The Ride Home
BY JOHN O'SULLIVAN
One of the saddest things I had to do as a Director of Coaching for numerous soccer clubs was conduct exit interviews, meetings with players whom had decided to leave the club. Children quit sports for a litany of reasons, and my job was always to see what we could learn, so we could improve the experience for other children.
When I got these players alone, and asked them “what was your least favorite moment in sports?” I often got a very similar and sad answer: the ride home after the game.
Sad kid on soccer ball. It has always amazed me how a moment off the field can have such a detrimental effect on it, yet when we think about it, the toxicity of the ride home makes perfect sense. Emotions are high, disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion are heightened for both player and parent, yet many parents choose this moment to confront their child about a play, criticize them for having a poor game, and chastise their child, their teammates, their coach, and their opponents. There could not be a less teachable moment in your child’s sporting life then the ride home, yet it is often the moment that well intentioned parents decide to do all of their teaching.
One of the biggest problems on the ride home is that a simple question from you, often meant to encourage your own child, can be construed as an attack on a teammate or coach by your child. As Bruce Brown states in his book Teaching Character Through Sport, “athletes do not need adults to question their actions, the actions of other players, or the coach’s decisions concerning strategy or playing time.” A simple comment such as “Why does Jenny get all the shots?” may be meant to construe to your child that you think she is a good shooter who should also take shots, but is interpreted by your daughter that “Jenny is a ball hog!” Questions such as “Why does Billy always play goalie” or “Why does your team always play zone?” can just as easily undermine the coach’s authority, and again cause confusion and uncertainty for your child.
Many children indicated to me that parental actions and conversations after games made them feel as though their value and worth in their parents’ eyes was tied to their athletic performance, and the wins and losses of their team. Ask yourself whether you are quieter after a hard loss, or happier and more buoyant after a big win. Do you tend to criticize and dissect your child’s performance after a loss, but overlook many of the same mistakes because he or she won? If you see that you are doing this, even though your intentions may be well meaning, your child’s perceptions of your words and actions can be quite detrimental to their performance, and to your relationship.
One of the things that Coach Brown urges parents to be a source of confidence and comfort in situations such as when your child has played well in a loss, when your child has played poorly, and especially when your child has played very little or not at all. Even then, it is critically important that you do not bring the game up for them, as uninvited conversations may cause resentment in children. Give them the time and space to digest the game and recover physically and emotionally from a match. When your child is ready to bring the game up and talk about it, be a quiet and reflective listener, and make sure she can see the big picture and not just the outcome of a single event. Help her work through the game, and facilitate her growth and education by guiding her toward her own answers. Kids learn a lot when they realize things such as “we had a bad week of practice and coach told us this was coming” Most importantly says Brown, remember that your child always loves hearing you sincerely tell them “I love watching you play.”
The only exception to the above ‘Ride Home’ rule is when your child engages in behavior that you would not accept at home, such as spitting, cursing, assaulting an opponent, or disrespecting a coach or authority figure. In these cases you should initiate the conversation, not as a parent to an athlete, but as a parent to a child. Even then you must be careful and considerate of the emotions of the match, and choose your words wisely. Deal with the issue, and then put it to bed; do not use it as a segue to a discussion of the entire game.
Not every child is the same, and some children may want to discuss the game on the way home. My advice is let them bring it up, and let them end the conversation. if you are unsure, ask your kids whether they want to talk about the game, and honor their feelings and their position on this issue. There is nothing, aside from the unacceptable behavior mentioned above, that cannot be discussed at a later time. The best part is, you will likely have a far better conversation about it hours after a game, instead of minutes.
As many youth sports are entering the season of playoffs and state championships, emotions are higher than ever, stress and pressure are more prevalent, and it is crucial that you let the Ride Home belong to your son or daughter. They will thank you for it one day, that I promise.
TODAY, I MOURN THE DEATH OF A FORMER CELEBRITY
A clever and pointed obituary was written and published around the world. Evidently, it struck a chord with folks in Europe and Asia as well as America. I join these mourners, who grieve the loss of a once-loved celebrity. Hope you enjoy the memoir below…
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
Why the early bird gets the worm;
Life isn’t always fair;
And maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death
by his parents, Truth and Trust,
by his wife, Discretion,
by his daughter, Responsibility,
and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim
Pay Me For Doing Nothing
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
WHY HELICOPTER PARENTS PRODUCE BOOMERANG KIDS
By Tim Elmore
I spent the last few days studying thirty years of student trends and patterns. While both K-12 and Higher Education have gone through transitions—the greatest shift in three decades of childhood is the parents.
Parents are doing their job differently than they did forty years ago.
We’ve all heard the term, “Helicopter Parent.” It’s a title we’ve affectionately bestowed upon moms and dads who hover over their children, believing that their child needs their attention, their help, their insight or their power to make it in life. These parents are all too happy to leverage that power to pave the way for their child.
Social scientists have noted the results of helicopter parenting between 1985 and 2015:
When students reach college they are more immature, coddled by parents.
They are a generation that grew up without ever skinning their knees.
Few have felt the pain of real failure—hence, never developed resilience.
Many got “stickers and ribbons” for everything; everyone is above average.
It is common for parents to do a daily a wake-up call for their child in college.
These students want their college education to continue their “bubble life.”
What Has This Done to Kids as Emerging Adults?
The following are summaries of how it has affected millions of Millennials:
They have an inflated view of their accomplishments—60 percent even say their grades are not a “true reflection” of their work.
They have trouble with faculty, who are honest with them. Professors have requested their college hire a “Dean of Parents” to handle all the calls.
This trend led faculty to wrongfully commit “grade inflation” at a skyrocketing pace since 1970. In 1969, 7 percent made straight As. Today, it’s 41 percent.
They expect prizes and praises for required behavior—like in kindergarten, when they got a “Super Sitter” sticker, just for sitting still in class.
They feel entitled to passing marks—and even excellent marks—simply for attendance or for turning in average work. They are the “deserving” generation.
65% of college students admit to cheating. It isn’t because they’re immoral, but because they feel the pressure to get results for their parents.
They are still attached with an emotional umbilical cord to mom. One in five students calls home three or more times a day while in college.
Helicopters Produce Boomerangs
May I remind you of something you’ll want to consider as a parent or an educator? Helicopter Parents tend to produce “Boomerang Kids.” This was a term popularized by author Carl Pickhardt who wrote a book by this title in 2011.
Boomerang kids are children who leave the “nest” for college or other coming of age rituals, and who end up coming back home to reassess what will be next for them. These kids initially leave their parents’ homes, but end up “boomeranging” back once they’ve accomplished what they were sent out to do.
Should it be any surprise to us that this happens? The children of helicopter parents have never planned for the future on their own. It’s only natural that instead of planning for the future as college is coming to an end, they return back to mom and dad—the ones who have been there for every decision in their life thus far. Kathleen Shaputis’s 2004 book The Crowded Nest Syndrome: Surviving the Return of Adult Children, coined some of the phenomena that we now, a decade later, think of as a normal part of parenting. Later in 2015, NBC aired its first episode of “Crowded.” The tagline? “The Nest Wasn’t Empty for Long.”
