesson your child can learn through sports.  Parents, IT'S OK IF YOUR CHILD FAILS, but more importantly, you need to be the ones to help teach them that it's ok and to learn to handle adversity in a positive manner.  Yes, the coach also should be doing this, but if the coach is trying to do this and you're in their other ear telling them it's always the coach's fault, your child is getting mixed messages.  It is the rare kid that will admit their parent is wrong and learn to tune their parent out, even if they know it is what they should do.  Again, you are their parent and they love you so it puts them in a bad spot.

I'll end with the best advice I ever received as an athlete and as a parent of athletes.  It came in the same moment and it came from my parents.  I was a freshman at the University of Toledo on a full scholarship to play college basketball.  It was a Saturday night in my parents living room (yes, I was a college student that went home for the weekend and spent a Saturday night talking with my parents) in early November of 1976.  I was struggling.  I was away from home for the first time and I was homesick.  The school work was harder than high school.  Basketball practices were much harder and longer than high school.  The competition was tougher.  I was all-state in high school and led my team to the state championship game, but now EVERY guy I was practicing against EVERY day was All State!  I felt pressure because I was one of the few from my hometown that played Division I basketball.  As the small town guy, I felt pressure to "make it".  I was the youngest of three sons, all of who played Division I athletics.  My father himself was a great athlete and was a member of his college's hall of fame, as well as three other halls of fame.  My mother was a great bowler, in two bowling halls of fame.  And so I felt great pressure to succeed and when I sat down with my parents that night, I admit I cried and said to them that I wasn't sure I could do this.  I didn't think I was going to be able to go through four years of this because I didn't think I was ever going to be good enough to play.  And I'll never forget what my Dad told me and parents, I encourage you to let your child know you feel this way.  My Dad said, "your mother and I don't care if you ever make all-league or never get off the bench and we don't care whether you make all-A's or all-C's.  All we want is for you to do your best".  And then he went on to say the most important thing that I needed to hear then and your child needs to hear the same thing, "you see, whether or not you make all-league or warm the bench all four years, or whether or not you make all-A's or all-C's, we are going to love you either way"! 

I can remember the feeling that physically a load seemed to be lifted off of my shoulders.  From that point on, I knew everything was going to be all right no matter what the results were because that's all that really matters parents.  Your child athlete needs you to be there to give him or her unconditional love and support.  They don't need you to be a coach, they have enough of those.  They don't need you to analyze their play, they get enough of that.  Win or lose, playing time or no playing time, just be there to give them a hug and let them know you love them.  That will go a long way in helping your child become successful, which I define as borrowed from Coach John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach and teacher from UCLA:

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming".  Encourage your child to do his or her best and love them regardless of the outcome and you will have done a great job as a parent of an athlete.  Best wishes for a successful year! 

Many people, especially young people who like sports, ask me "what does a college athletic director do"?  They think it's cool that you "get to go to games all the time".  Believe me, that is a fun part of the job.  However, keep in mind that the A.D., and his or her staff, have responsibilities and are working at all those games they attend.  And, keep in mind, all of those games usually occur in the evenings, and the weekends, on top of the normal 40 hour work week.  So I thought I would share my most recent weekend as a DII A.D.

It started on Thursday, May 16 with breakfast with one of our GVSU Baseball Alumni Association board members.  After breakfast, I jumped in my Chevy Impala and drove 4 and ½ hours to Indianapolis for the NCAA DII Super Regionals Softball Championship.  Our GVSU team was playing a best-of-three series with the #1 ranked University of Indianapolis.  They played one game on Friday and two on Saturday.  On Thursday night there was a coaches meeting, which there is before every NCAA Tournament and the coaches and administrators all must attend as the NCAA site rep goes over all of the administrative details of the championship. 

Meanwhile, our Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations, Tim Nott, was in Springfield, MO with our GVSU baseball team as they were competing in their NCAA Regional Championship, which is a 6 team double elimination tournament.  One of the things I always tell our student-athletes is that you cannot point and click your way to success.  The point being to these kids who grew up in the technological age is that technology is only a tool to help you succeed, and that success comes through hard work, perseverance, integrity, etc.  Having said that, today's technological tools are really handy for athletic administrators when you have multiple teams playing at once!

