Posts Tagged ‘Cheer


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.


A note from me about Success

Every year I write notes of encouragement to my competitive team kids, hoping that maybe some blue day that the little nugget might bolster their spirits. I was looking up some quotes on working through problems, perseverance, and success but the notes I was making for myself turned into a blog post instead.

All of the people I researched said similar things: “work hard” (Vince Lombardi), “do it now” (Mark Twain and Thomas Edison), and “keep challenging yourself” (Richard Branson). But these were cliché and I felt that they were just a “given”, meaning they all elicited a No Kidding response when I found them.  Work and determination are characteristics that are pounded out in every speech these kids hear. So I anticipated a “yeah yeah yeah” response if I themed it that way. I personally believe that people do want challenge but only if there is a great possibility of beating it. We don’t mind a good challenge as long as we get a self-esteem bump when it’s done. We are so fixated on winning that we can’t see that sometimes there is more value in being faced down by a challenge than in facing the challenge down. Challenge is a possible theme but sometimes it beats us, and that’s OK in my book. So maybe not challenge as a theme.

So I looked into the opposite side of the coin. What not to do, to be successful. But there were the same cliché responses. Steve Jobs said “Don’t waste time (do it now), don’t waste it living someone else’s life or living someone else’s thinking (dogma).  Bill Gates said to succeed that we cannot fear change. (actually he said: with time people will learn to accept their silicone masters -as a joke). But the points of each Gates and Jobs are true, we need independence, creative thought, and to be open to change. Again, no kidding was all I could muster. So no-go on Gates or Jobs.

You have the luxury to define your success

You have the luxury to choose your own outcome.

Winston Churchill said that we shouldn’t shirk from criticism, because it calls attention to what needs attention. I like that. He said it’s like pain in the body, when we feel it, we know what to attend to first. I like it but after further thinking I thought that my job is to criticize gymnasts. “Make it higher, make it faster, better, but do one more, and point your toes” are all critiques and so I felt utilizing Churchill was like saying “Listen to me.” The reality is that I coach great kids and they are respectful, hard working, and dedicated. I rarely have to say “listen to me” because they already do. So sorry Winston, you didn’t make the cut.

So I came up with this, hopefully it’s new enough thinking to make them pay attention. Hopefully it’s motivating, and hopefully it’s positive..

You have the luxury to choose your own outcome, to stick your own label on at the end of the day. You have the power to define victory, the strength to affect your own evaluation, and you alone should set your standard for your performance.

If you set out to beat other people then you will only experience defeat, even as they hang a medal around your neck. If you set out to get a medal or a trophy you will not be satisfied even when it’s handed to you. Your victory will only come when you have defined it’s terms.

I have told you all that losers are the ones who gave up, they never learn and aren’t open to lessons from loss. That won’t be you.

I believe that there are Winners and there are Learners. If you come out less than you anticipated then you must define your plan to return for the next attempt and guarantee yourself better results. And since winners determine their own definition of victory, then your definition, regardless of medals or trophies, should be to learn from every experience. When you are open to learning, you can NEVER lose.


See also: Our gym page at


why you should slow down on fast food

Look, gloves off, here is the straight scoop about fast food. I have written before how fast food is more a function of economics over taste or preference. I myself am not a total stranger to the drive through window, but I know that I indulge in that only once or twice a month.  Also, I am under no illusion that I am getting real food, I know I am filling my gut for a short term solution to a time crunch, period.

We all know that a regular diet that includes fast food will lead to  weight gain and can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes. That’ s a fact, and if you didn’t know that…..well, now you do.

Her’s another fact: let’s start with breakfast. Fast food eggs are made of dimethylpolysiloxane (found in lubricants and silly putty) and gycerin (found in soap). Though it might be better to just eat the soap and lube because other menu items might be surprising too. For instance, most fast food burgers contain only about 2 to 14% real meat. Most of the patty is chemical filler, that’s why they don’t spoil. When something doesn’t rot, you can bet it’s not organic or natural.  So forget the beef, get the chicken.

looks harmless

looks harmless

Maybe not. “Dad, which part of the chicken is the nugget?” Great question. It’s actually from various parts. In fact it’s from a process called mechanical separation: which is made from a slimy soup created from processed bones and other unusable carcass parts. (Mmmm right?) So, skip the chicken and go for a salad.

Hold the fork because even the salad choices are suspect. For example, a BK salad is 500 calories with 28 grams of fat and a day’s worth of sodium. But sadly still, probably your best choice. But often the salads are loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, a cheap sweetener (definitely in the soft drinks and desserts) and a study from Princeton showed HFCS as a major cause of obesity.