A Parental Evaluation:
So, let’s do a little assessment on how we’re doing as adults today:
Helicopter Parent: Do you hover too much, over-functioning and controlling?
Snowplow Parent: Do you clear the path for your kid, making things easier?
Stealth Bomber Parent: Do you go beyond these with active confrontation?
In my book, Generation iY, I include an entire chapter on eight damaging parenting styles that our generation of parents practices far too often. I encourage you to read it as I attempt to provide a plan to ease off the controls and allow your student to mature and become self-sufficient.
Yet, here is the larger question: Do we even want this?
Do we prepare the path for the child instead of the child for the path because we secretly want our kids to remain dependent upon us? Because…it feels good to be needed and wanted? In the same way that many mothers utilized a “Nanny-Cam” in the nursery when their baby slept, parents are now requesting “Campus-Cams” to keep watch over their kids in college, as adults. While I understand the desire for campus safety, my question is: when will we cease being their “personal assistants” and empower them to grow up and be adults? When is “easy” not the goal? When do we prepare them to face the music?
Do you really want a Boomerang for a child?
FOUR ESSENTIALS TO MOVE STUDENTS FROM APATHY TO EMPATHY
By Tim Elmore
I recently experienced a déjà vu moment. Both the moment and the original event happened on the same day. I know. Weird.
I was on a college campus, and overheard two students who vehemently disagreed with each other on a political issue. Of course, that’s nothing new. What was sad is that neither knew how to enjoy a civil discourse on a controversial subject. There was far more emotion than logic. There was more talking than listening. And there were far more tactics on how to catch the other person saying something incorrectly than finding a place of compromise or learning. Neither student wanted to improve themselves. They only wanted to prove themselves to be right.
I got home that night only to find adults doing the same thing on TV. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both were screaming at a crowd, with a lot more emotion than logic. I thought to myself—has it come to this? It’s no wonder our students display the conduct they do; look at their role models.
Empathy has gone AWOL.
Apathy Over Empathy
I recognize I’ve written about empathy before. I grieve over its decline today. What I’d like to discuss is how we build it back in our students and staff. If you’ve read our Generation iY book, you may remember I reported how The Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan completed a review of 72 studies of empathy among American college students. Each study used the same standardized test. The Institute found that in the last 15 years there’s been a drop of 40 percent in empathy among U.S. college students.
Instead, we see cyber-bullying—emotional arguments—social media feuds, rather than digging up data to see the best solution to dilemmas. While I love the students I meet each year, I see far more apathyon campuses than empathy. While I celebrate the community service and overseas trips that some of our young take, I only wish there were more opportunities available to expose this generation to other cultures. Part of maturation—is understanding and caring for a world beyond my own.
So whether you’re an educator, a coach, an employer, a youth worker or a parent, may I suggest four ingredients we can build into the lives of our young that actually are proven to increase empathy in them.
Four Ingredients that Move Students from Apathy to Empathy:
A number of neuro-scientific experiments have been conducted, where brains were scanned to study how empathy emerges. Neuroscientists, like Dr. Thomas Lewis of UCSF, remind us that empathy is taken from two roots:
Em – to be within
Pathos – to feel or suffer with
The brain researchers tell us in order to feel with others, we usually need margins in our day. In other words, if our schedules are absolutely jammed, our brains are fully stimulated. We play defense in our lives. We have no emotional space to feel with or for others. We’re in survival mode. The neuroscientists actually advocate for some planned “boredom time” to be included in our day.
Question: How can we help students simplify their schedule to create margins in their day? How can we enable them to not feel guilty, and be OK with boredom?
If students live in an affluent area, they can be disabled from feeling the pain of others. Why? They see relatively little pain, compared to those in a lower economic situation where hunger, lack, and struggle rule the day. Ethan Couch’s attorney argued he wasn’t able to respond morally since his family was so affluent. He had no needs with which to identify. He suffered from “affluenza.”
Humans tend to identify with what we see—pain or pleasure. One study reveals that touching rough surfaces increases discomfort in one’s surroundings, which triggers empathy, and even spurs donating to charities. The same brain regions that process our first-hand experiences of pain are also activated when we observe other people in pain.
Question: How can we expose our students to different situations, where pain and suffering exist? Where could you take them so they could see the pain of others?
Sometimes, exposure is not enough. We need to feel pain ourselves to understand it in others. When we are in an agreeable and comfortable situation, it is more difficult to empathize with another person’s suffering. At a neurobiological level—without a properly functioning supramarginal gyrus—our brain has a tough time putting itself in someone else’s shoes. My colleague, J.T., told me a counselor once asked him to imagine some of his most painful memories, before a session. When he asked why, the therapist explained that we cannot comprehend the pain of others unless we feel it in ourselves. Max Planck researchers demonstrated this with pairs of students. The participant who was confronted with either a pleasant or unpleasant stimuli could easily imagine how it felt for his partner. My own pain helps me empathize.
Question: How could we leverage the difficult and even painful experiences our students have had to cultivate empathy in them for others?
The final essential ingredient for building empathy is seeing it exemplified in others. People do what people see. When a leader models it, the sermon has been preached. What’s more, when a leader even tells a story of empathy, it can accelerate it in the listener. A team of scientists at Princeton, led by Uri Hasson, had a woman tell a story while in an MRI scanner. They recorded her story and monitored her brain activity as she spoke. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant thoughts or emotions in them.
A research team headed by Tania Singer reported, “When assessing our fellow humans, we use ourselves as a yardstick and tend to project our own emotional state onto others. While cognition research has already studied this phenomenon in detail, nothing is known about how it works on an emotional level.” Their work concluded that people will impose their own emotions onto others unless someone else demonstrates theirs via example or communicates it via story. We tend to grow empathy if we see examples or hear stories of it in others.
Question: How can you model more clearly the virtue of empathy each day? How can you find time to tell stories of those who’ve embodied empathy?
6 Swim Parent Tips to Navigate the Ups and Downs of Competition
Why do we get so emotionally involved in how fast our children swim across the pool? Have you ever stopped to watch parents faces at meets? You’ll see extreme pain, elation, frustration and everything in between.
We know there are many good reasons to take our kids to the pool and have them involved in youth sports. Life lessons are important, like learning how to fail, handling disappointments, how to be a good sport and how to manage time. With so many good reasons to have our kids swim, we need to check that we aren’t going overboard with our emotions and dampening our kids’ enthusiasm.
Here are a few tips to navigate the many ups and downs at a swim meet:
Don’t focus on winning or best times.
Celebrate when they do well. Cheer loudly for your swimmer and their friends, but don’t make the results be the end all, be all.
Remember, it’s their sport—not yours.
Sometimes parents feel the intensity of every stroke. Our muscles contract and we can feel exhausted when the swim is over. I know this from my own experience. But, no matter how fast I pace, how loud I yell, or how much my muscles are trying, I cannot swim the race for my child.
