Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Activity

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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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?

06
Sep
17

A Letter To My Coach: Mickey

Hey Mick

I just wanted to shoot you a note that says Thanks.

You’ll never believe where I am. I am writing to you from my office at my own gym. I opened it in 1999, I think you were coaching in California then. It has grown each year and in 2014 we even expanded the building. I get to coach the most wonderful kids I have ever seen. We do great gymnastics but, even better, we help them grow up into great people. I owe a lot of that to you.

When you were my coach, you helped me to see that Tumbling and Floor Exercise was truly the best event, must be, as gymnasts we both specialized in it. I learned that all skills are basically born of the floor, tumbling skills are foundational for beam, vault and even bars. I learned so much about the sport from you. I have been fortunate enough to have had many great mentors as a technical coach, My brother Harold, Leonard Isaacs, Eugene Shanderay, Doug Davis, Mel Leinwander, Gary Aspinlitner, and even from young guys like Matt Lea. But You Mick, you were the guy who taught me the most.

I remember you telling me that a gymnast is a leader; in school, on their own team, and in life. Gymnasts, you said, set the bar for other athletes. You always made me feel like I was special, like a 6 foot tall kid who somehow was outstanding among a world of shorter, stronger, more organically talented athletes. I felt like I had a gift. I felt like I had opportunities that other kids would never see. After my near fatal accident, you told me that I got to have a choice that others didn’t. I could retire satisfied knowing I did all I could with the frame and time I had, or I could fight my way back and be someone. I could be the guy that others talked about; the guy who didn’t let a broken neck slow him down. I could be the guy who trained twice as hard as everyone else to be able to, in the end, surpass everyone’s expectations. You made me want to be that guy.  I think today, as a coach, business man, and father, I still try to be that guy. That guy who works hard, never gives up, and eventually wins.

So wdownloadhy am I sending this note now? Well Mick, I was standing there today, coaching, and it dawned on me that I won. I have a great life. I’m married and have 2 sons, I own a gym, and as you know I dreamed of having my own gym since I was a kid. I work with the best people on the planet, my staff earns my respect every day. My team kids work harder and smarter than any gymnast’s I have ever known, and my team families, Mickey, you won’t believe it, they have the same vision I have. They know their kids are extraordinary and they value what we can do to help their kids exceed everyone’s expectations. I owe so much of my success to you Mick. You set me on this path and helped me develop the tools I needed to make it all real. You even told me once, when I had doubts about being a teacher, that I should be the teacher who teaches from the heart, not to worry about the books and the quizzes. Do you remember that?

Mickey, it’s been over 15 years since you died. It breaks my heart that I never got the chance to show you what you helped me become. I never got the chance to say thank you. I think about you all the time, and though you probably just remember me as a gawky gymnastics wanna be, just one of among the hundreds you coached, I will never forget you. I don’t think that in this life we understand that even momentary encounters can often change a person’s whole life. I know that coaching a young person who loves the sport in both head and heart can be the deciding factor on many of that kid’s life outcomes. I don’t underestimate the gifts that gymnastics gives. I saw it in my case with you and I see it in the young women I coach. When you offered wisdom and compassion it shaped my entire life.  I guess I just wanted you to know that.

I miss you Mick, even though you are with me every day.   J.

 

 

26
Jul
17

Feelin pretty OK

Do you have a person (or people) who hold such respect from you that their words carry more weight? Like if they told you that you were “doin’ OK” that you would then feel like you were? I have several people like that. Some are from business, some are teachers, some are coaches, some are just friends.

The other day, during team practice, one of my respected friends stopped in for a visit. He was passing through town and made a point to come by.  His name is Lon Arfston. He was one of the, as I call them, founding fathers of Wisconsin gymnastics. His club, LA Academy, produced the youngest National Champion ever, back in the 80’s.  Lon has coached all over the state, master coached at camps, clinics, and workshops. His experience led him to equipment sales and gym design after a brief retirement from coaching. Then he returned to the gym (none of us ever really leave the gym completely). He trained kids from pre-team to higher levels for many more years before officially retiring a few years ago.