Our softball team won their first game on Friday.  Our baseball team won their first and second games on Thursday and Friday, so they played for the winners bracket championship on Saturday at the same time the softball team was playing in their finals.  UIndy won the first softball game so we had to go to the "If" game, meaning the winner-take-all game.  Tim Nott and I were trading texts feverously because if our baseball team won, I would have to drive to Springfield, MO for their championship on Sunday. 

The Laker Softball team came through with a huge 3-2 over UIndy to win the Super Regionals!  Led by 8 outstanding seniors, this team won 2 of 3 from the #1 ranked team in the country, AT their field, and qualified for the NCAA DII Softball World Series in Salem, VA!  It was the best set of 3 softball games I've ever witnessed.  Two great teams evenly matched with tension and intensity throughout.  Every game went down to the last inning, or rather the last out.  But the Lakers prevailed thanks to a solo home run by All-American Katie Martin and a clutch RBI single by Briauna Taylor! Freshman pitcher Sara Andrasik, as well as senior Hannah Santora, provided great pitching during the weekend to send the Lakers to Salem.  Meanwhile, the GVSU Baseball team beat Bellarmine 18-1 to advance to Sunday's finals, so Associate A.D. Keri Becker hustled me to the Enterprise car rental at the Indy airport so I could rent a car to drive to Missouri while she drove my car home. 

I headed out for Springfield, MO at 6:06 pm, drove for 30 minutes and had to pull over to grab a Subway sandwich and purchase a new car phone charger as mine busted and my power was running out.  Now properly powered, I would spend the drive calling people for a variety of reasons.  I had to call my wife Terry, whose birthday was Thursday by the way (the day I left).  She instructed me to pull over and get some sleep if I became tired, as she always does, but I was still pretty pumped from the softball victory!  An hour later I grabbed a DQ chocolate malt in the middle of Illinois somewhere.  Numerous phone calls to my staff driving through the nation's heartland were made to talk about travel plans for the softball team to Salem, VA.  I also had to make sure Tim Nott had a room waiting for me when I arrived in Springfield.  No satellite radio in the rental meant I had to pick up WMOX and the Cardinals game.  Pretty cool driving by Busch Stadium while listening to the game.  Just past St. Louis it was time for a large coffee.  I realized my iPhone Mapquest app wasn't completely accurate and that I was only 200 miles from Springfield, not 300 as I thought.  So another call to Tim Nott to assure him I would roll in about 11:30pm (Central time, 12:30pm per my biological clock).  The Cards game ended so it was country western music the rest of the way, got checked in the hotel, and went to bed.

Got up for 8:00 am Mass at the local Catholic Church, ate a good breakfast at the hotel, and headed to the baseball game.  Had to drop the rental off at the Enterprise counter first, and then rode with Tim Nott to Meador Park.  Just like our softball team, if the Lakers won the first game, it would be over and we could head home.  If not, we would go the "If" game and it would be winner-take-all again.  Another real close, tense game in game one but Bellarmine came out ahead so we were going to game two.  Tim Nott was busy working the phone with the airlines personnel to coordinate the flight home as well as grabbing our players a sandwich for between the games.  It was very hot in Missouri and we also had to make sure they had plenty of water and gatorade. 

In yet another terrific performance by GVSU student-athletes, the Laker Baseball team prevailed in the second game to earn a trip to the NCAA DII Baseball World Series in Cary, NC!  Senior pitcher Anthony Campanella showed some great senior leadership by coming back on only two days rest with a gutty 8 innings to keep the Lakers in the game.  Jamie Potts, GVSU two-sport athlete who plays tight end for the Laker football team, delivered a clutch two out hit to drive in the go ahead runs, senior Chris Rudenga added another RBI, and GVSU's and the NCAA's all-time saves leader, Brad Zambron, came in to close out the 6-3 victory.