Rather than show your disappointment when a swim isn’t a best time, or your child got touched out, reflect on how hard they have tried. Be sure to commend them for their effort. Hard work is a trait we want them to gain from swimming.
Bring a good book or some work to catch up on. Don’t stay keyed up throughout the meet. During warm-ups and long hours between your child’s events, explore the area. Go for a walk. Check out local restaurants or coffee shops. Look at each meet as a fun place to be.
If you sit back and watch other parents yelling, jumping and screaming, you may say to yourself, “Boy, I’m sure glad that’s not me!” The meet is a giant spectacle if you step back and take a look at it.
Keep it fun.
If you’re enjoying yourself and having fun, your kids will have fun, too. Don’t be so serious. This is not life and death. It’s a swim meet! Love it and enjoy this part of your life.
What other tips do you have to navigate the ups and downs of competition?
Elizabeth Wickham. Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.
Five Changes I’d Make If I Could Parent Over Again
This month was a big turning point for my wife and me: we officially became “empty nesters.” In contemplating this new stage in life, we began to reflect on the good (and sometimes not-so-good) experiences we had as parents, on the times in which our parenting skills were tested.
What’s interesting is that throughout the years of working with adults, I’ve seen a unique pattern when it comes to parenting. Many tend to “over-protect and over-connect,” two acts that can potentially limit their kids from maturing properly. In light of these findings, I offer five changes I’d make if I could parent over again:
1. I would do less preventing and more preparing.
In our effort to ensure that our kids experience no major catastrophes in their childhood that could permanently damage their emotions, we find ourselves reminding them incessantly:
- Don’t forget your backpack.
- Don’t forget to take your meds.
- Don’t forget practice is at 4:00.
- Don’t forget your homework.
- Don’t forget your grandma’s birthday today.
Our goal is understandable. We want to prevent bad things from happening. When children are young, this is not only normal, it’s necessary. But by age ten, their brains have formed enough that they can (and should) take responsibility for many areas of their behavior. When we constantly remind them of important items, they tend to become dependent on others for things they should be taking ownership of themselves. We actually enable them to rely on others — and even blame others — when they should be learning to take responsibility for their life. This isn’t healthy.
Preparing children for the future means increasingly letting them get used to the weight of responsibility by not protecting them from the consequences of poor choices. Consequences are a natural part of life. In fact, our world is full of them, and they often come in the form of equations: if you do this, that will be the benefit; if you do that, this will be the consequence. Parents must consistently demonstrate and model these equations for their kids.
2. I would offer fewer explanations and more experiences.
Many parents I surveyed were predisposed to do the things I did. They gave lots of wisdom-filled talks to unsuspecting (and often ungrateful) children. They asked themselves, “Don’t kids realize the grief we’re sparing them from, if they’d only listen to our lectures?”
Looking back, I now see kids don’t learn well from a parent’s lecture. They do learn from engaging experiences, moments from which a parent can host a conversation and teach a life lesson. The need for a parent, then, is to cultivate environments and experiences for our kids to grow from. Our goal must shift from control to connect. Control is a myth—as any parent of a teenager will tell you. What they need are experiences that teach them how to operate effectively in the world.
When our kids are rescued or over-indulged, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can atrophy because they’re not exercised, so it’s our duty as parents to let them face measured hardships that ultimately help them grow. For example, I learned conflict resolution on a baseball field, where my friends and I had to umpire our own games; I learned discipline by tossing newspapers on driveways at 5:30 a.m. each morning; I learned patience sitting on a bench as a second-string basketball player; and I cultivated a work ethic closing a fast food restaurant each night at 11:00 p.m. Far too often today, parents safeguard kids from many of these experiences.
3. I would risk more and rescue less.
We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. Toxic. High voltage. Flammable. Slippery when wet. Steep curve ahead. Don’t walk. Hazard. This “safety first” preoccupation emerged over thirty years ago with the Tylenol scare and with children’s faces appearing on milk cartons. We became fearful for our kids, so we put knee-pads, safety belts and helmets on them… at the dinner table. (Just kidding on that one). The truth is, we’ve insulated our kids from anything that is risky.
Unfortunately, over-protecting our young people has had an adverse effect on them.
According to research from the University of Sheffield:
Children of risk-averse parents have lower test scores and are slightly less likely to attend college than offspring of parents with more tolerant attitudes toward risk … Aversion to risk may prevent parents from making inherently uncertain investments in their children’s human capital; it’s also possible that risk attitudes reflect cognitive ability, researchers say.
Sadly, adults continue to vote to remove playground equipment from parks so kids won’t have accidents, as well as request that teachers stop using red ink as they grade papers and even cease from using the word “no” in class. “It’s all too negative,” they say. Forgive me—but while I understand the intent to protect students, we are seriously failing at getting them ready for a world that is anything but risk-free.
As kids grow older, psychologists in Europe are discovering the adverse effects of this overprotection. Interviews reveal that young adults who grew up in risk-free environments are now fearful of normal risks because they never took any risks as kids. The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal — they may even need to skin their knee. Teens likely need to break up with a girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require.
4. I would be less concerned with schools and more with skills.
Many parents I’ve spoken to work hard to position their kids to get into the best colleges possible. We bought into the tradition that the right school guarantees a great career. What many don’t realize is that the rules are changing. More and more employers are begging for skills sets, sometimes soft-skills, that many graduates simply don’t possess. Nearly three-quarters of hiring managers complain that Millennials — even those with college degrees — aren’t prepared for the job market and lack an adequate “work ethic,” according to a survey from Bentley University. In other words, the jobs were ready, but the kids weren’t, and to be frank, I don’t know one employer who’s asking about GPA in the interview.
What our kids need are life skills, developed in earlier work experiences. These skills can’t be developed in a classroom, but in real tasks that require risk.
Childhood may be about safety and self-esteem, but as a student matures, risk and achievement are necessities in forming their identity and confidence. According to a study by University College London, risk-taking behavior peaks during adolescence. This is when they must learn, via experience, the consequences of certain behaviors. Our failure to let them risk this may explain why so many young adults still live at home, haven’t started their careers, or have yet to experience a serious relationship. Normal risk-taking at 14 or 15 would have prepared them for decisions that require risks, such as moving away from home, launching a career, or getting married.
5. I would spend less on possessions and more on perspective.
The number one growing demographic of at-risk kids are teens who come from upper-middle class homes. Why? The more resources they have, the less resourceful they become. Possessions without perspective can lead to real trouble. If I were to do the parenting thing over, I would reward less and rewind more. Instead of giving them all this stuff, I would take the time to debrief experiences and offer perspective on them. Less ribbons and more reality… offered with tender, loving care.
Over the years, I learned my kids needed an equal but opposite dose of both autonomy and responsibility. Whenever they requested autonomy (the ability to act independently and free from adult supervision), I needed to provide them an equal amount of responsibility. One without the other creates unhealthy young adults. If my son wanted to borrow the family car for the night, he needed to fill the tank with gas. Teens who get lots of autonomy with little or no responsibility become brats.
In summary, I would prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.
