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Coach K's Blog

January 2020

I had an interesting dream last night. I won't go into the boring details of the dream, but it made me think,  I should share some aspects of my life with you. Parents please show this to your player(s). There may be typos and it's a bit long as it is the retelling of things that happened to me as I was "coming of age".  but hang in there please.

I did not grow up with the privileges of some you guys today. My family was VERY poor. Half of my life I only had one parent and so many things I could not have because we just couldn't afford them. Everything I every did I had to earn with work hard and many times I was told I wasn't good enough, could never do it or placed in a situation where I could easily fail.

In my freshman year in HS, I tried out for the baseball team - I lived and slept baseball. I got cut. I was devastated but I kept practicing. At lunch, I went on my own to the far school wall where there was a strike zone drawn and I practiced every day. One day, one of my friends Cedric who was on the team came out and says "oh you think you can pitch huh, I will bring my bat tomorrow and smack you around a bit." I was ok with that, I got practice with a live batter. Cedric came the next day, eager to knock the crap out of my pitches - but, he couldn't. I struck him out over and over with curveballs and sliders, followed by high and tight fastballs. I did my home work. I loved it, a chance to practice my stuff against someone other than my cousin (who played professionally and really did knock the crap out of my pitches). The next day, Cedric returns with the baseball coach. Apparently he went at told the coach about me. The coach watches me throw a bit - striking out Ceds again. The coach says "You have good stuff why didn't you try out for the baseball team." I said, "I did, you cut me." the coach looks at me and says hmmph well, show up tomorrow and get fitted for a uniform - and walked away. I looked at Cedric, who just smiled and walked away tooo. I struck out the first 9 batters in my first START (yes I started)

That same year, I was in my trade work room. I was training to be an electrician at Irvington Technical and Vocational School - which is now closed. In my shop there was a full mockup of a home which was built many years ago by the carpentry students and used by the electrical shop. We called it "The House". Only upper classmen and those who have mastered much of the mundane stuff like pipe building, splicing, electrical codes, etc. were allowed to worked the house. Usually multiple students were in the The House at one time. I wanted SO badly to do the house. But, I was young and had a lot to learn. But I wanted it. While others, took there time during lessons, I did those lessons and went further. I talked to the upper classmen who had done it to get ideas on how to convince Mr. Clark (our teacher) to let me do it. I progressed fast. Time came for me to learn the last piece - pipe bending.  Mr. Clark was very hard on me. if he put the pipe I bent on the floor and the pipe wasn't perfectly bent, he would take the pipe and throw it across the shop and yell " WRONG, DO IT AGAIN!". He was good at throwing those pipes and never hit anyone - except Legget once to wake him up. No amount of protest and saying,"but it was only a little off ", helped. I had to do the whole thing over. Finally the day came, when he took my last pipe bend lesson, a dog-tail bend with rigid pipe, put it on the ground and just handed it back to me. No words, no 'good job'. He just handed it back to me - meaning I passed, I was in the house. Boy was I ecstatic and boy did I take that seriously. I measured every square inch of that place. I drew blueprints perfectly to scale. I submitted my design to Mr. Clark, who, just raised an eyebrow and handed it back to me and said, "check  out your equipment from the cage and get started". I wanted to jump up and down but didn't want Mr. Clark to call me names so I didn't. I went to the cage to get my stuff and the upperclassman in the cage (only students who finished the house could man The Cage) says. "You're in the house? wow, you are the youngest person every to get to The House good job." I finished the house in a month, with every cool design I found in the library. Everything worked and passed Mr. Clark's inspection. My work in the house inspired 3 other of my classmates to work hard to get in the house Robert Moore, Lawrence, and Legget (although he slept half the time).

After the house, Mr. Clark made me read book after book on transformers, transformer design and wiring techniques. I then had to design and wire what I learned. I got shocked several times with 220VAC and 480 VAC - feels like getting shocked by household 120 VAC but hurts a heck of a lot more. If not for our safety training, I could have been seriously hurt. At one point, I blew up a transformer. Mr. Clark comes over, looks at my wiring, and smacks me in the back of the head and says" You dumb A@@! You crossed phases!!". I yelled, "Mr. Clark, that hurt", as tears welled up in my eyes.  He goes, "it would have hurt a lot more than that if you would have been closer you dumb smuck." Oh, the old days of teachers...

