Monday, March 16, 2015

Giving a hoot at Woodbadge

Last weekend I attended the first session of Woodbadge. For those of you who don't know what Woodbadge is, it is leadership training for those who have positions in the Boy Scouts of America. The course is designed for you to learn about all aspects of scouting from Cubs through Venturing. Along the way you are taught various skills while having fun.

The first session is 3 days. You arrive on day one having no idea who you will be partnered up with, nor quite what to expect. After check-in you are led down a trail where you learn about cub scouting with the cub scout motto, law and handshake. After that you have gathering activities. These were things like bean bag toss, marshmallow sling-shot, knot tying, den elimination and marble attack/defense. This allowed for some bonding and getting to know some names while having fun.

After the gathering activities we were divided into Dens with a Den Chief. The Den Chief is your guide throughout Woodbadge. He/she is the one who will help you get the most out of your Woodbadge experience. I think you have to be a little crazy to be a Den Chief, but hey that's half the fun. Once divided into dens the fun really begins. We got some orientation into the scout uniform (it's actually more comfortable than it looks to tell you the truth) and the scout acronyms that are in constant use.

Next you get educated on Gilwell Field. This is a symbolic area representing the field where the first Woodbadge training was held. It is considered a hallowed place and is to be treated as such. It is there that flag ceremonies are held and where instruction is given on various historic flags. It's also the place where you get biased weather and sports reports.

For lunch on day one you have the Blue and Gold banquet. Our banquet had a royal theme (think knights and medieval times). It also does the crossing over ceremony where you go from a cub scout to a scout. It is here that you get your animal avatar and your den becomes a patrol. We have 6 patrols in our sessions (Beavers, Bobwhites, Eagles, Foxes, Owls {the best patrol IMHO}, and Bears). It is here that you learn the "Woodbadge Theme Song" "Back to Gilwell".

After the banquet we go into our first Troop meeting. Elections are held and patrol leaders, assistant patrol leaders, scribes, and chaplain aides are elected. The positions rotate each day so the elections allow for the transitions for the six days. I had the privilege of being the patrol leader the first day. There are two induction ceremonies that happen at this troop meeting. The first is for all participants of the course. We are inducted into troop one and get the neck kerchief for the troop (this after we made our own Woggles which are the sliders for the kerchief). The second induction was for the patrol leaders.

The rest of day one was spent in meetings with instruction and fun. At night we played the "Who-Me" game with our patrol. It was a good way to get to know one another better and helped solidify our patrol as a unit. The last part of the day was a campfire program put on by the staff. This was a good lesson in how to have fun and teach important principles. Then it was off to bed so that day two could be as fun as day one.

Day 2 kicked off with breakfast and then the flag ceremony at Gilwell Field. We then had a troop meeting where two games ensued. The first was called Zulu Toss where the members of the patrol are put into a circle formation and a set of tennis balls are introduced that have to be tossed around the circle in various patterns. It was obvious that I didn't sleep well the first night as my brain decided to take a few moments off and I was responsible for several disruptions to our tossing flow. The second game was called Front End Alignment. The patrol leaders were told to play a particular part in this game which was unknown to their patrol members. Some of them were told to be dictator like while others were to be more accommodating to their members. Both games taught lessons in teamwork and leadership.

We then had a presentation on inclusiveness. This was a great discussion on how we can be better at including others while still holding to the values we believe in. Not everyone is from the same ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, etc background in our session. This presentation allowed us to open up and discuss ways to make each other (and in turn the boys we serve) feel included and an integral part of our patrols and troop. Other lessons included team development (forming, storming, norming and performing) and communication. We then went to project planning as in the second session each patrol has a presentation to the troop. This was not easy as there are many logistics to consider, but I think that each patrol has a good idea and will do wonderful.

The highlight of the day had to be rocket building. These were made with 2 liter bottles, duct tape, cardboard, rocks and other materials. Of course the Owl rocket took the day as it soared higher than the rest (even the staff rocket which they tried to modify so they wouldn't lose :) ). After dinner and patrol meeting it was time for games once again.

