Archive for the 'School' Category

09
Nov
17

Things I bet you never thought about when you got your kids in sports (Part 2)

In the last post we looked at several considerations that parents have to make when getting their kids enrolled in sports. There is a lot more to this parenting thing then just signing them up. Often some of the things that parents go through are not too difficult if someone would only have given them a “heads up”. Well…. Heads up.

Here is the second part of the series. Last time we presented 2 categories, one on perspective and one on sacrifice. Here are the final two.

In the category of “Sometimes Sports Aren’t Pretty”

  1. Be careful that your child doesn’t ONLY identify themselves as an athlete. Yes, they may be a gymnast, or a swimmer, or dancer, but they are also more than that. As a parent you are charged with the task of giving them opportunities to also be that something else. Be a sister, be a scientist, be a mountain climber, be a whatever. Be sure that they see themselves as more than the sport. As I mentioned, the day will come when the leave the sport; what will they feel they can be then?
  2. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn. There will be times when your son
    Gymfinity Gymnasts

    (L to R) Bri, Kendra, Yuki, Lexi and (Front) Kaisey 2007

    or daughter will win honors, but there will be more times when they don’t. I have had athletes train all year for a chance to qualify to a championship meet only to have one bad routine and miss their chance. It’s soul crushing. There will be more consolations then congratulations; but, I look at it as a learning process. If we learn about what to do, or what not to do, then we didn’t really lose did we?. As a coach it’s often difficult to console an athlete after a disappointing performance, but we understand that it’s 10x harder for the mom and dad. You have everything from taking them home, seeing them the next morning, and bringing them back to the gym and all the minutes in-between. We understand, and we will help support you and the athlete, but make no bones about it, we don’t envy your position.

  3. Sports help kids develop in so many ways. They learn more life lessons through 5 years in sports than the average kid may learn in 20 years of living. But though they are advanced for their age, they are still young. Kids are still kids and they have problems processing emotions or grasping complex concepts. On occasion I have had to remind coaches that they might see highly trained gymnasts, but all that talent and skill is housed inside a young child. As a parent, you know that they might be advanced, but they are still your child. They will need opportunity to express themselves like children do. It may take time, or when puberty hits, it may take patience on your part, but give them the space to be kids. That is what they need for healthy development.

 The last category is called “Parent’s Wake Up Call”

  1. Your job description may include counselor, driver, and cook; but it also includes manager. Kids in sport are usually pressed for time. Because of the demands of their training they learn how to manage their time to fit school work and sleep into their schedule. There will be times when you will have to oversee their schedule. Watch that they do get enough sleep, enough kid time, and enough time to just hang out with the Fam. On meet weekends you will need to budget travel time to be able to travel, eat, and still be there for warm ups. You may need to have them study in the car, or eat dinner on the way to the gym until they start to develop their skills of time management.
  2. Your job description will also include the title of Angel Investor. Being a sport parent requires not only the investment of your time, but it requires a financial commitment as well. It may require being creative to find ways to cover expenses, for example, we have scholarship opportunities for work-study programs at Gymfinity. I have had parents sign up for cleaning duties after practice not because they need the financial break, though some do, but because they want to show their athlete that there is a value to their training. I have a lot of respect for that decision. It’s humbling. It may also be hard to have to make tough decisions on when to spend money and when to not spend. It may feel like you are being too tough, but every family has different circumstances. Again, for us, family is a priority. We don’t want to put parents in a position to have to short change one child to pay for another.

In any case, we know that parenting an athlete can be different than you may have thought it would be. Yes, there are some great times, some memories are never forgotten. There may be times when it is stressful to see the sacrifices of time, money, or social events. Worse yet, sometime all the sacrifice doesn’t pay off, maybe she falls off the beam, or falls on her vault. It could happen, but remember that sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

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02
Nov
17

Things I bet you never thought about when your kids got into sports (Part 1)

 Many is the morning when a parent wakes up and has to drive their athlete/child to a meet out of town. They think to themselves “Why did I let her do gymnastics?” Then they get up, get dressed and chauffeur the gymnast to the meet. Ah…. parenting is hard work.