Following the game and celebration, the team showered up, grabbed Chipotle for the bus ride to the airport, and we quickly went through security to board our flight and get out of there before a gigantic storm rolled in (you probably heard about it watching the weather channel, we saw it and believe me, it was a big one!).  I'm typing this on the flight back.  On Monday, our staff will be busy making travel arrangements for both teams, fielding NCAA conference calls for both teams, and trying to re-group.  It is a big championship week for the Lakers!  Associate Athletic Director Walter Moore will be traveling with the Laker Men's and Women's Track teams to their national outdoor championships in Pueblo, CO, Keri Becker will be traveling with the Laker Softball team to Salem, VA, and Associate A.D.'s Doug Lipinski and Tim Nott will be going with the Laker Baseball team to Cary, NC.  As Athletic Director, I have to drive up to Gaylord, MI for GLIAC meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, fly out early Thursday morning for our softball team's first game in Salem, and then will be driving back and forth between Salem and Cary to support both our softball and baseball teams in the quest for a national championship.  Good thing ol' Dwight D. Eisenhower built this country's interstate system!!

Although this schedule can be exhausting, it is also inspiring to watch our student-athletes perform!  Some of the best times in the job are traveling with these kids.  They may not always be perfect, but they sure are great representatives of our school, their programs, and their families.  With both softball and baseball teams this past weekend, I had hotel personnel and bus drivers both tell me how much they enjoyed being around our kids.  They talked about how polite they were and how they always thanked them for their work on their behalf.  I get that a lot when traveling with our teams.  That starts with great leadership like Head Softball Coach Doug "Doc" Woods, and Head Baseball Coach Jamie Detillion.  Both of these teams won with class all weekend, and that matters a lot in my book!

So it will be off to Gaylord, Mich., Salem, Va., and Cary, N.C. this week to do it all over again! GO LAKERS!

A Tribute to Coach Nichols

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Last Friday, I attended the funeral services for my college basketball coach, Bob Nichols, who died Saturday, March 30, after collapsing on his daily walk.  It made for a tough Easter weekend for this guy, who played and coached for "Nick", as he was often referred to.  College is a time when one should learn something about themselves to guide them into the future of the "real world".  I was extremely fortunate to have been guided during my college years by one of the best teachers I have ever had, who just happened to be a college basketball coach.

Coach Nichols remains the winningest coach in the history of the Mid-American Conference in terms of most wins ever by a head men's basketball coach.  I believe that is the most important measurement of coaches in that league versus win percentage, although Coach Nichols' win percentage is also in the top five in the history of that league.  The careers of head coaches in the MAC usually travel on two pathways.  They either win and get out by moving up to a school at one of the major DI conferences, or it is so difficult to maintain success in the MAC that they eventually get fired and thus the days of a coach in the MAC lasting their whole careers at one school are few and far between.  Coach Nichols lasted 22 years as the head coach at the University of Toledo.  There were some lean years at the end, but for 20 straight years his teams posted winning records and there were some memorable seasons and memorable players along the way.  Those are the stats, but there is much more to his legacy than that.

His teams were known to be well disciplined and well coached, and they were.  Most of the coaching fraternity, as well as the media, often thought of him as a defensive minded coach.  He certainly demanded good defense from his teams, and for the most part, all of his teams were very fundamentally sound man-to-man defensive teams.  As time went and his personnel changed, he did play more zone defense, but he was primarily a man-to-man defensive coach.  However, I always felt he never got enough credit for being a great offensive coach.  I thought he was an offensive genius.  Perhaps it was his ability to teach offense that separated him from most coaches.  His teams were always very good passing teams, which is a skill in small demand these days with the plethora of ball screens set on every possession.  We started the first practice every year working on the simple skill of passing, and had a passing drill in every practice we had.  He taught offensive concepts more than just offensive plays, and his best teams were really a lot of fun to watch because of their offensive prowess. 

