When I wasn’t playing baseball while in high school, I was participating on the track team. It was a good sport for a skinny kid with really long legs — I could cover a lot of ground in a hurry. When I tried out for the team, the coach asked me what events I might be interested in. I gave him the response that I normally give — one that often gets me into trouble — which was, “what are you short on?” He told me that he desperately needed hurdlers. So, I became a hurdler. I did have the legs for it.

Whenever I leaf through the yearbook from my senior year, I cringe at the photo in it of me hurdling — I never really know whether to laugh or cry when I see it. The image captures me in mid-flight, with my arms flailing wildly. That’s because I had absolutely no form. There is a very good reason for that — I got virtually no coaching.

That’s not to say that our coach was lousy. Quite the contrary, in fact—he was a terrific track coach, one of the best in Chicago, and we all loved him. His area of expertise was the distance events, and every year my high school had several runners who ranked among the best in the area — in a few instances, they even medaled in the state meet. The hurdles, unfortunately, were not in his area of expertise. After I was shown the basics — three steps between hurdles, try not to crash into one — I mostly was on my own. I discovered soon enough that self-education isn’t the best approach to mastering the nuances of hurdling.

It could be well-argued that this is true of most things in life. Imagine what chaos would ensue if not for driver’s education. The learning curve shortens considerably — and the experience is far less painful — if someone who knows the ropes shows you how to do something. The School of Hard Knocks got its name for a very good reason.

Right now, there are a lot of public-safety agencies that are eager to deploy 700 MHz broadband networks because of the wondrous capabilities they will bring to first responders in the field. But these are uncharted waters fraught with hazards.

Tomorrow, Urgent Communications is hosting a webinar that will help you navigate those waters. It focuses on the BayWEB project, which is the nation’s first effort to build a 700 MHz, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network for first responders. The panel discussion features Laura Phillips, the executive director of the Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative, who is overseeing the project, and Gregory Ahern, the sheriff of Alameda County and the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional frequency coordinator, who is intimately involved in the effort. It will be moderated by Senior Writer Donny Jackson, who has been following BayWEB every step of the way.

I will never build a regional broadband communications network, but I’ll be tuning in. I want to learn how things are progressing and what they’ve learned so far. I think that would be useful information for anyone thinking about embarking on such a complex initiative, so I hope you’ll join me. I can tell you from experience that knowing exactly what hurdles stand in your path and having knowledgeable people tell you how to best clear them will get you to the finish line faster — and with a minimal amount of pain.

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