Friday, February 28, 2014

Paul Brown Was the Man

Ohio was and is a special place for football.  Football has been hugely popular and important in Ohio high schools and colleges for well over 100 years. Miami of Ohio in Oxford, Ohio, is called the cradle of coaches for its education and development of a long list of great coaches. Ohio State has one of the most storied  football histories of any school in the nation.  The high school teams are legendary as well.  But for many the focal point of football in Ohio is the legacy of Paul Brown.  Brown was a coach who did well at every level.  But for many fans away from the stadiums named after him, they may not even know that the Cleveland Browns were named in his honor.  Brown had such a reputation and popular base in Ohio at the time of the Browns' creation, that the team was named after him before he had ever coached a professional football game.

 In Patrick McCaskey's new book Pillars of the NFL, the lives and careers of the top ten NFL coaches and their teams are examined.  Paul Brown is one of the pillars.  He is one of the greatest NFL coaches in history.  Below we excerpt some of Patrick's book to give potential readers a glimpse at Paul Brown as a high school coach.  Brown brought many of the ideas that he developed in high school coaching to college and the pros.

In 1930, after Brown graduated from Miami University, he took a job teaching at Severn Prep in Maryland whose students would often go on to the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  At Severn, he taught English and History, while coaching football, lacrosse, and track.  Severn’s football team record in the 2 years Brown served was 16–1–1.  When Brown was offered a teaching and coaching position at his alma mater, Washington High School in Massillon, he happily accepted.  Dr. H.W. Bell, the president of the Massillon School Board, who would serve the Browns as their family physician, selected Brown on the recommendation of Dave Stewart.

Poor equipment, old uniforms, rickety stands, and a horrible playing surface greeted Brown on his return to Massillon.  The new coach also inherited an undersized team that got beat up the last half of his first season.  Although it was the midst of the Great Depression, nothing would deter Brown from quickly building a first-class program. 
There was something in Paul Brown’s character that was expansive.  Brown accepted responsibility for the entire athletic department at Washington High School and then became director of athletics for the entire city.  Brown brought team and community together.  Community pride was enhanced as a result of the football program and strengthened more by the connections that Brown was making throughout the entire school system.  Massillon School Superintendent L. J. Smith supported Brown’s athletic efforts.  Brown, on his part, was willing to support all efforts to improve the Massillon schools’ academic performances.  During Brown’s tenure at Washington High School, a Booster Club was formed to help garner even more support for the programs.  In 1938, a new 16,600 seat stadium was built with Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds that served Washington High School and others in the community.  Eventually this stadium would be called Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.  The gate receipts from this huge facility improved the financial situation for the Washington High School football team.  Better uniforms and equipment were purchased.  The previous year’s equipment was passed down to each of the junior high schools in Massillon each year.  Stadium receipts also supported extracurricular activities.  Brown saw that the junior high school coaches were high-caliber individuals and that their programs delivered conditioned athletes that fed into the Washington High School program.
Brown groomed athletes to be their best. Rules extended to activities outside the football field. Players were expected to take part in offseason activities. Each practice session was choreographed for maximum effect. Assistant coaches were not just helpers, they played an integral role. Scouting was valued. Athletes needed more than skills and abilities in sport, they needed knowledge.  Brown provided playbooks for each of his athletes.
Brown was innovative, but he took ideas from the best practitioners of the game and adapted their methods and strategies as he saw fit. He was credited with his own inventions—the first football facemask, the first known pass-blocking schemes, and many new plays.  But more than anything else, it was Brown’s penchant for organization that was without rival at every level of play he coached.
Brown used the large Paul Brown Tiger Stadium to his advantage by inviting football powerhouses to come to Massillon and share in a larger gate receipt.  In 9 years at Massillon, Brown amassed a record of 80–8–2, which was good for six consecutive state championships and four national scholastic championships. Brown’s winning percentage was .909. He was a legend in Ohio, the state of football legends, before he ever coached a single college game.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unintended Consequences of Technology in Education

When I began Sporting Chance Press after 30 plus years in professional publishing (big company that published for attorneys, accountants, and others),  I wanted to bring out the good in publishing.  I wanted my company to publish works that focused on good.   I think we hit the mark all the way around.  From The 10 Commandments of Baseball to Sports and Faith -- from Public Bonehead, Private Hero to Maddie Takes the Ice, our books really did present some life lessons and themes that were essentially decent.  

