Coach Padilla

When I first met Al Padilla I was a freshman at East Los Angeles College. He was the offensive line coach on the football team and I was one of his charges. Like many first year college athletes I was a bit overwhelmed by the game that seemed so much more physical and faster than what I had played in high school. No need to worry, Coach made sure that we entered every game well-prepared and conditioned.

Outside the area of East Los Angeles Coach might have not been well-known, but in East LA he was a football coaching legend. One of the biggest high school football rivalry games west of the Mississippi River is the neighborhood clash between Garfield and Roosevelt high schools. Tens of thousands of fans regularly witness the yearly contest between these two big high schools in East LA. Al Padilla was the head coach at each of those schools before taking the reins of the football program at East Los Angeles College. All he did there was take the Huskies to the top of the community college football world by winning the California State Championship in 1974.

I didn’t really know much of this history when I first met Coach. All I knew of Al Padilla in 1978 was that he was my offensive line coach that worked me harder in practice than I had ever imagined possible. Driving our blocking sled up and down our practice field became a regular thing for us. We linemen thought he was feeling a bit human when he only had us drive that big sled only two hundred yards. We worked hard, but I don’t remember ever complaining because of the kind and respectful way Coach always approached us. A true gentleman who knew the importance of preparation in the sport he was clearly passionate about.

Due to a two-year Church mission to Guatemala, and a year to let my body recover, I returned to ELAC for my sophomore season. Coach Padilla was no longer involved in the football program, but he remained at the college as an instructor in the Physical Education Department. Our paths crossed and he seemed interested in my experiences in Central America and my decision to once again play football. That interest was demonstrated when he offered to help me out a bit. Turns out he taught a night basketball class in our large gym, which was located near our football stadium. Coach would come to his class early and observe our football practices from one of the tunnels high up in the stadium. After practice, in order to catch my public transit bus home, I would walk by the gym to meet Coach. While overseeing his basketball class, he would share with me his observations and how I could get better. My ride home on the bus was then filled with the valuable information learned from a coach who clearly still possessed passion for football. I was one of “his guys”. He was willing to help. I was willing to learn.

After finishing my playing career at the university level I entered the coaching ranks. With just three years of coaching experience I happened to be at a high school all-league meeting. The word there was that ELAC, who had dropped the football program a few years earlier, had decided to bring the football program back with Al Padilla as the head coach. I swung by the college on the way home to congratulate Coach and wish him well. The two equipment guys were the only ones I found, but they told me to come back when Coach was there because they knew he would love to see me. I followed their advice, returned to see Coach, and it was clear that I was still one of “his guys”. He told me he was assembling a coaching staff and mentioned some of the names who were already onboard. It was not surprising that this East LA legend had some great coaches lined up to help resurrect the football program. I think my jaw about self-dislocated when he asked me if I wanted to join his staff as the offensive line coach.

Coach Padilla had coaches on his staff that had decades of experience in coaching offensive line. I had only three years experience. One at the university level and two at a high school where football took a backseat to gymnastics and soccer. Yet he wanted me to be his offensive line coach. Being the man that he is, Coach told me to take my time in telling him my decision. Go home and talk it over with your wife, I was told, there are things more important that football and having your wife on board is vital. We arranged to meet again after the holidays. He looked forward to hearing my decision.

Our decision was made and I became the offensive line coach at East Los Angeles College and we hit the ground running. All of the tasks in restarting a football program were already underway and I jumped in for the ride and learning experience. I coached two years at ELAC before we bought a home too far from the college for a reasonable commute. Those two years were filled with so many learning experiences at the hands of a master mentor. Coach Padilla let me coach the offensive line, not at all taking over in any regard.

Some of my choicest memories during this time were when he and I found ourselves in the stadium offices after the other coaches had left. Those were the times I was helped to see the ways of the offensive line from someone who knew much more than I…and he was willing to share. In his kind, fatherly manner Coach helped me really learn the aspects of being an effective offensive line coach. Being dictatorial was not his way. Instead he led me along the path to growth and enlightenment by helping me come up with my own solutions. A twinkle in his eyes would clearly be seen as I arrived at a solution he had been leading me to. Sometimes that solution was one he had in mind and sometimes that solution was one of my own…which he proudly approved of.

College football coaches work seven days a week during the football season and things were no different at ELAC. Sundays were always spent going over the previous night’s game and studying the film of the upcoming opponent. When the question of what time we were to meet on Sundays came up, Coach Padilla asked me what time my Church meetings were. After I told him they were in the morning hours he said that our football meetings would start one hour after my Church meetings were over. He knew Church was important to me and he was always willing to help out one of “his guys”…plus it allowed him to get in a round of early morning golf.

I loved Coach Padilla and coaching for him was a joy. Yet we both knew I could not continue because of where my family now lived. It was a tough decision to leave, but we both knew it was necessary. He mentioned that he knew the head coach at the community college near our home. They had known each other for years and Coach Padilla told him about me. Coach’s recommendation gave me the opportunity to meet this head coach and after some interviews I was hired as his offensive line coach.

For a few seasons Coach Padilla and I found ourselves on opposite sidelines as both ELAC and my new employer were in the same football conference. We had some good games, but I remember the first one the clearest. ELAC came to our place and I wanted to make a good impression on Coach Padilla to show that I was making the most of the opportunity he had helped provide me in coaching college football close to my new home. I studied his defense meticulously and felt comfortable entering the game. Coach Padilla was the defensive coordinator and I felt confident I knew his defensive tendencies. I informed my new head coach that in certain game situations Coach Padilla would most certainly blitz. Sure enough, during the game that game situation arose and the head coach put the information to good use. We were backed up very deep in our own territory. It was third down and a long way to go. Coach Padilla tendency was to blitz in that situation. Armed with that thought, our head coach called a “pop pass” (a short, quick pass to the tight end just behind the blitzing linebackers). The result was the longest scoring pass play in the school’s history. We ended up winning the game. Hugs were shared afterwards and Coach looked at me with that familiar twinkle in his eyes and asked if that “pop pass” was my idea. I told him the truth. I had just provided my head coach with the information that Coach Padilla liked to blitz in that situation. With the same twinkle in his eyes, he responded: “Good job.”

In my third season coaching away from ELAC we had earned a bowl game invitation. Coach Padilla let me know that he would be there in the stands to support me. My dear wife was also in the stands that day with our toddler daughter and newborn baby girl. Ever the gentleman, Coach sat with my three loved ones during the game. The game turned out to be a memorable back-and-forth affair with the outcome not decided until the final seconds. We came away with the unlikely victory and I was anxious afterwards to hear Coach’s impressions and observations. When I asked him what he thought about the game, his response was: “It seemed like a good game…what I saw of it.” Turns out that Coach Padilla had become an impromptu “toddler-tracker” while helping my wife out with our little daughters. While my wife had her hands full with the newborn, Coach Padilla kept tabs on our little toddler. He told me that he would definitely sleep well that night due to his efforts. With his actions Coach showed me that he really meant what he told me years earlier…there are things more important than football.

