Sunday Night Dinner

Sunday night dinner is a tradition at the Wickes household.

It is a tradition that started when my grandfather passed. I was a sophomore in high school and he was the first person of real significance that ever passed in my life. The summer prior he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was a very surreal time in my life.

Both sets of my grandparents had always been me and my brothers biggest sports fans. My Dad’s parents lived here in Reno and my Mom’s parents in Grass Valley. My Mom’s parents made as many visits as they could to watch us boys play whatever sport, but since my Dad’s parents lived here locally they never missed a game. They were at every little league and high school game. Except that year it changed. My grandma started coming solo. My grandfather was confined to his bed after his many surgeries and wasn’t able to leave the hospital. The season after that we played for a State Championship and I know that there is nothing more that my Grandpa would have loved to see.IMG_1481

There are two memories I will never forget. The first was my grandfather teaching me to play catch. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in their backyard off of Greenbrae in Sparks. The same house and backyard that my father grew up in and learned to play catch. I often imagine it like the days of the movie The Sandlot. I can imagine my Dad and his Dad in the small backyard playing catch. My father probably wearing one of those oversized bill hats like the one that “Smalls” in the movie wears sporting an old style mitt. The second was a little league game when I was 11 years old at the Hilltop Fields. I was walking up to the plate and my Grandma shouted from the stands, “Hit one for Grandpa!” and I did. It was my first Little League homer.

My Grandpa didn’t speak much. He was a quiet man, but had the most incredible patience and he LOVED John Wayne. When he returned home with Hospice he spent his finally days watching all of the classic Wayne films. Those last few days were difficult. He wasn’t present most of the time.

The last time I saw him I said goodbye. My Grandma had Rio Bravo on the tv. We all gathered around his bed and were sharing stories. He kept waving his arms in the air even though his eyes were closed. It looked like he was reaching for something. I had never been around death before and it was hard to watch until my oldest brother said,

“It kind of makes you believe in angels, doesn’t it?”

In that moment my perspective changed. I felt the love in that room. 83 years of life flashing before my eyes. Several wars, over 50 years of marriage, two kids and three grandkids. In the months prior we had taken to looking through old photo albums with him. It was an amazing experience going back through his life with him. Each page we went through with him he narrated along the way. One of his most memorable stories was the time he and a friend (I think) stole a prop plane (I had no idea he knew how to fly).

So tonight as we gathered around the dinner table in the backyard I was reminded where it all started and why we were there. Sharing memories and taking time to acknowledge what is most important in life – family. I encourage you to do the same. And one day I hope you have the chance to believe in angles.

Shane

The Football Family Tree

Today we take another look back at the great Coach Dalton and all those he inspired.

Last year the Reno Gazette Journal published an article on the coaching tree that stemmed from those who played and or
coached for Dalton. The tree is extensive and growing. Currently five coaches in Northern Nevada are now head coaches (McQueen, North Valleys, Hug, Reno and Spanish Springs) who played or coached for Dalton. I personally have played for, or coached against, all five of these coaches and currently coach for one of them and I can tell you they are not only knowledgable about football, but they are class acts.

Coach Dalton at times was a polarizing figure. You either loved him or hated him. My father was one of these people. Growing up he would often tell me of the negative stories he heard about Coach as my oldest brother was growing up in the North West Reno sporting community (my father quickly grew to love Coach). Dalton was brash. His attitude could be off-putting at times to people, but he followed a simple philosophy. You would do things his way or you wouldn’t do them at all.

For that I respect him.
As a coach I have come to understand a simple truth. I need to come up with a vision for what I want my players to do and how I want them to do it. Regardless of rather or not they think that what I want and how I want it is right, they must do it. I am a paid coach. I am hired by a coach and an administration who backs me (until otherwise noted) and it is up to their discretion rather or not they agree with my coaching methods.

coach DThis was something Coach D mastered. As a Freshman walking into
McQueen I knew there was simply no other way. I would do what was asked of me. Period.

It was this attitude that built the incredibly successful McQueen program and build the coaches that have come from McQueen.  It’s a simple formula really – find what you believe in and don’t move an inch. As Will Smith once said, “This is what I believe in and I am willing to die for it.” It sounds a bit extreme, but it is the truth. If you want to be successful at anything you have to have that mindset. There are times that you will be wrong. Learn from them and move on.

I can personally attest that all of the coaches that have left McQueen and gone on to further their own career and even Coach Snelling who has stayed at McQueen understand this. It is a motto that will change your life if you buy into it, but it does come with responsibility.

