The Clinic That Changed My Life

Last week, AP reader Larryemcdaniel told me he was attending the 2010 Cal football coaching clinic. Thinking this was a pretty unique opportunity, I asked him to write something about his experience.

This is the (very cool) result...

The Clinic Changed My Life

Have you ever had a day or a weekend where nothing could go wrong? Where in an instance, the moons aligned and everything unsettled in your life was sorted?

Well, this past weekend was that for me. My ex-girlfriend broke up with her boyfriend, in turn, giving me the opportunity to pursue the girl of my dreams (again). I finally determined which University I want to transfer to. And my hefty tax return check miraculously appeared in the mail (thank god!).

Now, all that news sounds great right? Believe me, it was, but nothing trumped the fact that I attended the 2010 Cal Football Coaching Clinic.

At this point in my life, it ranks as the #1 experience ever.

Now you all are probably wondering, how in the world does a coaching clinic trump a large sum of money, or the girl of your dreams being newly single, or even a big time decision of choosing the University of your future?

Well, it's because I have finally accepted my destiny, and feel comfortable with it. Football has always been deeply rooted in me. From the early age of 6 years old, my father planted seeds that have continuously sprouted love for the sport. He took an unconventional route and taught me the game, using Sega Genesis's Joe Montana's Sports Talk Football.

The teachings ranged from the Cover-2, to Man to Man, 3 Deep, different offensive schemes, and when to run each of them. I soaked up all the information. In fact, till this day I refer back to those teachings. As I grew up, I remember using that knowledge my father taught me. I used it on Madden to win a local tournament. Used it on the football field in high school, and used it while watching football on television. Friends and foes have always been enamored by my football knowledge. I've always known more than the average fan, or average high school player.

I attribute that to my father taking the time to teach me.

Even though my father instilled the love of football in me, he also instilled other loves. My father is what you would call a renaissance man; I am in the mold of him. I, too, am a renaissance man, and I indulge in the arts. Everything from poetry, to drawing, to the piano, I can do a little bit of it all. So naturally, deciding what my future career would entail would prove to be a difficult task.

Obviously, my first love is football, and it seems like an easy choice. For a large portion of my life, I've had low confidence when it comes to going after things that I want. I thought football was an unreachable goal. So instead of chasing the football dream, I decided to use my artistic ability to design video games. I put my mind to it and accomplished it.

In 2008, I became the Junior Designer and QA Manager for D2C Games, a small game studio in Foster City, CA. I helped design a handful of games for the PSP, PS2, PC, and Wii. Working on video games was very fun. Being able to express myself in a manner that thousands, if not millions of people would see was exhilarating and fulfilling. Sadly, the recession hit, and like many other companies, D2C Games imploded. At the time I was hurt and confused. I had worked so hard for my dreams, and here it was, crumbling to my feet and forcing me to start over.

Little did I know that that period of distress was a blessing in disguise.

After taking weeks to recap the recent events of my life, the idea of football popped back up. Still with low confidence, I failed to follow my heart. I came to the conclusion that while, yes, football is my number one passion; it is an unrealistic career choice. I also realized that making games was fun, but not in the cards anymore. It is not stable, nor is it my #1 passion. I could not visualize myself making games for the rest of my life.

Soon after, I set out on a new adventure. It was time to pursue my music. I sought out a well-known music teacher to help guide me through this journey, and began studying and practicing obsessively. Eventually my skills became sharpened and I opted to audition for Berklee College of Music. Berklee is the #1 Music school in the nation. It's a place where people from all over the world come to study music. The great Quincy Jones and the young soloist, John Mayer both graduated from Berklee, to name a few. Attending Berklee does great things for ones career. So, I traveled to Boston and auditioned. To say the least, they loved me and I was accepted for their fall program. The plan was set. In 6 months, I was to move to Boston, submerge myself in music, and study to become a music professor.

During that six-month waiting period, my piano teacher took a gig with Stevie Wonder; my mind became monopolized by football, and I no longer wanted music to be my career. Regularly I would sit at the piano, starring at the ivory, drawing up plays in my head, or figuring out how to beat an 8-man front with a 2x2 formation. Music was no longer in the picture. My mind was stuck on football 24/7. I withdrew from Berklee, and again, took a few weeks to ponder my future.

So here I sat, 9 months removed from my decision to not attend Berklee College of Music. I began wondering if my decision was a mistake. Still in school, working a mediocre job, my future sat in limbo, all while the answers sat before me. Everyday I am consumed by thoughts of football. Similar to how they say men think about sex once every 5 seconds. Well, if you replace sex with football, that's my thought process.

So I began to explore my options.

Thought number one, can I still play? No, at the age of 26, it's too late. Thought number 2, should I become a television personality, ala Mel Kiper or Todd McShay? No, I'm not a spot light guy. Thought number three, should I coach? 

DING DING DING! 