The years moved on and Coach Padilla retired from the coaching ranks. Yet every time the college I coached for paid a visit to ELAC, Coach would be there in some fashion. Most times it was him catching my eye during our pregame warmups and sometimes it was a greeting passed along by the ELAC head coach. I remember during one pregame warmup he was watching me work with my offensive linemen. I spotted him, rushed over to hug and greet him, then was told by him that it was great to see me and I should get back to work. After the games where he was present, he would always stay afterwards to hug and greet me, then talk about anything other than football. Ever the mentor, he still showed me that there are things more important than football.

Even more years moved on and I did not stay in touch with Coach Padilla. After twenty-five years I retired from the college he had referred me to. There were no more road trips to ELAC for me. Just today I learned that Coach Al Padilla has moved on from this mortal existence. My heart hurts. I owe him so much. I worked hard for him as a player and as one of his assistant coaches. I never wanted to let him down, even when we found ourselves on opposing sidelines. As I have reflected back on what I learned from him over the years I am filled with a thankful heart. Thankful for him believing in me enough to hire me as his offensive line coach. Thankful for his mentorship and what he taught me about offensive line play and how to be a coach. Thankful for all that he did to show that he cared about me as a person, not just a football player or coach. Thankful for his kind and guiding hand in much more than football. So much I learned from him has helped me in being a better coach, a better husband, a better father, and a better person. It was an honor to be one of “his guys”.

I recently heard of a belief in angels in our lives. These are actually the individuals who do the things which seem angelic to those of whom are affected by their caring, kind, and loving manner. I know this to be true as I’ve been blessed by these angels in human form throughout my life. My life is better because of them. Al Padilla is definitely one of those angels who deeply blessed my life for so long and in so many ways. I still don’t want to disappoint him as I continue to develop my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

WEIGHTS

Forty-five years ago, the summer before my first year of high school, I was introduced to some serious weight training while preparing to play high school football. The high school I was about to attend had a very good football program, which included team weight training sessions. This was evidenced with the physical size of the athletes I was about to compete with. It quickly became evident that in order to survive, I was going to need to get serious in the weight training department. I did get serious and continued with serious weight training as I played football in both high school and college.

All these years later and I continue to weight train. Not at the levels I did as an athlete, all those years ago, but at a level more fitting of my advancing age. I am no longer physically capable of training with the same weight I did when I was younger, but I continue to push the envelope to see what I am capable of doing now. I do not compare my strength today with times gone by. That would be fruitless. I train with the mentality of doing what I am physically capable of today.

Along this long road of weight training I have had intervals of not training, but since I began I can attest that I’ve lifted every one of the past forty-five years and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Injuries, vacations, illnesses, time constraints, and a pandemic have interrupted my training…yet I’ve always returned. I was even able to find ways to weight train while serving a Church mission in the Central American country of Guatemala.

I remember early on being told by teammates that weight training would only be done while it had to be…as an athlete. As I progressed in football, I found that would not be true for me. I am grateful for that decision as weight training has taught me many life lessons…some of which I will now share.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

When it comes to physical capabilities, we are not all created equally. Each of us is a unique creation. We do not all possess equal physical capabilities. Some of us are strong in areas that others of us are not so good at…and vice versa. Some of us have more experience, thus are more capable than the less-experienced. The key is to compare yourself with what you are capable of doing. Comparing to others will only lead to frustration, heartache, and potential injury.

Embrace the challenge.

There will be challenges along our path. Don’t avoid them. Embrace them. They will lead to mental and physical growth. I am not talking about the childish challenges of youth issued by others, I am referring to the challenge of taking on the demands which will lead to personal growth. Challenges come about no matter what. At the same time, challenges lead to growth and increased strength…in all aspects of life.

Focus on the reps, the weight will take care of itself.

In weight training we follow a routine which includes repetitions and sets. There are a number of variations, but the one I follow is that on a particular day of training I aim to get decreasing repetitions of increasing weight with each set. I am always willing to adjust the amount of weight in order to get the desired repetitions. The key for me is to get the repetitions, not a particular weight. If it’s not a good day, the weight might not be as high as the previous workout. That’s okay, because the growth I want will come from the repetitions. In the long run, the training effect will come with the repetitions while the weight will naturally increase as the desired number of repetitions are met.

We cannot do more than we are capable of doing. Sometimes in life we overload ourselves with tasks instead of limiting them to what we are capable of doing at that particular time. We are better off taking on what we can do (the “reps”), getting used to that, then increasing our workload (the “weight”) as our capabilities increase. By focusing on these “reps’ our “weight” will take care of itself.

Consistency is the key.

When I first entered the world of weight training there was no way I ever could have imagined the strength levels I would eventually achieve. My beginning capabilities paled in comparison to those of my teammates. With the help of their guiding advice, my strength increased as I learned to become consistent in my training. My strength steadily increased as I became more consistent. By my last season of college football my strength was one of my best attributes on the game field. With continued training, over the years my playing career ended and my coaching career began, my strength continued to increase due to the fact that I remained consistent. Of course, as with so many who train with weights, I reached an age where that strength gain leveled off and began to decrease. Even so, shortly before turning forty years old my strength was a a much higher level than it had ever been during my football playing days.

Consistency leads to improvement in all that we do. As we become consistent, our capabilities increase and the workload seems easier. Consistency can lead us to levels never before imagined.

Enjoy the journey.

Workouts should be enjoyable. If they are not, find another approach to fitness which is enjoyable. Enjoyment of what we do brings about happiness and joy, which leads to better performance and progress. Goals can be excellent sources of encouragement and inspiration, but the probability of attaining those goals greatly increases when there is joy in the journey to their attainment.

The journey of life can be just as enjoyable as the destination where we hope to arrive. There is so much along our path to be enjoyed. By focusing too much on the destination, we risk the chance of missing out on much along our journey. The key is to focus on enjoying our journey, which leads to our desired destination.

Conclusion…

I am a natural competitor. It’s how I came from the factory. Since my days of playing football, weight training has helped fulfill that urge of mine to compete. The difference now and my days as an athlete, is that my competition is now me against the weight and the aging process. It’s a competition I truly enjoy and I will continue as long as I am physically capable. There is no doubt my time in the weight room has helped shape my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

MY FIRST FOOTBALL COACHING GIG

The first time I met Mike Drake was in the Spring of 1983. It was on the campus of East Los Angeles College. Our head football coach at ELAC was in the film room with some of my teammates when I swung by to offer greetings and well wishes. Coach Rozadilla quickly got to his feet, when I stuck my head in the doorway, and invited me in while excitedly introducing Coach Drake from Western New Mexico University. The man was very nice and he immediately made me feel comfortable. What followed seemed to me like a love fest, which made me feel quite uncomfortable. Coach Rozadilla was running the controls of our game films from the previous season and extensively extolling the athletic virtues of each of us players in the room. By nature I am not one who accepts praise very well. Praise often makes me feel uncomfortable and that is how I quickly felt as the enthusiastic praise was heaped upon each of us players in the room. Not long after my arrival I came up with an excuse of why I had to leave for an imaginary meeting. Hands were shaken and pleasantries exchanged as I could not get out of that room quick enough. Little did I realize, as is so often the case in such situations, that I had just met a man who would be a pivotal part of my life for years to come.