This mindset comes with constant self and ideological evaluation. If you believe in this you will be your own worst enemy and critique – as you should be. Being great isn’t easy and neither is standing up for what you believe in. There will always be a better way, but the realistic goal isn’t to find what is the best way, it is to find what is the best way for you. We are human and will make mistakes as all humans do.

So ask yourself, what do I believe in? And what am I willing to die for? If you can find that simple truth and subscribe to it like your life and career depend on it I promise you the possibilities are endless.

So do some thinking and go find it.

Shane

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Nevada Football Goes Grass Roots

Being that I spent a very brief time with Boise State, I am not a fan of Nevada Football. Which seems only fair as any time I leave the house in anything Boise State I get dirty looks, but my dislike for Nevada started long before I even knew Boise State was interested me.

Under the old regime of Nevada Football with Coach Ault, local athletes were really never recruited. Aside from a few examples of two impossible-to-pass-on goliath offensive tackles out of Reed High School (What’s in the water over there anyway?) there weren’t local kids being schoarlshiped to Nevada. What was worse is that they didn’t put any effort into recruiting local kids to walk-on.

So my personal vendetta is easy to explain. I often like to say that Nevada didn’t even spit in my direction. I do not hold a grudge against Nevada. I am just a Bronco at heart. Not all too popular with the locals here, and I am okay with that.

However I must admit that Brian Polian and the Pack have a new found soft spot in my heart and if you’re a fan of Nevada Football they should have one in your’s too and here’s why – B9316962570Z.1_20150413172741_000_GVRAGB80K.1-0

Coach Polian and his staff have gone grass roots. That’s right – they are recruiting local talent. I am not taking anything away from Coach Ault. He is a Hall of Fame coach and had several seasons of great success at Nevada, but I love what Polian is doing and for good reason. Over the last several seasons the Pack O-Line has featured, at times, as many as 4 out 5 starters from the Reno/Sparks area. Coincidence? No.

The greater Reno/Sparks area has always offered D-1 talent. The problem has been Nevada’s ability to recruit this talent. I’m not talking about a scholarship out of high school ability to recruit, but I am talking about a genuine interest in local players, which Polian is not only displaying, but acting on.

In the past two years several players including Lucas Weber and Jeremy Macauley (who started 10 games as a red-shirt freshman) have walked-on and been scholarshiped after. Those aren’t the only two examples, but are good indicators of the talent here in Northern Nevada that can be utilized.

Again, my point here is this – if you are not a fan of Nevada Football (for whatever reason) you should be. I can tell you from my experience in Idaho that they had several walk-ons turn pro or be all-conference players. This is long overdue and as a coach I am excited for local players and where Nevada is heading – it’s about time.

Shane

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Disneyland: A Coaching Philosophy

What are you going to do next? I’m going to Disneyland!

Just kidding this is a much darker story than that.

In March at a coaching clinic I stumbled upon the greatest clinic speech I have ever heard. If you have ever been to a coaching clinic you might feel like they can get a bit dull and monotonous after your third strait day of listening to the x’s and o’s of football. Most of these presentations are titled,”running power against the 3-4″ or “how to get maximum yardage in the wing-t.” There was one session though that grabbed my attention and it was titled “Disneyland.”

This speech changed my life and how I coach.

A high school football coach out of Eagle, Idaho explained his coaching philosophy through his story. After being fired years DISNEYLAND-1024x682earlier at a different high school football posting for an inappropriate comment he made to a player he was hired as the head coach at Eagle High. At the time his son was attending Eagle High as an underclassmen. His son was not the athletic type and didn’t play football, but his father being the coach had a huge impact on him.

In Idaho they take their football very seriously and at the time that Coach Peterson took over the program they were in rough shape and his son was being bullied at school because of the programs shortcomings. His son began using drugs as a coping mechanism and after not very long landed himself in prison. During this portion of the speech Coach Peterson lost it and he did the bravest thing I have ever seen at one of these clinics – he cried. In front over 50 of his peers he cried. He broke down while sharing his favorite memory with his son when he walked into Disneyland for the first time holding his hand. It was obvious that his sons situation had left him heartbroken and I imagine that standing in front of a crowd of strangers sharing such a difficult part of your past isn’t easy, but he did it and here’s why –

His coaching philosophy is this: One day our players will be able to walk into Disneyland holding their child’s hand.

As a parent (I am not one, but I’ve listened to enough lectures from my own) it is your goal to keep your children safe. To teach them right from wrong and help them where you can and your ultimate goal is to see them be happy, successful and maybe one day parents themselves. And as a coach I can tell you that you feel like a parent to the kids you coach.

