Posts Tagged ‘Fitchburg

07
Feb
17

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.

23
Jan
17

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

A few weeks ago my wife and I took a mental health weekend, and traveled to Sedona Arizona. It was beautiful and relaxing, and the energy in that city was exactly what we needed at that time. While we were gone, Wisconsin experienced it’s first snow storm of the season. We came home from the desert mountains to a foot of snow and below zero windchill. While the plane circled the airport we could see the white snow on the ground

Yes that's me on the rock....look close.

Yes that’s me on the rock….look close.

and I began to feel anxious. Then I remembered a Doctor Suess quote* from “Oh the Places You’ll Go” that really resonated. Suess said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” and my anxiety slipped away.

I had just spent a few days in one of the most beautiful places in the world with my best friend, what better cause to smile? I got to thinking about life in general, and realizing the impact of the words on our lives. Having lost my father this year had struck me deeper than I ever imagined it would. My father and I were not very close being a child of divorce.** My relationship with him was borderline positive sometimes, until he became a Grandpa. I learned more about him and his life growing up, his time as a Milwaukee Police Officer, his time as a soldier, as a business owner, and simply as a man, in the last 12 years than I learned in my first 40 years.  I have posted before about my dad and some of my experiences (Doing it for the Cupcake: May 2015) but I was forced now, with him gone to reach inside and figure out how I felt.

Of course I was sad, I lost my father. Of course I mourned, I would never be able to speak (or argue politics) with him again. But I did find some comfort in the realization that I was very fortunate to get to know him. To see him as a Grandpa was a joy for me and my sons. To have him, in the middle of a political battle, say “yeah, you may be right.” was a big validation for me. I thought about my dad and I smiled.

I realized, circling the airport in the dark,  that it doesn’t have to be sadness when we reach a chapter’s end when, overall,  we appreciate the book.

 

  • * Sorry about bringing up Dr. Suess again, I guess he had more influence on me than I thought. (see a few posts ago, The Only Doctor I’ve Ever Trusted December 2016)
  •  ** I was born in November of 65, my parents divorce was finalized in April of 66. I cannot recall living in a house with my father.
09
Jan
17

Motor Boats and Trains

I have, for a long time, used the analogy of motorboats and trains when I speak to my team kids about motivation. As I raise my own children I realized how this also applies to anyone who may need a little flame placed under the backside.

I ask my team kids if they are a motor boat or a train. I explain to them that I want to help them, I am there as a resource and can provide them drills for skills, code application for routine development, and simple guidance as they progress through the sport, but I need to know what drives them. download

Are they a Train? Are they the type that needs to be pulled? The engine in front, pulling the trailing cars. The conductor sitting in the engine car and deciding where the train goes, how fast it travels, and when it can make stops? As an athlete, do they need me to pull them? Are they needing to tuck in behind me and have me call all the shots, determine the routines, the meets, the training and pull them forward?

Or are they a Motor Boat? Are they the type to be in the captain’s seat and determine direction but need a push from the engine that sits at the stern? Do they have direction and drive and just need the coach as a boost and occasional force?

I have often spoken about the development of the coach relationship with kids in the sport. When they are young, or lower level, the relationship is very much like a master and servant. The coach says “jump” and the gymnasts jump  until Simon says stop jumping, (that works particularly well if the coach’s name is Simon). All decisions are made by the coach, and the gymnast begins learning about how they will develop by seeing it planned out in front of them. In the mid-levels, around beginning optionals, the relationship becomes more like a partnership. The coach is still the primary director but the gymnast has input into their own development and performance. I often say, at this stage, that the coach says “jump” and the gymnasts now ask, “how high?” In later levels and ages, the coach relationship becomes more like a reference that the gymnast can come to for assistance. At this stage, the gymnast directs their pathway and the coach helps in facilitation. This is when the gymnast may ask “Should I jump?”. The relationship and the most effective coaching style evolve over time.

I any event the gymnast is going to need motivation, either internally or provided for them externally. This is true and applicable regardless of the relationship level with the coach. When the coach, boss, teacher, or parent, understands how the child is motivated they can better help the child move forward. Motor Boat or Train? Neither is preferred and degrees of both may be present, but it’s understanding at any given moment which vehicle you are driving that makes a coach more effective at any stage of the game.

