Tag Archives: Cozad Nebraska

Life is a Series of Callings…

anneagxc.jpgI believe that life is a series of callings.  Although my faith is deeply personal and generally manifests itself outside of church walls, my relationship with God leads me on the journey.  I followed my heart when I became involved in work to improve animal welfare for cattle and this same desire for positive change led me to coaching youth athletics.  Likely the only two things that these topics share in common is my passion to make a positive difference.

I had a brief foray into coaching immediately after graduating from college and moving to Nebraska.  I served in the volunteer role of assistant coach to the high school Cross Country team in the late 1990’s prior to the birth of my favorite brunette.  A busy life running a cattle feed yard and raising a young family took me away from coaching for about a decade, but life has a way of placing a person in the right place at the right time.

I had a wake up call the year that I turned 30 as I lost my health due to an autoimmune system disease.  The following five years provided a personal battle that reminded me how precious a gift each day truly is.  God has a way of putting life into perspective and, as I worked to regain my health, I found myself inspired to coach again — this time at the swimming pool.  Seven years later, with the help of the same awesome lady who guided me in my first foray of Haymaker XC coaching, our local community has a thriving recreational swim team where fitness and fun combine to teach life skills to almost 50 budding athletes.

This fall I took on an additional volunteer coaching gig — coming full circle back to the Haymaker Cross Country team.  Ironically, my favorite brunette is now a member of the team which makes me smile as I was eight months pregnant when I hung up my XC coaching hat the first time.  I am back on the Haymaker roster as an assistant which allows me to mentor just under thirty junior high and high school athletes on their quest for greatness.

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Coaching refills my cup — it touches my heart as I see God in the young people that I get to mentor.

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There is something so truly special in playing a leadership role in an athlete’s journey.  You learn to coach the athlete in the moment that they need you — filling each unique void — giving direction while also inspiring good independent decision making.  Athletics teach toughness, work ethic, empathy, and personal sacrifice.  They are about developing fitness: mental, emotional, and physical in order to work toward a common goal.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching a culture of greatness develop amongst teammates.

The Haymaker Cross Country team personifies all of these things, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it.  Like many coaches, I don’t coach for the win.  I coach for the athlete — focusing on developing personal life skills that create leaders.  The development of this positive culture brings the win, and it is so much sweeter when the athletes lead the way.

The calling of a coach is a special one.  It comes from a quest to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of the young people who will create the future.  When I see the athletes dig deep to persevere during competition or unselfishly reach out to teammates in need, I know that God is at work and my heart fills with optimism for all of those times yet to come.

Go Haymakers!

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, Coaching / Personal Growth, General, Rural Communities

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday.  All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.

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The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day.  Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.

Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts.  This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.  As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic.  I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.

While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice.  It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed.  Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges.  Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice.  Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.

For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges.  I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.

This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season.  The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals.  I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Go Haymakers!

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The Great Barn Quilt…

Business took me to Pender, Nebraska late this summer for a meeting.  I drove in the night before and arrived before sunset, so I put on my sneakers and went for a run around town.  Pender greeted me with a gorgeous display of “Barn Quilts”, and I left town the next afternoon enamored with the idea of a community wide Barn Quilt project.

Not long after my trip, I learned that my home county planned to participate in a Barn Quilt tour.  I quickly signed my favorite blonde cowgirl and her grandma up for a “how to” class.  Megan has loved to draw and paint patterns of shapes since she was old enough to hold a pen.

I believe in empowering my kids — coming up with projects that I know will fit their personalities — and then letting them fly.  No matter what the project, their work often leaves me in awe.

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We hung Megan’s first barn quilt at the feed yard on Saturday.  It is an 8′ X 8′ sign easily seen from HWY 30.  Anyone that knows Meg will see her personality in the sign, and I am confident that it will bring smiles to the faces of many travelers.

Apart from consulting with her engineer Daddy on the quilt layout (geometry) and spacing, Megan completed the project on her own.  I know that I am a biased mom, but the sign is just AWESOME!  I am looking forward to Barn Quilt #2 which is currently in the making and will hang on the shop/barn behind my house, and Barn Quilt #3 which will adorn our farm office building in downtown Cozad.

