Tom Newell At Large: May 2009

Seattle, May 2nd...I have returned home via Korea and Canada today, happily accepting the itinerary that brought me home to the NW once again...I enjoyed immensely the last 3 plus weeks in the Far East of Russia, especially the last city on my clinics' visits...We spent 9 days in Yakutia, the Consul General, Mr. Tom Armbruster, his wife, Kathy, and Jenya, the Russian National who works in the State Department with Mr. Armbruster...

Yakutia, Capital City of Yakutsk, largest State in Russian Territories...Population: 250,000...Ethnic Origin: Eskimo...Language: Yakutsk, native tongue, and Russian...Resources: 2nd leading Diamond mining producer in the World (25% of the World's diamonds produced here); Gold, Silver and Oil are the largest producing minerals and fossil fuel in Russia...By the way, this territory has the largest collection of Fossil Tusks in the World...The Woolie Mammoths are originally from this area, meaning the indigenous people of Yakutsk have more knowledge and experience than most educated anthropologists (as to "where" to fine the bones, etc...)...Food Staple: Fish, fresh, naturally frozen and then eaten the same way, tasty too, I might add...potatoes, small spuds, but tasty tatters for sure...Weather: it was sunny for 8 out of 9 nine days, only being cloudy when I left on day nine...It was around 55-60 degrees, and in the evening, a little cooler in the evening, low 40's...Winter? Get ready for this: -70 F!!! That's right, MINUS 70 degrees Fahrenheit!! Imagine those wintry days and evenings...I can't even imagine, shucks, when I was in Changchun, China, last year, coaching in the CBA, the coldest I believe, it was close to 20 below there several times in the evening...so cold that my bones STILL remember, and funny thing was, when I heard about the "-70" my bones reverberated the same recall of anything minus Fahrenheit!! Remember, this area is known as the Perma Frost topography in the Far East of Russia...General Impression: the most wonderful culture I have ever encountered...you would not believe the warm smiles, shining countenance and hospitality of these indigenous people...truly amazing, they love life, culture and their Families very much...their rich history as a proud people and culture is intact and will be for many many years to come...

Before I begin my recount of this trip leg and clinics, I'm going to give you some ideas on the City of Yakutia and their highways also...and life as I saw it...

Business Opportunities:���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� a) Car Wash 4 months out of the year...every car, and I mean every vehicle is dirty, one because of the snow melt, and also because of the perma frost warming up on the surface, meaning lots of puddles, dirty streets and roads...

b) Shock absorbers and Springs shop: the chuckhole "capital" of the world is best described this way: every three feet there is a chuckhole, some deep, some not so, some with water (the real dangerous ones if traveling fast) and some not...the demanding affect on any vehicle though are the constant impacts to the frame of each vehicle, big and small, as they travel through and around this city...They never need to "post" the Speed Limit anywhere in this city, mainly because the chuckholes maintain an average speed of 20 or below...There are NO lowriders in this city, unless they're operating on low tires inflation...

c) Les Schwab Tires: now this business would never lose customers...even though most of the miles are driven in town and surrounding area, the constant pounding of dancing treads upon chuckhole after chuckhole, well you can only imagine this "Guaranty" goes by "Number of Chuckholes Visited" and not "mileage"...I saw more outside "blister" or "bubble" size bulges on front and back tires, I couldn't believe it...I guess they continue to drive the car under these conditions until they can't...

d) Sneakers and Boots Store: for sure, as you won't sell flip flops or sandals here...I think most of the people can hardly wait to put on their sneakers again and get out of the wool inserts of their boots from Winter and early Spring weather...Nine Inch heels or 4" for that matter need not be imported, although I did hear a couple in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying...I figured that women bring a change of shoes to public places, rotate from boots to heels and hear their toes sing in unison: "free at last...free at last..."...

Crimes you won't see in Yakutia:�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� a) Purse Snatchers...Why? Because they would end up spraining an ankle trying to run away and cross any street that has chuckholes...

b) Bank Heists: with the average speed of vehicles 20mph, and the traffic lights not synchronized, any perp and his accomplice who is waiting in a car for the getaway, well, you can only imagine how helpless they would be 2 minutes after the crime...

c) Bike Stealing: unless you have a pair of pants that are fanny-packed with Condor Feathers from three dozen condors, you would...if a young man, quickly realizes that the effects of hitting, rolling and avoiding chuckholes is hazardous to your manhood, you might consider trying out for the choir because if you were a soprano before your crime, you became a canary voice afterwards...thus, there aren't many bikes in town here...

d) Pickpockets: when you have to dress with several layers of clothes for 9 months out of the year, you've got no shot at trying to lift anyone's wallet here...

e) Auto Thefts: most people leave their vehicles running, to keep them warm inside and the engine warm as well, and their doors locked as well...seems everyone knows each other, and if someone were to "take" a vehicle, they would be caught soon enough by the pockmarked sideroads and traffic congestion on the main thoroughfare...�

Where to begin: Chuckles...upon arrival by Yakutia Airlines, we arrived in the late afternoon, and were greeted by the local VIPs from the State Government's Office and other representatives that were with the Youth Sports Ministry Department...Okay, you gotta picture this scenario, a "newell classic" for sure...We taxi to the tarmac area, waiting, as there is no "ramp" for unloading, and a tractor hooks up to the front landing gear and backs our aircraft into a holding area...A stewardess comes to me, Tom Armbruster and his wife, and tells him in Russian (he speaks fluent Russian) and says we are to depart the packed plane first...Hmmm, I think to myself, this is interesting, being treated as VIPs in a foreign land, Russia, no less...So, Tom and his wife line up first, Jenya, translator, second, and me last...I had my hat on, as the wind was blowing a little bit, and I didn't want to mess up my hair for the cameras below...So, the first three step off the plane, then myself and LOW and behold, I hit my head on the door entry of the plane, so hard that the stewardesses caught me from behind, and I� soon saw a species of birds flying birds in my semi conscious state that I've never seen before, and thought "wow, this city has some strange looking birds...", until I realized that I had my "bell" rung...As I regained my unstable balance thanks to a couple of Russian stewardesses, I look out from the top of the portable ramp and see Policemen with bullet proof vests on holding what looks like Uzzis...a Brinks Van...a couple of more unmarked vans, and then several people below shaking the hands of Tom, his wife and Jenya...I slowly walk down the steps and still groggy, figure out that we must have some "security" arranged for our visit, and the VIPs that are greeting us must be the "ones" getting such protection...Wrong! It turns out that the plane was carrying a whole lotta of Rubles, not Rubies, and the Brinks Guards were there to unload and carefully guard the transport to the local bank...Whew, that was a relief...After meeting the luminaries on the tarmac, we were taken by private vans to our hotel, the Hotel Tyginn...Out of 5 Stars, I give it a Four Star for sure...Great rooms, service and restaurant...

Official Dinner: upon checking in, we had 15 mins. to "unwind" and walk next door to a very nice restaurant for an "Official" dinner with the Minister of Foreign Relations, Minister of Foreign Business and Development and a woman named, Anastasia, a Yakutsk Native, who lived in Fairbanks for 10 years, understood and spoke English very well, and her position in government was with the North Forum Administration, that was working with the US and other countries on a global initiative that dealt with economic, education and environmental issues...The dinner was a traditional cuisine from this region: frozen white fish, caught in sub zero temperature, preserved as such when filleted; another white frozen fish, small cut squares, eaten frozen, with a couple of special sauces, and lastly the main course, which was choice of a horse I'm sure I bet on one day and lost at Emerald Downs (which I passed upon), or fish...I chose fish, and it had a great egg souffle' mushroom cover on top of it, and let me tell you: it was deeeeelicious!! I coulda eaten two of them, but this was an "Official" dinner and I didn't want to embarrass my country and our Hosts...but I would have if offered...The visit by our Consul General there, was very very timely, as they were so thankful and happy to have him and his wife accept their invitation to visit their city...Tom Armbruster is a tremendous Patriot, representing our Democracy and values so well in foreign lands...He made immediate friends and fans of this VIP group, and we haven't even begun our agendas yet...Needless to say, the first evening was an indication that we were going to have a grrrrrrrrrrrrreat experience here...

