Archive for the 'Teaching' Category

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

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.

gymfinity, dad and the boys

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.




March 2017
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