Sunday, September 30, 2007

El Tejon VB Tournament

Last year I took my 8th grade team to the El Tejon Volleyball Tournament that is held at ElTejon High School in Lebec, CA. We had fun, finished in fourth place and decided to give that tournament a shot again this year.

The tournament started at nine in the morning and the director was kind enough to schedule out first pool play game for around 10:30 so we didn't need to leave so early in the morning. (Its about a 2 hr and 15 minute drive for us)

We ended up in a pretty tough pool. When the pool play was over we were in third place out of five teams. The top four got to play in the brackets that afternoon.

We started the day playing the eventual 4th place finishers in our pool. We jumped out to an early lead and managed to hold on to finish the game 25-18. Our second game was against the eventual 2nd place finisher in our pool. In all honesty this team was better than mine. They controlled their emotions better when the game was close. My team was playing well but in the little things the other team was better. They ran a more consistent offense and their defense was moving better.

Our third game was against the eventual 5th place team in the pool. We didn't play well, committing more hitting errors than kills but still managed to win 25-15. Our fourth pool play game was against the thus far undefeated, and eventual pool winner. This was also our best game of the day. This team had two large hitters who had pretty good serves to go along with their front row attacks. Their defense was quick and covered the court well. My team started out a little slow. Then they got panicky when the other team started scoring and they were not able to answer. I used my only timeout of the game when we were down 4 to 12. I managed to get my team to relax a little. When the game started again we gave up 2 more quick points and then things turned around. Then over the next several minutes I got to watch my team play the best volleyball I have ever seen these girls play. Unfortunately the streak of great volleyball came to an end with the game tied at 24-24. We got caught when a mishandled serve came flying back at the net, clipped the tape at the top and dribbled over onto our side of the court. In a normal game we would have a chance to get that point back, but the tournament rules were games to 25, cap at 25. It was not necessary to win by 2 points.

The eventual pool winner ended up beating us and the second place team both by scores of 25-24. Like I said it was a tough pool. We came within one point of a three way tie for first, but in the end settled for third place.

In the quarterfinals we played against the number 2 seed from the other pool. That pool must have been a pretty weak pool, as my team didn't play well, but we still managed a 30 to 20 win. (bracket play in this tournament was one game to 30 with a cap at 30)

In the semifinals we had to play the winner from our pool. The team we had lost to 24-25 just an hour earlier. We didn't give them a 10 point lead in this game. Instead we managed to stay with them for the entire game, but it was a roller coaster ride. They would get a 3 or 4 point lead and then we would get one. Then they would get a lead and we would have to take it back. Unfortunately the game ended with us on the short end of 30 - 28 loss.

My teams emotions were all over the chart. They were sad about losing, but at the same time thrilled that they had played two really good games against a really good team. Then as we were picking up our stuff to head home they announced that there was a third place game to be played between the two semifinal losers. (this game was not on the schedule) So we had to jump right back on the court and play another game against the second team place team from our pool.

In retrospect I wish we had never played that last game. I would have rather taken my girls home after that close loss in the semis than have to sit there on the sidelines and watch what happened in the consolation game. We exchanged points for a couple rallys then my team just lost all their focus. I called a time out once we were down about 5 points. But it didn't help. My girls still kept playing, but they had no focus or drive. We committed just about every error you can imagine. Eight missed serves in a row. Spikes that went long, wide right, wide left, and into the net. Passes that went out of bounds left, right, under the net, and into the backs of our teammates. That game ended with us on the very wrong end of a 13-30 walloping. I'm sure it was less fun for my girls to play than it was for me to watch. I hated it.

Saturday morning I watched my girls put on the best demonstration of how to never give up when they pulled off a huge comeback that almost became a fantastic win. Then a couple hours later I watched them completely self destruct. I think this group of six girls has the potential to be the best team I have ever coached in my admittedly limited five years experience. I just have to keep them motivated so that they don't turn into the worst team. Because as I saw Saturday, they can play both ways.

