Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for March, 2010

Head Coach as “Leader”

Posted by admin March - 30 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I have recently had the pleasure of communicating with Dr. Jim Chambers here in our area. He is the Founder and CEO of the Institute for Organizational Leadership. I would encourage you to check out his home page at his website
for his company.

Just browsing around the home page, there are some excellent “tid bits” for head coaches on Leadership. I have asked his permission to share a few of them; but I haven’t heard back from him yet to see if it’s OK. So… until then, I am publicizing his website so you guys can go check it out.

Be sure to note the names of several books that he recommends on Leadership. Just the synopses of the books were full of great information for me to chew on!

I bring to your attention the color diagram near the bottom of the page. This will be pertinent to any of you who are just taking over a program OR… are installing a new Offense or Defense. The diagram illustrates the components of “leading a change.” Good stuff!

If you are going to be an effective Head Coach, you must be an effective leader! There’s no way around it. People are going to follow your example. That’s why you were hired. You can’t expect others to follow if you do not possess the skills necessary to be a strong leader.

Reading information like what is presented on this I.O.L. website is critical to improving your skills. If you are looking for other sources, I would encourage you to purchase books by John Maxwell— another excellent author on “Leadership.”

I have just re-read a book by Donald T. Phillips entitled Lincoln On Leadership where he provides a lot of insight into the genius that was Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style and skills. In chapter 1, Phillips reveals a cornerstone of Lincoln’s personal leadership philosophy, an approach Phillips says ” would become part of a revolution in modern leadership thinking 100 years later when it was dubbed MBWA (Managing By Wandering Around) by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their 1982 book In Search of Excellence.

It’s the process of stepping out and interacting with people… of establishing human contact. A perfect example of this would be: Head Coaches… are you actively involved in your off-season weight program? Are you in that room every day… wandering around; talking to your players; helping to spot him on a lift; changing the plates on the bar; encouraging him when he’s struggling??? Leading is primarily paying attention! A positive outlook and a pleasant dispostion can yield valuable dividends for any leader. That’s not to say that Lincoln didn’t get tough when needed. If you are a student of the Civil War, you know that Lincoln spent about 3 years “looking for his Grant.” For you coach, that would be that one guy who can follow AND lead at the same time! He can take orders from you as the Head Coach but has enough confidence, tenacity and intiative that he can take control of his area of responsibility (for example, the weight room) so you are freed up to “wander around” and interact with your players. Lincoln had to go through almost a dozen generals before he found his Grant. He didn’t do this capriciously or with malice; he did it by getting out on the battlefield and “wandering around”— watching his generals in action. You would be wise to do the same thing!

“THAT Kid”– success story!

Posted by admin March - 26 - 2010 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

I love it when coaches write me in response to what I’ve shared here on the blog! This is a real life success story that the coach who wrote in said that I could share with all of you.

He wrote that they have one of “those kids”— just like what I described in the last post: “Talented, ignored at home! and a bit mischievous.” The coach went on to say that he told the boy that he was going to “stay on his butt!” and he has! Now get this, coaches: The coach even went to the parent conferences with the boy’s teachers. He has stayed in close contact with his teachers and if he misses an assignment, they let him know so he can get the boy to make up the work.

He is now passing all of his classes. He’s made 19 of 22 weight lifting work-outs so far this year whereas he only made 2 the entire off-season LAST year! When he’s had to miss, the boy has let the coach know beforehand.

As the coach was emailing me, he got a text from the boy that read: “Coach, I got a 90 on my Science test. Thanks for everything.” He had a 24 average in the class before the coach intervened— now his average is up to 76!

That’s the type of difference we can make in these kids’ lives if we are willing to “sow ourselves” into their lives. The coach also indicated to me that he knows he was called into coaching by God and it’s a joy to serve Him as he serves his athletes.

They don’t always turn out like this. There will be failures and disappointments. But… that doesn’t mean that you stop trying! There’s a poem that I remember reading a few years ago that dealt with situations just like that. I can’t quote it but it speaks to not giving up even when you do suffer failure… or people laugh at you… or others quit— don’t you quit! Keep reaching out to these young athletes.

