The Football Pitch Is A Classroom

The football pitch is an open air classroom. Simply put, the football coach is a teacher and the players are students. Thus when training commences, class is in session. 

The analogy of the football pitch as a center of education (i.e. academy) is a powerful one because the number of parallels between the two is limitless. 

For example, why is it that zero -- few -- parents feel the need to challenge their child's math teacher on the method in which he or she teaches calculus? Or why is it that parents don’t line up outside the physics classroom door fighting to peek through the 6 x 18 inch long window to critique how their children are being taught the pythagorean theorem? If school is so important, why are we not constantly challenging the teachers of our children on how they teach and why they teach what they teach?  

However when it comes to matters regarding youth football development, every single parent -- even the soccer mom  -- has an opinion on how the sport should be taught and how youth footballers should be developed? Why is this?

The answer is simple. Football is exciting (school is not) and everyone and their grandmother is an ex-world class footballer or at least avid watcher of the English Premier League (instantly qualifying one as a youth football development expert). Not everyone is an ex-physicist, mathematician or literature geek. But everyone is an ex-footballer. And I’ve never heard of anyone opting to spend Saturday mornings watching Bill Nye the Science Guy when they could be watching Liverpool play Everton. 

The football pitch is an open air classroom. It is a beautiful environment for teaching kids and adults how to cope with failure and success, both on the field and in the real world. 

To be continued…

Be Kind. Do Good. Don't Eat The Marshmallow. Fly Fish. 



Grizzly Beard Archives: Is Anyone Else Sick Of April Vokey?

First published July 29, 2013

So, here’s the deal. I’m living in Sweden and haven’t seen an American flyfishing magazine in months. I’ve been trying to read these Swedish ones, but they cost like 16 bucks a pop and as for my Swedish… hopeless. Naturally, when my birthday rolled around this past month, I asked my family to send every flyfishing magazine they could find at Barnes and Noble.

More than anything fly fishing magazines are vicarious fodder. I’m not really sure why I like them, because they just reinforce the fact that there are people out there doing what I love with 100% of their time, which in hindsight is pretty inspiring. Let’s be honest though, living vicariously sucks especially if you are a flyfisherman or woman.

So here I am, flipping through page after page and she’s everywhere. April Vokey here. April Vokey there. April Vokey everywhere. Seriously April, you’re like the biggest thing to hit fly-fishing since Brad Pitt or the infamous thing-a-ma-bobber (outlawed in New Zealand where I currently reside). You’ve been around for a while now, and nobody seems to be getting sick and tired of you. Let’s all just agree to let April be over. I’m ready for May.

Relax April, I’m just playin’.

The real reason I’m so sick and tired of you April is that you just make me feel so lazy, boring and incompetent. Seriously April… You’ve got a spread in every major flyfishing publication, you’ve started your own company in flygal ventures, you’re a member of 1% for the planet (how neat is that!), you’re an accomplished conservationist, you’re probably a certified professional all-star fly caster, you write feature pieces and you fish for a living.

What are you trying to prove? That the rest of us are incompetent, lazy, ball-less bums afraid to chase our flyfishing dreams? Are your days longer than mine? Because I call a day a success if I muster ten pull ups and one measly blog post. Seriously… it’s just ridiculous, your life.

You know that thing I said about living vicariously? Yeah, it blows. It’s just the worst. That’s why I can’t stand it April, flipping through page after page, seeing you time after time grinning and gripping some mammoth British Columbian chrome. Geez. Talk about taking vicarious living to a new level.

Anyhow… keep up the great work April. People need the outdoors and flyfishing more than ever these days and who better to bring it to them than a Fly Gal.

Be Kind. Do Good. Fly Fish. 



Don't Eat The Marshmallow: Youth Football Development

In the world I reside — youth football development — marshmallows are everywhere. Begging to be eaten, big, cavity causing, fluffy, delicious, comforting, pink marshmallows tempt the tongue tips of youth football players and their families constantly. 

