You’ll Shoot Your COVID Out

Yesterday was Independence day in the United States of America, and a mixed-bag of feelings washed over me. While preparing for our move to Kentucky, I had to leave the house three times yesterday, twice to Lowes and once to Walmart. Like many of you, I try to avoid going out, and when I do, I do my best to practice social distancing. I do not always wear a mask (sometimes I do), but I could and maybe I should. In today’s world, there is more information available at our fingertips than ever. Some sources of information claim to be the source of truth and fact – and it could be true, or it could be false. Some information (like this blog) is just an opinion – I don’t claim to know more than you on the subject, it’s just my opinion. This opinion is the sum total of my life-long learning experiences, and I’m trying to do the very best that I can.

When I was a kid I thought all adults were wise. Later, I learned that all adults were not wise. Even later, I learned that all adults were wise, again.

I’ve learned that as I age, my mind adjusts to new information. I make opinions based upon what I’ve learned over the entire course of my life. Things I once thought were certainties are now surely false, but that may change. Even for those of us who aren’t the smartest, we still gain wisdom. I think this is also true for You (dear reader), Lebron James, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Dalai Lama, Joel Osteen and Charles Manson. Notice how I selected a wide arrange of people on the spectrum, although I don’t have much in common with any of these people, except that I am human, much like you – and that I learn things and grow in my own personal brand of wisdom. I don’t personally know anyone who is super wealthy or famous (or infamous), but I do know many people (like you) that are amazing people, and all of us have wisdom.

Some people think COVID is a conspiracy, others think it’s a virus that is spread and that we’re all in danger (sound the alarms!). The people I call my friends come from different backgrounds, some have a little money while others have little. Some of you are Democrats, some are Republicans, and some of you are neither. Almost everyone I know has seen A Christmas Story, and know the line “You’ll shoot your eye out”. Regarding that line specifically, we know that Ralphie, was told by every single adult he knew, including Santa, that he did not need the Red Rider BB Gun because he would shoot his eye out. However, on Christmas morning he ended up getting his prized wish. Shout out to irresponsible parents everywhere. As it turns out, Ralphie did not shoot his eye out, but he did shoot himself, breaking his glasses in the confusion.

You see, it was indeed possible that Ralphie would shoot his eye out (or his brother’s eye or perhaps a neighborhood dog’s eye). That’s possible – every parent in the world can testify to this simple truth. Parents struggle with giving their children age-appropriate things, because we know they most learn to navigate this world as an adult some day. Each of my children have learned at different intervals – some of them I might’ve given a dangerous toy too at a much younger age, others, I wouldn’t give them this same toy until they were much older. Parents want their children to grow and learn, we even want them to have fun, and we want them to be safe.

Sometimes parents make good judgement calls, sometimes we give our child a motorcycle on their third birthday – usually, it all works out just fine.

My faith plays an important role in my life, it sets the boundaries of what I believe in what is right and wrong. I share my faith with my children because they will need God more than they ever needed me. I fail daily in ways that God never will, He will comfort and guide them when I cannot be there. These faith boundaries guide us, and are important to us and our children. While we can never have faith in a political party, brand or movement, we can have faith that God will guide us through it all.

I think our best scientists, leaders, politicians, and activists want what is best, but I also know they too do not know everything. Like you and I, they’re making decisions based on a lifetime of learning and the best information available to them. They may one day look back and regret making a decision to mandate this or that. In fact, I think that’s the expected outcome. That’s why the government moves so slow, it was built that way on purpose – so that we could not, in the heat of some moment (or weeks or months), give or take away a freedom that would forever change the fabric of this great experiment called America.

Yesterday while out and about I saw fear everywhere – people were either giving me judging looks, or just avoiding eye contact altogether. Everyone is giving everyone lots of social distance, which I think is what matters most at the moment. Most people did not speak, I spoke to a few and tried very hard to be friendly. If you know me, this was a task – but I know people are hurting and confused, and we need each other now more than ever. We need to be nice and friendly, we need to be human to one another. If you or I were to die due to COVID, I would hope someone would have something nice to say about us. But even that is in danger – funerals, work, school, businesses – life and death are now postponed until further notice.

Yesterday was Independence Day, a day that is designated to celebrate the freedom we have enjoyed in this country. But I had many mixed feelings because we live in a time where our freedoms are restricted. Not in a small way, but in a large way – we cannot go out and about like we once did. Vacations, cancelled. Family reunions, cancelled. Walmart closes early, like every other store, and restaurant, bowling alley and skating rink (even if those places are open now, I’m not even sure).

There is evidence that what we are doing is not enough to flatten the curve. There is also evidence that we’re doing too much, and that we’re giving away our freedoms in the form of compliance. On Independence Day I was saddened that we’re not being more brave so that we could enjoy more freedom. Friends, I want you to be you, loud and proud. Whether you think it’s a conspiracy or whether you think you have all the data to confirm the worst-case scenario. And I want you to be safe, and to keep my safety in mind. Is it even possible to have both safety and security?

I want to interact with people without fear that you’re judging me for what I’m wearing on my face, who’s political party bumper sticker is on my car, or what the color of my skin is. But here we are, against one another, caught in this terrible act of violence that is judging. If there were a conspiracy, it might be something like “have them all turn on the other and then we can do whatever it is we want to do”. I’m not saying that is really happening, but sometimes it has the feeling of that.

