Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Last night I started feeling like I was having a sinus attack. Running nose, sore throat, etc. This morning I woke up with a cold. Normally this wouldn't be that big a deal. I work in a cubical and can go all day without any close personal contact with my co-workers. However today and tomorrow we are hosting a large review with dozens of out-of-town attendees. I decided to be selfish and stay home today. I don't want to share what I have with all those travelers so they can take it home with them.

This is not a good week to be sick. Today is Halloween, my family's second favorite holiday. Tomorrow is my daugher's last volleyball game. It is also my last practice for my volleyball team. We have a scrimmage against Lone Pine on Thursday and our final tournament on Saturday. I don't want to miss any of those events.

So I'm staying home today. Gee, a whole day at home by myself I could catch up on my blogging, my paperwork, my movie watching or my reading. But I fell like crap, so I'm going back to bed.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rio Bravo Greeley Volleyball Tournament

This last Saturday a dozen of my volleyball players, my daughter and myself, an assistant coach and 12 or more parents met in the school parking lot at 5:30 AM and headed for Bakersfield to play a little volleyball.

The tournament started at 8:00 AM and we were scheduled to play in the 4th match of each of the two divisions we had teams signed up for. I was guessing that our first game would be around 8:45. We arrived at the school around 8:10 and discovered that the brackets had changed and our first games were actually happening around 8:30. But it was not a big deal we still had plenty of time to get our girls together, warmed up and ready to play. Or so we thought.

My older girls warmed up well and seemed ready to go, right up to the point where the whistle blew and the game started. I can’t really say what happened to my older team. They played 4 games in the pool play portion of the tournament. They finished their day with a 1-3 record and were eliminated from the afternoon bracket play.

It was a frustrating day for both my players and I. Individually they were playing well enough. But they just didn’t seem to get it together on the court. They missed some serves, and were struggling with their serve receives. But not more so than other games they have played. The first game was just ugly. We lost the game 12-21, but it wasn’t even that close. The second game we had a 20 - 16 lead in a game to 21 and lost 20-21. This has happened to us before when facing a really good server. But that wasn’t the case this time. Of the five consecutive points we gave up only one of them was a service ace. The other four were mishandled serves, sets or poor judgment plays. Poor judgment plays are things like the setter hitting the second hit over the net in a soft easy manner right into a hitter who slams it back over the net, or a hitter who gets a perfect set with no blocker and instead of swinging away tries a dink or off speed hit and fails to gets the ball over the net.

In our third game we had a 19-14 lead and eventually won that game 21-20 when my newest player pulled off her first ever blocked spike with the game tied at 20-20. In a day that was filled with judgment errors and mistimed plays this girl who has only been playing volleyball for 2 months found herself face to face across the net with an opponent five inches taller than her. Our opponent’s setter put up a beautiful set which her hitter slams across the net only to have the ball bounce off my blockers hands and roll straight down the net to land at our opponent’s feet. There was a long quiet pause and I stood half on the court and half off waiting for a signal from the referee. After what seemed like hours she signaled the point for us and the game win. It was by far the highlight moment of the day for my older girls.

The last game of pool play for my older girls was against a team who had lost to all three teams that we had already played. They were not very good, and seemed to be playing confused. Unfortunately we managed to play down to their level and we lost the game 16-21. This loss put us into a tie with them for last place in the pool. Unfortunately only four teams got to advance to the brackets.

I nervously loitered around the hallway where the brackets were posted waiting to see what tie breaker method they were going to employ. We had a 50 – 50 shot. If they used head to head results we were out. But if they used total points scored, we were in since we had outscored the team we were tied with 69 – 48 in four games. I wasn’t sure because they had broken one tie in another division with the head to head results. Then they broke a tie in the beginner division using total points scored. When the results were finally posted we were eliminated based on total points scored against us. The team we were tied with had allowed their opponents to score 79 points against them and we had allowed 81 points to be scored against us.

I really don’t understand this thinking. Our opponents four games ended 9-21, 9-21, 9-21 and 21-16. Our four games ended 12-21, 20-21, 21-20 and 16-21 but this method of tie breaker decided that their three losses by 12 points each (36 total) made them a better team than us with our three losses by a total of 15 points. But that is the way they did it there, so my older girls spent the afternoon watching our younger girls play.

My younger girls were a real delight and a surprise on Saturday. I took them to this tournament hoping that they might be able to pull out a surprise win or two. They surpassed my expectations to a degree I never expected. I missed all three of their pool play games because I was coaching the older girls. But after each match I would walk out into the hallway and be greeted by 6 very excited jumping and screaming athletes who had just won their game.