The Week in Yakutia: April 21, morning meeting at the Minister's Office with our Consul General and their Minister of Foreign Relations...this was an hour meeting and then we went off to meet the Minister of Sports, for a short meeting and lunch with him as well...Both meetings were with the purpose of "developing" future relationships and contacts for improving relations and programs for Yakutia...I was so well received by the Minister of Sports (and all the government people as a matter of fact), as he said that basketball was a fast growing activity and that "we need to teach our coaches better methods so they can teach the players..."...well, those that know me, know that was music to my ears, as I love to teach coaches how to leach kids and right away, before my first coaches clinic was to take place two hours from now, I knew that this trip was going to be fantastic...and it was...

Basketball Clinic #1: April 21, Afternoon...there were close to 200 men, women and kids in attendance for my first session...I was told that we would have anywhere between 60-150 coaches and thankfully there were only around 45 total, and then 30 when the program completed the next day (many coaches were working and took lunch at the same time as the first session and could not do same next day...)...The team I had for demonstration were high school boys, ages 15-18...Good group of kids...labeled one kid "Kobe" as he was more "noticeable" than others in an outspoken way, and yet lacked the overall skills to be recognized as a "Star" player, but I went ahead and asked him if I could call him "Kobe", and of course he said in perfect English: "YES!!"...His twin brother was more subdued/humble in our two days, whereas "Kobe" was always telling others what to do, even if it were/was wrong, and the players followed..."Kobe" did so many pushups for us, I think he became the strongest players in 7 hours plus of clinic time on the floor...He finally "got" the picture that there is one voice, the coach's, and that if any corrections are to be made, it is by the coaches only...We got along well, and he ended up following me around to other venues to listen to my instructions...Guess discipline has a way of "connecting" even with the most outspoken individuals...He and his teammates were terrific models and had a great time, or so they tell me...The coaches in attendance were very attentive and anxious to learn how to "teach" players the proper fundamentals and how to develop players skills...Evidently, I am the first foreign coach and/or domestic (Moscow Pro coaches) to visit Yakutia in many many years, and teach the coaches there about the game...We learned many new simple lessons today and the following session, that I knew this would be another great experience in a different Far East Russian city...I presented simple warmup drills with the ball that would empower the kids to practice on their own without a gym necessary, and the importance of always incorporating combination drills that would enhance their overall skills both on offense and defense...They understood well and hopefully will implement into their practice plans...Want to hear something crazy? They only play 10 games ALL SEASON!! Can you imagine? They practice over 275 hours on the court, excluding game times, and I couldn't believe it...When I heard this, I told them they were very lucky to have such an impact in a teaching environment to prepare their students for 10 examinations...They laughed but were curious as to why I would be so supportive of fewer games and more practice times...Basically what I stated to them was this: if you have more time on the court with your team, then the "formula" for developing your system has a better chance to succeed than not, that your fundamental disciplines on offense and defense will always stand strong and be the foundation towards the team's success...They thought otherwise until I explained the thought process of "look at soccer...look at track and field...look at swimming, wrestling, even the local orchestra, they perform only once a week in some cases, and practice very hard and very long in between, so why can't your players be prepared for the same competition on a weekly basis? Herein is where the problem arose...NBA games are televised weekly there, 3-4 times a week, and the kids and coaches see how many games are played there (USA) and how many are played in their nation's Premiere League (2-3 per week) and wish they could play more also...Told them to relax, as coaches, as the fewer games you play, the less grief you get from parents!! They all laughed at that one!! It's the same universally: Kids want to play, play, play...Coaches want to practice, practice, practice...Parents want to win, win, win...and Officials want to quit, quit, quit...

Shaman and Assistants Bless our visit to the next city over from Yakutia: Okay, there are 8 people in a Van traveling for an hour and a half to a very small city named, Ogulesk (spelling is most definitely incorrect, sorry about that)...Along the two lane paved road that was similar to an hour and a half roller coaster ride that was semi-level and made us all feel like two of the four wheels (left driver side wheel and rear passenger side wheel) on our Van were missing...We endured remarkably well, as the topography was similar to the wide open range area of Montana with mountains in the far distance...spectacular, actually...So, we're low flyin along this highway and heading up this long hill to the top of a ridge, tall pines on both sides of the road now, pretty I am saying to myself...Then we stop alongside a relatively new wood framed single story building with a parking lot...We park to the side of the road, and Sergey, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Business Development, informs us in perfect English (remember, he studied at Oxford at the age of 16): "this is the boundary of the next city we are visiting for the clinics, and this is a Visitor's Center and we have a ceremony that is being presented to us by a Shaman and his support staff...This was all news to Tom and myself, as we were "along for the ride" and of course accepted this treat gladly...The Shaman is dressed in a Bearskin Hat, Pelt is definitely an Indigenous Eskimo, sculpted features, narrow eyes that sparkled, strong hands and a wonderful smile...He lights a fire to a handful of small kindling pieces in a fire pit, and then begins to chant and raise his hand with the Horsehair-end baton to all of us standing before him...His aides were holding these beautiful Chorons (hand carved wood bowls that for centuries were used for milk and water to drink from...These chorons, by the way, were gifts to me by our Hosts while in Yakutsk, and each one is different in size and touch, what an incredible culture...Back to the Shaman, so he finishes his words of prayer to the Spirits in the Valley, asking them to "bless" our kindness for coming to share with "our" people, "bless" our travels safely, and then he brings forward the ritual of drinking from the Chorons, fermented horse milk and having fresh baked flat bread, shaped like a roll, but completely flat, but oh-so-good...It was a like the Catholic tradition of communion is the only way to describe this experience...Once we finished this ritual, he asked us to turn towards the Sun and raise our arms high to accept now the blessings from the Great Spirit and in their Yakutsk native tongue, chant with him...I chanted like I was part of Sha Na Na, let me tell you...The Sun was warm, not a cloud in the sky and the moment was beyond a Kodak capture...Incredible...

The "next" Cities for clinics: We turn off the main highway (similar to the N/S Highway in Colorado) and enter into a small city, the name again of which I cannot share at this time, but will later in life, I'm sure)...This appearance had Tom and Kathy visiting with teachers and local leaders as well as students in a High School classroom to discuss American Diplomacy, commerce and language arts with the people in attendance, while I was across the road in the local and only community gymnasium addressing coaches (20 and kids and parents)...This group was lively in that the kids we had on the court as models were both boys and girls, ages 12-18...They were so excited to have this foreign coach who used to be in the NBA come to there village (less than 5.000 people), which I found out later that most of the kids in the cities I visited went online and found my name and basketball life through Google.com...The amazing "links" in life today that brings the worlds apart together...We were here for an hour and a half and then on to the next village...We arrive on the outskirts of the city limits about 45 mins. later, and again we pull off to the side of the road as there is a delegation awaiting our arrival...This time there is a Princess ('cause that's the way she was dressed: like a Princess), and she has a Choron with milk in it and a large loaf of bread that I will tell you now is BETTER than any San Francisco Sourdough that I've ever had, and I know my sourdough in the world of breads...The Mayor is in the group and he welcomes us as did is wife, and we each take a sip and break off a piece of bread and the "Official Welcome to our City" is on...The Mayor is Anglo in appearance, and a Yakutian resident, not your typical Indigenous Eskimo that is so prevalent in the Territory...We get back into the Van and Kathy Armbruster comments to me about how "good was that bread!!"...? I told her it may have been the best I've ever had, and Sergey must have overheard our comments because the next thing I know, we're in the Van and the bread is in my lap and we're encouraged to partake (gladly for sure)...That bread had about as much a chance of not being consumed by everyone in the Van as a hungry catfish finding a juicy worm that fell into a lake...This city, and please, forgive me on the name, I misplaced my itinerary and can't find the English translation of this city, so bear with me...The main resource coming out of this city is the gravel and concrete "pit" yards...It is a very small city by Yakutia comparison (population 10,000+/-)...the roads here are well paved (and rightly so...) and I think a car warranty would be "safe" in this city on wheels, windshields and mufflers because of it...We all accompany the Mayor and his wife and a couple of other people to a Tunisian-owned restaurant in the city, relatively new (4-6 years old) and have a wonderful lunch together and receive gifts from his Honor for this epic visit by the Amerikansts...We leave for the gymnasium that is 5 minutes away, and has just been completed in only 9 months of construction...It is built upon the perma frost as well, and the gym level is up two stories...They did a great job on design, simplicity and providing a venue for their youth sports and development...The floor was even, the hoops I had concerns about only because the brackets that anchor into the wall from the backboard would not hold a suspended baby's crib, and I ain't talkin about Twins!! The rims were NOT breakaways and the high school boys team that I used in this clinic had a couple of players who were 6'5", and I'm sure anxious to "see" if they could finally dunk on this hoop...As I explained after the clinic to their Director of Youth Sports, "be careful with this attachment to the wall and not having breakaway rims (wondered how that was translated to Russian?), as there will be someone or others who will try to "dunk" and accidentally hang on the rim and their weight will cause this basket to collapse..."...He smiled and looked and it dawned on him, that "yes, he is right, we will have that problem..."...Fingers crossed for him and the poor kid that gets caught with the rim around his neck...