Coach always stressed working toward being "good in all phases of the game".  I recall a sign he put up in our locker room.  "You can shoot too much, you can dribble too much, and you can pass too much, but you can never rebound too much".  We worked hard on blocking out and rebounding.  In recruiting, he was always looking for those guys that had a knack for going after rebounds no matter where the ball came off the rim.  He really understood the importance of having possession of the ball.  He was constantly telling his players, "do the little things well fellas", and "know your limitations", two concepts that are great lessons for daily life.

Although his teams were well schooled in all phases of the game, there was more to Coach Nichols' coaching than just understanding and teaching the game.  He REALLY understood athletics.  He loved all sports.  Most of all he wanted his players to be successful in life.  He was always relating our development as players or as a team to life situations.  I know he was very proud of his former players and the successes they had professionally and their contributions to society.  Again, in today's sports world, money has become the driving cause of decision making all too often, and the personal development of kids has been de-valued.  Coach Nichols was tough and demanding, but his primary motivation was that he cared about you enough to want you to become the best you could be, and he wanted our teams to be the best that they could be. 

So why was he so successful?  There were a lot of reasons, but I think it was primarily because he was an excellent teacher.  Again, big money has caused us to lose sight of the fact that the best coaches are the ones who are the best teachers.  Coach Nichols could flat-out teach!  Good teaching requires patience.  If his players listened to him and gave great effort to accomplishing what he wanted, they became good college basketball players.  It may not happen in year one, or year two, but he would stick with players and get something out of them when most coaches would give up on them.  I'm thankful to have played for a coach like this.  He would work individually with players on different things before and after practice to make them better at one particular thing.  He could evaluate talent in recruiting with the best of them and understand the importance of having good talent, but it was his ability to develop players that made him better than most.  That's where the hard work comes in for coaches. 

Coaches preach a lot about wanting their players and teams to be tough.  Toughness is a word you hear from lots of coaches.  Nobody was any tougher than Nick.  He demonstrated toughness in the sense of sticking with his beliefs and principles, toughness in maintaining emotional control, and toughness in demonstrating patience.  These seem to be in short supply these days, as television has glorified coaches prancing up and down the sidelines and yelling at players and translating that into toughness.  Nick was not a man of many words.  But when he spoke it always had a purpose.  He could easily get your attention with that stare of his.  And he was tough enough to give some guys every chance to succeed on his teams when other coaches would never have.  Coach Nichols was fair in his decision making.  That takes toughness too.

As is the case with most great teachers, you appreciate the things he/she taught you long after you played for or were taught by them.  That was certainly the case with Coach Nichols.  Many players who struggled at times playing for him came to respect him much more later in life.  Once he retired, Coach Nichols took time to find out about his former players and stay in touch with them.  With the stress and pressure of coaching off of him, Coach was much more relaxed and all of us really enjoyed being around him.  He loved telling stories and we loved listening.  He hosted reunions of his former players in the summer at his daughter Jane's house.  While we all enjoyed telling the same stories time and time again with more and more embellishment every time, I think all of us enjoyed the most seeing how much pleasure these gatherings brought to Coach Nichols.

I mentioned earlier that he stay involved in our lives.  For those former players in the Toledo area, I know he would go watch their children play sports and he really enjoyed that.  Since I lived two and a half hours away and was busy raising a family and running a college athletic department, the times I could spend with Coach were few and far between.  Whenever our teams played in Ohio, I had the opportunity to meet Coach for dinner to visit and enjoyed these times immensely.  About three times a year I would receive a 5 x 7 manila envelope from Coach.  There would be a handwritten letter (I don't think Coach ever adapted to the computer age J) and it would often be a series of small note papers piled together that you had to put together like a puzzle.  In the envelope were always a stack of newspaper clippings.  All of them had things underlined or notes written in the margins.  Sometimes just one word was next to an article and you had to decipher what he meant.  Having played and coached for him, I always understood what he meant, but I always wondered if others could figure things out, decipher the "code" that he would use with all of his abbreviations.  I know he sent articles to lots of people.  It was his way of staying in touch and telling you he cared.  I know I always enjoyed getting that envelope and seeing what Coach had to say.