So my younger girls went into bracket play seeded first with an undefeated record. The tournament director split this division into two brackets with the top four teams playing in one bracket and bottom four teams playing in the other. This meant that our first match was a semifinal match. The team we were playing was pumped up and excited. Maybe they were overly excited, because we cruised to a pretty easy victory. Then in the second game my girls let down a bit and they smacked us right back. Our deciding third game was a close one. We ran out to a quick lead and then our opponents came roaring back.

It was this game that one of my setters discovered the joy of over-sets. I have practiced my girls at learning to watch for over-sets and to spike them back at their opponents. But they have not really responded to this. This is a skill that takes a lot of practice and experience to be successful at. Suddenly in this game my setter discovered why we call over-sets – Christmas presents. She jumped all over several of our opponent’s over-sets and I think I have created a monster. Now I have to teach her that you can’t attack everything. There is a point where the ball comes far enough over the net that she needs to set it instead of swinging at it. But that is for this week. I that third game we rode her spiking over-sets all the way to a 21-18 win and the finals in our tournament bracket.

Waiting for the finals bracket is where this tournament turned weird. We had almost two hours to wait so several of my parents took the girls out to the playground so they could eat lunch, goof off and wait for our court time without getting nervous.

During this time I was watching several of the other games. While standing around in the hallway between matches I was chit chatting with a couple other coaches in our division that were really pissed off. Their major gripe was the delay in playing. While I didn’t like the long lay over, it’s a tournament. Sometimes this stuff happens. But the delays got under these guys skin and now they were upset about other things. I was only half listening to their other complaints because they were all singling out the local teams and their coaches. I figured it was just sour grapes because they had lost to these teams. But they had all also lost to my team so I figured that they would be saying the same things about me to the local coaches.

But their major complaint was the gamesmanship that was being playing by the local coaches in collusion with the local referees. So I smiled and nodded and tried to stay noncommittal. I try to teach my girls to stay away from complaining about your opponents or the referees. Sometimes you just get outplayed and that doesn’t mean that they cheated to beat you, they just beat you.

Eventually our finals match rolled around against one of the local teams I had been warned about. I have to say our teams matched up pretty close in ability. They had a player that was probably better than any of my players. But I also think they had the 2 or 3 weakest players so it all balanced out. The games were pretty balanced also. Except for the gamesmanship…

The first game was pretty close, we got a lead, lost it, regained it, they started losing it again then suddenly my strongest server was at the line, she served 2 service aces and the other coach (without using her 1 time out) walked out onto the court and started shooing players who were standing around watching our game away from the court. She felt that they were crowding her server at the back line (We were serving!). The referee stood there and waited until she was done icing my server without calling a timeout then once the coach returned to the sidelines the referee restarted the game. We missed the next serve, but won the game anyway.

Second game we started out slow, and once we started getting back into the game, on the back of a service run, there was another “ice the server” timeout when the coach had to have the referee on the court next to us remove her water bottle so no one would step on it. This water bottle had been sitting on the base of the standard between the courts for an entire day, she never complained about it in the previous 7 games they had played on this court. But now that I had a service streak going and she had already used her time out she needed the referee to ice my server for her, and the referee obliged. We lost the second game, not because of our opponent’s coach’s gamesmanship. We lost because we didn’t play well enough.

So we move on to the third and final game of the day for these two games. I started my best server and she rattled off 3 straight service aces and sure enough, the opposing coach needed to stop the game to have four players from the game on the court next to us move away from our court. There had been players standing where they were all day and no one had complained. Suddenly now, that I have a hot server at the line, it’s a problem.

Well she got away with it again. This time I asked the referee “Did she call a time out to do that?” When she just stood there and stared at me without answering I responded with a sneer and a “Nice Sportsmanship!” The look on the referees face told me that she knew she and the other coach had been busted.

My team slowed down and bit and our opponents got back into the game, then with the score tied at 14s one of my players served a ball into the net to give our opponents a 15-14 lead and at that point the referee signaled the point and called the game over.

I went ballistic. The instructions in the hallway said that bracket games would be 2/3 to 21. In the only other 3 game match played that day (our semifinal match) we played all three games to 21. So with our opponents jumping around and screaming, my players standing around looking shocked that they had lost, two other teams running onto the court to start their match I tried protesting that they game was supposed to go to 21. The other coach immediately started shouting me down that we had lost and to get off the court. The referee simply said third game is to 15 and walked away.

