This is the 50th time I have written a blog for the Northwest Web site. I am shocked and appreciative of anyone who clicks on this site to follow my ramblings online. This topic should have been blog number one. Now, almost 11 months later, I have to face the question that someone asked me last week, “What would you do without women?”
The first thing that comes to mind is I could have avoided the embarrassment of a girlfriend in high school. I didn’t exactly have high school girls flocking to my doorstep. My phone remained silent most of my high school days. However, after the best basketball game of my high school career, on a fateful December Friday night in 1967, I found my first steady girlfriend. Her name was Lynne and I had no idea the embarrassment I would bring to myself.
Everything went great for a while. However, I should have recognized that my average high school basketball career was not improving after that great game against Pawnee City, Neb. That’s the night of my first date with Lynne. We went to a sock-hop. Why didn’t I see what negative affect girlfriends have on unsuspecting high school males? As I became more infatuated with Lynne, the less I cared about my failings on the court. Someone should have kicked me square in the pants, but they were so shocked I had female attention, they just let it go. Embarrassment began in earnest when Lynne’s parents took us to Omaha for Lynne’s 18th birthday. I dressed up even wearing my best tie and sports coat. Of course, it was a clip-on tie. What else was I suppose to wear in the 60s? We went to an International House of Pancakes to eat lunch. This was so long ago that they didn’t even call it IHOP. I ordered pancakes and was halfway through my stack of blueberry cakes when Lynne pointed out my tie was soaked with syrup and would soon become part of my meal.
I thought that would be the worst embarrassment of the day. However, I was just getting started. We then went to a showing of the classic movie, Gone with the Wind. Scarlet might have been a real hot actress and Brett did use the swear words, “My dear, I don’t give a damn!” I still fell fast asleep during both the first and second reels. I’m not sure, but I think I even snored. My birthday present helped get me over that hump. If anything, Lynne was materialistic. Now it was on to dinner in Lincoln at a place called the Esquire Club. It was kind-of a poor man’s Play Boy Club. Lynne’s father seemed to enjoy the waitresses. I have to admit, their skimpy outfits distracted me, even with my first girlfriend sitting right next to me. As I went to cut my streak, it slipped off my plate and right onto my lap. Now I had a sticky tie, a grease-stained pair of pants and one angry girlfriend. However, I was well rested from my naps. Lynne dumped me two weeks later.
You would have thought I would have learned a valuable lesson from my negative high school experiences with girls. I was very excited to graduate from college and take a boys’ coaching job in Humboldt, Neb. I slipped when I agreed to coach the girls’ softball team in the summer. Things went great for the most part. We had a great team and only part of the players’ parents wanted to kill me. You can’t please all the parents, can you?
The embarrassment from this apparent success story came with my wardrobe. Did you know that baseball is the only sport where the coach wears the same uniform as the players? It doesn’t matter how old or fat the coach is, you wear the uniform. Softball is usually different. However, my bosses on the Humboldt Recreation Committee thought I was discriminating against the girls’ softball team by not wearing a uniform similar to the player’s uniforms. I was forced to wear the complete uniform, which made me the laughing stock of this southeast Nebraska softball league. I should have ordered my pitchers to throw more bean balls.
Finally, I deserted boys’ basketball altogether and became a head girls’ high school coach. This is where a real education about young women began. I know this sounds naïve, but I found out just how moody high school girls can be once every month. As we were boarding the bus on the way to the district championship game my first year as a head girls’ coach, my best player was five minutes late. Despite the stories you have heard about coaches leaving players at home if they are late for the bus, I wasn’t about to blow our chances to win the school’s first ever district championship so I could show how tough I could be enforcing discipline.
The player, Angie, finally showed up. When I tried to talk to her, she stormed to the back of the bus, slumped in her seat and pouted. I wasn’t sure what she was pouting about. I waited five extra minutes, didn’t I? One of the older players knew I was concerned and said, “Don’t worry, it’s just Angie’s time.” My first thought was time for what? The player tried to explain, “You know, that thing.” The trouble was, I didn’t know. Then she said, “You know, that time of the month.” That’s when the light came on. I said, “Oh, that time of the month.” One teacher had a coffee mug that said, “I have PMS and a gun, what was your question?” Now I understood my player and the coffee mug, but not before I had once again embarrassed myself with female issues.
I soon learned that if a player suddenly wants out of a game, asks for a towel, and lays it on her lap, there is a problem. Since home pregnancy tests weren’t available for purchase in the early 80s, you hated to see one of your players walking into the local Family Planning Center. I often went to the home economics teacher and the school counselor for advice on how to educate or handle this array of female issues without bringing attention to myself.
After five years as a high school coach, I took a college women’s basketball coaching job. I thought that since these college kids were already wise to the female issues, my problems were over. No more embarrassment, I could concentrate on coaching. Who was the naïve one now? College players created a whole different group of issues. For example, I had to head off the Kansas City police when Karin, one of my players at Doane College, set off a car alarm in a parking garage on the Plaza. My first assistant was a psychology major and told me he personally counseled a couple of my players. He was also a male. I encouraged him to continue the counseling, thinking the problems would end with the assistant coach. What I didn’t know is his style of counseling sessions are typically called dates. It seemed my assistant coach liked to date college women. Who was more accessible than team members? Again, being naïve caused me a great deal of embarrassment before I got rid of that assistant coach.
If you have read this and you are starting to feel sorry for me, save your sympathy. If I hadn’t coached women’s basketball, I would never been allowed to coach Angie Miller, still the hardest working player I’ve ever met. If I had stuck with male sports, I would only have read about Trudi Veerhusen and her parents, Cliff and Marlene. Trudi would have never saved our team from mediocrity and Cliff would have never entertained me on the road for four years. Had I never accepted the job at Doane College, I would never have had my first transfer player, Patty Stander, and I would have never met her great parents, Frank and Carol. Dena Gosch would have ended up only being a student at UNO instead of the first great three-point shooter at Doane College. More importantly, Dena and her husband, Rich, would not have met and started a fantastic family of six.
Had I stuck with males, my two favorite college players that also were cigarette smokers, Jessica and Meghan, could never had been great players for me at Doane and Northwest. Jessica is a mother of two and quickly gave up smoking. Meghan goes to work at 6 a.m. every morning and has ditched her nicotine habit, too. I knew they would eventually quit. If I had stayed with the boys’ high school job, Missy Knippelmeyer and Tracee Uldrich would not have been my son’s godparents. Mari Maaske would not have been my business partner after becoming the only Kodiak All-American I ever coached. However, I probably could have saved money on wedding presents. The latest player to walk down the isle will be Mandi Schumacher, a great post player that graduated from Northwest in 2008. She is getting married this weekend in Columbus, Neb. I think I’ll skip the reception, but I better get my name on a wedding present. I remember how tough she was on the court – tougher than any male player!