I'm very proud as their coach with the way my team handled themselves on Saturday. I am also very proud of the way they played. I just have to figure out what I need to do as their coach to keep them out of situations like that last game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The New Bearscast

Last year in a posting about the podcasts I like to listen to I mentioned the Bearscast. At the time I was very disillusioned about this podcast. But since it was only one of two podcasts that I could find about the Bears and the other one, Johnny James's podcast on My Sports radio used so many sound bumpers that they become annoying, I kept listening. But when the Superbowl came and went and there were no new Bearscasts. Then the draft came and went with no new Bearscasts I decided to punt. So I waited for the first episode of the new season and decided that if I tune into it and hear those same clowns, I was going to delete the Bearscast from my listening schedule.

When I finally got a new Bearscast episode I steeled myself for another sophomoric assault on my hearing. But when I tuned in I discovered that the Chicago Sports Network had replaced the hosts of this podcast with a couple other guys, Herman Coats and Gabe Dixon. The difference is amazing. There was no more annoying rap music playing in the background. There was no more people talking in the background. No more silly little boys blasting out my eardrums by giggling at their own jokes. And best of all - Gabe and Herman and their guests actually talk about the Chicago Bears football team.

Kudos to this change. The Bearscast podcast is enjoyable again. Granted the audio quality isn't the greatest. They could use a little better equipment or maybe some training on how to use what they have. But this podcast is back on my ipod and I'm looking forward to each new episode.

Now if the Bears would actually start playing like a superbowl caliber team again so the guys could start talking about good things instead of just how many turnovers Rex the Wonderdog commits.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How to Ice a Server

The other day I wrote about my eighth grade volleyball team who got on a roll in a game when one player served 15 service aces in a row. When my players were a little concerned about how upset their opponents were I told them that what happened to that team wasn't their fault but the opposing coach's.

So what should a coach do when his team is getting pounded by a tough server?

Anything, everything except sitting there and watching his players get pounded.

Most games a coach has two time outs he can use. Calling a time out to try and stop a service run is called icing a server. The idea is to make the server wait in order to throw them off their rhythm. At the middle school level this is a very effective strategy. However most players at the high school level are used to this strategy and it isn't as effective. But you never know until you try. I always stress to my players during practice that the most important thing they have to do after our opponents take a timeout is to get their next serve in. It doesn't have to be an ace or a power serve. It just has to be a good serve. My players seem to like the idea that when the opposing coach calls a time out to ice them that they are now playing one on one with that coach, and if they get that next serve in, they just made that coach waste his timeout.

If he has substitutes available the coach should use them. Sometimes you just have to get a player off the court or out of a bad situation. If the player you replace them with is not as good a player, you can always sub them back around again later. Maybe your replacements aren't quite as good passers as the players on the court. But if the players on the court are getting toasted you need to make some kind of change. You may be surprised how many rocket serves a weaker player, who wants nothing more than to get off that bench, will step in front of until they manage to pull off that one pass you need to stop that hot server. If you find a player like that, immediately start training her to be your libero. I was watching a 14 and under club match earlier this year when a coach was in the situation where their opponents were on a 5 point service ace streak. He pulled two of his back row players and put in two smaller, obviously younger, players to replace them. For the next four serves one of those little girls jumped in front of serves that hit her in the hands, chest, face and shoulder. She failed to get any of those serves passed into the air. But each time she brushed a few loose strands of hair out of her face, wiped away a tear or two away and got ready to do it again. The coach pulled her and put one of the original players back in. When this little player got to the sidelines she paused in front of the coach with her head hanging and all he did was point to the end of the bench and ignored her. I had to leave then and didn't see how the game played out. But I really hope it eventually occurred to that coach that the little girl he so casually dismissed displayed more heart and guts on the court than any of the other players on his team.

A coach can try to find a new or different way to encourage his players or to distract his opponents. There are a lot of different ways to ice a server. Some of them I disagree with and will never use. But there are many options.

In the exceptable category (in my opinion): You can talk to your team. Correct their alignment on the court. Verbally encourage them. Bribe them, I once heard a coach yell to his team "Whoever makes this next pass doesn't have to run laps tomorrow." - it worked. Distract the opponents server. This one is kind of tricky because you need to distract the server without singling her out, without being a bad sport and without looking like you are trying to distract your opponents.