At the luncheon after his funeral, we had the opportunity to pay our respects by sharing a story or two about Coach Nichols.  Our trainer when I played, Mark Schriener, made a tremendous point when he shared his thoughts on Nick.  He talked about how all great leaders surround themselves with good people and the best talent they could, and cared about every person in the organization, whether he was the manager or the best player.  Coach Nichols had some great coaches on his staff and almost all of them were there at his funeral.  Jim McDonald, who I was also fortunate to have played for and to have as a role model, and who took me under his wing the year I was a graduate assistant coach, was Coach's top assistant during some of the best Toledo teams ever in the 70's and early 80's.  He went on to have a highly successful career as head coach at Kent State.  Bob Conroy, who is deceased, recruited a lot of the best players to have ever played for Nick.  Greg Kampe, who has gone on to a highly successful career at Oakland, was a graduate assistant and then full time coach for Nick, and changed his plans for the Final Four to be there.  Stan Joplin, who went on to be an assistant for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, and who later became the most successful head coach at Toledo since Coach Nichols and is now doing great work at the high school level, also played and coached as an assistant for Nick and it was great to see him there.  A lot of his former great players attended his funeral from his famous 1966-67 MAC champion team through his last years as head coach.  Guys like Steve Mix, Bob Miller, John Rudley and Calvin Lawshe from his early teams were there.  From the early 70's were UT greats Tom Kozelko, Mike Larsen, and Jim Kindle.  The late Jim Brown's wife and sons were there.  Jeff Seemann, who I had the good fortune to be mentored by when I was a freshman and he was a senior and my roommate on road trips, was there with his wife Nadine and his father, Dan Seemann, who helped mentor a lot of UT athletes.  My teammate and best man at my wedding Jay Lehman was there with his wife Jan and son Cory.  Jay lives and works in Toledo with Coach's daughter Jane.  He stayed the closest to Nick of all of us and I know how much Nick enjoyed watching Jay's sons play.  Lots of guys from the 80's were there.  Jay Gast, Tim Reiser, Jim Lange, Bob Borcherdt, Blake Burnham, and Mark German.  Brad Rieger, who I had the good fortune to room on the road trips with when I was a senior and he was a freshman, gave a wonderful tribute to Coach Nichols at the Mass on behalf of all of the players and did a great job of leading the program at the luncheon afterward.  I have probably missed some players who were there and I apologize for that.  I know the family appreciated all of them for being there.

Coach Nichols also had the respect of his peers and two of the greatest coaches ever in college basketball were at his funeral to pay their respects.  Darell Hedric, one of the many great coaches from Miami (O) University's famous "Cradle of Coaches" was there.  He and Nick "had a lot of great battles" as he put it through many years of coaching against one another in the MAC.  Don Donoher, the legendary coach from the University of Dayton, was also there with his wife.  Coach Donoher and Nick had a special relationship because Coach Donoher attended high school and had a great playing career at Toledo Central Catholic, where Coach Nichols began his coaching career.  I believe both of them are in Central Catholic's Hall of Fame and rightly so.  I know how much all of us former players really appreciated their presence.  All of these men conducted themselves and their programs with dignity and respect.  They won big, and they won the right way.  They were and are great role models and examples for the young men they coached.  It seems that is something that is in short supply today.

Coach wasn't perfect, none of us are.  He had his faults and shortcomings as we all do.  But he always knew his limitations and made the most of his God-given talents.  He will be missed.  I will miss him.  I am where I am today because he took a chance on me and gave me a scholarship.  Later he hired me as his assistant coach, which gave me my start 31 years ago in a career in college athletics, for which I will always be grateful.  Somewhere up there I know he's re-uniting and telling stories with old friends such as my father-in-law George Bush, Frank Gilhooley, Cal Christensen, Gene Hickey, and George Lindeman.  Rest in peace Coach.