He could have simply explained his Disneyland philosophy without the painful back story, but his reason for sharing his story is just as important as the Disneyland idea itself. Teenagers are particularly adept at sensing “bullshit.” You cannot simply throw out an idea that sounds great on paper without giving it validation first. There is a very legitimate reason that Coach Peterson has his Disneyland philosophy. It is painful, ugly and heartbreaking, but it is the reason his message is so powerful.

You see as coaches most of us have one of these Disneyland stories. We all bring something unique to what we are trying to achieve. So I asked myself, what’s my bullshit?

The answer was glaringly obvious and that is why I have applied to speak at TEDxUniversityofNevada in 2016. Now it’s a long shot that I get selected to talk. If I did I would join some of the biggest minds in the United States, but even if I am not selected to share my Disneyland story at TED I will share it nonetheless.

Dig down and ask yourself, what’s my bullshit? Like everything I have talked about before this isn’t a football thing – this is a life thing. You have to practice what you preach.

Shane

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The Lesson of the Stonecutter

In less than 6 hours my alarm will go off for one of the most special days of the year – the first day of summer weights. That’s right – it is officially football season (for some of us).

I am the anti-Christ of morning people. If I had it my way the work day would start at noon. Waking up early is a fate worse than death for me, but I have learned to love it and here is why:

Flash back to 2010. It was the Northern Regional Championship. Every week my O-Line coach, Coach Zimmerman, would 76 2put a quote at the top of our scouting report for that week. This week was a big one of course and deserved an equally substantiated quote. This was the first time I heard the story of the stone-cutter. We were facing a very talented opponent in Carson who up to that point was undefeated. They had a talented backfield and were a smash mouth football team. It was their first Regional Championship birth in my memory and had the support of the entire capital city.

Coach Zimm in all his wisdom went to the well and gave us the perfect mission statement for the week – the stonecutter.

When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

What I know now is that Jacob Riis managed to sum up perseverance and belief for every life situation in two sentences. You see the story of the stonecutter applies to all aspects of life – not just football. 5 years removed from this great season and many challenges later I can tell you that the story of the stonecutter are words to live by. If you put in the work and have faith in yourself and your team (whatever that team may be) you will eventually crack the stone.

So at 7:00 am tomorrow when the team hits the weight room when it’s too early and we are all tired I will remember one thing – it’s time to start putting dents in that stone and go to work. Take this quote and see how it applies to your life and –

Be the hammer!

Shane

P.S. Click here to watch Boise State explain the hammer.

Would you be a Jedi?

Long ago on a football field far, far away…

I must confess – I have been on a Star Wars binge the last few nights, but it got me thinking. What makes Jedis so special, other than their obvious ability to control people’s minds and fight like Jet Li on some powerful drugs while wielding a laser beam.

The answer – Faith.

To cut to the chase here, I went online to Wookiepedia (that’s a real thing) and researched the criteriaAnakinSkywalker of a Jedi. For those of you non-Star Wars geeks, the Jedi are a peace-keeping order who guard the universe from evil with the perfect balance of philosophy and violence. But, their greatest ability is the power to control their own mind and their strength is derived from their faith. No, I’m not talking about the go-to-church type of faith. I’m talking about faith in yourself.

So how does this connect to football? Well, if there is one thing I believe above everything else, if you want to be truly successful you have to have faith in yourself. Not just “I can probably do this.” I am talking about a Jedi-level faith and concentration on your goal – hence the Star Wars’ reference.

So I thought it would be a good idea to ask my players, “Would you have what it takes to be a Jedi?”

The answers I got were depressing…

Two of them said an outright “no.”  When I asked one of them why he said no, he replied, “If I became a Jedi ,I would so abuse that power and I would joke around like I do now.”

I can tell you that is probably an honest assessment.

But the most depressing answer I received was “Coach, I haven’t seen any Star Wars movies, so I don’t know what it takes.”

Obviously I have failed these kids and they need to watch more television, but my point here is this. If you want to become something truly great, you have to have an unbelievable amount of faith. Everyone has potential. What separates those who have it and those who do it is the belief in themselves.

If you haven’t figured it out by now I am using Jedi as a metaphor for basically the most awesome person in the world. Yes, being a Jedi is dangerous and you risk much by exposing yourself to the world. You will make a lot of enemies and make catastrophic mistakes along the way, but you will make a mark on the world.

