Archive for the 'children' Category

07
Feb
17

Training Confident Kids (part 1)

I had some people ask me questions regarding a past post discussing motivation and it’s relation to confidence.  Here is the first of a 2 part post on Confidence and how we get kids to be more confident.

As coaches, we always want the best for our athletes. We train them physically to be strong, flexible and powerful. We train them cognitively to know the skills, routines, and rules. And we train them emotionally to be strong, brave, and confident. Or do we?

For our discussion lets explain confidence in relation to our comfort level in doing things. Our comfort levels are depicted by a box. Within the box we have everything that we are comfortable with, things we do easily, people we know, experiences that range from typical to mundane. Right outside the box are new and different things.  Experiences that put us on edge, make us a little uncomfortable, new places, people, and things. Far away from the box are the things we are very unsure of; things we feel very uncomfortable with, things that make us stressed or nervous.

Confidence is developed by knowing we can perform or interact with the world in a way that is comfortable to us. Things we do that are within our comfort box can be done confidently and things outside might be done with less confidence.

While the majority of our lives occur within our comfort box, it’s only when we reach outside the walls of the box  that we can truly grow and learn. Our comfortable box is where we wish everything to be, but sadly, that is not reality. In the box, we often operate by rote memory, we do our routines and our day to day existence just seems to happen. Chicken or egg? Are we comfortable in that “box” because we do things there easily, or are things easy because we have the confidence to do them? The answer is both.

I remember as a young baseball player, I played 3rd base, shortstop, second base, and catcher. Our coaches rotated us, what seemed at times to be, randomly. It’s likely that they were trying to find our ideal position, the place where we were comfortable playing and where we would be the most effective for the team. But what it also did was allow us to “try” other positions; positions outside of our comfortable little boxes. This was imperative for expanding our proverbial comfort zone as players and as kids.

We are always being advised to “step outside the comfort zone”, or “think outside the box”. When we are confronted with occasional challenges, it allows us to expand our acceptable “zone” or, put another way, our “box” gets bigger and more of the world outside comes within.

When we are no longer afraid of stepping outside the comfort zone, we find that the space within, where we feel in control, becomes bigger. When our coaches moved us around, often unexpectedly, we found that we became a more confident team. I know personally that I gained a lot of confidence because I knew I could handle more than I originally had thought.

For another example, let’s take a gymnast learning a new skill. At first the skill is new and requires focus and a lot of effort. After practicing it for a bit it gets added to the repertoire and becomes “just another thing she can do.” It no longer causes her stress or discomfort, it has become “easy.” But, that same gymnast no longer trains that skill, it is possible for her to “lose” it. That’s obvious. But also, if that gymnast is not challenged with performing the skill in a new combinations, on a new apparatus, or in a performance situation, like a meet or a public demonstration, the skill again may equally be lost. Coaches have to allow that gymnast to perform the learned skills under pressure so that when that skill is needed in a meet performance  it falls within the skills in the comfort box. When it does, it reinforces confidence in performance and positions the athlete to seek more new skills and more growth.

Confidence come from challenges

Confidence come from challenges

Sometimes we can be asked to reach far away from the box; this is when we have greater discomfort over a task or skill. When we feel that we are over our head or incapable of performing, it manifests as a lack of confidence and the feeling can be so strong that we believe that we cannot be successful without the help of someone else.

When an athlete  has rarely been challenged to step outside their comfortable box and are then confronted with change or challenge, they often cannot adapt. Usually this person must rely on others to carry them or assist them through their tasks. I have seen this situation in several scenarios: kids who freeze up, suddenly cannot do more simple skills, or devolve progressions for new skills. There are other reasons that these outcomes may occur too, but it’s often the lack of confidence is the culprit.

Confident people have a larger comfort box and  it affords them a expanded ability to adapt and feel adept.  Also, by occasionally being challenged it allows for a greater tolerance for uncertainty, which means that the areas that cause panic are minimal. However, people with confidence are not fearless. They do experience fears but the fear is often mitigated by both feeling that they can accomplish things with a little  effort, and/or with minimal help. Confident people have either made choices to be challenged or had life throw them enough curve balls that they have learned that they have the capacity to hit any pitch. Or more easily put; they’ve learned, by adaptation, to figure out problems and conquer what once seemed daunting.