Fast forward two years. During those two years much had transpired. Coach Drake convinced me that the small southwestern town of Silver City was the place I wanted to play football and finish up my college degree. He was the defensive coordinator. I didn’t deal with him much at all on the field as I played on the offensive line, but he did all in his power to make those of us he had recruited from Southern California feel comfortable. The next Spring he was named the head coach. I finished up my degree and headed back to SoCal to begin my teaching and coaching career…or so I had planned.

Mid-summer of 1985 I am told I have a phone call from WNMU with an offer to be the assistance offensive line coach to work with Tim Jaureguito. I was floored. I ended up speaking with Coach Drake, Coach Jaureguito (who had been my offensive line coach my senior season), and my good friend Vince Watts who had sat out my last season and had one more season of eligibility left. Each coach assured me it was a great to start my coaching career and Vince assured me it would not be a problem if I was one of his coaches. I was given a week to decide. After much thought, prayer, and discussions with those individuals whose opinions I treasured, I accepted the offer. Coach Drake seemed to jump through the phone with excitement and said that I would be an asset to the staff. I wasn’t so sure. I had much to learn, but I was an eager learner who was willing to work hard. Little did I understand that both of those qualities would come in handy as I began my coaching career on the staff at a university!

Coaches arrived to fall camp well ahead of the players. Arrangements were made to make the dorms available, for those of us who needed to live there, but the cafeteria would not be open until the following week when the players reported. This meant that many of my meals came from the soda machine near the football coaches office since my funds were quite limited. I dropped ten pounds that first week, but it was clear that I had entered the university world of football coaching and I had so much to learn.

Three of us coaches were new to the coaching world and each of us had been on the team the previous season. Rick Dailey was a good friend from Los Angeles. We had actually graduated from the same high school. I was a few years older so we did not meet until football brought so many of us together in Silver City. Rick was as cool as they come. To meet him was to like him and his abilities on the football field were second to none. He was an all-world safety and ferocious hitter with a keen sense of finding the ball. Kent Grider was from Indiana. He and his wife were both nice people. I remember being invited to their house to watch an early Mike Tyson fight. Our visit was short as many of Mike Tyson’s fights were short and this one was no different. Kent was a tight end and long snapper. If he touched a ball thrown in his direction he caught it, as he was as sure-handed of a receiver. Both Rick and Kent were selected to the all-conference team after our senior season, while I was the lone new non-all-star member of the coaching staff. We were all about to learn that coaching football requires much more time than we had ever imagined as players.

Upon arrival back to WNMU, we were given the remainder of the day to get settled. Coach Drake wanted us in the office the next morning to start prepping for the upcoming season. Right away twelve to sixteen hour days became the norm. After settling into the schedule, days in which we only worked twelve hours were rare and appreciated as it left us with a short time to do something other than work on football and sleep. My body and mind felt as if I had just entered a crash course on how to coach football…and I was LOVING it! Since a young age I had loved the sport of football, but this was different. My eyes were beginning to be opened to aspects of football I had never imagined before. As a Church missionary in Guatemala I had become accustomed to shorter nights of sleep, but as a coach at WNMU a new definition of “sleep deprivation” was introduced. In my mind I was living a dream, staying involved in the game that I loved, and at times my body felt like it was in a dream as I adjusted to the time demands of coaching football.

Once the players arrived our days grew longer as us younger coaches had to go through the dorms to wake the team up for morning practices and “dawn patrol” (a mandatory early AM conditioning session for those players who had reported to fall camp not up to the physical standards deemed necessary). My official title to the university was that of “graduate assistant”, but on the coaching staff I was the “assistant offensive line coach” and it was expected that I would be a full-time coach. In other words, I had to coach my rear end off just like all of the other coaches on the staff. And make no mistake about it, I was being raised right in how to coach football.

The coach I worked most closely with was Tim Jaureguito. He was the offensive line coach and his knowledge of the game was extensive. Coach J was a patient teacher, I was an eager learner, and it was clear that I had so much to learn. My assignment was to focus on the backside of the offensive line on running plays and Tim would tell me which side of the offensive line to focus on in the passing game. Coach ran most of the drills, but when we broke up I worked with the part of the line which he assigned me. When it came to coaching offensive line play I felt as if I had skipped the elementary, secondary, and college stuff and been thrust into the graduate school level stuff. My mind was ablaze and I was learning so much from Coach J, but it didn’t end there.

Mike Drake is honestly one of the best individuals I have come across while on this planet. He cared about his players and he cared about his coaches. Coach knew how to make you want to be a better you. It wasn’t his way to verbally get on his staff. His expectations were made clear and we worked hard to meet those expectations and fulfill the responsibilities issued to each of us. Coach Drake had assembled a great staff…one I will be indebted to forever. Not only were they great coaches, they were great men. This coaching staff set the foundation for my coaching career which is now in the midst of its fourth decade.

Two on our staff, Paul Mills and Dan Salter, had previously coached at the University of Texas-El Paso. Paul was our defensive coordinator with a true passion for the game and knowledge to match. His high level of energy inspired me to approach the field with enthusiasm. I envied his high metabolism, but he always told me it was a curse. What wasn’t a curse was his way of coaching and all that I learned from him. Dan was the defensive line coach and I always found him very easy to like. His sense of humor was infectious and his ability to reach his defensive linemen showed me that it was okay to be yourself while coaching, but always demand full effort from the players you work with. The following Spring, during recruiting, Dan helped me get through some trying times when tragedy struck a linebacker from Michigan that I had been recruiting. I will always be grateful fo him and the words he offered to help me get through a challenging period.

Joe Palmer was the elder statesman of the staff and the lone long-term resident of Silver City. He had coached at WNMU for a long time and for several head coaches. Joe was always well-respected by the players, coaching staff, and community. I never heard anyone speak of Joe Palmer with anything but utmost respect and admiration. Coach Palmer worked with the defensive backs and he always had them prepared and ready to play each and every game. He was a model of professionalism both on and off the field, all the while being approachable by both player and coach alike. Joe showed me that it was imperative that a coach respect the profession and approach football likewise.

Once the season began I was introduced to the concept of understanding your opponent and what they are trying to do. We did not have computer programs to assist in this task in 1985. In fact, we didn’t even have computers to work with. We had VHS tapes to work with in preparing for the opposition. Each of us coaches watching the film would have a notepad in front of us as we jotted down assigned aspects of every single play we watched of an upcoming opponent’s game. We did not watch film as an entire staff. Paul Mills would watch the film with the defensive coaching staff, while Coach Drake would watch the film with the offensive coaching staff since he was also the offensive coordinator. Once we watched the film as an offensive staff it was time to get down to business and really break the film down as we would watch it countless more times in preparation for the upcoming game. Coach J, Kent, and I would monitor different assigned areas,, track those and come up with tendencies of what the defense like to do in certain situations.