Did you also know that fast food can be addictive? Yup, a study by Garber & Lustig shows a correlation of addictive behavior and fast food consumption. The CDC explains that obesity has gone up 100% in children and 300% in adolescents since 1984. So let’s connect the dots: HFCS causes obesity, HFCS is in many fast food menu options. Obesity is in a raging increase. Draw your conclusion.

For a healthy choice for your kids see: Our gym page at


Choosing sports

Kids today are faced with so many choices. When it comes to activities should they do an academic program (one of my sons does a Lego Robot class, the other takes Spanish)? Should they do community or volunteer programs? Should they do sports? If so which one? Swimming is a life skill. Tennis is a life-long activity. Gymnastics is a foundation for all other sports. Baseball is a great team sport that promotes socialization. So much to consider.

Understand also that if you choose the activity, or the sport for your child then the child doesn’t have any ownership in the decision. It becomes just another thing you tell them to do, like cleaning a room, picking up socks or taking out trash. If they have no input on the choice I will assure you that their participation will be short lived.Kids Play is AWESOME

Sometimes kids just can’t make a decision. Then it is imperative that we offer some guidance. However, this is one of those things where we need o make kids feel that they are making a decision, even though we are guiding the process. We can look up YouTube videos of the sport being played, we can travel to competitions to watch, or we can read books (on paper? What?) about a sport. I have even had kids make lists of what they like and don’t like about sports and then guide the decision by offering positives and help the decision.  In my case, and with my children, my wife and I talked about our experiences in gymnastics. We talked about how fun it was for us, and all the things we learned by being gymnasts. (Oh, and I should add that we own the gym so it was convenient and cost effective as well as a natural progression of their built-in playground.)

Lastly, whatever the choice, let them play it out, so to speak. Maybe they find that they don’t really like it, like we experienced with soccer and basketball. But we made the kids finish the season because that was the commitment they made. They needed to know that decisions need to be followed by action. But now my kids have chosen sports and activities that they love and we encourage them in every way we can. Read back a few posts and review the post about When Parents Make Kids Love Sports. We need to let them know, win or lose, we love the fact that they are playing. 


When parents make kids love sports

I learned an invaluable lesson from the fine folks at Proactive Sports. No matter how my kids perform at a meet or a game I convey the message that I love to watch them play.  That concept is why kids often prefer that their grandparents come to see them in meets. They know that there is no judgment. The older, wiser grandparents convey appreciation for just getting on the floor or field. That makes kids feel great. Parents, as observed in the last post, are often critical of performance for many reasons  but mostly because they want their child to do better.  What I think is funny is that those same accepting grand folks that just love those kids to pieces were the same ones who railed on us for missing a catch or blowing a play. I guess there is something to be said for becoming wiser with age.

As you know from previous postings, I am a big believer in kids being in sport to help them develop into healthy and functional members of society; and in the last post I explained how parents sometimes inadvertently lead their kids away from sports. So it’s only fair that we discuss  a few things that will make them love the sports, love being a player and love you parents even more than they do.

First BE A TRUE FAN, at Gymfinity we encourage parents to cheer for good gymnastics where ever it may come from. We ask them to appreciate the performance of every kid at a meet, not just the kids from Gymfinity. If the parent loves the sport, the child will love doing the sport. Its that simple.SHirt

We also tell parents that when they are in the stands that they represent their daughter or son. Would your child be proud of your behavior?  There should be no bleacher talk or negative criticism of athletes, coaches, programs, judges, or meets. When your child see that you are supportive and positive it allows them to perform confidently knowing that when they do their best, you will accept it.  If kids have a bad meet or game, they know it, and they don’t need to hear from another person that it didn’t go well.  One of the best examples I can think of is when we travelled over 8 hours to a big meet and my gymnast did not perform optimally.  I discussed with her where we needed to apply our efforts before the next meet and we weighed out positives from the experience and lessons we could own from the negatives. She felt awful, but was accepting. When we went over by her mom and dad, her dad picked her up and hugged her without saying a word. The mom said, “where would you like to eat, your choice?” Unconditional, affectionate and accepting. Well done.

Lastly, at Gymfinity we explain that everyone has a role to play at a meet (or game). The athlete is there to perform. It’s what they trained for and they need our help to focus and give them their space to to do their job. The coaches job is to guide the athlete. All training should have been done before the meet/game and coaching at a competition should be limited to reinforcing performance. The coaches other job is to guarantee that the rules are working. If scores need to be questioned or inquiries made, the coach is on the job. Lastly the parent has a job too. They cheer. Period. Before, during, after. I believe that if we all respect each other’s jobs we will have a positive experience. If the roles get crossed there will be confusion and someone, or everyone,  is not going to be happy.