Next time: 5 things we can do to create more confidence in our kids.

23
Jan
17

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

A few weeks ago my wife and I took a mental health weekend, and traveled to Sedona Arizona. It was beautiful and relaxing, and the energy in that city was exactly what we needed at that time. While we were gone, Wisconsin experienced it’s first snow storm of the season. We came home from the desert mountains to a foot of snow and below zero windchill. While the plane circled the airport we could see the white snow on the ground

Yes that's me on the rock....look close.

Yes that’s me on the rock….look close.

and I began to feel anxious. Then I remembered a Doctor Suess quote* from “Oh the Places You’ll Go” that really resonated. Suess said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” and my anxiety slipped away.

I had just spent a few days in one of the most beautiful places in the world with my best friend, what better cause to smile? I got to thinking about life in general, and realizing the impact of the words on our lives. Having lost my father this year had struck me deeper than I ever imagined it would. My father and I were not very close being a child of divorce.** My relationship with him was borderline positive sometimes, until he became a Grandpa. I learned more about him and his life growing up, his time as a Milwaukee Police Officer, his time as a soldier, as a business owner, and simply as a man, in the last 12 years than I learned in my first 40 years.  I have posted before about my dad and some of my experiences (Doing it for the Cupcake: May 2015) but I was forced now, with him gone to reach inside and figure out how I felt.

Of course I was sad, I lost my father. Of course I mourned, I would never be able to speak (or argue politics) with him again. But I did find some comfort in the realization that I was very fortunate to get to know him. To see him as a Grandpa was a joy for me and my sons. To have him, in the middle of a political battle, say “yeah, you may be right.” was a big validation for me. I thought about my dad and I smiled.

I realized, circling the airport in the dark,  that it doesn’t have to be sadness when we reach a chapter’s end when, overall,  we appreciate the book.

 

  • * Sorry about bringing up Dr. Suess again, I guess he had more influence on me than I thought. (see a few posts ago, The Only Doctor I’ve Ever Trusted December 2016)
  •  ** I was born in November of 65, my parents divorce was finalized in April of 66. I cannot recall living in a house with my father.
09
Jan
17

Motor Boats and Trains

I have, for a long time, used the analogy of motorboats and trains when I speak to my team kids about motivation. As I raise my own children I realized how this also applies to anyone who may need a little flame placed under the backside.

I ask my team kids if they are a motor boat or a train. I explain to them that I want to help them, I am there as a resource and can provide them drills for skills, code application for routine development, and simple guidance as they progress through the sport, but I need to know what drives them. download

Are they a Train? Are they the type that needs to be pulled? The engine in front, pulling the trailing cars. The conductor sitting in the engine car and deciding where the train goes, how fast it travels, and when it can make stops? As an athlete, do they need me to pull them? Are they needing to tuck in behind me and have me call all the shots, determine the routines, the meets, the training and pull them forward?

Or are they a Motor Boat? Are they the type to be in the captain’s seat and determine direction but need a push from the engine that sits at the stern? Do they have direction and drive and just need the coach as a boost and occasional force?

I have often spoken about the development of the coach relationship with kids in the sport. When they are young, or lower level, the relationship is very much like a master and servant. The coach says “jump” and the gymnasts jump  until Simon says stop jumping, (that works particularly well if the coach’s name is Simon). All decisions are made by the coach, and the gymnast begins learning about how they will develop by seeing it planned out in front of them. In the mid-levels, around beginning optionals, the relationship becomes more like a partnership. The coach is still the primary director but the gymnast has input into their own development and performance. I often say, at this stage, that the coach says “jump” and the gymnasts now ask, “how high?” In later levels and ages, the coach relationship becomes more like a reference that the gymnast can come to for assistance. At this stage, the gymnast directs their pathway and the coach helps in facilitation. This is when the gymnast may ask “Should I jump?”. The relationship and the most effective coaching style evolve over time.

