Archive for the 'School' Category

24
May
17

Lessons from a ghostly guide

This year the team traveled to New Orleans for the Jazz Invite. It was a great meet, and a lot of fun. But one of the highlights for me was the “Ghost Tour” we took through downtown New Orleans. I went with a few team girls, their parents, and some strangers on a walking tour of the French Quarter and areas outside the Quarter.

Our guide was a long haired, trench coat wearing Cajun. He spoke English but would occasionally spout out a word in French/Creole and then admonish us with a look of disdain for not understanding . As we walked he spoke of the city’s rich history from slave trading to torture, from heroic battles to voodoo rituals. It was creepy, at times, but even more, it was fascinating. As he spoke he would beg us to understand “his city” and it’s growing pains. He would stare into the eyes of one of the group as he spoke, and underline his comments with “Do you see?”  He was weird and creepy, but we were so

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Here I am, freaked out,  in the seance room of a ghostly hotel.

engaged all through the tour that the time seemed to pass too soon.  In fact, the next day (during some free time) I went back to a few of the sites on my own, in the safe light of day, to see more of the historic area. But my favorite part was that night, when the tour was over, about 11 pm. The group dispersed. All but the Gymfinity portion of the tour had gone on to experience the nightlife of the Quarter. Our guide stayed and answered questions and followed up with us until it was just too late to be out. His responses covered architecture, history, and of course, the paranormal. But as we reached the end of the night, he made one more comment to our girls. I, for one, felt that his closure was worth the full price of admission.

He told the girls that they needed to understand that each one of them was their Great Great GrandMama’s dream. Those women, from so many generations ago, dreamed of a day when their offspring would be allowed the strength and freedom to become the people that they wanted to be. A world, or a time, when those future girls could live out their lives however they wished. He explained that today’s generation of young women have more opportunities than any generation that went before them, and he wanted to be sure that their for-bearers efforts were not delivered in vane.

He asked them if they were good in school? He told them that their ancestors would be ashamed of them if they didn’t use the tools they are given to make their lives extraordinary. The past generations could only imagine, in their wildest dreams, the day when a young woman would be allowed to challenge the world unfettered and unencumbered by the belief that she was incapable simply because of her gender. He stared into their eyes and asked if they saw that these old women worked, sweat, and bled for these girl’s ability to live that once only dreamed of life. He asked them if they wanted to make their Great Great GrandMama’s dreams come true. If they wanted to make those long-gone women proud of them. He wanted to know if they thought that what they were doing would allow those generations to feel that their own lives were validated. He explained that by living the embodiment of their grand-generation’s dreams that they would allow those spirits to rest. Were they willing to live their lives in a way that would allow that?

I had 5 team girls there, from age 10 to 17, and each one stood with their jaws clenched, their arms tight, and their spine strong and tall. Their posture answered his questions; Yes, they saw it. They knew that their lives, like all of us, are the embodiment of our ancestors dreams.

What a beautiful message to these young women and what a great end to the night, and some of the best ghost stories I have ever heard. That wild, weird, trench coat wearing Cajun, hit a nerve with each of us. My girls went home knowing that they had dreams to live up to, and not only their own. Powerful.

I love when life places people, in unexpected places, to teach us lessons. Page back through these posts to read about the time I got a dose of reality from meeting Picasso in, of all places, San Jose California. (page down from here). https://gymfinity.wordpress.com/page/10/

02
May
17

Advice to the new Gymfinity parent

Way back many years ago, when the world found out that Steph and I were expecting our first baby, people stepped up to advise us. People who had kids and had already done the baby thing made themselves available for Steph and I who were feeling pretty anxious about being parents.  “Sleep when they sleep, sometimes let them cry, don’t give him potato chips…..J”, and other nuggets of advice really helped us out.  In that spirit, I wanted to offer some advice to parents that might be considering joining the program at Gymfinity.  I am a parent, and I get the parenting concerns. My kids have been in our program and in other sports too, I have seen the best and the worst of kids activity options. I am a coach too, I have answered many questions and concerns over the years, so I feel particularly qualified to offer a few “remembers” to you here. So here are 10 things you should know about your time at  Gymfinity.

