Posts Tagged ‘Kids in Karate

04
Apr
17

Can you share in the feeling?

Meet season is ending up and it always leaves me pensive. Did we do ok? Could we do better? Should I have done more of this? Less of that? But one thing I am thinking this year is about how people, in general, often don’t get gymnastics, or maybe it’s that they don’t get gymnasts.

I think it’s difficult to appreciate what some of these kids (after all, they are still children) go through to be able to do this sport, let alone do it as well as they do. People who see gymnastics often are amazed at the young girls who flip and fly, defyin

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Level 9 and 10 Team in St. Paul,  Minnesota, February 2017

g gravity and demonstrating such great strength. But there is another level of appreciation that most people miss.

A lot of the kids in gymnastics live parallel lives with their school and neighborhood peers. Gymnastics kids make many sacrifices. School dances, weekend hangouts, or afterschool clubs often don’t get a lot of gymnast participation because most of it happens on weekends when we compete, or at night when we train. Yes, the small girl doing loopty loo’s and flippy flews is amazing, but does the average gymnastics fan see what they had to do to be able to fly so high?

In the television coverage of the Olympics we don’t see only the sport played or the contest carried out. In the breaks or slower periods the networks do “human interest” pieces; video of the athlete at home, with their family, or maybe the clip of the person training, usually at ungodly early hours or with great strain. They show the human side to let us warm up to the athlete. When we feel closer, like we somehow understand their story, the viewing becomes more fun. We root for the ones we love, the ones who move us, the one’s that we can identify with. I often joke with friends that if everyone had a “human interest reel” that people could see before interacting that the world would be a nicer place, to be sure, but we don’t.

I believe that it is hard to appreciate the beauty, the irony, or the justice of the performance when we don’t have the understanding of what went into arriving at that moment. If we are given the opportunity to see the champion being made, to see the morning training, or the ups and downs of a warm up, we have difficulty in identifying the great value in what we see before us.

As former athletes it may be somewhat easier to identify with what is happening then those who have never done the sport, but there is still often a disconnect. Some of us have experienced the struggle to attain success in a sport, and some have not. Granted, everyone’s journey is different, but there is still something to be felt, a kinship, that makes us care and makes the performances more valuable. We know that they work so hard, overcome such struggle, grow (complete with growing pains), sacrifice, laugh, cry, try again and again. They do homework in the car on the way to the gym, or eat dinner while mom drives. They study while their friends are asleep because practice ended at 9pm. They can tell you about great restaurants in far-away cities because they travel more during their gym years than most people travel in a lifetime. They review the pictures in their phones and rattle off cities they have been to, that other kids may never get to see. They meet friends from other gyms, other cities, and they stay in touch like long lost sisters through their whole lives. They sweat and sometimes their hands bleed from that one extra bar routine they did last night. They love their team mates and offer them support and attention at meets, yet they always find where mom and dad are sitting so they can visually check in from across the gym for a smile or a thumbs up. They tremble; sometimes with anticipation, sometimes from nerve and in either case regardless of the reason, they step up when the judge salutes. When it’s their turn, you won’t see all that, but you will see the performance they trained to show you and the judges.

Maybe with a little peek behind the curtain, you can understand everything that went into making this moment, this opportunity to share their glory with you, the fan. Maybe, with a little empathy, your heart can race, like theirs. Maybe you can feel the importance of this one moment, this  one chance to shine. Even without the video background, maybe you can feel the spirit and the love of what they are about to do. Maybe.

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.

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.

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.

17
Jun
15

Tid-Bits to make you feel better

“Fast food or something out of the vending machine.” That was my reply when a friend asked me. A while ago, what I usually had for lunch. Later he came back and brought me an apple. Subtle, but effective. He called my attention to why I felt so awful all the time. During our conversations I learned so much from Tom, and in subsequent months he even provided me with information that I never knew, and I have a degree in Health Education! For example, did you know….

…Fresh or frozen, fruits and veggies are good for you. Of course you knew that but it’s an old wives’ tale that warned us that freezing fruit or vegetables depletes them of their nutritious value, but that is not true.  The FDA has done studies that conclude that any loss of value is negligible. So buy ‘em, pick ‘em, freeze ‘em, whatever, but EAT ‘em for sure.

…You cannot use more calories digesting celery than the calories that are actually in it. There is a measure called TEF or Thermal Effect of Food that measures how many calories are used to digest food, and it’s usually about 10-20% of the value the food holds. So a piece of celery that has 10 calories will use about 1-2 calories to pass through you. That leave 8 calories for you to use elsewhere. Not much intake for a stalk, but on the other hand, you would have to eat 250 stalks of celery to have a 2000 calorie diet. Nobody wants to do that. Do you?

Gymfinity Blog

I am the rare kind of person that actually likes Brussel Sprouts, So I’ve got that going for me.

Did you know that the best veggie you can eat is the Brussel Sprout. It is full of vitamins and minerals and has very few calories, despite the bitter flavor this little guy is worth eating. There are lots of recipes that make them palatable. Google “Recipes that make Brussel Sprouts edible.” It’s worth it.

Did you know that there is a higher concentration of nutrition in the skin and peel of F’s and V’s than in the body of it.   Also the skin of carrots, apples, potatoes, and cucumbers have the great benefit of fiber. So stop peeling away the best part, your body will thank you.

Did you notice that when you shop for veggies you see more purple food than you used to. Carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, and even corn now come in purple varieties. Not only does this make for a more colorful plate (It’s true that you should have as many colors on your plate as possible for the best nutritional benefits) but they contain Anthocyanin, also found in the super-food Blue Berries, and have been shown to have a positive effect on heart health, brain health, be a cancer preventative, and many other benefits. So eat purple.

And now from the “Hmmm, that’s interesting” file comes these two tid-bits: All Bananas are clones and Tomatoes are only vegetables because of taxes. Both true facts.

In the 50’s a blight of the banana crop called “Panama Disease” wiped out most types of bananas. Farmers had to use plants derived from a single Cavendish Banana plant in Southeast Asia, so technically all bananas are clones from the same source just like Star Wars Stormtroopers. (Watch the movies if you don’t get that one).

banana Stormtrooper Gymfinity

Attack of the Clones

And tomatoes, well you know how a few years back the government disappointingly classified ketchup as a vegetable for school lunches? That goes way back to the late 1800’s when the government could collect tariffs on vegetables but not fruit. I have no idea why, it is the government after all. But in order to collect more tax they classified the Tomato fruit as a vegetable. It was just a short hop from there to have a bureaucrat call ketchup a vegetable in the 1990’s. But for truths sake we should start calling the tomato a fruit (it is) and stop calling ketchup a vegetable. Maybe then kids could have more nutritious lunches in schools. Besides that, they tax everything now, so….

When Tom brought me an apple, I was drinking about 6 cups of coffee a day. I still have about 2 on average, but he showed me that an apple has a great mix of vitamin, mineral, and carbohydrate and could help a person stay energized for about 4 hours. Add in the fiber benefits and you have a no-brainer. You will find that an apple could replace at least half of your coffee consumption, and though Starbucks will miss you, I think they’ll be OK.

Far be it for me to tell anyone how and what to eat, but sometimes when we learn trivial little nuggets of information they can trigger behavior changes that are for the better. The choice, as always, is yours. Very rarely will you see me dragging through my days anymore, thanks to Tom, his apple, and some better decisions. Maybe some of this information will motivate you to eat better. You’re welcome.

And, I am the rare individual that actually like Brussel Sprouts, so I’ve got that going for me.

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.




May 2017
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