Archive: January, 2002

Cinderella needs no dwarves for this volleyball story

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 31, 2002, 1:10 AM | comments: 0

My volleyball kids had a scrimmage today against a team that was a year older and had been playing together for a long time. Granted, they were a club team and not open, but still, I expected a challenge.

No challenge to be found... we kicked their asses big time. I was totally floored. My kids have had three practices and barely know each other's names. Each one is relatively unknown in the area, playing for teams that have mostly been mediocre. While most of the other teams in the Ohio Valley Region (there are 24 total in the 17 Open division) have been playing together for ages, my kids don't really know each other.

I saw magic today. They're running a quick offense that they just learned (well, part of it anyway), they're talking, they're confident and they've got chemistry. Wow.

In a relatively small community of teams, we're totally unknown. No one expects anything of us. I think it's time to let people know who we are.

This is really a dream as a coach, because sometimes it doesn't matter what you do to get your kids to perform. In the end they've got minds of their own. So far, that's a non-issue. They're talented, they know it, and wow do they want to use it. I get to sit back and enjoy the game and concentrate on "next level" stuff.

It's gonna be really fun to be me.

Return of music to film... who knew it could be this good?

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 28, 2002, 12:19 AM | comments: 0

Stephanie and I rented Moulin Rouge this weekend. Hey, I can stand to look at Nicole Kidman for two hours in a bad movie, so why not give this one a shot?

I knew it was a musical, but after the first fifteen minutes, I was like, "What the fuck is this?" I was aware of the Lady Marmalade remake, but before too long I was hearing Elton John, The Police, Madonna, Queen and others. Once I got over the familiarity of the songs, I realized that every last borrowed lyric fit perfectly, and it was no longer distracting.

In any case, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor actually do their own singing in this overwhelmingly visual tragic love story. The director apparently has a thing for tragic love stories, as he's the guy who did the also very stylized Romeo+Juliet. These kinds of stories have that fundamental love story we love, but also have the death that American audiences hate.

I've always been a fan of theater, and I dig musical theater in a strage way as well. Yeah, some people would say I'm a big loser because I only like the popular stuff, but fuck them, I know what I like. Moulin Rouge is musical theater captured to film. What's great about it being a film is that you've got all these other tools that you can use to create the atmosphere and feel you're looking for; bigger sets, skillful editing, closer to perfect audio and a thousand cinematic devices you can't use on the stage.

As I kind of implied, there's nothing terribly special about the story. It has been told a thousand times. What sets this one apart is the visual intensity of it, combined with the emotional intensity that music can bring about. I can see why critics would slam it, because critics are too into their "craft" to ever let themselves be drawn in emotionally to anything they're supposed to crituque.

So to conclude my rambling, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the film was pretty amazing, for reasons that I wouldn't ordinarily associate with a film.

Life's latest pressure on the volleyball court

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 21, 2002, 11:43 PM | comments: 0

I've got issues.

Being without a job for a long period of time makes you question your self-worth. I coach a junior-olympic volleyball team, 17 open. I have this incredibly talented group this year, the most talented I've ever had. I have this self-imposed pressure to make them the best, and that's made more difficult when you question your own worth.

I had an instant message chat with one of my kids this evening. She reassured me that the team really likes me, and that many think I'm the best coach they've ever had. As flattering as that is, I'm not so much worried about whether or not they like me, I'm just consumed with teaching them the right things so that they're able to succeed.

A friend of mine once told me that self-doubt and constant self-evaluation are trademarks of the successful. I think he was right, because certainly anyone who thinks they're all that, isn't. The problem with that theory though is that you can take it too far. That's no fun at all. You fall into this endless loop in your head that can't be broken until you have some kind of results or conclusion you can see.

My conclusion on my ability to be a coach is somewhat far off. I won't know what I've accomplished until I get these kids in front of another team. In the mean time I have to make up my mind that the first priority is getting these ten young women to trust each other, trust me and above all, trust themselves. No small task when you're talking about 17-year old girls.