  1. Remember that coaches are people too.

We work for you and we have goals and aspirations for your kids just like you do. We have knowledge of skill and a basic understanding of child psychology, but we are human. There will be times when we say something that may be misconstrued, but we are not mean people. We might forget to return a call, that doesn’t mean we don’t like you or your child. We might ask your child to work hard, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand that they are human too and sometimes get frustrated or tired.

  1. Remember that this is for your child’s development

Our program naturally provides skill and confidence, but we also have the goal of teaching kids to think. Analytically, like why do I lose balance when I wave my arms? Critically, like I know that I can do it but I want a mat under the beam too. And independently, like asking for consideration like a mat or permission to try a new and different skill. We want them to be able to not only do gymnastics but to understand gymnastics and how to think things through. Gymnastics is a great vehicle for understanding many broader concepts outside the skills they are taught.

  1. Remember that coaches very rarely bite

We know that some kids are shy, but we need them to communicate with us and share their fears, goals, and concerns. When we better understand your child, we can better serve them. Shy works for a 6-year-old, on an 8-year-old it can be tolerable, but after that we need kids to speak up for themselves. This is a goal for us, to have every child in our program be able to speak their mind.

  1. Remember that we really do like your kid

There will sometimes be occasions when we tell your child that they are doing something wrong. There will be times when they may be corrected and they feel like we picking on them when we make corrections. We are not. Once we get to know a kid we generally like them, that’s why we are in this business. Our job is to be critical and to make corrections, sometimes it may make your child feel deflated. Through correcting and applied effort, together, we will get your child to feel great about their outcome. It may take a while, and it will require patience on all sides.

  1. Remember that we are striving to surpass your expectations

Our staff is background checked, safety trained, and under constant supervision. Every one of us has a required amount of continuing training credits that we must fulfill each year to stay on staff. We travel to seminars, clinics, and conventions to learn to be the best we can. We bring in national and international trainers in our industry to teach us to be better teachers. We will never stop trying to be better than we are right now, but if we don’t live up to our reputation or your expectations we will gladly help you pack and move to another program.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics is not the world.

It’s close, but c’mon. In the end, it’s a game. It’s a sport that you play for as long as you can and you hope it leads to good things while having an amazing time. If your child struggles with a skill, or they have a rough performance it does not diminish their effort. The game has ups and downs, like life, and sometimes it makes us smile, sometimes it makes us cry. These are both OK. Don’t value your child on how well they compare to anyone else, nobody is like your child. They are wonderful, warts and all. Just know that they may be great at this. They may not.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics can be the world.

When your child is in a sport like gymnastics, it can feel like it’s everything to them. Some of our kids go on to do college gymnastics and some become coaches too. When I was a young gymnast it was how I identified myself. It was why I didn’t party in school. It was why I did my homework. It was what I wanted to do my whole life. If my mom would have told me when I was younger that it was not important, I think I would have been crushed, or in the least, resented her for saying it. Should they choose this sport, let them love it.

  1. Remember that you hired us to do this.

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    We’re here to help

You hired us to provide your child with something. Some want their kids to develop confidence, some want their kids to be more coordinated, some want their kids to make friends in a positive place with good fun and fit objectives. Let us do that for you. This is what we know. We’ve been in this business for many years (I started coaching before some of the parents that bring their kids here were born). You came in, saw the program, met us and tried us on. Be sure you let us do what you expected us to do. Sometimes it’s hard to let go, but trust us. It will be worth it.

  1. Yes, we know your child is special.

Every child has the right to feel special. But when we have a group of children in a class, we try to make every child feel loved and appreciated. No one is entitled to be special-er than anyone else. Part of the process of growing up is sometimes taking a backseat to someone else on occasion. Everyone will get their turn in the front seat. It’s OK. Re-read number 4.

  1. Remember that even honeymoons end.

When a child starts a new program, they usually have a great time for the first few weeks running on the novelty alone. The gym is great, the teacher is awesome, the class is their favorite thing ever! But then the novelty wears off. It’s still a great class but they may not seem as excited. This is pretty typical. There are stages to their involvement, the first is the honeymoon, and everything is amazing. The second can be a slow down, motivation is lessened and they seem to have lost a little interest. Kids may seem to lose some of the passion when they are getting ready to come to class, but they do fine once they’re here. This is a time when your encouragement and support is needed to deliver a little bump to get to Stage 3. The third phase is a renewed interest and an acceptance that this is THEIR class and they are now a part of a bigger program. They feel at home and their renewed efforts start to produce skills and smiles. It’s phases one and three when they are doing cartwheels all over the house. The only time cartwheels stop is phase 2 and when they leave for college (sometimes not even then).

