Posts Tagged ‘Television


Things that make us live longer, or at least live easier.

I was visiting a friend and we were talking about ‘the good ol’ days. We got there because I was actually feeling a little under the weather and he advised me to take some cold medicine even if it’s not a full blown cold. I told him that I don’t take medicine and never really believed in it. I explained that in the  ‘good ol’ days” people didn’t take cold meds for sniffles and so neither will I. He answered “Yeah, but they also had half the life expectancy we do.” So I started thinking about all of the amazing advances that have been made just during my lifetime and how it was when I was younger.

My youngest son once asked me if there was electricity when I was a kid, (no that’s not funny), and I am not saying that life was so much harder when I was young, but yes we did have electricity and maybe it just seemed harder because we had to do more to make things happen. I don’t think that my kids, and I’ll speak just for me, really understand how nice things are now.

Portable Video Games

Don’t get me started on the old hand held football game that was just a collection of red

download (1)

I always wanted one of these. 

lights to represent payers on the field. That was back when I was in high school, so probably before all of you. But it wasn’t long ago that the Game Boy from Nintendo was the coolest invention around. Now those old Nintendo games pale in comparison to what a person has access to on their phone.

Streaming Movies

I got rid of my cable subscription at home because there was so much available online. If I think of a movie I can find it online and start watching it in about 2 minutes. When I was first on my own I thought I was such a big shot when I bought a VHS player. I rented movies like it was my job but sometimes the movie was terrible. Of course you watched it anyway because it took you 20 minutes to drive to Blockbuster and a half an hour to find an interesting movie that was in stock. After all that you better believe I would sit through even the worst selection, like Joe Vs. The Volcano. Ick.  Cleaning out the store room at the gym I came across a box of over 150 tapes of meets that were on TV; Olympics, Nationals, college meets, etc. I had to confront the reality that after saving them all for so long, I would never watch them again. Too much of a pain in the neck.

Pay Phones

I remember when there were only a few people who had mobile phones. The rest of us used pay phones. I saw a pay phone while I was travelling this year, and I thought “Oh, look at that, how cute.” But in reality, they were terrible, usually broken, and germ laden, not to mention always feeling like a pay phone was a typical murder scene in movies (that always freaked me out). Today we all have immediate access to a phone. Hands free, voice dialing, web access, with a built in camera. This is real science fiction stuff, or at least my mom’s generation never thought this would ever be a reality. Cell phones are probably one of the biggest advances in tech…. ever, and don’t even start me on the GPS features.


In high school, I took a map making class and we actually had a lesson on how to fold them. I remember driving on vacations and having to decipher the map while the wind blew in the windows of the car and my mom would be asking “right or left up here?” Now our phones or cars tell us turn by turn and it’s so much harder to get lost. Don’t get me wrong sometimes they glitch out, but for the most part they are pretty helpful. Mine even tells me when there is a speed trap, road construction, stalled cars, and warns me when I go over the speed limit. OK, that part is not helpful.

Dealing with hotels and airlines directly

There are so many web based services that allow us to book hotels, rent cars, and buy airline tickets. I remember when planning a trip took a few hours to organize travel and lodging for meets. Now I can do all three things in about 15 minutes. Sometimes it is not as easy as dealing directly with the hotel or airline, but it is quicker. I recently had to book 3 separate travel plans for one hotel stay because the online app had my days mixed up. It may be easier at times but I still contend that it’s better to talk to a real person.


downloadI had Walkmans, Discmans, and even a boom box when I was younger. I could tote around the player and maybe 2-3 tapes or discs at a time. Today I have about 3000 songs on my tablet, and on my phone I have 2 services that play anything I want to hear, whenever I want to hear it.  I don’t have to carry around spare batteries (my boom box took 8 D cells) anymore and my selection is so much more accessible. Win for the music fans!

I haven’t mentioned anything that we haven’t all seen on about 50 online “Do You Remember When?” lists on Facebook, but it is sometime fun to think about. We take so many of the advances for granted, but our children can’t even take them for granted because they have no frame of reference. Yes, we now take sniffle medicine but we are also inundated with suggestions for our restless legs and dry eyes. I don’t remember the suffering of the dry eyed-shaky leg masses that forced those advances but I will give in and say that advances have definitely made life easier for all of us. I will also argue that there are a lot of “advances” that don’t help us live longer, they just make it seem longer.