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I hope that Megan’s signs will be an inspiration to others in my community to participate.

  • How wonderful would it be to have each business in downtown Cozad hang a barn quilt in their window?
  • How beautiful would it be for homeowners all around town to place them in their front yards?
  • How magical would it be for groups of young people in Cozad to make signs for their neighbors and those that are unable to make their own?
  • How awesome would it be for area farmers to hang large barn quilts on their barns and shop buildings all through the countryside to showcase pride in our heritage!

For more information on making a Barn Quilt, please contact the Cozad Chamber of Commerce or visit with Julie Geiger at the Prairie Point Junction quilt store in downtown Cozad.

What an inspirational way to showcase rural America!

 

 

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The Cozad Haymakers Embark On a Journey With FFA…

As a city raised “east coaster”, my first experience with FFA (Future Farmers of America) occurred as an adult several years after I went to work at the feed yard. As I became involved as a volunteer in agricultural advocacy work and the promotion of the Beef Quality Assurance program, my path began to cross with FFA instructors. Some of my favorite public speaking gigs have been with FFA students – sharing my story and answering questions from the best and the brightest that will soon be the future of agriculture.

I am excited to report that my home town of Cozad recently committed to building an FFA program in our school system. It is an honor for me to be involved in the process as a member of the community advisory group. While I truly believe that “it takes a community to raise a child”, I also believe that it takes a diverse blend of educators and community members to create situations where our young adults can increase their knowledge and skills in order to provide for the future.

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Where does my food come from? — appears to be the million dollar question in 2015. Food unites us: from the Nebraska farmer to the urban executive to the small town electrician. It unites us because, quite frankly, we all need to eat. The ability to create a program where students in my home town can both learn where their food comes from as well as how to grow it – today, and on into the future – is an incredible privilege.

Agriculture provides the heart of our town. The majority of our community members are involved in farming in a variety of venues. What excites the team builder in me the most is the ability to pair these savvy folks with the awesome set of teenagers that make up the Haymaker school community.  The journey involves a passionate FFA educator bridging together these experienced and skilled entrepreneurial tradesmen with the next generation of farmers.

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We believe in our designated journey. We have a calm and supportive ocean. We have a seaworthy ship. We just need a captain. The Cozad High School began taking applications for the FFA educator position last week. Please help to spread the word as we search for a passionate leader to navigate the journey. Contact Dustin Favinger at Cozad High School for more information.

308-784-2744 or dustin.favinger@cozadcityschools.net

Go Haymakers!

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In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle…

A college friend introduced me to the book, In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle, by Madeleine Blais more than twenty years ago. Based on an Amherst Lady Hurricanes high school basketball team in the mid-1990’s, the book is a tribute to hope, respect, and dedication to team. My friend was a member of that team, and her story influenced me greatly as I began my adult life.

Prior to this fall, I had not thought about the book in many years, but the 2015 Lady Haymaker Cross Country team brought those memories back full circle. A small team, led by an awesome coaching staff, defied the polls and walked away with numerous titles. Their accomplishments included bringing home the Nebraska Class C State Runner-up trophy last Friday.

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In Nebraska, Cross Country teams run 6 and score 4. Due to injuries, the Lady Haymakers ran 5 and scored 4. Demonstrating an impressive display of “pack running”, the top four girls finished the 5k race within 15 seconds of each other. Despite the fact that none of the girls received individual medals, their accomplishments garnered them the Runner-Up team trophy.

While there are many things about the state race that I will forever take with me, it is the look of determination on each girl’s face that warmed my heart the most. They had a goal. They believed. They trained. They built the muscle of hope just as they built physical fitness.

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And they persevered with greatness…

My oldest daughter led the team as each member competed with character, love for one another, and a deep respect for the sport. While the trophy that brought tears as well as smiles will now live in a cabinet in the Cozad High School, the joy that comes from building the team will travel in all of their hearts for the rest of their lives.

Haymaker Cross Country personifies a culture of excellence. The positive mental development of the athletes provides the true beauty of the program. Somewhere in the thousands of training miles under the leadership of head Coach Dustin Favinger, a bond is forged among the runners that transcends the physical.