Clinic: I had about 16 players, all high school age boys, and they were terrific models to use as demonstrators...It was funny, because most of the kids in this remote village looked like they came right out of Bellevue, Washington: blond hair, blue eyes or hazel, tall and lanky...Found out that there's been a large contingent of immigrants from Germany, Holland and Finland that had sought employment in this city (construction), and these children are the offspring example of global migration that would surprise you in this region...There were about 10-12 coaches, and at least 80 boys and girls in attendance, all very attentive to our visit...I was amazed to see the number of hands raised when I asked the proverbial question: "how many watch the NBA on TV here..."...90% of them acknowledged "yes"...Now THAT blew me away...Why? Because if that is the only model of American hoops they see each year, I think they're seeing a glorified level of athleticism, individual play and attitudes that aren't necessarily common in our country and organized programs (MS, HS and Intercollegiate)...we were on the court for two hours and it sure went by fast...we worked on ballhandling drills and passing drills that the players and coaches could easily implement on their own...We also did a combination drill, where we had a defender moving his feet on a half court slide versus the ball handler who had to change his dribble and direction after two bounces...Huge success...Tom Armbruster helped me here with the kids and we wrapped it up well...The Mayor and Director thanked us and told us how much they appreciated our visit...Another wonderful day in hoops heaven...

The Yakutsk Presidential Library: On our return trip to Vladivostok, we stopped off at the Presidential Library, designed and built for a former Russian Federation President, Yeltsin and a famous Yakutsk Scientist, Nikolai ...The venue was well designed and the collection of memorabilia is fantastic: all original letters from leaders around the world and personal gifts from same...We spent an hour ther and it was well worth the "stop"...

The Yakutsk Zoo: Now this is a place that PETA would not hold their annual fundraisers...The gentleman whose vision it was and is today, was our host and led us on a 50 min. tour of the outdoor reserve...By our North American standards, this would probably rank somewhere between 1-3 out of 10 stars...Keep in mind, this is a work in progress and the director is doing his best to build and create a more attractive and stable environment for the Indigenous Yakutians to "call" their own...I saw Russian Wolves, Big Brown Bears with big brown claws, Razorbacks (2) that were about as ugleeeeee as ugly could be described in Webster's...then there were the Rudolphs without red noses, some pure white, some without racks, but large and beautiful all the same...Saw some leopards also that were bigger than kitties...I was taken aback by the end, but Kathy Armbruster told me that "this is really a work in progress,tom, and he has a terrific idea and mind to replicate what he has seen in America and other Zoo cities on the planet...

Return to Yakutia and Celebration of Victory Day and Soldiers Memorial: Okay, you will now know that I am nutz for sure: I PLAYED in a game with other Russian Men, uniforms and all, along with Tom Armbruster, Consul General, who was on other team...I was selected by my newest "best" friend, Sergei, whose two sons, Valentin and older brother, name slipping my mind (like many other things these days), attended a basketball camp for two hours the day before...Sergei talked me into playing in this event and I agreed ONLY if Tom Armbruster played as well...I figured we both would be on the same team and do "our" thing to best represent the two man game and teamwork...Wrong...We both were on opposite sides and the way we set up this whole appearance and playing was that we could only play in the first qtr., as we both had to attend a Ceremony at the Opera House an hour later...Good thing for the "other" cultural demands away from hoops...it saved my heinie for sure...The Game: Okay, so I have a uniform with number and of course it's Red and White...nice silk...haven't worn something like this in about 30 years...The only issue were the shorts felt like they were designed by Nate Robinson, as they went below my knees about 8"...I changed that immediately by double rolling the beltline seam over and bringing the bottoms right above my knees...I mean how can one play with shorts that feel like someone is "scratching" your shinbones as you walk and run?? Now I KNOW I'm really old school, right?�� So we start the game and I told Sergei that if he were to pass the ball to me in Post Position and everyone move off the pass, screening for one another and all, I'd find someone open and pass to them...This translation was loss� somewhere between Moscow and Yakutia, because after a missed shot they would immediately start passing me the ball to bring it down court and that meant that I would be really working "overtime" in this exhibition...After about 4X up and down the court on missed or made shots, I stop at halfcourt and bend over and grab the bottom front of my silkies to catch my breath and identify the "shooting stars and planets" that were now in my vision..."...one of the referees stopped to ask me if I was okay, to which I replied: "I'm fine thank you, do you have an extra whistle? As I could help you now better than I can play..."...He laughed...First time I've ever had an Official "laugh" with me on the court as a player or bench coach...Kodak moment for sure...And his English was very good...My "planetary-moment" pause subsided and I resumed my cardio exercise by getting into the game again, both ends...I played the middle on our 2-1-2 Zone and pretended I was somebody I wasn't: Intimidator, Exterminator, Eliminator...No, I ended up being a pretty good "pretender"...I rebounded the ball in front of me, put my hands up on defense when drives came down the paint and acted like I knew I what I was doing, playing with players who had NO CLUE who this Amerikansk dude was who spoke no Russian at all...Fortunately, Sergei was the quintessential teammate: he was the team leader and made the team roll at both ends...At the end of the first quarter we were up by 14 points I believe, Tom Armbruster played well, but was on the "short" team in a figurative sense: only 5 players until the last 2 mins. of the 1st Qtr., and then only one player above 6'1"...Whereas we started 4 players including myself that were 6'3" and above, no taller than 6'5"...At the end of the qtr. and saying goodbye to Sergei and teammates, and his lovely wife, Olga and the boys, Tom and I hustled to the Van to go back to the hotel and shower and change our clothes for the event at the Opera House...

The Opera House: how's this for an "experience" as a spectator: nonstop perspiring for two hours on my part!! Seriously, I hustled back to the hotel, cleaned up, changed and on the way to the Opera House, I started sweating more and more, not dizzy or anything, just basically overheated from the exhibition less than 25 mins. ago...Fortunately, this episode brought back immediate memories of yesteryear when I was a youngin and use to play for hours and afterwards would find myself still sweating like an Arkansas Sweat Hog, so this meant after 30 years, NOTHING had changed in my metabolism and post workout recovery...I just sat there and kept wiping the beads off my forehead and neck, smiling left and right and telling those around me "I'm fine, thank you..."...Finally, after awards were presented by the President of Yakutsk to Leaders in the Community, I stopped sweating...Glory! And then the Opera and Entertainment of Cultural Artists began...What a treat that was...Most of the Hall emptied upon the conclusion of the Awards ceremony, but we stayed and I'm really happy we did that...Young and old, musicians, choirs, singers and variety acts all demonstrated great talents and made the whole experience of that day even more special...And when the curtain dropped, it was the end to my trip to Yakutia that began 7 days earlier...But I still had two more clinics to do the next day: high school boys and girls program for Basketball coaches at the schools in the region there (about 30 coaches)...went extremely well...and then in the afternoon another camp for kids only, ages 9-14, boys...This is where Sergie's oldest son participated and did well...We had about 50 kids in that setting, and my assistants were 3 coaches who attended my clinics earlier at the beginning of my trip...How blessed was I to have them there and volunteer with me...They did a GREAT job at the shooting stations we set up, perfectly demonstrating to each boy the proper mechanics that they had been taught by Coach Newell to teach kids...It is in that model to follow that reaffirms in my heart and mind that we're succeeding in teaching coaches how to teach kids basketball...Glory!!