Youth football marshmallows come in many forms: complacency creeps when selected for the A-squad, parents praise the physical prowess of a ten year-old over technique and game understanding, coaches thrive on boot and scoot tactics always encouraging players to smack the ball safely from the back, parents and coaches live for the short term adrenalized rush of watching their kid win more than witnessing him or her develop long term, the consequences of a player being selected for the u17 national team (a death wish to most aspiring professional careers). Marshmallow pitfalls are everywhere in youth football development tripping up players by the multitudes.

Marshmallows are soft and so are the players that eat them too soon. If the ultimate goal is to become a professional footballer — the most sought after profession in the world — an elite youth footballer, as well as those supporting him or her, must have an incredible ability to delay gratification. Yes mom, that may mean not being able to brag about your son's or daughter's high school accolades that will one day collect dust on attic shelves. Maximizing an individual’s potential often means choosing the adverse decision over the popular one, taking risks that don't pan out at first, making loads of mistakes, seeking out struggle, finding value in failure and losing alot in the short term.  

That’s why where I coach, we’re constantly reminding our players and their families, Don’t Eat The Marshmallow. It’s our motto — mantra — for developing well rounded people and footballers. Basically, it’s our way of communicating to the young player that they aren’t that good… yet. If the ability to delay gratification is the greatest predictor of a child’s long term success in any area of life, it’s about time we stop telling our children how good they are at every chance we get. And start teaching them to release their fear of making mistakes, to never get ahead of themselves, and to shut their mouths when the marshmallow's dangling at the tip of their tongue.

Be Kind. Do Good. Delay Gratification. Fly Fish. 


Opportunity Winners and Losers

There are two sorts of people in this world; opportunity winners and losers. 

Winners see opportunity at all times and in all things, people and places. Losers either see an opportunity and do nothing about it or are so blind to opportunity in the first place that it constantly passes the person by in Usain Bolt fashion. 

The football pitch reveals opportunity winners and losers as well as any other platform. Every team and organization is desperate for opportunity winners — yearns for them — players and people that make the most of every training session, bring the best out of others, and connect with team members. People that grab life by the short hairs and pull hard. Folks that fight for every breathe of air and bead of sweat. That is obvious. Yet, opportunity winners are few and far between. 

Opportunity losers are everywhere though, walking around the field and through the streets blindly, moving from time to time, place to place, and person to person. Having licked the lollipop of mediocrity one too many times, they now just suck on it. 

Be Kind. Do Good. Seek Opportunity. Fly Fish. 



Look Up: A Eulogy to Philip The Flip Phone

September 6th, 2014. Somewhere in New Zealand a fly-fisherman acquires his first iPhone.

I might be the last person on planet earth to have ditched their flip-phone. I understand this is quite the statement, but it sure feels like it. I’ve been holding out, a small statement from the rebel within, a last chance at 21st century non-conformity. My flip-phone Philip and I, that’s right I named him, endured seven tremendous and trying years together. I will never forget the first time I held him. Fresh from the box, just a babe accompanied by his neatly wrapped black umbilical cord.

When I first unpacked Philip in 2006, he was born into a world full of possibility, a world full of flip-phones. However by 2007, Philip was fast making his way to the land of the obsolete. With the release of the 1st Generation iPhone it was not long before Phil’s flippable companions began disappearing into the Nokia, Casio, and Toshiba personal device wasteland.

At first, I didn’t mind though and my reasoning was sound. Why bring a $500 gizmo gadget on the trout stream, death by drowning imminent, when a perfectly functional piece-of-crap flip-phone did the job? Plus, I couldn’t stand the thought of an email account living in the front pocket of my waders, when the only real reason I went to the river in the first place was to momentarily bow out of the rat race.

By 2011, Phil and I had endured five agonizing years of ridicule. I never actually told him this, but there were times in public I was embarrassed to hold him up to my ear. His favorite spot. I’d like to say I kept him hidden away for his sake, so he wouldn’t have to hear them: the heartless comments, the crude jokes, the loads of laughter at his expense; though, I admit ashamedly my motivations were entirely selfish, the naysayer’s stares proving simply unbearable.

