Invisible Insanity

The story goes that during the cold war, the CIA had built a supercomputer to translate between English and Russian. To test the machine, the programmers decided to have it translate a phrase into Russian and then translate the result back into English, to see if they’d get the same words they started with. The director of the CIA was invited to do the honors; the programmers all gathered expectantly around the console to watch as the director typed in the test words: “Out of sight, out of mind.” The computer silently ground through its calculations. Hours passed. Then, suddenly, magnetic tapes whirred, lights blinked, and a printer clattered out the result: “Invisible insanity.” (

I think it’s fascinating to hear your players repeat the things you’ve told them. It might be to their parents, or teammates, or even back to you, some time later. Regardless, I am amazed and sort of grateful that anything sticks at all, and surprised at what comes out.

At our Santa Cruz Beach Tournament on June 1st, we hit an unexpected and incredibly bad storm. The year before, the weather hovered around 100 degrees, but we got an epic downpour – driving rain, bitter winds, even standing water on the sand. After our first game at 8am, I tried to give the usual post-game comments. I looked over the squad and saw a bunch of soaked, shivering 12 year-old boys, silently trying to endure the last moments before they could get out of the rain and into something dry. I paused and said, “You know what guys, let’s get out of here. We can talk about the game later.” I heard that at least one player burst into tears when he finally could get into a warm car.

It was a few weeks later when I overheard Kavi say, I think in reference to that day, “Jim doesn’t like us to complain about the weather.” And I have to say that on that day, not one of them did.

I mention this because Thursday we had our first summer 7v7 game. We have fifteen on the roster but 20 minutes before kickoff, we only had five players. Sam D. showed up to make six. His mom drew me aside and let me know that her father had just passed away, and they were late because she and Sam had been talking about it. She told him to let me know the circumstances, and she was sure it would be OK. He told her, “Jim doesn’t like it when we give excuses for being late.” And he didn’t.

I’ve decided that since I can’t tell what will register with my players when, I have to be more careful about what I try to put in their minds. I’m working on the next “instructional unit” which has to do with simply working harder out there. We got crushed on Thursday 6-0 or so. We had no subs, and one of our players, Sam A. had to sit our for a while. But what was dismaying was how little effort some of the boys were expending. It was the opposite of what we’d done during our Brazil trip just a week ago.

I have to figure out what to say to them about work rate and competitiveness, and whether this is something that can even be taught, as opposed to being innate. I remember a women’s basketball game where California was throttling the highly-ranked Oklahoma team at half time. Oklahoma had signed the Paris twins from Piedmont High but Cal was killing them 52 – 26 at half. 12/13/08

Oklahoma rallied to win, and after Courtney Paris had this to say: “We want to win. I doesn’t matter if you’re down by 50, or you’re down by two or you’re up by 20. Coach came in at halftime and said, ‘I’m not going to coach effort.’ That’s something we take personal.”

Of course, that’s a D-1 program with scholarship athletes. Does that mean that I do have to coach effort at the U13 Upper House level? And if so, what do I say?

I can not forget the image of Gaby Andersen-Scheiss at the finish of the women’s marathon during the L. A. Olympics. She could barely stand up but she refused any attention until she crossed the finish line.

I want to say "This is what fatigue looks like." but maybe that's overdoing it.

I want to show this to the boys and tell them “THAT is what tired looks like.” But I’m a little concerned what might come out of their super-computers a few weeks later. More to Gaby’s story here.

Maybe I can go off articles like this one instead. This covers Ashley Young’s departure from Aston Villa and why he’ll be missed:

Delph: Young is irreplaceable

June 24, 2011

Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph says the club will struggle to fill the void left by former team-mate Ashley Young following his dream move to Manchester United.

Young completed his switch to Old Trafford on Thursday, and Delph believes the men he left behind will miss his pace, skill and impressive work-rate.

“It happens all the time, it’s football,” Delph told the Birmingham Mail. “People come and go and you have just got to deal with it and just keep going.

“I don’t think he could be replaced, to be honest with you. His all-round work ethic was absolutely unbelievable. He must have run twice as much as most people on the pitch.

“With his goals and assists, it will be very hard to replace him – but if we can get somebody here half as good as him, then he would still be a great player.

“You get a lot of players who are not selfish, but do more of their work in the attacking half of the pitch, whereas Youngy is up and down, when he’s on the right-hand side especially, working hard for the boys.

“The lads appreciate that from a winger who has flair, but still wants to graft.”

This may be a central theme of concern for many parents today. How do I provide a comfortable standard of living for my family and also teach my children that hard work and sacrifice was at the root of it? Can I teach my children how to overcome hardship, struggle through heavy weather, and to show up without fail or excuse when they have not seen much adversity growing up?

Any ideas? Kipling?

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One Response to Invisible Insanity

  1. Margo says:

    Love this post — it happens when you teach, when you coach, and when you’re a parent. And as a parent and coach, I continue to hear what my mother told me my entire life, “Was that the best you could do?” It may very well be the case that Gaby Andersen-Scheiss’s best is better than my best. So be it. I try to teach kids to evaluate their performance against their own best — then you have to help them determine their own best.

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