Monday, February 28, 2011

Sr. Girls VB Finals - "The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat"

In the world of sports there are winners and there are losers.  I’ve mentioned before that winning is easy, but it’s how you handle losing that shows your character.  I think our girls had a teachable moment on this subject during their finals game this past Friday.  We were guaranteed a second place medal, but a first place medal was certainly a possibility.  

I wasn’t as sure about our outcome for this match as I’ve been in the others we’ve played.  Esther was sick, Julianna was continuing to improve but still on a learning curve : ), and Janessa continued to struggle with her confidence, though it was getting much better.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew they could give Immaculata a run for their money, but Redeemer had to “show up” to play today. 

We arrived and had to wait a few minutes for the gym to clear out.  There were other activities going on before our game that was scheduled for 3 pm.  We warmed up in a smaller gym close by.   Eventually we entered the gym and the girls began their warm up.  I took the time to finally get a team picture, something I had neglected to get all season long.  I put the teams I've coached up on my wall at home.  

I knew that the team picture at the end of the match would be one with a medal around our necks, the question was would it be a 1st or 2nd place medal.  Megan and Chris came along for the game.  Chris to video, and Megan to take pictures.  Megan took over 200 pictures.  She did her job very well.  : )  

In order for us to have a chance to win against Immaculata there were some things we had to do.  We needed to have stronger hitting at the net, good blocking, use our three hits and not simply hand the ball to Immaculata so they could play offence.  That’s the game plan I gave them.  I put Janessa, Janelle, Rachel, Jillian, Kelsey and Julianna on for the first set.  I wasn’t sure where Julianna was at, but I wanted to give her a chance to show me what she had.  I rested Esther because she was sick and I knew I’d need her soon enough. 

We handled the first set very well.  Good solid hitting, good service return, and Immaculata seemed off their game.  I expected more from them in that first set.  That worried me. 

My talk for the second set was to remind the girls that volleyball is a game of momentum and Immaculata wasn’t about to take that loss sitting down.  They were going to come back with a vengeance and our girls had better be ready for that.  I put Esther in and took Julianna out.  Not because Julianna played bad, in fact she played very well.  Again, they are just so interchangeable now and Esther deserved to play too.   

Immaculata did what I feared.  They found their feet, and summarily beat us quite good in that second set.  What I feared could happen was happening.  After some understandable mistakes, our team dynamic changed and they no longer were playing as a team, but a bunch of individuals.  I hate to say it, but that’s when more mistakes get made, and focus is lost, and sets are lost.  One of my setters wasn’t listening to me either, and that usually gets you on the bench for the next set, no matter what’s going on on the court. 

So, I decided (and I still think it was a good decision) to change things up drastically to see if the girls would get the message that they had to play as a team, not individuals.  I pulled one setter, replaced her with another, changed up my powers and released them to play. 

I wish I could say that this helped, but it didn’t.  Immaculata was killing us on great serves and solid back row hits and front row spikes.  Redeemer was losing (or maybe had already lost) their edge and confidence.  I felt bad for them, but didn’t want them to give up this early.  There was plenty of game left.  The question was how much did they want to win. 

We were now down 2 sets.  I knew already that we were headed for second place, but of course I didn’t tell the girls that.  I returned the line up back to what I had in set 1 to see what would happen.  The girls had to work things out on the court.  There wasn’t much more I could do/say as their coach.  I was still very proud of all of them, but I think they just decided in their minds that this was it; at least that’s how they played in the 4th and final set. 

I always look to these times as great teachable moments.  I’m not sure if anyone on the court felt that way.   : )   I was reminded during this final set of when I grew up and watched ABC's Wild World of Sports.  The theme line for that show was, “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat!”

This was agonizing for all on the court, and the bench, I know.  I could see the frustration coming out of some of our players, and yes, it was affecting others.  I substituted a couple of times to allow players time to refocus, but that didn’t help either.  

In the end we need to accept that Immaculata was the better team mentally today, and hold our heads high with a second place finish.  It was bitter sweet for me as the final point was completed by ImmaculataRedeemer Christian High School, it’s something you live day in and day out, and it applies in sports as well.  I’ll leave it at that.

So, it was time for the medals to be received and it was an honour to give them to most of our team members.  Immaculata deserved the win today, and cudo’s to them for having a great season. 

Below are some pictures for you to see, with comments.  I'm also including video of our first set, and yes, our final set.  You can’t only show the thrilling stuff of life.  Life is filled with struggle too.   The question is how we handle that struggle as followers of the King.    

I will miss this team.  No more practices, no more exciting matches, win or lose.  This was a special year for me, and I hope for each player too.  We will be losing several grade 12's this year, with next year being a rebuild year.  That happens when you only have players for 2 years, maybe 3.  