03
Jun
15

Congratulations Graduates says I

Every year I have written a graduation commencement speech. Someday some University somewhere will grant me an honorary doctorate and I will speak before 100’s of graduates. Until then…

“Congratulations, you made it past the hard part. I stand before you having arrived here by years of education, years of laboriously attending to every day’s tasks, to be sure my businesses were successful, my people were happy, and my family was secure. I came up, not through a business path, but blindly stumbling from mistake to failure and back again until all my trials, all my tribulations added up to success. I rose up after seeing a vacuum where leadership was needed, seeing no one able to step before a group of driven people and unite them behind a common vision. I learned to be a leader by working harder, succeeding more, failing more, looking for opportunities, and still never taking my eyes off of my goals.

Now you are in a place to jump into the world of trials and tribulations. You have an opportunity to realize everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Some of you will be complacent to work day to day. Wake, eat, work, sleep and repeat. That is what your life will become and you are looking forward to it, jumping into it with both feet. Well, you’re not the ones I am talking to, so please just sit quietly while I talk to your future overlords.

What will it take for you to lead in this new era? When people are more in tune with their hand-held devices then they are with other people, how will you position yourself to stand apart?

The answer is two-fold: be more of a human being and be more of a robot.  Now when I say, be a robot, I’m not talking about R2D2, I’m talking about a Roomba; the robotic vacuum cleaner. You laugh, but let me explain.

The leader of the future must exhibit some “rromba-esque” qualities.  A Roomba has its own timeline. It knows when to come on to get its job done and when to sit quietly in wait under the couch.  John Quincy Adams said that Patience and perseverance have a magical affect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. To lead you have to watch for your opportunities to appear. No starting bell will ring and no teacher will point out the right procedures. You have to patiently wait to execute your plan. The successful leader of this new generation will need patience.  And like the robot under the couch, you have to know when to work on your tasks without impeding on someone else. In fact, you will need teams of people to share your vision and work with you. But people will buy into the leader before they buy into the leader’s vision*. You must present your goals and visions with bold clarity, you have to embody the passion that sets others afire. You will have to be able to share with your people the “why” before they will be willing to work on the “what”.  While others will be head down over a keyboard, or focused solely on the unreal world of Simm people and simulated situations, you must engage. Your communication skills will be such a valued commodity in a world where people have forgotten how to talk to one another. Be a speaker, be a listener. General Colin Powel expressed it best when he said “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.  Powell was a communicator. Though his military was a tech army, he was the leader because he could listen, problem solve and communicate solutions that aligned with the overall vision of his Army.  I cannot overemphasize that you need to develop or cultivate interpersonal skills to be a leader.  You will need to know people, people beyond a digital interface. You will need to know what motivates and what achieves the opposite. People need to be stimulated, and when a person who lives in the digital non-human world is given a true human emotion it can move mountains. Without it people fade and wither, but with the right leader, the right nourishment, people will see that you care for them, see that your vision is their vision, and you will enhance your productivity and your loyalty.

Like a Roomba, you will need to bounce off of obstacles. Stay on task and not let skeptics, pessimists and the occasional failure get in your way. Stay optimistic, channel your fears and your doubts into passion, let it fuel your ability to innovate and create. It’s likely when someone is tearing you down it’s because they are sad they didn’t take initiative before you did. Listen to your critics, remove the malice and look for the jewel inside. Is there truth to their criticism? Can it lead you to a new way to see your situation? One of the best motivators for a leader to grow or to create is by hearing feedback that they might not feel comfortable with. Some big-shots may find it demeaning to be questioned or advised by a junior colleague but the truly successful leader will look for ideas and solutions wherever they may appear. When they find that jewel, from a critic or a junior, a good leader will always share the credit. John Maxwell said, “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” Maxwell is a leader, Maxwell is a Roomba.

The world is starved for Roombas. We have messes everywhere and a vacuum of true leadership. The pool from which future leaders will be born is flooded with complacent, factory droids that would rather digitally interact with you than speak to you. There is an increase in the demand for leadership characteristics to be instilled at the earliest of ages, but don’t worry. There is still time for you to become your own potential. There is no doubt that the road ahead of you will demand hard work, strategy, and passion. And NOW is your time to lead. Now is your time to learn from my digital tool example. These tools that make life easier but less human. To lead, to prosper, and to succeed you will need machine like efficiency but human quality. Be the leader we are all looking for, be the creator of new ideas, new strategies. Be everything you can be, and never rest until you realize your vision.