Reality television is nothing like reality

This weekend the series Coaching Bad premiered on Spike TV. I had to watch it.

download (1)In a nutshell, several coaches from various sports are brought together to work with an anger counselor. This is all done under watchful former NFL player and current motivational speaker Ray Lewis. There were some real characters: a speed coach that races his athletes and berates them when they can’t keep up, a volleyball coach who got fired because of her abusive actions, a hockey coach/referee that hit a child with a stick when the child pushed him, a football coach that routinely wrestles his players (under 12 years old) to the ground, and a few others. They all call their kids names, tell them they are worthless, and dole out punishments for any and every reason, and this is what passes for a TV series?

I take issue with two things in this show and the very premise of it. First, and quite simply, these people will not change that easily; if at all. These people are reinforced when they are abusive, intolerant, dictators and you can’t turn a mess that big around with one show and a few “motivational moments”. Though the show is trying to demonstrate that they have the power to make bad coaches into good, the fact is that these people will likely return to their habits and negative personalities as soon as the cameras are off.

Next, I take issue with presenting coaches that are so far gone that they become caricatures of a stereotypical “bad coach.” They are presented to us as representative of a profession that really should be held to high standards. As parents we want to best for our children. We want the coach that can get the best results out of our children and we want the coaches that helps us raise our children to be successful and strong.  We live in fear that the person working with our child  could be a negative influence on our most precious children. But the fear is easily played on and we are manipulated. The truth is that 99% of coaches are there to encourage children, training the skills but also caring for the child as a person. These television shows that play on our fears lead us to believe that there is a villain, more awful than we can possibly imagine, around every corner. It’s simply not true. I am in the profession and I have seen good coaches and bad, yes they do exist. But we give so much attention to the bad behavior that we make people feel that it is typical. We never spend any energy on praising the good coaches. Where is the series that shows a coach that goes above and beyond for an athlete? Where is the series that glorifies the men and women who spend their weekends working with OUR children? It’s sad to me that these fear tactics always get the most attention and they beget more of the same.

Since Gymfinity opened we have been approached twice by television producers who were pitching a series idea of middle to high level gymnasts training for championships. We were interviewed, screen tested, and had to do video interviews with a few parents to submit for evaluation. Well, to summarize, we were too normal. During the process (from the second company) I was asked to provide a list of parents that are very “engaged” in their child’s performance. I was asked if we had any parents with alcohol concerns. (What?) I was asked how often I raise my voice in the gym and downloadwhat a typical “Punishment” would be if a child didn’t perform well. When all of these red flags went up, I decided to pull the plug on the project. They didn’t want the reality of children working hard, sweating, straining, and dreaming of bigger things. They wanted another Abby from Dance Moms, a villain that an audience would hate. (PS, I have a friend that knows Abby from Dance Moms and she assures me that the show is 90% staged, as Abby is nothing like that in real life).  The upside of providing what they were looking for would be fame and fortune, Abby’s studio is at record enrollment because people are buying into the show’s version of reality. But what does that say about the parents who enroll their children in what they believe is a potentially abusive program? Oy vey, the problem is deeper than a bad coach.

One character on the Coaching Bad show actually says (paraphrased) that this is how football is coached, the parents don’t get that, but the kids love it. That is when my reality meter broke. The kids don’t love it, they live in fear of you. Your reality is distorted and you are a freak. But there was some truth; the parents of his team, in reality, don’t get it. They value the trophy over their child’s happiness. If they don’t get that their own priorities are mixed up then that is a potential new series. But the disclaimer is that those parents, like these coaches, are freaks and are not typical. In order to get the TV folks to stop glorifying these freaks and these fears we need to stop watching what they put in front of us.



lucky we made it

You know how every once and awhile you get an e mail or Facebook post that compares how simple things used to be to how problematic they are now. They are usually ironically titled something like “remember when things were tough” or “We’re lucky we made it”. They go on to demonstrate by list or pictures how things were different when we were kids. They tongue-in-cheek say things like “we never wore seat belts and we survived” or “we ate candy made with  sugar, and we grew up healthy.

