Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Opening Day is a Shout Away!

The grass is green, the mound is raked, the seats are all scrubbed and the hot dogs are ready to go ... baseball's opening day is here! The season looms large before us, filled with the hope and promise of warm, sunny days and star-filled nights. Baseball is more than watching our favorite team in an athletic contest. It's a tradition, a memory, an event and ... an opportunity.

A baseball game is a great time for fathers to teach sons -- and daughters -- about the wonders of the game and the beauty of its storied traditions. In the stands, fathers share the mechanics of balls, strikes and pitching styles, tapping into their own first-hand experience dealing with curve balls and sliders. They delineate the finer points of taking an inside pitch against uncorking a missile to the rafters. Teachable moments get mixed in with sharing a bag of peanuts, repositioning a jalapeño slice on a cheese-covered nacho and sipping a frosty beverage. In fact, when it comes right down to it, the game is merely the backdrop to the best thing taking place in those two seats: the making of bright memories between dads and kids.

When not filling out the scorecard with "Ks" dads can share words of wisdom with their kids, using the game playing out before them as a perfect object lesson. The player who "crosses" himself before batting, the manager who goes ballistic over a bad call and the little kid who's scrambling on the field as a bat boy -- each give the dad something to talk about with his own kids. Baseball games last long enough that dads can get past the sheer excitement of the game and can steal some powerful bonding time with their kids. These exchanges are not soon forgotten either. The game itself reinforces these lessons on the memory, creating an impression that's remembered fondly in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment.

And this camaraderie isn't just for dads and their kids either. Guys sitting together in the upper deck have the chance to share more than a drink and an opinion about the manager. They can talk about what's on their minds: their hurts, their dreams, their lives and their families. Fortunate is the man who can share a game with good friends.

Even more fortunate is the husband who can take his wife to the game -- and she enjoys it! That man needs to buy season tickets!

It doesn't matter if it's a major league team, a minor league team, a little league team or just a backyard pick-up game -- watching baseball is an excellent way to make the "All-American Pastime" a truly memorable event!

Play ball!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


March Madness - how sweet it is! The annual pairings, bracket challenges and upsets offer endless opportunities for guys to eat, cheer and eat some more as they follow the tournament through all the TV channels. As always, NCAA Division I basketball provides an optimum sports experience, with underdogs and favorites going head to head, each with a chance to advance. The alternative of losing and going home is a motivator that many teams take very seriously. This year has already provided its share of upsets and setbacks to bracket challenges.
It is interesting to listen to the commentators during halftime as they describe and recap the first half and then offer advice on how the coach needs to motivate or position players to win in the second half. One aspect all commentators focus on, regardless of the team or even the sport, is the role of the coach. The coach commands the team, directs the team, inspires the team, motivates the team and recognizes each team member's area of strength in order to devise a plan of attack (or defense) that maximizes every player's best assets. The coach is so vital that universities pay millions of dollars to entice a winning coach to stay or to encourage a winning coach to sign up with them.

So how are you coaching your team?

Every one of us has a team we coach. It might be the local little league baseball team, a peewee football team or even a soccer team. Then again, most likely the team we coach is none other than our family.

Our family needs us to coach them well. We need to recognize and utilize the strengths of each one of our team members, while we minimize their weaknesses. We need to inspire our team to go beyond their limits and reach for something bigger and better than themselves. We need to help them develop the skills they need for success and see to it they practice regularly. We should provide a model for greatness and instill a can-do attitude that rises to the occasion to go above and beyond what is needed to accomplish amazing things.

We coach with our words and our deeds and our positive attitude. We are an influencer and that is as serious a task as we can get.

So how is your team doing?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And Then There Was Fishing

The grip of winter is breaking (in some places) and spring winds are starting to blow. Baseball is almost here and college basketball tournaments are going on left and right. Of course, all this is but a minor prelude to what's really coming on the horizon: fishing! That's right. It's getting real close to the time for rods and reels to be cleaned and readied, for boat engines to be fine tuned and for vacation plans to be charted out. Spring and summer are soon to be here -- and with the warm weather comes dreams of landing a lunker!

My dad was a fisherman He would not pass up a chance to get out in a boat, cast a line along the bank or crank some spinner bait in his search for the next "big one." He would fish fresh water lakes, farm ponds, oceans -- and I even saw him dip a line in a fish tank once. He had several rods and reels and a tackle box filled with mysterious things -- things that had this odd way of hooking themselves onto my fingers and palms when I reached in to grab one.

Dad did his best to pass along his love of fishing. He would take his sons to the lake and give us a cane pole baited with a worm and a bobber. His instructions were simple: watch the bobber until it jerked under the water, then give the pole a mighty yank until the fish came flopping up on the bank. Hours spent watching that red and white bobber felt like only minutes the moment that sphere bounced, then disappeared under water. The rush of adrenaline and Dad's wide grin made the hours of waiting well worth it. It was a heady experience, and one not easily forgotten.