It’s often a new experience and it takes some getting used to. But thankfully there are veterans around who can offer advice and guidance on this journey. Many of the parents of kids in your child’s class started out with questions too, it’s OK to talk to them. And, as always, feel free to ask us, we are always available for you.

21
Mar
17

So, you coach girls. Why?

 

Small talk at a party: “So you coach gymnastics. Boys or girls? Why?” I’ve been asked this about a hundred times, and everyone is surprised when I say “girls.” I think most people just think that a guy coaches boys and a woman will coach girls.  Not true.

So why do I  coach girls? I’ve tried coaching boys; it didn’t go well. I found that I spent more time watching wrestling and saying things like “I can wait until you are ready to listen….” Than I did actually coaching. It takes a special kind of a person to coach boys. I am not that special.

My standard answer when people ask “why girls” is that “girls listen better, pay attention more, and are usually smarter”. Then the universe graced me with two sons. So, I can’t use the “smarter” quip anymore, but the rest was pretty true.

I started thinking about why the difference was seemingly such a no-brainer to me but so hard to explain to others. As usual I ran the self-conversation during a long car trip and made frequent stops to jot notes. Then I did a little organizing research. Here’s what I came up with:

I was raised by my mom. I had a lot of respect for her and I aspire to be a parent like she was. She was confident, decisive, and strong. I realized that many of the girls that I coach have those attributes but often they don’t know it. So, on one hand, I think I want to help them develop those skills. Boys, it seems, are naturally confident, usually decisive (not right or wrong but decisive) and they usually show strength at an earlier age.  But why?

The best I can determine is that in terms of evolution males have always been more independent, had to show strength, and provide for the smaller weaker gender. Females were dependent, had to rely on the protectors and providers for survival, but today those traditional gender roles and attributes are in gray areas as women have become more independent and strong. when it comes to society we are slow to accept this and often the discrimination of our beliefs is unfounded. A big boat is slow to turn around, and this belief that woman are the weaker sex is a big boat of old fashioned thinking.

Developmentally, there is some science to this as well. As fetuses develop, female brains are bathed in estrogen as early as 8 weeks after conception and the hormone bath develops brain areas that will be suited to language, communication, and emotion. While male babies are flooded with testosterone, which develops areas of the brain that focus on aggression and more base needs. As children grow, society reinforces this with subtle prejudicial statements like “she’s so girly” meaning dainty and innocent, and “boys will be boys” which means boys will be rough, uncontrollable and dangerous.

Society tells girls that they need to make the tribe happy, provide harmony, and develop relationships. Meanwhile boys are taught to stand up for themselves, be assertive and challenge the world.

How gymnastics plays a part in development

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One of many reasons I am proud to coach girls, here’s me with Bri Slonim. 

Because females traditionally have been protected from risk they have not had the benefit of learning from their failures. I believe that this is where sports, particularly gymnastics, has a great developmental benefit. I think that girls can be shown that they can approach perfection, seek to surpass their own perceived potential, and encouraged to take risks. I believe that in so doing, children (not just girls) are given an opportunity to assess their efforts, learn from their skinned knees, and get back to their feet, try again, and grow stronger. Nothing is better than gymnastics at showing you that you did not do your homework. Our sport will let you know when you don’t work hard enough, and it will let you know in no-uncertain terms.

My mother, by virtue of divorce and strict Hungarian parents she had to learn that if she wanted something, she had to work for it. She never took breaks, and when she had 3 sons she knew she had to teach us those very lessons and values. I think that as a pre-parent younger coach starting in the industry,  I felt a strong sense of mission to share that lesson with children growing up. I think I gravitated toward coaching girls because they seemed more eager to learn from me. Boys, at least by the impression they try to give off, already knew everything.

Now I have sons and I get to see behind the veil of masculinity that though boys may show bravado, inside they are still pretty insecure and squishy. I think that too is evolutionary. I know that if I had to coach boys again,  I would see it from a different perspective. I have learned that boys tend to overestimate their skills, while girls tend to underestimate themselves. I have always fought for the underdog, and maybe it’s the “Yes, you can do it”-ness of coaching girls that fulfills me.