Coaching is the perfect vehicle for my passion. I have the knowledge and will to learn more to be an effective coach. Now usually prior to making a decision in life, I run it past people. I like to get others point of view to make sure I'm not crazy. So I mentioned coaching to a few associates and friends, and the responses I got back were negative. I was told that being a coach is inaccessible. That it's a "luck" business and not a knowledge business. That it's unconventional, and I should pursue something a little bit more "regular". My low self-esteem fed off of those assessments, and I let them detour me.

For the longest time I let those negative people determine my fate. I allowed those cancers into my head. All that stopped this past weekend. Last week while sitting bored at my "regular" job, a 5-year-old memory popped into my head. It was a memory that had lied dour mitt for quite some time. While working at a Nike retail store, I ran into Cal Head Coach, Jeff Tedford. I stopped him momentarily and inquired about how to become a coach. His #1 advice was to attend his coaching clinic in the spring. Of course, back then I didn't listen.

I kept working my "regular" job. In the great words of Dan Lebatard of the Miami Herald and PTI, BAM! It dawned on me; I should take him up on his advice and attend the coaching clinic. I began to feverously research the Internet, and wala, there's the clinic, just three days away. So, I decided to go against what the naysayers had to say and go after my dream.

Here I am, it's April 2nd, 2010 and I am sitting amongst some of the best coaches in California. To the left is coach Tedford, to the right is coach Pendergast (yes, that Pendergast), ahead of me is San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator, Ron Rivera, and sitting next to me is Jarad Pages high school coach. I was in awe; start struck even. I gained control of the giddy girl inside of me, and focused on the task at hand. I was not there to get autographs. I was there to gain knowledge and hopefully obtain an opportunity.

So that's exactly what I did.

Coach Rivera spoke of his 43 Over defense, that led the Bears to the Super Bowl. Coach Pendergast spoke about the 1-gap 34 defense that the Golden Bears run. Cal Running Back coach, Ron Gould spoke about how to get the running backs the ball in space. I was eating all this information up. I was learning new concepts and philosophies every second. The voice recorder was recording, the pen was jotting down notes, and my brain was soaking it all in. During this clinic, my football knowledge doubled.

Even while enjoying myself, I was still slightly unsure if this was for me. The cancerous voices started to slither threw my head, telling me I can't be a coach. Telling me I do not have what it takes to be one. Then all of a sudden I had a break through. During Ron Gould's presentation on, "Getting the Running Backs the Ball in Space", he showed us a WR Screen, with the running back being the lead blocker. While watching this play, I thought to myself. "What does this have to do with the running backs in space?". So I stopped listening briefly and began drawing up the same play. This time instead of the running back blocking for the screen, he fakes the block and goes on a 9 route, instant touchdown.

Do you know what happened next? This next moment killed all the voices eating away at me. Coach Gould brought up the next play and guess what, it was the EXACT play I had drew up 5 minutes prior. This small moment spoke volumes to me. All I could do was smile, nod my head, and tell myself this is where I belong. 

Part 1 of the Clinic was the presentations by the featured coaches. Part 2 is the social and Cal Spring practice. After coming off my high from the epiphany just experienced, I set my sights on the social. During the clinic I had to get on my high horse and make the rounds. Networking isn't my strong suite, but I had to muster up the courage and get it done.

While circling the room, I came across the athletic director of my high school. With the gift of gab, I informed her of my desire and passion to contribute to the schools program. She stopped me in mid sentence, and with enthusiasm, informed me that I had a formal interview with her and the Head Coach on April 5th. BAM! 

I'm dizzy with joy, but I can't stop now. I'm on a roll and I want to secure another opportunity before I depart the clinic. After the Cal Spring practice, I approached the Cal Associate Head Coach/Running Backs Coach (Ron Gould). This is the guy that I envision myself being at the age of 35-40. Coach Gould has been at Cal for 14 years and has mentored some top-notch talent. To name a few, JJ Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Jahvid Best. Those are big time names, and I know I'm speaking to the right person. I expressed my interest in volunteering under him, and he bit.

We now have a meeting set up for the week of April 5th. I left the clinic a happy man. In a measly two days, I have endured the best and most influential 2-days of my life.

Finally listening to my heart has paid immediate dividends. Not only did I walk away with opportunities to coach in 2010, but also I walked away with newfound relationships, contacts, and knowledge. For far too long I let other people dictate the outcome of my life. It was time to take control of my destiny and that's exactly what I'm doing.

The purpose of this story is not to rant and rave about the coaching clinic I attended, or to boast about my awesome weekend.

It is meant to inspire someone to go after his or her dreams.

Stay cognizant of your desires and passions and go after them. Learn from my mistakes, and allow no one to pre determine your legacy. Football is my calling, and I finally feel at home. I will not stop until I reach the collegiate ranks.

Cal Berkeley Football team, here I come! Good luck to everyone in his or her future endeavors, and wish me luck on mines.

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