Thursday, 20 November 2014

Athletic Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Unfortunately I am unable to be there to induct one of the greatest Field and Track athletes (not a typo) in Westminster Christian School history. During her athletic career, she carried the weight of the team on her shoulders both literally and figuratively by her weight room prowess sheer dominance of her events. In her 4 years, she only had one season where she lost more than one event. To explain the greatness in that statistic, the one season she lost more than one event was her freshman year and was to her teammate who is also in the Hall of Fame for the same events.

The day Stephanie came out to track for the first day was a bitter sweet day for me. Allow me to explain how coaching a future hall of fame athlete could be bitter sweet. On that day, Coach Howell, who was the head coach at the time, came over to the discus throwing area at the start of practice to tell me he had a new athlete for me who was going to the best I’ve ever coached. At the time I laughed and said “ya, okay, coach!” To validate my statement, the athlete I comparing and denying her potential to was a 2 time state champion and state meet record holder for her events. How dare he compare a skinny freshman who was long and lanky to one of the greatest field and track athletes the school has ever seen. After all, in my two seasons coaching her, she won her state titles! I was ready to retire and go out on top of the game… every coaches dream. I made a point to tell him if he brought any more athletes out, NOT to bring freshman, not because I didn’t like freshman but more so because I wanted to step away and finish school.

A few moments after our dialogue Stephanie walks out to practice and we’re introduced. My coaching style is very different in the sense that upon meeting ANY athlete, I never coach them… I simply ask to see what they can do. The reason for that is I want to see their raw, un-coached ability so that I am able to see what their natural strengths and weaknesses are. With that being said, we gave Stephanie a discus and Coach Howell told her to go ahead and show me what he saw earlier during PE class. Her grip on the discus was correct, she foot alignment was surprisingly correct, her wind up and release followed suit. When Stephanie released her discus, I looked at Coach Howell and asked why he hated me so much?? Why does he not want me to finish school?! Stephanie asked me how she did. All I could say to her at the time was “I’m going to make you a state champion.”

Stephanie’s junior year at states she had a less than stellar states performance in the shot-put but still won by convincing fashion. It’s very rare that an athlete would win the state championship and be unhappy. The reason she was not ecstatic was because she knew she didn’t do her physical best… sure, she won states but that’s how great of an athlete she was… She wanted to dominate the competition. She made a promise to herself that she would not have that same empty feeling.

Having a personal training background, we hit the weight room hard! She was so dominant in the weight room that she developed her own little following of student-athletes that wanted to train with and like her because they saw how strong she had become. To put it into perspective, at the end of her off-season training, she squatted as much as the football players and that’s not an exaggeration because I coached them as well.

At the start of her senior season she was head and shoulders above her 1A competition and became a high school legend amongst her competitors. I remember showing up to meets and having people stare, whisper and point at her as she’d walk by. It’s very uncommon at the high school level to have competitors be in awe and wait to shake your hand and meet you just because you’re THAT good. That was a very typical meet for her with everything short of signing autographs. One meet we competed Westminster Academy and I recall a few coaches coming up to me and saying they thought/hoped that we weren’t coming so someone else could have a chance to win or at least be competitive. At the end of some meets, she would help coach other athletes that asked for her advice on technique… That’s the kind of athlete she was.

As the season wrapped up, she carried with her an undefeated record into the state championship along with the #1 seed in both shot-put and discus. The way Track and Field works is you have prelims where everyone has 3 total throws and the top 8 qualify for finals. In finals, you’re placed in order of your prelim results. All of her hard work was on display during her first event, the shot-put. If you recall, the year before she won the event but was dissatisfied with her result so now was time to impose her will on the rest of the field. She was so dominant in the event that the second place winner was 10 feet behind her distance. To equate that to another sport, that’s the equivelant of losing by 30 points in basketball or 10 runs in baseball… AT THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. With one state championship in the bag, she was on to discus. I left out her junior year results in discus because, well, lets just forget that happened! Again, she was seeded 1st going in to the meet but after the preliminaries, she hadn’t performed very well and was seeded 2nd going in to the finals. I told her afterward but, going in to finals, I was a little worried because she threw the same exact distance she had the last 2 state championships where she didn’t finish well. After prelims, before finals, I met with her to talk about any corrections and see where she was mentally. I asked her “So how are you doing? What’s going on? Are you okay?” She was eerily calm and composed. She looked at me and said “Yup, I’m good.” Now, having played sports my whole life and having coached for 6 years up to this point, I’ve heard this many times from many athletes only to have them fold under the pressure. This one was different. I saw the calm in her eyes and her composure was remarkable. I said “You sure? You realize you have some work to do to catch up.” Again, “Yup, I’m good.” I went on to press her and ask “So what do you think you need to correct?” … Her response- “Nothing.” A little confused I ask “ok so what’s the deal? What’s the plan?” This was the moment her greatness showed true, her response “I’m going to win the State Championship.” Now, it’s easy to say that when you have a sizeable lead but when you’re competing in the one event you had trouble in the past few championship meets and find yourself in the exact same situation as before, it’s pretty bold to make that statement but being a coach that let’s his athlete compete without getting in their way, I told her “let’s go get it then.”