As a publisher and father, I am interested in education and always have been. Somewhere in the midst of a bucket of education courses in college, I decided that teaching wasn't for me, but I have never lost interest in it.  Over the years, like most parents, I wanted to know what my kids were doing and how well they were doing in the classroom. Technology is changing education today. 

Yet, technology efforts in education frequently don't work and often they come with unintended consequences--in much the same way that prescription drugs have side effects.  I want to mention a few today.

We have never bought our kids cell phones.  It is just something that we could not afford.  But many schools today assume kids have them.  Teachers and coaches involved in after-school activities used to have  schedules.  Assuming every kid has a cell phone, many schedules are up for grabs.  If you have ever coached a sport "back in the day" and have seen parents pull up to the park to pick up their kids for the scheduled close of practice, a 5 minute addition to practice would be greeted by stares, honking horns, and the occasional parental march onto the field to take hold of a child's hand and escort her off the field. 

Today, the parents don't move until the call comes in. And there is little pressure to maintain a decent schedule in many after school activities.  When it comes to something like play practice, the schedule shift can be huge.  You may not know whether your child who will need to be picked at 8 p.m. or 10 p.m.  

For kids who don't have a phone, it means that they have to borrow one from a friend.  I don't know how in touch you are with high school kids, but borrowing a phone is the modern day equivalent of wearing old hand-me-downs.  No, certainly it's not as bad as a lot of other things that go on, but it's one of those unintended consequences of education working with technology. 

Having a daughter in theater, band, and choir, there is yet another technology issue that pricks at me--that is parents and students who are obsessed with their smart phones, Ipads, tablets, etc. at performances.   I attended two concerts this year and both were far less enjoyable than previous years due to the never ending use of these devices during performances.  There is something especially irritating about a glowing bright light a few aisles ahead of you in a performance.  I saw one parent with what looked to be an Ipad lifting it high into the air to film one performance.  There were also half a dozen smart phone owners using their smaller glowing devices as well.  Kids who had been in the first choir to perform moved into a section of the audience to "see" the next choir perform as required by the director.  Several jumped right onto their own smart phones to catch up on their text messages. Both the choir director and the band director are not encouraging this type of ignorant behavior, but I am afraid they are growing weary of trying to police it. Luckily when we went to the school play a few weeks ago, our seats were in the first row. 

A teacher in my daughter's class had the students take a test using cell phones.  No consideration or accommodation was made to kids without cell phones.  My daughter was simply told that she would have to borrow someone's.  My wife has taken to buying one of those pay as you go phones and she gives it to whichever daughter has the latest event each day--they only use it to call home.  It was the best we can do. 

Relatively new computer use in education involves performance programs online.  For example, a musician may be required to use an online interactive learning system that grades her work on an instrument.  By logging into a program, and paying an annual fee, the student can play into a system that grades her performance and maintains a record.  How great is that?  When teachers use this system, they cut down a great deal on grading.  One can argue about it until the cows come home,b ut who is the real beneficiary?  The system is sometimes unreachable and bugs creep in.  When a problem with access occurs at home, the student is told to come to school and take the lesson online.  Kids come to school early and find that there is a line to get on and they end up coming at all kinds of odd times trying to get their work done.  Tough on the kids, but it might reduce the work load on the teacher by many hours in reduced grading work. My daughter's teacher has said many times over that personally, he does not like the application. 