What is really happening is much worse, we’re not being nice to one another anymore.

Many of us care more about shaming or sharing opinions than we do about how a person is feeling or doing. Some of us are really struggling – no, I think most of us are really struggling. It’s hard to be home with the kids all the time, to not be able to do the things we want to do, to be isolated and alone. It’s really hard, even if you think you’re adjusting well (which I think I am), it’s still really hard.

When you go out in public, with our without a mask, I would like it to be your choice. You might shoot your eye out, or you might shoot my eye out, or it might turn out okay in the end. We cannot be certain of the outcome yet because nobody is that smart and correct – we’re all learning, doing the best we can. But, what I implore you to do now more than ever is to be kind to your fellow human. Whether or not they vote Red or Blue or Green, whether they wear a mask or don’t, whether they support the Black Lives Matter movement (or not) – be nice. When I was a kid someone once told me that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile; I still don’t believe that statement. What I do believe is that even if smiling is hard, do it anyways. Wave at your neighbors or have a discussion with them. It’s okay to have and share your opinions. But we all have them, some are right and some are wrong – some are right now and may be wrong later, and some are wrong now and may be right later. None of it will matter when you have your funeral. People will remember you most for how you treated them. Treat people well.

I’ll Take My Spoils Now

The statues and symbols that represent The Confederate States of America have again come to the forefront in The United States of America. I want you to take note right now how both of those nations are independent and different than one another. Hank Williams was wrong, If the south would’ve won I wouldn’t had had it made. Instead, I wouldn’t be permitted to love the people I love – my children couldn’t play at the same parks or drink at the same water fountains as their children. Not only that, The Confederacy was the enemy of the country I served for, The United States of America. If you love The Confederacy and the ideals of white supremacy, you’re the enemy of my country and you’re my enemy.

Betwen 2000 and 2004 I served in the United States Navy. As a veteran, I’ve guarded the lives of men and women of color, as they have guarded mine. They stood their watch, I stood mine, for one another. I’ve been served and have served people of color, not because I must, but because I could. It was a true honor to have served with the many women and men of color who I could call shipmates. If you don’t love people of color, you’re not just their enemy, you’re my enemy.

Over the last decade of my life some of the finest and best people I’ve ever known are people of color – I don’t just like them, I love them. They have taught and coached my children as their own, I have taught and coached their children as my own. We have stood beside one another on football fields, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and at lacrosse tournaments. These families trusted us with their most precious gifts – their children, as we did them. I have loved on their families, and they have loved on mine. If you don’t love people of color, you’re not just their enemy, you’re my enemy.

On April 9th, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and The Confederacy was no more. The Confederacy existed between 1861 and 1865, and they lost. The Confederacy does not exist any more, as it suffered a similar defeat to The Third Reichthey lost in compelling and convincing fashion and the world became a better place because of it. We, as the citizens of The United States of America are the victors. The victors of war get to enjoy the spoils, one such spoil is writing the history.

“To the victor goes the spoils” – William L. Marcy

For many years in America, there have been sympathizers to the southern cause. The man who shot and killed one of America’s most beloved presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was a Confederate sympathizer. James Earl Ray, the man who murdered Martin Luther King, was also a sympathizer to the ideals of white supremacy. Yet, I consumed the the media that was tolerated within the main streams of American culture. I loved to watch The Dukes of Hazard, with the Confederate flag emblazoned on that bad-ass Hemi. Some of us even went to schools named after those Confederate leaders. For what it’s worth, I still love that Hemi, but I don’t love that flag. Here we are in 2020, many southern Americans celebrating the monuments of an ideal that was defeated more than 150 years ago. Below is a chart of monuments built to The Confederacy by year and I can’t help but ask – why do the victors allow for this?

Confedarate monuments (2).png
By Volunteer Marek – revised graph with panels removed, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The short answer of why this has been allowed is because racism is not only tolerated in America today, it is celebrated. When the Allied Powers invaded and freed Germany from the Nazi regime, citizens and military alike destroyed symbols and statues that had been built to the Nazis. In America, we’ve tolerated the symbols of hate that The Confederacy built for too long. I’m here to tell you today, as a Victor who can enjoy the spoils of victory, I do not stand for this or with this.

In 2020 victorious American’s are demanding these statutes and memorials be taken down. Slave owner? Take it down. Leader of The Confederacy? Take it down? White Supremacist? Take it down. If you believe differently, you’re an enemy of the greatest country the world has ever seen, The United States of America. Today, we’re taking it all down so that our children will enjoy the spoils of victory that we have been promised since 1865. I stand with my brothers and sisters of color, in a chorus of love and unison when I say this – take them all down, we’re the victors and we’re rewriting the history books today.

The Last Shark

For the last several years I’ve been an embedded software tester on a highly performing team. My beloved team, nicknamed the White Sharks, has been the source of much pride. As a tester, I obsess over producing quality code, and have been very proud of a team of great developers who bought into an approach that developing quality applications mattered. We had a strong Definition of Done, Quality Gates, and informal Working Agreements that allowed us to deliver good software at a fairly fast pace. In December of this year, the fabric of that team began to fall away.