Creatures of Habit
We took our Senior 1 training group to a 4 way meet on Saturday. We have been in the water for a mere 3 weeks. We have always found that as a competitive swim team we serve our team well by going to a meet of some sort early in the training cycle. It gives the team and the coaches a chance to see “how things are going”.
We have altered our cycle a bit. The swimmers seem to like it, meaning they understand it and are applying themselves well. We actually had many fast swims compared to the same meet one year ago.
Of course, we also had a chance to see if behavior patterns have altered – for the better. Ken made the brilliant – he is the smart one in his family! (No offense intended) – Observation that many of our swimmers are creatures of habit. Indeed, the human race is comprised of “creatures of habit.”
When we get in a stressful situation, such as a race, we tend to revert to what we do on a regular basis in training. This highlights the real value of training. We often say that we race the way we train.
Case in point, if a swimmer folds his/her tent when the exhaustion point looms in practice, then in a meet the same thing occurs. The process may be as simple as, “I am beat. I have pushed hard for “X” amount of time or repeats and now I am cooked. I will back off to survive then regroup for the next repeat, set or workout.”
When that swimmer gets in a race and the same moment occurs, he/she doesn’t even have a chance to evaluate. He/she simply goes to the “default” position. A normal back off occurs and the race is “forfeited” in lieu of “trying another time/day” when presumably I will feel “more up to it.”
As coaches it is our responsibility to get our swimmers “over the hump”…to allow them to seek and fail and not be judgmental about their results. Rather they need to be recognized for their effort in pursuit of the process. We believe that coaches need to empower their athletes to be willing to seek the edges of their abilities and to willingly fail in order that they may learn how to stretch themselves further.
We are actually using competitive swimming to teach about how life works. If you are a creature of habit, and don’t acknowledge this fact, you are doomed to repeat your frustrations.
Don Swartz & Ken DeMont
What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One
Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: "What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"
Their overwhelming response: "The ride home from games with my parents."
The informal survey lasted three decades, initiated by two former longtime coaches who over time became staunch advocates for the player, for the adolescent, for the child. Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC are devoted to helping adults avoid becoming a nightmare sports parent, speaking at colleges, high schools and youth leagues to more than a million athletes, coaches and parents in the last 12 years.
Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame.
Their overwhelming response: "I love to watch you play."
There it is, from the mouths of babes who grew up to become college and professional athletes. Whether your child is just beginning T-ball or is a travel-team soccer all-star or survived the cuts for the high school varsity, parents take heed.
The vast majority of dads and moms that make rides home from games miserable for their children do so inadvertently. They aren't stereotypical horrendous sports parents, the ones who scream at referees, loudly second-guess coaches or berate their children. They are well-intentioned folks who can't help but initiate conversation about the contest before the sweat has dried on their child's uniform.
In the moments after a game, win or lose, kids desire distance. They make a rapid transition from athlete back to child. And they’d prefer if parents transitioned from spectator – or in many instances from coach – back to mom and dad. ASAP.
Brown (pictured below at podium), a high school and youth coach near Seattle for more than 30 years, says his research shows young athletes especially enjoy having their grandparents watch them perform.
"Overall, grandparents are more content than parents to simply enjoy watching the child participate," he says. "Kids recognize that."
A grandparent is more likely to offer a smile and a hug, say "I love watching you play," and leave it at that.
Meanwhile a parent might blurt out …
“Why did you swing at that high pitch when we talked about laying off it?"
"Stay focused even when you are on the bench.”
"You didn’t hustle back to your position on defense.”
"You would have won if the ref would have called that obvious foul.”
"Your coach didn't have the best team on the field when it mattered most.”
And on and on.
Sure, an element of truth might be evident in the remarks. But the young athlete doesn’t want to hear it immediately after the game. Not from a parent. Comments that undermine teammates, the coach or even officials run counter to everything the young player is taught. And instructional feedback was likely already mentioned by the coach.
"Let your child bring the game to you if they want to,” Brown says.
Brown and Miller, a longtime coach and college administrator, don't consider themselves experts, but instead use their platform to convey to parents what three generations of young athletes have told them.
"Everything we teach came from me asking players questions," Brown says. "When you have a trusting relationship with kids, you get honest answers. When you listen to young people speak from their heart, they offer a perspective that really resonates.”
So what’s the takeaway for parents?
"Sports is one of few places in a child's life where a parent can say, 'This is your thing,’ ” Miller says. "Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong.
"Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs."
And discussion on the ride home can be about a song on the radio or where to stop for a bite to eat. By the time you pull into the driveway, the relationship ought to have transformed from keenly interested spectator and athlete back to parent and child:
"We loved watching you play. … Now, how about that homework?"
FIVE SIGNS OF A NIGHTMARE SPORTS PARENT
Nearly 75 percent of kids who play organized sports quit by age 13. Some find that their skill level hits a plateau and the game is no longer fun. Others simply discover other interests. But too many promising young athletes turn away from sports because their parents become insufferable.
Even professional athletes can behave inappropriately when it comes to their children. David Beckham was recently ejected from a youth soccer field for questioning an official. New Orleans radio host Bobby Hebert, a former NFL quarterback, publicly dressed down LSU football coach Les Miles after Alabama defeated LSU in the BCS title game last month. Hebert was hardly unbiased: His son had recently lost his starting position at LSU.
Mom or dad, so loving and rational at home, can transform into an ogre at a game. A lot of kids internally reach the conclusion that if they quit the sport, maybe they'll get their dad or mom back.
As a sports parent, this is what you don't want to become. This is what you want to avoid:
• Overemphasizing sports at the expense of sportsmanship: The best athletes keep their emotions in check and perform at an even keel, win or lose. Parents demonstrative in showing displeasure during a contest are sending the wrong message. Encouragement is crucial -- especially when things aren’t going well on the field.
• Having different goals than your child: Brown and Miller suggest jotting down a list of what you want for your child during their sport season. Your son or daughter can do the same. Vastly different lists are a red flag. Kids generally want to have fun, enjoy time with their friends, improve their skills and win. Parents who write down “getting a scholarship” or “making the All-Star team” probably need to adjust their goals. “Athletes say their parents believe their role on the team is larger than what the athlete knows it to be,” Miller says.
• Treating your child differently after a loss than a win: Almost all parents love their children the same regardless of the outcome of a game. Yet often their behavior conveys something else. "Many young athletes indicate that conversations with their parents after a game somehow make them feel as if their value as a person was tied to playing time or winning,” Brown says.
• Undermining the coach: Young athletes need a single instructional voice during games. That voice has to be the coach. Kids who listen to their parents yelling instruction from the stands or even glancing at their parents for approval from the field are distracted and can't perform at a peak level. Second-guessing the coach on the ride home is just as insidious.
• Living your own athletic dream through your child: A sure sign is the parent taking credit when the child has done well. “We worked on that shot for weeks in the driveway,” or “You did it just like I showed you” Another symptom is when the outcome of a game means more to a parent than to the child. If you as a parent are still depressed by a loss when the child is already off playing with friends, remind yourself that it’s not your career and you have zero control over the outcome.