In a game on Thursday, my seventh grade team got caught by a good server who was getting into a hard overhand service streak. After three straight aces, my team managed to finally get a serve up into the air. Our setter passed the ball high towards her outside hitter who proceeded to pound the ball so hard that it flew out of bounds through the open doors and into the foyer behind our opponents. I sat calmly until our opponents finished cheering their latest point and had quieted down a bit. When the server had the ball back in her hands and the referee reached for her whistle to signal the server to serve I called out loud enough for the whole gym to hear "Ashley, you have to keep your spikes inside the building."

Immediately most of the parents in the gym chuckled. Many of the kids on the court laughed out loud. I don't know if they were laughing at my comment or how embarrassed my hitter looked about what I said. Either way, when the referee blew the whistle our opponent's server was still laughing and had a big grin on her face as she started her serve. That smile disappeared the moment the ball flew into the net.

I was able to distract that server by getting her to think about something other than what she was supposed to be thinking about, which was serving the volleyball. Best of all I didn't even need to take a time out to do so.

As my team rotated I did have to step up to the sidelines and share a few quick words with my hitter so that she knew my intent was not to embarrass her but to distract the server.

In the unacceptable category are things you can do that are outside the rules, or the spirit of the rules of volleyball and good sportsmanship.

Last year we were playing in a tournament in Bakersfield. The division that my team was in had a local team from the host school in it. I hadn't been watching her games but I heard other coaches complaining about her unofficial timeouts. This coach would suddenly take an unofficial timeout in order to handle some sort of tournament management. Things like directing people away from the courts, picking up water bottles that may get in the way, etc. But she only had to do these things when her opponents were in the middle of a hot service streak.

When we met this team in the division finals she stopped play once after one of my players had three aces to have the director wipe up a red spot on the floor that might have been blood. I had seen that spot on the floor several times during that day. But it only became an issue when she needed an extra timeout. Then one of the other host school teams from a different division all moved into the gym to watch our match from behind our service area. These players started verbally cheering their teams on. Then progressed into verbally harassing my players while they were serving. I used a timeout to talk to my players about ignoring them and to ask the viewing players to move aside and make room for my players to serve. A couple rotations later we got into another hot service ace streak. Suddenly after 4 aces in a row the opposing coach needed a stoppage of play while she came over to our side of the net and shooed those other players away so that they would not distract my players. I asked the ref if she was using her timeout for this since those players were not disturbing my players. The ref said no, she is just doing her job as one of the tournament hosts.

Fortunately this type of server distraction usually requires the assistance of a willing referee. And you usually don't find that type of cooperation between a ref and a coach.

But I use this as an example of improper gamesmanship. In all sports and at all levels there is some gamesmanship that goes on. In volleyball icing a server is one of the most obvious gamesmanship situations. But if you are thinking of starting to break the spirit of the rules, or starting to invent situations you can use to give you an advantage over the other team perhaps you are crossing a line you shouldn't. The rules of the game allow you two timeouts. If you chose to use them to ice a server, then more power to you. Good sportsmanship says you should not directly yell something at your opponents that is going to distract them. I took a big chance yelling what I did at my hitter. What if instead of the opposing team's server laughing my hitter got really self conscious and stopped swinging at sets? I used a ploy that very easily could have backfired on me. Fortunately for me, my hitter is a pretty smart kid who immediately saw the effect my comment had on our opponents and didn't take it personally.

So when you are trying to deal with a hot server, stick to timeouts and substitutions there is usually no penalty in them other than sometimes they don't work. But then what you were doing before wasn't working either so you really aren't out anything. But most of all do something. Don't just sit and watch your team go down in flames under an assult by a good server.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Volleyball Season (Cont)

I started the afternoon with a practice for just my eighth grade team. After yesterday's game I wanted to have a talk with my players. I have let them have team meetings before where I was not involved. And we have had 'meetings' before with me pretty much doing all the talking. So I tried a different approach today. When they were playing around before practice started I sat down on the floor and called them to gather around. I don't know if it was the fact that I am not much taller than them when sitting down or the circle we were all sitting in, or what. But when I asked them for opinions today - they talked. In full complete sentences and ideas. Not just the single word answers I usually get from them when I ask questions.