Years ago, when Gymfinity was first being planned, I ran several ideas past Lon. He was always very free with advice and I liked that he placed trust in me, telling me that I was going to have a great gym one day. He helped me design the floor plans for Gymfinity and made sure that our traffic flow plan in the gym would benefit the most kids with the least congestion. I also ordered the majority of our equipment from Lon’s company To The Core. That was way back in 1998-1999

Through the years Gymfinity grew and developed into the program we have now, a training center for high level athletes that focuses on helping kids in the gym and in becoming productive, respectful and forward focused young adults. I was offered the safety educator position for of USA Gymnastics, and ran it by Lon to get his thoughts on either taking or leaving the opportunity. I took it. Later I was elected to the state board for USA-G and again, got input from Lon and others as I represented not only coaches from the big Wisconsin gyms but coaches from small gyms too. I represented businesses in the industry and businesses in the community of gymnastics. I often sought advice from Lon and others, and found such value in his wisdom.

Gymfinity and Lon Arfston

Lon with Taylor, Kacey, Addie, and the Trolls (Level 10 State 2017)

Last year at State Championship Lon was walking by and photobombed a team picture. The girls thought it was funny but had no idea who he was.

So, there I am coaching beam last Friday and in comes Lon. He had brought me some tools he used as a coach (motivational insights printed on cards), and books about technique and training structure. He thought that it might be something I could use. I gladly accepted them because it’s exactly the type of things I love to get, I study so many books that I could teach a course on coaching (I do by the way).  I was so honored that he thought of me, with so many other coaches that I’m sure he could have gifted this knowledge to. As we sat and talked a bit the other team coaches took over my group to allow me some conversation time with our guest. But Lon couldn’t help being a coach, he periodically interrupted our conversation with a correction to a near-by gymnast. I do the same when I’m in a gym, I even coach while watching gymnastics on TV, honestly it’s an obsession, but I digress. When it came time for him to leave, Lon shook my hand and told me that he always knew I would do a good job with a gym. He told me how proud he was of me and how Gymfinity was one of the best gyms he has ever seen. I joked with him and reminded him that he helped design it, but honestly his approval and respect filled me up.

After he was gone I explained to my team, who he was and reminded them of the photobomb at State. I explained how his opinion mattered to me, and I thanked them for being who they are and doing what they do. It’s because of them that I get to hear compliments like his.

There are days when, as a coach, business person, or even as a parent, that we wonder if we are doing it right. We wonder if we are screwing up our golden opportunity to make a good thing or to make a difference. There is always doubt. But having a man like Lon tell me that I was doin’ OK, made me feel like I was doing, well, OK. It was the shot in the arm I needed to get through a rough week and anxiously be able to tackle the week ahead.

So if you have a friend like that, be appreciative of the power they have. Be sure that you check in once and awhile to get their feedback and just touch base. It will validate you, or give you a chance to course-correct.  And if you are a friend like that, know the power you wield. Dole it out generously, because what the world needs now more than ever, is people feeling OK.

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.

21
Feb
17

Training Confident Kids (Part 2)

In the last post we covered how people can gain confidence by pushing the envelope of what is comfortable and what is a little out of the comfort box. Doing this frequently allows us to see things that would normally throw us into a fit of panic as only moderately stressful, and things that were stressful before are now simply acceptable.

That exposure to things outside our comfortable little world is a Macro plan. It’s a big idea, it’s something that we do that effects everything we do, everything we are and everything we think. It’s easy to sit back and say “I can do that pretty easily” but in fact the practice is effectively pushing, in small ways, everything we do. That’s not so easy. It’s a very large undertaking and requires a complete paradigm shift, a new way to see stress: as an acceptable challenge.

But there are other tactics coaches and parents can take to instill more confidence in our kids and athletes.

1: Allow children to intelligently and safely define their comfort box and it’s boundaries.

