Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nick's Notes: Buchholz leaves a winner

Marshall is not a soccer town, but no one told TJ Buchholz.
In his four years here, Buchholz made a positive mark as the women's soccer coach at Southwest
Minnesota State University.
SMSU announced on Friday that Buchholz accepted a job as head coach of the University of Toledo women's soccer team.
"It was such a hard decision to leave. The university has been such a special place for me and my family for four years," said Buchholz via phone on Friday afternoon.
Buchholz said that he will miss the community, SMSU and the program he rebuilt after it had suffered a number of losing seasons.
"I just saw so much potential in the university and the community and the Schwan Regional Event Center and I just thought, why couldn't it happen? I thought it could be a winner," said Buchholz.
It did happen.
In his third year on the job, Buchholz totaled 16 wins, a conference tournament bid and a visit to the NCAA tournament, the program's first ever.
SMSU's signature win came in that tournament after they beat the No. 1 seed Minnesota State 2-1 to reach the Sweet 16.
Buchholz also won over his colleagues, opponents, and his athletes.
"TJ and I motivated each other. We had a lot of professional conversations. I probably learned more from him about just coaching athletes, not coaching track, just coaching in general more than any other single person," said SMSU cross country and track and field coach Nate Wolf.
After years of mediocre finishes, Buchholz made the Mustangs into a team that opponents could not ignore.
"He brought a serious, professional approach to the program. He knows the game. He's good with people," said University of Minnesota Duluth soccer coach Greg Cane. "They got the right guy when they hired him."
Most importantly, he valued other things just as much as winning. He made sure to look out for his team members as people, and not just athletes.
"He loves to win but he also wants to do things right. I think that one of the strongest characteristics is his integrity. That's something that's something very important to him," said Wolf.
"I don't think I could have asked to play for a better coach or a better person," said former SMSU midfielder Autumn Hayes, who is now an assistant coach for the Towson University women's soccer team.
"I am where I am because of coach B," she said.
Hayes also said she thought about leaving soccer all together during her college career, but that Buchholz, "stood by me the whole time."
The thing that impressed me the most about Buchholz was his desire to build something big. That's not easy to do in a town where soccer takes a back seat to football and volleyball in the fall.
Getting victories is a challenge, but changing a culture to expect victories is a bigger challenge. And doing that all without controversy is perhaps the biggest challenge.
What's his secret? The people.
"I think it's people first. It's always been about the people," said Buchholz. "It's about having integrity and believing in what you are doing. I wanted to bring an energy and passion to Southwest that had been missing for a while."
Marshall may still not be a soccer town, but it is sure a better place due to Buchholz.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nick's Notes: Tommy's Time

Thomas Fischer may be in the right place at the wrong time. The three-sport student-athlete at Marshall High School has waited in the wings for his chance to shine as a starter at critical positions on three different MHS teams.
For the football team, he'll be following Brad Bahlmann at quarterback, the 2014 Marshall Independent Offensive MVP. During basketball season, he'll take over for point guard Connor Winkelman, who won this year's Marshall Independent All-Area Player of the Year award. And next baseball season he'll move up in the Tigers rotation, which currently features Winkelman, senior Nate Hoeft, and 2014 All-Area baseball Player of the Year, junior Drew Hmielewski.
Fischer is ready for the challenges of three demanding positions.
"I think it will be fun to be out there playing and having big responsibilities to put the team in position to win," he said in between the Marshall Tigers baseball games at Legion Field last Saturday.
His preparation includes a busy summer schedule of training and conditioning.
Fischer said he'll be practicing basketball Monday through Thursday, playing seven-on-seven football every Tuesday, suiting up at second base for the Minneota Mudhens as well as lifting every day.
He described the summer as "action-packed."
Fischer seems to get the mental aspect of the games as well.
"Thomas is a student of the game," said Bahlmann. The former Tigers quarterback noted that Fischer eagerly soaked up the knowledge of how to run an offense and helped improve the team any way he could, even from the bench.
"Thomas takes every rep and pushes the guy ahead of him, even though he's the backup. He is always locked in and ready to go," said Bahlmann.
Fischer said his teammates have "put me in a spot to be successful next year."
That thirst for knowledge has spilled over into the classroom as well. Fischer won the prestigious Excel Award from the Minnesota State High School League.
The award is given to juniors who "are active in school activities, who show leadership qualities, and who volunteer in their communities" according the MSHSL website.
Only 32 students from across the state received the award this year.
It hasn't been easy for Fischer, but he's approached the school work just like he does his athletics.
"It's tough. You just got to get the stuff done. It's a lot of late night sometimes. You get from those games and get the homework done," he said.
It hasn't come easy on the field either. Fischer struggled in a relief appearance during Marshall's second game on Saturday. However, the team pulled out a 5-4 victory.
"If the team's successful, that's more fun than me being successful," said Fischer prior to the game.
With that kind of attitude, maybe he is in the right place at the right time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Showing up for Memorial Day