FIVE SIGNS OF AN IDEAL SPORTS PARENT
Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, Brown and Miller say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what to do:
• Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.
• Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.
• Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.
• Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.
• Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child's biggest fan. "Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers," Brown says.
And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: "I love watching you play."
The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg has written a potentially powerful book about The Power of Habit http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit. Thanks to Theresa for recommending it. We wish we could say we have finished it not yet and have understood everything read so far not yet. Perhaps when late August rolls around and we have more time.
One of the discussions centers on keystone habits. He writes, Keystone habits offer what is known within academic literature as small wins. They help other habits to flourish by creating new structures, and they establish cultures where change becomes contagious.
We think being able to change is huge when talking about making progress in life and competitive swimming. Without change everything stays the same or worse, is subject to the direction of the wind blowing in your life.
Duhigg discusses the impact that Bob Bowman had on Michael Phelps when he changed a few core routines and that the other more significant things fell into place.
He goes on to say, Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are a huge part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.
Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage, one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favors another small win.
Duhigg writes, Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.
As a coach that is exactly what our profession is about convincing our swimmers that bigger achievements are within reach. So how do we do that? Pick something small is what it sounds like to us. Do that really well and go from there. Pick something that has multiple impacts so that more than one good next thing happens.
We have had some success having our swimmers do vertical dolphin kicking holding a small weight plate. We are using 7.5 and 10 pound plates. We do 3 sets of 10 every 2 minutes, maybe 5 or 6 rounds. The first 2 sets they hold the plate on their chest, the 3rd set they hold it over their head (a lot heavier that way). We have several kids who can actually keep their chin at the surface on the 3rd set.
It is our idea that they are learning how to hold their breath while dolphin kicking a small win while simultaneously learning how to kick faster another small win. We will expect to see this move into their swimming as the summer unfolds.
Note that we have the breaststrokers and IM ers do breaststroke kick. They must finish each kick completely streamlined. It is a chore to do it correctly like most stuff we think the small win here is the ability to drive the kick at the end of the pull through, when they have held their breath for nearly 6 seconds and would love to grab some air prematurely.
But not all these small wins necessarily predict a logical outcome. Karl Weick http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_E._Weick is a prominent organizational psychologist. He writes, Small wins do not combine in a neat, linear, serial form, with each step being a demonstrable step closer to some predetermined goal. More common is the circumstance where small wins are scattered like miniature experiments that test implicit theories about resistance and opportunity and uncover both resources and barriers that were invisible before the situation was stirred up.
Human growth, it seems to us, is shaped by change. No change, no growth. Pick something small that you can do, and then commit to doing it until it is a new habit. Then you no longer have to think about it. It, the new behavior, has become you. Then move on from there.
See you at the pool hold your breath, or dolphin kick or do both at the same time! Or finish your stroke every time. Do it!
Don Swartz & Ken DeMont
What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents
By Ron Clark
Editor's note:Ron Clark, author of"The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers,"has been named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and was Oprah Winfrey's pick as her "Phenomenal Man." He founded The Ron Clark Academy, which educators from around the world have visited to learn. This article's massive social media response inspired CNN to follow up with Facebook users. Some of the best comments were featured in a gallery.
(CNN)-- This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.
I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."
Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.
So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?
10 things parents and teachers want each other to know
For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you're willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.
Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.
Please quit with all the excuses
And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.
His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.
Can you feel my pain?
Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.
Teachers vs. parents: Round two
Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor
And parents, you know, it's OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don't set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It's a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.
This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, "My child has a great teacher! He made all A's this year!"
Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal's office.
Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has "given" your child, you might need to realize your child "earned" those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.
And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.
Teachers walking on eggshells
I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.
My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a washcloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job. My mom, my very own mother, said, "Can you believe that woman did that?"
I felt hit in the gut. I honestly would have probably tried to get the mark off as well. To think that we might lose our jobs over something so minor is scary. Why would anyone want to enter our profession? If our teachers continue to feel threatened and scared, you will rob our schools of our best and handcuff our efforts to recruit tomorrow's outstanding educators.
Finally, deal with negative situations in a professional manner.
If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me." If you aren't happy with the result, then take your concerns to the principal, but above all else, never talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child. If he knows you don't respect her, he won't either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.
We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.
That's a teacher's promise, from me to you.
Team Character - What Do You Do At A Swim Meet?
Editor's Note to Parents: The following article is written for athletes. We are sending it to you for the simple reason that you know what coaches are expecting of athletes and we are hopeful for your support.
#1. Each individual needs to be self-reliant....this keeps any one person from dragging down others in any way.
#2. When #1 doesn't work, the TEAM picks up and helps the person who needs it.
#3. For just a few hours of a few days a year, we turn off our electronic "stuff" and focus on each other.
#4. We cheer for our teammates.
#5. We do all we can "realistically" to support each other.
Good swims get praise.
Ok Swims - we work to find the good things and learn from the bad.
Bad Swims - we help our teammates focus on the "next opportunity" which may come in minutes or a day later. Too late to mess with the past. No time.
#6. We are ALL responsible for creating the next great, inspiring swim by a teammate. CREATE SUCCESS, don't just "be a part of it".
#7. "if it's to be, it's up to me".
#8. "speak only to good effect."
#9. If you're not helping, you're hurting.
#10. Take care of the basics. Warm, dry, cool enough. Let those who need to focus, focus. Stay hydrated. Eat as NECESSARY, not as wanted.
#11. Take Extra goggles. Hoard extra team caps. Have both ready for when they break. Have an INDIVIDUAL PLAN to deal with these emergencies. (examples)
#12. Don't aid "pity parties". Everyone fails sometime. Get over it. Get on with it. Don't seek attention, don't drag others down. (including parents, this is about learning to cope with your own "stuff". )
#13.Plan your races. Have a plan. Don't wait for the coaches to devise one. Discuss it with the coach. Take RESPONSIBILITY for your performance.
#14. Warmup well. Loosen down well. More "next days" are ruined by poor end of night swimdowns than anything else. Don't be in such a rush that you don't warm down.
#15. SHOES (not flip-flops). Energy leaves the body through the arch in your foot. Don't let it. Support the arch.
#16. Be EARLY for warmup. You never know when "stuff happens". (parking, traffic, accidents, etc. Be EARLY.)
#17. Positive speech, positive attitudes, encouraging.
#18. Smiles. Fake it till you make it. You will get there.
#19. Don't dwell on swims good or bad. Learn what you can, celebrate for a short period, think of next swim. Plan.
#20. Mentally rehearse ONLY what you can control.
#21. Mentally rehearse events a week or so in advance, once a day. Do NOT do it the day of the event. Just turn your brain off and swim. First you are MINDFUL, which you should do most of the season, then limit yourself to one key thought, and then at championship time, turn the brain off and swim. (mindless swims...)
#22. EAT simple carbohydrates at the meet. And not MUCH at all. What you eat DAYS Before the meet is what actually fuels you at the meet. There is no magic to what you eat at the meet. Just don't upset your stomach.
#23. Be extraordinarily kind and polite to everyone around you. When you are "the best you", it rubs off and it pays off. Be at your best.