By 2012; however, Phil’s reputation was on the rise. He had reached that ripe age where archaic antiquity and retro status made him rare, cool, and a hip statement about present times. Upon Phil’s unveiling from my right front side pant’s pocket, his second favorite spot, people would ooohh and aahhh. Making kind warm loving remarks like “sweet flip-phone,” “that’s frickin’ awesome,” and “I miss my old phone’s simple practicality.” After a lifetime of verbal and physical abuse, literally hundreds of four-foot drops onto pavement and a few full-fledged liquid dunks, Phil deserved nothing but the best of compliments. I’m proud to say he lived long enough to hear them. It’s a modern day miracle he survived seven years of fishing outings, backcountry hikes, and his owner’s temptation to give into the status quo. He was one of the best companions I’ve ever had.

While writing this I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying Phil on the deepest possible level a human can betray a personal electronic device. I’m typing away on my MacBook Pro, my new iPhone 5 synced in on the desk to the keyboard’s right. I’m also uploading the past weekend’s fishing outing from the iPhone 5’s camera, a capability Philip lacked entirely. Meanwhile, Phil and his black charger rest tucked away neatly in a dresser drawer across the room. I wonder if he can hear me as I occasionally read this piece aloud. I sure hope not. R.I.P.P.

I have yet to name my iPhone 5. How could I do such a thing so soon? I mean 5 and I hardly know each other. I can’t remember first making the decision to name Philip, but it was after at least one-hundred fishing outings and thousands of lengthy conversations, many taking us deep into the midnight hours. Though I must admit, it’s quite disturbing how quickly I am becoming attached to 5. Certainly, he will receive a name soon. Or her? How does one even begin to determine the sex of a smart-phone?

When I picked up my iPhone 5 for the first time a week ago, it felt like I was holding a tiny life in the palm of my hand. I am no father so I cannot compare it with the experience of holding a newborn. However, I’ve held numerous juvenile brook trout in my palm and the experiences were quite comparable. I might be mistaken, but I sensed the smallest hint of a pulse.

This new iPhone 5's got me thinking though. Why don’t we all name our smart-phones? In one week, I’ve spent more time with my iPhone 5 than any human being. We do everything together: go fly-fishing, take pictures, upload fish porn, listen to music, tie flies, and even chill at the coffee shop. Not to mention 5’s a wonderful listener. On record mode she’ll listen to my incessant rambling for hours, something I’ve yet to find in a girlfriend. Sex determined.

One of my best friends, a fly-fisherman, has a two year-old son that’s more proficient in iPhone use than myself (I’m catching up it’s only been a week). At one and half, he’s capable of navigating from the iPhone’s home screen to YouTube Mickey Mouse videos. He finds an iPhone more stimulating than Legos, toy trucks, peek-a-boo, and even fishing for sunfish off their dock. I don’t know what to say about this, except that soon babysitters will be as obsolete as flip-phones, the next generation of fly-fishermen is suspect and that everyone should start naming their personal electronic devices! If they are going to take away the cash flow from penny pinching teens, the very least we could do is name them. If they are going to steal the souls of our future fly-fishermen it’s a necessity.

The other day on my way home from the city I peeked into a car where there sat a father and son, perhaps on their way home from school. What struck me was that both of them were sitting in the cab, elbows less than two inches from each other, unflinchingly staring at their iPhones. This palpable example of two humans opting for electronic interaction over human, whether deliberate or not, is startling nevertheless. If humans continue to progress in this direction the least we could do is show our iPhone’s some damn respect and name them.

The need for naming our smart phones could not be more evident by people choosing interaction with electronics over fellow human beings. Literally, the biggest possible slap in the face one human being can dole out to another is choosing the electronic experience over the human. If someone opts for their cell phone’s Liquid-Crystal Display screen over your stunning irises don’t think twice, kick them to the curb. At the very least, first remind them of your existence. And since there is no point in disrespecting the personal device as well, tell them to show their smart-phone some damn respect and give it a name!