It is truly a joy to witness…

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Throughout the season, I watched the girls “fill in” for each other during the races. They packed up tightly, running together and feeding of off the muscle of hope that beat deeply in their hearts. The girls tenaciously battled challenges, always determined to accomplish the prized end goal: a state team trophy.

As a parent, I cherish the life lessons that Ashley Grace learns pounding the running trail in search of excellence. Comraderie, self-discipline, and confidence all tie together creating the realization that true success occurs when selfless individual efforts forge together to create a team.

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I will never forget the smile on her face as she proudly held the trophy. It is the smile that results when hard work, determination, and hope provide the promise of victory.

That is the recipe for excellence – That is Haymaker Cross Country.

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The Lady Haymakers…

The fall run continues in Haymaker country.  Outside of the feed yard, you will find me at sporting events cheering on our community’s athletes.  Lest you all think that I am “sitting on my laurels” and letting my writing skills grow rusty, today I share a letter that I wrote to our Lady Haymaker athletes.  These awesome young women are in the heart of their fall sports seasons.

girlshaymakersportscollage.jpgDear Lady Haymakers,

When I became an honorary Lady Haymaker in June of 1996, I brought with me a desire to see women’s athletics rise to a new level of excellence in our town. As a lifelong athlete, I recognized the importance of sports in the development of personal growth and confidence.

Two decades later, I now realize the additional role that young athletes play in promoting community spirit. Quite simply, you are our greatest blessing. I have had the pleasure of coaching many of you in T ball, soccer, track and swim team as you started your athletic careers; and it brings me incredible pride to watch each of you find excellence as young women on the athletic field. As parents and community members, I think that sometimes we forget to tell you how important you are — to yourself, to your team, and to your town. You are a joy to watch, and every effort that you put forth representing us builds the future.

The road to excellence is not comfortable, but it is an amazing journey. Every race, every game, every competition is an opportunity to attain greatness. The fatigue, pain, and challenges that you face during competition provide you with the ability to gain strength. Hard work, tenacity, leadership and compassion enable your team to thrive. The confidence that comes with each victory not only brings incredible joy but also provides a basis of personal faith that will help to carry you the rest of your life.

The next few weeks will provide the finale of your fall sports season. Your successes this season have been plentiful, and the time now comes to: Finish Strong, Dig Deep, and Always, Always Believe! You have the talent, the determination, and the power to raise the bar — It is your effort that builds a culture of excellence as a Lady Haymaker.

I believe in you. Whether on the Golf course, the Softball field, the Volleyball court, or the Cross Country course —

  • Aim high
  • Compete with passion
  • Recognize that you can attain far more than you ever dreamed.
  • Unify together to embrace the challenge and fight for the victory.

It is in giving of yourself that you receive.

Your biggest fan,
Anne

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Winning the Day With Team Work and Faith…

Monday night our family trekked 60 miles north to watch the Cozad Haymaker Boy’s High School Basketball Team win the C1 District finals.  Their success earns them a chance at the Nebraska State C1 Basketball title next week.  My favorite farmer and I have been fans of our Haymaker basketball teams since moving back to Cozad in 1997, and this year the group of young men that represent our town have warmed my heart with an impressive search for excellence.

Faith, Perseverance, and teamwork propels them to achieve greatness...

Faith, Perseverance, and Teamwork propels them to achieve greatness…

Like many small town basketball teams, the Haymaker squad is made up of a cross section of athletes that call many different sports their own.  Each week during the long winter season, they don their Haymaker jerseys and take the court as their community cheers with passion.

The heart of our team is their ability to work together to achieve a common goal.  The unselfish mental and physical support that they offer to one another is truly remarkable.  They may not realize it, but this life skill is one that will bring them success for the rest of their lives.

Unity for the common goal and love for each other brings them success...

Unity for the common goal and love for each other brings them victory…

On the morning of the big game, one of the mothers of the players posted these words on her Facebook page:

There is an “F” word that is often easily said, but can seem so impossible to express: Faith. At times it can be buried so deeply, we wonder if we will ever be able to unearth it again. Faith can be difficult to find when faced with disappointments, worries, and sadness. However, those same times can be replaced with encouragement, joy, and a feeling of being content. And it’s all because of that “F” word: Faith.

