Friday, April 18, 2014

UCLA American Football Clinic

I attended my first UCLA Spring Football Clinic back in 1971 when Pepper Rodgers was their Head Coach. The Bruins were being introduced to what became a very successful version of the Wishbone offense, the first of its kind on the West Coast. They would be led by a JC transfer QB from Pierce College. His name was Mark Harmon. I wonder whatever happened to him after leaving UCLA?

Homer Smith was the Offensive Coordinator at that time, what an incredible football mind! 

Their line coach was a very young Terry Donahue who would eventually become the winningest Head Coach in Bruin history from 1976-1995 with a record of 151-74-8. At that 1971 clinic, Donahue gave what to me is still the best talk on offensive line fundamentals and the famous Crowther Sled Progession drills that I have ever heard. It was incredibly valuable information to this young and inexperienced coach at that time!

This past Friday and Saturday, I ventured down to Westwood to again learn some new concepts from both the UCLA staff and a line-up of very successful high school speakers from all over the USA.

Our list of speakers included:

Noel Mazzone, UCLA Offensive Coordinator
"Bruins' Up-Tempo Offense"

Verlon Dorminey, Trinity Christian Academy
Jacksonville, Florida
"Advanced Shotgun Unbalanced Wing-T Offense"

Jason Negro, St. John Bosco H.S.
Bellflower, California
"Strength and Conditioning - A Year Around Approach"

Dan Quinn, Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator
"Fast and Physical - Creating a Defensive Style"

Tony Sanchez, Bishop Gorman H.S.
Las Vegas, Nevada
"Defensive Drills for a Winning Edge"

Jason Mohns, Saguaro H.S.
Scottsdale, Arizona
"Inverted Option Reads in the Spread Run Game"

Troy Thomas, Crespi Carmelite H.S.
Encino, California
"Building a Culture"

Overall, these speakers did an outstanding job with their presentations and made the two days on the UCLA campus more than just a bit worthwhile.

One of the highlights was getting on the practice field to go over some of UCLA's basic position drills and see their passionate staff and players in action.

I have posted a series of videos from the Bruins practice session on Saturday that will not be visible if viewing them on a tablet or smart phone, only computers will do the trick.

Defensive Fit Drill

Slow paced but insures that players know where they fit into a defense and how this attention to Gap Integrity can stifle a running game

Kickoff versus . . .

 . . . Kickoff Return

The CLUB!!!

Punt vs. Punt Return

REALLY loud music at practice is now a staple at NCAA DI practices it seems. I could barely here myself but it is a must to keep the player energy up at practice and prepare for the eventual rowdy and hostile road environments that the Bruins will face this coming Fall.

Linebackers working on Agility
and Low Pad Level

Linebackers Shedding Cut Blocks 

Defensive Linemen Staying Low Too

DL Get-Off

Pass Rush: Club and Rip . . .

. . . with POWER!!!

Here is the DL Pass Rush Drill

It was SO much fun to see Coach Jim Mora's UCLA staff coaching with unbridled enthusiasm, passion, toughness and attention to fundamental details.

I think that UCLA will be a handful this year for the rest of the PAC-12.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


One of the fun things about our time coaching in Europe is the occasional hosting of old and new friends when they visit California.

The last two days were good ones as a former opponent and and also a teammate from Sicily, Arturo Sanchez, joined us with his wonderful girlfriend Yazmin.

Palermo Sharks vs. Catania Elephants

In our two games against the Sharks that year, Arturo passed for about 8,000 yards and 73 TDs in typical Italian Football League style. Somehow, we won both games that season by scores of 41-34 at home and 48-28 in Palermo, but I was still very impressed by the Arturo's poise, leadership and play.

In 2009, we got the the chance to hire Arturo to play for us in Catania at mid-season after an injury and "The Case of the Missing QB" as Dr. Watson would have named it, caused us to search for yet another QB, our fourth of the campaign, at mid-season.

Arturo answered the call, left his job in Mexico City and then helped us finish a tough season on some high notes.

 Arturo and George

With the lovely Yazmin

It was great to visit with them. GOOD PEOPLE!!!

Reading Is FUNdamental

A must read for all coaches in all sports, I believe.

Monday, April 7, 2014

40th Annual California Lutheran University Scandinavian Festival

On Saturday, Laurie and I headed up to Thousand Oaks to re-establish our deep cultural roots we grew regarding everything Nordic while in our wonderful six months living and coaching in Hässleholm, Sweden.

. . . or at least have some FIKA!!!

Lots of people wanted to enjoy a
sunny day in Scandinavia

Can you name the five Scandinavian countries? Answer at the end of this blog.

All the Nordic countries were represented,
these flags may give you a clue
to the question above

We got to hear each and every country's National Anthem to properly start the day off.

 SWEDEN #1!!!

 So many great people, places and memories!

Yes, we've been to beautiful Vinslöv . . .
"Plötsligt i Vinslöv."

Just after you entered the campus, you had to walk through a . . .


Boars are plentiful in Skåne

 Viking Weaver

How do they do it?

Viking Booty

Sleeping in Comfort 

 The 13th Warrior?

Something about him is just not
resonating as 100% authentic . . .

GREAT Storyteller

His tales of Thor, Loki and Giants had us absolutely spellbound.

Uh-oh, a Raiding Party on the prowl!

What was he looking for?

More Booty?

Why he raids!

 The Vikings were always in
need of more clogs I am told

Or perhaps they were in need of provisions . . .

Viking Dogs on the Grill

Sliced by a Master Viking Chef


Two orders of Swedish pancakes with whipped cream and lingonberry jam please.