So why do they do it? Some get their kids into sports to learn skills, to exceed how good they, the parent, was at a sport, or to just have a constructive fitness activity. Some are looking for social development or the affective development of winning humbly and losing graciously. Whatever the reason, sports gives us way more for our kids than we anticipate. Read any of my other posts to see how much I believe in the benefit of sport.

Gymfinity Gymnastics

For Gymnastics moms, coffee is a must.

But there is another side of the coin. There are considerations that we may not have thought of when our kids got involved in gymnastics, or other sports. Here are a few considerations that we must have as sports parents. As a parent and a coach for over 30 years, I have included a few bits of advice for free. You’re welcome.

In the category of “Keep Your Perspective Mom”:

  1. To you they are the best in the world, but that might not be the case. We must be satisfied with knowing that the sport may not offer our children international fame or a college scholarship. It’s ok to know that the sport or activity just makes them happy. If they are having fun and learning (physically, mentally, and emotionally) then we have a champion in the family regardless of results.
  2. It may be the same sport you or Dad did when you were young, but this is a totally different person, with a completely different set of circumstances: they have different parents, different timing, different peers, different coaches, and are in a different era than you. Give them the space to be themselves, let them participate at their own level of comfort. You will see that they will exceed their own expectations. If they don’t exceed yours, then that’s your problem. Deal with it, but don’t throw it on them.
  3. You will have to plan for their retirement. Every athlete has a day when they don’t play anymore. If you think ahead and plan for things to do when they retire, then you won’t be stressed out when it happens. Sometimes kids quit by choice, maybe they feel it’s too hard or they’re over their head. Maybe it’s not fun anymore. Maybe, they are retiring because of an injury. Whatever the case we must support them if they make the choice. I always tell my team kids that I will support their decision if it’s well thought out and if it’s not just because they are frustrated. Frustrations can be overcome, so it’s not a good reason. I tell them, and it’s true, that, as a coach, I will be sad and disappointed but not angry. Many young athletes fear making the coach mad. Be sure, as a parent, that they don’t have that same fear with you.

 New category: The sacrifices.

  1. Being an athlete is demanding and the team is a hungry monster that is never satisfied. The sport will require a specific schedule. It will demand some early mornings and some late nights. It may ask that your child leave school early to travel to a meet, or it may ask that you leave work early to drive them. In any case be prepared to make some sacrifices for the team and the sport. It will be worth it every time you see her smile up at you from the competition floor.
  2. When your child gets to a level of performance where outside factors can affect performance you will find that you will have to develop new habits to support the athlete. Less fast food, more salad (this was tough for me). You will no longer be able to be a “walk-it-off” parent. Because now a twisted ankle may keep them from the game, so you tend to have it looked at instead of letting them shake it off. My favorite story in this category is about one parent that slept on the uncomfortable hotel room sleeper couch so her daughter could get a good night sleep on the bed. See what I mean? Sacrifice.
  3. It may be hard to keep your perspective on the 2 things that always matter more than sports: family and school. At our gym we do not require kids to home school or tutor (many gyms do) because our mission is to develop a well-rounded child, that means social development in school. But often school must work around the sport. As I mentioned sometimes they may have to leave school early, or have homework delivered in a bunch because they will miss a few days of school while travelling to a meet or game. Family for us, is always a priority. I have kids miss training for birthdays, grandparent’s visits, or other family events. I am not as understanding about missing a meet for those reasons, but I can be flexible. Remember what I said above, sports are selfish, they will ask for your sacrifices, but you don’t always have to give in. Prioritize.

Next time we will explore that last two categories: “Sometimes Sports Aren’t Pretty” and “Parents Wake Up Call”.

20
Sep
17

Why we shouldn’t focus on Success

I have a very different definition of success. I have always believed in the oft quoted “Shoot first, what you hit, call the target” philosophy. As a coach, I have guided many athletes to great success by my definition and as defined by other people as well. I have always believed that if we focus on success, rather than growth, we often lose the biggest benefits from trying to do anything at all. Here are 5 things that we tend to lose when all we focus on is success as defined in a traditional way.

