The United States demographic shows the highest concentration of Hmong people residing here in Minnesota. While this is factually true, a misconception many people believe is the idea that the more the population equals more potential in talents. To think and even consider that the embodiment of flag football teams are in California is hard to believe, as Minnesota teams outnumbered external teams 5 to 1 and yet, teams outside Minnesota has taken the last 3 national titles.
The latest team to accomplish this feat is a team from Fresno, California known as Lights-Out. They’ve debuted their first ever appearance in Minnesota and took this year’s national title.
Lights-Out is extraordinarily amazing, exemplifying the real meaning of teamwork, henceforth becoming the national champs claiming the coveted title that we view similar to the “Super bowl,” but for the Hmong people.
I had a chance to contact Jim Herr, the team’s coach and mentor. His forte is his ability to discipline his apprentices to become the obedient players they are. Sometimes some leaders lack capability of controlling their subordinates, which leads to communication breakdown, as a consequence havoc creeps as mutiny arises. So, if you’d like the tidbits to understanding leadership-listen up-this guy will teach you a thing or two about this subject and how he had played an important role in his team’s victory.
Hmoodle: Could you give our viewers a brief description of your coaching style?
Jim: My coaching style is similar to that of Bill Parcels, where I treat everyone the same during practices and in tournaments regardless of who you are. Basically, my style is to just play hard, stay focus, and limit your mistakes when on the playing field.
Hmoodle: Could you give a detail breakdown of how a typical day would be in a practice regimen that you have set up for your team?
Jim: Our typical day of practice consists of conditioning for 1 hour then our offensive and defensive teams practice for 1-2 hours before our full-contact live tournament style scrimmaging session between the offensive and defensive teams, which usually lasts for about another 1-2 hours. After practicing, before everyone leaves, we huddle up and get together for 30 minutes to an hour and just socialize.
Hmoodle: If you could put yourself in one of your player’s shoes, what would be the most likely thing he’d say about you? Be specific.
Jim: From a player’s perspective he would say that I’m very sociable because of my outgoing and energetic personality, plus they would say that I’m a great friend since that’s how our team started out before we were a team in this sport.
Hmoodle: In your more aggressive tactics as a coach, do you show any compassion to your players?
Jim: My critics say it’s aggressive, but I think my coaching tactics is more of being able to discipline my players because there are plays and rules we follow when playing in a tournament. For example, as one of my player I expect you to perform at your best level because of the preparation and time spent practicing. So, as a result, there should not be any mistake or misread in a game. Compassion is always shown towards my players from me. as they are my friends first before football players. That’s why my critics would say it’s aggressive, while we just go about our business playing great football with them wondering why anyone want to play for this guy?
Hmoodle: How extensive is your playbook? And is your team a running team or a passing team?
Jim: We have a very extensive playbook with new plays always being added. Matter of fact, it has to be extensive because I have seen verses of our playbook in Minnesota and around Fresno being used. But seriously our playbook is extensive because during the “Big Dance” we were only to be able to use about a quarter of our playbook only. How our team is constructed, I would say our team is a running team, but we are very capable of being a passing team too.
Hmoodle: Which players on your team would you like to recognize for their effort during the national title? Give me name(s), position(s) and why?
Jim: The whole teams’ effort needs to be recognized, but to narrow it down, I would like to recognize my wise veteran players that I have played with and against for about 10 plus years; James “The Big Show” Vangyi, our center, and Phai “The Iron Chef” Xiong, our right guard, are two great man that I am very honor to say I know and can call them friends. They are both the heart and soul of our offensive line and without their effort; Lights Out wouldn’t have been so successful during The Big Dance. Also two other veterans are my brother John “My Hips Don’t Lie” Herr, our quarterback, and Bruam “The Real TO” Her, our tightend, are two guys that shown during The Big Dance that they are great leaders and just simply leads by example. Because of John and Bruam, and their no nonsense leadership, Lights Out was able to just go out and execute.
Hmoodle: From a more veteran coach to a novice coach that’s just getting started in the game, what would be your number one advice?
Jim: My number one advice to a novice coach is being passive is good, but you also would need to be assertive too. Just be confident in your decision and its okay to be wrong sometimes. I’ll also give my number two advice because I feel that it is important to a novice coach. That advice is the saying, “There is no ‘I’ in the word team,” because football is a total team sport and everyone on the team, no matter if they are your starts to your benchwarmers, contributes to the success of the team. Just get rid of all the “Deons” or “Is” on your team and your team can grow and become a much better team. Trust me; there is no “Deons” in Lights Out!
Hmoodle: I’ve seen many teams lack the discipline that your team possesses as their strength, sometimes even seeing other teams playing as individuals instead of bonding as a team, how do you keep the unity between these young athletes?