I started out by asking what they thought of the games yesterday. While the comments varied they were all pretty pleased with the way things turned out. Then I asked them what they thought about how our opponents may have felt yesterday. They all agreed that they thought our opponents were either embarrassed or upset at the results of the game. Then I asked the setter who had served the 15 consecutive aces if she thought she should have done anything different yesterday. She hesitated for a moment and then replied in a very unsure of herself manner "Backed off my serves?"

When I asked the rest of the team if they thought she should have backed off her serves her teammates were not sure. Then I asked my server what usually happens when she "backs off her serves?" She answered without hesitation "I miss."

That is when I told them that what they had done in that game was absolutely the correct things to do and exactly the way I want them to continue to play. They told me they were releaved to hear this. They were worried that they had done something wrong with the conflicting directions they were getting from me and my assistant coach and then me having a team meeting first thing this afternoon.

So I reassured them again that they had played a wonderful game and that I was very proud of them. Then I explained that happened to their opponents yesterday was not their fault. What happened to those four little girls was the fault of their coach. It was his responsibility to teach them how to receive serves. It was also his responsibility to try and stop our serving streak. He had two time outs he could have used. He had four substitute players sitting next to him on the bench he could have used. He chose to sit there and do nothing while we served 15 aces in a row on his team. Our job was to serve the best we could. Their job was to receive and play those serves. We did our job, he didn't do his.

Then we discussed our warmups and practices. I gave them the opportunity to decide what we should work on next and they all chose serve receive. I'm starting to think that maybe this group may just be starting to get how hard you have to work to be good at this game.

After my 8th grade practice I had to coach my 6th grade team's first game. Getting those girls all together and ready to play was a lot like herding cats. Everytime I would stop talking at least two of them would take off. They were all just bouncing off the walls with excitement. But once the game started they settled down pretty well. They stuggled a little with the 4-2 offense we are running. My setters got out of position a couple times but we got those bugs worked out without too much trouble. The 7th grade team we were playing had a couple really tall girls on their roster but they really didn't play well. My five sixth graders and 2 fifth graders played a really good game for such young players. In the end we won the first game 25-15 and the second one 25-11.

After the 6th grade game my 7th grade had another game but I was unable to stick around for it. I had to attend a parents meeting at the high school for the volleyball team. So my assistant coach handled that game. She is a really good coach so I know my girls were in good hands. But it is killing me not knowing how they did. I guess I will find out at tomorrow's practice.

New Volleyball Season

My middle school volleyball season started four weeks ago when we started practicing. The season as far as games are concerned started yesterday for my 7th and 8th grade teams. My 6th grade team plays their first game today.

Our first game on tap yesterday was my 7th grade team. They were playing a team from Monroe Middle School. My players were nervous, excited and in a couple cases maybe even scared. I tried to calm them down before the game started but when the whistle blew they were still fidgeting on the court. The game stayed pretty close at the start but by the third rotation I had a player crank out four service aces and from that point my team never looked back.

It was a little stressful at the beginning. When the game was ready to start I was just taking my seat on the bench when my assistant coach started yelling corrections at the players to move their positions around on the court. She pretty much kept this up the whole game. I was going to try and keep the game pretty low key for two reasons. First, my players were nervous about the new season starting. I was going to let a lot of things go to let the players get comfortable on the court before I started changing things up on them. Secondly, I don’t believe in doing a lot of coaching from the bench. Players aren’t going to learn much during the game. My job, once that whistle blows is to be the head cheerleader, and to step in as coach if they get into trouble or start making big mistakes.

What really impressed me about my 7th grade team is the two 5th graders that were playing with them yesterday. In the first game one of those 5th grade players served 4 service aces in a row. In the second game the other 5th grader duplicated that feat.

The seventh grade won the first game 25-14 with nine service aces. They won the second game 25-21 but had 13 service aces in that game. In the second game they actually ran four pass-set-spike combinations with one of my 5th grade players actually scoring a kill on one of those rallies.