* People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. —John Maxwell

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.

06
May
15

I think you can take one more turn.

On average you have about 79 years to live.

You will literally sleep through about 26 of those years that leaves you about 53 years of being awake.

You’re going to spend about 6 solid years in classes and getting your education. That leaves you 47.

You’re going to graduate and get a job. You will put in about 11 years of solid work time. Let’s take that off and you are left with 36 years.

You are going to spend about a solid year’s worth of hours sitting in traffic unless you live in Chicago, then its double. But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. That leaves you 35 years.

Photo-Dec-30-7-47-40-PM-e1420214336992Let’s subtract another 3 years from brushing your teeth, showering, and sitting on the can and so on. Also lets take off about 4 years for your time sitting down to eat and drink. Now you have only 28 years left.

Take off 3 more years for shopping, and 6 years for doing chores like cooking, vacuuming, and cleaning. Also take off about 2 years for child care. Down to 17.

The average person now spends about 9 years of screen time. That’s computers, tablets, and TV. It’s Facebook and Reddit and other time sucking websites (does not include reading this blog). Your generation will be much higher, I’m taking off 11 years. You’re left with 6 years.

That only leaves you 6 years to see the world, fall in love, and practice in the gym. That’s not a lot. In retrospect, you spent 3 years on the toilet, so I think your mom will understand you staying 10 minutes late to do one more routine. Go chalk up.

22
Apr
15

Stress in the gym: Stop. Breathe. Look again. do one more.

 I just got out of school. I have a paper due tomorrow that I didn’t start. Exams start next week. Our first meet is in 2 weeks. I haven’t stuck a dismount since Tuesday. The rest of the team is going out for pizza and I have to go home and watch my little brother. Now the coach wants to see a full routine but I haven’t really warmed up yet. ARGHHH!

We all get stressed. It’s normal.

There is definitely a negative physical response. We understand it but at times being stressed can be beneficial. Personally I used to do specific things to make myself stressed out when I was in competition. It made me feel “edged” and the raised heart rate and queasy stomach were things I embraced and defined them, not as stress or as anxiety, but as excitement. I was like a race horse, nose against the gate, ready to run. But I was taught to control the level of stress I was feeling.

We are all experiencing stress. The issue is that without control, it staircases to such elevated levels that we have actual negative and long lasting reactions. In the opening paragraph the gymnast might have 10 stress units over the paper that’s due, (I made this up for illustration sake), 5 units over the start of exams, 5 over the upcoming meet, 10 over low quality practices, 5 over no social outlet, 10 over her little brother’s care. Those 45 units are multiplied by the 20 units of the coach asking for a routine RIGHT NOW and she ends up with 900 units!! The result may be a breakdown, crying,  or a frustrated tantrum, or adding in an additional multiplier by doing the routine poorly and reinforcing the previous stress.

As coaches we need to first stop the staircase climb of stress by explaining that the only thing that can be affected right now is the current request. We have to shock the system by backing down the demands and allow an immediate release of the pressure.  Possibly give them an early release to get the paper done, or something to help them see that solutions are available.  We determine with each athlete the amount of push, pull, or release needed to get to an optimal performance.  We learn those levels by trial and error.

But without controlling the stress level the gymnast will not be practicing optimally and runs an increased risk of injury. None of that is worth pushing through the elevated stress feelings that a gymnast is having.

To the contrary side, there are times when stress is a valuable tool. At Gymfinity we have simulated stressful scenes to help an athlete prepare for that moment when they will be performing. For example, if you have a gymnast that is nervous about performing in front of a crowd, you may want to have an audience come watch a practice meet, or have a time in practice when everyone stops and watches a routine. Eventually through this type of controlled exposure they are desensitized to the stress that a performance could trigger.

In any respect, a performance sport like gymnastics, can be very stressful to a child. Again, as coaches we have got to take steps to teach children how to accept the feelings and eventually control them.  If we don’t, we will not only lose the kid, we will make the sport unappealing to others. Part of the fun of gymnastics is the feeling of being stressed, a little. It affords us the opportunity to show kids that if you embrace stress you can control it, and even make it work for you.




February 2017
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