We Need to Shorten the Games

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One of the biggest problems that everyone in my profession is concerned about today is the trend of decreasing in-game attendance at athletic events.  Anybody paying attention to the empty seats at NBA games, college bowl games, lots of BCS level football and basketball games, and even the sacred NFL has seen a drop in in-game attendance, knows what I am talking about.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  It costs too much at most of these events is one very good one reason.  The proliferation of games on TV makes it easy for people to just say they will watch it at home on TV where they don't have to fight the crowds, don't have to wait 10 minutes and interrupt their viewing of the game to go to the bathroom or get something to eat or drink. And people have lots of entertainment choices today that they didn't have 20-30 years ago. 

But I want to focus on one reason in-game attendance is declining - our games are lasting way too long!  It is HARD, in every sense of the word, to sit on a bleacher seat through 4 hours of a college football game, and yes, many of the BCS level games are lasting close to 4 hours.  I remember when everyone started passing a lot in college football.  Me and my fellow administrators in the late 80's and early 90's were lamenting that games were lasting almost 3 hours, when prior to that, they would last about 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes.  Media timeouts have played a HUGE role in this, and let's face it - those spots are paying those coaches their million dollar salaries and funding the gigantic athletic budgets at the DI level.  Media timeouts are ok when you are at home watching on TV.  You can grab a snack or a drink, go the bathroom, or in most cases, check out the action in another game that's on another channel.  But to have to sit through them in person only makes for a longer day at the stadium. 

I don't mean to pick on football only here.  Basketball and baseball, you have the same problem.  I was driving home from the GLIAC Conference Track meet last Sunday and the Michigan State-Ohio State game was on the radio.  There was about 5 minutes to go, I have about a 15-18 minute ride home, and I remember thinking, if I hustle, I might get home for the finish.  Finish?  I got home for the last two and half minutes, and that lasted about another 10-15 minutes it seemed!  After every possession there is a timeout, and usually an officials' review in DI of some play because THEY HAVE TO GET THE PLAY RIGHT!  The other night it was approaching 9:00pm and an old guy like me was about to go to bed.  The Indiana-Minnesota game was finishing up and I went upstairs thinking, I'll catch the end of this game then watch Everybody Loves Raymond at 9:00 (see, I told you I was old).  The game ended at 9:17!!  It took FOREVER and one of the reasons was both coaches saved most of their timeouts and had to use them all.  Watch an NBA game some time if you think there are too many interruptions in the flow of a college game.  The NBA is a series of about 48 minutes of 3-4 minute periods before there is a stoppage of play (ok, self-disclosure, I rarely watch NBA basketball because of this so if that isn't the case, my apologies, but if I'm not dead on, I'm close!).  We aren't exempt from this in DII either.  The 5 minutes of our final regular season game last 28 minutes.  Two shot fouls galore, timeouts, and using every second of the break when a kid fouls out delays the action all the time.

Baseball, I shouldn't have to bring your sport up.  I love baseball.  I love the slower pace.  Unfortunately for baseball, I'm in the minority.  Most people don't like the slow pace and you turn them off further by allowing guys to step out of the box and adjust EVERYTHING after EVERY PITCH!  And you allow too many pitchers to take too long between pitches because of some stupid, non-important ritual they think they have to do.  Meanwhile, you are getting more empty seats and can't understand why.

I'm in NCAA Division II and yes, all of this has an effect on us and we need to shorten our games as well. Why does this matter and why should any of us care about it?  Every study about the millennial generation tells us they have a shorter attention span than previous generations.  Not as many students are attending games as they did before.  They are our future fans.  I would also suggest that the baby boomer generation is the greatest generation of sports fans ever.  That can be debated of course, but I think that's a lock.  Baby boomers are getting older.  I know I'm one of them.  They are all going to be on fixed incomes soon.  Not only will they not be able to afford the high prices of attending sporting events today (many already cannot), they won't have the energy to fight the crowds, spend all day on a college campus, and then travel home.  I know, many of my fellow baby boomers tell me this.  The fact that DII offers great college competition at an affordable price bodes well for our in-game attendance in the near future.  But we, along with everyone else at the college level, experience students leaving at halftime, getting their free t-shirt and going back to their rooms, and watching stuff on all of the media options they have today rather than watching in person and supporting their fellow students.  While we in college sports can't control everything in society, we can do something about some of these things.  Here are a few solutions. 