Because we have Jesus living inside us through the power of His Holy Spirit… we may be the only Jesus that these boys see!

“Shine Jesus Shine!!! fill this land with the Father’s Glory. Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire!”

THAT Kid!!??!!

Posted by admin March - 23 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

If any of you watch the tv show Friday Night Lights, you have an appreciation for what the Coach goes through dealing with a talented player like Tim Riggins. Riggins is portrayed in the show as a team “leader”, great player but… off the field, he cuts class, drinks too much, skips practice from time to time and would be labeled as a “screw up” by most coaches! What do you do with a kid like this? A coach just emailed me recently asking the same question!

It’s THAT type of kid that you have to evaluate why you are in high school coaching. Because if you’re NOT in it for the kids, then you don’t need to read any further. My reaction would be: this is exactly the kind of kid that God called me into high school coaching for. I don’t have a “savior complex” but I do know that there are plenty of young men out there who are in this catagory. If we ignore them or simply get rid of them from our program, what have we done to try and help this boy get turned around?

The first thing I told the coach who wrote in for advice was: do NOT give this boy the impression that YOU (or anyone on your staff) is “giving up” on him. The coach indicated that when the player is there, he works his tail off in the weight room and is a model player! But, he often misses a day or two a week and has been caught with marijuana. He skips school regularly and is obviously being labeled an “at risk” student. What do you do?

When he’s there in your weight room, you make sure that others recognize how hard he works. If you want a behavior repeated, reward it. Public praise for working hard tends to get that work ethic repeated and eventually entrenched in the person’s character. If the boy knows he is going to get “stroked” when he’s in the weight room, he’ll likely make it a point to be there.

Put him in a position of leadership. Even if it’s just leading team flexes before you start your work-out, you’re getting him up front. You are trying to build the mind set in his head that you, as the coach, are someone that he can trust. You build a relationship where at some point, when a “teachable moment” occurs, you have “earned the right to be listened to.”

Obviously, you walk a fine line between expecting the same things from him that you do the others and cutting him some slack to build that trust. If it’s a school issue, then I believe the school has to take care of that (i.e., cutting class, disrespectful to teachers). If he is failing to uphold the standards you set in the weight room, then, yes, discipline is necessary. The last thing I’d do, though… with him or any of your players, is pass the “death sentence” on him— “No more weight-lifting for you Tim. You’re done! Get out and don’t come back.” At that point, you may be confirming in his mind exactly what he thinks of adult authority figures in his life: “Another one has given up on me!” He doesn’t see that he is the one who has caused you to discipline him. He might even be testing you to see how far he can push you. But when you stop “reaching out”, you’ve lost him.

I recall counseling a student who had an awful attitude and was nothing but a headache to his teachers and coaches. We talked one-on-one a number of times over a couple of months, but I just wasn’t getting through to him. I was becoming frustrated but I knew I couldn’t show it. One day I told him, “Ya know Mike… you’re not going to get rid of me no matter how negative you are. I’m going to be reaching out to you. (and I reached out my arm towards him as he sat across from me.) Now, Mike, you can either grab hold of my arm and we can try to get through this together OR… you can cut it off at the elbow. What is your choice Mike?” The boy sat there for a moment absorbing what I’d just said. He then got an evil little smirk on his face and replied, “Coach J, I choose to… cut it off!”

I was shocked and a little taken back by his unexpected response. Thank God that He (God’s Holy Spirit) was there for me (cuz I’m not good at those ‘quick responses’ that we need in the midst of a conversation— you know… those retorts you come up with 15 minutes later once the conversation is over and the person is gone??!!!!). I surprised myself with my response to Mike. I said, “That’s OK Mike… God will grow another one back!”

The guy graduated and I didn’t see him again for a couple of years until I ran into him one day in the Christian book store in our local mall. He recognized me and immediately walked over. I wasn’t sure how he was going to act; but, I smiled and said hello. He said, “Coach J., first I want to apologize. I never came back and told you the impact that what you said about continuing to reach out to me even though I was so rude to you that day in your office. I never forgot it. I wanted to come over and tell you that I am now a Christian. I met a wonderful girl at my church and we are getting married next year.”