Setting goals and success

Ancient Wisdom

You limit Discovery

When we follow the laser focus of working to achieve a specific goal we will often lose sight of the many opportunities along the way. I drove to Illinois yesterday and ended up stopping at a great roadside market. If I would have only been focused on my destination, I would have missed some of the best sweet corn I have ever had. Not to equate striving for our goals with shopping for produce, but it illustrates the odd and interesting things we can find on our path to success.

You limit your ability to Grow

If we are only focused on one outcome we lose the opportunity to learn as we go. We need to embrace our shortcomings, our failures, and mistakes. By doing so we learn to adapt and we learn to overcome future mistakes by developing resiliency. Striving for our goals is a long-term commitment; persistence, resiliency, quick thinking, and wisdom are natural byproducts of the process if we commit to the long term effort and stay open to the process.

You fall into Black & White Thinking

When we are solely focused on a successful outcome we are quick to label those errors, misjudgments and mistakes as failures. If we do not achieve our stated goal then everything else seems to be a failure. There is nothing more untrue. We cannot, in any effort, be so short-sited that we only see black and white. The world is made up of shades of gray and there is not only much to be learned in the gray areas, but there is a lot of happiness in them as well.

You will have a hard time finding Happiness

“Shoot for the moon, that way, even if you miss, you are among the stars.” We’ve heard this thousands of times and seen it on bumper stickers and tee-shirts. I apologize for bringing out this old chestnut, but there is a lot of value in it. The notion that our moonshot is only valuable if we reach the moon devalues our position in the stars. I have had athletes set goals to win national accolades and, some do and some don’t. Those that don’t have to often be reminded that they attained much more in the effort than they would have if their goals were limited only to regional or statewide success. It’s the process, as I mentioned above, that gives value to the result. If any of these athletes would have considered themselves as failures, then all the effort, all the work, would have been in vain.

You miss the opportunity to be Grateful

My mom used to say Don’t be sad about the rainy days, without them  you wouldn’t appreciate the sunny ones. There is so much wisdom in that statement. We need to embrace our struggles and the hard work we put in to be truly grateful for our results; whatever they may be. Also, persisting through hard times gives us opportunity to identify the people who stand by us. The ones who lend a shoulder in effort or a shoulder to cry on. It’s the process, the effort, that helps us see our true team mates and friends.  All of this is so worthy of acknowledgment. I believe that, though It’s hard sometimes, we need to really look for the things in life where we can express gratitude.

In our society, especially in sports, we are led to believe that we must “win”, that “there is no room for second place”, that we must “win at all costs” and so on. This thinking is outdated and detrimental.

I don’t think we need to celebrate losing, or glorify failure either, but I do think we need to be open to the possibilities and options we develop during our efforts. I never believed that every child should get a trophy and I do believe that there is something valuable in explaining to a child that 7th place is reflective of a single performance, of their effort, of their current situation, and of the effort of others. What could a child learn from that explanation of the results? Sometimes an athlete not winning can bring more in the long run than if they would have taken home the trophy. Agree?

13
Jun
17

My addressing the graduating class of 2017.

Every year we get hit by “Graduation Season”. Kids leaving middle or high school and going on to college or, kids leaving college and stepping out into the big ol’ world. I have been to a few graduation ceremonies and I always think how encouraging it is to have such amazing speakers talking to these transitioning kids at the point where they are ready for their next chapter of life. One day”, I joke with my friends, some important school will call me to do the speech and they will give me a Honorary Degree, I’ll get to keep that weird floppy hat. But to-date no school has called so I have resigned to printing my speech here. Enjoy.

Congratulations on reaching a lifetime milestone. Your work from this point will not beJ Orkowski addresses class of 2017 harder or easier, just different, and likely more fun. In any case, always know that there are friends around you that will share the burdens and friends who will be there to help celebrate the victories. There is always someone who can guide you, advise you, and support you. Everyday and every way. Usually you call them Mom or Dad, but today I would like to be your adviser and offer you this advice.