And perhaps my least favorite unintended consequence with technology in education is kids using their reading devices in ways that in my opinion pervert the learning process.  Anyone who has a teen or preteen daughter knows that today's young girls are fouling up their education by spending inordinate amounts of time on Facebook--like the boys did with video games.  Kids who have reading devices that give them an opportunity to read ebooks are using those devices to get online and connect with each other on Facebook.  So instead of reading an ebook, they are catching up on their social network communications.   

You can't turn the clock back in terms of technological advances, but much needs to be done to insure that technology is helping not hurting our kids and their families. I cringe when I see the endless amount of commercials that extol the value of technology.  One of the latest ones, shows a barrage of people in really exotic places with fantastic breath-taking scenery--the message is that these experiences have somehow been made possible with technology--in each case the person experiencing these places is engaged in photographing or texting or in some way preserving the experience for the future rather than taking a deep breath and living in the present.  The forest grew without the Ipad.  The rivers run without the tablet and the sun rises and sets without the smartphone, but you can't tell that by these commercials.

Away from the TV set in real life you see all too often a young family sitting together in a shop or restaurant on a Saturday morning and rather than talk to each other, they hop on their respective devises and presumably connect with someone else miles away, or worse yet, they spend their time with some lifeless program.  Perhaps there's an app that will encourage people to  spend less time on the computer and more time with loved ones. In the old days it was called common sense.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rio Next for Olympics

Looking South to Rio

Now that the Sochi games have ended, Olympic junkies are looking to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are scheduled from August 5 to 21 and the center of  operations will be in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in the southwest section of the city right on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a newly developed and affluent area that is considered safer than other areas of the city.  Rio is a city influenced by many different cultures and Barra da Tijuca is said to be most American.  

There are three other Olympic zones in Rio where events will take place.   A second is Copacabana in the south of the city, home to the huge Copacabana Beach.  Copacabana has many hotels, restaurants, and night spots.

Deodoro, a neighborhood in the west of Rio is a third Olympic zone. This area has facilities that were used for the 2007 Pan American Games so there is much that can be adapted.  Never-the-less, much construction will be required to meet the needs of the Olympic games.

Maracanã is the a fourth Olympic zone in Rio--it is in northern section of the city, the heart of Rio de Janeiro close to the City Centre.  Maracanã is the site of the Maracanã Stadium, the Sambódromo, and the João Havelange Olympic Stadium.  The Maracanã Stadium will be the venue for Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Originally constructed in 1950 for the FIFA World Cup, Maracanã stadium and its surrounding area are being completely upgraded for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in advance of the 2016 Games. So essentially the stadium improvements have to be in place two years before the Olympics. Gross seating capacity at the games is 90,000 according to the official Rio Olympic site. Some believe this "need to be operational" well before the Olympics helped land the games in Rio.

Sambódromo is Rio's permanent parade ground aligned with permanent bleachers.  The Joao Havelange Stadium is less than a decade old and will host many track events once it undergoes repairs and improvements.  

Fighting Crime in Advance of the Games

A big concern for many observers before Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympic games was the crime rate in the city.   The U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) established under authority of the Secretary of State,  looks over U.S. private sector security needs overseas. The OSAC reports on its web site that the Brazilian government has been working hard to fight crime and improve conditions in the slums or favelas in Rio de Janeiro where the crime rate has been exceptionally high.  According to OSAC, the government has been going into the 1000 Rio favelas with large numbers of personnel trained in community policing and has been taking control of these areas so that the government can provide much needed social services and aid.  At the same time, the criminals have been aggressively rounded up. Prior to this pacification effort, criminals walked openly in these areas with weapons in full view.