So I will work on my guys and get them right with the force, but ask yourself “Do you have enough faith in yourself to be a Jedi?”

For more like this post check out one of my favorite blogs: The School of Life

Shane

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STUDENT-Athlete: Why Student isn’t an Adjective

If you’re into grammar ,you are probably saying, “Shane student-athlete is a noun” and you would be correct. But, I will save the grammar lesson for the end. Just bear with me for a moment while I make my point.

Student-athlete is a term we hear a lot in the sporting world and there is a reason that student comes first, and it is not because it’s an adjective (descriptor of a noun). Which it isn’t.

I received a preferred walk-on offer from Boise State University out of high school for one reason – my grades. Yes, I was a pretty decent football player as well, but I was also undersized and in a small football market. At 6’3 and 250 lbs. (soaking wet), I hardly qualified as a Division 1 offensive lineman. Fortunately for me what I didn’t realize at the time was the coaching staff at Boise State knew something I didn’t – it would be far easier for them to increase my weight than it would my GPA, which at the end of my high school career was a 4.2. Which makes sense because Boise State is consistently in the Top 25 amongst NCAA Division 1 schools for academics.  

When I arrived at the football facilities and stepped foot on The Blue (nickname for the field) for the first time in my cleats, I was greeted with an unwelcome surprise. They had taken me out there to practice snapping. I was a guard, not a center. At least unnamedthat’s what I thought.

Looking back I wish I could go back in time and slap myself, but I did not take well to playing center. On the phone a few nights later with one of my high school coaches, Coach Borja, he asked me,

“Do you know why they have you playing center?”

I responded in my pessimistic tone, “Yeah, because I am the smallest one out here.”

“No.” He said, “Because you are the smartest one out there.”

It is a conversation I will never forget.

My point is this – I am living, breathing proof that working hard in the classroom will get you what you want on the field. To my own players and any up-and-coming high school athletes – get it done in the classroom!

Student and athlete are both nouns, but student comes first. I’ve heard many players say, “Coach, I’m not that smart.”  So I would like to offer these words of encouragement – neither am I. I repeated a year in elementary school and have had a tutor in every math class I have ever taken (and I’ve had to retake some math classes in college). I just worked as hard in the classroom as I did on the field and you can do the same.

And if I’ve left you scratching your head with my grammar adventure, I might suggest clicking here for even more fun with “Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty.

Shane

The Three F’s

The three F’s – faith, family, football. It was a term instilled in me by the great Coach Ken Dalton, and it has changed my life.

While Coach Dalton didn’t trademark the three F’s, he could have. It is my duty in acknowledging him. While I was never able to play directly for Coach D as he retired in my freshman year, I certainly reaped the benefits of his coaching philosophy. It was a coaching philosophy that focused around one word – character.141155

It was this philosophy that lead me to Boise State University in the Fall of 2012 as a walk-on. I saw in Coach Peterson what I had seen in Coach Dalton and Coach Snelling, Dalton’s successor — a man who approached coaching with the attitude that the success of his players off the field was more important, and ultimately a determinant, of their success on the field.

It was at Boise State (Go Broncos!) that I knew I wanted to coach when I was done playing. Thanks to a knee injury and a lack of mental fortitude (to be continued), my coaching career started much sooner than I expected. One year after graduating from McQueen I was back as the JV Line coach.

While my playing career at Boise State was less than stellar, I did learn a lot about what it means to be a good coach.

The three F’s took on a new meaning as I began my coaching career. I began tackling – am still tackling – the challenge of finding the best ways to instill these values in my players. I had to make a decision starting out, what kind of coach did I want to be? How could I best convey the importance of good character?

I knew what kind of coach I didn’unnamedt want to be, but I also knew what kind of coach had created the biggest impact on my own career. The answer was clear – tough love.

You can ask any kid who has played for me, and they would probably tell you that tough love is an understatement. I’m sure some would probably just call me an asshole, but ultimately it has been effective for me in getting across my message. I am not belittling to the players. I try to be as supportive as I am critical, but compliments are hard to come by and there is always something we can do better.

Certain players need to be coached differently, Not everyone responds to the tough love strategy, and at times I have to adapt. The underlying message for me remains consistent. We will do things the right way, and we will be successful.

For me the objective is pretty simple – help these players become better men and better prepared for life… and win a few football games along the way.

Summer ball starts in two weeks. We are wrapping up staff meetings and are ready to get to work. I invite you to join me as I blog through what I promise will be a groundbreaking and noteworthy 2015 football season.

Here’s to faith, family and football.

Shane

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