In December, our Senior Architect left for another job. A couple months later, I think sometime in March, another great developer and architect left for greener pastures. Shortly thereafter, a third senior developer left. Weeks later, our Senior Devops Engineer left – and finally today, another dev left. This last developer had only been on the team for about a year, but he was the last team member remaining on a team that I have been a member of for many years. Finally, I am The Last Shark.

When people have departed, they have been replaced by some great guys and gals – smart, sharp and friendly developers and testers who have worked their guts out to pickup the pieces. These have been internal replacements, from other teams within our company (save one new-hire). While they’re amazing men and women, they don’t have the requisite domain knowledge to keep us going like we once were. I have been thrust into a team leadership role, I’m here trying to grab the helm of this fledgling ship to pull her away from the rocks and steer her into the deep bays, and, finally the open ocean.

I could talk about the technical challenges, but I’m writing this to talk about the personal challenges this has presented. When the third developer left I literally cried at my desk. Luckily, I work from home, because I would’ve cried in the office too. I knew it was an end of an era. I felt like things could never be the same, at least for a long time. More, for years I have shared the story of my life with these folks – they knew my kids, they knew I loved cats, and of the many personal trials and victories I’ve went through in my life. They knew I shouted in glee when I found a bug, and that I made a lot of noise during the course of the day, mostly talking to myself. I’ve tested their code, they’ve fussed at my intense drive for quality – but more than anything, I miss the people behind the code. I miss the people who wrote the code – not their knowledge, passion, and love for their job – but the people I shared my life with.

Those friends are gone, working with some other tester, sharing their lives with someone else – and I miss them. The absolute hardest part of my job the last 6 months has been losing people I’ve grown to love. There won’t be anymore work lunches, or chats about our families, lives or happenings of the day. Those days are gone, forever. We’re building a new team. I’ll get to make new friends and have new relationships, we’ll deliver some good code. They’ll get to know my kids and my quirks and that I love cats, if they stick around long enough. I’m hurting, and sad, and devastated – work relationships are important. I find myself feeling like I’ve been dumped, over-and-over again. However, it’s a job, and we’re all professionals – it’s not personal, and I know they didn’t leave me, or even because of me. But that doesn’t stop the pain or the hurt, or the feeling that I too should leave. But that feeling of wanting to leave, that’s the feeling of a quitter – and I’m not quitter, at least not yet. Most days, I’m pretty happy with the technology, my bosses, and the chores of the day. But everyday, I miss my Sharks. Farewell and following seas to my team: Greg, Thomas, Michael, Henry and Caden. Someday our paths may cross again. I’m forever grateful I got to share my journey with you, and you, me.

From Kentucky to Florida – and Back

I have some big news to share! My family includes 4 boys (3-16 years old), two grown-ups, 2 dogs and 2 cats – and in the next couple of months we’ll be moving. On July 1, 2011 my family (then including only 3 boys aged 7, 4, and 1 and a single cat and two grown-ups) moved from Kentucky to Florida. I remember that move because it was so incredible, you probably wouldn’t believe me.

Coming into the summer of 2011, my wife and I made the decision to move to Florida. I was harshly under-employed, we were still struggling from the recession of ~2008, where we lost our home to foreclosure. Things were tough, to say the least. In search of a better life, we put almost everything we owned into a storage unit and rented the smallest uhaul trailer you could rent, and packed some toys, clothes and a few other household goods and headed south. Well, we did have a plan, but it was very concerning, especially looking back. My wife had been a nurse for a number of years at this point, so she took a job as a travel nurse. Our first 3 month stop would be in Panama City, Florida. This job paid her well, and even would pay for housing for all of us. It was a chance to improve our conditions, and a chance for me to find work in the field in which I was educated. The plan was for her to work, and when we found a place we liked, I’d look for employment. Meanwhile, I home-schooled our oldest son (then in second grade) and cared for our other two boys while she worked.

I’ll never forget that first night arriving in Panama City – we literally arrived with not much more than the clothes on our back. We were counting on the agency who hired my wife to follow-through, there was no backup plan. We pulled into this small apartment complex on the east side of Panama City and got the keys to our very small, fully furnished, 2 bedroom condo. It was probably 800 square feet, if that. Later, after requesting a larger unit, they moved us to Panama City Beach into a 2 bedroom apartment that was much larger. After three months in PCB, her next position was in Hudson, Florida. Hudson was just outside of Clearwater, near Tampa. This time we decided to handle our housing ourselves, and found a house in the country, if you can believe this! I have really fond memories of this house, it was really secluded, the only other house nearby were the folks who rented this really nice double-wide trailer (it had a wrap-around porch in the middle of many large oak trees, you never would’ve guessed it was a double-wide).

The “drive-way” to our new home was at least a mile long, I think longer. While my wife was at work, I home-schooled our oldest. Daily we would take walks along this road on our “lunch break”, along with the other two boys (and our cat, who would walk with us and still does today in our neighborhood). There were cranes and other beautiful wildlife nearby. One of my lasting memories of this place was how incredibly dark it got at night – and being secluded, it was uncomfortable, but comforting at the same time. We spent our first Christmas in Florida in this house. It was a beautiful ~70 degrees that morning, and it was wonderful. My wife’s next assignment would bring us to Pensacola, Florida. We moved there in February of 2012, and once again rented a nice home outside of a little town named Gulf Breeze.