I any event the gymnast is going to need motivation, either internally or provided for them externally. This is true and applicable regardless of the relationship level with the coach. When the coach, boss, teacher, or parent, understands how the child is motivated they can better help the child move forward. Motor Boat or Train? Neither is preferred and degrees of both may be present, but it’s understanding at any given moment which vehicle you are driving that makes a coach more effective at any stage of the game.

12
Dec
16

The only Doctor I’ve ever trusted

One of my favorite shows during the holidays is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Way back in 1957 Dr. Suess warned us all about the commercialization of Christmas, though we didn’t heed the warning he was prophetic.

I was talking to my children the other day, they’re 12 and 8 and now old enough to comprehend bigger concepts (Yay!), about what the “arms race” is and what it could mean for the world. In our discussion, I referenced The Butter Battle Book, published in 1984. Where the two opposing sides conflict over which is better; bread buttered side down or buttered side up. Again, Suess.

One of mine and my kid’s favorite books is the Lorax, that explains the potential outcome of the planet if we don’t take care of it. Originally published in 1971 and again, sadly unheeded.  But I got to thinking about the good Doctor and all that he has taught us, whether it sunk in or bounced off, the lessons are still most valuable. Let’s look at a few of the lessons as I have seen them while growing up:suess

I learned to be me. Suess asked me “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” and I responded by living my life by my own standards. Sometimes looking like a fool, sometimes looking like a genius, sadly more the former than the latter. But we were all born to be ourselves and for us to play the important part we must play to make the world great, we need only be ourselves. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, or attempt to fit the restrictive frames others can picture us within. We make our choices to live how we live and by doing so, we can succeed by any standard. He even told us “Only you can control your future.” How right you are Doctor.

I also grew up believing that education was the key to my success.  I cannot impart that wisdom upon my own children enough. And of course Suess concurs, learning content is important, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go…” What high school graduate didn’t get a copy of Oh the Places You’ll Go (1990)? But who better to share the lesson that we get to choose; we have the awesome power to be amazing? As I am sure you’ve derived from previous posts, I firmly believe that we do. Thanks for that lesson Dr. Suess, Thank You beyond measure.

 

21
Nov
16

Gratitude is in the Attitude

Recently, my wife and I had this discussion:

  • Why does our son seem so ungrateful, he thinks he is so much more important than anyone around him?
  • Other people tell, us how wonderful he is but we don’t have the privilege of seeing that behavior at home
  • Where did we go wrong, I feel like I have failed because I did not teach him gratitude, and that makes me sad?
  • Do you think he realizes that Mom cooked this food for him?
  • Do you think he appreciates that we both work to be able to provide this food?
  • I wonder if it is possible to offer him opportunities that may help him discover that the world awaits his service, not the other way around

imagesWe had the discussion at the table, and right there, sitting and pouting because he was required to eat more vegetables than bread, was our son.

It got me thinking about this season, and how we can all do a better job of teaching gratitude for our plentiful lives before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Research has shown us that raising kids to appreciate all that is done for them can provide real benefits including greater life satisfaction, better performance in school, more adept at making lifetime direction choices, and even enhanced self-esteem, (which millennial parents believe is an entitlement).  In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, reveals that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent. Other studies have shown that kids who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and family.

So what can a parent do that might impart this lesson? Here are a few ideas.