I was blown away. Praise God! You never know the impact that one little encounter or one little statement can have on a person. If you’ve got one of “THOSE kids” in your football program, don’t give up on him. You don’t give him a free pass but you do recognize that this young man is hurting. Participating in your program may be the only positive thing happening in this boy’s life. If you kick him out, what impact can you have on him? God is the God of “second chances.” If the kid screws up, discipline him. But always let him know that you are willing to give him another chance. Yes, there may come a time when you have to cut him loose. If he is “infecting” the rest of your team (i.e., selling drugs in the locker room; getting other boys to skip work outs) then it may require you dismissing him from your program. But, I would encourage you to continue to stay in contact with him outside of football.

I’ve said it before… if you’re not in it (coaching) for the kids, you’re in it for the wrong reason.

In Christ,
Lew

Staff Unity

Posted by admin March - 19 - 2010 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

This question came from a coach who asked me to comment on a situation that’s occuring on the staff at his school. They have an assistant coach who is being contentious and hard to get along with… and doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t get along with the others. What should be done?

My first reaction is: guys, we don’t get paid enough money coaching HS football to have someone like this on the staff– who makes it no fun to come to work! Something needs to be done to change this situation. Nothing destroys a staff quicker than one “renegade” who doesn’t want to get on board with everyone else.

I discuss this in my book, 101 Little Things but it’s worth going over here. The first thing that needs to be done is to be sure that the HC is aware of how the rest of the staff feels. Don’t moan and groan behind the back of your HC when you need to be communicating with your HC what your concerns are. At that point, it’s up to the HC to decide how best to handle this. In my opinion, it needs to be dealt with up front and rapidly. The proverbial “one bad apple” can affect your entire staff.

As the HC, you will need to call this coach in and meet in private. It is best to find out what’s going on in his life before you “lower the boom.” He might reveal something going on at home that is affecting his relationships and attitude at the moment. It might give the HC some insight as he broaches the subject of concern. Jsut to be a listening ear may be just what the guy needs.

This is never easy (having to confront people) but it’s like the little cartoon that our school nurse has taped to her door. It shows a middle-aged man sitting on the table in the doctor’s office. The doctor’s comment is: “What fits your busy schedule better… exercising 1 hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?” Confrontation may be the only way to solve the problem.

You need to define the problem. He won’t be happy when you tell him what’s going on and what your concern is. He will probably become defensive… but hear him out. Again, there may be something there that will be uncovered. But, in most cases, you will have to lay down some guidelines in terms of the behavior you expect to see changed and set up a time table as to when you want the behavior changed. If he cannot or will not agree to the stipulations you lay down, you may have to terminate him right there. His job on your staff and respecting the chain of command that is an accepted part of any group/team/organization is being minimized by this person. You have just uncovered the tip of a potential iceberg. As I mentioned at the outset… you don’t make enough money nor is any one individual that indispensable that you have to put up with someone that makes coming to work an unpleasant situation.

I had 2 different situations where I had to confront a coach because he was causing dissention on our staff. One resulted in the coach being demoted to JV status. He was not happy with this move and subsequently walked off the practice field one day in August right in the middle of practice. The other time was tougher for me as HC because the guy was a good coach; a tireless worker; the kids seemed to like him and he was loyal to me. The problem was that he was one of those guys who didn’t care if he offended people. He was going to say what was on his mind and the heck with what you think of me. The other coaches brought their concern to me and I feared a near mutiny if I didn’t do something about this situation. As much as I would have liked to keep him, I knew that it would create too much division on the staff. I had to sacrifice one good guy for the good of the whole. No, it was not pleasant but I think the guy appreciated my honesty and we remain on good terms today.

Unity in your program needs to be a core value. I’m not saying that a coach may never disagree with what you want to do. There will be times that things may get a bit contentious. But when you leave the coach’s office, you present a united front and everyone stands together in public. It’s that guy who has to have everything his way and is right all the time— he begins to spread seeds of discord. For the sake of team and staff unity, unless he’s willing to change, he has to go.