Jillian, Esther, Kelsey, Rachel, Janelle, Leanna:  thanks for the last couple of years and the memories, both great and challenging.  

We will see what next year brings when it rolls around.  I hope the others of you will come back and play for the purpose of learning, improving, having fun, and competing.  We need you. 


 The above two pictures are of us warming up in the smaller gym.  

 Before the match begins.  
People are happy and ready to go.  

Service warm up.  

 Spiking warm up.  

 Janessa serving.  You did very well Janessa.  

 Time to start the match.  

 Kelsey if focused.  

 I am focused.  : ) 

 A time out needing to be called.  

 Refocused and ready to play.  

 Hey, Shawn showed up again to support.  He ended up being a lines person as well.  Thanks for coming Shawn.  

 Substitution Time.  

 Jillian asking a question of the Referee because I didn't like one of his calls.  I wasn't that happy with the Referee for this game.  I'm also not sure why we didn't have 2 Ref's for a final game.  

 Julianna going up for a block, or is that a spike....hmmm

 I think the team was a bit frustrated in this time out.  I just kept encouraging.  They had to work things out on the court.  

 Time to shake hands between teams. 

 I had the privilege of handing out the medals to our players.  I was very proud of them for the great season they played.  

 Yes, I'm on the phone.  
Someone called, and I had to take the call.  

 Medals to the winning team.  Congrats Immaculata.  
You played well and smart today.  

A final picture with our medals.  
Now all that's left are the memories,
some teachable moments I hope. 

Time to end with some thanks, and then you can see the video of the 1st and final sets  (though I'm not sure if the team will watch that final set)  : ) :

1.  Thanks to the parents who drove all season long and 
      came out to watch 
2.  Thanks to Mr. L. for allowing me the opportunity to
     coach again.  A great way to get those volunteer hours
     in.  : ) 
3.  Thanks to all those who came out to our quarter and
     semi final games.  GREAT support and I know you enjoyed
     watching the girls play  (not as many came out for our
     final game as it was on during school).  
4.  Thanks to our two captains, Jillian and Janelle.  Your
     leadership on and off the court was wonderful to watch.
5.  Thanks to each and every team member who played to win and gave their all this season. During my coaching time at Redeemer this has been the best finish at the Christian School Tournament, the best finish in our regular season play, and  the best finish in city play-off play.  You should be proud of yourselves.  Many others certainly are.  : )  

YouTube link to Set #1

YouTube link to set #4

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sr. Girls Redeemer Christian High School Semi Final Volleyball Match Feb 23, 2011

The day has arrived.  After our Quarter Final play, which was amazing as you know, and a less than stellar practice on Monday (they are supposed to be lousy so you play better in games), today was our semi-final play day.  

I confess I was very excited, and very nervous, about this day.  Excited because I knew we had a chance at winning today, and nervous because I knew we also had a chance that we'd choke and lose.  It's happened before.  : )

Both Redeemer and St. Francis Xavier were in the semi's because they had knocked out the top ranked teams in our league.  That's confidence on both sides and I was well aware of that as we entered into this match.  

It just so happened that St. Francis arrived early to Redeemer.  I arrived at 2:40 pm and saw them in the school cafeteria.  I welcomed them to Redeemer, and congratulated them on their win.  I mentioned to them that we had done the same as them, and then I couldn't help myself, and told them that I just had that feeling that we were going to beat them today.  

Naturally they looked at me a bit shocked, but I wanted to rattle their chains a bit and give us any edge we could get.  They took it in stride and we joked about it some more and then I made sure they got their change room settled and were able to prepare for the game.  

I met Jillian in the hallway and she told me she was really nervous.  Many of the other team members were feeling the same.  I couldn't blame them, but hey girls, don't forget that you are in the semi's for a reason.  You are GOOD!  

 I decided that a good pep talk before things began would be a good idea.  I gathered the team together and reminded them how good they were, and that they were in the semi's because they were good.  I reminded everyone that now was the time to focus, be intense, believe in yourself, and play like it. Apparently I was very intense during this talk, as some of the team members told ME to relax.  : ).  

After the pep talk, it was time to warm up.  Look at that height from Julianna.  Amazing!   Even Damaris was jumping well today.  Way to go.  

Time to stretch out so nothing rips or tears in the body.  Very important to do before a match.  

 During warm up it was time to some one-on-one pep talks.  I knew that Janessa knew that I knew she was struggling a bit last match.  I just wanted to remind her today to believe in herself, try extra hard, be extra sure, hit extra hard, serve extra well, and yes, after all that, to have fun.  No pressure, eh!  : )    She knew.  She understood.  I was feeling good about Janessa today.  

 While waiting for the referee to arrive I had the team do some hitting to our setters and then to me, keeping the ball in constant play to warm them up.  Here's Emmalin hitting.  