Immediately after the 7th grade game was our first 8th grade game. I was surprised at how nervous my 8th grade players were. This is their third year of playing volleyball together but they were acting like 6th graders who have never been on a court together before.

However once the game started they seemed to settle down to business. They were playing the team from Immanuel Christian School. Immanuel’s team suffered a setback this year when their coach moved on. They managed to get 10 girls to sign up for volleyball so their eighth grade team is a combination of 6th, 7th and 8th grade players.

I thought the first game was a good start for the new year. My 8th grade team won the game 25-15 behind 11 service aces and 6 kills. They managed to put together 10 three hit pass-set-spike combinations and scored kills with 6 of them. My starting setter, who led off the second rotation fired off 5 service aces in a row which I thought, was a good performance.

The second game was a mixed bag. We won the game easily. However it may have been too easy. When my other setter rotated into the serving spot as the fourth server in the rotation the score was 8 to 5 and I was looking for a couple good overhand serves out of her. 15 consecutive service aces later the score was 23-5 and it was really quiet in the gym. Our fans had stopped cheering about five serves earlier. The rest of my team was standing around flatfooted looking bored. My server was looking at me wondering what to do. My assistant coach was yelling at her to serve to the front row. The opposing coach was shooting daggers at me with his eyes. The opposing team’s fans were glaring at me like I was Satan incarnate. The four opposing players in the number 3, 4, 5 and 6 positions on the court were standing flat footed with their shoulder slumped, their head’s bowed and I think two of them were quickly losing a war with tears. Meanwhile I was telling my server to “just keep serving.”

She hesitated for a moment then decided to listen to the assistant coach and tried to serve to our opponents’ front row and failed – net serve. We turned the ball over to our opponents who served out of bounds. My next server calmly walked to the service spot and fired one last overhand service ace. Game over, 25-6.

I gathered my team up, yelled a cheer for our opponents they lined up to shake their hands. The other team looked and acted beaten, my team looked guilty. I love that about my girls. They have the empathy and caring to feel for their opponents like that. But as a coach I needed to make them understand that what happened in that game was not their fault. I gathered them into a circle ready to start talking when one of them asked “Do we have time to play another game?”

Caught off guard I paused for a moment to look at my watch. In that moment the rest of the team jumped on the band wagon and asked to play another game. So I sent them under the net to ask their opponents if they wanted to play another game while I checked to see if the match that was to follow ours was ready to take the court. They were not.

When I looked across the net I saw my 6 players begging their opponents to play another game. Their coach was shaking his head no, but all his players were nodding yes. So when the coach walked away both teams moved back onto the court. Since the referee and scorekeeper had walked away my girls asked me who was going to do those duties. I replied “No one, just play.”

I told my girls to set their own alignment and setters. Then I tossed the ball to the opposing team’s server and told her to serve whenever she was ready then I walked away also.

I don’t know how that game went. I didn’t watch. But 10 minutes later when the next match’s teams were ready to warm up the 12 girls on the court seemed to all be having fun. I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes the best cure for what ails girls this age is to let them just be kids and play for a while. After all, that is why these kids are there – to play volleyball.

I still need to have a talk to my players this afternoon about not letting up, and putting away an opponent. But I’m not sure what all I’m going to say yet. I have a lot of different things running through my head. I did get some advice from the assistant varsity coach at the high school last night. He told me that when my team gets a big lead like that and I have a hot server up, never tell her to back off, instead, give her signs of where to serve. He said I should take the responsibility for where she is serving and not leave it up to her. I was thinking along those lines already but it was good to hear it from another coach with more experience than I have. Now I have to find the right words to convince my players that what happened to their opponents was not their fault and that they shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I want them to be a tough team who can put away an opponent quickly. But I don’t want them to lose their compassion and caring natures either.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

25 Things A Man Should Know

Popular Mechanics published this list:

25 Skills Every Man Should Know:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network

Personally I think this list is mostly crap. I used to think Popular Mechanics was an interesting magazine. But if Popular Mechanics thinks this is the definitive list of things a man needs to know how to do they need to strap on their waterskis, put on their leather jacket and get ready to jump that shark.