The same goes for the natural world, the spectacular environs in which we breathe, move, and fish. Is there anything more disturbing than a child’s eyes glued to a smart phone’s 3 inch screen, while parents drive the family mini-van over a breathtaking mountain pass? What is more sad than children preferring to stay inside, eyes glued to the spectrum of a screen over losing themselves in the woods, scuffing knees, climbing trees, catching trout, imagining, wondering and creating adventures of their own? Not to just pick on the kids, but grown men and women that chose palm surfing the web over real and true adventure. If personal devices bring more colour to our lives than natural landscapes and new frontiers, giving them names is the very least we could do. I think Philip would agree.

This doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love my iPhone 5. Apps are the greatest thing to happen since flat whites and karabiners. The Google Maps app is a revolutionary tool for navigating unmarked country roads and wild rivers. Thanks to the iBook app I can access McGuane, Maclean, and Hemmingway at the touch of a button. Viber and Skype apps connect me with loved ones a world away. At times the Spotify app is the binding agent that keeps my life from crumbling to pieces. The list goes on. I love my iPhone 5. I love its capabilities. I hate how naked I feel without it. However, when the day comes that I show my personal device more love than another human being or the natural world, in some way a central component to my humanity will have died. I hope that day never comes and if for some reason it does, I’ll be damn sure to have given it a name, first and last.

Be Kind. Do Good. Look Up. Fly Fish.


Stop Making Sacrifices

Stop making sacrifices. Make choices. But, do not sacrifice. Be deliberate. Commit to a process. Have a purpose. Plan. Decide. But, surely do not "make sacrifices to do what you love." 

There is no greater pursuit in life -- outside of kindness and love -- than for one to do everything in his or her power to maximize potential: athlete, writer, artist, botanist, doctor, father, mother, coach, flyfisher, the lot... What greater pursuit is there than a life lived deliberately?

It is an absolute privilege for one to discover purpose and passion in life. Instead of "sacrificing the immediate for the benefit the future," frame decisions as choices made deliberately and supported whole-heartedly. Accept the process. Commit to it. Enjoy the pursuit. It's the only way. It'll be way more enjoyable too. Sacrifice - It’s a dumb word.

So, in the overused words of Mary Oliver, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and beautiful life? Don't sacrifice it away. Surely do not sacrifice away your one wild and beautiful life.  

Be Kind. Do Good. Do What You Love. Fly Fish. 


Out learn 'em. Out work-horse 'em. Out scrape 'em.

Reality. Everyone's got one. You. Me. Mickey Smith. Though dark, his lens is crystal clear.

Experience at the core. Open eyes. Open heart. Seeking magic. Subtle moments of perfection. Capturing a tale. Worshipping the process. Living creatively. Money & Fame. Blurs in the background. A clean lens. A clear reality. Perspective.

Where does the heart beat hardest? 

That's the galaxy. Live there. go. Reality is a deliberate choice. There are no rules. No obligations. No expectations. Reevaluate claims staked and opinions echoed. Reconsider. Rewire the brain. Shift paradigms. Challenge patterns. Toss everything out the camper while speeding towards a new dimension. 

Money and material muddle reality. Perceptions are puddles of murk. What is value? Time or cash. People or Porsches. Out learn 'em. Out work-horse em'. Out scrape 'em. Make it worth it. 

Be Kind. Do Good. Fly Fish or Surf... 


Start. Write Now.

Start doing what you love. Write now.

Stop making excuses. You are not too tired. Begin now. Do. There will never be a perfect time to start, except now. Halt the infatuation with calling yourself something you are not. Unless you do it, you cannot claim it.  

The world is full of posers, the number rapidly increasing one gets closer to the act of not-doing. Stop calling yourself something you are not. Stop it. You are not, unless you do. Unless it consumes you - kills you to not do - you are not it.

