Youth Football Starts

I'm coaching 8th grade football again this year, again with my good friends Brian and Jack. This is our 5th year coaching this level together and likely to be our last. For various reasons (two of us will be empty nesters next summer) we are likely to hang up our Sherwood Youth Football coaching hats for good after this season.

Which leads to the questions: What do we want this season to look like? and, What goals should we have?

The 2013 season was no cake walk. We had a decent seasons win/loss-wise, making it to the playoffs and holding our own in a playoff loss. Most of the kids (I think) had a great experience and are playing again this year on the HS freshman team. I see them around the town (I just saw one today at the HS) and they are eager to talk about their ongoing football experiences. But not all was rosy last year: parent relationships were the worst we've had in our experience, and some of this dysfunction transfered over to player relations.

It would be easy to blame the parents and shirk accountability, but we were part of the problem. I think our mistakes fell in two categories:

  1. Allowing ourselves to get pulled into confrontational conversations that eroded relationships. We may not have initiated the conversation, but we allowed it to happen when we could have walked away or smiled and asked to defer the conversation until cooler minds prevailed.
  2. Not enforcing natural consequences and outcomes for player behavior. In a few instances, generally to take the path of least resistance or to mitigate problem (1) above, we didn't carry out proper discipline or adjust our depth chart (player A starting over player B) when we should have. I think this undermined our authority and sent the wrong message to the players and parents who were doing things right. Not that these incidents were very visible outside of a very small number of players.

Given this backdrop, let's talk about how we'd like 2014 to play out.

We've recommitted ourselves to making this a great team and football experience for the players. Personally I'm smiling more, yelling less, and finding more ways to connect personally with each player. I'm getting to know the parents on a more personal level, finding ways to engage them into support activities for the team. Julie has filmed our games for years and I've taken care of film processing and uploading to Hudl. I've delegated that completely to a parent (this was very hard for me). We are working on a new no huddle play calling systems and I've enlisted three different dads to help with some fabrication and production work to support us.

Secondarily, we want to focus on the bottom third of our kids and help them over perform. Sherwood is one of the few programs in all of greater Portland that will field two 8th grade teams this year, and as a result we will face several other teams that draw from larger communities that have a single team. Our talent pool will not measure up, but if we can coach up the weaker kids and properly prepare them perhaps we can steal a game or two that otherwise we should lose.

Over achievement this year probably means a 5-3 season. I'll check back in November and report on how things went.


It is hard to contemplate that this could be my last season coaching. I wonder if there might be some other venue for me (or maybe the three of us?) in the future where impact could be magnified. After watching Undefeated, Brian and I wonder if there might be some high school out there somewhere that could use a volunteer staff to turn around a program and establish a foundation for the kids.

Compounded, Forbidden Desert, and Up Front!

I played three different new-to-me games in the past week. I'm in the midst of my transition out of routine board gaming and into the daily (awesome) grind of football coaching. Gotta get gaming in while I can.

Compounded

First up was a game I Kickstarted called Compounded. Given the chemistry theme you might think this is an educational game, but it really is just another resource acquisition and set collection game. We had a blast playing it though (four players) and the production quality is stellar. I'm not sure of all the differences between the current retail version and what I got via Kickstarter so don't be surprised if things look a bit different.

A brief description of the game:

  • Players collect raw elements as their base resource (hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and sulfur). These elements are usually randomly drawn from a bag and occur with frequency (ostensibly related to natural occurring frequency, e.g. hydrogen much more common than sulfur)
  • You are collecting these elements in order to acquire compounds comprised of these elements
  • The key choices in the game (my opinion) are what compounds to claim and what advancements to take. On each player board is a tracker where you can advance among multiple capability categories. These can bring more elements to the player each turn, allow them to have more claim markers out on compounds, put out more elements on compounds each turn, and allow for more element storage between turns.
  • There are special one shot and permanent improvements that a player can also obtain as a side effect of acquiring a compound or advancing along a research track
  • The game would be a boring min-max engine building puzzle if it weren't for compound volatility. Some compounds don't like to sit on the shelf waiting to be completed and will eventually blow up. Don't ask me to explain how it works thematically that a compound not even started will combust. It is this feature that adds some randomness and risk taking. You can also take advantage of how elements spray out from an explosion to advantage other compounds you've claimed

We played with four and I think opinions were positive if not overwhelmingly so. There's an educational aspect to the game in that the compounds seem to be somewhat accurate in terms of elemental components and structure. At least that's what the chemist in our group claimed.

Forbidden Desert

My family enjoys Forbidden Island as a great cooperative gateway game for kids and adults, so I recently picked up its successor Forbidden Desert. This has a bit more going on without losing the simplicity of the original. Instead of an island sinking into the water you have a desert storm ravaging the terrain. The storm movement brings it's own chaos, and combined with more complexity in how the treasures are discovered the game requires more planning and coordination. We struggled to win our first game on easy level. This is a keeper and should be good with kids.

Up Front - Doug checking rules

If you are a wargamer you've probably had some exposure to the Kickstarter saga surrounding the reprint of have classic game Up Front. I Kickstarted the game and have no expectation of ever getting a copy. But Doug has one and we played last weekend!