Jim: Our team was constructed on the notion of being friends first and then establishing family second. Before anyone can be a part of Lights Out, I would tell them to get to know everyone on the team at a personal level and encourage them to be assertive and not so passive because we are a family. Things that we do as a team to keep the unity between us is participating in social events as a team/family (by encouraging everyone to participate). These social events can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner together; camping; fishing; playing paintball(every other month); going on trips; to even seeing a movie or just plain BBQ. Encouraging everyone to participate in these social events has been very beneficial to the success of Lights Out.
Hmoodle: Are you guys planning to make another trip to Minnesota in 2009 to defend your title as national champs?
Jim: Defending the national title in Minnesota 2009 is a must with no hesitation. Matters of fact, our air plane tickets have already been purchased!
Hmoodle: You were saying in our conversation earlier that you wanted to see more Minnesota or out of state teams compete in California, which teams would you like to see come to Fresno for an exhibition with your team?
Jim: Maybe the top 10 teams in Hmong Flag Football (X-Conns, IDK, Lunatics, Bombsquad, Stromriderz, and others), but just any Minnesota or out of state teams would be a pleasure to play against in California because that means no traveling and being able to sleep in my own bed.
Hmoodle: I know flag football was in hiatus for awhile in Fresno, California while it became a huge success in St. Paul, Minnesota but yet, Lights-Out was still able to outplay every team they’d faced. Puzzled by this amazement, my question is, what contributed to this success during the national event?
Jim: What contribute to the success during The Big Dance is just the team being able to stay focus and believe in themselves because they had worked hard in preparation and practicing.
Hmoodle: I’m an advocate of helping the youth in our community and from our brief conversation I think we share similar views, could you elaborate on how flag football or sports in general is helping the Hmong youth in America?
Jim: I believe flag football or sports in general is helping the Hmong youth in America because sports allows our youth to have another avenue of involvement and association with something that is not related to the streets. For example, in Fresno, during the mid 90s about 8 to 10 flag football teams with a maximum numbers of 15 + players compared to 8 to 10 street gangs with about 40 + gang members. Now that number has been switch around because of the interest of flag football and sports.
Hmoodle: Are there any teams out there locally or outside of Fresno that you see as a threat in your quest to defend your title in 2009? Give me name(s) and why you think so?
Jim: With the continue growth of flag football in our community; see every team out there as a threat because every team out there have the capability to be good.
Hmoodle: What is the total number of members in your team Lights-Out?
Jim: Lights Out consists of about 35 members.
Hmoodle: Is there a meaning to the name Lights-Out?
Jim: The name, “Lights Out”, is how our team wanted to play so we just went with that as our team name. Plus it sounds a lot better then, “Burning Desire”, can you imagine a team with that name winning The Big Dance. It could have happened.
Hmoodle: You mentioned earlier that you use to play flag football, for whom and how successful were you and your former team?
Jim: Rebelz, was the team that I used to play with. The team was form by a bunch of us from Pinedale, California. I was a player (WR,QB,RB,and FS)/ coach and we played together for about 10 to 15 years before going our own ways. Rebelz, I believe was very successful back in the days because we were able to accomplish a lot of our team goals.
Hmoodle: Lastly, is there anything you wanted to add to this interview or maybe just a word of advice, go ahead anything, even shout outs?
Jim: As the coach of Lights Out I would like to thank our family members such as the wives, brothers, sisters, and parents of each team members, who just gives us so much support and encouragement in every tournament we have played in. I would like to personally thank my uncle Dang Herr and his family members in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, for allowing us (three fourth of the team) a place to stay. Without my uncle Dang and my cousins; Jimmy and his wife, Billy, Joseph, Bobby, and Sheng, our trip to Minnesota this year would not have happened and I appreciate everything that you guys have done for Lights Out. I would also like to thank our sponsors; Red Speed Auto Performance, Vue Specialty, and Golden Key Reality and Mortgage, for their generous support and believing in Lights Out.
Flag football was more primitive during its initial rise, at a time when there were no referees, no rules as well as no true measurements on the field-it has now changed as popularity grew with the sport. The reminiscent of my adolescent years playing the sport to kill time during the long hot days of summer is now long gone and has been transformed into one of the most popular sport amongst the Hmong youth in America.
Flag football is taking over! Lights-Out came and made the unprecedented coup to take the 2008 national title back to their hometown Fresno, California without skipping a beat. Their reign as the champs won’t easily be forgotten as they fought the defending champs of 2 years, Sanstorms, and took them out effortlessly. This is the most dominating team I’ve ever seen and I hope they continue on with their success.
I would like to take the time to give thanks to Lights-Out and their coach Jim Herr for participating in this interview. I know it wasn’t a formal face-to-face interview but at the end, the good globalization of the handy electronic mail has its advantages. To all the Lights-Out players, keep on doing what you’re doing and hope to see you at the McMurray Field in St. Paul, Minnesota next July 4th tournament to defend your title as champs.
And to all the teams, players as well as organizations out there, should you have any question(s) or concern(s), please feel free to contact me at [email protected] Also, if you’d like to be our next feature please hit me up anytime, thanks.