My last story, although I have so much more to tell - getting to college. I wanted to go to MIT, Cal Tech or other big schools. But my first SAT scores, I got a 430 in Math and a 450 in English (scoring was different back then) of course I wouldn't get into ANY engineering school with those numbers. So, I begged my mom for money to buy prep books. She didn't really have it but gave it to me anyway. I bought 3 SAT prep books and studied the heck out of them making sure I knew all the answers to every question in the books. Took me a month but when I redid the test, I got a 510 in Math and a 450 in reading. I then started getting mail from Boston U. Penn State, Purdue. I applied to the all including the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which was hometown. I got into Boston U., NJIT and Purdue. I decided on NJIT because they would give me a full scholarship if I attended a 6-week summer program. Being poor, that was a no brainier. During the first week of the summer program, I walked into my Math class and noticed Lawrence was there. I said to myself, why am I in his math class? I scored higher than him on SAT's and he didn't take college prep classes. I went to the instructor and asked why was I in group 2 and he said well, what was your SAT score? I told him, He asks, did you take Calculus 1 in HS?  I said, no, hanging my head. He goes, "Well everyone in Group 1 had Calculus. I tell you what, your SAT score is not bad. If you do well on the first test, we will move you.". I guess you know what I did. My roommate was in group 1. I asked him to show and teach me what they were doing. We had a weekend off that week and I went home and learned his work, learn all of my work and studied every problem in the book until I could do them on my own. The next test, I got a 98 and they moved me to Group A the next day. 

Freshman year, I had an English professor who gave me F after F. Because I was on full scholarship I had to go to tutoring. I worked with this tutor and did extra work to improve my writing. The next essay, the tutor says, "this is good, I see you getting no less than a B." I got an F. I went to his office and threw the paper on his desk and said "I thought you said I would get no less than a B.:" He could tell I was angry and he started getting angry as well as his face went beet red. He said, let me take this paper and come back tomorrow. I came back the next day and he says in a very angry tone, " I asked her why she failed this paper and she says, oh I didn't read it, It was from that kid from Newark I knew it was a waste of my time." He told me he LIT INTO HER. Explaining how he said  'how dare you judge this kid based on where he is from. I expect you to read this paper and give him an adequate grade and if you ever do this again you are done here."  Yes, he told me all this. I was shocked and told my advisers who confirmed it. Turns out, he was the English Department Chair.....nice...I didn't receive anything less than a B on my next essays and ended with a 3.5 in the course - I still hate English though.

I wrote this long piece not to brag about my accomplishments, although I am pretty proud of them. It is to remind you guys and show you real life examples of what happens when you decide that you have a goal and you work hard to achieve that goal.  NEVER GIVE UP, NO MATTER HOW HARD THE TASK. You can do it, I did several times even when things were stacked against me. This is why I will say to you during practice, I don't believe in "I can't", or "I can't do it." or "it's too hard' Or this drill can't be done". Oh yes you can and it can be done. It may take a bit for you to do it but, you can.

With Love

Coach Kevin McClinton

Volleyball Nutrition

We all have seen this scenario. In the first match of a tournament, players are not playing to their abilities and we hear the common phrase " move your feet". It takes them a match or two to get into their "groove". Then, they play, "lights out", have a short break and then come back to the court and play like zombies. I have been studying this "phenomenon" from the stand-point of a coach trying to find solutions. The one common denominator that I have seen, nutrition.

I have witnessed players who are quick and agile suddenly play like they have concrete shoes. I have seen awesome servers, consistently serve in the net. I have seen hitters with good verticals and fast arm swings, suddenly not taking approaches or jumping to balls but letting the ball come to them. Of course there are many factors that may contribute to this during tournaments. Every player will experience that bad day. But the major contribution, I believe, is what, when and how they fuel their bodies. As a former athlete I can attest to the fact, they are trying. They don't want to make the mistakes or play badly. But if they don't have the fuel, the body CANNOT do what the mind is telling them to do.

I have placed below, several interesting articles on food and nutrition with emphasis on the volleyball athlete. Please take some time to read and share with your athlete. As coaches, we can only guide them by reminding them the importance of eating correctly. But we need the parents' help. You have the control and the purse-strings. If your player wants to be an athlete that consistently performs their best, with dedicated practice, they also have to take care of mind and body -  intake of proper food, water and rest.

Coach Kevin
Dynamix Volleyball Club LLC

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