Return to Seoul and on to the USA: the next day, April 30th, I left for Seoul, Korea, and accompanying me on my drive to the airport from Vladivostok, was the State Department's Resident (Beijing) Psychiatrist, Dr. John Stennett...We soon became newest best friends, discussing our mutual interests in the Chinese culture and experiences there, and his upbringing and education...So we spent the next 5 hours talking about kids, life and the world...He is an intriguing person in his own right, and I know that our Ex-Pats who visit with him are very fortunate to have someone who can help them if ever the need arises...It's not easy for our fellow Americans to live abroad and conduct diplomatic relations when sometimes people in these different countries don't necessarily like us like green peas on a plate...Kudos to Dr. John...keep doing your great and wonderful works, Doc!!� I arrive in Seoul late at night, check into the Ramada Hotel, this time taking a TAXI and NO BUS that would drop me off at a Factory and tell me "this is Ramada"...I ended up meeting up with my former Host, Coach Chung, who is the former Men's and Women's Olympic Team coach from back in the 80's, and is now semi retired, still coaching on occasion in Japan, with the women's pro league over there...I wasn't sure if I was going to meet up with him or not, as he travels so much, but indeed I was able to speak to him...We ended up going to lunch nearby the hotel at a traditional-style Korean restaurant, which means that you sit with legs crossed OR slide them under the table, whatever is comfortable...His wife and one of his former National Women's Players joined us for lunch...wow, what a delight each course of lunch turned out to be: we only had 10 dishes, all fresh vegetables and tasty morsels that honestly, I couldn't tell you what it was, except it was very very good...Coach Chung asked me if I would have time to visit a Private High School for girls and do a clinic for the coaches there and players...I said "of course, I'd be happy to do this, Coach Chung...", and after lunch we were on our one hour drive to Seoul to the school and gym...

Korean Clinic: now keep in mind, this was not on my itinerary whatsoever, but when a friend/coach asks me "if" I could help him/her out, y'all know me well enough to understand how excited I was to share the game with them...We had a blast!! First off, we learned how to pass and cut and screen away better than they have been executing before, and of course I asked the coach if it were alright for me to revisit this simple fundamental, and she said "of course Coach tom..."...Anyway, this 3 person drill is an excellent Part Method exercise as it reinforces the fact that there are only 3 players involved in any half court play: The Passer/The Screener/The Receiver...each executed sequence is a discipline, from the correct pass to the Wing, to the Step Off and Screen Away to the Receiver stepping off and having a target to the Passer to receive the pass and now Jump Stop and Square Up for a shot attempt...When all of the kids rotate lines and learn the proper mechanics and disciplines from this Position Drill, we add a few more Offensive One on One moves and one can immediately see the improvement at each position...I am so happy the Head Coach was taking a video account of this clinic...Next we worked on Defensive Rebounding, as their coach told me that this is one of their biggest weaknesses...So we went 4 on 4 with me being the "shooter" with no Defender, and I saw right away what the problem was with her "top" 4 players/starters...they would WATCH the ball come off the rim FIRST and EXPECT someone else to REBOUND the ball, INSTEAD of anticipating the miss and getting the rebound themselves...The blockouts were pretty good for the most part, but the hesitation issue loomed as their nemesis in being consistent when it came to Defensive Rebounding skills...I have this saying, or perhaps someone else's, "There is no Hesitation in Anticipation"...From this drill I was asked by Coach Chung and the Head Coach of the girls team if I could introduce a Zone Offense vs. 2-3 Zone...well, I told them I have a simple Triangle Offense titled "Blue Stack High (www.Hooptactics.com)" that would really help them attach ANY and ALL half court zones...I introduced this without Defense in the beginning, slowly walking each player through the sequence and spacing areas of responsibilities, and then we put in 2 Defenders (on ball and on Post), then added another and finally all 5 Defenders...What we learned together was like painting by the numbers until finally the "artists" (players) began to free-stroke what they just learned...This was the BEST group of players at any level I've ever taught the Blue High Stack to that picked it up so quickly, and I attribute that to their outstanding Head Coach and her assistants...I later found out that this team was the #1 Girls team in Korean High Schools...What was the level of skills of these girls? They would be one of the Top 2 teams in the State of Washington 3-A...They're small overlall, but so quick and STRONG fundamentally in passing and ballhandling...very impressive...We finished the clinic, Coaches were thankful, happy as were the players and they all in English thanked me profusely...It was a very nice way to spend an off day in Seoul before the flight home on May 2nd...

Conclusion: Read a great book on this trip, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell...Great read and insightful reflections that help understand better the "world" we play in daily...The whole experience from beginning to end was an epic journey into cultures past, sports future presently and diplomacy at an unheralded level of respect and kindness...Wow...I thank Bridget Gersten, Dima, Jenya, Victor, Bear, Vlad (young translator in Yakutia, who spent a couple of years in Philly as an exchange student, helped me out alot during my stay in Yakutia), and of course, Tom Armbruster and his wife, Kathy...What a wonderful group of associates, co-workers and new friends that made this trip a complete success...I also want to give a "shoutout" to Lee Larson, The Larson Legacy, and a Clackamas, Happy Valley resident in Oregon, for his suggestions and support for Coaches Who Care, Intl. and our endeavors to teach coaches, parents and players about the game of basketball...Thank you very much...Excuse my "delay" in posting this blog entry so late upon my return, as I was waiting for the proper information regarding a couple of cities we visited in the Yakutsk Territory outside Yakutia...It is good to be home and in the gym again, doing what I enjoy the most: teaching kids in a gym about the game of basketball...Thanks for your patience with my musings and I hope you found it A-musing...Coach tom

Seattle, May 2nd...I have returned home via Korea and Canada today, happily accepting the itinerary that brought me home to the NW once again...I enjoyed immensely the last 3 plus weeks in the Far East of Russia, especially the last city on my clinics' visits...We spent 9 days in Yakutia, the Consul General, Mr. Tom Armbruster, his wife, Kathy, and Jenya, the Russian National who works in the State Department with Mr. Armbruster...

Yakutia, Capital City of Yakutsk, largest State in Russian Territories...Population: 250,000...Ethnic Origin: Eskimo...Language: Yakutsk, native tongue, and Russian...Resources: 2nd leading Diamond mining producer in the World (25% of the World's diamonds produced here); Gold, Silver and Oil are the largest producing minerals and fossil fuel in Russia...By the way, this territory has the largest collection of Fossil Tusks in the World...The Woolie Mammoths are originally from this area, meaning the indigenous people of Yakutsk have more knowledge and experience than most educated anthropologists (as to "where" to fine the bones, etc...)...Food Staple: Fish, fresh, naturally frozen and then eaten the same way, tasty too, I might add...potatoes, small spuds, but tasty tatters for sure...Weather: it was sunny for 8 out of 9 nine days, only being cloudy when I left on day nine...It was around 55-60 degrees, and in the evening, a little cooler in the evening, low 40's...Winter? Get ready for this: -70 F!!! That's right, MINUS 70 degrees Fahrenheit!! Imagine those wintry days and evenings...I can't even imagine, shucks, when I was in Changchun, China, last year, coaching in the CBA, the coldest I believe, it was close to 20 below there several times in the evening...so cold that my bones STILL remember, and funny thing was, when I heard about the "-70" my bones reverberated the same recall of anything minus Fahrenheit!! Remember, this area is known as the Perma Frost topography in the Far East of Russia...General Impression: the most wonderful culture I have ever encountered...you would not believe the warm smiles, shining countenance and hospitality of these indigenous people...truly amazing, they love life, culture and their Families very much...their rich history as a proud people and culture is intact and will be for many many years to come...