I classify these posts the same way I classify the ones that show something “old” like a TV antennae and ask “Who remembers what this is?” Oh nostalgia you make me feel so grown up.

Seriously, you should know what this is.

Seriously, you should know what this is.

But c’mon. A lot of people remember a TV antennae for cryin’ out loud. So they are not around anymore, neither is polio but no one is pining for the simpler times by posting pictures of wheelchairs. Times have changed and we have all grown up. We have learned, and our most valuable lessons have always come from failures. We wear seatbelts now because too many people needlessly were damaged by not wearing one. We control our sugar intake because we have learned the repercussions of consuming too much of the stuff. Our advancements came at a price, but looking back and proudly claiming how we survived doesn’t make the state of our past ignorance any easier to swallow (unless it’s coated in sugar).

I love to watch old television shows like I Love Lucy or Dick Van Dyke and I am always baffled how, at the time, so many people were smokers. Truth be told, we didn’t know how bad it was back then and tons of people smoked. Then the studies were made public and laws were enacted and restrictions laid, and finally people changed their habits. It took fighting past kicking and screaming resistance but we finally advanced our behavior. Do I want to look back and say, “everyone smoked back then, and they turned out just fine.” NO! Lucille Ball died a withered and cancer-ed lady with a voice that sounded like a frog with TB. Were those the good old days when everyone lit up? I should say they were days when we didn’t know any better.

One of few pictures without a cigarette

One of few pictures without a cigarette

I was running with a friend a while back who was on medication for a health condition and was complaining that he had to take pills. He said when his grandparents were his age they weren’t made to take all this junk to be healthy. I responded by telling him that the average life expectancy of his grandparents generation was less than 64 years old, today it’s 78.7 years. Shut up and listen to your doctor.

It is true that we live in a culture of fear and everyone is trying to scare us into acting one way or another. If your kid rides a bike without a helmet he will have a major brain injury. If you let you kids play in the park they will be abducted. If you don’t re-post this you will have bad luck for 10 years. The fact is that some people did smoke without getting cancer, some biked without helmets, some drove without buckling, and some ate sugar and kept their teeth; but the research is out there. You are more likely to experience a negative outcome than a person who takes precautions, and precautions are easy. We grew up and we learned. Remember when we were young and dumb? Would you really want to go back to that time, knowing what you know now? Me neither, and it’s an antennae, geesh they haven’t been gone that long.



A belief that children should have limits on time to save the world or crush pigs using a bird as a weapon

This weekend I travelled with our Trampoline and Tumbling team because my 2 boys compete. It was a great experience and I truly enjoyed spending time with the kids as well as the other team parents. I did notice that we all have the same problem. Screen time.

Every moment when the kids were not competing they were engrossed in their tablets playing games. My sons both found that being called up to be awarded for their efforts were merely an interruption to their games and that left me dumbfounded. After the meet, on the ride home I asked my usual questions: what did you learn that you can work on improving for next time? And was it fun? In response I got “Ian knows a way to switch from survival mode to creative mode without losing your world.” Of course I was thankful that Ian has that sacred knowledge and is willing to share with my sons to guarantee that the world goes on but it was still not a real consideration for my original questions.

Having so much time plastered to a screen can be detrimental to our kids. Add up the time they are in front of a screen at home, and at school; plus don’t forget the time they watch TV in the car while you run errands, and you get an average of 8 hours a day for an average 8-10 year old. O-M-G!!  This new norm contributes to the rise in childhood obesity and all the fun health concerns that comes along with that. It has been shown to negatively affect sleep patterns needed for healthy growth. More screen time has been linked with increasing bully behavior and decreasing attention span.  It is shown to drop academic performance. And maybe the factor that could reverse all the others… it takes away from a child’s active playtime.

To me, it’s a little like seeing a person smoking. I always think to myself  “what else do you need to be shown to realize that this is a bad habit?” But people still do it.  What else do we need to learn about the impact of letting the screen raise our children before we make some changes?

