Husker Football

I Refuse to Manage My Expectations

The Huskers have a new football coach.  As the news was officially leaked, likely a day earlier than the University and the coach himself had wanted,  the state went crazy.  Weeks, months, years of frustration seemed to melt away in an instant.  The Nebraska kid who made good was coming home.  I was giddy.  And almost immediately I was reminded that I should “manage my expectations.”

It will likely take time to return Nebraska to its historical glory.  Recruiting may still be a challenge.  After all, despite evidence to the contrary this week, it gets really cold here in the winter.  After all, this season was less than a success in the wins and losses category.  After all, next year will be about rebuilding, and there is hard work to be done.

But still, I refuse to manage my expectations!

I choose to believe that amazing things are about to happen.  I choose to believe that a new coaching staff will find the magic, and in no time at all the Huskers will be a powerhouse.  I choose to see the best possible future for Scott Frost and his staff, for the student-athletes who are working so hard to find success on the field, and for the fans who admittedly care maybe too much about our football team.

I refuse to manage my expectations!

We choose each day how we view the world.  We can be pragmatic.  We can evaluate the pros and cons, weigh the many options, and then choose the safest course.  We can manage our expectations of others and try to manage their expectations of us.  And if I’m being honest, there are times when each of those is necessary and smart.

But for the most part, I choose to believe that in any given situation the best possible outcome is the one that will come to be.  I choose to believe that rather than managing my expectations, I should actually raise my expectations.  I should expect the most for myself and for those around me.  And I should expect the most from myself and from those around me.

Will I be disappointed sometimes?  Of course.  That’s life.  But the disappointment will be hard whether I anticipated it or not.  Why not choose to believe that things will work out?

I am not suggesting we ignore reality, bury our head in the sand, or forget that in most cases it is our actions that create our best possible future.  When we set high expectations, we also have to agree to do the hard work.  But why not choose to believe that we are about to find the magic?

Grace Under Pressure

We’ve had a bit of a week in Husker Nation.  After what can only be described as a series of disappointing games after a series of disappointing seasons, the Athletic Director has been fired.  Speculation is rampant as to the fate of the football coach.  As I watched the game this week, I could not help thinking how challenging it must be for everyone involved to play under that kind of pressure.

Stress and scrutiny lead to careless mistakes.  Anxiety leads to anxiety  leads to anxiety.  Most people are not at their best under pressure.

But some are.  And that can make all the difference.

Leadership is not easy. Many times in an organization there are hard choices and difficult tasks.  Leaders are willing to tackle those challenges without fear or hesitation.  The best leaders actually get better under pressure.

In difficult times, people look to their leaders for confidence and courage.  They rely on their leaders to be positive and decisive.  Grace under pressure is not a luxury for leaders; it is a necessity.

When times are tough, strong leaders are calm and consistent.  I’ve seen this first hand time and time again. The more challenging the obstacle, the more poised the leader.  I’ve been lucky to work for leaders who model this, and I am blessed to work with a leadership team who exemplify this.

Busy, difficult times call for positive and disciplined leadership.  As you lead this week, in your classrooms, your schools, your organizations, remember that others are looking to you.  You can be the reassuring presence that calms the waters and keeps people focused on the job at hand.

Fandom

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In a week that has seen a spectacular Cubs World Series win and a spectacular Husker defeat, I am reflecting on what it means to be a fan.

I love football. High school football is my favorite.  I am a huge fan.  I go to every game I can.  Win or lose, I love those teams.  Some years our teams struggle.  Some years our teams are in the play-offs.  Some years we have a team win state.  But win or lose, I’ll be back next year.

I also love college football.  I’m a Husker.  I was a Husker last week; I am a Husker today; I will be a Husker next week.  I was proud of them two weeks ago when we were 7-0.  I was proud of them last week when they lost in overtime.  And I am proud of them today.  Will we pick apart every decision made last night, every decision made this season?  No doubt.  And we should.  Growth only happens when we are willing to lay bare the reality of what happened and why.  Only when we confront the truth can we get better.  I am not saying don’t ask why this happened.  I am not saying don’t address the reality.

But I am still a fan.

Each week the Husker’s opposing team has gone out of its way to honor the memory of Sam Foltz, the Nebraska punter who died in a car accident earlier this year.  Ohio State was no exception.  Their tributes were moving, and our media spent the day promoting them.  Our fans liked and shared and retweeted and spoke of the class and style of the Ohio State team.  Hours later we were liking and sharing and retweeting some not so nice things as the score climbed.

Tommy Armstrong came off the field on a stretcher.  Both sides of the field held their breath, dropped to their knees to pray, and cheered as he gave his thumbs-up as he was taken to the ambulance.  There was a pause and reminder to keep things in perspective.  But minutes later we were questioning plays, criticizing players, and wondering if the coach should be fired.