Since my wife and I thought we’d enjoy the area, I started looking for work almost immediately. In March of 2012 I was hired by a company that made Software as a Service to do some Project Management type work. We rented a home on a permanent basis (which meant another, short, move). We enrolled our oldest in school, and found a daycare for the other two. We have been here ever since, embracing the life that has been given to us. Since then, I transitioned to a role as a software tester more than a few years ago, and LOVE doing this job, I think it’s what I was meant to do all along.

In January of 2020, my wife and I returned “home” to Kentucky to visit family. When we arrived at our hometown, both of us commented that we’re so glad we moved and couldn’t imagine moving back. By the end of the week, I mentioned that I might be willing to move back, if the circumstances were right. We discussed this in depth on the car ride home. When I returned to work, I told my manager I wanted to work remote full-time so that my family and I could return to Kentucky. I wasn’t hopeful, but submitted some paperwork and updated my resume, just in case.

This spring, right before COVID-19 really struck and forced us all into quarantine, my full-time-remote status was approved. Since then, we’ve been adjusting like everyone else. But as we come to the reopening of society gradually, we’re starting to make movements towards our destination, returning our life full-circle and moving back to Kentucky. This weekend I pressure-washed the house and did some other work to get it ready to list. I fully expect to be living again in Kentucky by July, pending selling our home and buying a new one, and all the work associated with that. I’m worried, concerned, scared and looking forward to our new adventure together, again.

New Domain Name New Me?

I migrated all of my personal blog to my new domain name today! Thanks to SiteGround for making this process super easy – I stood up the site and added SSL in just a few minutes. Next step, I exported all my WordPress personal blog-posts from JasonOfFlorida.com and imported them to this new site.

With my personal blog detached from the brand, I think it will empower me to share more and without having to think about SEO or any of that business non-sense. I’m extremely happy to have finally made the leap, it’s been on my to-do list for a while. This is going to be another amazing and fun adventure!

Coaching Perspective: 2019 Summer Youth Basketball Season Review

emerald coast basketball
2019 Summer ECB. Mom and Owen (12)

Every year I learn and grow as a coach, this season was no different.  After many seasons of promising myself to write a review of the season, I finally have committed to doing it, and if you’re reading this, I did it.  I’m going to review what my goals were prior to the 2019 Summer Basketball season, what I learned this season, and a few special notes about the season.

After several years of coaching basketball for each of my son’s teams in various sports, this summer I had the pleasure of coaching my two oldest sons in basketball on the same team.  I’ve coached winter basketball at our local sports association for the last several years, and as the dad of 4 boys, we’re busy throughout spring, fall and winter sport seasons; we’ve always tried to take summer off to rest and recharge.  This spring 2019 my twelve-year-old had been playing travel-basketball for a local travel team, Emerald Coast Basketball, or ECB.  As spring passed and summer wore on, the end of travel basketball season was upon us, and I had heard there were signups available for summer basketball.

One age group would be 12-15, and it just so happened that my oldest was 15 and his brother was 12.  I knew right away I wanted to coach them; however, I had a business trip coming up, we had a family vacation planned right in the middle of the season, among other things – so I called my friend Larry to see if he would be willing to help and fill-in when I couldn’t be there.  Larry coached with me this past winter and has become a really close family friend.  As always, Larry stood right up and stood right in – off to summer basketball we would roll.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are things I like to teach and coach, many of them are about the specific sport, many of them are about life, and usually there is overlap.  I’ve coached some talented kids through the years, but my goal is to not only turn out great team players who can execute the fundamentals of the game, but also better kids on the other side of each sports season.  Here is a small list of things I like to teach the athletes on my team each season, in no particular order:

  • Always play hard.  Things are rarely as bad as they seem, and most things can be overcome

    summer basketball players
    Owen (12) and Jackson (15)

    with continued effort.

  • Be a great teammate.  Encourage those with less ability and practice than you’ve had – someday, you will be the less talented or the new-comer, and you’ll love when other’s encourage you.
  • Give your best effort all the time.  Consistency is an undervalued asset – be consistently good at what you do.
  • Listen to your coaches. Learning to follow instructions has great reward in life, and is an undervalued asset.
  • Really learn to love the game – if you can do that, you’ll always play and have fun.  Kids stop playing sports when it’s not fun anymore.
  • If you’re early, you’re on time.  Don’t be late to practice or games, your team depends on you.  If coach asks you to be there at 7, show up a 6:50.
  • Talent is God’s gift to you, hard-work is your gift to God.  Few are born with the talent of a professional athlete – talent has it’s own reward, it will earn you opportunity.  Hard work will never get your foot in the door, but it will make you stand out if you’re ever given the opportunity.  Every team in every sport has players who aren’t the greatest athletes or players in their sport – but they hustle, they make those around them better, they’re good teammates, they are great listeners, and they maximize their talent through hard work.

There’s more to this list probably, but this is a good start, and the ones that stick out to me most right now. This season I wanted two things to come from practice – our team would be conditioned and we would learn to play great defense.  Playing sports means putting in the work to gain the fitness to play, learning how to stay fit, and learning it’s your duty to be fit – it’s not a punishment, it’s the cost of doing business.  Good players don’t complain about running or workouts – they understand they’re making themselves better for the team – and the side effect is that they get better as individuals.  Learning to push through when your ready to quit, that’s a life skill these athletes learned this season.