As you move into this next phase of life there 10 quick but important bits of advice that will make your efforts easier if you understand them, or more difficult if you ignore them.

First ground rule: your life is made up of your own perceptions. How you choose to perceive the world is how the world is. If it seems like a constant battle, you have waged that war. If it seems like bliss, it is you that has calmed those raging seas. Your experience through life will be only as difficult as you want to make it. Choose to see things as controllable.

Next; life might seem to be broken and falling apart, but as a friend of mine says “Maybe life is falling together.” As I mentioned perception before, it is on you to see the world as under your control and direct the construction or destruction of all around you. You are stepping into a very powerful position because the future is dependent on what you make it. Trust that life will turn out as it is supposed to, it’s a process.

  1. Live your days enjoying the beauty and complexity of our world. Don’t waste your energy and time complaining about what could have, should have, or might have been. You have beautiful opportunities all around you, act on them, and live your adventure. Remember that only you can assign meaning to things. If they are important to you, care for them, nurture them and make them important to the world.

Next rule: you can handle more than you think that you are capable. People are asked how they made it through after suffering a mishap or set-back. And many reply that they just kept on living. Personal, financial, emotional, professional setbacks will happen and you will weather them and survive because you have strength that even you mom didn’t know you had.

  1. That being said; know that it is impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time. One cannot be appreciative and feel deep sorrow simultaneously. So look for things to be grateful for. Make it a habit to appreciate life as it happens for you.

Ground rule number 6: Be happy you are having problems. The only people who don’t have problems are the ones who don’t do anything. If you are having difficulties it is because you are living in forward motion. Your adventure will always have ups and downs. Appreciating the downs makes the ups just that more glorious.

  1. And again, know that your attitude should be based on how you want the world, how you want life, to be. Don’t set your attitude by what other have handed you. That only leads to being frustrated and unhappy. The way you grow from loss or defeat is to keep your attitude based on learning and progress. No one every grew from being stagnant and defeated.
  2. When other people feed you their opinions, allow them to feed your mind not starve your spirit. Learn from what people say, do, and feel. But speak your own words, think your own thoughts, and feel your own heart. You are what matters in your world to be sure, but know that giving of yourself will not only make your world a better place, but will change the life of so many others as well. Giving to others is an amazing feeling, selfishly set out to give yourself that joy as much as possible.
  3. Always do what is right by your own principles. Doing the right thing will give you strength and allow you to share your strength with others. Doing things, the easy way may make life smoother right now, but easy and right are often very different choices. Choose the long term right over the short-term simple.

And lastly, feel free to break a few rules, shoot the sacred cows, challenge traditions. The world needs new thinking, thinking from outside the box, from outside the comfort zone. Do not fear doing things differently. Everything that is done today was once thought surely insane years ago.

So there are 10 ground rules to move forward with healthy perspective and guarantee your own success:

  1. Choose to see life as controllable
  2. Trust that life will turn out as it’s supposed to, though it might need a few tweaks.
  3. If things are important to you, give them everything you have, love, nurture, and protect them with every part of your being.
  4. You can and will win at this game called life, even when you seem to be losing, remember that you have strength that even you mom didn’t know you had.
  5. Create the habit to appreciate life as it happens for you. Being appreciative allows us to enjoy every day.
  6. Problems just indicate that you are working your way to the top. People without problems are the ones happy to stay on the bottom.
  7. Keep your attitude positive. Other people can affect your life only as much as you allow them.
  8. Be advised by other people and things but think your own thoughts and be your own person. Develop a set of rules and principle that will never falter.
  9. Make decisions based on what is right for the longest time for the most people. Don’t decide to do it the easy way or the quickest way, that almost always turns out badly.
  10. And lastly, don’t be afraid to be different. The only people who have changed the world are the ones who refused to think like everyone else.

No go forth, go on to your next adventure, live you dream, build your world, and always remember that you will not adventure alone. Share your life with friends, family, and the world. Now show us all what you can do.

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.

 

 




November 2017
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