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A lesson in fist pumps and breakfast cereal

MY ears were introduced to Dynamic Dan long before the rest of my body was.

MY ears were introduced to Dynamic Dan long before the rest of my body was.

Every few weeks, a man would come by the North Shore News office, prompting a couple of questions from me and my co-workers sitting within earshot of the meeting room:

Who is that man giving the ladies in our ad department a pep talk?

Does he come with volume control?

"That's Dynamic Dan," they'd say, as if no other explanation were needed. We'd follow up with just one more question:

Can you find another meeting room?

Independent of those adventures, the name Dan Miscisco started popping up on my sports section radar. Here was Miscisco winning a Sport B.C. Presidents' Award. There was Miscisco getting inducted into the B.C. Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Wait a minute," I thought to myself. "Maybe this Dan Miscisco fellow is Dynamic Dan. Maybe he's pep-talked his way into the hall of fame. Maybe I need to find out for myself. Maybe I should buy some earplugs."

To clear it all up once and for all, I signed up for a full Dynamic Dan experience. The North Vancouver Recreation Commission was running a two-day orientation session for its summer day camp instructors and Miscisco had the tough task of opening the session and pumping energy into a pack of teenagers and 20-somethings at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Before he started, I took him aside to clear a few things up:

Did he give himself the nickname Dynamic Dan?

Because everyone knows you can't trust someone who gives themselves their own nickname.

"No," he said.

Way back in the mists of time - or maybe it was the 1970s - a fellow teacher started calling him Dynamite Dan. Miscisco liked it and gave it just a little tweak to better suit his personal ethos.

Was that him giving my coworkers pep talks?

"When I visit people, it's important to share the energy and enthusiasm," he said. "I'm pretty excited all the time."

What about that volume control?

"There's surges," he said, the word "surges" zipping from his mouth like the sound a Ferrari gas pedal kicked to the floor. "There's little SURGES once in a while."

Luckily for the nervous and bleary-eyed kids sitting in the front row during his session, he offered a warning. Well, first he honked a bicycle horn, then he offered a warning:

"I will get excited; I will generate some enthusiasm, because I'm very passionate about what I do," he said. "Everything's OK. . . . Just relax and enjoy it."

What followed were 45 minutes that I will never forget. Well, I'll probably forget the exact words and concepts - some of it was a little hokey; some of it was business-speak; some of it was disjointed ("I've gotten sidetracked. My whole life I've been sidetracked!"); and some of it involved a very large bowl of cereal - but I will never forget watching one man fill a space with more sincere passion and energy for 45 minutes than most people can muster in an entire decade.

Also, he had prizes. Lots of prizes.

The kids stayed nervous at the start - the first question Miscisco fired out was greeted with shy nothingness - but it didn't take long for the first person to chirp up.

And then another.

And very soon the whole room was chirping.

His pleas for commitment, attitude and punctuality - "I never liked it when a teacher strolled into the school three minutes before class," said Miscisco, who retired from teaching in 2005, "And I told them about it. And then they didn't like me" - may have bordered on cheesy, but the young instructors bought every word of it.

"Bought it" is a good way of putting it, because as I watched Miscisco, it seemed as if I was watching the world's best salesman. Lucky for us he's not selling encyclopedias or ice cream - if he was we'd all weigh 600 pounds and Google would go out of business. Instead he sells fun, and energy, and spirit, and yelling.

"I wanted someone who could get them fired up," the session co-ordinator from the rec commission told me after the talk. "Also someone who could scare the crap out of them a little bit."

Miscisco holds his own sports camps all summer - check them out at www. dynamicdancamps.com - that run on fun, treats, and more fun.

I haven't been to one of his camps, so I won't vouch for them - in fact, Miscisco might not be up on all the latest coaching techniques: He is, after all, 68 years old.

But he's been running them for 43 years, so someone out there must like them.

He also brings in some of the North Shore's most talented young athletes as instructors.

If you're curious, I'd say find a way, somehow, somewhere, to get in a room with Dynamic Dan and ask him to tell you in five minutes what makes his camps special.

It might end up as 25 minutes, but it will be the best 25 minutes of your day.

The Dynamic Dan session I attended ended, hilariously, with a famous Tina Turner song.

"Wait for it, wait for it," Dan yelled as the song slowly swelled to its famous chorus. The big moment finally arrived, a three-word exclamation that sent chills down my spine, especially because it was accompanied by a 68-year-old bundle of pure energy screaming at the top of his lungs "Simply the BEST!" with a fist pumped in the air.

As I remember it now, still chuckling, I think of those three words, I think of Dynamic Dan, and nothing could be more fitting.

aprest@nsnews.com