Football - You get one timeout per half.  Period.  Coaches, figure it out.  You all get your media timeouts whereby you can get your coaching in.  Other than that, you better save that last timeout to kick that game winning field goal.

Basketball - You get one timeout per half.  Period.  Coaches, figure it out.  Both you and football coaches are all getting paid more than the average Joe that follows your team, so you should be able to handle this.  Better save that last timeout to design the last second shot.  And yeah, teach your players they cannot call timeout every time there is a scramble for a loose ball or you may use your only timeout that way.

Baseball - If your batter leaves the batter's box during his at bat, it's an automatic strike called against him.  If your pitcher leaves the pitcher's mound between pitches to tweak something on his uniform/body, it's an automatic ball.  Umpires are there to make sure the batter has time to get the sign.  You don't need to leave the batter's box after every pitch to adjust both batting gloves and tug everything on your uniform.  If you are doing that, you need counseling.

In all of these sports, I'm ok with video replays to "get the call right" on certain plays (e.g. fair or foul in baseball, in or out in football, time situations in basketball, etc.).  To the rules committee members, MOST fans, including me, appreciate "getting it right".  That seems fair to most people.  But the plethora of timeouts for no reason other than to stop the clock, ice the kicker or free throw shooter, give your bullpen more time to warm up, IS LOSING FANS, particularly millennials and baby boomers.  Coaches, coach your teams on late game situations.  Let us watch them make decisions on their own on occasion.  They often make better decisions with NO TIMEOUT BEING CALLED AND YOU "LET THEM PLAY" than when you call a timeout anyway.  There are a lot of things we don't have control of with society and their interests, but we can control, to some degree, the length of our games.  It's time to get some courage and make some necessary, significant changes in our rules.  That's my challenge for the rules committees in every sport!

The Weather and Its Effect on Sports

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Hurricane Sandy is wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard.  It is one of the worst natural disasters in modern times.  There are far more important things to be concerned with than sports at this time, especially for all those who are affected by Sandy.  When these devastating storms hit, I am reminded how weather plays a huge role in sports almost every day.  In today's world, we have tremendous tools at our disposal to help us track the weather.  But as they say, you can't fight Mother Nature.

As an athletic director, I am an avid follower of The Weather Channel (TWC).  That's right, I watch Wake Up With Al every morning!  All outdoor sports are certainly affected by inclement weather, but I worry about indoor sports as well.  Anytime you are traveling with college students that you are responsible for, you worry about their safety until they arrive home.  When you are in athletic administration and you have over 500 student-athletes on your watch, it's like you have 500 of your own kids that you worry about whenever they are out and you want the peace of mind knowing they returned home safely.  Most of the indoor sports are during the winter months, when the travel is most treacherous in the Midwest.

You also worry about the condition of your fields when a storm is coming.  One of the beauties of having artificial turf is that a good rain won't cancel a game or render a field a mudbowl.  I slept easier this year than ever when we put Fieldturf in our stadium.  I'm glad we did because we got rain on or leading up to every home game this year!  Plus, cancellations and/or delays are a headache to re-schedule or decide when to resume play.  The good news today is that we have the Telvent DTN system, which is what many golf courses use (including the Meadows), and is terrific in notifying you when any inclement weather approaches your area, lets you know exactly where lightning strikes are occurring, and lets you know when it is safe to resume play.  The most stressed I have ever been during a contest was a football game we played vs. West Texas A&M to open the season in 2010.  It was the opener of the year against two ranked teams and on national television.  We led by 10 late in the 4th quarter as a massive thunderstorm was approaching Lubbers Stadium.  They scored to cut it to 3 and you knew they would onside kick.  All I could think about was we had better recover that kick, because if they did and used up timeouts going for a tying field goal, there was a good chance I would have to suspend the game due to lightning.  And I knew we had zero chance of resuming play as the storm was going to last well past midnight.  Thankfully, we recovered the kick, ran the clock out, and we immediately announced to the fans to proceed immediately to their vehicles as threatening weather was fast approaching.  Five minutes after the end of the game we had a deluge (preceded by LOTS of lightning).  Can you imagine what it would have been like if the visitors, West Texas A&M, were marching toward the tying field goal and the host A.D. suspends the game with his team ahead?  Again, I was fortunate we recovered the onside kick and won the game without having to make that call.  But that is why weather can cause people like me to lose sleep.