I turned around and came face to face with the coach of the team that was to follow us onto the court and he asked “what’s up?” I said “They stopped the game at 15.” He immediately turned around and ordered all his girls off the court and looked over his shoulder at me and said “2 of 3 to 21 is the rule posted outside.” So armed with his tacit backing I approached the tournament director who was walking onto the court with the trophies for our teams. The opposing coach jumps in and says that I’m trying to extent the match against the rules. I presented my case in a loud voice in order to be heard. The tournament director tells me that all third games are played to 15.

I told her that was a change in written rules and precedent established by our semifinal match. To her credit she shushed the opposing coach, and went to check with the score keeper. When she discovered that we had played the only 3rd game in the division to a final of 21-18 she ordered both teams back onto the court to finish our game to 21.

My girls were confused, upset, and really not ready to play at that point, so after two ace serves by our opponents, the first of which was signaled by the referee and served while there were still 4 or 5 bystanders milling about on our side of the court I called a time out. The opposing coach immediately started demanding that the referee penalize us a point because I had already used my time out this game and therefore had just called an illegal timeout. This was not new to me. She had done the exact same thing when I called my timeouts in the first two games also. But the scorekeeper confirmed that I had indeed not called a timeout earlier so I was legal, just like she did in the first two games.

In the end we lost the game, and finished in second place. But it was a great day none the less. One classless coach was not going to ruin a great tournament and a fantastic second place finish for my girls.

I plan on taking my girls back to this tournament again next year. The director has always been fair and accommodating to us. I’m not going to blame her for the behavior of the host school coaches and referees. However next year I won’t be near as understanding and will file formal complaints with the tournament director as soon as this stuff starts happening. I’ll also probably not be a quick to ignore other coaches complaints as I was this year.

Unfortunately 2 of the 3 coaches who had been complaining to me probably won’t be as understanding. Their final comment to me as they left was, “There are lots of other tournaments around here to play in. We don’t need to be putting up with this crap at this one.”

Friday, October 20, 2006

End of the Regular Season

Yesterday was the end of the regular season for my three volleyball teams. We aren’t done playing yet. We still have two scrimmages and two tournaments left to play.

The schedule for my teams was rather unbalanced. My sixth grade team only had 5 games on their schedule, my seventh grade team had eight and my eighth grade team was to play seven matches.

I would have liked for a more balanced schedule, a few more games for the each team, especially the 6th graders. But, since the public schools in town don’t even let their sixth grade students play volleyball I look at my sixth grade team as a training squad. The matches they play are good experience for next year. Mostly I want them at practice learning the skills they will need for next year.

The matches they play are against the other seventh grade teams in town. I don’t expect much from them except that they work hard and improve over the course of the season. Well this group of 6 girls really surprised me this season. They went 2-3 in their five matches. They almost won their last one which would have given them a winning record. But they started to panic a bit in the third game when it got close and missed several key plays as a result. The ability to deal with kind of pressure comes with experience, which is why I try and play my sixth grade students, to get them some valuable experience.

Each year I have a couple sixth grade players who really catch on quick so I try and push them a little harder. This year I had two players who were ready for a tougher challenge. So I had them playing with my seventh grade team on occasion. Twice I even had them fill in for missing players on my 8th grade team.

I’m pretty proud of how my 6th grade team played this year. The started out with 7 players and lost one just before we actually started playing games. We had one girl who decided during the first couple weeks of practice that volleyball just wasn’t her game and she didn’t want to play any longer. I tried to talk her out of quitting but she was adamant about it. So we played the season with only six players. The only other school in town playing their sixth grade athletes is Emmanuel Christian. Their coach and I set up a scrimmage for our players early in the season to get our girls some game experience before their first game. My sixth grade team handled them pretty easily then. But several weeks of practice made a world of difference for them. The last match for my sixth grade girls was against Emmanuel again. They were a much different team this time. Their coach and I have been talking about improving our programs year to year and she is really starting to make a difference over there. Our teams split the first two games and had to play a decisive third. Emmanuel got out to a small lead early and that is when my girls started panicking. Eventually Emmanuel prevailed in a close match to end my sixth grade team’s regular season with a 2-3 record.

My seventh grade team pretty much ruled their division this year. They played 8 matches as a team and won all of them with a 2-0 game record. Like the sixth grade my seventh grade players started out with 7 players on their team. But one of them quit after just two days of practice. According to her mother I was pushing the girls too hard and making them work too hard, which is funny because I hadn’t really started pushing them yet. Even more ironic is that her mother has a small business called Strong Woman Enterprises. It’s a shame she doesn’t expect the same strength in her daughter that she professes in her business.