Before I begin my recount of this trip leg and clinics, I'm going to give you some ideas on the City of Yakutia and their highways also...and life as I saw it...

Business Opportunities:���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� a) Car Wash 4 months out of the year...every car, and I mean every vehicle is dirty, one because of the snow melt, and also because of the perma frost warming up on the surface, meaning lots of puddles, dirty streets and roads...

b) Shock absorbers and Springs shop: the chuckhole "capital" of the world is best described this way: every three feet there is a chuckhole, some deep, some not so, some with water (the real dangerous ones if traveling fast) and some not...the demanding affect on any vehicle though are the constant impacts to the frame of each vehicle, big and small, as they travel through and around this city...They never need to "post" the Speed Limit anywhere in this city, mainly because the chuckholes maintain an average speed of 20 or below...There are NO lowriders in this city, unless they're operating on low tires inflation...

c) Les Schwab Tires: now this business would never lose customers...even though most of the miles are driven in town and surrounding area, the constant pounding of dancing treads upon chuckhole after chuckhole, well you can only imagine this "Guaranty" goes by "Number of Chuckholes Visited" and not "mileage"...I saw more outside "blister" or "bubble" size bulges on front and back tires, I couldn't believe it...I guess they continue to drive the car under these conditions until they can't...

d) Sneakers and Boots Store: for sure, as you won't sell flip flops or sandals here...I think most of the people can hardly wait to put on their sneakers again and get out of the wool inserts of their boots from Winter and early Spring weather...Nine Inch heels or 4" for that matter need not be imported, although I did hear a couple in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying...I figured that women bring a change of shoes to public places, rotate from boots to heels and hear their toes sing in unison: "free at last...free at last..."...

Crimes you won't see in Yakutia:�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� a) Purse Snatchers...Why? Because they would end up spraining an ankle trying to run away and cross any street that has chuckholes...

b) Bank Heists: with the average speed of vehicles 20mph, and the traffic lights not synchronized, any perp and his accomplice who is waiting in a car for the getaway, well, you can only imagine how helpless they would be 2 minutes after the crime...

c) Bike Stealing: unless you have a pair of pants that are fanny-packed with Condor Feathers from three dozen condors, you would...if a young man, quickly realizes that the effects of hitting, rolling and avoiding chuckholes is hazardous to your manhood, you might consider trying out for the choir because if you were a soprano before your crime, you became a canary voice afterwards...thus, there aren't many bikes in town here...

d) Pickpockets: when you have to dress with several layers of clothes for 9 months out of the year, you've got no shot at trying to lift anyone's wallet here...

e) Auto Thefts: most people leave their vehicles running, to keep them warm inside and the engine warm as well, and their doors locked as well...seems everyone knows each other, and if someone were to "take" a vehicle, they would be caught soon enough by the pockmarked sideroads and traffic congestion on the main thoroughfare...�

Where to begin: Chuckles...upon arrival by Yakutia Airlines, we arrived in the late afternoon, and were greeted by the local VIPs from the State Government's Office and other representatives that were with the Youth Sports Ministry Department...Okay, you gotta picture this scenario, a "newell classic" for sure...We taxi to the tarmac area, waiting, as there is no "ramp" for unloading, and a tractor hooks up to the front landing gear and backs our aircraft into a holding area...A stewardess comes to me, Tom Armbruster and his wife, and tells him in Russian (he speaks fluent Russian) and says we are to depart the packed plane first...Hmmm, I think to myself, this is interesting, being treated as VIPs in a foreign land, Russia, no less...So, Tom and his wife line up first, Jenya, translator, second, and me last...I had my hat on, as the wind was blowing a little bit, and I didn't want to mess up my hair for the cameras below...So, the first three step off the plane, then myself and LOW and behold, I hit my head on the door entry of the plane, so hard that the stewardesses caught me from behind, and I� soon saw a species of birds flying birds in my semi conscious state that I've never seen before, and thought "wow, this city has some strange looking birds...", until I realized that I had my "bell" rung...As I regained my unstable balance thanks to a couple of Russian stewardesses, I look out from the top of the portable ramp and see Policemen with bullet proof vests on holding what looks like Uzzis...a Brinks Van...a couple of more unmarked vans, and then several people below shaking the hands of Tom, his wife and Jenya...I slowly walk down the steps and still groggy, figure out that we must have some "security" arranged for our visit, and the VIPs that are greeting us must be the "ones" getting such protection...Wrong! It turns out that the plane was carrying a whole lotta of Rubles, not Rubies, and the Brinks Guards were there to unload and carefully guard the transport to the local bank...Whew, that was a relief...After meeting the luminaries on the tarmac, we were taken by private vans to our hotel, the Hotel Tyginn...Out of 5 Stars, I give it a Four Star for sure...Great rooms, service and restaurant...

Official Dinner: upon checking in, we had 15 mins. to "unwind" and walk next door to a very nice restaurant for an "Official" dinner with the Minister of Foreign Relations, Minister of Foreign Business and Development and a woman named, Anastasia, a Yakutsk Native, who lived in Fairbanks for 10 years, understood and spoke English very well, and her position in government was with the North Forum Administration, that was working with the US and other countries on a global initiative that dealt with economic, education and environmental issues...The dinner was a traditional cuisine from this region: frozen white fish, caught in sub zero temperature, preserved as such when filleted; another white frozen fish, small cut squares, eaten frozen, with a couple of special sauces, and lastly the main course, which was choice of a horse I'm sure I bet on one day and lost at Emerald Downs (which I passed upon), or fish...I chose fish, and it had a great egg souffle' mushroom cover on top of it, and let me tell you: it was deeeeelicious!! I coulda eaten two of them, but this was an "Official" dinner and I didn't want to embarrass my country and our Hosts...but I would have if offered...The visit by our Consul General there, was very very timely, as they were so thankful and happy to have him and his wife accept their invitation to visit their city...Tom Armbruster is a tremendous Patriot, representing our Democracy and values so well in foreign lands...He made immediate friends and fans of this VIP group, and we haven't even begun our agendas yet...Needless to say, the first evening was an indication that we were going to have a grrrrrrrrrrrrreat experience here...

The Week in Yakutia: April 21, morning meeting at the Minister's Office with our Consul General and their Minister of Foreign Relations...this was an hour meeting and then we went off to meet the Minister of Sports, for a short meeting and lunch with him as well...Both meetings were with the purpose of "developing" future relationships and contacts for improving relations and programs for Yakutia...I was so well received by the Minister of Sports (and all the government people as a matter of fact), as he said that basketball was a fast growing activity and that "we need to teach our coaches better methods so they can teach the players..."...well, those that know me, know that was music to my ears, as I love to teach coaches how to leach kids and right away, before my first coaches clinic was to take place two hours from now, I knew that this trip was going to be fantastic...and it was...