The first game was a Jeopardy type game around our knowledge of various scouting items. Unfortunately the Owl patrol did not win this game (in fact we were eliminated from the final round because we had negative points). The Bear patrol did win the game by narrowly defeating the Fox patrol (I didn't think that bears could be slier than foxes, but in this case they were).

The second game was called the Game of Life. There were three scout leaders that ran this high energy game that had us laughing and being raucous. Of course there were rules that weren't explained very well and it took a while for the patrols to figure out how to do well. In fact it was teamwork that was needed in order to get the most points possible.

Day 3 began with breakfast and as we were the program patrol we got to do the flag ceremony. It's always an honor to raise the colors of our great country. After the ceremony we were instructed on how to hold an interfaith service. This was a great way to understand how to have people of different faiths come together and worship in a way that didn't preclude anyone nor dissuade anyone from participating. There was great discussion and many ways expressed so that everyone in a troop can feel included in a worship type setting.

After the interfaith service we went over the EDGE method of teaching. Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable. These four pieces make up an effective way to teach others in various areas. It is a powerful tool that can be added to one's repertoire and used appropriately.

From there we discussed conservation projects and the many ways we can help in our communities and environment. It gave me some great ideas that can be done with scout patrol I am the assistant scoutmaster for. We will also be doing a project in the second session and were informed as to what that project was and how we can make sure that it will benefit those who use the camp when we have left.

The last instruction we had was to watch the movie "October Sky" and review how different parts of the movie demonstrated the various principles we were taught over the past three days. It served as a good review of what we learned and what we can apply going forward.

The last thing we did was have a closing ceremony at Gilwell Field. The colors were retired and had some last minute instruction from the staff before helping to clean up (always remember to Leave No Trace) and head for home.

The three days of training were excellent. The homework we have before the second session has been started (I'll write more about that after the second session). I believe that everyone benefited from the first session and I can't wait to meet up again at the end of the month for session two.

Friday, January 30, 2015

MLS Live Subscription renewed

I know I have a critical eye towards MLS and it's level of play. However, that doesn't mean I'm not going to support the league when I can so that it can grow. Yesterday I got an announcement to renew my subscription to MLS Live at the price of ~$65. I did the math and determined that it's $7/month of the season. This being January it actually comes out to $5.42/month. Is that worth it? In my opinion yes.

This season we are seeing a lot of the US Mens National Team play in MLS. While not a top level league, those players are going to get tons of minutes and will have the chance to hone and improve skills that they wouldn't get sitting the bench in La Liga or the BPL. I still don't believe it is the best move to have our best players here. There is a lot to be said for the having players at the right club level when the World Cup comes around.

The only bummer about the package is the blackout rules. Now I'm lucky in a way as I don't live in an MLS market. This means there aren't any local blackouts. But there are national blackouts for games on ESPN, NBCSN, FOX Sports 1, etc. At some point this will change. The nice thing about the package is that I can watch those games at a later date if I so choose.

The taste I got from MLS Live last year has led to this renewal. I may even try my hand at doing weekly recaps of the games and commentating on what I see and how the league may or may not be progressing. Of course I would have to find the time to do this, but hey sleep is highly overrated so it might just work out.

For those of you who are looking to help grow the sport of soccer in our country I encourage you to strongly consider subscribing to MLS Live and seeing the league. If you, like I, have cut the cable, then MLS Live is a good way to see games live and catch up on games you might not be able to watch otherwise. I enjoy having it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

US Best Players Coming to MLS

If all the rumors are true, then the best players in the US Mens National team are coming home. Except for goalkeepers, US soccer stars have a hard time staying in the top leagues in Europe. One only has to look at Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey to see that our best just doesn't seem to cut it over the pond. However, that doesn't mean that all our best players should come home.

MLS is a mediocre league at best. I don't think anyone would argue with that. Even with the infusion of English stars past their prime and America's best players, it will still be a mediocre league. Will I renew my subscription to MLS Live? Yes, absolutely, it is money well spent. It also allows me to make judgements on MLS' play vs other leagues in the world.