“Don’t fuss… be thankful, Part 2

Posted by admin March - 16 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: “I AM BLIND, PLEASE HELP.” There were only a few coins in his hat.

A man was walking by. He looked at the sign, took a few coins out of his pocket and tossed them in the boy’s hat. He took the sign, turned it around and on the back wrote a few words. He placed the sign back on the wall so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. People walking by were giving a lot more money. That afternoon the man who changed the sign stopped by to see how things were going. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Are you the man who came by this morning and changed my sign? What did you write?”

The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said only in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it.”

Both signs told the people that the boy was blind. But the first sign merely stated that the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so lucky that they weren’t blind. Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?!

Moral of the story: BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE! Be creative. Be innovative. Think differently and think positively.

When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, show people that you have 1000 reasons to smile. Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for your future without fear. Keep the faith and drop the fear!

Just remember, God is near…. closer than you might ever realize. God bless you and your family. From a friend to a friend.

“Don’t fuss… be thankful!”

Posted by admin March - 15 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

A couple of coaching friends have written me to “vent” about their situation at their school; i.e., dealing with their weight program. One coach asked me to comment on “multi-sport athletes” as opposed to a boy playing only one sport. Good topic!

We encouraged our players to participate in other sports…. as long as the coach of that other sport reciprocates. If he wants to play “you can’t play with my toys!” game… then I let the AD know that we would be a little stingy too. But, for the sake of discussion… I think the more sports a kid can participate in (compete!) in, the better!

I think back to our top football players over the years and there were very few who did not compete in another sport… and did extremely well. I am not belittling the need for players to get bigger and stronger in our weight program, but the chance to compete at a high level in another sport is one of those factors that builds mental toughness. Several coaches have asked about how you develop “toughness” in your athletes. I think that mental toughness is the prerequisite for having physical toughness. You’ve got to work on their minds!!! Being put in those blocks at the start of the 200 m. dash “builds character.” Those athletes will have time during the summer to get something from your summer weightlifting if you set it up right. I liked for our guys to wrestle in the winter and run track in the spring. If they wanted to lift with us, that’s fine… but I encouraged them to consider how the other sports might help them for football.

Being at the middle school level for 2 years now (since retirement from HS coaching) I have gotten to see the “background” of how a lot of attitudes are developed in boys. For example, we had 3 “key” 8th graders this past fall, whom we were counting on to lead our team, decide to run Track last spring instead of lifting in our introductory weight program we have here. I found it interesting that they all seemed to keep coming up with excuses as to why they couldn’t run in the meets??!!! When it was time to “compete” this past fall, we saw some of the same aversion to “putting it on the line” in football… just as we had in Track!

I know that it is easy to get frustrated when you don’t feel like you’re getting the participation in your off-season weight program you want. The kids who aren’t doing ANYTHING are the ones you need to be concerned about. A little tip: get your players to exert some “positive peer pressure” on those guys. You can talk till you’re blue in the face… but hearing it from their peers can work wonders. And it doesn’t have to be a team leader either. Sometimes it’s better to get a friend of theirs who’s made a commitment to lifting to talk with them.

Another factor: those (we’ll use basketball) players who play another sport and refuse to come out for football and/or weight training. The issue might be that “selfish” coach who won’t let his (basketball or wrestlers) players participate in another sport; i.e., football. Go talk to that coach and see if this is his policy or… is this just what the player is “perceiving” to be the pressure, or the threat, from that coach to play only his sport. I learned from my players that kids can easily misinterpret our statements. I used to tell players: “Ron, you need to be in the weight room.” Some thought it was a put-down (“you’re so skinny or weak that you NEED to lift weights!) and others misintrepeted it to mean that “you better be in the weight room or you won’t be playing football next year for us!” That’s why you need to talk to the coach. If you’re still not satisfied, try to set up a meeting with the coach, the player and you… so everyone can “hear” everyone.

