Sunday, February 7, 2016


A team is only as strong as the season is long is a phrase I coined immediately after my debut season as a soccer coach.  The team was the Capital Classics, an Under 8 team in the First Division city leagues (an elite team at the time).    

Right after that first season and following my amateur soccer coaching career over the next decade coaching the RTO Crunch (First Division) RTO-X (First Division), and AEK (Men’s Premiere League), my coined a team is only as strong as a season is long became my guiding principle, my epiphany, and my reflections on any teams thereafter, be they sports or vocational or recreational. 

Here is what I know for sure about sports teams.  First, players are concerned about the amount of their playing time, and so are their parents!  For first-time parents and players onto sports teams, playing time is everything.  These players and parents could care less whether the team is performing or over-performing statistically poor or average or sensational.  They (players and parents) are only concerned about playing time.

Once the players have acquired the technical skills to become average or above average players, the parent and player concern shifts to team status, their team as compared to other teams in the league.  Competent and gifted players want to play on winning teams.  It’s that simple.  And usually, if a team is under-performing, the gifted players and their parents attribute the team lack of success to having too many not-so-gifted players (forgetting too soon that most of them were fitting, just a season ago, that same condition of novice).

It is for these two reasons why players leave teams, the first to get more playing time and hoping there is less frustration on another team, and the second to get more status and recognition, perceived by being on a team more worthy of their personal excellence.

For reasons of playing time and status and salary, even super athletes leave their teams.  Hockey superstar, Bobby Hull, left the Chicago Black-hawks for the Winnipeg Jets.  Soccer superstar, David Beckham, left Real Madrid to play for the star studded LA Galaxy.  Players, when given the opportunity, will leave their team for more glory and more money. 

Think about it.  How can an NHL coach who makes between a mere million a year (Dave Cameron) and 6 million smackers a year (Mike Babcock) control the on-ice antics of a star player who makes 16 million a year (Jon Captain Serious Toews and Sid The Kid Crosby)?

Aside from the complex social nuances betwixt coach and player, and player and team-mates, and their ever present worldwide celebrity reputations, the answer is a simple one:  The coach has total control of an athlete’s playing time in every game.  The graven principle to winning sport contests is to always have reason to start strong with the starters, and to save the lead by finishing with the starters.

From the applied and practical literal of my experience with sports teams, I’ll now move to the pragmatic realm of metaphor to my world of work and recreation.  A team is only as strong as the season is long; this applies to bands and to gigs, of course, to busking, and … to all aspects of our social being.  I’ll begin with bands.

I’ve been in lots of bands, my first being Sharie and the Shades, then to The Grand Trunk Troubadours, then to Sea Horse, then to Phantom Tide, then to Black Brook Tides, and now to The Familiar Strangers.

Sharie and the Shades, a sixties cover band, went for about two years, breaking up eventually because the guitarist and bass player and drummer wanted to rise in the Regina music scene.  As far as I know, only two of the original band members of Sharie and the Shades are still active in the musical community, my band mate, Judy (The Grand Trunk Troubadours) and me.  Being a singer in Sharie and the Shades was really cool.  It was my first band experience.  All of us donned shades (sunglasses) and sang sixties British Invasion tunes. (Sharie was the leader and keyboard player of the band.)

The Grand Trunk Troubadours (GTT), a community service cover band, has been doing approximately 40 gigs every year for the last dozen years.  We’ve been on the retirement community and community cause stage for quite some time.  Though sickness and death has taken some of the members, two of the originals (Judy and self) are still performing on a bi-monthly basis.  I love my GTT band-mates!  (The Grand Trunk Troubadours were formed by three of us upon graduation from voice training at the University of Regina Music Conservatory.  The Conservatory is situated on College Avenue, formerly 16th Avenue, formerly the site of the Grand Trunk Railway station.)

Performing for 31 consecutive days and evenings on the mean streets of Victoria, British Columbia, my son, Baron, and I were registered under the name, Sea Horse.  Baron and I still do busk lots, and whenever we have to register, we always still gallop into whatever city on the Sea Horse moniker.  I must confess that summertime buskation in Victoria was the game-changing epiphany for me -- I learned both the glorious romantic and the gritty realities of being a busker!  (Baron and I auditioned under the name, Sea Horse, for busk performing on the Inner Harbor at Victoria.  I thought Sea Horse to be the perfect band name because I fancied myself as a cowboy and we were busking along the sea coast.)

Darren, a guitar luthier and virtuoso, and past work colleague, and I formed a quick band, Phantom Tide, for a one-time bar gig.  Since that time, Darren and I have shared the stage several times, and will do so for many years to come.  Darren is a stage and soul mate (inside joke ... Can atheists be soul mates? ... now an outside joke).  (Another colleague but not a band mate, thought of the name, Phantom Tide.  A thank-you to Greg, for that.)

And then came Mark, and the three of us, Darren, Mark, and I created Black Brook Tides, for yet another bar gig.   Mark and I have performed together many times on the stage, sometimes with Darren and sometimes not (depending on whether we’ve kicked him out of the band – an inside joke ... every time there is a disagreement I, the wannabee manager, kick him out of the band ... now, too, an outside joke).  (I’ve been to Black Brook Beach, the most beautiful beach in my world so far.  Darren is from there!)

Professionally, I’ve three more gigs booked for this year (before busking season).  For all three gigs, first being the Sheldon Kennedy evening of Champions for Mental Health at the Conexus Arts Centre, and the other two at the Bushwakker Brewpub, I plan on playing the title, The Familiar Strangers. Like all the band names previous, I am really adultently (somewhere between adolescent and adult) excited about the new name, knowing full well the ethereal nature of nomenclature and bands.  Band-mates for that evening shall be Cory (bass), Mark (fiddle), and Darren (lead guitar).   

(Jeffery Straker’s band used to be called Jeffery Straker and The Handsome Strangers.  I know Jeffery and I loved that band name, finally asking and getting permission to use.  Go nuts with it, “Jeffery said.  Before re-claiming it I Googled “handsome strangers – band”.  To my dismay, there were too many bands already out there under the Handsome Strangers, including that of Amy Helm, daughter of Levon Helm.  And so I decided on The Familiar Strangers, a phrase used in Psychology to identify people with whom you share common ground at a seemingly prescribed time.  Familiar strangers are  those persons you greet every morning at your bus stop and/or those strangers you see every day in the gym, being just two such examples.)

A season is only as strong as the season is long has other life applications, besides members of sports groups and the bailiwick sense in bands.  I mean really, if the Beatles can't stay together then what are the odds of any band, other than the Rolling Stones, staying together. The divorce rate for couples in the Western world is 50%.  Your colleagues at work will dissipate over a five year course at a rate of 99%.  The odds are 100% that over the next decade all your neighbors will change (all it takes is a move).  A season is only as strong as the season is long applies, too, to familiar strangers, for they will come and go at the cloned residual rate of 100%.

I cite all of the above as my reasons for being a busker.  

In summertime I recuse myself from the complicated stages of band or any other membership ... to be a simple and content independent Americano-sipping, sidewalk guitar-slinger.



No comments:

Post a Comment