#24. Anyone being mean to you, is more focused on you than on themselves. You know where that leads. Don't fret it. Be cool.
#25. Strive for objectivity. THINK after the meet about what you could do better next time. Write it down.
#26. Nothing great was ever achieved by meekness...you have to be daring and have courage to approach races with enough bravado to be successful.
#27. When in doubt, get it front. We all swim better there.
#28. 200's are split, smooth fast first quarter, control the 2nd quarter, descend 3d quarter with power, descend 4th quarter with kick increase. (haven't kicked hard enough in practice to do that? ......good luck!)
#29. 100's are not won on the first 50. They are won on the 2nd50. Especially long course.
#30. To combat Cranial - Rectal Insertion Syndrome, focus on HELPING SOMEONE ELSE who needs it more. If you can't find someone, LOOK HARDER. You will.
You can't fix yourself by being inside yourself...the view isn't nice in there.
John Leonard is the Director of the Americans Swimming Coaches Association and a active swimming coach.
After you watch the video of this awesome swim go back and watch it again with a stopwatch in your hand and do some basic math. He is swimming about 100 yards of breaststroke. The other 100 yards are covered in his pull throughs. Except for the dive (about 6.1) he is underwater for about 5 seconds on average from the time his 2nd hand leaves the wall until his head breaks out. You have 8 walls x 5 seconds = 40 seconds for 100 yards. He is covering the remaining 100 yards on the surface in about 68 seconds, or less than 7 tenths of a second per yard travelled.
Also note how high he holds his hips prior to activating his kick. Talk about holding your line!
You can do the same thing with your 12 year olds or your 50 year olds. Do the math and then figure out how to swim fast enough for the remaining time needed to cover your specific distance in your specific time. Of course the same holds true for the other strokes and the IM.
You can then do some very specific time and distance per stroke training to get the feel of the demands of your goal swim.
Congratulations to Kevin on a fabulous swim and a shout out to his coaches at Arizona and Dave Krotiak at Fox Valley for setting this man up. What collaboration indeed!
Don Swartz & Ken DeMont
Rubbing Elbows With Success and Failure
Someone once said, “Wisdom and foolishness are nearly the same thing because they are indifferent to the opinions of others.” And so it was last Saturday when we asked our team for their best unrested times in 100 free plus another event if they had one…most did. We even used a 200 IM and cut it in half. We got everyone’s times and after a suitable warm up of about 1800 yards we went into another short set of about 1200 yards powering up a bit.
We then asked them to swim 8 x 100 from the blocks within 2 seconds of their best unrested time. There was no interval and they could go home as soon as they completed the task. We allowed another nearly 90 minutes of time. A couple got all 8 done using 8 attempts; a few needed 9 or 10; a few more got several of the 8; a few didn’t get but 1 or 2 while using 6-8 attempts. One even emailed after practice that her time had been wrong and after she looked it up she actually was 9 for 10!
What was more interesting than the times they swam was their reaction to the set before they even got on the blocks for the first one. You can imagine the self-talk…it ran the gamut from dread (“I’ll be here all afternoon”) to some excuses (“That set last night killed me” – we did Jack Baurle’s 40x50 on the .40) to excitement (“Man, this is way better than what I was expecting”).
Then the times started coming in…and thus the title above. From success to failure which allowed dismay to surface, to failure to success which allowed determination to carry the day – we saw it all unfold over the course of 90 minutes. Some over-tried and got crushed; some learned to relax and be smarter about their execution; some asked to recheck their times (to make it easier!) and one said, “I just did my best unrested time, perhaps I should reset it – the goal time – right now!”
It was interesting to see how a difference of 2 or 3 tenths of a second could affect their mood swings.
We talked about it right on the spot…really need to let go of the result and get back to the process. Work the process and you just may get the result…and if you don’t at least you are working on the “right thing” namely the process and not the result.
We talked about the swimmer we saw from a local team last summer miss his Olympic Trial cut by .01 in the 200 fly…and how that swim was viewed by him, his teammates, his coach, and his parents. Every swimmer usually has an opinion about a race and a time. What is fascinating from the coaching side of the equation is just how that opinion influences the swimmer, her next race, his next workout, indeed an entire season or training block may hinge on a single race.
We think what is even more significant and important in the long range growth of the swimmer (and ultimately the person) is their ! own outlook on what just happened.
When a swimmer is “off” a little in practice, can he relax and bounce back during the set. When she has a tough day, can she toss it aside and rebound soon thereafter? If a race doesn’t work out as planned what is the effect on the next race? Or if the entire season’s success rests upon achieving a “cut” for that special meet and it is missed by a tenth – or less, what is the impact on the next season?
Conversely, if success rolls along how is that handled? Does the swimmer think she has it “made” from here on out? Does he think he knows pretty much what he needs to know and stops looking for more knowledge? Or one of the biggest hurdles, “I made my cut and I’m going to the meet!” Those swimmers are best served by staying home and letting a teammate with more vision bring home a T-shirt for them, since making the cut was the “success”.
In The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill, Robert W. Service observes that in the unfo! rgiving world of the gold rush in Alaska any number of things ! can kill a man. He includes “avalanche, fang or claw, battle, murder or sudden wealth…” It seems to us that the same conditions prevail in the pool relevant to the forward progress of our swimmers.
On Saturday while we were curious about the times they might be able to post, we were far more intrigued by their reaction to the whole adventure that was theirs for the taking.
Have a great week!
Don Swartz & Ken DeMont
What we learned in Orlando
We just returned from the NCSA Junior Nationals http://www.ncsa-usa.org in Orlando, Florida. What an awesome week of swimming and reconnecting with friends, colleagues and teams. An added bonus is that a meet like this is really a clinic within a meet. What follows are some observations from the meet/clinic.
The fastest swimmers hold onto a lot of water and have a very consistent tempo. That tempo is almost universally higher than lower in freestyle and backstroke. In fly and breaststroke the tempo is consistent and most are able to get down the pool in 8 strokes, plus or minus a tad depending on their ability to hold water. In these two strokes the trend is a stroke or even two more on the last lap, especially in the 200’s. All of these observations are consistent with the latest data published by US Swimming on the subject of tempo.
Turns have enormous value. If a swimmer has developed the ability to dolphin kick underwater they have a distinct advantage over those who have not done so. The young gal who won the 1650 used three rapid bursts of dolphin kick off 66 walls shortening the pool to 18 yards per lap. She only swam 1,188 yards. There were many other examples of swimmers swimming only 50-55 yards in 100 yard races.
People who can hold their breath swim faster than those who need to breathe a lot. This is dramatically true in events of 200 yards or less. We watched many races of 100 back and fly where the first lap underwater was impressive, only to watch the distance travelled below the surface rapidly diminish as the laps continued. The folks finishing up front stayed down. Miguel asked us before his 50 back sprint what his strategy should be. He was kidding of course. It is after all a sprint. We answered this way. “Hold your breath for 15 meters, take 3 or 4 breaths, hold your breath for half a pool length, take 4 or 5 more breaths.” He got it...and did it.