Master Plan for Rio 2016

The Olympics require so much change to the hosting location that master plans are required to include transitioning from Olympic events to post Olympic use. The London based firm, AECOM, is directing the master plan for Rio's 2016 Olympic games. The plan was created along with Rio-based DG Architecture, as well as Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Pujol Barcelona Architects, Expedition, and IMG Sports and Entertainment.   AECOM’s master plan zeros in on about 300 acres of land in Barra de Tijuca. It addresses the Rio Olympic Park area during the 2016 Games and is followed by a transition plan and the final plan to position the site for use long after 2016.
Barra da Tijuca will host 15 Olympic sports competitions and 11 Paralympic contests. The Media Center will be constructed there to host 20,000 journalists. As it did in London, AECOM's role in Rio spans masterplanning, engineering, cost-consulting, transportation strategy, sustainability consulting, and landscape design.  In Rio, AECOM is also providing preliminary architectural design for seven sporting venues and detailed design for the International Broadcasting Center.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chuck Noll's Principles for Business Success

Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress
In the early stages of developing our next book, Pillars of the NFL by Patrick McCaskey, we enumerated 10 business principles of Bill Belichick based on our understanding of his work.  Today, we lay out 10 principles of business success based on our understanding of Chuck Noll and his work also based on the research that we did for Pillars of the NFL.  NFL teams are complex organizations that focus on the athletic team, but have a critical business component that must be considered in most decisions and actions.  Success is not limited to X's and O's. These will work for Pittsburgh business and most everywhere else!

                                               Noll's Principles

1. Acquire key game-changers who work passionately to influence others.  

2.  Maintain high expectations--never become complacent about performance.

3. Speak plainly and succinctly so you are understood.

4. Don't motivate with emotion--it won't last long.

5. Win with a "whatever it takes attitude" --nothing immoral, but everyone needs to understand that great  sacrifice is required for great success.

6. Encourage employees to maintain their balance, stay on their feet, and take the hard knocks  that come with the jobs, but they  must fight back. 

7. Defend your position first, attack the opposition second.

8. Everyone should have a life outside of work.

9. Private lives should be kept private in the workplace.

10. Teach employees--take time to develop and strengthen winning skills.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Morning of Competition

Author Nicolette House at Sun Valley
In Nicolette House's middle grade novel, Maddie Takes the Ice, a young girl faces the pressures of competitive skating along with other travails faced by most everyone her age.    Now that the Sochi Olympics is over, many young readers will want to read more about figure skating.  International ice dancer Nicolette House's Maddie Takes the Ice gives them a front row view of the young skater's life.   Maddie Takes the Ice has been selected for two separate terms of the America's Battle of the Books program.  Favorably reviewed by Jo Ann Schneider Farris on About.comFigureSkating, the book is part of many great reading programs throughout the country.  What follows is the small portion of the book.   

Her less-than-peaceful night began with Madison visualizing herself falling on one jump after another, but after what seemed like hours, she could visualize herself landing each jump. Man, I hope this goes well! Please let me skate well, were the last thoughts she remembered before sleep claimed her.
The phone rang with her wake-up call. A groggy Madison felt like she had just fallen asleep. But the instant Madison sat up, she felt a surge of excitement and anticipation. She just hoped the good butterflies would last. As her mom strode around their room, Madison took stock. Unfortunately, the butterflies in her stomach were being devoured by the slugs. The jubilation of being able to perform was disappearing, replaced by the fear of going out there and, well, blowing it.
“Morning sunshine,” Mrs. Albright said. “The bathroom is all yours. Hurry up and get ready so we can grab breakfast before you go.” Mrs. Albright was always cheery in the morning, a trait that Madison had only partly inherited—when she was doing something she loved, like skating alone to music that echoed inside.
After a quick shower and tooth brushing, Madison dressed in her warm-up clothes. Her mom usually applied her make-up for competitions. Madison swirled on foundation and blush, but it was Mrs. Albright’s job to highlight Madison’s eyes to look big and beautiful. Madison’s eye make-up accented their unusual, light honey brown color. The warm hues of eye shadow her mom was using made the eyes pop. As Mrs. Albright painted on the different shades and added liner and mascara, Madison tried to calm down. She didn’t say much, but Mrs. Albright was used to that. Madison became eerily quiet the day of an event, thereby giving nothing of her growing tension away.
 “Done.” Her mother pushed her toward the mirror. “What do you think?”
Madison looked hard at herself. Her mom had done a great job. She looked beautiful—especially for six o’clock in the morning. Despite the frantic moments of, where are the car keys and do we have the music, fifteen minutes later the two finally descended to the lobby. There was a tense atmosphere in the hotel lobby. Lots of skaters—the girls adorned with glittery hair in tight buns and the boys in sleek competition costumes that made them look tall, slim, and older—stood around looking nervous, making last-minute costume checks.
Madison followed her mom to the continental breakfast buffet.
“What do you want to eat?” Mrs. Albright asked.
“Oh, um, nothing. I’m not really hungry.”
“Not because of that,” She said, annoyed. “I get too nervous to eat before I skate.”
“A little something won’t hurt. How ’bout a yogurt or a piece of fruit? Toast is always good.”
Madison looked over the selection. “I’ll take some toast and orange juice, I guess.” She grabbed a napkin and slid the whole-wheat bread in the toaster.
Madison and Mrs. Albright headed for the door just as Jillian emerged from the elevator. “Jill! Jillian, hi!” Madison waved. Jillian saw Madison. Instead of returning the greeting, Jillian turned her back and stormed off to the buffet. Her mother was right behind her. Madison froze, stunned that Jillian had just blown her off. Jillian looked over the buffet before finally settling on a few slices of fruit—definitely not the right fuel on a competition day. She showed her the fruit to her mother, who nodded approval. It dawned on Madison that Jillian might not be dieting by choice.
“Come on, you’re going to be late,” Mrs. Albright urged...