Explain to your children how and why things are done the way they are. This allows them to accept or deny the challenge. If I explain to a gymnast that the upcoming meet will require skills on the high beam, and the calendar allows this week to be on a floor height beam if next week goes to a medium height and up again the following week. If I explain that the skills and drills they’ve been doing apply to the new skill, and I give them the choice to decide in which level they will train today. They can evaluate the supporting reasons and make an appropriate decision.

It’s important to allow them in on some of the decision making because kids want to feel, a least a little, in control of their outcomes. When the progressions turn out to lead to success they are reinforced at making good choices and creating the successful outcome. This reinforces their confidence, not only in themselves but in the coach and the coaching process.

  1. Skinned knees are Okay

If, in the above scenario, the athlete decides to take an easier path, one that doesn’t step outside the comfort box too far; you have to be accepting of their error.  When the athlete, or anyone, experiences failure based on their own decisions it still reinforces the process and even fortifies the other un-chosen options that were available to the athlete. When they are not ready for the competition on the high beam, they (in conjunction with you, the coach) should reconsider the plan they made. Make amendments. And try again. At Gymfinity we have a saying; “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” Failure can be a powerful teacher.  Note: it’s imperative that we, when processing the re-evaluation of the plan, do not take away their power to make a new plan. We can offer advice, or personal anecdotes of when we faced similar issues, but we should not make the plan for them.

  1. Reading is fundamental

Every child was a winnerYou have to know what it looks like when your kids are pushing the envelope to a little discomfort and stretching the acceptable levels of stress. You also have to know the symptoms of when your kids are over their head.

Every kid is different. Some will be enjoying the thrill of pushing boundaries, others will appear nervous and tenuous. Just like watching people return from a rollercoaster ride; some are smiling and excited, some are tearful and look like they are done for the day.

In any case, you as the coach or parent, need to be sure the child knows that they are allowed to experience the exhilaration of being out of the box, but that you are there for when they are done playing. They should feel that they are free of judgement and criticism, until they feel more competent. In addition, for the times when they are  over their heads, they should still be aware that you are there as their safe harbor.

  1. Everything is a work in progress

Experiences should be created for every child to dabble outside their own comfort area. Occasionally throwing in a challenge keeps kids forward focused. It also allows them to check their progress on their own confidence. If, in the beam scenario above, I explain to the child that next week we will be on the medium beam for the new skill, then I unexpectedly put a stack of mats under a high beam to create an equal in height to a medium beam, I can challenge the gymnast to up the discomfort while still being within the plans of gradual growth. She may balk or she may accept the challenge. Balking means that she is still pretty firmly placed in her discomfort zone. Whereas trying the challenge means she is ready to progress.

  1. They’re looking at us

Our kids are always looking at us to see how a “real adult” handles the things they encounter in their day. We can actually allow the kids to hear us self-talk as we evaluate potential outcomes, the possibility of success or failure, repercussions of each, and the development of a plan of action. Again, what we show kids is what they learn.

In addition, we need to reinforce their efforts regardless of outcomes. A “nice try” or “good effort” goes a long way. I find myself frequently saying (following a failed attempt) “I see what you were trying to do, and I like that”.

Having a good plan and knowing things you can do to help a child is only part of the process. You will also need to know how to process the results of trips to the discomfort zone, and do so consistently. Questions I usually ask are: What did you learn? And what would have made that easier? Come up with questions that you can use to help them talk about and own their new found confidence.

Coaching, like parenting, is a paradox of urging children to dare risky things and the fear that they may not be successful. We also have to encourage risk while simultaneously being afraid that they may be totally safe. It’s often a fine line to balance upon.

I have stepped over my kids before to tell them what to do, I have pushed my agenda for growth without consulting the athlete, and I have also done it right several times as well. This is all very natural. Just like our kids we have failures too, and hopefully we learn from them. Yet if we do it right, we can develop confidence in our kids so they will be able to attempt and fail, many times if needed.

We will develop kids who can confidently make decisions about how to proceed in skill development, performance, maintenance, and growth.

Our kids will be powerful in mental, emotional and cognitive strength as well as being physically strong.

And best of all, our kids will not feel shame in failure because they will know that it is a means to an end. In so doing, they will never be afraid to try.




November 2017
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