Does every man really need to know how to protect a computer, retouch digital photos, back up data, hook up an HDTV and extend a wireless network. These tasks are what many men have teenage kids for. Granted some men love doing these tasks. But I know several well rounded men's men who don't have a clue how to use, set up or maintain a computer and their lives are complete and happy without this knowledge. These just are not skills that many men (or women) will need in their lives. In many cases many families will find that they only need one family member who can do these things.

Some men have their own way of doing some of these things:

2. Protect your computer. Men will protect their computer the same way they protect the rest of their stuff - by shooting anyone who tries to take it.

5. Retouch digital photos. Why retouch a photo when you can just cut that lying bitch's face out of it.

16. Back up data. Can't be any tougher than backing up a trailer (see no. 6). Again this is the teenager's job.

21. Hook up an HDTV. If you have trouble connecting an HDMI cable between the output of the receiver and the input of the TV then you need to hire a nanny and never leave the house without her.

25. Extend your wireless network. If your wireless network isn't large enough maybe you should stop surfing the net while mowing your lawn.

If you want a shorter more succinct list you should check out the list of required knowledge for men over at Sippican Cottage:

Sippican's List Of Everything A Man Should Know:

1. Know how to do whatever the hell you feel like doing
2. Learn how to take your lumps for doing #1

Personally I have always liked Robert A. Heinlein's list of skills a man needs in his stories about Lazarus Long:

A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. - Lazarus Long

That quote has pretty much summed up a lot of what I think a man should know how to do. But there are a few things that I would have added to the list. So here is the list that I hope I manage to teach my son before he gets too old to listen to me anymore. There are not a lot of specifics here. Every man will have different likes, desires, and interests so I tend to avoid specifics like know how to build a house or rebuild an engine. I love building things, but I pay someone to fix my car. Beyond regular maintenance I just have no interest in car repair.

Every man should know:

1. How to buy quality stuff and then take care if it so it lasts.
2. How to maintain your car - oil, filter, plugs, lube, etc.
3. How to change a tire.
4. When and how to shoot, clean, maintain and assemble firearms.
5. How to kill it, clean it, cook it and eat it.
6. How to talk to children.
7. How to talk to women.
8. How to earn a living and live within the means that living provides.
9. How to set up, use, clean, sharpen and maintain power and hand tools.
10. How to repair or replace things that break around your house.
11. How and why you should be on time.
12. How to hold, feed and change a baby.
13. How to wait patiently for the women in your life.
14. To put the needs of your family ahead of your own wants.
15. When and how to take a stand and which battles are worth fighting and which battles are OK to lose.
16. To have faith.
17. That acting macho doesn't make you a man. (Also known as the "If you have to tell people you are a man, you aren't." rule)
18. How and when to make commitments and to keep them.
19. That you become a man by being a loving husband, a good dad and a trusted friend.
20. How and why you do the right thing, even if no one is looking and no one will ever know.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sports Editor or Football Editor?

The following is a copy of a letter I just sent to the local paper. I'm not holding my breath waiting for a reply.


Mr. Barrera,

During a quick perusal of the Friday Daily Indpendent I found on the front page two advertisements for tonights BHS away football game. Then once I got to the sports section I found eight pages of sports coverage. As a sports fan I think this level of coverage is great. Except, those 8 pages consisted of 4 and a quarter pages of local football, one and a quarter pages of NFL football, a full page of Cal Berkley college football and a full page of NASCAR coverage. That left only one half a page for all the other sports. That space was split between two articles - one on Major League Baseball and one article on the BHS tennis team. Over half the coverage of the local high school football programs were about games that haven't even been played yet. The four and a quarter pages of football coverage consisted of four articles all written by you, the DI Sports Editor. There were also 11 photographs most of which are supplied by you or just listed as "contributed."