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spring Training Season at Last

At last the 2014 spring training season is upon us and although up north here we are covered in mounds of frozen snow and ice, it's time to start thinking baseball.  For Sporting Chance Press, baseball is the topic of two great timeless classics that we developed: The 10 Commandments of Baseball and Public Bonehead, Private Hero.

Our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Rules for Baseball (and Life) is a perfect storm of a baseball book that is made up in large part of short bits on famous baseball players that illustrate the baseball principles presented in a most entertaining way. It's  written by uber baseball fan and author J. D. Thorne for enthusiasts of all ages and touches on great players like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays and many others--a book that dads and moms will want their sons and daughters to read--and they will!  Some have called it the perfect airplane ride book because it offers plenty of interest to help weary travelers pass the time. Selected by the  National Baseball Hall of Fame museum store, the vintage look of the book and it's manageable size make it a wonderful book that readers will read many times over.  

For those who love sports and history, there is Mike Cameron's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle. One of history's most memorable characters, legendary scapegoat Fred Merkle, was a young 19 year old New York Giant who was filling in for an injured veteran in an important game against the mighty Chicago Cubs in 1908. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning in the Polo Grounds. Merkle who was on first, walked off the base path and ran to the clubhouse after the apparent end of the hotly contested game when a teammate on third scored on a base hit to the outfield. Merkle was called out for not tagging second based on a rule that was rarely enforced (if ever) under the circumstances at the time. 

Cameron sets the stage historically with a short look at 1908 current events and then takes the reader deep into the 1908 baseball season , which in itself was riveting and dramatic.   The author also looks at Merkle's life post 1908 to unveil Merkle's struggles in a world that would remember his name for all the wrong reasons.  In the end, readers will see the Merkle story in a whole new perspective. 

Both books are available from Sporting Chance Press, select stores, and Amazon. 

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press. 

Maddie Takes the Ice for Olympic Fans and Hopefuls

In Nicolette House's middle grade novel, Maddie Takes the Ice, a young girl faces the pressures of competitive skating along with other travails faced by most everyone her age.  As the Sochi Olympics wind down, many young readers will want to read more about figure skating.  International ice dancer Nicolette House's book Maddie Takes the Ice gives them a front row view of the young skater's life.   Maddie Takes the Ice has been selected for two separate terms of the America's Battle of the Books program.  Favorably reviewed by Jo Ann Schneider Farris on About.comFigureSkating, the book is part of many great reading programs throughout the country.  What follows is the first portion of the book.  