The clock on the wall would creep well past midnight as we continued to work towards morning before departing for some sleep since we had to be in the office by 7 AM. I remember more than a few times just collapsing into bed, not wasting time changing clothes, wishing to get as much sleep possible in the little time available. Showers were not only desired before reporting to the office by 7 AM, they were NECESSARY in order to fully awaken my body and mind. Ties were a required part of our attire in the office. We would change into coaching gear during our lunch hour and some of us used the remainder of our break getting in a power nap on the floor of our office.

After lunch it was all about setting up a practice schedule and what was to be accomplished on the field with the team. Every minute detail was addressed during the finely detailed practices. After a short dinner break we would be found back in the office working more on game prep while the night quickly passed heading toward the morning hours. As the game week progressed our days shrunk back to the twelve-hour day mark as the work was completed.

To say that I learned how to work hard on this staff would be a grand understatement. I already knew how to work hard…or so I thought. As a member of this coaching staff I learned that there was a higher level of work of which I became a willing participant. Every conceivable aspect of the opponent would be analyzed, annotated, then scrutinized. Then Coach Drake would say the words: “Let’s watch it one more time.” We were never underprepared for an opponent…no matter what the scoreboard read at the end of a game. It was on this staff that I began to understand that it is always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

Well more than thirty years have passed since we were last together, yet this staff continues to affect so many aspects of how I coach. They definitely helped set the stage for how I would approach coaching football for as long as the sport would have me. Coach Drake and Coach Palmer have since progressed from this life. The remainder of the staff I am friends with on Facebook. A few years ago Rick Dailey and I met for lunch with our wives. It was if we had seen each other just last month. The years had not dimmed what had bonded us together so long ago.

So often what we accomplish in life can be traced back to the roots of what we have built upon. This is the case with me and coaching football. I have coached at two high schools and two community colleges since WNMU. Many of the accomplishments I was part of at each institution can be attributed to what I learned at WNMU. At the four institutions I’ve coached, away from WNMU, I have given my all and the best I had to offer. And that is because I was raised right in football, and how to work, during my first year of coaching football. It was then that I started to develop my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

Just In Case…

With the world in a state of being that we could never have ever imagined, I have had much time to ponder way too many thoughts. With so much time on my hands I am left to get in deep touch with my own mortality and the wonderful life I have been blessed with. Yesterday I attended a small memorial service for a neighbor who has progressed beyond this life. The service was like streamed to family who live far away and were not able to be in attendance. Of course, under our present circumstances a large group could not congregate to celebrate the life of the departed individual. After the service a thought came to me: so often we do not have the opportunity to celebrate an individual’s life until that person is no longer with us. What a shame!

When my time comes for mortal departure I wish not to be mourned. What I would prefer is to have the opportunity of thanking the individuals who have been important to me along the journey of my life. I understand that it does not work that way. At my memorial service the good qualities I have exhibited during my time on Earth may be highlighted. No one will point out any of the myriad of human weaknesses I have succumbed to while in this life. How important people have been to me may be mentioned, but I’d like to turn the tables a bit and offer gratitude now to those who have made my life so wonderful…just in case.

Thank you to my parents who raised me in a time when things were most challenging. Although they have progressed from this life long ago, they left impressions and life lessons which I continue to carry in my heart. So much in what I have accomplished in life is firmly rooted in what I learned from my mother and father. I was also blessed with two sets of grandparents who often treated me as one of their own children. Their influence on me is treasured and undeniable, as is that of beloved aunts and uncles.

When I was growing up our living conditions were often influx. I had one consistent friend during those tender years: my brother. I was eight months shy of my eighth birthday when he was born, yet our age difference never impeded our relationship and love for one another. It is with him I learned how to be a brother, friend, father, and all-around good citizen. He continues to have a special place in my heart where no one else is allowed. There is nothing like sibling love and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for him.

In grade school I was the fat guy who wore glasses and was often made fun of due to each characteristic. It wasn’t until high school where my size became an attribute which was truly appreciated. It was then that the sport of football found me and gave me a home amongst my peers. My high school coaches were patient enough to allow me to develop in a sport which I had yearned years to play. Those coaches, and my teammates, set the groundwork which helped lead to opportunities to play football in college. Without that groundwork my life surely would have not taken the path it did.

So many teachers, high school coaches, Church leaders, college professors, and college coaches had a positive impact on my developing life. The number of them is great and my gratitude for each is equally great.

The football teammates I had along my football playing journey were numerous and so many of them became like family. My life was definitely impacted positively by coming across them in my journey.

Each of the missionary companions I worked with, during my two years as a Church missionary in Guatemala, helped me grow in so many ways. Not just as a missionary, but also as a human being who had to learn what it meant to be a good companion in life. They along with all the people I came across in Guatemala, sent me home so much better prepared for life than I was when I began my journey there.

I have been an assistant football coach in five decades now. The numbers of athletes I’ve worked with over the years boggles the mind. I demanded much of myself as a player and I have demanded much of the athletes I’ve worked with. Along the way I helped them improve their physical strength and football skills, all the while striving to give them qualities which would serve them away from the gridiron. As each left my charge, every one of those athletes left me with cherished memories, while helping me develop qualities which could help me become a better father.

The coaches I’ve worked with are many and I’ve learned from them all. I greatly value the times we spent together as colleagues…as friends…as family.

Students I’ve taught, at the high school and college levels, since 1986 are countless and precious in my mind. I did my best to treat each student the way I would treat my own child. I am most grateful to have been a minuscule part of their lives.

Being a natural introvert, I had never possessed much hope in finding a person who would walk through life with me. A loving Heavenly Father changed that way of thinking by placing the most caring and loving individual in my life. The day she agreed to join together with me as a team was the happiest day of my life! Her positive influence on me is immeasurable. She loves me, supports me, overlooks my shortcomings, and gives me the desire to become a better person. Mere words cannot due justice to the gratitude and love I have for my eternal sweetheart. I am nothing without her. With her I am “As One”.

Together we have four children who have blessed my life in ways I could never have imagined. My love for each of our children knows no bounds. The love we share as a family is priceless. I readily acknowledge that each has me wrapped around their little finger. I would do anything for each of them and I feel the same for the two sons-in-law and three grandchildren who have joined our crew.

To one and all I have had the pleasure of working with I say THANK YOU! You have each contributed to my journey called “Life” and I am eternally grateful that our paths crossed. Along our paths we have cried, laughed, rejoiced, sorrowed, loved, lost, won, learned, developed…and the list goes on.

I’ve shared with some of you these thoughts before, but the times we live in now no one knows what will happen next. Thus, I share these thoughts with you all just in case I don’t have the opportunity in the future.

It’s been a joy knowing each of you as I have developed my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

Nature Over Man

It’s sights like this that remind me that nature will always be stronger than man. What man builds, nature can take apart.

I’m reminded long ago being on a tour bus in Northern Guatemala. Speaking with the driver (sometimes my Spanish-speaking can be a plus) he related to me a story from his youth. A university from the US had come to do an archaeological dig in the northern section of the jungle-like Peten region. Many of the locals, including our bus driver, were hired to work on the dig. Much was uncovered which rivaled the famous Tikal Mayan ruins in the region. Eventually funding was was cut at the university and the work ended. The archaeological site was left behind and life went back to normal for the hired workers.