All of my seventh grade players got to play in a lot more than their eight matches. I only had four eighth grade players so I had to fill in with seventh and sixth grade players.

I put a lot of attention into my eighth grade team. These are the four girls who I have to get ready to try out for the freshman team in high school next fall. My eighth grade team had seven matches on their schedule. Each of my six seventh grader players and two sixth grade players played in at least one of the eighth grade matches. I kept trying different combinations of players trying to find an optimum lineup. I have a couple that worked pretty well but never came up with a definitive group of six girls that really meshed together. I would find one group that would play great one game and then barely squeak by the next.

In the end they played well enough. My eighth grade won all their matches to finish the regular season with a 7-0 record. It was close at the end though. On Tuesday I sent my two sixth grade players over to play with the eighth grade because I wanted to keep all six of the seventh grade players together for practice. We started running a 6-2 offense last week and they were still a little unsure of the setter rotations.

My eighth grade team and the two sixth graders ran into a much improved team from Trona. After losing the first game we came back strong to win the second. We got out to a fast start in the third game and then fell apart. Trona was making a comeback and came close to evening the game when time ran out and the referees called the game.

Yesterday was out last regular season game. My eighth grade team had to play against the only other undefeated eighth grade team from Monroe Middle School. Behind some great serving from my two setters we cruised to an easy first game victory. The second game was a lot different. We struggled at the beginning and ended up giving up several serves in a row. Eventually we started getting our act together. But by then we had let them have an 11-3 lead. My girls were getting a little panicked. I called a time out and tried to convince them to stay with their offense and keep concentrating on pass-set-spike and not worry about the score. Amazingly enough they actually listened and did that. It was slow and extremely nerve racking but slowly we managed to match each point they won with 2 or 3 of our own. Eventually we prevailed 25-22 to preserve a 7-0 match record.

Now we have a couple weeks to really get ready. We have a tournament in Bakersfield next week that will have some much better teams than any we have faced so far this year. Then the following Saturday we have our local tournament in Trona. I think we can handle the local teams, but Lone Pine will be sending a team or two to this tournament. We scrimmaged against them two weeks ago and lost both of those games. We were in them, but just couldn’t prevail. I think it was a good wake up call for my players. It showed them that the local middle school volleyball here in Ridgecrest has a way to go to compete with teams from the neighboring towns. We are working on improving our program but we still have a way to go. The differences in this year’s teams and last years are remarkable. They have come a long way. We’re not there yet and I have two weeks to try and get them closer before the season ends.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Continued Woosification of America

The bleeding hearts of America who have dedicated their lives to turning us into a nation of woosies are at it again. This time they are attacking in my old home town of Cheyenne Wyoming.

Over the past few years I have seen several news articles and blog entries about how elementary school staff have been prohibiting potentially violent playground games. The favorite target of the past has been the game dodgeball. Now having pretty much eliminated dodgeball from the elementary school system the woosifiers have decided to target the game - tag.

That’s right – tag. You know, lots of kids and one kid is “it.” The child who is “it” chases the other kids until they touch one, then the touched kid becomes “it.”

Does this sound like a violent game to you?

The student handbook for Freedom Elementary School in Cheyenne WY has this list of playground don’ts:

Students will NOT:

  • Engage in fighting or activities that show physical aggression such as pushing, hitting, or kicking.
  • Tease, bully, or call other students inappropriate names.
  • Play any type of tag. This leads to aggression and torn clothing.
  • Use improper or inappropriate language. Such language will not be tolerated.
  • Eat candy or food, drink beverages, or chew gum on the playground.
  • Throw any objects (ice, snow, rocks, bark, sticks, dirt, etc.) that could hurt others.
  • Use rough play, push or “play fight” on the playground.
  • Pull or play “keep-away” with other people’s property (coats, hats, backpacks, etc.)
  • Bring toys from home to play with.

Emphasis is theirs, not mine.

Not allowing kids to play tag is so important to the administrators at Freedom Elementary that it is only one of two lines on this page of the handbook that is in bold type. The other is:
“• Keep hands and feet to self.”

So I’m left no alternative to thinking that the staff at Freedom Elementary consider Tag to be one of the greatest playground threat to their students.

On a different note, if this set of rules had existed when I was in elementary school, recess would have consisted of a couple hundred kids standing around wondering “What the crap are we supposed to do now?”