I have written before about confidence and how we can help children develop it. I feel as strongly about independence and being self-secure*

Sports show us there are winners and learners and that we will not always be on the top of the podium at every meet. I cannot stand the meets and games that handout awards to every child. It doesn’t allow a child to assess any plan for success. It doesn’t validate their real effort, and it doesn’t imitate life at all.

So, I like coaching girls. I think I understand why, maybe I can’t explain it in a short 3o second chat, but I know that I can help make a difference. I believe that I should help to turn the boat and do my share to help the world see that women are just as strong, just as smart, just as assertive, just as capable, and just as good and anyone could ever ask. I think I owe that to my mom, who truly showed it to me.

 

 

*I hate the term “self-esteem” because it’s such a cliche. It has come to mean an entitled attitude of loving one’s self and feeling good. I use the term “self-secure” on purpose because it indicates a feeling of, though sometimes we may get frustrated with ourselves in action and habit, that we are comfortable knowing that we are good and functional in a positive way. It think it’s a healthy perspective on our self-image as opposed to a glossy “everything about me is great” feeling, that is a lie, at best.

 

 

07
Mar
17

Shamrocks are not lucky (for your diet)

 A while ago, my team kids asked me if I had a Shamrock Shake yet this year. I explained that I read that the shakes at that establishment contain a chemical that is also found in leather softener and so, I don’t think I’ll be indulging in a minty green shake this year, unless I make it.  ( not to mention that many shake recipes contain a chemical called  Castoreum provides added sweetness, but it comes from the anal gland of a beaver. No kidding)

I wasn’t wrong. Much of the food at fast food establishments is laced with the least likely (and least explicable) of ingredients. But so are many other foods we frequently consume.

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McDonalds fries vs KFC fries after 3 years.

Did you know that a fast food burger will remain unchanged for approximately 14 years if left uneaten? There is such a low content of water and natural ingredients that the “real beef” burger doesn’t even spoil.  Oddly enough the French Fries at most fast food establishments are also resistant to age. They usually rot out in about 3 years, but you have to ask; if bacteria won’t eat away this “food” why would I?

Did you know that due to the high levels of High Fructose Corn Syrup the soda we drink at fast food places will damage our stomach walls, debilitate our vital organs, and strip our teeth of enamel? In fact it may be safer you nuzzle up to and eat straight an entire bowl of sugar rather than suffer the consequences of the substitute. HFCS also keeps us from quenching a thirst, that’s why we can finish off that “Thirsty-Two” ounce pop and still be…. Well… thirsty.  But it does satisfy our consumer bone. We feel that there is value in being able to refill a drink for free, when in truth, that might be the worst thing you can do.

And don’t get me started on the dispensers. Most places that have “serve yourself” dispensers have been found to have trace levels of fecal e.coli evident on their surfaces. That means that most places have nozzles touched by people who don’t clean their hands after using the toilet. Mmmm. Still thirsty?

Did you know that breakfast is just as bad as a shake? We have, in the past, often traveled to meets and had to resort to a quick grab and go breakfast at a fast food stop. But we hardly will ever do that again since we found that most places substitute eggs with something called Premium Egg Blend, a chemical mixture that has many of the same ingredients as my soap and shower gel, namely glycerin. Though eating glycerin won’t kill me, it’s good to know that if I’m really late, I can eat half my breakfast and shave with the other half.

Did you know that when you eat beef from a fast food place, or even a large chain family dining restaurant, that you are likely filling up on ground up bits of over 100 different cows? Usually the less choice cuts are ground and combined with fat and chemicals, then shaped into patties and sent off.  I have had friends tell me that they would rather eat at this fast food place than that place because at least this place uses “real” beef. It may be real, but it’s not any more appealing when you know the process.

Did you know that in Wisconsin, we have access to real cheese? Unfortunately, you won’t find it on you McBurger or Whopper. Fast food cheese is less than half dairy product and mostly oil, chemical and preservative. I recently went to visit a gymnast that graduated into college and we went to eat. When my food came out I looked at the cheese and asked “what is that?” We here are pretty spoiled by having access to real cheese, when the rest of the country has to eat that mystery orange square they call cheese. But don’t be fooled, it’s still mystery square at the corner fast food place.