While we were at it we also split a Viking Dog (nowhere near as good as the one's at the Finja games) and an order of Swedish meatballs, potatoes and even more lingonberry jam. 

Some coffee and a sweet Danish cinnamon crisp cookie and we had a California version of the Swedish tradition of afternoon FIKA!!!

It turned out to be a wonderful day!!!

Trivia question answer: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mike's 38th Birthday

Thursday, April 3, 2014 was another milestone day in Contreras family history . . .

The flowers were blooming

It IS Spring in Southern California after all.

Jacob was ready to orchestrate
the festivities

What festivities you ask?

Our youngest son Michael was
celebrating his 38th birthday Thursday

Why all of the little mustaches you say?

Well, take a close look at Michael
standing up on the right

Laurie broke out our FINEST China

Vanessa opted to take over the photography duties for the night, thus she is not to be seen in any of the photos of her husband's special day.

 "Hey Poppo . . ."

" . . . I have more hair than you!"

 DIG IN!!!

Laurie made a very tasty cake and the chocolate ice cream was a perfect compliment!

Two happy parents

So let me get this straight, we have two sons who are now 40 and 38 years old and two two year old grandsons. How can this be when mentally we think that we are still in our early 30s? 

Reading Is FUNdamental

This was my first dive into the world of author Clive Cussler. I found it to be, on the whole, somewhat average.

Live and learn.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eric Marty and the Small World of EuroBall

Wednesday night was the last of the Ventura County Football Association's annual Wednesday Night Football Clinics.

Our speaker last night was the Offensive Coordinator at Moorpark College, Eric Marty.

With Moorpark College
Coach Eric Marty

Eric being our clinic speaker was yet another example of the small world that is America football in Europe.

In 2009 when I was coaching Sicily's Catania Elephants in the Serie A Italian Football League, Eric was the QB of the Bolzano Giants.

Our teams met for a game in Catania on April 25th of that very difficult season for those of us wearing the Mt. Etna molten lava red and black uniforms. The Giants were 4-1 coming into that game while our beloved Elephants were struggling in every way possible as we kicked off with an 0-4 record.

Predictably, the Giants cruised to a 54-9 victory on that day, helped in no small part by their defense scoring and incredible four consecutive TDs off of Elephant miscues.

Flashing forward to the 2012 IFL season, Eric was now the QB of the Catania squad and them to a 10-2 record and a spot in the IFL's Super Bowl held in Varese that Laurie and I witnessed. Eric was asked to also play Free Safety and kick PATs that night. Unfortunately for our favorite Sicilan eleven, the Parma Panthers proved to be the better team that night in winning the National Championship in a typical Italian defensive struggle by a final count of 63-41.

Besides being a good guy, Eric is also a tremendous QB coach who gave a splendid talk that left all of us in attendance very happy with what he taught us.

Small world indeed . . .

Reading Is FUNdamental

Louis Zamperini
Now and Then

The incredible, real life story of former Torrance H.S., U.S.C. and American 1936 Olympic track star Louis Zamperini's amazing World War II survival after the crashing of his B-24 bomber in the Pacific Ocean, nearly 50 days adrift in a raft circled constantly by sharks and finally the hardships endured in a brutal prison camp. 

A truly excellent read.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jacob's Second Birthday Party

Grandson Jacob turned two years old last Tuesday so we had to wait until Saturday to properly celebrate his big day.

Laurie and Vanessa decided to go with a theme based on one of Jacob's favorite movies, "Cars."

Bounce House . . . CHECK

Motor Vehicles . . . CHECK

Balls . . . CHECK 

Banner . . . CHECK

Lightening McQueen Balloon . . . CHECK

 "Oh So Good for You" Cupcakes . . . CHECK

 Birthday Cake . . . CHECK

Kid's Name Tags . . . CHECK

Weird Beverages . . . CHECK

Weirder Beverages . . . CHECK

We were ready . . . 

Mike and I during
the calm just before the storm
Like Father . . .

. . . Like Son

Jacob experiencing some
Bounce House Balance Issues

Cousins Nicholas, Jacob and Nathan

 The Chick-fil-A Cow was in the house!

Their chicken nuggets were INCREDIBLE and, yes David Lassen, they were indeed "OH SO GOOD FOR YOU!!!"

Everybody loves a cow photo-op!!!

Mike, Moo, Jacob and Vanessa

Families were EVERYWHERE!!!

John, our Mailman, stopped by
for sustenance

Lovely Liliana

Nathan, WAY overdressed 

 Maverick wanted more of a "Planes" motif

Cousin Max with my sister Marilyn,
his Grandmother

 Ben Todd and Michael discussing the
long range effects of the Spanish Civil War

Laurie and my sister Linda arguing
who was a better racer,
Doc Hudson or Lightening McQueen

All of these kids in the house made
for an exhausting afternoon

I need a Pit Stop!

Kids, kids, kids . . .

I hope Jacob picked up a few grooming
tips from these two handsome boys

 The McQueen Mother on her Throne

Grandpa Tito on
Playground Supervision Duty

My Mom, Aunt Katie and Max

 Jacob just blew out the candle

 Checking out a six-week old party crasher

 Lots of presents!!!

Jacob's new TV Chair!

 Jacob's Aunt Elizabeth and
Grandma Laurie bouncing

Sad Moment rolling up the
Bounce House after
nine hours of continual use

As I said earlier, exhausting but so much fun seeing lots of family and good friends. A BIG thanks to Laurie and Vanessa for going all out to make this day so special for Jacob!!!

Reading Is FUNdamental

Marco Polo, angelic script, plagues, cannibals, pirates, mysterious Angkor temples and mutant strains of bacteria . . .

Sigma, Sigma, Sigma, Sigma, SIGMA!!!