Another change in sports over the last 30 years due to weather has been the building of indoor facilities for outdoor sports.  Not only do we have domed stadiums now, but many of us have indoor buildings with turf so our outdoor sports can train year round.  We are very fortunate at GVSU to have the Kelly Family Sports Center (named after former GVSU head football coach and now Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his family).  Our league, the GLIAC, now has five schools that have built or are building indoor buildings like ours.  For GVSU, it not only allows our intercollegiate teams to have a place to train in winter/inclement weather, but we also host Movement Science academic classes in there, as well as intramural and club sport activities.  It has been a great facility for our entire campus and a lot of GVSU students!

The last reason people like me watch The Weather Channel closely is that bad weather can definitely affect your attendance.  And I don't mean just for the outdoor sports.  Over the years I've come to believe the weather affects indoor sports more than outdoor sports.  People understand that a football game may have cold weather, but they make it a day anyway with their tailgating and warm gear.  But I think people find it tougher today to go out in the cold, wintry weather to a basketball game and back than to a fall sports event.  Spring sports can be tough in our neck of the woods too, but you learn to just bundle up and grind through it. 

Nevertheless, weather has a huge impact on decision making in every way when it comes to sports.  Thankfully, TWC has a good app so I can stay on top of the weather conditions at all times! 

Social Media and College Athletics

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In a short period of time, the way we all receive and find news has changed dramatically.  Certainly, it has had an effect on all of us in college athletics.  We all have had to adapt to this changing world of media and GVSU Athletics is no different.

I was one of those baby boomer generation kids who couldn't wait for the paper to arrive every afternoon, delivered by one of my schoolmates (the paper delivery boy is another job going extinct).  My brothers and I would fight to see who got the sports page first.  I recall reading EVERY box score of EVERY baseball game played the day before.  We also couldn't wait to read the comics.  Gil Thorp was one of my favorites.  As I grew older, yes, I became one of the "old guys" who loved to hear the crinkle of my paper as I drank my coffee in the morning or came home from work to catch up on the news.  I always preferred reading about the news rather than listening about it or watching it.  I still read it.  I just read it electronically now, as I'm sure most do.

In February of 2012, I decided to take the plunge and enter the world of social media.  I sent out my first tweet on Twitter.  We all came to realize that there no longer is one major source of news any more like the hometown paper was for so many years.  I had a Twitter account for some time before actually sending tweets.  Now, Twitter is my primary source of news gathering.  In order for Laker Athletics to receive the publicity and attention we want for our student-athletes, we had to become our own news agency.  All of us, coaches and support staff, had to become regular tweeters and Facebook advocates.  In order to get our "stuff" in front of as many eyeballs as possible, we have to grow our social media outlets.  One way we are doing that is with the Social Media Road Trip you can follow at gvsulakers.com.  Everything we do is to drive people to our website where they can learn everything they want to know about GVSU Athletics, including more and more videos of the Lakers in action or interviews with coaches and student-athletes.  Like I said, we want to make our website the one major source of news for Laker fans and the neat thing is, our audience is unlimited and there are no geographical limitations to our reach!

You can follow me at @TimSelgo.  You can also friend me on Facebook.  By the way, on the date of that first tweet I had a grand total of 22 followers.  I now have 458.  Take the social media plunge, follow me and our official athletic department account @gvsulakers, and visit www.gvsulakers.com to follow the Lakers!