Recess activities in the 1960s consisted almost exclusively of:fighting, physical aggression, pushing, hitting, or kicking, teasing, bullying, calling other students names, tag, throwing anything we could get our hands on (ice, snow, rocks, bark, sticks, dirt, etc.), rough play, pushing, “play fighting” and keep-away with other people’s property (coats, hats, marbles, books, etc.)

I hate to admit that I was usually on the receiving end of most of this kind of treatment. I didn’t enjoy recess all that much because of that. But I did look forward to getting out of that classroom for a break anyway. I learned to deal with the playground. It was part of growing up. Kids have to learn how to deal with all sorts of situations and protecting them from even the possibility of a push, bump or bruise is not doing them any favors.

So what is next for the Future Woosies of America at Freedom Elementary? No running, no playing, no jumping, no recess. When the teachers need a break from the students will they will make the students lie down and not move for 20 minutes. Maybe they should take away their pencils also, you wouldn’t want someone to accidentally poke them selves with a sharp object now would you? I still have the pencil lead in my right hand from where I got stabbed with my own pencil when in 6th grade.

Cheyenne is the last place that I would have expected this type of behavior to show up. Maybe the staff at Freedom Elementary should all go get jobs in Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, or even California. They might fit in better there.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

IG Quality of Life Survey

A while back I promised that if I managed to finish anything I wrote I would post it. At work on Friday I was asked to fill out a Quality of Life Survey. One of the last items on this generic survey was the question "If you could change one thing to improve this aspect of your quality of work life, what would it be?"

Here was my answer to that question.

Close the ever widening chasm of mistrust, misunderstanding and lack of communication that has formed between center management and the engineers, scientists and support personnel who actually do the work around here.

In VADM Massenburg's Quaterly Update of Oct 3, 2006 he presented us eleven short paragraphs about the status of NAVAIR. In only one paragraph did he briefly mention the work that most of us do. Paragraph four he cited several technical successes as a justification for continued support for the AIRspeed program.

Most of us worker level employees couldn't care less about AIRspeed. We are too busy trying to get our jobs done with less money, less materials, less support, less planning, and less attention by management (OK, so that last one is a good thing), less of everything, except for process improvements. There is plenty of that piling up around here. The engineering work is why we are here. Unfortunately management has forgotten about the work we do. They only concern themselves with how we do it. The "process" has become their product.

There are still a lot of hardworking dedicated people on this base who are still busting our behinds to provide the best weapons development, testing and integration for the United States Navy. Unfortunately none of them are in management.
Our managers spend all their time talking about

  • "streamline development"
  • "change how we work"
  • "Lean"
  • "Six Sigma"
  • "Theory of Constraints"
  • "why we do the things we do and then changing it"
  • "merging the continuous process improvement activities"
  • "business plans, artisans, leaders and funding lines will transition"
  • "Enterprise Resource Planning" and my personal favorite
  • "focusing on execution and accountability, and enhancing our productivity"

Funny, all this time I thought my focus was supposed to be on the product I deliver to the fleet.

You want to improve our quality of work life? Give me a management chain that understands that innovation cannot be mandated, genius cannot be regulated and brilliant science and engineering development cannot be squeezed out of a business model. Sometimes a manager needs to know when to shut the hell up, get out of the way and let the smart people try something just a little unorthodox. Then if it doesn't work according to plan, tell them to take another educated guess and give it another shot.

VADM Massenburg summed up everything that is wrong with our quality of work life today is one sentence; "One Master Black Belt said that in her 30 years of government service AIRSpeed is the first thing she’s seen that really works."
Really? Maybe someone should tell that Master Black Belt and the VADM Massenburg about a few other things around here that really worked: Sidewinder Missile, Shrike Missile, Walleye Missile, Phoenix Missile, STANDARD Missile, Maverick Missile, Harpoon Missile, Tomahawk Cruise Missile, The F14, F16, F18, A6, A7, HARM, RAPEC, VSS, SNORT, and I could go on for literally pages and pages but you should be getting the point by now. (if you don’t believe me check out this short China Lake History)

It is hard to come to work everyday knowing that the entire management structure that we work for has forsaken the goals we all started out with. To assure that the United States Navy is equipped with the best weapons, support equipment, and aircraft available in the world. Management’s "process" is not our product, and until they start recognizing the work their people do, and the level of effort we are putting in to get it done in spite of their new process oriented mindset this is not a healthy, happy or fun place to work.

I realize that my comments on this survey will have about the same effect of standing outside in the wind and yelling at it to stop blowing. But they asked.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

Great, not only am I a nerd, but I'm a loser nerd.

I am 92% loser. What about you? Click here to find out!

Well at least my dear wife still loves me and my kids still tolerate me.