Defensively, we installed a 2-2-1 full-court press, and we pressed much of the season, even too much.  A thing I learned this year is that we don’t have to put great pressure on full-court all the time.  After our sixth game, which happened to be a frustrating loss, I realized we could’ve won if I’d had played more half-court zone, and threw the full-court pressure on in waves.  The reminder of the season we did that well, and I’m glad to have finally learned this lesson.  Defensively, I preached about arms out, trapping, knowing where the ball, your man (in your zone) and the basket is all the time.  We coached them up on rebounding.  fundamentally, we were a solid team, and I think we could all be proud of that.

Here’s a list of things I will carry with me for the years to follow:

  • Fitness – we will be fit, and fitness can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be.  Part of playing athletics is putting in the work to make sure your body is ready.  I will make certain you get tired, that is my job.
  • Defense – the most important skill in basketball is learning to play defense as a team.  Spend lots of time on defense at practice, don’t worry about coaching offense, that will come.
  • Kids don’t have to like me.  I will win every argument and you will learn to listen and be respectful – not because I’m mean, but because each athlete needs to learn to be coachable, teachable, and they need to learn to have a boss, to follow before they lead.  It’s my duty as coach to teach each athlete to be coachable.  It’s been my experience that when I encounter an athlete who hasn’t yet learned this lesson well enough, it can take a couple seasons to really knock that door down and to change their mentality, but it changes, and it’s always the best outcome for their life.

Jackson is my oldest son, and he’s incredibly smart and funny and handsome – he’s a great kid.  Athletically, he has struggled at times – this season he gained so much confidence, and worked incredibly hard – and he had a game that was amazing as a dad to watch and be a part of.  I’m so incredibly proud of my son, after many battles, to see him win one.  This is a memory that will endure forever for me, it’s one of the best memories I have of my son, and I loved every single moment of it.  Later he confided in me that it was probably the most fun he’s had on a sports team.  That made me glow on the inside.

Thanks once again to AppRiver for sponsoring this seasons team, and to all the parents and grand-parents and others who got the boys to practice, who volunteered to keep score during the games, and who encouraged their athlete throughout the season.  I’m exceptionally proud of this summer’s team – all the athletes grew and developed, coaches learned, we had a lot of fun, and we managed to win some games.  A fun season, one that I will remember, like always, until my very last days.

 

2017 Jimbo Fisher Youth Football Camp

For the third consecutive year, my 10 year old attended the Jimbo Fisher Youth Football camp in Tallahassee, Florida.  I’m sharing our experience to document it, as well as help others as they prepare in their journeys.  Feel free to email me if you’ve any other questions: jasonofflorida@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: I’m not a Florida State fan.  Our family, like so many in Florida, is a transplant – however, my son will always know this as his home.  He has become a fan, and has told me he even hopes to go to FSU someday.  This is definitely a fan experience.

Basic Information

Dates: June 11 -13, 2017

Location: FSU Indoor/Outdoor practice facilities, as well as Doak Campbell Stadium (all adjacent and on FSU campus)

Ages: entering 3rd-8th graders (8-13)

Cost: Overnight camp is $350, Day Camper is $275.

  • We chose the overnight camp
  • Cost for overnight camper has risen from $315 in previous years

Registration Process

The camp director sends emails once you sign up giving you all the information you need.  However, here are some hacks to help you through the registration process that I’ve learned over the last couple of years.

  • arrival time – they tell you camp registration is 11a-2p, which implies you can show up anytime between 11a-2p. What they should tell you is to show up at 10am and get in line for registration.  Registration process will keep you there (on your feet) until 3pm.
  • pre-registration – if you sign-up online and bring in all the forms, you can quickly advance passed some of the people who are signing up that day.
  • Registration
    • Station 1: they verify your pre-registration
    • Station 2: they collect the required consent forms
    • Stations 3 & 4: this is for campers who haven’t pre-registered.  you can skip these stations.
    • Station 5: Get your campers t-shirt and put it on them
    • Station 6: Get a parking pass
    • IMG_6053

      IMG_6052

      Station 7: Badge pickup and Team Assignment – each camper is assigned to a 7-on-7 “Nole Ball” team aptly named after NFL football teams.  They’re also given a lanyard with their name.

    • Station 8: Height & Weight is measured and written on name badge
    • Station 9: Vertical Jump – your camper gets to see how high they can jump (I’ve never seen them measure them run the 40 yard dash or broad jump).
    • Station 10: Picture with Coach Fischer.  Jimbo is busy, he’ll show up when he’s first able – so you will be waiting in this line for a while.
    • After the picture, you need to take your camper and all his gear over to the dorm where he will be staying.  There are maps showing which dorm your camper will be staying in – I usually get back in my car and drive over.
    • Dorm – there are signs directing you where to check-in; your camper will be given another lanyard with a key to their dorm.  They must keep their lanyards around their necks at all times.

      IMG_6063

      • unpack your campers gear, stock their fridge, make their bed. Make sure they know where the bathroom is, and they remember their room number.
      • let them lock/unlock their door several times if they’re a young camper like mine is.
    • Dorm Meeting 2:30 or 3:00pm: a coach will briefly go over the rules of the dorm, then say goodbye – your camper will depart the dorm and return to the practice facilities to begin camp.