What Stephanie went on to do was demoralize her competition with her first throw in the warm-up round of finals. She let out a throw that had the other 15 competitors look at each other and literally put their hands up as to say “well, that was fun while it lasted.” Each throw in the finals round was further that the previous throw and left fans, athletes and even the officials in shock at what they just witnessed. Stephanie went on to set the Class 1A State Championship Meet record in both shot-put and discus as well as shatter every record in the state of Florida for her events in the 1A class. She still holds the record in the shot-put at the 1A level. To further demonstrate her greatness as an athlete, after she received her 1st place medals, she put them away in her gym bag and left them there. When I told her she’s crazy, she should wear them proudly and show them off, she simply told me “for what? I know what I did. I don’t need to show off to the other competitors that I beat.” That’s the kind of athlete she was… she let her greatness show through her performance, not her words or draw attention to herself.

To wrap it up, I’d like to say it was an honor to not only be Stephanie’s coach but also say she’s still a great friend, even though she pushed my retirement back another 4 years. I’m a guy who’s very big on quotes and one I think fits perfectly “No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history.” Records are made to be broken but the bar she set is incredibly high and her greatness will stand in the record books for years to come. Congratulations, Stephanie!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A Dam good time. Part 1- UK

I feel so ashamed that I have left it this long to write. This seems to be how I start most of my posts now because I have slacked on making time for this. I truly love to blog and keep you in the loop of what is going on in my life. We recently took a two week trip back to England and Amsterdam. So I guess I can start there! 

To start off our trip on a high, we got to finally use our miles for upgrades. This always seems to be impossible but finally there were available first class seats for us. The new AA 777-300 is really a rather glorious aircraft.

I did not want the flight to end. Sadly it did. But, England was fabulous. We were blessed with glorious weather, as per usual for us. Sunshine every day, warm days, cool nights. Truly a perfect British summer. I bought some Burberry wellies in hopes to enjoy them on a rainy day. However I was not granted any rain to be able to debut them. Not a bad thing!!!

We started the holiday with a lunch date in London with Mum and Angela. We wanted to take them on an adventure to a favorite place of ours. I did only just blog about it last time so I won't talk about it too much. Sushi Samba. To sum it all up they loved it. And we loved showing their palate something different.

I have now transformed Angela into a sushi eater!

Mum shocked us with the news that she had never been to see the Crown Jewels. So we saw this as the perfect opportunity.

Obviously had to have me some Mr. Whippy

Our purpose for this trip was Marias wedding, it was a beautiful gathering and we really loved seeing everyone. We had a family picnic in Henley the following day and then the day after we ran a 3 mile spartan race in Cambridge. 

We found this huge scenic field. Naturally, we thought it was a photo moment.

 Before (clean)

After (filthy)

I fell in love with Cambridge. Having had the chance to live in a beautiful area on the UK I thought I got to see most of its beauty. Cambridge instantly made me realize what I had missed.

We cleaned up as well as we could with the cold hose water. I pulled my hair back in a tight wet bun. We walked barefoot back to the car. Finished getting ready in the field. Let me tell you, after doing three of those races already you would think I would get used to the mud....but no way. It really is just gross! Anyway, I think we looked pretty dapper for not having a shower.

Our Punter, David

The weeping willows, the breeze, the history, the buildings, watching the sunlight dance over the water...this was truly a magical place. I don't know if the weather had a whole lot to do with it, but it felt like the most peaceful glorious place I had been to in a long time. So much greenery surrounds every bit that isn't a building. The tourists punting themselves along the river. Trying to master the art. Usually failing. First, I recommend you take a day trip to Cambridge if ever you find yourself in the UK. And lastly, you must take a private punting tour. A majestic place I must return to.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Traymore by COMO

Remember that amazing little holiday we took to Turks and Caicos? Well the hotel chain COMO decided to be kind to us and open the Metropolitan Hotel in Miami. Half of the Caicos Crew went for a stay-cation when it opened, and totally recommended it. This week was a quiet week in the office for Doug and I so we decided to head over to South beach for lunch and we thought COMO was the place to go. 