I get it.  My high schools teams lost Friday night.  My Huskers lost last night.  I am a football girl.  I am bummed.

But my Dad’s Cubbies won the World Series this week for the first time since 1908, and Chicago hosted the 7th largest celebration in human history.  Such is fandom.

Watch tape.  Reflect.  Make a plan to get better.  That’s my hope for the Huskers this week.  We’re here for you.  Win or lose.  We are fans.

The nation speaks of Husker fans with reverence.  We are warm and welcoming and classy.  Today is the measure of our fandom.  

Friday Night Lights

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I love football, especially high school football.  There is something so fun about standing on the sidelines on a 73 degree night watching our kids play their hearts out.  There are rivalries and comebacks.  There are trick plays and Hail Mary’s.  There is always excitement in the air.

But when I got home Friday and checked Facebook and Twitter, I was truly overwhelmed by post after post of pictures from the game (or one of the many games played across the city, state, and country on Friday night).  And while there were some fantastic pictures of football, most of the pictures had almost nothing to do the game.

There were little kids sitting in the grass playing with each other while the game was happening in the background.  There were cheerleaders and dance teams and band members.  There were middle schoolers and high schoolers.  There were veterans and a JROTC.  There were moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas wearing school colors and cheering.

Post after post talked about how much fun people had.  Post after post demonstrated what our superintendent and our district athletic director have both shared recently in interviews, that high school football games are about so much more than football.

In those hours, under the lights, we become a community.

Friendships are formed.  Talents are unveiled.  Students and parents and community members spend time together talking and building relationships.

“There is so much more than football going on here.”  (Jim Sutfin)

People get the opportunity to see our students shine.  We showcase the hard work of so many groups who perform on those nights.  And it goes well beyond those on the field.  Our students sell concessions to raise money for their activities.  They support their fellow classmates with cheers and applause and respect when they perform.  And they represent their schools and districts with pride.

imageTeachers and administrators who have retired come to the games.  Elementary and middle school students come with their families and imagine what it will be like when they are in high school.  Current families and staff members spend time together outside the school day.

We build a community on those nights and on countless other nights at orchestra concerts and cross-country meets, at volleyball games and plays and musicals.

There is magic in these football stadiums.  There is a small town feeling in even the largest of cities.  There is opportunity there to connect and to become stronger together than we will ever be alone.

imageOn a side note, in Nebraska (and probably in other places too I’d imagine), we do something similar on Saturday nights. I went to my first Husker football game Saturday.  I have no idea how someone who loves the Huskers as much as I do has gone 46 years without going to a game in person, but wow!  For a few hours we became a community there too.

I hope you will continue to post your pictures.  I am moved by all of them, and I am reminded in them that I am #Proud2bMPS.

Respecting, Preserving, and Building a Legacy

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Image Source: University of Nebraska at Lincoln 

It’s here!  The first Husker football game of the season.  My newsfeeds are full of inspirational videos, most produced by the University to promote the season and to renew our enthusiasm (fever? mania?) for Husker football.  They are effective.  I am “fired up and ready” as the cheerleaders say.

But this year is different.  We have a new coach.  Mike Riley will lead the team onto the field today for his first game as a Husker.  I can only imagine how he is feeling right now.  The tunnel walk.  The stadium which becomes the third largest city in the state for seven weekends a year.  And the greatest fans in college football.

…and the pressure.

“Be careful what you wish for” comes to mind when I think about the adventure that he has undertaken.   Stepping in to lead a legacy is no small task.  There is history and context and relationships and expectations that you did not create but are now bound to.  There is pride and embarrassment and the glory of victory and the agony of defeat that you were not part of but are now forever tied to.

You are the keeper of our legacy.

It reminds me of a year ago when Dr. Jim Sutfin stepped into the role of Superintendent at Millard Public Schools.  It reminds me of stepping into the role of Principal at Kiewit Middle School.   Being willing to take responsibility for a legacy is brave…and terrifying.

There is so much to learn.  Listening has to be the priority.  You need to build relationships so others will trust you with what they built.  You need to seek to understand what has happened in the past and why.  Respecting those who came before you and what they did to grow the team or the organization gives you the context to take the next steps.

There are a million details involved with a transition but few are as important as respecting, preserving, and building on the legacy.

Today I’m most excited to watch as Mike Riley works his transition plan.  As crazy as this sounds (especially from a Husker fan), I care less about the final score than the impact on our culture.  Mike Riley has taken on the responsibility of our legacy…who we have been, who we are, and who we will be moving forward.

Good Luck today Coach!  The fans are behind you.  We are grateful that you are willing to take on this challenge and to work side-by-side with the coaches and the players who will take the first step today in your piece of our history!