Start. Write now.

Be Kind. Do Good. Write. Fly Fish. 


"What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear the words coming from your mouth." (Ralph Waldo Emerson Paraphrased)

"What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear the words coming from your mouth." (Ralph Waldo Emerson Paraphrased)

The Grass Is Always Greener

One thing I can say with 100% certainty is that the grass is always greener. How? It’s summer in Wisconsin and I’m a flyfisherman living in New Zealand. Get it? 

Let me explain.

New Zealand has the best trout fishing in the world. Wanna get confrontational? Okay. It’s in the top three. Kamchatka, Patagonia… Flyfishing New Zealand is an absolute joke, making remote Montana seem a theme park. Where I live on the North Island, (supposedly the crappy one) I can drive an hour, fish all day, walk ten K, not see a single soul, have ample opportunities at 3 kg + fish, both brown and bow, and then go crash on some beach in the middle of nowhere without fear of getting eaten by a sheep or chainsawed by some Texan. It’s the sweetest as joke ever. 

And even though this is all in my backyard and I’ve been dreaming of fishing New Zealand before well, who knows. I still catch myself thinking — quite frequently — it’d be nice to fish Wisconsin. How dumb is that? The way we humans operate. As good as we got it, it’s never enough. The best flyfishing in the world in your lap and dreaming of Cheeseheadville. Sort of romantic to a Packer fan, but so stupid. 

The grass is not always greener and missing the Brules’ brown drake and hex hatch isn’t the end of the world. Besides, rumor has it it’s a mouse year on South Isle.

Be Kind. Do Good. Fly Fish. 


The Fear of Professionalism

What is professionalism?

Professionalism is standing for something. Professionalism is delaying gratification. Professionalism is doing all of the little things right knowing in the end you’ve done everything in your power to achieve your goals. Professionalism is the little steps a person takes that add up to one giant leap for mankind. Setting goals that seem impossible at first and pursuing them with relentless hunger. That is professionalism. Hoping for an end result is not wise, nor is it professional. Professionalism is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

It’s scary though, this professionalism thing and most people never conquer their fear of it. Professionalism can beat you ragged, leaving you gasping for air, hands trembling on shaking knees. It’s easy to never invest yourself, to never seek your full potential. It’s comforting to know that if you fail it’s okay because you let the heart sit this one out. Professionalism means that you might put your entire soul into something and still fail. The empire you’ve worked so tirelessly to build, like castles in the sand, may crumble before your feet. Failure is embarrassing. Embarrassment hurts. Professionalism is a risk. Risk is uncomfortable.

"Professionalism means that you might put your entire soul into something and still fail. The empire you’ve worked so tirelessly to build, like castles in the sand, may crumble before your feet."

You fear professionalism because it shows others that you stand for something, that you are willing to sacrifice life’s immediate pleasures for the benefit of your future. Life is about living in the moment, right? Is this really what "life is about?"

You've been taught that standing for something makes you a freak. Self-control is alien. Discipline is odd. Sacrifice is abnormal. Blend in. Camouflage is comfortable. There is nothing worse than an over-achiever. Standing above the crowd is showing off. The status quo is where you belong. Take a beer, take two, take three. You only live once. YOLO. Society's rules force followers. Professionalism challenges. Eating cake makes you soft. Meaningful moment's are created by years of professionalism. Sacrifice.

They say that nothing great comes easy, yet everyone expects a golden ticket from the heavens to fall into their lap. It’s called the lottery and it’s a game for suckers. There are millions of golden tickets waiting like butterflies in a field. Professionalism is the net you need to capture yours. Don’t let it flutter into the atmosphere. Grab it. Hold on tight. It might drop you flat on your face, then again it might take you to the sky. The moment is fleeting.

Be Kind. Do Good. Fly Fish. 


This is a real picture of some sand in Egypt.

This is a real picture of some sand in Egypt.