  • It seems so simple, but if, each day, we actually say out loud, something that we are grateful for: “I’m so glad the weather has been nice for so long”, “I really appreciate those guys working on the highway-the road will be nice when they are finished”, etc. We set an expectation for our kids to notice things too.
  • Don’t be sucked in by Black Friday, Buy Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday: Of course we want to give our kids everything they want, but when we do they often lose where it came from. It becomes about acquisition and not about function, fun, or appreciation.
  • Allow them to earn their wants: They will want more toys, more candy, more of something. Give them the opportunity to share the responsibility for attaining it. Maybe through chores, maybe through saving allowance, they can help out. If they can share in that they will feel it is more earned, more valuable, and more important. Keep an eye on their screens too. At this time of year everyone is telling them that they NEED more toys, candy and stuff. A young mind often cannot understand the avalanche of marketing and can become depressed or overwhelmed by the “holiday spirit.”
  • Give them an assignment; have them hand write a note to someone whom has been nice to them, helped them, or in other way made their life happier. Have them spell it out, why are they grateful? In fact make it an annual tradition. Having been a teacher and a coach, I cannot tell you how much it impacts us when a student or athlete says thanks. Give that gift this year, don’t do it in conjunction with a “gift for teacher” mentality, it’s not a holiday thing, it’s a “for-no-other-reason-than-I appreciate-you” reason.
  • We have heard about how valuable the lesson is when our children have the opportunity to help a person in need; and I would never suggest that we do not do that. But what about helping out someone who doesn’t need help? What can be gained by helping a neighbor rake leaves, load a truck, shovel snow? It feels good to have someone say “thank you” when you know you didn’t have to do it, you just wanted to.
  • Demand politeness and respect; I cringe every time I see someone’s child ungratefully receive a good deed. A door being held, a sneeze in public, or a person having to side step the child in the aisle at Target should be answered with a “thank you”, a “bless you” or an “excuse me.” I insist that my children carry out these all-to-uncommon niceties. One time I had my son go to the next aisle to apologize to the person that had to dodge his silliness in the toy department. I feel that strongly about it.
  • I used to play with my children (still do) when they complained about something. “I hate these shoes” was answered with “How do you think that makes the shoes feel?” It usually, at least, starts a conversation to get to the bottom of the statement the child made, but I always believed that looking at things from both sides would lead to empathy and as a child I believed that all my toys had feelings, (I’m not sure I was wrong).

So, this year I have set a goal to have my children adopt an attitude of greater gratitude. How about this, let’s not tell the kids. How about all of us parents secretly plan on doing this together? Wow, imagine what we could do.

25
Mar
15

Why we do what we do (My lunch with Ed.)

I had lunch with my old friend Ed the other day. We coached together over 20 years ago, I coached 2 of his daughters and in fact met my wife at one of his daughter’s wedding. The best part about reconnecting with an old friend is how you re-validate who you are, or possible the converse of that, maybe you realize how much you have changed. In the case of our lunch, I found re-connection to a kindred soul and met myself again in the conversation.

Ed told me how he ran into a young woman that we coached so many years ago. They spoke for some time while in a store. As her children grew antsy waiting for the grown-ups to stop talking she shared with Ed how her life had some rough spots and that there was a time when she was very nearly homeless. At the time she was out of work and her first child was due soon. It was stressful for her but she overcame it; she worked tirelessly to finish her education, get a new position and establish some security.  The baby was born, 7 years ago, healthy and happy. She explained to Ed that she was so happy now and has a family of 3, a great job, a loving husband and a truly fortunate life. Ed, as any of us would, felt so happy for her that he got a little misty eyed even when relaying the story to me weeks after it happened. As they separated and went off to finish shopping, Ed had a fleeting thought. He called her back and explained to her that he was no longer coaching and was retired from his career job as well. Left to ourselves, guys like Ed and I, could wander into a belief of self-doubt that we ever had an impact, or a belief that we did when we didn’t. Introspective people like us are always seeking a sign of validation.  He wondered, again, as we all do, if he ever made a difference for her. Was there anything that he taught her that she found of value?  She responded, I’m sure with a smile, “Of course coach, you taught me to set goals and keep my eyes on them. Without that lesson I would have never made it through those hard years.”

When Ed shared this story with me we both had tears in our eyes because it’s short stories like this that remind us that gymnastics is only a vehicle that we can provide that gives these children valuable life skills. They learn so much from us aside from cartwheels and somersaults. I think that every once and awhile we need to check our perspective and remember why we have this job. We teach perseverance, determination, focus, and goal setting. We bring skills, strength, flexibility and healthy lifestyles to children. We teach physics, anatomy, bio-mechanics and psychology. Gymnastics is merely an activity that allows these lessons to be presented.