Tomorrow night, two towns will come together to cheer their basketball teams on, one more time, during the 2013-2014 season. For one team, their season will end. For the other, it will be extended to the state tournament next weekend. I’m certain the phrase, “Have faith,” has been spoken, but has it really been expressed?

To our Cozad players: I have faith in your God-given talents and abilities, and know you will let them shine tomorrow night. I have faith in your peers, and know they will be with you, either in the stands or back home listening to the radio broadcast. I have faith in your teachers, who even though may not verbally wish you good luck, will be anxiously awaiting the outcome. I have faith in our coaching staff, who may have frustrated you at times, but did so with the intention of getting out of you what was needed. I have faith in your families, who have been with you on this journey, and will continue to be, regardless of the final score. Finally, I have faith in your biggest supporter….Jacob….who will encourage you, cheer for you, and be so proud to be sitting beside you on the Cozad bench.

The mother’s son, Jacob, transitioned from a star player to a fledgling coach when he sustained a life changing knee injury on the football field last fall.  While each one of our Haymaker athletes have given something special to our town this year, Jacob is my unspoken hero.

There was likely not a mother in attendance whose eyes weren't damp as Jacob cut the net...

There was likely not a mother in attendance whose eyes weren’t damp as Jacob cut the net…

  • It is his quiet presence that inspires bravery and unselfishness.
  • It is his mature guidance that creates strength of character and resilience.
  • It is his unwavering faith that guides his team to greatness.

    A gym full of small town community members that traveled the extra mile to cheer on their team...

    A gym full of small town community members that traveled the extra mile to cheer on their team…

Today I salute a special young man, a special team, and a special community.  I count my blessings to be able to call Cozad home.  It is in the heart of Rural America, and has a heart filled with people with tremendous faith.

Go Haymakers!

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Win The Day!

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A special thanks to Brian Bazata for all of the pictures that appear in this post…

The last time that the Cozad Haymaker Football Team brought home the State Championship title was the fall of 1991.  Twenty two years later, the Pitchfork Nation is rolling with a 12-0 record.  Our Boys of Fall head to the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium Tuesday to realize a community wide dream.

Congratulations to Coach Brian Cargill and his staff for inspiring our kids to greatness!

Congratulations to Coach Brian Cargill and his staff for inspiring our kids to greatness!

The 2013 Haymaker football players were young children when Matt and I moved to Cozad in 1997.  I remember watching many of them play catch with a football on the sidelines while their dads played flag football on a local recreation team with my favorite farmer.  Those years began the changing of the guard as one era of Haymaker players hung up their cleats and another learned a passion for the game.

Go Big C!

Go Big C!

The mantra for this year’s season is Win the Day.  I have watched these young men systematically dominate the competition one game at a time.  They play with heart—they play with pride—they play with brotherhood—they play to win.  Their confidence is contagious and they have turned our community into a family of believers.haymakerfootball6

The heart of a small town is its youth.  The community binds together to nurture its young people, and in return, the younger generation sparks optimism and creates sustainability for the town.  It is a beautiful partnership and one of the things that I love most about rural America.haymakerfootball5

When the Haymakers take the field each day, they know that they represent not just themselves but also the rest of the 4000 people that live in Cozad.  When they Win the Day, they bring not just victory but also hope for the future.  Each performance on game day demonstrates that hard work and faith are the foundations of successful teams—and successful communities.

Our boys of fall...

Our boys of fall…

My heart swells with pride as I watch these young men discover that Excellence is not an act, but a habit.

I am reminded that with each touchdown and sack that are made on the field, the heart of our town becomes just a little bit bigger and the future of our community simultaneously becomes just a little bit brighter.  Today I give a special shout out to the members of the 2013 Haymaker Football Team.haymakerfootball3

Thank you for all of your hard work and inspiration.  Be true to yourselves and play with pride.  I look forward to watching you Win the Day both Tuesday in Lincoln and each day for the rest of your lives!

Go Haymakers!

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