Mr. Barrera, I think it is time for you to get out of the football stadiums and start covering all the sports being played in the Indian Wells Valley. We don't need pages of coverage of football games that haven't been played yet when there are so many other sporting events being competed by our local youth. There has been no mention that the BHS volleyball team freshmen lost a close match to Kern Valley High School JV team on Wednesday, or that the BHS Varsity Volleyball team beat Kern Valley High School Varsity team 3-1. Do you know that Thursday evening the BHS JV and Varsity volleyball teams also won matches against Rosamond High School to continue their undefeated seasons? Are you aware that the five local middle school's have 18 girls volleyball teams that have been practicing for weeks and will start competition with each other next Monday? What about tennis, cross country, golf and all the other club and independent youth sports being playing in our area?

Mr. Barrera its time to get out of the football stadium and start reporting all the sports being played in town. There are many fine young athletes in this valley who are pouring their hearts and souls into the games they love to play and its time to stop ignoring them or pretending they are not as important as football. I understand that sometimes you need to rely on submissions from the organizers of these other athletics events for your information. Additionally, BHS has made tracking other sports events more difficult by removing any mention of sports other than boys soccer, basketball and football from the athletics section of their website. But since you were able to generate over four pages of news about football surely you could generate a little coverage of some of the other local sports. After all you are the Sports Editor, not the Football Editor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years


It has been six years since the United States finally woke up and started fighting back in the Global War on Terror. We had been attacked repeatedly for over 25 years but it took the attacks on the city of New York six years ago to finally move our nation to action.

Today I wanted to say some words in remembrance of those who lost their lives six years ago today. But those feelings have been overwhelmed by the disgust I feel daily when I hear or read about the political posturing by our elected officials who have either decided that we have fought enough and it's now time to surrender or are willing to sell out our nation for the votes of the ignorant radicals who don't think we should have fought back at all.

I know putting pictures of those burning towers on my blog isn't going to change anyone's mind. But I think the antique media has done this nation a huge disservice by removing all images and videos of these attacks from our lives. This is not an act to forget or to hide from. These six year old images are why we are fighting a global war on terror now.

So what am I doing today to honor the lives lost six years ago today? I'm going to work where I can continue my part in development of naval weaponry. I going to continue supporting the military that we have tasked to fight this war for us. I am going to continue to support and vote for politicians who understand that this war must be fought. I am going to enjoy the freedom that my family enjoys daily. Finally I am not going to forget this attack nor the battles we have fought, and those yet to come, as the United States continues to lead the world in a battle against terrorism.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nerd God says I'm a Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

I got the link for this from Denny.

Is it wrong that I'm proud of this? Or does that just confirm the results?


Sometime yesterday the Ridgecrest Blog had it's 25,000th hit. That to me is an incredible number. Now I know that there are blogs out there that get more hits than that a day. Heck some may even get that many an hour. But it is scary to think that I have had 25,000 attempts to bore the living crap out of people. I'm really starting to worry about you.

Seriously when I started this I figured I would ramble on for a few weeks, get a few complaints off my chest then get bored with it and quit. Now it is been almost 2 and half years and 25,000 hits later and I'm still rambling and rambling.

My small (less than 10 per day) regular readers may have noticed that my posting has been sporadic at best lately. It's not that I have nothing to write about. It's just that I keep running out of time to write. I suppose that I could make some time in my schedule if I didn't hang around and watch my daughter's volleyball practices. But I really like watching her practice. Like I told one other parent. "This is more entertaining than anything that is on television."

So if you check things out here and I haven't written anything for a couple days. Its because I'm working hard to be a good Dad or a good volleyball coach. I'll get back to you, I promise.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The End of an Era

About 11 years ago when my youngest daughter was turning four years old my dear wife and I decided that she would need a jungle gym and a swing set in the back yard. Now any normal parents would shop around for a while and pick out a set that they liked, buy it, set it up and watch their kid fall off it and hurt themselves.

Well that method wasn't good enough for us. After all if my kid is going to fall off a jungle gym and hurt herself I wanted her to do it right. Since most home jungle gyms are only about 6 to 8 feet high that didn't seem good enough to me.

