COLONIE – Jason Blind just finished his first year as the Shaker High School boys bowling coach. He has coached football since 1992, starting in Maryland and then in the Capital District since 2004. He also coached lacrosse and is currently a lacrosse referee in the Capital District. While he coaches at Shaker, he is a school counselor in the South Colonie School District. He has been a high school counselor since 2001. He lives in Latham with his two sons Logan and Garrett, along with their dog Rosie. In his free time he enjoys golfing, and rooting for the Ravens and University of Maryland teams.
Q: Is there a sport you prefer to coach and why?
A: I think football is the sport I’ve consistently coached the most for a reason. I think the camaraderie and connection the kids make is special. As players, they truly count on each other and have to put their trust in one another. They may not be friends off the field but in the end, they have each others’ backs. As a football player, there are times that a player’s safety is literally in a teammate’s hands. That connection and trust is not built overnight. So seeing the kids come together and build that trust and connection with one another is special. You start the season and it is sweltering; you finish and it is freezing. From the start to the finish it is something a coach can take pride in. It might not always yield a championship team but a season can be judged by more than just wins and losses. Also, personally, I very much enjoy the chess match that football has, that is somewhat unique to the sport. To study another team through film or scouting, breaking down tendencies, strengths, weaknesses and planning out the strategy for the week is a mental exercise I enjoy. Then when it is game day, you can see how well the team was prepared for the contest. If the opponent had similar preparation then it comes down to who can adjust during the game and which team has the best positive mindset to be successful. I look back on my coaching career and some of my fondest memories are not when everything worked out exactly like what was planned but more about coming together as a staff and team and saying, ‘here is what we can do to be successful moving forward.’ It may be a personnel change or a scheme change … it could also just be a change to an approach or a mindset. In particular the past few years I’ve been reading more and more about the psychology of the game, building the mindset of the player.
Q: Each sport has a particular and somewhat unique physical skill set, but is there a common characteristic in some of the better athletes you have coached?
A: I love learning from others and hearing how they approach athletes. Taking over bowling from Mike Cavotta (retired in June) was an honor. The first three years of my oldest son, Logan, playing for him, he reminded me how important an athlete’s mindset can be. He is so great about refocusing kids. I’ve coached kids that have made it and played at the highest levels in their respective sports. To make it to the NFL or to be an all-American at any college level, you must have something in particular in my opinion. You must believe, and then you must act on that belief. Of course anyone can say they believe, but it is something different to truly believe in yourself and then act on that belief. I’ve had many players say they want to play in the NFL. I had one, the day I met him, say to me he was going to play in the NFL. That young man listened, learned and every decision he made was made towards achieving that goal. Yes, he made it there and had a terrific career. He had that belief, he saw himself making it, and then did what he needed to do. This year in bowling, I’ve tried to help the bowlers with improving their mindset, to believe. Talking to them about seeing their shot, envisioning their approach to the shot … that is what helps in building that belief. They say if you can envision it, you can do it. It is inevitable that they will not be perfect and in sports (bowling is no exception,) there are always outside factors that come into play and you have to be able to adjust. Adjusting or adapting to be successful instead of letting the moment take control of you is a very important next step.
Q: What is the one thing you try to instill in all the athletes you coach regardless of the sport?
A: Not everyone can make it to the NFL, not everyone can play in college, and not even everyone can be a varsity starter. Every student-athlete can have good sportsmanship and be a good citizen. Every student-athlete can work to be the best version of themselves in the classroom, the field, and in the community. That is definitely one of the many reasons I love coaching at Shaker and like that my sons are in great programs with leaders (Greg Sheeler and Shawn Hennessey) that believe this as well. We can’t expect kids to be perfect, just be their best and that will rise to different levels for each student-athlete. We all make mistakes on the field and in life. The key is to learn from those mistakes and be better. Social media can get a bad rap these days but one of the things I love about Facebook is that I can keep in touch with former players. I have some that are lawyers, teachers, health professionals, truck drivers, ministers, small business owners, military, etc … So many have become such great people and strong members of their community. It’s great when they reach out but I just love seeing who they are as parents, professionals and what they are doing in their community. Being the best them that they can be.
Q: In your role as counselor, how are the kids dealing with COVID? Do you think there will be any long term effects?
A: Wow, yeah this is a big one. First, I will say that I feel fortunate to work where I do. I know that every day at Colonie, the administration and counselors are working to stay open and bring more and more kids back into the building as much as we can. I know the administration at Shaker is working hard to stay open for in-person learning as well. Both of my sons go in-person every other day and I value how important it is for them to have some normalcy going to school and participating in activities. I realize not every family may have that ability or feel it is safe for their family for a variety of reasons, but the schools are working every day to make sure it is as safe as possible for those that can attend. Some students have adapted well to virtual or hybrid learning. Other students are struggling with the style of learning, building a routine and minimizing distractions while learning from home. There are such a variety of learners out there and we cannot expect that this will work for all of them. Some kids need hands-on learning. For those students, any class that has hands-on learning, it just isn’t the same experience that they want. I think education has evolved into really understanding that an all-in-one approach isn’t what works for students. We need to be able to address all the different learning styles and COVID has made that more difficult. All that said, I don’t think we will know the long term effects of this past year and a half of school that the kids have experienced. I know for years we were concerned about the amount of screen time the kids were exposed to with computers, TV, phones, and gaming. Now we have kids on the computer several hours a day for school. That has to have an effect on all ages of kids. Further, we are starting to see some Ascreen burnout.s I’ve talked to many teachers and students, there are great students and they are saying, they just can’t anymore. They are tired of the Zooms and Googlemeets. February break came at just the right time. I hope we will be back to normal in the fall because I fear we may be losing some kids. I have to imagine for the younger students they are missing out on that social emotional development that is so important at those young ages. For the secondary level students, I am concerned about learning gaps, particularly for those subjects that build on previous learning. I’m thinking of subjects like math and foreign language in particular. However, for all the subjects we can’t possibly think we are covering all the material and expect that students have the same depth of that material that we would have in a “normal” year. My job right now is really focused on helping the juniors start to plan and navigate their post graduate goals. In addition, we are greatly focused on making sure seniors finish strong and graduate, as well as making sure the freshmen and sophomores progress academically and addressing any mental health concerns that are being seen. This has been a challenging and stressful time for all those involved with schools, staff and students. Whenever I meet with a virtual student, I remind them to get outside, get some fresh air and exercise regardless of the topic we discussed. I miss seeing the hallways filled with kids talking to each other and laughing. Never know what you have until it’s gone.
Q: Who is your all-time favorite athlete and why?
A: When the Colts left Baltimore after the 1983 season, I had to find a new team to root for in the NFL. The Raiders were coming off a Super Bowl win vs Washington. They had just moved to Los Angeles a couple years earlier. I really liked Howie Long. He was tenacious and you could tell he worked hard. I had read an article about him and realized what an underdog he was and he was making it! He played college football at Villanova and back then they were awful. They were so bad, they dropped football right after his senior year. It just goes to show that if you are good enough they will find you! He had such a rough exterior and was such a fierce player on the field but also they showed what a family guy he was. I think he was the first athlete that I really got to know about more than just his stats. Back then it was different than today. Today, we can know everything about every player with the touch of a button. Back then kids just knew what they saw on TV. So as a 12-year -old to know the personal story was a first and obviously it made an impact. Still enjoy listening to him on Fox pregame show and also followed two of his sons who both played in the NFL.
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