Just over a week ago, I saw an act of patriotism and compassion that people like to say they support,
My mom and dad with Bob.
but rarely take the time or the effort to take part in.

My parents, Rick and Kathy, helped a local WWII veteran, Bob Sorman take part in an "Honor Flight" to Washington D.C. The program helps as many living WWII veterans get to DC for a day to see the various memorials around the city. The Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Charity organizes and funds the flight for the veterans. A "guardian" accompanies each person taking the trip. 

My mom nominated Bob, who is 90-years old. He's volunteered for 27 years at the Forest Lake Adult Learning Center, where my mom used to work. He just passed the 4,500 hour volunteering mark.

Here's a list of his military accomplishments, from the Forest Lake Lowdown:
His military service included 20 years in the Navy and Army, four of them during WWII. He was part of several naval battles, specialized in gunnery, completed special training to counter spy activity and retired with five battle star medals.  
My dad accompanied Bob on the flight. Basically, his responsibility was to help him get around and make sure he stayed well during the day.

Here's the thing about my parents. They are not overtly patriotic people. They do not have bumper stickers that say "support the troops."

My dad did serve in the Vietnam War, but he rarely talks about it. He's not the type to go to the VFW and swap war stories or wear any sort of clothing that signifies that he serves. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing any of these things, but it's just not my dad.)

However, they both went headfirst into helping make the Honor Flight a memorable one for Bob. My dad attended the pre-event meetings and got excited about returning to the nation's capital. My mom organized a welcome home gathering for Bob, inviting many former students and members of Bob's family (he has 10 kids).

The group left Minneapolis Airport around 6 a.m. on a Saturday. They were set to return at about 10 p.m. I rode with my neighbor and my brother to Terminal 2 of the MSP airport, while my mom and aunt and uncle drove in another car. At just around 10 p.m. I would say there were over 250 people there to welcome the vets home. A color guard lined the way. Some service members dressed in full Class A uniforms, some waved flags. About 15 former students and family members came to welcome Bob.

The flight was late, so they group arrived and got off the plane around 11 p.m. It was quite the scene when they reached the crowd. People applauded, they stopped to give hugs and shake hands, a man played bagpipes (I suppose there is some significance to this, but I'm not sure what.) The group had cupcakes and lemonade waiting for them.

Bob stopped and hugged everyone who had come to welcome him home. I drove my dad and Bob back to Forest Lake after their long day.

In an age where "Support the Troops" is too often used as a money-making device, where "liking", "retweeting" and "sharing" is considered a strong enough currency to pay back those who gave so much and where we fire up the grill once we've done our duty, you don't often see genuine moments of support. It's easy to say "support the troops",  it's harder to show up.

My parents showed up, in a big way.

My parents didn't get paid for helping Bob, nor did they post selfies with him. They did it because they like helping other people. They did it because it was a good thing to do.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nick's Notes: Commencement

Since no one invited me to give a commencement speech this year, I'm going to selfishly use this soapbox to deliver one to all the high schoolers receiving their diplomas this spring.

The theme of my address is this: prepare yourselves to win, but brace yourselves to lose. I guarantee that each and everyone of you will lose in some way in the coming years.

