Happy Trails

Monday afternoon, I attended the retirement celebration of Dr. Max Ruhl, the respected Dean of Education at Northwest Missouri State University. I usually don’t attend retirement get-togethers, but this was a big one. First, Dr. Ruhl shook hands with everyone who showed up, except for the 20 or so that snuck in the side door. They wanted to get to the food line quicker. It was a lot of hands to shake. The crowd was large; probably 200 or more of Dr. Ruhl’s friends, employees and colleagues.

You knew this day was special. Dr. John Jasinski, the Northwest Missouri State University president, opened the festivities with some very nice comments about the guru of our education department. His doctorate degree advisor even drove in from Columbia and brought along Dr. Ruhl’s 1987 dissertation. It was a classy day for one of the last days of Dr. Ruhl’s distinguished employment at Northwest Missouri State University. I have to admit, my motivation was both for Dr. Ruhl, who always has a “how’s it going, coach?” every time I run into him and for watching my son sing. Sam is part of the Horace Mann (Bearcat) choir that helped take Dr. Ruhl into retirement with Roy Roger and Dale Evan’s favorite theme song, “Happy Trails.” Continue reading

Humble Beginnings

Every summer, I run into one of the first players I ever coached. His name is Paul Heim. Paul is in the equipment restoration business and he stops by to see what business our football team has for his company. His family and mine became connected in the two years I spent at the first teaching job I took out of college. Paul was from Dawson, Neb., but his family sent him to Humboldt where they had an outstanding music program run by Bob Williamson. Paul also was an excellent athlete and that caused controversy. It’s a little ironic about education. If Dawson lost a promising, young singer to a neighbor school, hardly anyone noticed. However, if that singer happened to be a great athlete, all hell broke out. Continue reading

The Disappearing Fun Button

Did you know there’s a loop around the University that’s about three miles long? It’s also part of the biking/hiking trail that someday will go all the way through Maryville. You can see joggers and walkers on this loop about any time of the day, evening or early nighttime. As I see these health conscious people, I ask myself, “Where is their fun button?” The fun button is an imaginary button-shaped light that blares red when you are exercising and it’s no longer fun. Most young people don’t even know they have a fun button. They can exercise all they want and the imaginary fun button isn’t even visible.

That’s the way the fun button was for me for a good portion of my life. I have to admit, high school track wasn’t good to me. I only went out my first two years. The straw that broke the camels back came during the district tract meet my sophomore year. I was scheduled to run the mile. Most of the time, there were about five of us who battled for the distinction not to finish last. I could usually manage to keep up a little better than dead last, but not on this day. Continue reading

The Life and Times of Basketball Camps

Twenty-six years ago, I took the women’s basketball coaching job at Doane College in Crete, Neb. Doane did not have girls’ basketball camps at the time. I was a young coach with visions of great riches with the growth of the Doane Basketball Camp. My vision was about 50 percent correct. We did have amazing growth over the next 15 years. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice the great riches to build the camp.

That first summer, I thought I would run an ordinary, individual basketball camp where we turned terrible-talented young ladies into great players. One look at the vast individual improvement would lead to quick, huge growth in camp numbers. This time I was wrong on all points. Camps are a very small sample of what dedicated players must do to accomplish great basketball feats. Less than one percent of campers leave that camp and succeed in basketball greatness. At best, the girls that attended camp find a few tools that help them improve just enough to make a varsity team. That’s hardly a sales point to increase attendance. Continue reading

The Women of Coffee

If you have read many of my blogs, you know I grew up in a little Nebraska community. That small town was Clatonia. It had all of 220 people according to the 1960 census report. Despite the small body count, it has many very unusual traits. The one that pertains to me and basketball is three college coaches have come from this community and a fourth college coach was raised only seven miles to the west. I really hadn’t thought about it much until recently.

On memorial weekend, Sam, my 10-year old son, Jacob, my 12-year old grandson and I went back to Clatonia to put some flowers on graves of relatives. I visited a couple of people that made me want to take a look at why that 1.3 percent of the population of Clatonia in 1960 either was or became a college basketball coach. We all know that females have a tendency to out-live their male partners. That’s true in my hometown, so I decided to take a look at the “Coffee Women” of Clatonia. Continue reading