Another factor that entered into some of the decisions I made were my childhood. When I was a kid I was always building forts. One day my father backed his truck into the log pile out back of the house one day and the entire pile collapsed into the fort the neighbor boy and I had built in the middle of the log pile. Dad was very relieved that neither of us were actually in the fort at the time it collapsed. But he told me that he would build us a fort in the backyard if I would stop building my own in odd places.

So Dad sunk four poles into the back yard then he built on top of them a 4 by 8 foot by 6 foot high fort that sat about 8 feet off the ground. It had a trap door and rope ladder, and real windows that would open and close. My sisters and I practically lived in that fort. So I wanted something at least as fun for my kids.

So I started acting like an engineer and let my imagination run a little wild. Then I ran down south to Home Depot and came home with a truck load of lumber, cement and other stuff. Then I started building. I didn't really have any plans, just a plot diagram so I knew that my insane idea would fit in the side yard where it was intended to fit.

If you give an engineer who likes woodworking and wants to out Dad his Dad two months, three truck loads of supplies from Home Depot, and four paint colors picked out by an almost four year old and this is what grows in your back yard.


Shortly after this picture was taken I added a sun shade to the top of the large tower and a climbing rope to the swing set. The front tower is 8 ft x 8 ft and 15 ft high at the top of the railing. You enter it from the ladder on the underside. It is connected by an aerial 'tunnel' to the smaller tower. This one is only 5 ft x 5 ft. It has a sunshade top, and a curvey slide. The center of the main tower has some intermediate levels and dividers so, to get to the top of the main tower requires climbing up 3 ladder segments, navigating 6 turns, and opening the trap door at the top.

When the twins were about 2 I added a 50 ft. zip line from the main tower to an anchor on the other side of the yard. That zip line was the biggest attraction at my kid's birthday parties.

When I first finished building this monstrosity our next door neighbor was horrified. She thought it was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. Her husband loved it. But he was relieved that it was my daughter and not me who picked out the colors.

Well this evening my son and I started taking down the jungle gym. We had hemmed and hawed about this for quite a while. The kids were all emotionally attached to the jungle gym even though they rarely ever play on it any more.

In the jungle gym's place is going a new above ground swimming pool. My wife grew up in a house with a pool. I didn't. I always wanted one as a kid. As an adult I never really cared. I just didn't want to bother with the maintenance. But the kids don't use the jungle gym much anymore, and it was getting so it needed a lot of maintenance as well as a new coat of paint. We just couldn't see putting in the time, energy and money to fix up something that the kids were all outgrowing.

When we get the jungle gym removed and the pool installed I'll post a picture so you can see the new side yard.

So an era for our family ended this evening. Our little kids have out grown their jungle gym and swing set. They are excited about the new pool. Their parents are kind of depressed that our babies are growing up.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Senator Craig Resigns

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) resigned on Saturday, bowing to intense pressure from within his own party to avoid further political fallout from the once-powerful conservative’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct and alleged sexual solicitation.

"I am proud of my record and accomplishments," Craig said in Boise with his family and leading state Republicans by his side. But he added that he could not continue to serve without being a "distraction" and announced that he would resign effective September 30.

I have said for years that anyone who would vote for or support an adulterer for public office has to have their head examined.

I don't care if Senator Craig is gay or not. I don't care why he was playing pickup games in a public restroom. But his behavior cuts to the very heart of trustworthiness. If a person cannot be trusted not to cheat on thier spouse, the one person who should be able to trust them above all else then why should anyone else trust them to keep their word about anything.

I don't know what kind of vows were spoken at Senator Craig's wedding but they probably went something like these:

"To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part."

Being a Methodist the vow Senator Craig made while exchanging rings probably went something like this:

I give you this ring as a sign of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have; I honor you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If a person is willing to stand up in front of their family, friends, pastor and other witnesses and make vows of this type, and then break it why should any total stranger ever believe that they would keep any promise made during an election?

A promise to be faithful to the one person you share every aspect of your life with, should be the simplest promise to keep a person ever makes. It's not like anyone has every accidentally had sex with another person. Adultery involves a deliberate act of betrayal. If a person is cold and callous enough to betray someone they have to live with and face everyday how easy will it be for them to betray millions of faceless voters?