BRRR! When her alarm went off at 5:45 on the second Saturday of October, Madison Albright’s eyes flew open. Most girls would groan about waking up this early, but not Madison. She jumped out of bed, lifted her arms high above her head, and stretched.
She walked to her wardrobe and pulled out her favorite pink velvet skating outfit. Holding the dress in front of her, Madison looked in the mirror and sighed. The dress made her eyes shine. It was also her lucky practice dress and she would put it to good use getting ready for the regional figure skating championships scheduled for the following week.
“You ready?” called Madison’s mom.
“Be down in a minute!” Madison smiled to herself. Mom was always up on time, ready to drive her to practice.
She heard her mom’s signal: two beeps. Madison knew she was running late and flew down the stairs, grabbing a hoodie to wear in the cool autumn dawn.
“Feeling ready for regionals?” her mother asked as Madison slid into the car.
Madison grew quiet, hesitating. She didn’t want to tell her mom how nervous she was about the competition.
“Of course I am. Liz says ‘Everything is going great!’ I couldn’t be more excited,” Madison replied, reporting her coach’s opinion but hiding her own. But she was certain that Liz, her main coach, was preparing her for the regional event.
Madison knew just what to say to calm her mother’s nerves. If only Madison could do that for herself!
“Well, I’m glad to hear it. You work so hard, sweetheart. Liz said that you have a good chance of placing high—maybe even winning if you skate well.”
“I meant when, Madison. Don’t be so touchy. You feel ready, right?”
“Right…right, I am.”
Mother and daughter rode quietly until Mrs. Albright pulled up outside the Arctic Circle Ice Arena. Madison reached over and gave her a hug.
“Bye, mom. Thanks for the ride.”
Madison jumped out of the car, taking deep breaths. It’s not about where you place, she reminded herself, but how well you skate. Wasn’t that what Liz always told her? But then, why did she tell mom that I could win? Madison wondered.
The ice was already crowded when she stepped on to warm up. The biggest competition of the year brought the rink’s skaters in for added icetimes this week. The Upper Great Lakes Region included seven states with more than six hundred skaters participating in the regional competition. Madison was skating in the Intermediate Ladies events, a level in which a hundred forty five skaters would compete.
During warm-up, Madison imagined the upcoming competition. If she won or placed in the top four, she could go on to compete at U.S. Figure Skating’s Junior National Championships. If not, she could not qualify again until the next year. She warmed up her crossovers and spins, then her jumps. A huge smile spread across her face as she felt the speed and power with which she skated. She loved the sport and the exhilaration of skating more than anything.
“Madison,” Liz called her over to the boards. “Run through your competition warm-up and then we’ll run through your long program.”
Madison took a deep breath, then skated to the blue line to begin her warm-up routine. She felt the familiar butterflies in her stomach as she warmed up the first element of the two-and-a-half-minute long program—a layback spin. As the competition grew close, Madison knew the time to learn new skills was over. Now it was all about drilling what she knew. Madison continued warming up her jumps—a double salchow, double flip-double toe, and a double Lutz.
She was just finishing her footwork when Liz called, “Time. Okay, go get in your starting position. Let’s run your long program now.”
Madison grinned. She loved her long program, set to flamenco music that matched the style of her hot pink and black competition dress.
“Oh, and do the double axel this time,” Liz reminded her.
Great, just as I was calming down, Madison grumbled. She hadn’t warmed that jump up on purpose. The double axel was the only jump in the whole program that worried Madison. At least as her first program element, she could get it out of the way soon.
The first strums of the Spanish guitar jerked Madison away from her thoughts and she quickly centered herself to concentrate on her program. She started out edging, gathering speed before she entered her double axel.
Breathe in, breathe out, bring your leg through, Madison repeated to herself. In the blink of an eye, the jump was over and Madison moved on to the next element. She breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed throughout the rest of her routine...

Maddie Takes the Ice is available from a number of distributors serving schools as well as the publisher's web site,, select bookstores, and Amazon. 

Copyright 2014 Sporting Chance Press.