Since late March I've had some time to rest and hit "pause." I haven't taken more than seven days away from coaching since 2009. I stopped observing, cuing, and connecting and I picked up a rod and lure. Somehow I took a liking to a hobby I'm horrible at. Fishing is outcome centered yet process driven. It is one of the rare endeavors I'm willing to put time into and be equally content in failure and victory. Fishing is also Abby's favorite pastime and more than anything represents another opportunity to share a passion. Casting, waiting, bobbing, and reeling is an art and Abby is ten times the fisher(wo)man than I. We have accompanied our fishing with many hikes and a lot of exploration on foot. The hills, trees, water and woods on the outskirts of beautiful Lake Michigan are treasures . Those scenes make me feel rooted...
But here I am...back at it again.
I'm back in the "day and age of confusion." The Buddhists may label this "dukkha." If we choose to participate in the struggle the world often presents, we will find ourselves befuddled and tired. To follow every news story is to be spun in circles like a merry go round. We are disoriented. We need to turn our heads back to front. Maybe I need to digest some ZEN(ax). Often my mind is cluttered and noisy. I hear a ton of "chirping."
Somehow I've got this Twitter Bird in my pocket. It follows me almost everywhere I go. Am I in "The Birds" movie? The birds seem to multiple and cause a frenzy. As this movie rolls forward the flock grows and draws my attention near. I'm consumed and I can't even feel myself morphing from viewer to character. Suddenly, I find myself in a panic as I see my reflection in a window--I'm furiously flapping! It is only natural that I begin chirping.
I never intended to become be a bird. When I started my coaching journey the birds didn't exist. Truth is, I'd rather my spirit animal be a LION. A mane and a roar beats the small feathers and aggravating mimic of the beak. As I continue to evolve I change colors. I'm no longer blue like a Twitter Bird or jet black like a eerie crow. My colors create personality as I take on the more personable persona of the parrot. Most of us are like the parrot. We hear "it" then repeat "it." Word for word, regardless of comprehension. We hear it then repeat it like it was our very own original thought. Our nature annoys me and leaves me asking "what is authenticity"? I pause to think, then get distracted. I chirp. I look. I hear then I repeat. Mehmet Murat Ildan describes this cycle best: "Man is a Parrot in the House of History, he listens and then he repeats the same crap over and over."
If you've picked up the tennis racquet from the garage and are ready to take a swing at my feathers, I've proved my point. I'll spare us all and drop the "Polly Want a Cracker" shit. Many of us can agree we are deeply enmeshed in a collective thought tank. My tank of choice happens to be strength and conditioning. Ten years into my career and I can honestly say I've experienced every emotion in relation to my passion and profession. Some days I truly do feel like a parrot. The replay button is stuck as I go on repeat to my athletes. I chirp. I look. I hear then I repeat the thoughts and sounds of mentors and "experts." Five to ten percent of what we chirp about appears to be original or new. Many of us (maybe I'm guilty too) regurgitate past history and with the subtlest tweak choose to exclaim , "INNOVATION!"
By now you've sensed an uncharacteristic tone in my voice. Maybe it's the four hours of sleep I somehow put together last night. Stay with me, I have a silver lining for you. While I'm annoyed with that parrot feeling, I'm starting to appreciate the upside of some of our consistency in knowledge and message. This results in an evolving common language we are beginning to share. We're growing and the trend of truth is escalating. I used to digest these words from George Orwell with disgust: "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." Today I see the power in them. Too much chirping. Too much noise. If you really filter and listen though, you'll hear a pause, and out of this break we can hear the faint beats of the right musicians.
I mostly choose to listen, but every so often I find myself in front of a microphone. On Thursday, I spoke to a national audience of high school football coaches on Zoom. I was sandwiched between renowned sprint coach Tony Holler & UW Football legend Jimmy Leonhard. Common sense coaching, open mindedness, science, specificity, SPEED, values, & most importantly SIMPLICITY were common lyrics or themes. While we may feel at times like we've heard it all before, I was reminded of the beauty in the basics. We repeated each other a few times like ...well you get the point.
A preacher transforms into a maestro when all of his audience moves up into the choir. Someday we may find harmony. Until that day arrives, I will keep preaching the good news to those in the audience and the choir alike. Lest not forget that on our journey an off note may spring a path for a new song we can all begin to try to sing.
*Notes & highlights from High School Football Coaches Zoom Clinic.