The advice from Proactive Coaching to tell your child that you love watching them play is so important. It validates their effort, allows them space to own their own sports. When your child is ready to talk about how the meet or game went, they will give you a window of opportunity to have that conversation. When you are invited, participate. It means that now they are ready to hear your opinion. But remember that your opinion is only your opinion. It’s not the game plan for next time, its not establishing goals for your child and it’s certainly not putting conditions or their performance.

I learned that after a meet, I tell my kids how I had fun watching what they could do, that I love to see the improvements they made. I usually add about how I enjoyed talking with other team parents. My kids know that I enjoy going to meets. Usually after a bit one of them will say, “did you see when I….?” or “Did you see how I…..? Window opens and the conversation happens. But it always comes back around to how I love watching them do their stuff.


When parents make their kids quit sports

(Almost) every child quits their sport. Some quit because they grow out of it, some quit because they find other interests, some become coaches and never quit, but that’s a separate blog post.  Some kids quit because their parents chase them out of it.

I have had parents withdraw their kids because it was too expensive or because it conflicted with family time. I have had them pull out because it conflicted with school. All of those are valid reasons to change a child’s schedule. I understand each one, and in fact we have strategized to be sure that these are infrequent issues at Gymfinity.  But statistically most kids (75%) drop out by the time they are 13.  Often in gymnastics we see kids pull away because they have a fear of having to do bigger skills and they are old enough to evaluate the risk. They are afraid. Sometimes their skills level out and they feel stagnant. That leads to frustration and the decision to leave. Again, these are reasonable and I have dealt with them all.

Unfortunately I have also dealt with kids who quit because its what they have to do to get their parents back.  I have seen parents who have identified themselves through their child’s participation.  Kids miss the mom or dad that just loves them, the one that doesn’t have performance conditions on affection.  I have seen parents more upset about a fall on beam then their own daughter. That’s not right, what control did the adult have for the event? None. Well maybe not. I have had parents coaching through the windows at the gym with complex hand signals and/or clandestine meetings in the bathroom or coat room. So maybe we can attribute that fall to the parent. (Sarcasm…sort of).  When a parent flips the roles of coach and parent it confuses the athlete and distracts them from doing their best. Kids may quit to get the roles flipped back.

Not my mom“If you don’t win, people will think I am a bad parent”.  Stop laughing, I have heard this said out loud  in veiled parent speak. Often adults think that their value is based off of their  child’s performance.  I remember that when  my oldest played soccer and he was not so good. It wasn’t that he had no skill, it was that he didn’t care to play. I stood on the sidelines in rain and cold (what an awful sport for spectators) and watched my son disengage. I convinced myself that it reflected on me as a parent or worse, as a coach. In fact I remember telling him that people would think less of Gymfinity because he wouldn’t play soccer better.  Yes, I am going to a parent time out for that.  Then I realized that he was like me, he didn’t like team sports, he liked individual sports. He was, in fact, confirming my genetics through his play, ironically.  I have since learned how to better deal with my child in sports and I allow them to own their own performance. (Read more in the next Gymfinity post).   When I was so wrapped up in the game I forgot to be Owen’s dad. He had to quit (and I had to grow up) to get his dad back. I made the transformation from super-critical-man back to Clark Kent, without even using a phone booth. But there was a price to be exacted for it. My son never got to experience the fun of soccer without a 250 pound dad on his back.

Sometimes parents demonstrate their intentions to get their children to quit right in the stands at a meet.  Being upset by a score is futile. We tell our team kids that you cannot control what a judge gives you, you can only do the best you can do, at that moment, in that place. Who knows if a judge had a fight with her husband or missed her morning coffee, or maybe even had too much morning coffee. There are outside factors affecting human performance that are out of our control, so why freak out? . Kids get that; I wish they could teach their parents. I have heard parents bad mouth other athletes or judges.  I have heard them criticize facilities and even weather. All of this is affecting their child’s performance. Yeah, right.  When a child sees and hears this displeasure from a parent they feel that they have in some way disappointed their parent, or in the least, been the cause for frustration and unhappiness.  “Sorry, mom. I did my best“.  And yes  I have even seen children punished based on performance. What does it say when a little girl who loves the sport  has to take down all her gymnastics posters for 1 week because she fell off the beam? It speaks volumes. Unfortunately it tells a child that their mom and dad want them to quit so they don’t have to get punished anymore.