A year or so later the University people returned and once again hired locals to work the dig. As they made their way northward towards the site it appeared as if they had never been there before. The jungle had taken back the area and reclaimed what had been uncovered the year before. Nature found a way to take back what was not protected.

Nature proved stronger than man…and that will always be the case. What we can do is be prepared for what nature has to offer and humble ourselves before the powers that rule nature. No matter what, man is subject to the powers that be.

Just sharing what I call my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

Stay safe my friends!

THEN I REMEMBERED SOME…

I woke up this morning with pain coursing throughout my body…then I remembered that some did not wake up this morning.

I grumbled to myself a bit as I worked my way downstairs to start a load of laundry, wondering why I had left such a task for the weekend…then I remembered that some don’t have so many clothes to wash, or a washer & dryer to do the work.

As I stepped on the scale I couldn’t help but chide myself for letting my weight get so high…then I remembered that some do not enjoy the plentitude of food available to me.

I forced myself to check into the local health club to get some cardio work in…then I remembered that some do not have such a nice facility at their disposal.

Too many days I must prod myself to head into work…then I remembered that some cannot find a job.

I get frustrated at the amount of telemarketers calling my cell phone…then I remembered that some do not own a cell phone.

I grimaced as my joints adjusted to the challenge of a hike with my wife…then I remembered that some cannot walk at all.

It can sometimes be a challenge coordinating my schedule with that of my wife’s…then I remembered that some are all alone.

Our adult children don’t always stay in touch as often as we would like…then I remembered that some do not stay in touch with their parents at all.

In my profession of coaching football it can be frustrating that some of my players don’t share the passion I have for the sport…then I remembered that some have not been blessed enough to find their passion.

Sadness fills me as I think of the loved ones who have passed from this life…then I remembered some do not have the pleasant memories of times shared with loved ones that I have in my heart and mind.

I’m not at all happy about the high price of gasoline which awaits me every time I pump gas into the car…then I remembered that some do not own a vehicle or cannot afford the gas to put into one.

The price of heating/cooling our house seems much too high to me…then I remembered that some do not have a house in which to live.

A dinner out with family leaves me feeling the food was overpriced…then I remembered that some cannot afford a meal at a restaurant.

We each face challenges only we can understand. No one’s challenge seems greater than the one presented each of us. Yet, no matter the challenge, we would not wish to exchange it for a challenge facing so many others who find themselves in circumstances worse than our own. If we take the time to reflect, we will find that we have so much more to be grateful for than to lament. The key is to take the time to look for the good and overcome the bad, remembering that the good almost always outweighs the bad. Besides, in the end it will all work out if we do our part. No one will overcome our challenges for us…nor should they. Those challenges were meant for us to be overcome by us. Maybe things won’t seem so bad if we keep in mind that the challenges of today will bring about the blessings of tomorrow.

I choose to keep my head up and move ahead looking for the good in life, understanding that there will be some bad along the way which will make the good seem even better. I will look for the good…understanding that what I seek I will find, whether it be good or bad.

Just some positive vibes from my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

TRY A LITTLE HARDER TO BE A LITTLE BETTER

I am a football coach. It is what I do. I began coaching just before I graduated from college in 1985. Thirty-five years in coaching football is a very long time. When I began coaching I was single. Entering my third year of coaching I married my sweetheart in May of 1987. We now have three daughters, one son, two sons-in-law, two grandsons, a granddaughter on the way, eight birds, two dogs and a very happy life….and I continue to coach. After thirty years of coaching I actually stepped away for a year, got bored and now I continue to coach. Needless to say, my family knows what it’s like to have a football coach in the family. In fact, our son now has two years coaching experience himself.

Why do I share this? I want you to understand how I am going to approach my assigned topic: “How to be a better member of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints”.

In my profession of coaching if we want to improve on something we work at it by practicing what it is we need to improve. We spend countless hours during the year preparing for the ten scheduled games we will play. That means that we practice many more hours than we actually play in our games. If we want to improve we must work at it and practice!

So it is with being a member of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. If we wish to improve, we must practice what the gospel teaches us. If we do not, we will never improve. I remember as a child it seemed overwhelming to me when we were taught to strive towards perfection. It seemed such a long reach for someone as human as I was at the time, that I could not envision ever being found worthy. As I have grown older, in age and knowledge, I have learned this is not the correct mind-set.

Just like in football, where we do not advance until we can handle the basics, we must progress at our own pace in trying to improve. Twenty-five years ago, during his closing remarks at the April General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley shared these words:

“…in the thirty-second chapter of the book of Alma…(Alma’s) teachings include these words: “Awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27).

My beloved associates, far more of us need to awake and arouse our faculties to an awareness of the great everlasting truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can put behind us our weaknesses of the past, and go forth with new energy and increased resolution to improve the world about us, in our homes, in our places of employment, in our social activities.

We have work to do, you and I, so very much of it. Let us roll up our sleeves and get at it, with a new commitment, putting our trust in the Lord.

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;

But with joy wend your way.

Though hard to you this journey may appear,

Grace shall be as your day.

We can do it, if we will be prayerful and faithful. We can do better than we have ever done before. The Church needs your strength. It needs your love and loyalty and devotion. It needs a little more of your time and energy.

I am not asking anyone to give more at the expense of his or her employer. We have an obligation to be men and women of absolute honesty and integrity in the service of those who employ us. I am not asking anyone to do so at the expense of your families. The Lord will hold you responsible for your children. But I am suggesting that we spend a little less time in idleness, in the fruitless pursuit of watching some inane and empty television programs. Time so utilized can be put to better advantage, and the consequences will be wonderful. Of that I do not hesitate to assure you.

Now, my beloved brethren and sisters, as we return to our homes, may we go in safety, pondering the things we have heard these past two days. May we go with determination to try a little harder to be a little better.”

That’s the key! Instead of trying to do it all perfectly all at once, we must “try a little harder to be a little better.” That’s what we do in football, so I can relate with these words. Each day in practice we focus on just one thing we need to improve on…in other words we just try to do a little better than we did before. By doing that everyday our progress is much better as we slowly work towards improvement.

With the gospel we must try harder in doing the basics….

We must not simply “read” the Book Of Mormon, we must do as the ancient prophet Moroni tells us:

“…I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things…that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth to it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

Moroni 10:3-5

We should not offer up just words when we pray. We should follow the teachings of the prophet Alma:

“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God…” Alma 37:37

We must serve one another because as King Benjamin teaches us:

“…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are…in the service of your God.” Mosiah 2:17

We must faithfully live the commandments of our loving Heavenly Father. King Benjamin tells us:

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.” Mosiah 2:22

If we follow the commandments we cannot go wrong. Will we be perfect? Of course not! We are not asked to be perfect. We are simply asked to “try a little harder to be a little better.” I know we can do that! President Hinckley knew that too when he told us:

“Rise to the high ground of excellence. You can do it. You may not be a genius. You may be lacking in some skills. But you can do better than you are now doing.”