Additional Expenses

  • parking pass – you can purchase these so you can park on campus (ticket free). they’re an additional $8.
  • pizza – you can purchase tickets for overnight campers to order pizza to their rooms, the cost is $20 for 2 pizzas.
  • spending money – I never leave spending money for my camper.  If you wanted to, they could *use* it on the vending machines in the dorm
  • they have mini fridges in the dorm. Buy your camper a few drinks and snacks they would like and put them in the fridge.

Watching Camp

If you plan on hanging out and watching your camper for a portion or all of the camp, here are some tips:

  • bring a foldable lawn chair and save your feet
  • be prepared to walk a lot between the indoor and outdoor practice facilities, as well as the stadium.
  • find your camper when they first arrive in the facility and stick with them – all these kids look alike y’all, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them spread all across the facility.

Who will coach your kids?

  • every kid is divided into groups based upon their position.  They will stay with their age-specific position coach the entire camp.  I think most of these coaches are Grad Assistants or other assistant coaches.
  • every kid is on a ‘Nole Ball (7 on 7) team.  The same coaches will see them everyday.  I think many of these coaches are FSU Players or GAs.
  • There are high school coaches helping out Jimbo’s staff – these are really great coaches to have around
  • The Head Coach and his higher level assistants float around the camp.  Jimbo can be seen driving his golf cart – he’s very approachable (and I’d say even likes to speak with fans, and he obviously likes talking to the athletes.  Each of these big dogs will talk and give advice to many kids (and they know who they are and they’ll listen).

Daily Camp Schedule:

  • 8:00 am Wake Up
  • 8:15 am Breakfast – Fresh Foods (cafeteria)
  • 9:00 am Depart Fresh Foods
  • 9:20 am Position Meetings- Take Roll
  • 9:30 am Flex (stretch)
  • 9:40 am Session Drills
  • 4th Quarter Drills (20) (Off Drills/Def Form Run)
  • Break (5-10)
  • Individual Positions (35)
  • Break (5-10)
  • Routes on Air/ Defensive Coverages/Technique (10)
  • 1 on 1’s/Sub-Groups (15)
  • Group (7 on 7) (15)
  • Break (5)
  • 11:45 am Nole Ball Games
  • 1:00 pm LUNCH
  • 1:00 pm FSU Staff Meeting
  • 1:50 pm Depart Fresh Foods
  • 2:10 pm Position Meetings-Roll
  • 2:15 pm Make Up Pictures
  • 2:20 pm Flex
  • 2:30 pm Session #3
  • 4th Quarter Drills (20) (Off Form Run/Def Drills)
  • BREAK (5)
  • Individual Positions (30)
  • BREAK (5)
  • 1 on 1’s/Sub-Groups (15)
  • Group (7 on 7) (15)
  • BREAK (5)
  • 4:05 pm 2 Nole Ball Games
  • 5:30 pm Dinner – Fresh Foods
  • 6:00 pm FSU Staff Meeting
  • 6:40 pm Gather and Walk Over from the Dorm
  • 7:00 pm ‘NOLE BALL Games
  • 8:30 pm Highlight Video – IPF
  • 10:30 pm Lights Out

Other Things to do while you’re there

Eat at Momo’s Pizza – GIANT slices of pizza and so good

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See the National Championship Trophies in Moore Athletic Center

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2017 Camp in (other) Pictures

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Little brother tagged along on drop off and pickup days.  He’ll be going next year when he’s 8!

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Football Camp Growth Chart (2015-2017)

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Letting My Child Swim, or Sink – a tale of football, failure, and (hopefully) perserverance

A few months ago my oldest son, Jackson, told my wife and I that he wanted to play football.  Jackson (11), is the oldest of our boys – his 8 year old brother loves football and has played it into his 4th season now, and Seth (5) is trying it on for size in his first season.  Jackson is a good athlete, but hasn’t learned what it takes to win, and worse, is really bad at losing and often has a negative attitude about all things new.  For that and other reasons, his mom and I discussed the commitment of the season, the collisions involved, the work of practices (which are more frequent and intense than soccer and basketball) – frankly, I tried to talk him out of it.  Personally, I was excited he wanted to try something new and because I knew if he didn’t try football soon, he would miss the window of learning the fundamentals and the life lessons it teaches.  “Maybe he’ll take to it and really find something he enjoys!” I thought.  However, his mom and I braced ourselves for the worse and seeminly inevitable “I hate football and want to quit” and the crying when he got tackled, and worse, the other kids (and parents) ridiculing him (and us) over his behavior.  I talked to the man who would be his coach and explained our situation; he was a seasoned coach who understood the predicament, and I was comfortable that he could handle him well.  We signed him up and begin mentally preparing ourselves and Jackson for the challenges to come.

In an effort to help him gain some conditioning, he and I (and his brothers) went on a run-streak starting in early June.  Our deal was that we walked/ran 1 mile every day for 30 days, and at the end of thirty days I would give them $30 each.  The caveat was that they must complete the full 30 days, so they couldn’t quit at some point and collect a portion of their earnings – it was $30 or bust.  Jackson was the only one of his brothers who completed the streak with me, and by the end of the month he was running the whole mile!  Now I know that running a mile a day wouldn’t prepare him for stardom, but I wanted to do something that would give him a fighting chance.  While there were days it was a battle (and many when I felt like he was giving less than his best effort), I was proud of him for sticking with it and completing the streak.