A great exercise is to ask your child what their goals are before a season. Most kids will say that they want to have fun or qualify to state meet. Most goals (if Gymfinity has done it’s job) are not score oriented. Let your child share some goals and then in your head ask yourself if they are the same goals you would have for them. If not, then you have to come to reality. It’s their sport, not yours.

When you can separate yourself from them and allow them to be an athlete; allow them to experience their sport and own their performance then you will have a child  that loves to play and feels fulfilled playing. When your goals are different then theirs, when you measure yourself by their performance, when you blame everything for poor play then you are opening the door for your child to quit sports. What’s worse, is that you are creating a pattern for them to be dissatisfied and non-committal for everything they do. Because they will never be able to please you. If that’s the case, good job you met your goal; but you need a parent time out to examine your behavior.


Effort, Dedication and Success

Our goal at Gymfinity is two-fold. We want kids to realize that they can exceed their own potential regardless of the topic and we want them to feel success.

In regards to potential, we have to first identify what the child feels that they can accomplish and then we have to convince them that with effort and dedication they can exceed what they thought they were their limits. Notice the 2 factors of effort and dedication. These are things that the greater percentage of children has little to do with. We have convinced children that they don’t have to try hard all the time, that we will reward participation the same as winning. So the kids who try hard and may fail in the light of great attempts are ranked lower than an athlete that half-steps it and just shows up. We have prioritized mediocrity and in the same breath complain about lackluster children. Dedication too is not something we, as a generation of parents, have worked hard to instill in our children. We tell them when they are unhappy that we will change heaven and earth to make them happy again. We teach them that when the going gets tough it’s ok to get going and then we’ll make it easier for them. This, as the kids say, is a “FAIL” on us.

Effort is certainly to be rewarded. I cannot tell you how many coaches I have spoken to that share the same story. I’ll hear. “That’s my gymnast Carley (name’s made up) she’s got talent dripping off of her but she doesn’t work hard. Over there is Darcy and she’s not the most talented but she works her butt off.” And here’s the part that’s always the same: I would take 5 Carley for 1 Darcy. Coaches appreciate effort and would prefer it over lazy talent. Our directive though is to help the Darcys get skills and to motivate the Carleys to work as hard as the Darcys. Granted, and you probably beat me to the punch, there are coaches out there who are all about winning and don’t really give two hoots for the Darcys of the world. They focus on Carley and their programs show it, unhappy, un-motivated, disrespectful champions; sad in my book.

Dedication is another quality that we don’t find often. We find it, I have very dedicated kids that I love like they are my own children, but we don’t find it often. In our sport, to be good, you usually have to start very young. Not always, I said “usually”. As kids grow their parents often want them to leave the sport to try other things. Often it’s not a matter of “do you want to try other things?” It’s a matter of “go try, see if you like it.” I am for this in most instances; but in many cases these same parents cannot figure out why other children progress past their child or why their child is now finding this sport so difficult. It’s because they are spread too thin Dad! They’re children and if they are happy doing one thing, and doing it well, reward that and be grateful they found their happiness. If they want to look around and spread out their energy then accept the conceptual reality of  “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

The third factor and aspect of our Gymfinity goals is to have each child experience success. The difficulty then is “what is success?  You may remember the story of a parent from another gym who became visibly upset with me when she accused me of not inviting her daughter’s team to our meet because I was afraid they would beat us. She was almost apoplectic when I said “That’s not a worry, my team never loses.”  The meaning of my statement, aside from the entertainment value of watching that lady’s head turn purple, was that we have defined success as learning from errors and doing the best we can in the situation we are in. My teams know that if they trained hard, gave it their best effort and still scored low then there is still a chance to succeed by evaluating what can be better done next time. They never lose.

There is an old Buddhist saying that “first you shoot your arrow and then call what you hit the target.” I’ve always loved this because it guarantees success. With learning and effort as the arrow, we shoot and accept the consequences as the target. I was so pleased to hear Olympic coach Bruce Burnett share the same thoughts on how he trains his own children and his athletes.

I really appreciated this because Burnett has “seen the mountain top” so to speak. Taking athletes to the highest level of competition and still placing the value on the journey. It makes me happy to see that my philosophy is carried by coaches at all levels. The olden days of jack-booted coaches berating and embarrassing children into performance is fading and maybe, a new generation of coach, a new generation of athlete is rising. People who believe that hard work is its own reward, dedication and perseverance are the ways to success and the value is in found the journey not the prize are becoming more prevalent. Yeah, I know. But I can dream can’t I?

September 2017
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