“All of us cannot be geniuses, but we can strive for excellence. This quest may be a long one. It may be fraught with much of repentance, and it will take much of effort. Do not sell yourselves short. You are sons and daughters of God, children with a divine potential. “Look to God and live” (Alma 37:47).

Make a little extra effort and kneel before Him in supplication. He will help you. He will bless you. He will comfort and sustain you.”

I am not a perfect member of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints, but I am a better member than I was a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago and more. And I strive to be a better member next year…because I will try a little harder to be a little better.

I close sharing the words or President Thomas S. Monson:

“May we return to our homes with a resolve in our hearts to be a little better than we have been in the past. May we be a little kinder and more thoughtful.”

A Very Special Visit

I was in the midst of shaving when the phone rang. My dear wife Debbie answered the call and informed me that my father was on the line and it sounded urgent. Immediately my shaving came to a halt and I put the phone to my ear. My father informed me that my dearly beloved grandmother, his mother, was not expected to see the next day in mortality. Her doctor had informed Dad that he did not expect to see Grandma Ecca alive when he made his morning rounds the next day. The words were a punch to my heart. Shaving in preparation for Church on that particular Sunday morning immediately became inconsequential as I processed the information received. I didn’t know how to respond. Debbie’s response was a quick and simple one: “You should go.”

Each of us who have had experiences with our grandparents cherish those memories forever. The same is true for me, but with Grandma Ecca there was always something special. I was the first grandchild born to both sides of the family. During those early years all four grandparents helped raise me in their respective homes, therefore I spent more time with each, due to life’s circumstances, than one might expect.

Rebecca Trujillo Martinez was my “Grandma Ecca”. To so many of her friends she was “Becky” and to her family she was simply “Ecca”. Grandpa Martinez left mortality when I was just four years old and Grandma would remain a widow for the rest of her time on earth…forty years! She always treated me with so much love and I was not alone in that respect as she treated everyone with love. To meet her was to love her. Short in stature, she did not reach the five-foot mark, her heart was as big as all outdoors.

When my parents married it was a very different era. Theirs was a bi-racial marriage. My dear mother came from early “Mormon” stock who had crossed the Great Plains to Utah. My dear father’s family was rooted deeply in the Hispanic traditions of old and founded in the Catholic faith. Her complexion was light, while his complexion was of a darker hue. In certain circles this union was frowned upon at the time, but to Grandma Ecca it was embraced and my mother became family. I heard Grandma refer to my mother as “Hijita” (“little daughter”) on a regular basis. The love between the two was undeniable…as the special love only a mother and daughter share.

Back to that morning when my shave was interrupted. I usually follow my sweetheart’s lead when it comes to things of a more spiritual nature. This was the case on the morning of January 19, 2004. I quickly changed my clothes, hopped into one of our cars, and pointed it in the direction of Ogden, Utah. It good conditions the drive from our home would take in the neighborhood of twelve hours. My intent was to arrive as quickly as possible with hopes of seeing my dearly beloved Grandma Ecca just one last time. With one stop for gas and a stop or two at easy-access restrooms, I made the journey faster than I had ever done previously. That Sunday there had been a celebration in Grandma’s hospital room for her ninetieth birthday. As I entered the room, just before midnight, remnants of the celebration were still evident on the door. I smiled with hopes the celebration was worthy of one of heaven’s choicest souls. My heart swelled with more hope as Grandma was sleeping peacefully. One or two family members were present waiting the seeming inevitable. We were all tired. The other family members left for home while the nurses set me up to sleep in a chair next to Grandma’s bed.

As the sun rose on a new day, I opened my eyes to the smiling face of my Grandma Ecca. She seemed happy to see me and I know for sure that I was happy to see her. I gave her a gentle hug and a kiss on her cheek, expressing my joy in being there with her. Grandma questioned why I was there, but the look in her eyes conveyed that I was wise to listen to the urgings of my dear wife to come with haste. We enjoyed each other’s company as it seemed just like the last time I’d seen her just a few months earlier. There was a sparkle in her eyes and I know tears of joy were in mine. Our joyful visit was interrupted by her doctor on his morning rounds. I left the room as the doctor and nurses attended to my beloved grandmother.

After a short walk, I returned to wait outside Grandma Ecca’s room. As the doctor and nurses left the room, the doctor pulled me aside to say that he was sure the only reason she was still with us was because I was there…he could see it in her eyes when she looked at me. I was touched and felt extremely blessed that a loving Heavenly Father had allowed Grandma and me some time together before she was called home.

For the next four days, except for meals, I spent every waking hour with my grandmother with whom I had spent so much of my life and to whom I owed so much. I was even allowed to push her wheelchair around the hospital so she could get out of her room for a bit. We reminisced, in English and Spanish, about good times gone by. The walks we shared in small town and urban settings. The times we spent talking late into the night long after others in the house had gone to bed. The late night snack of a homemade buttered tortilla dipped in syrup we shared as she always had a sweet treat before going to bed. The times she travelled by bus, she would never fly and she never possessed a driver’s license, to visit our family no matter where we lived at the time. All the important times in my life that she found a way to be there for me. The loved ones who had left mortality and all the good times we shared together…as well as how much we missed each of them. We laughed. We cried. We spent time together I will forever cherish. In a way it seemed this served as a summary of our lives together…our love for one another and the love we had shared with so many along the way.

Life moves on and I had to return to work. After four days in her presence I had to leave my dearly beloved grandmother and return to California. We both knew it would be for the last time in this life, so we were both hesitant at my departure. As usual Grandma had tears flow down her cheeks while we hugged and kissed our goodbyes. The difference with all of our other departures was that tears unashamedly flowed down my cheeks as well.

I returned to the real world and work. Just over two weeks later I got the inevitable phone call informing me that Grandma Ecca was once again reunited with so many loved ones who had gone on before. I can imagine the hearty hugs and tears of joy as she was reunited with my grandfather, her sweetheart, and countless other family members and friends…including my dear mother, her “Hijita”.

Do not pass up the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and those others you hold dear. An opportunity lost will never be replaced, so enjoy the time together while you have it. Those four days with my dearly beloved grandmother I will cherish forever and I know that we will reflect on that time together again some day.

So many experiences I”be had along this journey we call “life”.

I’m just a simple man sharing my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

SIXTY?!?!?!

One of my grandfathers, an uncle, an aunt, and my dear mother were not able to complete six decades on this planet we call “Earth”. As I approached the various ages of these beloved family members I felt apprehension mixed with thanksgiving for the time I am afforded in mortality with family, friends, colleagues, fellow humans. Understanding that none of us have total control of how long we live in this earthly state, I can state that due to circumstances beyond my control I am now celebrating my sixtieth birthday. As I ponder the life I have been blessed with I know there were opportunities along the way for an earlier departure than I would have preferred. So many of us have had those experiences. Occasions where it was clear we had been watched over and protected from fatal outcomes along this journey we call “life”. So many associates, colleagues, friends, and family have transitioned from mortality, yet here I remain. The list of those individuals grows with each passing year. I am humbled that my name is not currently on that list…yet I know in my heart when it is I will be reunited with all of those who have gone on before, embraced with mutual love in the presence of a loving Heavenly Father. In reflection I can see that there is so much I have experienced…so much I have learned…so much I can still do.