Basketball Clinic #1: April 21, Afternoon...there were close to 200 men, women and kids in attendance for my first session...I was told that we would have anywhere between 60-150 coaches and thankfully there were only around 45 total, and then 30 when the program completed the next day (many coaches were working and took lunch at the same time as the first session and could not do same next day...)...The team I had for demonstration were high school boys, ages 15-18...Good group of kids...labeled one kid "Kobe" as he was more "noticeable" than others in an outspoken way, and yet lacked the overall skills to be recognized as a "Star" player, but I went ahead and asked him if I could call him "Kobe", and of course he said in perfect English: "YES!!"...His twin brother was more subdued/humble in our two days, whereas "Kobe" was always telling others what to do, even if it were/was wrong, and the players followed..."Kobe" did so many pushups for us, I think he became the strongest players in 7 hours plus of clinic time on the floor...He finally "got" the picture that there is one voice, the coach's, and that if any corrections are to be made, it is by the coaches only...We got along well, and he ended up following me around to other venues to listen to my instructions...Guess discipline has a way of "connecting" even with the most outspoken individuals...He and his teammates were terrific models and had a great time, or so they tell me...The coaches in attendance were very attentive and anxious to learn how to "teach" players the proper fundamentals and how to develop players skills...Evidently, I am the first foreign coach and/or domestic (Moscow Pro coaches) to visit Yakutia in many many years, and teach the coaches there about the game...We learned many new simple lessons today and the following session, that I knew this would be another great experience in a different Far East Russian city...I presented simple warmup drills with the ball that would empower the kids to practice on their own without a gym necessary, and the importance of always incorporating combination drills that would enhance their overall skills both on offense and defense...They understood well and hopefully will implement into their practice plans...Want to hear something crazy? They only play 10 games ALL SEASON!! Can you imagine? They practice over 275 hours on the court, excluding game times, and I couldn't believe it...When I heard this, I told them they were very lucky to have such an impact in a teaching environment to prepare their students for 10 examinations...They laughed but were curious as to why I would be so supportive of fewer games and more practice times...Basically what I stated to them was this: if you have more time on the court with your team, then the "formula" for developing your system has a better chance to succeed than not, that your fundamental disciplines on offense and defense will always stand strong and be the foundation towards the team's success...They thought otherwise until I explained the thought process of "look at soccer...look at track and field...look at swimming, wrestling, even the local orchestra, they perform only once a week in some cases, and practice very hard and very long in between, so why can't your players be prepared for the same competition on a weekly basis? Herein is where the problem arose...NBA games are televised weekly there, 3-4 times a week, and the kids and coaches see how many games are played there (USA) and how many are played in their nation's Premiere League (2-3 per week) and wish they could play more also...Told them to relax, as coaches, as the fewer games you play, the less grief you get from parents!! They all laughed at that one!! It's the same universally: Kids want to play, play, play...Coaches want to practice, practice, practice...Parents want to win, win, win...and Officials want to quit, quit, quit...

Shaman and Assistants Bless our visit to the next city over from Yakutia: Okay, there are 8 people in a Van traveling for an hour and a half to a very small city named, Ogulesk (spelling is most definitely incorrect, sorry about that)...Along the two lane paved road that was similar to an hour and a half roller coaster ride that was semi-level and made us all feel like two of the four wheels (left driver side wheel and rear passenger side wheel) on our Van were missing...We endured remarkably well, as the topography was similar to the wide open range area of Montana with mountains in the far distance...spectacular, actually...So, we're low flyin along this highway and heading up this long hill to the top of a ridge, tall pines on both sides of the road now, pretty I am saying to myself...Then we stop alongside a relatively new wood framed single story building with a parking lot...We park to the side of the road, and Sergey, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Business Development, informs us in perfect English (remember, he studied at Oxford at the age of 16): "this is the boundary of the next city we are visiting for the clinics, and this is a Visitor's Center and we have a ceremony that is being presented to us by a Shaman and his support staff...This was all news to Tom and myself, as we were "along for the ride" and of course accepted this treat gladly...The Shaman is dressed in a Bearskin Hat, Pelt is definitely an Indigenous Eskimo, sculpted features, narrow eyes that sparkled, strong hands and a wonderful smile...He lights a fire to a handful of small kindling pieces in a fire pit, and then begins to chant and raise his hand with the Horsehair-end baton to all of us standing before him...His aides were holding these beautiful Chorons (hand carved wood bowls that for centuries were used for milk and water to drink from...These chorons, by the way, were gifts to me by our Hosts while in Yakutsk, and each one is different in size and touch, what an incredible culture...Back to the Shaman, so he finishes his words of prayer to the Spirits in the Valley, asking them to "bless" our kindness for coming to share with "our" people, "bless" our travels safely, and then he brings forward the ritual of drinking from the Chorons, fermented horse milk and having fresh baked flat bread, shaped like a roll, but completely flat, but oh-so-good...It was a like the Catholic tradition of communion is the only way to describe this experience...Once we finished this ritual, he asked us to turn towards the Sun and raise our arms high to accept now the blessings from the Great Spirit and in their Yakutsk native tongue, chant with him...I chanted like I was part of Sha Na Na, let me tell you...The Sun was warm, not a cloud in the sky and the moment was beyond a Kodak capture...Incredible...

The "next" Cities for clinics: We turn off the main highway (similar to the N/S Highway in Colorado) and enter into a small city, the name again of which I cannot share at this time, but will later in life, I'm sure)...This appearance had Tom and Kathy visiting with teachers and local leaders as well as students in a High School classroom to discuss American Diplomacy, commerce and language arts with the people in attendance, while I was across the road in the local and only community gymnasium addressing coaches (20 and kids and parents)...This group was lively in that the kids we had on the court as models were both boys and girls, ages 12-18...They were so excited to have this foreign coach who used to be in the NBA come to there village (less than 5.000 people), which I found out later that most of the kids in the cities I visited went online and found my name and basketball life through Google.com...The amazing "links" in life today that brings the worlds apart together...We were here for an hour and a half and then on to the next village...We arrive on the outskirts of the city limits about 45 mins. later, and again we pull off to the side of the road as there is a delegation awaiting our arrival...This time there is a Princess ('cause that's the way she was dressed: like a Princess), and she has a Choron with milk in it and a large loaf of bread that I will tell you now is BETTER than any San Francisco Sourdough that I've ever had, and I know my sourdough in the world of breads...The Mayor is in the group and he welcomes us as did is wife, and we each take a sip and break off a piece of bread and the "Official Welcome to our City" is on...The Mayor is Anglo in appearance, and a Yakutian resident, not your typical Indigenous Eskimo that is so prevalent in the Territory...We get back into the Van and Kathy Armbruster comments to me about how "good was that bread!!"...? I told her it may have been the best I've ever had, and Sergey must have overheard our comments because the next thing I know, we're in the Van and the bread is in my lap and we're encouraged to partake (gladly for sure)...That bread had about as much a chance of not being consumed by everyone in the Van as a hungry catfish finding a juicy worm that fell into a lake...This city, and please, forgive me on the name, I misplaced my itinerary and can't find the English translation of this city, so bear with me...The main resource coming out of this city is the gravel and concrete "pit" yards...It is a very small city by Yakutia comparison (population 10,000+/-)...the roads here are well paved (and rightly so...) and I think a car warranty would be "safe" in this city on wheels, windshields and mufflers because of it...We all accompany the Mayor and his wife and a couple of other people to a Tunisian-owned restaurant in the city, relatively new (4-6 years old) and have a wonderful lunch together and receive gifts from his Honor for this epic visit by the Amerikansts...We leave for the gymnasium that is 5 minutes away, and has just been completed in only 9 months of construction...It is built upon the perma frost as well, and the gym level is up two stories...They did a great job on design, simplicity and providing a venue for their youth sports and development...The floor was even, the hoops I had concerns about only because the brackets that anchor into the wall from the backboard would not hold a suspended baby's crib, and I ain't talkin about Twins!! The rims were NOT breakaways and the high school boys team that I used in this clinic had a couple of players who were 6'5", and I'm sure anxious to "see" if they could finally dunk on this hoop...As I explained after the clinic to their Director of Youth Sports, "be careful with this attachment to the wall and not having breakaway rims (wondered how that was translated to Russian?), as there will be someone or others who will try to "dunk" and accidentally hang on the rim and their weight will cause this basket to collapse..."...He smiled and looked and it dawned on him, that "yes, he is right, we will have that problem..."...Fingers crossed for him and the poor kid that gets caught with the rim around his neck...

