Saturday, April 16, 2016

Reflections from the Home Team April 16, 2016

 The secret to life and the greatest success strategy of all is…
 “Love all of it and fear none of it!”

Greetings from Cedar Falls, 

I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you today by reflecting in a little different way... As you know, I have always found it most comfortable to express my thoughts and emotions using baseball terminology, so here goes.
Many of my teammates during my baseball playing days said to me after their retirement from the game "Ride it till the wheels fall off Dave because once it's over it's over."  Well, my wheels may not be completely off, but there are a lot of miles on these tires, and the tread left on them is a bit thinner. My body just doesn't do what it used to do.  I've always said that if I couldn't perform to the level I'm accustomed to, then it was time to walk away...

Baseball (as life) is a game of failure that tends to be always followed by opportunity.

Baseball is also a microcosm for life. It teaches life lessons that I don't think any other profession could teach and from which I have drawn many parallels in my years in education. Baseball (as life) is also about the journey, not the destination.  And what an amazing journey it has been for me in my years in education!  Maybe for all of us, we have something to learn from the game by pushing aside the fear that can come from taking on challenges for fear of failure... a mindset that can help us all grow on our journey.

As the old adage says, “All good things must come to an end” so after 40 years in education as a teacher, coach, athletic director, and principal, I have made the decision to “hang up my cleats” and retire as Holmes Jr. High’s Principal at the end of this “contract season”. I have been BLESSED beyond measure. My cup has been filled with good times and good fortune.  I have chased many dreams for the past 40 years, allowing me to meet the most amazing cast of characters you could ever imagine, while also allowing me to experience lasting relationships that most people could only dream of.

I can honestly say that I worked hard, prepared, and always did my best to serve my students and staff to the best of my ability. I have great respect for the education profession and those in it, and have always tried to make school an engaging place to be while having as much fun as possible along the way. Even when life’s fortunes kicked me in the guts and brought me to my knees with cancer, I got back up when I was knocked down with the help of my faith, family, friends, my students and staff. I will always be able to look my two beautiful grand children in the eye one day and say, “Grandpa never gave in, and never gave up.” I can look in the mirror and know that I “played the game” the right way, leaving it all on the field, and have zero regrets.

Although I will dearly miss squaring up to the challenges facing us in the “business” of education today, what I will really miss are the little things. The relationships and stories (believe me, I’ve got a few) generated by working with my students, athletes and their parents over the years, as well as the many friendships I have developed with my colleagues, but what I will miss most of all is being a part of watching and impacting young people as they grow from being “wide eyed” seventh graders into caring and responsible young adults. Having been a part of that in so many lives has been so rewarding for me. It’s where I have felt most comfortable and free. It’s where I am at ease and at peace. I don’t know what could ever replace the feeling of being completely at home with young people while “at work.” To all my students, athletes and colleagues I have had the pleasure of “working” with and learning from over the years, it’s you who I will think of when I reflect on the past 40 years. It’s you who have filled my heart and soul with so many laughs and so much love. I just want you to know that I love you all.

I was once asked by a teammate early in my playing days, if I didn’t make it to the big leagues, would I consider my baseball playing days “all for naught?” Without hesitation, I said, “no way, it’s about the journey and those who were a part of it along the way!” In the same way, the journey and relationships I have experienced in my education career has been a “Big League” experience! I look forward to teaching the lessons I have learned to my grandchildren and using those same lessons in the next phase of my life’s journey and the many opportunities that will present as I continue to serve others. My focus will be on family and wellness. I plan to continue advocating for After School programming and education at the state and national levels, my scouting work with the Atlanta Braves, tending our family farm  as well as serving others in Cedar Falls helping keep this area the best place to raise and educate a family in the State of Iowa. I look forward to my next adventure. I’m not sure which direction God will lead me, but I trust His plan and am excited to see what the next chapter has in store for me. 

I will leave you with a thought from one of my favorite authors by the name of Jon Gordon. When writing one of his recent books, “The Carpenter” he talked about being filled with the fear that he would disappoint the people who had enjoyed reading his previous books… fear that people would say his best writing was behind him, fears that he would write a “piece of junk”. At that moment, he realized the antidote to fear is love. So instead of the fear of failing, he decided to focus on his love of writing, his love for the reader, and his desire to make a difference. From that moment on the book flowed. He wrote it in 2 1/2 weeks and discovered that if you focus on love, you will cast out fear.

I want to encourage each of you to do the same as you build your life, work, business, school, project or team with love instead of fear. Remind yourself that if you aren’t building it with love it won’t become all that it can be. Only through love will you create something special, magnificent and compelling. Only through love will you build a masterpiece.
So if you are trying to build a business, focus on the love you have of building it rather than the fear of losing it. If you work at a school, focus on loving your students instead of fearing all the new testing standards and mandates. If you are a young athlete, dancer, musician or artist, focus on your love of playing and performing instead of your fear of failing. Worrying about the outcome and what people think will steal your joy and sabotage your success but loving and appreciating the moment will energize you and enhance your performance. Love all of it!! 