While very young my parents moved us around quite often. Through my elementary school years I averaged attending two schools per year due to our moving from town to town. I would just start to get comfortable, then it would be time to start all over once again. As a result friendships outside my family were short-lived. My shy nature did not help things, so I kind of ended up on the extreme side of shyness. Upon reflection I see that opportunities for strengthening relationships were lost due to my shyness and inability to open up a bit with those outside my family. Even so, moving around so much helped me learn that people are people. I attended schools with so many differing student bodies that I saw that there is good and bad in all different kinds of people. The outward appearance of an individual is not always a reflection of what lies within that individual.

Nearing high school age our locations of residence became more stable. I only attended two junior high schools (grades 7-9) and one high school (grades 10-12). It was in high school where I could finally participate in what had interested me for years…FOOTBALL! The sport had fascinated me for as long as I could remember, yet due to my size I had not been able to play the sport in how it was intended to be played…fully padded up in football gear. That first year in high school I had participated in the summer training sessions, thus I had teammates with whom I had started to build friendships with. When classes began this made the transition to high school so much easier for this extremely shy guy. Football was not kind to me at first. I had to be helped in putting on the football protective gear correctly. I learned quickly that there is a difference between the discomfort experienced with physical exertion and the physical pain caused by other humans pounding into your body from various directions. With time I adjusted. The first year I didn’t get to suit up for varsity games until we reached the playoffs. I am sure that honor was bestowed upon me due to my ability to survive as opposed to thrive. The view was eye-opening enough to set the mold for me to become a varsity starter the last two years of high school. Along the road of playing high school football I learned that the sport was not what I had expected it to be in full football gear…it was BETTER! So much so that I did not want my football playing experience to end. I sought college opportunities.

I had hoped to earn a college scholarship playing high school football. I did not. I was offered a walk-on opportunity at a university I had dreamed of playing for, but my financial circumstances made that an impossible dream to fulfill. A local community college invited me over for a visit. A few of my teammates and I enjoyed our visit and our free dinner at a fast food restaurant across the street from campus. I was sold! I immediately began training in earnest for my first season as an East Los Angeles College Husky. I was no stranger to hard physical training, so the transition to college football was as smooth as could be expected. The size and speed of the football players I played with and against took some adjusting to, but I adjusted and became a starter on the offensive line that first year in college. As the calendar turned to another year, with my training for my second college football season well underway, a higher calling gradually came to me.

In our religion we are given the opportunity of going on a mission. Two years for males and 18 months for females. I had never considered going on a mission since I considered that it would interfere with my football endeavors. As I prepared for my second season of college football it seemed that I was spinning my wheels and not really operating with a purpose. After much reflection and prayer I decided that I should serve a mission. I did all that was necessary and eventually received word that I was called to serve in the Central American country of Guatemala. It was definitely a leap of faith, the biggest I had made in my young life, but I knew within me the decision I made was the right one. Despite any challenges which awaited, I was determined to serve. I had no idea how much this experience would end up impacting the rest of my life.

For two years I put my personal endeavors on hold while embarking on a path to serve others. I was not a model missionary by any means. I was humbled to my very core and challenged in ways I had never imagined possible. I met so many people who changed my perception of the life I had back home. My eyes were opened to the lack of opportunities available to the vast majority of people I came across which were available and often taken for granted in the United States. I did what I could to help the people whose paths I crossed. What I learned from them was so much more than I have ever done for those wonderful people. After two years I returned home a much better person than I had been before. I vowed to never take for granted opportunities placed in my life. No matter what there are always people in the world who would love to live in similar circumstances as our own…yet they will never get the opportunity.

Returning to the “real world” took some adjustment on my part. No longer the extremely shy individual I was before Guatemala, I had much more confidence in myself and my abilities. My priorities had shifted and were much more grounded. Football had been left behind and not to be included in my post-Guatemala life. A college degree was a high priority, along with earning the funds to pay for my education. It quickly became apparent that working full-time while going to college would definitely require more time in earning a degree than I could foresee. The thought came to me that if I took the chance of playing football one more season at East Los Angeles College I could possibly garner the interest of a university enough to warrant a college scholarship. I set to the task. I took a part-time job, went to school full-time, and trained as hard as possible with the intent of earning a spot on the football team once again. My efforts were rewarded and I even ended up starting every game on the offensive line. In a relatively short amount of time, I was not able to train with the team until the summer months, the offensive line I was a member of became extremely close. We had each other’s backs and our working relationship on the field became evident as we could not be stopped on becoming one of the top community college offenses in the country. This taught me that bonds can be formed in a relatively short time and last a lifetime. We got together many years later after not seeing each other for decades and it felt like we were still brothers at heart.

In the Spring I was afforded two choices of universities who wanted me to play football. I chose to head west and accept a football scholarship to a small division two university in southwestern New Mexico. The small town provided challenges to others from Southern California, but not to me due to what I had seen and experienced in Guatemala. I found the place very acceptable and a great place, with few distractions, to complete my bachelor’s degree. The higher elevation was a challenge and the competition was intense. Two years later I had started on the offensive line and had earned a bachelor’s degree. That small town brought so many of us together from various parts of the country. We left with a brotherhood which lasts to this day. We didn’t always share the same morals, but we shared the desire for success on the football field…and we found it as we had the best two-year run the football team had to that point in the school’s history.

It was great and football had been very good to me. Three years in high school and four years in college, but the trail had come to an end as I was not a good enough player to earn a paycheck playing football….but maybe coaching football could be part of my future. Football had taught me so much and I wanted to stay involved with it some way. I had learned that the greater good rests in the success of the team. Individual effort is best when combined with the efforts of others forming a team which can attain more than possible to the individual alone. Hard work does not guarantee success, but it sure gives you a better chance. Fighting through discomfort/pain leads to strength in which to face challenges. I loved the sport and would get to stay involved thanks to the coach who had recruited me to that small division two university.

I was back in the Los Angeles area preparing to start a teaching career and coaching high school football. I received a phone call which would change my direction. It was that coach offering me the opportunity of coaching at the university I had just graduated from. After much thought, and consultation with others I trusted, I accepted the position and returned to begin my coaching career. That career has now spanned more than thirty-four years…three colleges…and two high schools. I’ve worked with countless numbers of athletes over that span and I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity. I’ve been mentored and taught by some of the best football minds around who happen to be great individuals who not only helped me become a better coach…they helped me become a better man. I needed, and accepted, all the help I could get. I needed to become better in order to help keep us with the most important part of my life.

We had graduated from the same high school together. I knew her as a person who was way above my league in every aspect. Not only was she pretty, she was popular, had many friends, and even had regular access to a car. We never dated, but we were cordial. Six years after graduation our paths crossed and she invited me on a date. She was impressive and I felt lucky to have had the opportunity of dating such a beautifully wonderful person. It was a one-time memorable kind of thing. Two years later our paths crossed once again and we started down the same path together. We were married about a year later and I had to pinch myself periodically to make sure I was not dreaming. She knew she was marrying a football coach and she has supported me since day one. Unconditional love knows no bounds. Our love for one another helped bring four wonderful children into our lives.