Here is my plan:

  1. Limiting Screens in the bedroom: It is difficult to limit screen time in the child’s bedroom because that is where they go to do homework and now much of the homework is online. But we have resolved to not allow our kids to have televisions in their rooms.
  2. Television will be off during meal time. This one is harder for me because I grew up as having meals with my family around the TV. Good or bad, that was my family. But to allow the kids more time away from the screen we have resolved that the screen is off until the meal is done for everyone and the kitchen is cleaned up.  This includes for me eliminating texting, Facebooking or checking my phone during meals.
  3. We enforce consequences. My first rule when I gave my son his tablet (they both have tablets now) was that if ever I felt that he was checked out of the real world because of his tablet then he would lose the tablet for a time. (Yes, for the next few days my kids will be tablet free because they were not mentally and emotionally engaged at the competition this weekend.) Also if chores don’t get done tablet time is lost.
  4. Use time as a reward. Some parents have a credit system that involves chips or charts to allow kids to earn screen time, that’s way too much for me to deal with. I find it much easier to simply use an “If-Then” statement. “If you finish your homework then you may watch TV until 6:00. Or, “if you help with the lawn today then you can play Wii later.” Easy and no chart needed.
  5. I drive the TV. We DVR almost everything because we have a very abnormal schedule. That way we get to watch shows on our time. Also, I will watch shows with the kids and I am a very vocal critic. (Side note: kids TV shows embrace stupidity as humorous or normal and that just rubs me the wrong way.) If a show is inappropriate or in some other way unacceptable (like depicting stupid behavior as a way to get laughs) then I am the first to criticize it. My son asked me yesterday if Power Rangers was cool or lame.* He sought out my opinion because it is important to kids that they get our approval; this is an easy way to guide better decision-making.
  6. Be considerate. Let kids feel that they have a little say in their show choices and ability to control behavior. My wife is very good about telling kids “10 more minutes” or after this show it goes off.” That allows them fair notice and self-control.

Unfortunately more screen time will be a standard for the next generations and it is up to us to make sure that is doesn’t negatively affect the happy, healthy development of our own children.  Now get your face away from this screen and go play with your kids.

* Power Rangers is cool because they always get the bad guys, but lame because it looks like superheroes that bought their suits from a retro-disco resale shop. Plus their martial arts is really poorly choreographed, but still better than Uncle Grandpa. 

See also This article from the Scripps Health Website


Lemme tell ya bout Kurt and Mel

As I see it there are 3 areas of influence on a child that forms them into the person that they will be: The family, The school and The friends.  The family is responsible for teaching the child the love, honor, respect, to be responsible,  to share and follow values. The school teaches them skills to learn how to learn, they give loads of information that will assist in decision making and the appreciation of their world. The friends teach a child that they are OK, they are welcomed, appreciated and loved. The friends also show a kid how to have fun. The best part is that no one of these “teams”  has lessons that don’t overlap. The one-two-three punch style lesson providers work together to form the young child into a functioning and productive, happy member of society. Sometimes the  lessons work together like a symphony and sometimes its much more dissonant.

As I see it, the coach is a factor that falls in the spaces between all three of these form building forces.  The coach’s lessons in conjunction with all three branches and include respect, responsibility, fairness, following rules, creativity, expression, drive and self-management. The right coach can assist the other forces into a guaranteed success for the child.

Let me give an example: Back story. I got into gymnastics because my brother was responsible for me after school. He did gymnastics because he was awesome at every other sport but never did gymnastics. It was a challenge for him and he, of course, became great at it.  However, when I would hang out at the gym at the high school with my brother I got to know the guys on that team (sadly they would all be gone by the time I got to high school). Bob was the funny guy, he played piano and could play harmonica while in a handstand. Tom was a pommel horse wizard and did things so effortlessly that I learned a quick respect as soon as I tried them and found how hard pommel horse really was. Al was really really strong and specialized on parallel bars, another really tough event. Then there was Coach Mel Leinwander; a very quiet man, who, one time as I heard it, out bench-pressed a football lunk-head in the weight room without saying a word just to stop the bully from bad mouthing male gymnasts.  His urban legend was heroic.