The bigger problem is with the US Mens National team. If our best players only play in a mediocre league than, in my opinion, we will only be good enough to get out of the group stage at the World Cup. We will NOT get past the round of 16. Other teams will have multiple players that play in the world's best leagues and there is no way MLS can compete with that.

I want to see the US get to the finals (not necessarily win it all) in my lifetime. However, if our boys can't make it in the best leagues in the world, then we will not get there. If they choose to follow the example of Landon, Clint, and now what looks like Jozy Altidore and Mix Diskerud, we will have them at home. That might be good for MLS, but it will be bad for the US Mens National team.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gift

Yesterday we had the opportunity to have the Sister missionaries over for dinner. It's always good to have them over and feel of the spirit that they bring. After dinner the Sisters shared a spiritual message with us. They shared a video titled "He is the Gift". After viewing the video each of us was asked what we thought and what stood out to us in the video.

My answer to this inquiry was to state that Christmas seems to be getting pushed into the background noise. We have to be more PC around this time of year and not seem to mention the word Christmas at all. It is a lot different than when I was growing up and Christmas was the focus of the holiday season. My mind also went back to a clip from "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown".

The real reason we have Christmas is because our Heavenly Father sent His Son to the earth. As we read in John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

One of my favorite Christmas carols tells why this Gift was so important:

Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt it's worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder lay a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angels voices! Oh night divine!
Oh night, when Christ was born.

So this Christmas season let's remember that if it weren't for the Father sending his Son we wouldn't be celebrating. We wouldn't be looking to Black Friday to get deals on gifts. We wouldn't be looking forward to Bad Sweater parties or holiday work parties. We wouldn't be spending time with our families on that eve where the true meaning of Christmas is shared by reading the account found in Luke Chapter 2. The first Gift of Christmas has led to this time of celebration, we must always remember this Gift above all others.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Earlier this week the FCC decided that supporting professional sports blackouts (where local games aren't televised based on certain rules) was something they weren't going to do going forward. It was a big deal for all of about 5 minutes as everyone realized that the major sports leagues could still blackout games. They just couldn't hide behind the FCC anymore.

There are two leagues who could, in my opinion, make a change and no longer blackout any games and probably (note probably) make some more money. These two leagues are MLS and the NHL. I don't expect that the NFL, NBA or MLB will ever change so I don't have much hope. Here are my reasons why MLS and the NHL should get rid of blackouts:

  1. Streaming of games - Both leagues offer online packages for games to be streamed to your home. This freedom is great except that you can't get the local teams, nor can you get nationally televised games (NHL always, MLS sometimes). This creates a HUGE problem when playoff time comes around. All NHL playoff games are nationally televised, which means if you get the Center Ice package you can't see them. If you are like me and have cut the cord to pay TV, you have to wait until NBC shows the games and that's usually once a weekend. Matter of fact, NBC only shows some of the Stanley Cup Finals which means I could miss the hoisting of the cup. The NHL has the best playoffs of any major sports league (even diehard NFL guys agree to this), so by not blacking them out and charging a bit more for their streaming package more fans would watch, more revenue from alternates streams (and markets who aren't in the playoffs) would come in.
  2. Expanding audience reach - Both leagues are "second level" when compared to the NFL, NBA and MLB. They need a way to expand their fan base and reach new fans. By not blacking games out it provides a way for people to see their games when there is "nothing else on". This is especially big for MLS during the months of June, July, and August when the only real competition is Baseball. By not blacking out games and providing a way to reach other audiences, the excitement of the games can infect new viewers.
  3. Fan Friendliness - Fans hate it when they can't see their local teams. Blackouts prevent them from doing so. By removing blackouts, fans will be happier and more likely to purchase other items (such as apparel). This means more revenue for the leagues and teams which in turn can produce better product on the field/ice.
  4. Selfishness - I'm kind of tired of being told that I can't watch something because of some archaic rules. We live in an age where we can get access to data 24X7 without much difficulty. It shouldn't be so hard to get access to live events also. We need to bring sports broadcasting into the 21st Century and allow fans access to everything (even if we have to pay a yearly fee).
Removing the blackouts for MLS and the NHL would make me want to spend money on their packages. It would strengthen the bond I already have as a fan. It would make me an even bigger cheerleader for their cause. In short, it would make them and me better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Song Stuck In My Head

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? You know, one you can't get out of your head? A song that maybe drives you crazy or makes you think? Yeah, I've got a song stuck in my head and yes it has made me think.

