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Football…Just Breathe

September 6, 2012

So a friend of mine – Jason Wilmont is the head coach of the Mt. Si middle school football program.  He asked if I wanted to help out.  Not that I have tons of extra time, between work, family and chemo cycles, my time is limited.  But I decided it would be a fun thing to do, especially when thinking about how for me, outside of my Dad, my biggest supporters and role models have been sports coaches that I have had. Plus just thinking about my blog and some of my posts and how I feel I have learned a lot about how to deal with life from sports.

Honestly for me coaching football, I think I am less prepared than say baseball or wrestling.  I would have no problem setting up a baseball or wrestling practice schedule, but football I find more difficult and a little bit more intimidating. I can help the center, but what else can I do?

It brought me back to thinking how to approach things the way the coaches that I had did.  From Gene Yerabek, his unbalance line, his quotes of the day, his practice plan schedules in which the times were never zeros or fives – practice would start at 3:48, not 3:45, to the day in practice in which during a defensive drill I was driven back (OK got drilled) and flew back directly into him – knocking him down and re-injuring his knee.  Yes that night, I did think I might have to transfer schools!  The truth was I sucked on defense.  I had one great stretch my sophomore year in which I was a scout team wonder, but truth be told, that was more about the fact that I knew what every person on the field did for every play in our playbook, so really it just meant I could recognize all of our plays quickly not that I could really play middle linebacker. Now I would be working with the defensive line on how to play.

To the great Bill Brosseau – Coach B, his energy, his excitement, always a smile on his face,  his famous quote of “Lets put the hay in the barn!” One of the best people I have ever meet.

Art Kuehn and the counter trey and the trap.  He is also the person who taught me how to long snap. I probably have more stories about him via wrestling.

To my freshman coach Steve Farnworth, who would leave practices all bruised up from actually doing drills and running scout team with us and forgetting that he did not have pads on.  He reminded us after we got drilled by O’Dea that  the O-line should have at least had the courtesy to tell Wes that we aren’t going to block for him and to look out, before their defensive line was going to not only sack him, but was going to unload on him.  Lots of great people who worked with me playing on the line in football.

At first I found myself going on the internet to come up with drills for the line to do, trying to think back to what the heck did we do?  I learned there is a ton of information on You Tube to help you out.

At practice, I would watch a few of the lineman who are less aggressive and not in as good as shape as some of the others, take a hit, you can see the tears start to well up in their eyes, they become frustrated and angry, but do not know how to control and channel those feelings.  They get frustrated, which means they ultimately end up getting hit harder during the next drill.  During conditioning you can see them working hard, but struggling.  Unable to keep up, unable to complete the push-ups or the sit-ups or the up-downs.  Full pads can feel like being in a coffin, the pads, the helmet, all can make you feel claustrophobic, you are tired, hot and sweating and all of that heat is trapped in by the gear.  When you are pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and into the realm of pain and discomfort, that feeling starts to take hold and you feel trapped.  As you watch some of the kids, you can see that in their face, they have pushed as hard as they can, but still have more lines to run, more push-ups to do.  You can see that feeling of claustrophobia start to creep in, then it starts to turn into pain, then it turns into fear, then from fear it turns into panic.  At the point of panic, their heart-rate starts to go sky high, their heart beats uncontrollably. They have lost their control as panic is all encompassing.   I have pulled a couple of kids who are struggling out of the drills and told them just to breathe – Just Breathe!  Only focus on each breath, nothing else.  Bring the heart-rate back down – Just Breathe – focus on nothing else.  It sounds so simple, so easy, just breathe – nothing else.  But still I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to convince them to just breathe.  They want to struggle, to yell, to fight, to just do something, but all they need to do is breathe

My boys are the same way when they get hurt.  I just want them to breathe, to calm down, to focus on each breath in and out.  Yet they tend to stay amped up, in tears, in pain, uncontrollable, unable to listen or to explain what happened.  They are just in pain, gripped with panic.

Life is a lot like that, things occur, things happen, we get scared, we are afraid, we experience pain, then we let all of those things turn into panic.  Once we have hit panic, all bets are off, things get out of control and go sideways fast.  When all we need to do is to just breathe.  How simple, yet so hard – just breathe.  Don’t let the panic take hold – just breathe.

Like the time I was kayaking the Skykomish River and flip my boat and was stuck in a hole and panicked, I thought my chest was going to explode, my heart was beating so fast.  I was thrashing around in the water, not wanting to drown.  I remember yelling at myself to get things under control, to remove the panic and just breathe.  The time I was rock climbing Castle Rock – I was about 80 feet off the ground and was struggling to place a piece of protection as I knew that if I were to fall that I would hit the deck (ground) which means game over because I was too run-out.  I was freaking out, sweating, in pure panic mode.  Again I had to yell at myself to pull it together, to just breathe.  Focus on that first then take things one step at a time.  When mountaineering one of the most important things to learn is the rest step, which is really a way to control your pace and your breathing.  It allows you to focus on just breathing.

When you hear the diagnosis that you have a brain tumor – just breathe – no panic, no fear, just breathe.  The panic and fear hit, but you remember that you just need to breathe.

Then when you learn that the tumor is cancer and incurable at that – just breathe – no panic, no fear, just breathe.  Take things one step at a time and just breathe.

If it works in football, it works in life, it works in cancer.
Just Breathe


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Coach B permalink
    September 7, 2012 12:26 pm

    WOW, Dave you hit it right on the head. Those were the days. Truth be told, you guys made us coaches look good and we learned more from you then you would ever know. Good luck this season and remember that the parents don’t come to watch you win; they come to see their sons play. Have fun and Put the hay in the barn.
    Old Coach B

    • anna sotelo permalink
      September 10, 2012 7:04 am

      So thankful to have you and Jason coaching our boys! All of you are truly inspiring them, and leaving them with great memories and lessons they will have for the rest of their lives!
      Thanks coach!


  2. September 10, 2012 9:31 am

    A great reminder of how simple things can help you through life’s interesting challenges. Thanks for your time and commitment to the boys. I will try to remember to reinforce “just breath”. Cheering for you!

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