Jackson looked forward to his first practices.  The first week or two is mostly conditioning and getting used to equipment.  He always told us he was looking forward to practice, and never gave us a hard time about going.  This was a small victory in and of itself.  His effort at practice was, in my estimation, lacking.  I was not a great athlete, heck, I wasn’t even a good athlete – so I wasn’t expecting the apple to fall far from the tree, but I do expect my boys to give their best effort, and I just wasn’t seeing it.  However, he was showing up, following direction, and participating as well as most of the other boys.

Every football coach knows there are some kids where football just isn’t for them.  This usually materializes fairly quickly in the second or third week of practices when contact begins.  There is the kid that cries endlessly. There is the kid who does everything he can to avoid contact.  When Jackson’s team started contact, about half the players were new to football, so the coaches did a good job of easing them in.  I was reassured.

Jackson is one of the smaller boys on his team; I was expecting him to cower from the contact, but what surprised me that he wasn’t giving even close to his all at sprints, running, and other fitness drills; he was half-assing it.  He didn’t do awful in tackling drills, but I heard his whimpers when I did see his practices (I was coaching his brother for the first hour of his practices), and mom informed me on more than one occasion that he was not having a good practice.  At the end of practice they ran sprints up and down the sideline and around the goal, then stop, then sprint again.  Jackson was always one of the last, usually staying with guys who had 90’s on their jerseys (these are often the husky kids).

I’ve worked hard on not criticizing his performance (though I have a long ways to go), and I’ve stopped punishing him over his pitfalls in sports – I’ve stuck with the mantra that this (sport) is for him and not me.  He should be having fun – I don’t want him to hate the game/sport (and in my mind losing things you really enjoy to do things you may not enjoy is not a recipe for positive reinforcement).  I want him to love sports, to have fun, to gain fitness, to learn life lessons, to meet new people and make new friends.

His mom and I watch from the sidelines as he’s jogging while all the other kids are sprinting, and he’s back-peddling as the opposing linemen is pushing him back – I’m disappointed in his effort.  But again, I have to remind myself that I won’t punish him for sports.  Instead, I would talk to him about his effort, only to hear him tell me he’s trying his hardest, and that he cried because that tackle hurt, and so on.

After a few weeks of practice, his team had a scrimmage.  The coach finally put him in for the last minute where he saw 2 snaps.  He had no idea what to do, or was most likely scared to do what he knew he was supposed to do.  He embarrassed himself, and was lucky not to get hurt.  The next week he gave the same effort, and one night I watched a practice where I reached my limit with watching his effort.  I consider myself a hard-working man and a good dad; I was embarrassed of his level of ‘effort’ (and tired and frustrated with other things in my life), and so I berated him after practice.  I was angry, upset, and hurt that he just wasn’t trying hard enough.  Now, I could go into detail here, but I don’t need to – he was giving the least amount of effort possible – he was just showing up.  I said a lot of things on that ride home I’m ashamed of, I hurt him with my words; his brother, a passenger, was upset at me, his mom – who was waiting at home – was hurt and angry at me.  I was angry at me, I was hurt that I hurt him.  I was a frustrated dad who was running out of answers – how do I motivate this child?

I fear raising a child who will be unemployable, one who will rely on the kindness of others just to get by.  I fear my child not becoming a positive, contributing member of society.  I’d rather be hard on him and he hates my guts when he’s grown then to give him a pass and let him be a quitter who doesn’t give the effort required in this life.  I love him and want what is best for him, I am not afraid to be the bad guy when I’m backed into a corner – but on this night, I went too far.

In the second and last preseason game.  Jackson did not play, not a minute.  He stood there on the sideline in his pristine uniform.  He did pay attention the whole game, and even cheered when his team scored.  This was an improvement; his previous game he just kicked the grass and walked around not even showing the slightest interest in the game going on.  His mom, brothers and I sat and cheered on his team.  The dad in me wanted to shout “get my boy in (I’m not here to watch these other kids)!” – the coach and father in me knew the truth; putting him in would be dangerous for him and the other boys on the field; He still doesn’t know his assignment, he would run in and potentially be unaware or out of position and get hurt or get someone else hurt.  This had happened in practice when he was being blocked and was back peddling when a receiver who was running his route, crashed into him violently.  More than anything, rewarding his behavior would show him he could half-ass practices and still see the field on game day.

I started encouraging my boys to keep goal journals (okay, I make them fill them out once a week).  They write one school goal and one football goal.  I want to show them to work towards tiny goals to get a lot better over time.  I asked Jackson if he wants to go through the practices (which typically aren’t super fun), and then stand there on the sidelines on game day – he answers with a resounding no.  Jackson wants to play.  He still looks forward to practices, and really looks forward to games (though he’s played a total of 2 snaps in 2 preseason games) Hell, his mom and I want to watch him play in games.  But I can’t fault his coach, and I can’t fault his parents – as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, and we’ve done that.  He is 11, and the effort is up to him, he will sink or swim when it comes to football, and for that matter, other things in his life.  Only he can choose to do the work to become successful, or live the life of someone who won’t.