Fair warning: The song stuck in my head is not a Rock, Pop, Country, Rap or Love song. The song stuck in my head is a hymn that I have sung in church hundreds of times. Yes I have the "normal" verses memorized, but there is more to the song. So here goes:

The song is Come, Follow Me. It is a song about following the Savior Jesus Christ and his teachings. The lyrics are as follows:

1. "Come, follow me," the Savior said.
Then let us in his footsteps tread,
For thus alone can we be one
With God's own loved, begotten Son.

This verse is an invitation to walk in His footsteps and become "one" with the Savior in purpose. Following in one's footsteps is admirable when the one is someone who has led a great life and done great good. Following in the Savior's footsteps means that we are striving to become perfect like He is. It also means that we learn his commandments and teachings and do our best to obey and follow them.

2. "Come, follow me," a simple phrase,
Yet truth's sublime, effulgent rays
Are in these simple words combined
To urge, inspire the human mind.

Truth comes to us when we strive to do what's right. The invitation to follow the Savior and learn the truth should urge us on to perfection and inspire us to always do what's right.

3. Is it enough alone to know
That we must follow him below,
While trav'ling thru this vale of tears?
No, this extends to holier spheres.

Verse three reminds us that even though we follow the Savior in this life, we must also follow Him in the next. Life does not end with death, but continues and the Savior's example also continues into eternity.

4. Not only shall we emulate
His course while in this earthly state,
But when we're freed from present cares,
If with our Lord we would be heirs.

Emulating the Savior means loving everyone. We do not judge others but rather show empathy and love. We praise, comfort, console, encourage, etc in order to let all men know we believe that all are God's precious children

The next two verses are not traditionally sung, but when I read through them I knew they were also part of the reason this song is stuck in my head.

5. We must the onward path pursue
As wider fields expand to view,
And follow him unceasingly,
Whate'er our lot or sphere may be.

Life may not seem fair. We may not be blessed with the comforts of this life. We may have trials that wear on us. We may have family that we long to be close to, but for one reason or another cannot. We fight with personal demons so that we can try and live the best life possible. We must strive to follow Him unceasingly.

6. For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, pow'rs,
And glory great and bliss are ours,
If we, throughout eternity,
Obey his words, "Come, follow me."

Even though life is tough, there is a reward for our efforts. We can receive all that the Father has. We only have to obey his words, "Come, follow me".

I think this song has been stuck in my head because I need a course correction. It could be that I am not following Him to the degree to which I should. Have I showed love to all men? Have I obeyed His commandments? Have I been kind even when I disagree? Have I thought of my neighbor and done something to help him/her?

I don't know all the reasons why this song has been in my head for the last two weeks. I am committed to finding out where I need to improve and try to tread in His footsteps more.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Let's talk about boring

Straight up, I love the World Cup. FIFA's premier tournament played every four years. Unfortunately there are others who don't. And of course they have to come out with the obligatory "Why I'm not watching the World Cup" post. Most of the time they talk about how boring soccer is. So in response, let's talk about sports and boring:

One of the posts I read last week talked about how you could go away, make a sandwich and come back with nothing of importance happening. Ok, name me another sport in the US where that doesn't happen? NFL? you might miss two plays that go for 2 yards. NBA? You might miss a three pointer (not to mention that everyone knows the game isn't really on until the last two minutes). NHL? A couple of rushes (and really what's the big difference between hockey and soccer?). MLB? A couple of batters.

The fact is that all sports can be "boring". They are even more boring when you don't understand the concepts behind the play. Once you "understand" the game, it goes from boring to exciting. Once you understand the various situations in a game you gain an appreciation for what happens during play.

Unfortunately too many people won't take the time to understand the game. They do however take the time to describe how much they find the game they don't understand boring. Kind of silly if you think about it. I guess they are just looking for their 15 minutes of fame...