| Cobber Sports Home | Cobber History | Perspectives Index | Jerry Pyle |
Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
Wanting More Stuff
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports. The Lady Cobbers won two important basketball games on the road.
And the men's team won a confidence-booster at Bethel.
But our teams also suffered assorted inconveniences which, some felt, made it hard for us to do our best.
The music department invaded our gym to set up for their Christmas concert, creating space limitations and distractions in our practices. The basketball teams had to ride in semi-cramped vans and stay in modest hotels on their recent long road trips. The hockey team once again had to play a big home series off campus because we don't have our own hockey rink. And the wrestlers saw their workout sanctum turned into a temporary coat-check room. Coaches don't like this kind of thing happening, anywhere.
Nearly all coaches spend a lot of time thinking about stuff they want but don't have. Annual requests for better practice facilities, more comfortable transportation, fancier equipment, slicker recruiting brochures, and more stylish uniforms are as much a part of a modern coach's life as clipboards and whistles. How these requests are handled by a college is the way in which the coaching profession measures something called "support for the program." And "lack of support for the program" is our most over-used excuse for being mediocre.
In this holiday season, when our children are handing us their own extravagant wish lists, and shop-'til-you-drop is somehow considered an honorable athletic pursuit, we are all tested by our passion for having more stuff.
Wanting more stuff is part of our national tradition.
Eugene Debs, one of our nation's first labor leaders, was once asked by a frustrated industrialist just what exactly it was that organized labor wanted. Debs, sensing the potential for being trapped by his answer, smiled and simply said, "More."
In 1926, Joseph Kennedy, the relentless Boston tycoon, was confronted by a puzzled friend. "Joe, what is it you really want?" Kennedy paused, and then replied, "Everything."
My father, a farmer, used to always chuckle when someone would admiringly suggest that farmers had somehow found immunity from the "always-wanting-more" syndrome. "Yes," he would say, "all we ever wanted was the 80 acres adjacent to the land we already have."
Impatience with the status quo and the drive to have more is, admittedly, one of the qualities that made our nation such a commercial success. And the fear that our children will end up having less than us is one of our most aggravating collective frustrations.
Sometimes having more stuff can make life better and more fulfilling. And, sometimes, maybe even often, it can help us do our work better. But it's terribly easy to lose perspective about the importance of having ever more stuff and ever more comforts.
When I find myself seething for more stuff, and using life's inconveniences as an excuse for screwing up, I'm reminded of two recent lessons in my life. Both help restore some perspective.
The MaryLee Glare: A few years ago, Concordia had a point guard named MaryLee Legried, the best point guard to ever play here.
More important than her awesome passing skills was MaryLee's attitude about excuses for losing. She hated them. She didn't like to give them and she didn't like to hear them. When game time came, she didn't want to hear anyone talking about how long the trip was, or the poor lighting in the gym, or the bad meal we had, or the uniforms being tight, or what time of day it was. We had a game. All floors are the same size. Let's play.
MaryLee's teams had a 55-7 record with her starting at the point, 38-2 in league play, and 9-1 in two years of NCAA tournament games.
Sometimes one of MaryLee's less-focused teammates would lapse into pre-game chatter about why conditions might not be ideal for us to play our best. MaryLee would just glare at them. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know what the glare meant. "Stop whining, get ready to play, and get the job done."
The Socks and Beans Lesson: A couple summers ago I was in Nicaragua and had a chance to work with their national basketball team. Nicaragua was suffering the economic effects of an eight-year war.
Many, including our players, were very poor. But the country was still preparing to host a big tournament involving all the national teams from Central America.
Panama was the pre-tourney favorite.
On the third day of practice I noticed that one of our star post players was limping up and down the floor. I called him aside and asked what was wrong. "Blisters,"
he said. No wonder. He was wearing some high-top plastic imitation Nike shoes. And no socks.
I gave him my lecture about the importance of taking care of his feet. I told him that not wearing socks might look cool, but it's dumb.
The young man politely thanked me for my advice and agreed it was sound. Then he added, "But I don't own any socks."
Later that day, a Monday, the head coach told the team they'd have the next three days off. I was astounded.
Taking that kind of time off will ruin our conditioning, I thought. After the team left, I confronted the coach about being so lax with the practice schedule.
He looked at me like a father looks at a six- year-old-son, wishing I understood but knowing why I didn't. "We can't run them when they have no food. We might get food for them on Friday."
Friday came and the practice went well. The guys were into it and working hard. As we were winding up practice, a man from the national sports federation came into the fieldhouse and delivered twelve bulging plastic garbage bags. Each bag contained a can of cooking oil, five pounds of beans, five pounds of rice, some sugar and a little salt.
After the head coach had handed each smiling player a bag and wished them a good weekend, he came over to me.
He was beaming. "There's no way Panama will beat us now," he said.
Some stuff is more important than other stuff.
These pages are maintained by Jerry Pyle email@example.com. These articles are copyrighted © and may not be published or reproduced without the express permission of Jerry Pyle.
Return to Perspectives Index Return to Cobber Sports Home Page Return to Concordia Home Page