I’ve had champion gymnasts and champion teams, but the things I brag about most often are the wonderful children that turned into strong and healthy adults. I’ve coached scientists, therapists, business people, doctors, moms and all points between. I can confidently say that gymnastics; that I provided, helped them, one and all, be who they are; successful and healthy people. This is what fuels my day. What does it for you?

11
Feb
15

Reality television is nothing like reality

This weekend the series Coaching Bad premiered on Spike TV. I had to watch it.

download (1)In a nutshell, several coaches from various sports are brought together to work with an anger counselor. This is all done under watchful former NFL player and current motivational speaker Ray Lewis. There were some real characters: a speed coach that races his athletes and berates them when they can’t keep up, a volleyball coach who got fired because of her abusive actions, a hockey coach/referee that hit a child with a stick when the child pushed him, a football coach that routinely wrestles his players (under 12 years old) to the ground, and a few others. They all call their kids names, tell them they are worthless, and dole out punishments for any and every reason, and this is what passes for a TV series?

I take issue with two things in this show and the very premise of it. First, and quite simply, these people will not change that easily; if at all. These people are reinforced when they are abusive, intolerant, dictators and you can’t turn a mess that big around with one show and a few “motivational moments”. Though the show is trying to demonstrate that they have the power to make bad coaches into good, the fact is that these people will likely return to their habits and negative personalities as soon as the cameras are off.

Next, I take issue with presenting coaches that are so far gone that they become caricatures of a stereotypical “bad coach.” They are presented to us as representative of a profession that really should be held to high standards. As parents we want to best for our children. We want the coach that can get the best results out of our children and we want the coaches that helps us raise our children to be successful and strong.  We live in fear that the person working with our child  could be a negative influence on our most precious children. But the fear is easily played on and we are manipulated. The truth is that 99% of coaches are there to encourage children, training the skills but also caring for the child as a person. These television shows that play on our fears lead us to believe that there is a villain, more awful than we can possibly imagine, around every corner. It’s simply not true. I am in the profession and I have seen good coaches and bad, yes they do exist. But we give so much attention to the bad behavior that we make people feel that it is typical. We never spend any energy on praising the good coaches. Where is the series that shows a coach that goes above and beyond for an athlete? Where is the series that glorifies the men and women who spend their weekends working with OUR children? It’s sad to me that these fear tactics always get the most attention and they beget more of the same.

Since Gymfinity opened we have been approached twice by television producers who were pitching a series idea of middle to high level gymnasts training for championships. We were interviewed, screen tested, and had to do video interviews with a few parents to submit for evaluation. Well, to summarize, we were too normal. During the process (from the second company) I was asked to provide a list of parents that are very “engaged” in their child’s performance. I was asked if we had any parents with alcohol concerns. (What?) I was asked how often I raise my voice in the gym and downloadwhat a typical “Punishment” would be if a child didn’t perform well. When all of these red flags went up, I decided to pull the plug on the project. They didn’t want the reality of children working hard, sweating, straining, and dreaming of bigger things. They wanted another Abby from Dance Moms, a villain that an audience would hate. (PS, I have a friend that knows Abby from Dance Moms and she assures me that the show is 90% staged, as Abby is nothing like that in real life).  The upside of providing what they were looking for would be fame and fortune, Abby’s studio is at record enrollment because people are buying into the show’s version of reality. But what does that say about the parents who enroll their children in what they believe is a potentially abusive program? Oy vey, the problem is deeper than a bad coach.

One character on the Coaching Bad show actually says (paraphrased) that this is how football is coached, the parents don’t get that, but the kids love it. That is when my reality meter broke. The kids don’t love it, they live in fear of you. Your reality is distorted and you are a freak. But there was some truth; the parents of his team, in reality, don’t get it. They value the trophy over their child’s happiness. If they don’t get that their own priorities are mixed up then that is a potential new series. But the disclaimer is that those parents, like these coaches, are freaks and are not typical. In order to get the TV folks to stop glorifying these freaks and these fears we need to stop watching what they put in front of us.

 




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