Things will not go according to plan. Something will blindside you. Mistakes will be made. Things will change.
And that's all okay. I'll tell you why later.

Life will be different after you receive your diploma.
You will not have all the resources currently at your disposal.
Your classroom or workplace will not be as nice as nice as the Schwan's Regional Event Center or Legion Field.
You will work for a boss at some point who does not measure up to the coaches you had in high school.
You will lose touch with your current teammates, they will not always be there to help and support you like they did for the past few years.
You will not always have your parents on the sideline waiting for you with Gatorade and hugs, some days it will just be you.

I don't mean to scare you, but it's my job as a newspaper reporter to tell the truth. The truth is not always as rosy as we'd like to believe.
I do not have all the answers for a happy and successful life, but I do have some sports-writerly wisdom to help you get through those rocky times.

First, play your own game. Comparing yourself to other people is the quickest way to feeling like a loser. Some will find true love quicker than you. Some will seem more successful than you. Some others will make more money than you. You know what? It doesn't matter. You compete against yourself in life. A verse from Proverbs sums it up well, "Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city."

Second, focus on what's right in front of you.
Train yourself to look at life the way you look at the pitchers' windup when you are up to bat. Don't let the fear of missing out on things prevent you from doing anything. Life happens anyway.
Third, If you lose, don't confine yourself to the sidelines, keep showing up. Fail a test? Go back to class. Didn't get the job you wanted? Apply for another one. Break up with your significant other? Go somewhere and meet someone new.

It's easy to sit on your couch, binge on Netflix, and eat Doritos after you feel like life has chewed you up and spit you out. (This is fine to do every once in a while, but not all the time.) However, it's harder to dust yourself off and show your face again. That's the only way new doors open up for you.

Do not think you failed in life because you're hitting some speed bumps. Everyone hits speed bumps.
When you hit one of those, take a deep breath. You will heal. You will be OK.

Learn from your losses, celebrate your victories and call your mother. That's the best winning formula I know.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

500 Letters: Something to hold on to

I have this box. It's a shoebox that a pair of PF Flyers came in. It's full of letters, notes, cards, and
photos. It's overstuffed. I am the only one who browses through it. It is what I would save if my building caught fire and I could only take one thing.

That box has probably two or three years worth of letters in it. There are a few other boxes at my parents' house with high school and college notes and papers, much like the one that sits under my bed right now. I think one box is from Keene and the other had Airwalks (that one's really old).

I kept some love notes from my high school girlfriend for quite a long time. They were in a manilla envelope. I remember the day when I came to the conclusion that I had hung on to them for too long. I went outside and set them all in a bucket and lit them on fire. Five years of photos and letters turned black. Some of the ashes floated away.

I thought about that when I cleaned out my email inbox. Many of the same things that were in that shoebox were also in my gmail inbox: letters of appreciation, thank you notes, love letters. I could have kept them. I had the space, but I didn't want to hold on to them anymore. So I just clicked the little checkbox and hit the little trash can icon. I then clicked the "Empty trash" button and they all disappeared. (I mean there's probably some way Google can get them back, but I really don't care to investigate.) No flames. No ash. Just a few seconds to refresh my computer and it was all gone.

I just finished reading a book called "The Circle" by Dave Eggers. It's a book about an internet company that is basically Facebook/Google/Amazon all meshed together. A young girl goes to work at this place, trying to figure out what it is. Basically, more and more of peoples lives become tied to the company and there are some drastic consequences because of it. Everything is quick, smooth, "convenient", and streamlined. Of course it's much harder to get rid of those online memories because everything is stored on some server and is searchable.

I like my shoeboxes. I like knowing that they can't be hacked. Someone could technically get a hold of them and upload them somewhere, but it would take some effort. When I'm holding a letter, I know I'm the only person in the world reading it.

Those boxes are unorganized, uneven, and uncatalogued. I like my memories that way.

Last letter: 175 to Minneapolis, Minn.
Reading: "So you've been publicly shamed" by Jon Ronson
Listening: Oasis
Watching: The Wire, Season 2