056 “When Your Coach is a Neanderthal”
Be the reason someone smiles today.
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Episode 56: When Your Coach is a Neanderthal
Thanks, Mark. And thank you for dropping by to listen.
Let’s get right to it.
I don’t have a high school Varsity letter.
Now I did go out for three sports in high school.
I worked hard.
I competed in meets and matches.
But back when I went to school, the coaches were Neanderthals.
I know that may sound harsh, but that’s the truth. The coaches didn’t believe everyone should be given a Varsity letter just for going out for a sport.
They said it had to be earned.
Can you believe that?
I went out for cross country in 10th grade
(NOTE FOR THE KIDS: Back in my day high school was for grades 10-12).
In cross country I ran just as far as everyone who received a Varsity letter.
I competed in the same number of meets as everyone who received a Varsity letter.
And in my humble, unassuming, unprideful view, I looked just as good, if not better, than everyone who received a Varsity letter.
So who did the coach give the Varsity letters to?
You got it … the runners who were faster than me.
It was tough on those of us who grew up in the Dark Ages.
What has beating someone got to do with getting a letter?
My best finish in a race was 4th place. I thought that was pretty good. Only three people finished before me. I still have fond memories of that race.
Doesn’t it count that I can remember a 4th place finish?
Oh sure, there were other races where I didn’t finish quite so well, but who’s counting those?
Apparently the coach was.
At the end of the year, he gave Varsity letters to the top … I think it was five … runners based on their finishes in races.
He gave me a JV letter because I was close, but close didn’t earn me a Varsity letter.
Did the coach realize he might be destroying my future life?
Back then coaches were not woke.
In my second semester of 10th grade, I went out for track.
I probably should have competed in the mile. That would have made sense because I had run cross country.
But for some reason I was fascinated with the pole vault.
So, I made the decision to compete in the pole vault.
A few things you should know about the pole vault.
To be a good pole vaulter, you had to be fast. You needed speed as you ran down the runway in order to generate enough momentum to propel yourself over the bar.
I have to admit, I was not fast.
In fact, you could probably make a good argument that I was on the slow side.
Another trait of a good pole vaulter was you had to have a strong upper body. After you planted the pole in the box, you had to pull yourself up with your arms so your legs went above your head and you pivoted your body to go over the bar.
I did not possess great upper body strength.
And to be a good pole vaulter, you had to be fearless. You had to go upside down as you tried to go into an inverted handstand, clear the bar, then rotate so you could land in the pit. And the pits didn’t hold soft, fluffy foam pads as the pits do today. Our pits only had sawdust and you’d best learn how to land correctly or you could get hurt.
Fearless was another trait I did not possess. It didn’t help that one day during practice I heard an explosion as our number one vaulter was jumping. His pole snapped in half and I watched him fly past the pit and land on his back a few yards beyond the pit.
And speaking of our top jumpers, there was one more tiny thing.
We only had a couple of fiberglass poles in our school and they were reserved for use by the top jumpers ONLY.
The rest of us had to use steel poles.
In case you don’t know, steel poles don’t bend, which was a real hinderance to how high you can vault.
So who did the coach give Varsity letters to?
Do I even need to say it?
It wasn’t any of us who used the steel poles.
I didn’t even get a JV letter in track.
And then there was tennis.
Now I have to admit that when I played tennis things were a little different than they are today.
First, we used wooden rackets. Wood. You know, the stuff trees are made out of.
And the racket heads were smaller. A lot smaller. A whole lot smaller.
And they didn’t have those things called “tie-breakers.” You had to win a set by two games and that could take forever.
It was a different world.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
On our team we had this thing called the “ladder.”
There was a Varsity team and Junior Varsity team. Each team had 5 singles players and 2 doubles teams (4 players).
And you didn’t get a spot on Varsity or Junior Varsity because of your good looks — I have to admit I looked pretty good — or your attitude — I had a great attitude — or your form — my form was top quality.
None of those things mattered.
You got a spot on the Varsity team or JV team by beating someone else on your team. Your own team. Not the other school’s team but your own team.
During the week in practices you could challenge a player one or two places above you on the ladder or you could be challenged by a player one or two places below you.
If you beat the person above you, you moved up the ladder.
If the person below you beat you, they moved up and you moved down.
Sounds a little cutthroat to me.
Could that really be the attitude the coaches were trying to develop in us?
Like I said, the coaches were Neanderthals.
I did get a JV letter and I managed to make it to the Varsity squad to play doubles.
But I didn’t get enough wins on Varsity for the coach to give me a Varsity letter.
LIFE WITHOUT A LETTER
Half way through my Junior year brought the end of my high school sports career and the end of my opportunities to get a Varsity letter.
I didn’t quit sports, however, but I did I did have to do sports on my own.
To play tennis I would either arrange with some friends to go to some courts or I would just go to one of the local courts at a park and practice serving until the people playing on other courts would ask if I wanted to join them. It was a great way to meet new people and have a good time.
I took a similar approach to playing basketball. I would go to one of the local basketball courts (indoor or outdoor) and just wait to join a pick-up game. It was a good way to meet people. I also played basketball in church and city leagues.
And I played softball in church and city leagues. That’s back when the guys played fast pitch softball. I could never get into that slow pitch stuff.
And then there was golf. I loved golf. Sometimes I got a friend to go golfing with me, but often I just went to the course and joined the first opening on a foursome and we would have a great time playing golf for a couple of hours.
And I loved running so I kept doing that just about anywhere — the beach, the mountains, even the concrete sidewalks of my neighborhood.
I didn’t get a letter for any of those things I did on my own but I had great fun, met a number of fascinating people, and enjoyed the experience.
But that brings me back to my high school coaches.
MAYBE … JUST MAYBE … THEY WEREN’T NEANDERTHALS
And as I think about it, especially when I look at society today, maybe the coaches were on to something.
Perhaps a high school Varsity letter should be earned.
A Varsity letter demonstrates a certain skill level that should be honored.
I think they made the right decision.
“I Just Woke Up in 2019” by Chris Bray. An interesting look at the way a 2019 AIDS vaccine was evaluated compared to the Covid vaccine.
“Public university hosts vocal ‘feminization,’ ‘masculinization,’ ‘neutralization’ workshops for transgender, non-binary students” by Candace Hathaway. Just in case you haven’t noticed it, our society is running off a very steep cliff.
“Universities Are Bringing Back ‘Old School’ Homework Delivery to Combat ChatGPT” by Jeff Brown. How till the educational system deal with the development of artificial intelligence programs that can write college level papers on any topic?
“Mass Market Artificial Intelligence ChatGPT Passes Elite Business School Exam” by Ben Zeisloft. Another look at ChatGPT.
“I saw a naked male in the women’s locker room …” by Dave Urbanski. This happened in a YMCA? They should remove the “C” from their name. Probably the “M” as well.
“British Army veteran arrested for silently praying for his dead son near an abortion clinic” by Joseph Mackinnon. This is the world we are living in. Are you ready?
Before I go I’d like to share a blessing with you from the Old Testament.
“May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26 (The Living Bible)
Until next time … be the reason someone smiles today!