I very nearly cried today.
I fought it back, but they knew.
You know how
That masculine code is, it came into play,
That place where emotion is okay
As long as it’s the ass-kicking
Domination kind, right?

Today was different,
We won our last game and
As we realized that this was it,
I got emotional,
Thinking of how much this TEAM
Carried me,
Just an awesome bunch of kids
Who understood what friendships are,
Who showed what hard work is,
Who were simply fun to be around,
Everyday,
Wins or loses,
Because each day, we played as a team and got better,
Just as we set out to do back in November.

I’m so thankful to have been a part of their growth,
Their spirit something that carried me forward, as well,
And I’m not ashamed to say
That they made me cry
For this is what I’ve always hoped for as a coach
To be part of team
Players, coaches, managers, and parents
Who got it,
That wins and losses are icing, playing time is but a number,
But relationships and improvement are the greatest tasting cake,

And I’ll take that slice every single time.

I wipe my eyes to you guys,
Team on three…

1, 2, 3…

It’s a bit ridiculous to see
Kids squinting at 3×5 cards
With the tiniest scribbling
Of a semester’s worth of notes
As a safety net for not studying
When right there
At their beck and call
And coming in at roughly
The same size
Is every answer
To nearly every question
Humans have strived to answer
In that unfortunately named device,
Smart phone, which
Rests with its seductive nature,
Addictive charms,
And so little association
With the reason for the note card.

In my later years of schooling, I became a better student. Part of my maturation was the understanding that it was my responsibility to make learning meaningful. My teachers could not teach me. My coaches did not coach me. My professors were there as guides. It was me who was the learner. I was the one who made all of those people’s lessons important or not.

It wasn’t my parents.
It wasn’t a politician.
It wasn’t my teachers, coaches, or professors, either.

I was the sole determinant as to whether I was going to understand, appreciate, and apply all of the lessons those mentors (less the politicians) put before me. I think I began to understand that near the end of high school. There are bits of my academic life in high school that stand out, but I was too immature and entitled to understand how my inability to make school a priority was something that might hurt me later in life.

And who was there to bail me out?…

Not my parents.

That sounds harsh and it should not. I thank my parents for allowing me to succeed and fail on my own volition. They were never at school when I got bad grades. In their way, they let me know that I would regret not doing better and they could rest assured that they were correct. They were never in a coach’s face (email had not been invented yet) when I didn’t get as much playing time or as much water as I thought I should have gotten. They never compared my placement on a team with any other player, nor sought to rationalize my status on a team with any perceived feelings the coaches might have had about me or my family. They were great that way.

They let me create my successes and helped me celebrate the big stuff.

They also let me feel the pain of my failures and taught me to take personal responsibility for them.

I never made it far as an athlete. I had an average high school career in two sports and an ego-deflating failure in another. It’s funny, but the third, which was my worst, is the only one I still pursue nearly thirty-five years later. Running is more about me being true to myself than anything and I was a terrible runner at seventeen. All these years later, I’ve learned more about patience, commitment, and competition for running that I ever did playing baseball or basketball. Still, though, I got to pitch in a couple of college baseball games and the writing was on the wall…or maybe it was the stitches of the baseballs as they got knocked around the park. I was not an athlete.

That was a hard pill to swallow because so much of my life was wrapped up in sports. Without the lessons my parents gave me about moving on and not spending too much time in a funk, I was able to get on with the business of being the best me that I could become. I’m training for my twelfth marathon, have earned a doctorate in education, published a book of poetry, and most importantly, am one part of a great family.

I’m not in the business of giving advice, okay, maybe I am since I teach and coach, but it is time for us (the adults) to allow students to fail. We have to teach them that they are responsible for their successes and failures. We can guide them through the pitfalls of life, but each of us must face the realities of our experiences with the skills to survive and the dignity to own our station.

Just saying…

Boxed in, nowhere to go,
Stuck in a state of nerdiness
Where all that interests me
Is what I’m doing right now

As I write, it’s obviously writing,
My ultimate form of puzzle making,
Puzzle solving, or just plain working out
The puzzling nature of life.

Earlier today it was running,
My body begging to stay in bed,
To back down from the cold,
My soul refusing to give in.

So there at mile three or so
I had a choice, stick with half the pack
And dash home for four, or brave the dark
Denying my urge and run with the other half for seven.

I became a runner nerd,
Sucking up every bit of available oxygen,
Soaking through three layers,
And living interested in the example of my running partners.

It’s the day gig tripping me up,
My interest is like the moon, waxing
With ideas about the hope of learning and
Waning in the realities of how uncool it is to be nerdy.

Perhaps I should just preach to the choir
Finding an audience in those who understand
School doesn’t have to be painful,
That learning can happen when people talk and invest.

No financially, but
Spiritually,
Emotionally,
Mentally, physically, and socially.

Instead, that idea is boxed out,
Pushed aside by perceptions of relevance,
The dopamine delivery system that phones have become,
And the apathy that many display when faced with challenges.

My lunar-like learning cycle will run its course,
It will be pitch black and I’ll be running through a lesson
With the choice to be bored or invested,
Hopefully, I’m still interested enough to write about it.

The law is the law,
For most of us, anyway,
And given I’m a one of most of us,
You’re actions put me in
A precarious place.

Your rage at losing a nothing game
Was shocking.
Your body posture when I tried to talk with you
Was scary.
So, I followed the law.

I reported you to the proper people
Because you seemed out of control,
In distress, and
Referencing a struggle to stay
Out of harm’s way.

Perhaps that will end our relationship,
But I followed my duty.
More than that, though,
I followed my conscience
Out of true concern for your safety.