Did you know that we are tricked into eating sand when we order spicy fast food? It’s true, most fast food chili’s or Tex-Mex menus use and ingredient called silicon dioxide in their recipes. It makes the taco or chicken nugget taste a little peppery and manufacturers don’t have to use as much real food, higher cost, ingredients. Now, I’ve gotten sand in my mouth before, but never once did I think “mmm. Chalupa!”

Ok, I’m grossing myself out, and probably you too. So here are a few more remaining thoughts to leave you with:

Did you know that most fast food chicken nuggets are not chicken but comprised of fats, bone, nerves and “additional tissue”.

Did you know that fast food salads are usually laced with saturated fats and high levels of sodium. The intention is not to offer a healthy option, it’s to make to thirsty enough to order the free-refill-extra-large soda.”

Did you know that much of fast food is laced with coloring and dyes that have been shown to change behavior in children. Kids frequently exposed to these chemical colors often become irritable, hyperactive, and bad-tempered.

Did you know that the caloric intake from one small meal provides us the equivalent of what we would burn on a 4 hour hike. So to maintain a healthy balance or intake and output, remember to allow for 4 hours of activity following the consumption of a small burger, small fries, and a small pop.

Did you know that honestly, I have been no stranger to the ordering queue at fast food places. I grew up on McDonalds, Burger King, Arby’s, and others. But as I grew and became educated I have made more informed decisions. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of moderation. I don’t eat fast food 6 times a week anymore, maybe once every other week. But I stay away from the pop, the chicken nuggets, and the shakes.

So, no on the shamrock shake this year. But I did find this yummy, healthy, natural substitute that I made at home. I plan on bringing it to the team and fooling them into loving spinach shakes. If you are interested in the outcome of my switcheroo, comment below.

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.

 

20
May
15

Doing it for the cupcake

A few weeks ago we traveled to Florida to spend some time with my dad. He and I spent a lot of time talking, and when we do I always get new insights into him: things I never knew he did, or felt. One morning we spoke over a some cold tea while the kids went to the pool, and he told me of when he first moved to Florida.

When my Dad relocated from Wisconsin he had retired from a career of owning his own business that was often 20 hour days and 7 days a week. Some would say he was a workaholic, but in our family we see it as “just doing what needs to get done.”  In Florida he started volunteering to make use of his new-found surplus time . He volunteered in a school and was given the task of supervising 4 of the biggest behavior cases in the class of 3rd graders. Now years ago before going into business, my dad was a Milwaukee cop. Back in the day being a police officer was all business and he had to be a pretty tough guy. That same facet of his personality was called up again when he had these kids to deal with. It was no B.S. when you were with Mr. O.

Through the course of the year the kids fell in line and learned to behave respectfully to the teacher, the other kids and the school. The kids learned that though Mr. O was demanding, he had respect for them and he knew they were capable of being as successful as the other kids. He told them that if they did the work they could accomplish anything.  Near the end of the year my father was saying good-bye to the class and his 4 students. He was convinced that the kids would be happy to see an end to their time with Mr. O, the tough ex-cop. But one little girl came to him and hugged him around the leg, (my dad is a tall guy), and gave him a cupcake  she had made for him. She said thank you for the year and told him that she would miss him over the summer. When my dad shared this story with me, we were both clearly emotional: him because he knew his time had meant something, and me because, maybe, for the first time my dad might see why I do what I do.

I explained to him that the reason I became a teacher (and coach) was never for the money, it was for the cupcakes and the too often silent appreciation of the children and parents who know that you, in some way, have changed their child for the better. You cannot take the figurative cupcake, or a literal cupcake for that matter, to the bank, but the non-cash rewards are so much sweeter.

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My dad, my sons, and me.

When we do evaluations of our staff at Gymfinity, we always ask them what is the favorite part of their position. Most reply that they love to see the children develop confidence, strength, or skill. Being witness to that is what fulfills a teacher. We do it for the love of teaching and maybe for the importance of being important to a child.

So “Good on you Dad”, somewhere there is a little girl who is doing great in school because of you. She thinks back on the tough teacher’s aide she had in 3rd grade; the one who believed in her,  and as she does her work respectfully her eyes are on the future. Some of the success can be attributed to you Dad. Enjoy your cupcake, you deserve it.




May 2017
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