It would help, if you have an uncooperative/selfish coach, to meet with that player’s parent and the player. I was always honest with parents but if you’ve got a 6’3 forward in basketball who could help you in football… call his parents and set up a meeting. How many 6’3 forwards are playing major college basketball??!!! Not many. But how many colleges would like a 6’3 wide receiver who can run and jump?!!! Great selling point. I had a 6’5 All State volleyball player and his dad approach me during the winter of the boy’s junior year. He wanted to try football before he graduated from high school. I knew that this was going to cause problems with the volleyball program so I told the AD exactly what had happened— the dad approaching me! I made an agreement with the boy. IF it was obvious after a week or so of pre-season practice that he just lacked the skills to help us in football, that I would “release” him so he could go back to the volleyball team. That seemed to help. Oh… the boy was outstanding and led our league in receptions that next fall with 9 TD catches– can you say “alley oop” pass in the red zone??!!!!

I would always let my AD and/or Principal know what’s going on. That selfish coach can also be a spiteful coach. You need to let the proper people know what’s going on and what you are doing about it. A good AD is going to encourage the athletes in your school to participate in as many sports as possible. and… encourage coaches in the school to share. One motivator that our HS had was: if a student/athlete was a 3 letter winner for at least his/her junior and senior years, they receive a beautiful (large!) plaque honoring them for this achievement. They are called on stage at the end-of-the-year Awards Assembly so every athlete in school can see them receive their award.

Soooooooo… if you don’t have a couple of kids in your weight program that you would like to be in there— “Don’t fuss! be thankful!” Be thannkful for who IS in there with you and work like crazy to help them acieve their goals. When those other athletes see what’s happening with these weight lifters, they will take notice.

Blessings,
Lew

New Offense?!

Posted by admin March - 10 - 2010 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Coaches: I may be too late on this suggestion for some of you… but I was thinking about some of the “Little Things” that I bring out in my book that deal with the Off-season. One of them is Off-season staff meetings and… the topics that should be discussed. I recommend a monthly meeting (once a month) for the next 3 months to start planning ahead for the summer and pre-season. Our first meeting is always talking about Offense… since I’m the HC AND the OC!— I get first dibs on subjects!!!

The thought occurred to me that there may be some of you out there who are in the position I was in 1989. I’d been HC for 4 seasons and the best we’d done was 6-4 in the 3rd year but then fell back to 4-6. I knew that what we were trying to do on offense just wasn’t working. “A little of this and a little of that”… nothing solid that we could say was OUR offense. To make a long story short, a coaching friend of mine put my on to the Del. Wing T offense and, as they say, the rest is history! We went 5-5 and then 6-4 the first 2 years (till the staff and I became totally immersed in it and “sold” it to the kids. We even started painting our helmets with the Delaware Wings!) then for the next 17 years, we won almost 80% of our games. At one point, we had a 32 straight regular-season game winning streak.

What am I saying: coaches… if you are looking for the “answer” for your offensive problems, I would HIGHLY recommend that you go to the Delaware Wing T offense. I spent 5 hours last Friday evening then 9 hours on Saturday taping dvd’s for Championship Productions on “Back To the Basics”… an in-depth look at the traditional (original) Del. Wing T offense.

There is plenty of information out there right now, though… you don’t need to wait on the distribution of my dvd’s. If you’ve never checked it out, go to coach Bryan Schaumloffel’s website www.bucksweep.com and check it out… particularly the Message Board. There is no better group of coaches who are willing (and highly qualified) to answer your questions about the Del. Wing T and all of the “derivations” that have sprung from the traditional system.

If I can help you, feel free to email me by hitting the CONTACT button on the dashboard at the top of this page. I love to talk about 2 things: the Lord and football!

God bless you,
Lew

Don’t Miss the Boat!

Posted by admin March - 8 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

Guys: There are “destiny moments” when you have to make life-changing choices.

In the New Testament, it tells a story about one day when Jesus invited 2 people to join His team, but they both had their reasons for putting it off! One had a funeral to attend, another wanted to go home to explain his decision to his family. That’s the last we hear of them. The Gospel of Matthew records: “Then Jesus got into the boat and his disciples followed Him.” And the other 2 missed the boat!

You’ll never be successful if you’re forever putting things off. If you take too long to make up your mind about an opportunity, you’ll miss out on seizing it.