Most of all, as you build with love, know that you will face many challenges and negative influences that can shift your focus back to fear if you let it. When this happens decide to LOVE ALL OF IT. When you love all of it you will fear none of it.
      Love the struggle because it makes you appreciate your accomplishments.
      Love challenges because they make you stronger.
      Love competition because it makes you better.
      Love negative people because they make you more positive.
      Love those who have hurt you because they teach you forgiveness.
      Love fear because it makes you courageous.

The secret to life and the greatest success strategy of all is to love all of it and fear none of it! Thanks to all for taking this journey with me. I am, and have been, TRULY blessed.
My love to all!

Sincerely, Dave

Colossians 3:23 

Link to: Reflections from the Home Team BLOG

Link to Vimeo: Reflections from the "Home Team"... Go the Distance
Link to: Tommy Emmanuel and "Angelina"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Reflections from the Home Team April 2, 2016

“Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches…DON’T WIDEN THE PLATE!”

Greetings from Cedar Falls,

I wanted to take a moment to update you since my last Reflection in January. I’ve had a few bumps in the road the past few weeks along with a visit to Iowa City. The good news is it appears my hearing loss following treatments has begun to stabilize which is a relief.  I have some interesting technology in place to deal with that issue. Things have been up and down with my counts, and I am awaiting some lab results. I continue my daily routines to deal with the side effects of treatments. As we near the end of another school year I have much to be grateful for. I again want to offer a special thanks to my doctors and medical support team for the time and efforts they have given to assist me in dealing with the setbacks one deals with as a cancer survivor.

That brings me to this reflection.  As I was sitting in Iowa City this past week waiting for my appointment, I had the opportunity to sit and visit with a couple in the waiting room as they waited with their teenage children at the Pharmacy. One of the children had been recently diagnosed with cancer and they were struggling with that as they waited to pick up a prescription for him.  We got into a discussion about the improvements made in treating cancer, and the improved success rate with surviving the disease.  They wanted to hear about my experience, so I shared a brief summary, doing my best to share the positive outcome, and I think they appreciated that. One thing led to another and the discussion turned to raising a young family these days and all the challenges that it involves. We agreed that times have changed over the years, and that often, there seems to be a lack of “constants” in place these days with young people similar to when they were growing up. That struck home with me being in the education “business” as I deal with young people and their parents every day.  That brought to mind a presentation that was shared with me back in my coaching days by Coach John Scolinos, who coached a long time at Cal Poly, Pomona. He was presenting at the ABCA Coaches National Convention back in the mid 90’s, and it reminded me of a message that I often shared with my players when coaching.…thoughts that had an impact outside of the playing field and that could be carried with us in each of our life’s journeys, whether it be with family, friends, teams, careers or dealing with cancer. Here is that message.

            Posted in: Coaching, Family Values and Youth baseball blog 
            by John O’Sullivan:

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948.  He shuffled to the stage at the ABCA Convention in Nashville  to an  impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.  Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years. “Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer. “That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

 Another long pause.  “Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach. “That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident. “You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?” “Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.  “Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”  “Seventeen inches!”  “RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major  Leagues?”  “Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.
“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”

“Coaches …”

 ” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”


Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.  “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”


“He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward  to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.  “… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known, because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

Coach’s message was relevant in 1996, and it still is today. His message was clear: 

“Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches, DON”T WIDEN THE PLATE."  

I can clearly recall sitting in my chemo and radiation treatments in Iowa City, having a frank discussion with my oncologist, Dr. Claman as I struggled with the nausea from chemo and the pain in my throat from radiation.  I asked Dr. Claman if I could cut the treatments short as they appeared to be working shrinking the tumors in my neck, and his reply was simply this… “Dave, I feel terrible I have to put you through this, but in the end, it will all work out for you.” He was compassionate, but he didn’t “WIDEN THE PLATE.” Yes, it did work out successfully for me thanks to Dr. Claman holding me to what he knew was right by having me follow the precise treatment regimen he had prescribed, no short cuts. Let’s hold ourselves and our families to a similar standard of what we know to be right each and every day, by not taking short cuts and “WIDENING THE PLATE” along the way as we face the trials and challenges put before us each and every day.

James 1:2-3

Blessings to each of you for a healthy and productive 2016!

Yours in life’s battles…


Link to: Reflections from the Home Team BLOG

Link to Vimeo: Reflections from the "Home Team"... Go the Distance
Link to: Tommy Emmanuel and "Angelina"