Fast swimmers come in all sizes. Their shapes bear some similarities. They appear remarkably fit. They look very healthy. They are very strong. They pop out of the pool after their races, easily climbing out with a pull up…winded somewhat but not beat up. They all are very flexible. They have solid core muscles. To use a famous coach’s words after the rubber suits were banned a few years ago, the fast swimmers have all built their own Blue 70’s.
The kids finishing fast enough to get nighttime swims (in this meet, the top 32 swimmers out of prelims) seem to be more comfortable in the spotlight. The word “confident” comes to mind but it is more than that. Perhaps we might say “at ease being in the spotlight” or “knowing they belong in the elite level” of the meet. Even those there for the first time seem somehow a little different, even if they are scared poopless inside. For better or for worse, they have accepted their “plight” as it were and are ready to do their darndest with the opportunity.
More coaches need to smile. A lot of the professionals seemed a little too imbued with their place in the general outcome. We believe that swimmers are due the credit when they swim fast and conversely need to accept the responsibility when they don’t. It is probably 99% their preparation or lack thereof that makes the difference. The coach is a facilitator, a teacher. Their work gets done at practice. The meet tells the coach and the swimmer if the work done was merely sufficient or not…or in some cases exemplary. Coaches need to be a source of calm and steadiness in fast times as well as slow times. Good coaching is invaluable...but only if the athlete has prepared him/herself.
We know we learned a lot more by watching our swimmers than by taking their splits. Billy’s gang from Davis swam lights out. We never saw him take a split. We officially are retiring our pen. Live Results or Meet Mobile can do that task.
Ken has said a few thousand times that he can tell if a swim is a good one without looking at his watch. The time a swimmer posts is just a time. The value lies in the swim itself. We use watches for tempos more these days than anything else.
Team means more than anything. We had some really fast swims, a lot of best times and a few races which we would like to have a 'do over'. We swam 15 relays and without exception those swims were awesome. Racing for a team gives our 'individual' sport more meaning in many ways.
We cannot wait for Monday when we can stop this silly nonsense called 'tapering' and get back to that which we embrace daily, work.
In case you wonder why that is, it is simple; work works.
Don Swartz & Ken DeMont
What Should Your Age Group Swimmer Be Doing NOW, in order to "maximize their talent" later on in life?
This is one of the great questions of modern day youth athletics. There is far "too much" information out there on the internet about "how to train" and when parents read it, it can be overwhelming and the only thing we can be sure of, is that MOST of it, is out of context and out of any sort of realistic order for a young athlete. Young athletes ARE NOT miniature adults.
There is a relatively new swimming book. It's called "...And Then They Won Gold..." Stepping Stones to Swimming Excellence, Volume 1".The author is world-class Coach Chuck Warner. The material within is endorsed by many of the greatest coaches of our time, as well as the World and American Swimming Coaches Association. The content follows the stories of 8 of the world's most successful male athletes in the past dozen years, from early age group years to their Gold Medal and beyond.....it discusses both what the athletes were doing and what the parents were doing (and thinking.) It is remarkably detailed, and parents will immediately understand what it is that their child should (and should not) be doing if the parent and child wants the athlete to maximize their talent at the time in life when it CAN be maximized.
This is the best information for age group swimming parents on the market. If you're a parent, with a child who swims, it's a "must read."
The book can be purchased from the American Swimming Coaches Association by calling 800-356-2722 between 8 am and 5 pm Eastern Time.You may also order online here.(You will need to open a new account if you have not ordered from us before. To find the book enter "gold" in the search box.)
The cost is $25 plus shipping.
John Leonard is the Director of the Americans Swimming Coaches Association and a active swimming coach.
When you tell someone you're going to do something, you do it!.
By Jackson Leonard
Our swim club learned a lesson last week that is worth sharing.
John is a great 13 year old boy who has recently found enjoyment in chopping wood and hauling water. It took four months, but he is no longer the stereotypical 12 year old boy and is now a real young person who is loving training (vs swimming) and has taken completely to hard work. Occasionally he says something that reminds me he is barely 13, but for the most part, he's becoming a great guy.
Two Fridays ago, we finished practice with 25's underwater dolphin kick with fins. I made a point to say we were going to make all of them NO BREATH. Immediately before we left, John asked if he could go without fins. I hesitated, unsure if he actually could make it the whole way, never mind no breath. I nodded though, and said, "Only if you make ALL of them, underwater, no breath, on interval."
John accepted these conditions. 13 under waters into the set, John realized how tough the set really was and how uncomfortable he was.He asked, "May I put my fins on to finish?"I said, "No. You told me you would finish them without fins. This is a lesson that applies to everything, not just swimming- if you tell someone you are going to do something, you do it. Period. Do you understand?"
He nodded reluctantly and went on his way, uncomfortable for the rest of practice. I went home disheartened and unsure if he had received the message. (He had...)
Rose is a 12 year old girl in the group, who is conscientious, hard working, and good person. She has normal insecurities and concerns about her swimming, but overcomes them most of the time. A week and a half before our Mile Meet, her parents take her to Georgia on a family trip. She doesn't swim while away. Her first practice back, she goes 90 x 100@1:25 with the group and averages 1:09's (very good for her). Three days later at the Mile Meet, she is nowhere to be found, even though she signed up and told me she was going to be there only days earlier. I went home disappointed she hadn't swam it; it is likely her best event.
Monday, after the Mile Meet, during warm up with everyone at the wall, I quietly asked Rose why she wasn't at the Mile Meet. "Because I didn't think I was ready to swim it," was her reply.
As a coach, a million irate thoughts raced through my head- as if it was up to her to decide if she was ready to race well! Before I could get a word out, thankfully, John cut in and said- quite forcefully- "You said you were going to be there Rose, you should have been. When you tell someone you're going to do something, you do it!" and quickly dipped underwater.
I was momentarily stupefied and just nodded and said, "He's right."
I have been growing more and more worried about how the group will swim at Champs. But if John's reply is any indication of how the group is growing and learning, I'll be okay with anything. As I remind the AG coaches in our weekly meeting (partially to remind myself)-we need to be infinitely more interested in the swimmers as human beings than as athletes.
Jackson Leonard is a full time age group coach in the SouthEast.
The Biggest Question....
By John Leonard
In all of age group sports, the biggest question for every parent is..."How much to be involved."
In every sport from tennis to golf, to gymnastics and swimming, there are horror stories of absolutely awful parental interference, with tragic consequences for the career of the young age group athlete. Yet every one of us loves our children like nothing else in the world. So, how does this happen?
I think it's because as parents, we're all looking for a singular rule that will make our role as parents "successful". And it does not exist. In fact, exactly the opposite is the truth...the rules change all the time, as the child matures, and only experience can tell the parent that.
Here's a classic example. Jill is 8 and very enthusiastic about her new swim team....most of the time....but on a given Friday, her friend is having a sleepover party and Jill wants to go and skip practice. Perfect role of her mom? "Jill, get in the car, you made a commitment to swim team and you will keep that commitment. I'll take you to Sally's for the party right after practice."