One of the best illustrations I’ve ever heard of this is the story about the patent of the telephone. In the 1870’s 2 men worked extensively on modifying and improving the telegraph system… which was the current technology. Both men had ideas for transmitting sound by wire, and both explored the transmission of the human voice electronically. What’s remarkable is that both men— Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray— filed their idea at the patent office on the same day, Feb. 14, 1876. Bell was the 5th person who filed a patent that day. Gray, on the other hand, got busy with other things so he sent his attorney. Unfortunately, the attorney arrived more than an hour after Bell, to apply for a caveat (a kind of declaration of intention to file a patent.) Those minutes cost Gray a fortune. Bell’s claim was upheld in court, even though Gray complained that he had come up with the idea first.

So…. it’s not enough to see your God-given opportunities, you have to seize them. In other words— don’t miss the boat!
Blessings,
Lew

Coach the Coaches!

Posted by admin March - 4 - 2010 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

I’m getting a lot of questions about what needs to be done at this time of year from head coaches trying to solidify things as we (finally!) begin to move towards Spring! One of the KEY things, in my mind, that needs to get done is to be sure that your individual staff members KNOW how to coach their position. Particulary if you have a new staff member, it is imperative as the head guy that you “coach your coaches” so that they know their assignments.

I am surprised that Head Coaches will strive to be sure that their players know their assignments and never take the time to teach and quiz their staff members to be sure that they know their assignments.

It starts with going over your over-all defense and offense. I’ve found assistant coaches who seem to feel that as long as they have a “pretty good” idea about the skills and drills involved in their position… that THAT is enough! HC’s: you need to be sure that everybody on your staff has at least a working knowledge of what your offensive and defensive packages are all about. You’re uncovering a potentially “lazy” assistant if he is only interested in learning his position and nothing more.

Once you feel comfortable with all of your coaches having that “overview”— you can begin to review and test (yes) each assistant on his position. There are 2 effective ways that I discovered to be sure that every assistant is ready to coach up his kids. 1- each coach has to take several quizzes on the different aspects of his position. For instance, my Off. Line coach has to take Blocking Rule quizzes on every series we run. Until he’s perfect on one series, we don’t move on to the next. Your LB coach has to be able to give back to you his LB’s alignments on all of your fronts; detailed description of your blitzes and the LB’s pass coverage responsibilities. 2- The second way to be sure that your assistants are ready (and this is one of my “101 Little Things” that I go into detail in my book) is each coach has to get up in front of the rest of the staff and, with the coaches role playing as “players”, the coach has to take the rest of the staff through a demonstration of his “core drill” sequence that he will use in practice.

You want to know why you haven’t been as successful as you’d hoped to have been in the past? Maybe it’s because you haven’t been “coaching your assistant coaches” like you should!

Please email me if you have any more questions about this or any other “little thing” subject.

In Christ,
Lew

Staff Unity

Posted by admin March - 2 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

It all starts at the top! As the head coach, you set the tone. If you want to achieve something (i.e., staff unity), YOU have to make sure that you are setting the example that you want everyone else to follow.

I have commented before about principles of warfare in game planning. If you want to learn about principles of leadership, there is no better place to go than to find manuals from the United States Marine Corps. Nobody does it better.

The Bible is pretty clear about principles of leadership too. It comes down to your desire and, thus, you ability to learn to work with others. The most effective head coaches are those who know how to work with people! Not “users” who burn through others and then discard them. Not “prima donnas” who manipulate them for their own purposes. Not “ranch bosses” who herd others around like cattle.

You need to develop a “heart” (and by that I’m talking about an inner desire— not something superficial) to honor other people. You should strive to be a HC who looks to recognize and develop the talent in those under you… on your staff and the players on your team. You need to reward them appropriately, encourage them to rise to their full potential and when the day comes, send them off better prepared for their next assignment.

So… why don’t we do this? Why are we reluctant to engage in teamwork? Because team-building is tough, and the more talented the team members, the tougher it is.

The true measure of a leader is not getting people to work; neither is it getting them to work hard. The true measure of a leader, in my opinion, is getting people to work hard together.

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