Up Front - Chris hand

This is the game that was supposed to evolve and popularize the tactical system in Squad Leader through a few key mechanisms:

  • A better simulation of local combat command by reducing the amount of control the player has. In Squad Leader (and Advanced Squad Leader) each player has god-like visibility and command. Up Front does this by limiting actions to the cards in hand.
  • Increased fog of war along at least two dimensions: you don't always know what terrain you will find as you advance, and you don't know what actions the other player can conduct
  • Economy of actions through hand tension: do I take this one action with a squad and nothing with the others, or do I discard and draw with the hopes of a better hand on next turn?

If this sounds like Combat Commander there's no coincidence -- the inflict of Up Front on CC is obvious. Up Front however fully abstracts out the map and counters - this game is pretty much all about cards. Engagement and range or managed through a relative range calculation as units advance. I get the feeling however that this part of the system could have used more development and refinement as I had a hard time grasping the mechanism and mapping it to some reality.

Up Front - Berserk

Doug and I played the first two scenarios and I loved it. I also won both games but the second scenario should have been a loss. Doug was playing the Russians and had me on the bring of elimination (one more unit kill and it would be an automatic win) but I held on with some fortunate back-to-back attacks. Three or four consecutive kills led to his units going berserk then charging my unit, only to die quickly in close combat.

Thanks Doug for teaching this classic!

Sailing Charter in Greece - Part 12 - Summary and Final Notes

At the top of Mt. Kythnos, Delos

This is the end of the road for my Greece trip log! Just like many of my previous trip logs, it has taken just a short while to get this wrapped up (1 year!).

Here is a list of the 11 posts for this trip:

If you are thinking about arranging a trip like this, make sure you read my post on the planning.

Our next adventure is likely to be a trekking tour of Ireland in 2015. Can't wait.

Sailing Charter in Greece - Part 11 - Poros, Aigina, and return to Alimos

6am! Leaving early to sail from Kythnos to Poros

This is part 11 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 10 here.

Our July 4th started very early as we prepared for our 55nm journey to the island of Poros, by far our longest single day passage. We awoke at 5:30am to close hatches and cast off, though we all alternated napping and reading throughout the 7-8 hour journey.

Approaching Poros Town

Poros was a pleasant surprise with a notable contrast in architecture to the Cyclades islands. Here we found mostly red tiled roofs and it felt more Italian than Greek.

Mooring in Poros with help from Michael

There is a vibrant marina scene here with many tavernas, markets, and gift shops along the harbor. The primary strip is on a narrow channel with the Peloponnese staring back at us about 200m away. The flat water with the tall wooded bluffs opposite reminded us of Keuka Lake. Greeting us upon arrival was Michael, a tall swarthy Greek that helps run the nearby Oasis Taverna. He immediately shared with us a Wifi access code as well as a plate of watermelon to cool us off. This is clearly a sales demand generation scheme for his business, but we applaud his gumption and generosity and suspect we may make a visit to the Oasis later.

At a beach on Poros

The marina strip where we moored is at the bottom of a steep slope where you can climb up and over to experience a very different side of the island. Julie and I did just that in the afternoon and found ourselves at a beach resort where we rented two chairs and enjoyed a cold beverage. The swimming was quite nice.

Our boat re-moored in Poros after the anchor broke free

While Julie and I were out hiking, our anchor came free and the rest of our crew helped Vassilis relocate our boat to a side mooring.

View of the mainland from the Poros clocktower

After some afternoon napping, Matthew and I sat down at the Oasis for a drink and a game of Lost Cities. Without the sun bearing down (it was hot earlier) this marina is delightfully cool and breezy. The whole crew then decided to take a pre-dinner hike up to the clock tower for a nice panorama view of the entire channel.

Dinner at the Oasis Taverna in Poros

Dinner at the Oasis is above average and it was especially nice to have Vassilis join us. We are all slightly depressed as we know our adventure is nearly at an end.

Jacob starts us on our journey back to Alimos

The next morning we left Poros at about 8am to sail to Aigina, a resort town within a short distance of Athens so popular for Greeks. We anchored in the harbor and five us swam in about 300m and found some tide pools and cliffs.

Jacob and Matthew are picture perfect at the Aegina cliffs

The water was deep, clear and perfect for cliff jumping. We took turns leaping off the cliff then climbing back up for a repeat.

Chris jumping off a cliff on Aegina

Above you can see a rare photo of me doing something interesting.

Our cozy cabin

We had our last meal on our boat and got very creative in an attempt to finish off our leftovers. We made pasta with a variety of cheeses, Vassilis' chicken dish, and being short on beer we got creative with whiskey cocktails.

In the photo above you can see the cabin that Julie and I share. It had an attached head that doubled as a shower (the whole toilet area doubled as the shower). Not really a living space but more than sufficient for sleeping and storing our gear.

Checking out with Alice Dentes of Seafarer

After a two hour sail we were back in Alimos to "check out" with Alice. We had to return the boat full of fuel and had a fuel supplier try to swindle us by running the meter longer than they were actually filling our tanks. Fortunately Vassilis has a keen eye for this and called them on it, saving us some €.

I'll conclude this Greek travel series in my next post with some summary information and tips on how to arrange an adventure like this.