Clinic: I had about 16 players, all high school age boys, and they were terrific models to use as demonstrators...It was funny, because most of the kids in this remote village looked like they came right out of Bellevue, Washington: blond hair, blue eyes or hazel, tall and lanky...Found out that there's been a large contingent of immigrants from Germany, Holland and Finland that had sought employment in this city (construction), and these children are the offspring example of global migration that would surprise you in this region...There were about 10-12 coaches, and at least 80 boys and girls in attendance, all very attentive to our visit...I was amazed to see the number of hands raised when I asked the proverbial question: "how many watch the NBA on TV here..."...90% of them acknowledged "yes"...Now THAT blew me away...Why? Because if that is the only model of American hoops they see each year, I think they're seeing a glorified level of athleticism, individual play and attitudes that aren't necessarily common in our country and organized programs (MS, HS and Intercollegiate)...we were on the court for two hours and it sure went by fast...we worked on ballhandling drills and passing drills that the players and coaches could easily implement on their own...We also did a combination drill, where we had a defender moving his feet on a half court slide versus the ball handler who had to change his dribble and direction after two bounces...Huge success...Tom Armbruster helped me here with the kids and we wrapped it up well...The Mayor and Director thanked us and told us how much they appreciated our visit...Another wonderful day in hoops heaven...

The Yakutsk Presidential Library: On our return trip to Vladivostok, we stopped off at the Presidential Library, designed and built for a former Russian Federation President, Yeltsin and a famous Yakutsk Scientist, Nikolai ...The venue was well designed and the collection of memorabilia is fantastic: all original letters from leaders around the world and personal gifts from same...We spent an hour ther and it was well worth the "stop"...

The Yakutsk Zoo: Now this is a place that PETA would not hold their annual fundraisers...The gentleman whose vision it was and is today, was our host and led us on a 50 min. tour of the outdoor reserve...By our North American standards, this would probably rank somewhere between 1-3 out of 10 stars...Keep in mind, this is a work in progress and the director is doing his best to build and create a more attractive and stable environment for the Indigenous Yakutians to "call" their own...I saw Russian Wolves, Big Brown Bears with big brown claws, Razorbacks (2) that were about as ugleeeeee as ugly could be described in Webster's...then there were the Rudolphs without red noses, some pure white, some without racks, but large and beautiful all the same...Saw some leopards also that were bigger than kitties...I was taken aback by the end, but Kathy Armbruster told me that "this is really a work in progress,tom, and he has a terrific idea and mind to replicate what he has seen in America and other Zoo cities on the planet...

Return to Yakutia and Celebration of Victory Day and Soldiers Memorial: Okay, you will now know that I am nutz for sure: I PLAYED in a game with other Russian Men, uniforms and all, along with Tom Armbruster, Consul General, who was on other team...I was selected by my newest "best" friend, Sergei, whose two sons, Valentin and older brother, name slipping my mind (like many other things these days), attended a basketball camp for two hours the day before...Sergei talked me into playing in this event and I agreed ONLY if Tom Armbruster played as well...I figured we both would be on the same team and do "our" thing to best represent the two man game and teamwork...Wrong...We both were on opposite sides and the way we set up this whole appearance and playing was that we could only play in the first qtr., as we both had to attend a Ceremony at the Opera House an hour later...Good thing for the "other" cultural demands away from hoops...it saved my heinie for sure...The Game: Okay, so I have a uniform with number and of course it's Red and White...nice silk...haven't worn something like this in about 30 years...The only issue were the shorts felt like they were designed by Nate Robinson, as they went below my knees about 8"...I changed that immediately by double rolling the beltline seam over and bringing the bottoms right above my knees...I mean how can one play with shorts that feel like someone is "scratching" your shinbones as you walk and run?? Now I KNOW I'm really old school, right?�� So we start the game and I told Sergei that if he were to pass the ball to me in Post Position and everyone move off the pass, screening for one another and all, I'd find someone open and pass to them...This translation was loss� somewhere between Moscow and Yakutia, because after a missed shot they would immediately start passing me the ball to bring it down court and that meant that I would be really working "overtime" in this exhibition...After about 4X up and down the court on missed or made shots, I stop at halfcourt and bend over and grab the bottom front of my silkies to catch my breath and identify the "shooting stars and planets" that were now in my vision..."...one of the referees stopped to ask me if I was okay, to which I replied: "I'm fine thank you, do you have an extra whistle? As I could help you now better than I can play..."...He laughed...First time I've ever had an Official "laugh" with me on the court as a player or bench coach...Kodak moment for sure...And his English was very good...My "planetary-moment" pause subsided and I resumed my cardio exercise by getting into the game again, both ends...I played the middle on our 2-1-2 Zone and pretended I was somebody I wasn't: Intimidator, Exterminator, Eliminator...No, I ended up being a pretty good "pretender"...I rebounded the ball in front of me, put my hands up on defense when drives came down the paint and acted like I knew I what I was doing, playing with players who had NO CLUE who this Amerikansk dude was who spoke no Russian at all...Fortunately, Sergei was the quintessential teammate: he was the team leader and made the team roll at both ends...At the end of the first quarter we were up by 14 points I believe, Tom Armbruster played well, but was on the "short" team in a figurative sense: only 5 players until the last 2 mins. of the 1st Qtr., and then only one player above 6'1"...Whereas we started 4 players including myself that were 6'3" and above, no taller than 6'5"...At the end of the qtr. and saying goodbye to Sergei and teammates, and his lovely wife, Olga and the boys, Tom and I hustled to the Van to go back to the hotel and shower and change our clothes for the event at the Opera House...

The Opera House: how's this for an "experience" as a spectator: nonstop perspiring for two hours on my part!! Seriously, I hustled back to the hotel, cleaned up, changed and on the way to the Opera House, I started sweating more and more, not dizzy or anything, just basically overheated from the exhibition less than 25 mins. ago...Fortunately, this episode brought back immediate memories of yesteryear when I was a youngin and use to play for hours and afterwards would find myself still sweating like an Arkansas Sweat Hog, so this meant after 30 years, NOTHING had changed in my metabolism and post workout recovery...I just sat there and kept wiping the beads off my forehead and neck, smiling left and right and telling those around me "I'm fine, thank you..."...Finally, after awards were presented by the President of Yakutsk to Leaders in the Community, I stopped sweating...Glory! And then the Opera and Entertainment of Cultural Artists began...What a treat that was...Most of the Hall emptied upon the conclusion of the Awards ceremony, but we stayed and I'm really happy we did that...Young and old, musicians, choirs, singers and variety acts all demonstrated great talents and made the whole experience of that day even more special...And when the curtain dropped, it was the end to my trip to Yakutia that began 7 days earlier...But I still had two more clinics to do the next day: high school boys and girls program for Basketball coaches at the schools in the region there (about 30 coaches)...went extremely well...and then in the afternoon another camp for kids only, ages 9-14, boys...This is where Sergie's oldest son participated and did well...We had about 50 kids in that setting, and my assistants were 3 coaches who attended my clinics earlier at the beginning of my trip...How blessed was I to have them there and volunteer with me...They did a GREAT job at the shooting stations we set up, perfectly demonstrating to each boy the proper mechanics that they had been taught by Coach Newell to teach kids...It is in that model to follow that reaffirms in my heart and mind that we're succeeding in teaching coaches how to teach kids basketball...Glory!!