Along with marriage, fatherhood taught me to put my priorities in order. I know not what paths others may take, but as for me the family reigns supreme. Football had to take a back seat as being the best husband and father I could be meant more to me than becoming the best football coach. I never desired being a head coach, just an assistant coach focused on the offensive line. On the other hand, being a head of household brought more fulfillment and joy than I could have ever imagined. With my last breath in mortality I will declare that the greatest joys in my life are rooted in my family…which now includes two son-in-laws, and two grandsons with a granddaughter on the way.

Speaking of family, it took me some years to realize that “I was born of goodly parents.” My father and I didn’t always have a close relationship, but I could go to him with concerns or doubts I had. He was never judgmental. My mother taught me most every characteristic that I have. She worked hard and at times could be hard on her two sons. I later realized that may have been a reaction to some of the unexpected cards she had been dealt in her life. My younger brother was the best friend I could have ever had growing up. Despite our seven-plus years age difference, we were extremely close. Most of the pleasant childhood memories I have include my beloved brother. With the help of my parents and brother, not to mention my grandparents and other family members who helped raise me, I had a firm foundation for the life which lay ahead of me. From them I learned that diligence, energy, faith, integrity, love, and a sense of humor are integral parts of a complete life.

So, what have I learned in my sixty years of mortality? I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned, but let me tie things up with some thoughts…

Don’t take the truly unimportant things too seriously…laugh often and look for the light side of things.

Enjoy the journey…it’s great to have goals, but the road to attaining those goals is a journey which can, and should, be enjoyed.

Love wholeheartedly…it may leave you vulnerable, but it’s the only way to go and the life rewards are everlasting.

Don’t sweat the small stuff…life is filled with important stuff, don’t waste energy on the things that don’t matter as much.

Family is one of God’s choicest gifts…don’t take it for granted and don’t spend unnecessary time away from them.

Be honest with yourself and others…no one likes to be dealt with dishonestly.

Find something you really like to do, then figure out a way to get paid for it…the world is filled with people who have followed this way of thinking and the world is a better place because of the inventions and services they have rendered. I am a simple man who found football and I’ve been paid to coach it for more than thirty-four years now.

Don’t accept blame that isn’t yours…you make enough mistakes on your own, don’t accept the blame others may want to place on you.

When receiving criticism, consider the source…never accept criticism from those you don’t trust enough to ask for advice.

What you look for in life you will find…too many in our world today look for the bad…be the person who looks for the good in life and you will always be pleased with what you find.

So often the best presents can’t be gift-wrapped…enjoy and appreciate the moments which touch your soul…those are the greatest gifts of all.

Go ahead and do the seemingly small stuff…those are what often have the biggest impacts. Smile often. Greet people with a cheerful face. Open a door for someone. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” when appropriate. Perform a simple act of kindness…not only will the receiver feel good, you will too.

Sixty trips around the sun and I’m still learning…never think that you’ve learned enough.

So much learned and so much more to learn and experience. Life is a gift that I do not take for granted. I am grateful everyday I wake up in the same place I went to bed. I could go on, but I’ve take up enough of your time…I gotta take advantage of the time I have left.

Just one man sharing his….VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…

The Desert?!?!

Who would ever want to live in a desert? Other than poor creatures who had been born there, I could not imagine anyone choosing to live in such an arid environment. I remember traveling through deserts in my younger years with the only thought being that I was glad we were just passing through. Even the glimmer of the lights of Las Vegas could not deter my mind from the fact that the city was located in a desert. Who would ever want to live in a desert?

Upon engagement to the girl of my dreams, she mentioned that she thought it would be a good idea to tell her father, a man who I had not known existed, of our matrimonial plans. We left the comforts of the Los Angeles, California area and headed northeast to a section of Los Angeles county I had only heard of…the Antelope Valley and the city of Lancaster. Far, in more ways than one, from the more famous city with the same name in Pennsylvania, this Lancaster was located in the desert! It was November, but there was no mistaking that I found myself in a desert as I met my future wife’s father. He and his wife seemed like very nice people, but why did they live in a desert? Who would ever want to live in a desert?

As we drove back to what I considered to be “civilization”, the lights of the night revealed that my future in-laws were not alone in living in this particular desert. I would learn that the two largest cities in the Antelope Valley, Lancaster and Palmdale, were two of the fastest growing cities in the United States at the time. Nearly half a million humans resided in the Antelope Valley. I was quite a bit surprised as I figured far fewer than that would ever choose to live in a desert! Who would ever want to live in a desert?

Little did I know what the future held as three years later my wife and I were new parents and contemplating where we would like to raise our little daughter. The area in which we resided was not an option as I personally felt that our little one should be raised in a better environment. We searched high and low for areas in which to purchase a house. With a twist of irony, we landed in Lancaster with a house we watched grow from the foundation up. That’s right. We landed in the desert! Who would ever want to live in a desert?

I coach football, thus I am outside a lot. That first summer in the Antelope Valley was a rough one for me due to the heat. Triple digits were what I expected to see in a basketball game…not on the thermometer. My body was not used to the 100+ degree temperatures. I remember returning to our locker room after summer practices totally drenched in sweat and exhausted. If not at football practice, I spent as much time indoors as possible. This was a time in the desert that I had never experienced: summer. I was not impressed. Who would ever want to live in a desert?

Fast forward thirty years. I now look back on those times and can’t help but chuckle. I adjusted to the heat of summer, the cold of fall and winter, the pollen of spring, and the seemingly ever-present winds of the Antelope Valley. Tumble weeds. Joshua Trees. Sand. Junipers. Reptiles. Snakes. Add them all up and they equal our desert. That’s right I said “our” desert. When you live in a place for thirty years it becomes yours. Who would ever want to live in a desert? The answer to that question is more than I had previously imagined and I have learned that I want to live in a desert.

I now am a proud “Desert Dweller”. Where I had never imagined being found for any sort of extended time, I now call “home’…a desert! We have become part of the community. I teach and coach football. My sweetheart is the libertarian at an elementary school. We have raised our four children here. All four have returned to visit, spend time, and reminisce on the good times we have shared in our desert. Our blood family lives outside our desert, but our friends and adopted family are close at hand as we are all Desert Dwellers. The desert has brought us together and we have formed a unique bond due to the desert and its challenges.

During my six decades on the planet I have learned countless lessons. Amongst those lessons is that life can often give us lemons. It is up to us what we make of them. I am of the mindset to make lemonade.

We moved to the desert for an affordable house. It took awhile for me to adjust to what the desert has to offer, but I did and am stronger because of it. What a desert meant to me in my younger years has evolved to the point that when I hear the word “desert”, I think of the word “home”. I never wanted to live in the desert, but I am sure glad that I do!

There is no doubt the desert has helped form my…VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE…