Heads up! Eyes open! Feet shoulder width apart! Flex at the knees! Balanced stance! Explode into your opponent! Face in the numbers! Wide base! Short, choppy steps! Drive! Drive! Drive!

I apologize to any Ilwaco residents that got awakened early Saturday morning listening to the above. Coach Kevin McNulty invited me to be a "Coach for the Day" at the fighting Fishermen's first football practice in full gear and I took advantage of the invitation.

What awesome kids. It was such a pleasure just being around them. High school football is absolutely the best preparation for life there is. Your kids have a rare opportunity in being coached and mentored by McNulty. Fishermen team rule number one is "Never let down a teammate," not x's and o's. Coach is teaching ethics, teamwork, respect and the value of hard work under the guise of football.

Right about now you're probably wondering what this has got to do with criminal justice? I don't blame you. It took me years to realize the connection. It comes down to the size of your team.

If we separate from each other and become our own specific "law enforcement team," guess what? We're viewed as opponents, even though that's the last thing we want to be.

Over the years I've learned is that it's far better to prevent a problem than to try to fix it later. Basic human needs drive us to be accepted and be recognized. You will find a way to accomplish those needs one way or the other.

Positive, healthy activities can fulfill those undeniable drives. It doesn't have to be sports. It can be choir, drama or just a group of friends who find common ground doing something good for themselves or others. The flip side is recognition and acceptance for negative or criminal activities from a gang.

We in law enforcement must be part of the community, not divided from it. Many members of our Sheriff's Office are involved as youth coaches, in school associations or community groups. The more opportunity we provide to healthy alternatives that encourage mentoring our children in positive activities, the better chance we give them to succeed.

Each of us has a role to play. We also have to be on the same team and just like the Fishermen, "Never let down a teammate." I guess our Sheriff's Office could be our offensive line, protecting the safety of you, our quarterback. We have to work together to succeed. I hope all the players heard my words in their sleep Saturday night. They certainly did on the field Someday they'll realize I wasn't talking football at all.

Keep your heads up and eyes open to see what and who is around you in life.

Be balanced in your pursuit of happiness; keep a firm, grounded foundation.

Explode into your endeavors. Don't be timid.

Confront your problems head on. Identify your goals and commit wholeheartedly in everything you do.

Rely on your fundamentals. Plan short-term goals that lead to long-term success. Believe in yourself and never, never quit.

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