 After a bit, I had Janelle take my place so I could sit down and figure out my starting line up.  As mentioned in my previous entry, I never quite know who I'm going to start until just before we play.  I decided to go with:

Setters = Jillian and Rachel
Middles = Julianna and Kelsey
Power = Janessa and Janelle
(boy, there are alot of girls names that start with J on this team)


Julianna needed to prove to me today that she was up for play.  She has been great during the regular season, but has struggled with her play in the last couple of matches.  Again, she's an amazing VB player, but every player struggles with confidence at times - that's just the way it is.  

I decided to give her that chance and sit Esther out.  I was just glad to have Esther in our line up today.  Seems she almost wasn't able to play, but that's a story she can tell you about sometime if she wants to.  : ) 

Esther was sick and coughing, so I wanted to rest her if I could for a time, and see what Julianna was ready to do.   

 The referee finally arrived and we did the coin toss.  Now you need to know something about our two captains, Janelle and Jillian, and the wonderful coin toss at the beginning of each match.  It seems that so long as Janelle is present for the coin toss, we lose 9 times out of 10.  Sorry Janelle, but that's just the way it is.  : )    Not so today.  

Even though we didn't call it, we ended up winning the toss today.  Things were looking up.   

Speaking of looking up, our 5 - 5 warm up soon began.  Here you can see Jillian setting for Kelsey to spike the ball.  

 Mr. L, in the background and in the middle of this picture, is my official assistant coach (that comment will make more sense in a minute).  Interesting to note, it seems we have the same facial expressions.  : )  I wonder how we managed that?

 Our Referee on the right.  He's been doing this for 21 years. I like his reffing style.  Consistent and by the book.  We've had him only at the tail end of our season.  

 Hey, that's a picture of me.  Thanks for taking that David.  I think I'm really starting to get nervous here.  You live in the moment in a season like we are having, and even though I was nervous for the girls, this has been the most fun I've had coaching VB in a long time.  A great team, with great potential that steps up when they need to.  Thanks for the memories so far ladies, and hopefully we'll make a few more during this match.  

 It's game time everyone.  
We begin the match.  
Everyone is ready and focused.  

 Remember that comment earlier about Mr. L. being my official assistant coach.  This is Shawn, who coaches the Jr. and Sr. Boys Vollebyall Teams for Redeemer.  He was my unofficial assistant coach.  : ) 

He started out as a lines person (thanks for that Shawn), but then he moved off that job and began coaching the girls from a distance.  I laughed.  Shawn's competitive for sure.  Thanks for the advice Shawn (it was all good), and thanks for willing the girls to want to win.  I appreciated it.  

So, before I finish off commenting on the rest of the pictures, I figure I might as well tell you about what happened in the match. 

We began set 1 a bit nervous I think.  My teams have always had issues with that first set.  They often lose the first set, and either come back, or continue to lose.  

We lost the first set, and it wasn't even close.  I was beginning to think I'd have to eat my words said to St. Francis Xavier in the cafeteria. : )    Time for the coach to step up and make some decisions about his players. 

Julianna had given up some points that I thought she shouldn't have, so it was time for a change.  Julianna out, Esther in.  I didn't switch out Mercedes and Janessa in the first set, but Janessa did miss a serve (or two maybe), so that was also going to happen in the second set.  

Set #2
With the slight adjustment, we began set 2.  Things seemed to go much smoother.  Even though Esther was sick, she was ready to play today.  Her sideways hits off the middle and blocks were bang on.  Not alot of power needed, just proper placing of the ball, and she was finding the holes on the other team just fine.   

I ended up switching Mercedes and Janessa a couple of times to let Mercedes serve and play a bit, and she did just fine as well.  

We ended up winning the second set handily.  

Set #3:
We were now tied one set a piece.  No time to let up, at least that was what I told the team.  They were listening.  I kept the line-up the same, with the intention to substitute Janessa and Mercedes.  

The team played well.  Good solid service receives and hits. Rachel's serves were good, as were the others.  Even Janessa seemed to find her groove.  I was going to substitute Janessa, but as I tried to do that, Mercedes told me to keep her in.  I hesitated  for a moment, but again, wanted to trust my team, so I honored her request.  I was impressed with Mercedes' trust in her fellow teammate.  

Janessa stepped up and began serving very well.  Whew!  : ) 

Set #4

The final set began okay, but hit some bumps (pun intended) along the way.  I had to call a time-out to refocus the girls after the ball dropped to the ground on our side - something that causes coaches to pull their hair out (if they have any).  