Coaching is teaching. When we stop and look at the way kids are today, we can only look back at ourselves as the cause. They are what we make them, plain and simple. They start out with a clean slate, just like we did. We can encourage them to be outstanding, extraordiary people if we put our minds to it. These kids are the greatest measure of our success.

No pressure, right?

Stephanie's birthday: Why I love my wife

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 20, 2002, 1:57 AM | comments: 1

Stephanie, my wife, celebrated her 27th birthday Friday. We didn't do much to celebrate, but it was one of those days that I remembered why I married her.

Her "gift" was a new tattoo for her toe. She got the Hindu Om symbol, which represents harmony between body and soul (or something of that nature). It's tiny, but there's something really cool about it. I guess what I like about it is that, on one hand, it represents something very special about who she is, or wants to be, in that she's aware of that relationship one has with their body. On the other hand, I find it amazing that she can make a permanent change to her body to remember that time in life.

It's actually her second tattoo. Her first came nine years before to the day, on her 18th birthday, when she got a butterfly on her ankle.

I was uncomfortable at first, because the idea of doing something like that to yourself, something that permanent, scares the hell out of me. It's not that I objected to it, indeed she has another one she'd like to get that I'm all for. It's just in my head, I couldn't do it. I would have a hard time getting over the idea that I might not like it at some later point.

That's what I love so much about Stephanie. She's filled with all kinds of uncertainties, just like everyone else, but at the same time, she's more comfortable and in touch with herself than I think she's willing to admit or realize. There's something to be said for that. She has this style, this focus, this sense of being that I find so hard to realize in myself.

The good news is that it rubs off on me a little everyday. I know she changes for me in little ways, but I change in ways to be more like her. She's my balance, my inspiration and my soul mate. How many people in the world can say they're married to that person?

Yahoo is killing itself and the Web

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 10, 2002, 11:57 AM | comments: 0

Has anyone noticed that Yahoo now wants $299 just to look at the site you want to list in their directory? What's worse, they want you to shell out that much every year now if you have a commercial site.

I realize that the ad market has pretty much tanked, but one of the reasons Yahoo has become so popular is because its results are relevant. How relevant does it become when you need to shell out big dollars to get your site up there? Suddenly the directory value is one of commercial roots only, and the little guys get shut out.

I remember back in the day that getting your site listed on Yahoo was like gold. It might double or even tripple your traffic. It still matters, but there are times when it seems a good Google search for the right terms will get people headed your way as well.

It's so odd how the Internet has changed so quickly. Making money is nice, but anymore surviving is a good start.

Saving the world with volleyball

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 8, 2002, 12:39 AM | comments: 0

A couple of months into my unemployment, which has really become more of a step toward self-employment, I've been a little stressed on and off. I suppose it's more the uncertainty than anything else. I'm still eating and paying the mortgage, I'm just having to put off that trip to Hawaii.

However, now that I've started coaching volleyball again, I'm quickly finding reality to be, well, pretty damn good. It might in part be a self-defense mechanism, but when you find that there is something that makes you feel good about life, you dive in head first. For me, the thing that has brought about balance is coaching volleyball to high school kids.

In my case, I coach ten 17-year old girls from various Cleveland-area high schools under the organization of USA volleyball (junior Olympic, they call it). There are really two things that endlessly satisfy me. The first is the connection you make. For "kids," they sure do teach you a lot, and they offer relationships that are something of a mix of parent-child, teacher-student and of course, coach-athlete. With such a long season, you really get to know these kids. The second thing is that they look up to you and learn. The result is these amazing things that they do, in part because of the motivation and instruction you provide. To me it's like seeing a skyscraper you designed.

This year in particular is exciting because there's no telling what these kids are capable of. This will be my fourth year coaching, and they're the most talented bunch I've ever seen. If the glue dries and the bonds are strong, these girls will do things no one expected. I love being a part of that.

Being a part of that, the uncertainty of "real life" isn't so bad. It's weird, but the positive energy I get from volleyball makes me appreciate my wife, my house and the basic chance to exist a lot more.

In the long run, I might have some positive little impact on the lives of those kids, but I don't think they'll ever understand what they do for me.