The last 2 Sundays, we’ve lined up his 8 year old brother against him and go through some additional tackling practice to help him get accustomed to the contact and have faith in the tackling skills he’s learned.  I encourage him, and talk to him about working hard, about giving the effort for his teammates, coaches, and family.  I remain hopeful and faithful to the fact that being consistent and letting him earn his way will make him a better man someday – even if that means mom and I have to root for his teammates while he stands on the sidelines.

In youth sports, children often get participation trophies.  In life, there are few rewards for people who show up and participate – and I desperately want him to learn that lesson.  It is hard to watch, and the dad in me is shouting for him to see some playing time – but life comes first – he has to work harder to be rewarded.

My Review of the University of Southern Mississippi Youth Football Camp

My eight year old participated in the 2015 University of Southern Mississippi Youth Football Camp. Below is a summary of the good and bad experiences that he (as a participant), and me (as a dad) took away from the experience.

Disclaimers:

  • I’m neutral about Southern Miss, neither a devotee nor detractor. I’m not star-struck by the name on the jerseys or the coaching staff. While I respect the coaches for what they do, it’s not a fan experience for me. Instead, I wanted my boy to have a good experience that ingrains a further love for football, fitness, and that will give him a favorable memory of his childhood. Further, I was hoping he’d learn something that would make him a better football player.
  • This is our first year on the camp scene – I don’t have much to compare our experiences against.  My only other comparison was the Florida State University youth football camp, which I wrote about here.

Why we chose USM Football Camp: After my son’s camp at Florida State, we were anxious to try another camp out. This camp fit the criteria of 1)within driving distance to our home 2)affordable 3)reputable and 4)It fit our schedule.  Since his mom and I both work full time, and we have a family vacation planned in the near future, we needed to find a camp that wouldn’t require us to miss work.

About USM Camp:

  • Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi (USM football athletic facilities)
  • Ages:  3rd – 8th graders
  • Dates: Monday June 15th 9a – 5p
  • Cost: $50
  • Camp Details:
    • 8a-9a: Registration
    • 9:30a-9:45a: Group picture
    • 9:45a-1p: Football Drills
    • 1p-2p: lunch (catered by Jimmy Johns)
    • 2p-5p: Football Drills
    • 5p-530: Awards & camper dismissal
  • What each camper had to bring
    • workout gear and football cleats
  • What they didn’t tell us to bring: they covered all the bases

Things that made this experience great

  • I was easily able to register my camper; contact information was readily available (more on this below under “things that would make the experience better”)
  • Facilities were impressive at this mid-major program.  The boys got to spend the first couple of hours in the stadium
  • The coaches were very approachable and nice to the campers
  • Parents could view the entirety of the camp, or had the option to leave their camper to the care of the staff.  I dropped my camper off then came back late in the afternoon to view the last couple hours.
  • Instruction from USM coaching staff
  • The boys were told they could ask for a water/bathroom/other break anytime they wanted.  They were not expected to “tough it out”.
  • Everyone got a group photo of all the kids and the coaching staff
  • There were only 15-20 kids per age group.  This was a manageable group for the kids to break into and still be involved and coachable.  More than that, the coaches moved quickly and had multiple kids involved in each drill. Several coaching stations were set up and the kids were rotated every 20 minutes or so to keep things moving along and fresh.

Things that would make the experience better

  • The presentation of the website was good, as you might expect from a mid-major university.  However, there was not a detailed camp schedule.  This concerned my little camper, as this was only his second football summer camp, and it would’ve been helpful for him to know what to expect.  I told him what I knew: we’ll register, he’ll do drills and then eat lunch then do more drills.  We drove 3 hours to get to the camp (we stayed Sunday night in a hotel then drove home Monday evening).  I did some work from the hotel, so It would’ve been nice if I would’ve known the schedule so I would’ve known when events were occurring that may interest me.
  • When I did have a question, I emailed the contact and did not receive a response.  I registered my camper on Friday morning and the camp began the following Monday – perhaps my lateness was a reason.  However, it could’ve been a good reason for me not to register.
  • Learning from our previous experience at FSU, we showed up at 8am for registration – this was a mistake.  We simply had to wait for an hour until all the other campers showed up.  We were “entertained” with football videos from you tube that weren’t even specific to the university.  At a minimum, perhaps they could’ve played highlights from USM season/s.
  • Pictures- while the group picture was great, it would’ve been a nice personal touch if the coach/es would’ve taken an individual picture with each kid – perhaps as we waiting watching YouTube videos for an hour.  Or they could’ve taken the kids measurements (what parent doesn’t want memorabilia to save on the height, weight, wing-span, vertical jump, et cetera).
  • Camper Safety – When we picked him up, we simply met him and left after checkout – nobody checked to see who he left with. Perhaps I’m a bit hypersensitive or I’ve watched too much Dateline, but what’s to keep someone with bad intentions showing up and leaving with a child?
  • The awards ceremony was a bit unorganized and the kids were impatient and a little rowdy, especially at the end

Here is some feedback from my boy:

  • The coaches didn’t curse – my 8 year old was taken back by the language of a couple coaches of the FSU camp.
  • They had to stop the camp at 4:30 due to lightning.  My boy was happy they got everyone in and away from the lightning.
  • “I liked the USM football camp becuse the coaches were nice.  In 2016 i would like to go there again!”
  • “I realy like that football camp!” “thank you!”

Thanks for reading.  We really enjoyed this one day camp and look forward to attending again in 2016!