Not forgotten either were the times when Dad would share wisdom and knowledge with his sons. His deep, quiet voice soothed as he passed along gems of fishing acumen like the best bait to use, the best depth to place the bobber and the best moment to set the hook. As we got older he also shared valuable insights on dating, work, the military and the government. His voice was barely audible as the sun set and the bats chased mosquitoes, but still we listened intently. We were hearing his heartfelt words, and we knew they were words that even then would shape our futures.

I cherish those days and still remember the tone and inflection of his voice. The power of a dad and his son sharing on the banks of a river or lake should not be underestimated. As we get ready for this year's Men's NetWork fishing contest, perhaps it will give you the chance to pass along some wisdom, insights and timely advice to your son.

While the world seems to have an endless supply of crazy going on, fishing with your son is an excellent way to step out of the frenzy and come together for a while.

And when you do, be sure to remember this: you're not only creating memories, you're forming a man.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

If I'd Known ...

James Hubert "Eubie" Blake (February 7, 1887 - February 12, 1983) was a composer and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music, as well as a lyricist. As you may recall, he uttered this memorable quote: "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."He died in 1983 in Brooklyn just five days after celebrating his "hundredth" birthday (he was actually 96).

Yep, there are many of us walking around with the "If-I'd-known" blues. Back in the day we'd "walk a mile for a Camel," and thought nothing of smoking, anywhere, anytime. It was socially acceptable to offer one's guests an ashtray and a few non-filtered cigarettes when they visited your home. A two-martini lunch was a common business expense and rare red meat was standard dining fare. Seat belts were non-existent and the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit was yet to be invented. No respectable motorcycle rider would wear a helmet, let alone a bicycle rider. Salty foods tasted best and the best pie dough was made from lard.

Today we live in a healthier, safer world, yet we still seem to find ways to join the If-I'd-known club. For example, fast and convenient, fried food seemed to be an answer to how to provide inexpensive meals to a growing population. Today we see the effects of a long-term diet of burgers and fries. The cell phone offered an inexpensive way for people to have a one-stop communication device that extended the workday, was great for getting help in an emergency and allowed teens to stay in touch with their parents. Today, we reap the results of death and injuries caused by distracted drivers and all the other issues now familiar to a world linked by the ubiquitous cell phone.

Men, we do know. We have a vast storehouse of wisdom and knowledge we can share. Let us not be shy about imparting what we know. Oh, I know most of our advice will fall on deaf ears, our younger brothers not heeding what their older brothers say, but that should not dissuade us from persistently and patiently sharing the knowledge gained over a lifetime of mistakes.

If just one young man heeds our words and wears a helmet, hangs up the phone to drive, doesn't start tobacco or refuses to succumb to the lure of fast, fat food, we succeed.

Now, if only someone would have told me about standing next to the speakers at a rock concert.

Can I hear an "amen"?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Begin With The End

It would not be uncommon for me to ask my wife out for a date. It also would not be uncommon for her to say, "yes." Then she would ask this question: "Where are we going?" I would describe to her some great restaurant, a picturesque park or, perhaps, a happening event. She then would hop in the car with me and off we'd go.

Now, I am a guy. I would have a vague idea of where I was headed, but would sometimes be off a street or two. It was at these times my wife would turn, smile and question, "Are we lost yet?"

Of course, the answer was an emphatic, "NO!"

So it was not a surprise I received a GPS as a Christmas gift. Now I have a woman who asks, "Are we lost yet?" and another who gently recalculates my way to the final destination. Our trips go much faster if I enter the ending point into the GPS before I start.

Stephen R. Covey writes in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that highly effective people begin with an end in mind. What he means is that we shape our own future if we establish a vision for how we want to end.

I like that. To envision the end before we begin works in many situations we guys come across: from building a birdhouse to remodeling a bathroom. If we know how it is to look in the end, we move through our project faster -- and more efficiently -- than if we did not know when to end.

I would say that could also apply to our relationship with our spouse and family.

When I was dating my wife we spent many hours in conversation about what we wanted our marriage to look like. We wanted to have Christ in the center of our relationship; we wanted our children to know we loved one another; we wanted to work for the greater good; we wanted to make a difference in at least one person's life, and we wanted to be active in our local church. So we began our relationship with a vision of how we wanted to develop it. In essence we began with planning the end: the goal. The vision of how we wanted our marriage to develop now shapes our activities and our action.

Guys, if you have no end in sight before you begin then any destination will suffice. And often any destination is not much of a destination at all.

So, you see, it does make sense to start with the end in mind.

Where do you want to end?