Mom reminds Jill of her commitment..no if's, and's or but's. And enforces it, without depriving the child of the fun party. Perfect.
Now Jill is sixteen...another friend is having another Friday evening party and once again, Jill is debating where she "should be". She discusses it with her Mom. This time, Mom simply raises and eyebrow and says "your choice, you know what you should do." Again, perfect.
But totally different.
And that, I believe, is the point. When our children are young, we are really and truly "herding them through the process" and making decisions for them, as we should be.....And the goal, is to gradually and systematically, based on successful demonstration of competence, to hand over to them, the decision making power.
Athletes who have been in a sport for years, invariably have the same comments..."my parents let it be "my sport", not theirs," "they were interested in what I did, but it was mine," "they didn't interfere at all in my teens, it was up to me to get out of bed to go get them to take me to morning practice. If I chose to sleep in, oh well, my loss."
The hard part is judging that "letting go process" and deciding when it's "right" to let go of what. Like most things in life, it's never completely straight-forward..instead, it's two steps forward, one step back, etc. In the case of most children though, by the early to middle teens years, it should be parents just sitting back and enjoying watching their teenagers make decisions and experience the consequences.
I have a friend named Lynn Offerdahl. Lynn is a former collegiate All-American diver and her husband John, a former All-Pro linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. Lynn has two children who swim and two who play football. Lynn says "Every time you do something for your children that they can do for themselves, you make them weaker. Every time you chose to "let them do it," you are choosing to make them stronger. I want strong kids."
It doesn't get any wiser or better than that.
John Leonard is the director of the American Swimming Coaches Association and an active coach.
Smile when it hurts
by Lisa Diane Mercado Etheredge
Several weeks ago Billy and I began attending Body Pump classes at Gold's Gym. A couple of our teachers mentioned that they enjoyed having me in class because I smiled all the time. One of the teachers even noted that I seemed to smile more during the harder parts of the workout.
After hearing these observations, I began thinking about why I smiled during Body Pump classes. The most obvious reason is that I enjoy the class, which has upbeat pop music and movements matched to the beat of the songs. There is a large group of people participating, and an instructor shouting instructions and motivation throughout. All of the above are things that make my workout experience more convivial. But it occurred to me that there is another reason I smile when my workout gets tough.
I swam competitively throughout much of my growing up, including my first two years of high school. During the first few weeks of school each year, we did not swim during our workouts - we had what we called dry land training. Running, pull-ups, bear-crawling up the stadium steps, sit-ups, push-ups, any crazy exercise you can imagine that doesn't involve water... basically torture.
The coach who oversaw these parent and school sanctioned torture sessions was a man named Bill Thomas. I am smiling as I type his name. Coach Thomas loved to have us go through an obstacle course which we alternately called the Tour de Force, Tour de Torture, or Tour de Thomas. I actually cannot recollect if it had any official name, or maybe those were the official names! At any rate, Coach Thomas relished making us swing from the monkey bars, do pull-ups, inverted push-ups, and probably a lot of other exercises that I have blocked from my mind.
Here is the thing. We complained at the time, and I am complaining now, but the truth is, it was excellent training, and I am absolutely certain that it made me stronger and ultimately a better swimmer. Frankly if Coach Thomas had continued to be in charge of my exercise regimen beyond high school, I would not need Weight Watchers or Body Pump now, because I would be completely fit already!
So back to the smiling. Coach Thomas would assign additional exercises if you looked too pained while you completed any task he had set for you. I actually trained myself to smile when he looked my way, so he would not get the idea that I needed anymore sit-ups with the medicine ball, or whatever. Basically, I taught myself to smile when I had exercised to the point of hurting. It seems that I learned the lesson so well that I am still smiling when it hurts twenty years later.
Coach Thomas, thank you for teaching me the value of grinning through the pain, and pushing myself to accomplish more than I thought I could. This lesson has served me well in the gym and in life
Happy? Happy! Happy.
By John Leonard
A few minutes stand in front of the magazine rack in any airport in America will reveal our national obsession with our being "Happy". More sugary crap is hard to find outside the cereal aisle at the supermarket.
And from a group of assembled world travelers, it appears to be an almost singularly American pursuit.
Mr. Ben Franklin said "the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed by the Constitution, but you do have to catch it on your own." A cogent point, in my view, both in Ben's day and in our own.
Now adults in this great country of ours are free to obsess and over-analyze whatever they want, but the real damage comes when this nonsense is passed on to children.
Happy, according to the magazines, is when everything is laughter and light and sunshine and complete and utter bliss..with your family, with your mate, with your job, your 2nd job, your 3rd job, your avocations and your "interests".
And THAT is supposed to be the goal and objective of all of us.
What utter cow poop. (no pun intended).
I doubt that those hearty pioneers who pushed and pulled their wagons across this vast country, trying to kill Indians faster than the Indians killed them, gave much thought to all that laughter and light concept. But I suspect that the SATISFACTION level of their life, as they lay dying in their final days, was immense, particularly if they were surrounded by friends who outlasted the Indians and the illness and the backbreaking work, and their children. It wasn't about "happy" (that was incidental) it was about "Meaningful". "I raised kids in this stressful world, who then have raised kids in a stressful world. Good Job!"
My point is this. In today's modern life, the question should not be, (for many of us) "are you happy? " but it should be "Have you lived a satisfying and meaningful life?"
Though the daily grind of our jobs may at times be frustrating, difficult and challenging (pick your adjective) the results of that labor may be in the highest possible way, the ultimate in satisfaction...knowing that you have contributed significantly to another person's life. I personally cannot imagine anything more utterly boring than endless and mindless "joy". It's the contrast that makes the good stuff exquisite.
In my work with teenage swimmers, I frequently find myself muttering under my breath (or even a little louder) "cranial-rectal insertion syndrome" CRIS. By this I mean the tendency for each of us as teenagers or adults with occasional retarded development, to be so focused on ourselves, on our inner state and the dark and gloomy, (not to mention smelly) that we manage to make ourselves miserable by convincing ourselves that our lives are awful and we're terribly "unhappy". While this is a common trait in teen years, it typically decreases in adult years (though it does not disappear as sometimes we re-engage in this in small "pity parties" for ourselves.
Why does it go away gradually? Because as we age, we are forced in most cases to engage more with the world and the people around us. The "Cure" for CRIS is simple...find someone else who has real problems and help them to either overcome them, see them in a different light (reframing), or see their issues with greater balance and realism.
Not getting the use of Mom's car for a Saturday night date doesn't seem like a miserable life when compared with a teenager who doesn't have a parent to help make sure they have a roof over the head and food to eat.
Help someone else and magically, CRIS is gone. Focus on the world, not on your internal, never-ending, small minded strife.
It will make a better world, I think, if we all focus on the ability to live a "meaningful and rewarding" life, rather than whether it's all laughs and giggles. It won't be L&G all the time anyway. But every day, those who chose to, can contribute to humanity and their fellow travelers on the planet, and live a fulfilled life.
John Leonard is the director of the American Swimming Coaches Association and an active coach.