Return to Seoul and on to the USA: the next day, April 30th, I left for Seoul, Korea, and accompanying me on my drive to the airport from Vladivostok, was the State Department's Resident (Beijing) Psychiatrist, Dr. John Stennett...We soon became newest best friends, discussing our mutual interests in the Chinese culture and experiences there, and his upbringing and education...So we spent the next 5 hours talking about kids, life and the world...He is an intriguing person in his own right, and I know that our Ex-Pats who visit with him are very fortunate to have someone who can help them if ever the need arises...It's not easy for our fellow Americans to live abroad and conduct diplomatic relations when sometimes people in these different countries don't necessarily like us like green peas on a plate...Kudos to Dr. John...keep doing your great and wonderful works, Doc!!� I arrive in Seoul late at night, check into the Ramada Hotel, this time taking a TAXI and NO BUS that would drop me off at a Factory and tell me "this is Ramada"...I ended up meeting up with my former Host, Coach Chung, who is the former Men's and Women's Olympic Team coach from back in the 80's, and is now semi retired, still coaching on occasion in Japan, with the women's pro league over there...I wasn't sure if I was going to meet up with him or not, as he travels so much, but indeed I was able to speak to him...We ended up going to lunch nearby the hotel at a traditional-style Korean restaurant, which means that you sit with legs crossed OR slide them under the table, whatever is comfortable...His wife and one of his former National Women's Players joined us for lunch...wow, what a delight each course of lunch turned out to be: we only had 10 dishes, all fresh vegetables and tasty morsels that honestly, I couldn't tell you what it was, except it was very very good...Coach Chung asked me if I would have time to visit a Private High School for girls and do a clinic for the coaches there and players...I said "of course, I'd be happy to do this, Coach Chung...", and after lunch we were on our one hour drive to Seoul to the school and gym...

Korean Clinic: now keep in mind, this was not on my itinerary whatsoever, but when a friend/coach asks me "if" I could help him/her out, y'all know me well enough to understand how excited I was to share the game with them...We had a blast!! First off, we learned how to pass and cut and screen away better than they have been executing before, and of course I asked the coach if it were alright for me to revisit this simple fundamental, and she said "of course Coach tom..."...Anyway, this 3 person drill is an excellent Part Method exercise as it reinforces the fact that there are only 3 players involved in any half court play: The Passer/The Screener/The Receiver...each executed sequence is a discipline, from the correct pass to the Wing, to the Step Off and Screen Away to the Receiver stepping off and having a target to the Passer to receive the pass and now Jump Stop and Square Up for a shot attempt...When all of the kids rotate lines and learn the proper mechanics and disciplines from this Position Drill, we add a few more Offensive One on One moves and one can immediately see the improvement at each position...I am so happy the Head Coach was taking a video account of this clinic...Next we worked on Defensive Rebounding, as their coach told me that this is one of their biggest weaknesses...So we went 4 on 4 with me being the "shooter" with no Defender, and I saw right away what the problem was with her "top" 4 players/starters...they would WATCH the ball come off the rim FIRST and EXPECT someone else to REBOUND the ball, INSTEAD of anticipating the miss and getting the rebound themselves...The blockouts were pretty good for the most part, but the hesitation issue loomed as their nemesis in being consistent when it came to Defensive Rebounding skills...I have this saying, or perhaps someone else's, "There is no Hesitation in Anticipation"...From this drill I was asked by Coach Chung and the Head Coach of the girls team if I could introduce a Zone Offense vs. 2-3 Zone...well, I told them I have a simple Triangle Offense titled "Blue Stack High (www.Hooptactics.com)" that would really help them attach ANY and ALL half court zones...I introduced this without Defense in the beginning, slowly walking each player through the sequence and spacing areas of responsibilities, and then we put in 2 Defenders (on ball and on Post), then added another and finally all 5 Defenders...What we learned together was like painting by the numbers until finally the "artists" (players) began to free-stroke what they just learned...This was the BEST group of players at any level I've ever taught the Blue High Stack to that picked it up so quickly, and I attribute that to their outstanding Head Coach and her assistants...I later found out that this team was the #1 Girls team in Korean High Schools...What was the level of skills of these girls? They would be one of the Top 2 teams in the State of Washington 3-A...They're small overlall, but so quick and STRONG fundamentally in passing and ballhandling...very impressive...We finished the clinic, Coaches were thankful, happy as were the players and they all in English thanked me profusely...It was a very nice way to spend an off day in Seoul before the flight home on May 2nd...

Conclusion: Read a great book on this trip, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell...Great read and insightful reflections that help understand better the "world" we play in daily...The whole experience from beginning to end was an epic journey into cultures past, sports future presently and diplomacy at an unheralded level of respect and kindness...Wow...I thank Bridget Gersten, Dima, Jenya, Victor, Bear, Vlad (young translator in Yakutia, who spent a couple of years in Philly as an exchange student, helped me out alot during my stay in Yakutia), and of course, Tom Armbruster and his wife, Kathy...What a wonderful group of associates, co-workers and new friends that made this trip a complete success...I also want to give a "shoutout" to Lee Larson, The Larson Legacy, and a Clackamas, Happy Valley resident in Oregon, for his suggestions and support for Coaches Who Care, Intl. and our endeavors to teach coaches, parents and players about the game of basketball...Thank you very much...Excuse my "delay" in posting this blog entry so late upon my return, as I was waiting for the proper information regarding a couple of cities we visited in the Yakutsk Territory outside Yakutia...It is good to be home and in the gym again, doing what I enjoy the most: teaching kids in a gym about the game of basketball...Thanks for your patience with my musings and I hope you found it A-musing...Coach tom

Area Coaches Answer Parents and Student's Questions and Help Understand Athletics Today

Family SportsLife Today presents the fourth annual symposium "Expectations and Revelations: an Insight to the Process of Intercollegiate Recruiting".

The symposium will be held Saturday May 30, 2009, in the Assembly Room of Hec Ed Pavilion. Registration begins at 8:45 AM and the program runs from 9:00 to 12:00 PM.  Directions are available here.

Representatives from the following programs will participate in a panel discussion and answer question on the subject of identifying prospects and how the process begins towards recruiting a high school student athlete.  This program is for parents and kids at the Middle School and High School levels of interscholastic sports. The symposium is FREE and refreshments will be provided. Canned food donations for Northwest Harvest will be accepted.

Panelists will include representatives from the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Northwest College, and St. Martins University.  Basketball, baseball, volleyball, and other sports will be represented.  Former athletes will also share their experience.

 

What's Next?

graduation hats What are the opportunities for college scholarships? How does the college recruitment process work? What if my son or daughter is not an athletic superstar? What options are available beyond division-I schools?  What about post-graduate opportunities?

Panelists will include:

  • Keith Cooper, St. Martin's Men's Basketball coach
  • NW University, Kirkland, NAIA Men's Coach John VanDyke
  • Dave Wainhouse, Seattle U's Assistant Baseball Coach
  • UW Men's Asst. Coach in basketball, Paul Fortier
  • representative from Seattle U's Men's basketball
  • Al Mustante, co-author of "Keep Playing!  The Six Step Game Plan"
  • Coach Barry Mestel, President of Winning Ways, Orlando, Florida

 SymposiumSymposiumSymposium

Special Thanks

  • This program is made possible by the following Community Support Programs:
  • University of Washington, Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Seattle Pacific University, Intercollegiate Athletics 
  • Seattle Sports Advisory Council
  • Coaches Who Care, Intl.
  • The Ram Restaurants 
  • FamilySportsLifeToday.com
  • All Panelists and Testimonials by former Student Athletes  

Seattle UniversityUniversity of WashingtonSt. MartinsSeattle Pacific University

About Family SportsLife Today
FamilySportsLifeToday
was founded in 2006 by former NBA Coach Tom Newell, high school Coach Guy Perry, and technologist Jay Arnold. FamilySportsLifeToday.com is dedicated to assisting volunteer coaches, parents and participants develop better teaching models and motivational methods, bringing families to improve the dynamic of the youth sports experience. FSLT provides Internet radio podcasts, news articles, documents and resources for youth coaches, parents and players at http://www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/

FamilySportsLifeToday organized the first televised basketball game with hoops raised to 11-feet in June 2007, kicking off a national discussion on the state of professional basketball. See http://www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/ForLoveOfGame

About Coach Tom Newell
Tom Newell was the first NBA coach to coach a Chinese Basketball Association team, the Jilin Northeast Tigers in 2007-2008.  Coach Newell blogged about the experience at http://www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/blogs/tigers  Previously, Newell was an Assistant Coach for the Seattle Supersonics, Director of Player Personnel for the Indiana Pacers, and Scout for the Golden State Warriors.  He also was an Assistant Coach for the WNBA's Portland Fire.