I did put Julianna back in again.  She wanted to play, and I wanted her to play.  She started off a bit shaky, but found her feet (pun intended again) and did a great job in the back row bumping to our setter.  It was fun to watch.  I knew she was having a bit of an issue with the front row and the net, so just to be safe, I put Kelsey back in the front row.  In the end we ended up pulling it out and winning that 4th set.  

It was neat to see all the people who came out to watch the game.  Parents, students, alumni. Even some past volleyball players I used to coach.  Nice to see.  Even Rogers Cable was there taking snap shots of the game.  Too bad I can't get Rogers at home.  : )  

So, we are on to the FINALS.  Yahoo!  We play on Friday, against Immaculata I've just found out.  I'm hoping the game is at 2 pm, as I have to travel to a retreat after the game, but it could be at 4 pm too.  Still working on that one. 

I am very proud of this team. Even those who sat on the bench today and did not play, and yes, some of them did not.  We are where we are at because the whole team got us here.  Remember that on Friday when we receive either first or second place medals, no matter who plays.  

Now, to conclude with some more pictures and video of the last set.    

 Kelsey and Janessa standing at the ready.  

 Jillian.  Strong, smart, fast, and funny.  She never gives up on the court.  Thanks for your leadership these past two years.  

 Kelsey.  Quiet, strong, determined, and always thinking on the court.  An amazing middle player, and great server.  

 Mercedes.  Someone who, even though she can be her own worst enemy on the court, has grown by leaps and bounds in skill over the past season.  Remember that Mercedes and you better come back next year!!!!!  

 Janelle putting a ball deep.  Janelle has been an amazing setter all season long, but has been even better these last two matches as a power hitter.  You should be proud of all you've done these past two years on the court Janelle.  Thanks for being co-captain.  

 Esther and Rachel and Janessa.  More about Esther and Rachel in a moment.  

Janessa.  I know you continue to struggle with confidence, but today you won that inner battle.  Nice to see.  Keep it up.  We'll need that confidence on Friday, and next season  : ).  

 Janelle's overhand serves have been getting better, but Monday's practice wasn't great for them, so I decided to go with her strength.  Underhand.  Great job Janelle.  

Rachel, you've stepped it up as a setter.  Thanks for doing that.  We missed you at the Tournament.  I can't imagine how much farther we could have gone with you there (no guilt intended by that comment BTW : ) )  

This is a picture of Jillian hitting a spike.  I've been amazed at how well she actually hits a spike, for such a short person (sorry Jillian, I couldn't help myself).  Great work Jillian.  

And a final comment left for Esther.  Today, you were definitely the MVP.  You gave us so many points with your side to side hits, blocks and yes, even some pretty strange and amazing moves.  Great work Esther.  Get well before FRIDAY!!!!!  : ) 

I'll close by giving you a YouTube link to the 4th set of today's match in it's entirety.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did.

Until Friday..........................

Sunday, February 20, 2011

National Youth Workers Convention - Dec 2010

On December 2 - 5, 2010 I travelled to Toronto to attend the Canadian National Youth Workers Convention.  It's sponsored by Youth Specialties, an organization that just loves Youth Ministry and Youth Workers.  I always enjoy going to these Conventions for the following reasons:

1.  The obvious break from regular ministry : ) 
2.  The chance to meet others of like mind in the Youth Ministry "business"
3.  The chance to hear amazing speakers that YS lines up for each convention.  Some are controversial and I like that.  They challenge youth workers in their ministries to think outside the box.  
4.  The chance to listen and hear what God is saying in my life as I progress in my career as a Youth Pastor.  

I've put a couple of pictures at the beginning so you get an idea of where I was for the 4 days, and then I'm going to talk about some of the seminars I went to and how they affected my thinking on Youth Ministry.  I hope you enjoy reading, and as always, if you have a comment, either email me at  or leave a comment on the blog itself.  

 Every YS convention is placed at a nicer type of hotel.  A chance for Youth Workers to feel a bit of pampering.  This convention was held at the Doubletree by Hilton right near the Toronto Airport.  

 Here's a picture of the hotel room I stayed in. 
Quite comfortable.  

 The other side of the room.  

 Looking down from my room onto the parking lot.  The airport is just past those towers.  

 Planes landing and taking off were the norm as you stayed in your hotel room.  I like watching planes, so I was fine with that.  : ) 

 The restaurant where breakfast and lunch and dinner  were served.  I went out to Perkins the first night, and then discovered that this restaurant served amazing food for pretty reasonable prices.  I had the best ever chicken linguine over a luncheon meeting

 Here's where we registered for the conference.  Everything was enclosed in one place, which was so nice since it was a cold week.  

 Before the official Conference began the Ontario Youth Workers from the CRC met for a time.  Interestingly the meeting was held in the Ottawa room.  :  )  

 This meeting time was unique.  We were priviledged to have a bit of up close and personal time with  Canadian Brett Ulman