This place is nestled in-between two bigger buildings and is easy to miss if you don't realize the building still has the Traymore sign on it. This is due to it being a historical building so they cannot change it to the Metropolitan. Anyway, once you stumble upon this gloriously white haven you know you have arrived. It was a Wednesday afternoon so the restaurant was empty. We told our server of our amazing experience in Parrot Cay and we reminisced at its wonders. 

COMO hotels are big on their Shambhala menu which is a totally natural and organic menu with a selection of smoothies to choose from. Doug and I chose the Muscle Milk.

 Muscle Milk: Banana, young coconut water, coconut meat, cinnamon, almond milk, flax seed, dates and cacao beans.

They took a while to come out but that is because they literally make it all to order. No pre mixed saches to stick in a blender. They are not even that cold because its so natural that adding ice would alter it. Doug drank his in literally 2 minutes!!!

Fried Fish

 Roasted New Potatos

Doug said it was as good as any Gordon Ramsay meal he's had! and he LOVES Ramsey.

"Ceaser Salad"

We wanted a lighter lunch so we didn't eat much. However what we ate was SO delicious. On top of good it was good for you. When you leave a restaurant satisfied yet not uncomfortable it is a plus. 

I totally recommend this as a lunch place on a nice day because it is such a fresh place to relax in the shade and enjoy the breeze. I will definitely go back and try it our for dinner though. I love love love this place.

We got a little tour of the hotel. Check out this view!

 The top pool deck was under construction still so the bed is a little naked =) 

This Hotel hits the spot. COMO keeps its zen vibe amongst the crazy Miami.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Eating London Part 2

If you could have dinner with a celebrity, who would it be?

Mine would be Gordon Ramsay.

In the states he has the worst reputation and It really makes me sad when I mention him and people are like "Oh that asshole from Hells Kitchen". I don't personally know him but the amount of shows I have seen him on and his books I have read, I have truly grown to respect him so much. He is passionate beyond words. His love for food is so special and he is a perfectionist. Considering how much I love food and eating out at yummy restaurants I feel I have enough in common with him to spend an evening chatting over dinner.....that would probably be cooked by him!!!

Doug has been to all of his London restaurants and a few in other cities in the world. He too has a high love for this guy. We have a bucket list and one of the tasks was to eat the The Restaurant. Ramsays flagship restaurant in London. It has around 45 covers, making it hard to get a reservation unless you plan far in advance. Luckily we knew months before our visit that we would be going to we were sure to book in a long lunch.
My Bearded Man

We went for the 7 courses.

 Starting off with some bubbles

Overwhelmed by the Wine List

Our Amuse Bouche

Foi Gras

Lobster, Salmon and Crab ravioli

Halibut over a Cauliflower couscous

Table selfies

Lamb...Like 4 different pieces hiding under the veg!
(best lamb I have ever had)

Our Cheese man hehe

 some biscuits (crackers)

We had him give us a spontaneous selection. My fav was obviously the Goat cheese.

My mango, passionfruit "soup" that was served in a champagne glass with a glass straw!

This was to clean our palate. Different freeze dried herbs that you crush your self in a frozen pestle and mortar. You then added your cucumber sorbet into it and it gathered all the flavors of the herbs. Very strange but so refreshing and could only be described as a spa in your mouth!

Claire Smith is the head chef and this is her specialty dessert. 

This was their last dessert that they give to everyone. a mini cauldron with pink sorbet balls covered in white chocolate. Along side chocolate squares and turkish delight type squares.

This is where the day gets even better! We bragged to our Maitre D' of our love for Gordon and of the Restaurants we have been to. He saw the twinkle in my eye and asked us if we wanted to come to the kitchen to have a look around. I was like 'YES!'...ok maybe not so excitable, I played it cool hehe.

As we left they kindly gave us a signed Menu by Claire Smith. We left there on a high!

Let me tell you, what an experience it was. It was my second Three Michelin Star restaurant and I loved every second of it. 

We spent the rest of our day walking through touristy London followed by watching the show Book of Mormon. It was a perfect day with my love.