None of these guys knew that I idolized them. I was a dorky and quiet kid that always sat off to the side reading a book or staring into space (both of which I still do frequently). I was so intimidated by the skill of these young men that I would rarely ever do anything in front of them for fear of looking stupid. But when they were gone or otherwise distracted I did everything they did and tried to act just like them. I wanted to be them so I studied how they did things; learning skills and breakdowns of skills helped me be the coach I am today, but also I watched what kind of people these young men were.

When kids come into our sport we have known that they tend to stay in school and apply themselves to study with the same dedication they  apply to gymnastics. Gymnastics, like all sports, takes a large amount of personal time; time that if left unassigned without a constructive activity can be filled with less desirable activities. Sports can be a great place where kids learn positive social atmosphere: that is being surrounded with like-minded and positive influences and associations.  This social structure, fortified by the strong and positive families of each teammate come into play with that development I mentioned previously.

I mentioned 3 sides to the development of a child: Family, Friends and School. We know that teams provide positive association with teammates, their families reinforce positive family structure and even give kids a “second” mom and dad to act accordingly when a child’s mother and father may not be present. Lastly the involvement in sports like gymnastics give kids the tools to be better students and thus the 3rd side of the triangle is strengthened; all due to sports.

Coach Leinwander circa 1977, Milwaukee Journal

Coach Leinwander circa 1977, Milwaukee Journal

Coaches like Mel Leinwander reinforce all sides of that development: by introducing children to sports and values they work hand in hand with the parents, the school and even the friends on developing an unformed and sometimes lost child into a student-athlete and eventually into a positive and functioning member of society.  So who is Kurt? Kurt was on the team too, he was  pretty quiet and modest and really different. I learned that Kurt used to be a “burn-out”; that’s what kids who smoked and partied were called. He was a pretty rough kid who, for some reason decided to give gymnastics a try.  Kurt was somewhere between being Al’s parallel bar protégé and being in Al’s parallel bar shadow. So what happened to Kurt, the burn-out that gave gymnastics a try?  He became, if I remember right, State Champion on parallel bars in high school and that kid that was headed for a rough life is now an architect in Milwaukee and, dare I say, doing well.  Factor of change, Coach Mel Leinwander. The coach introduced self respect. Leinwander challenged Kurt to work to be more worthy of his own respect. Kurt, cleaned up and straightened out.

Coaches, like Mel Leinwander, introduce young people to new worlds; worlds that challenge them and entice them to surpass their own perceived potential. Everytime someone askes me what I think sports can do for children I think of Kurt and I explain to them the legend in my mind that is Coach Leinwander. To this day I am still trying to be like those role models of my yesterday.  Those guys who were best friends, unique characters, strong athletes,  great students, good people and did gymnastics too. But if I could be like any one of them, I strive to be coach Mel.  He never coached me as a gymnast, he retired the year before I came to high school, but he unknowingly coached me in life, and I don’t even think he knew me as anything other than “Ork’s little brother”. It amazes me how people can have such a huge impact on us and may never even know it.


Lets get ready for the Olympics

I am very excited about the upcoming Olympic games. Granted there will be no gymnastics, trampoline or swimming but I still feel that I have caught Olympic fever. Watching athletes come together in peace to battle through sport is exhilarating. Knowing that when the games are over the athletes will part as friends who shared a common dream, to represent their country in performing at their personal best. How glorious to be chosen to represent your nation in this endeavor; and how truly patriotic we feel as we watch American’s take their place in the games playing in our name. Every country has people just like us, they watch, they cheer and they are enthusiastically loyal to their own land. Despite borders, despite politics, despite problems, for 2 weeks we are out there and competing with the world on a level playing field. I am always in awe.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said ” Sports provides a role model for peace and harmony and friendship.” I believe that if we as coaches and teachers of sport are not treating every practice session and every game/meet/tournament as if we hold the potential for shaping tomorrow in our hands then we are doing a disservice to our athletes, their families and the world in general, It may sound like I’m on a high horse, but I believe this to be true. Through sports we can develop children to be the heroes of tomorrow, not just in games but in life.

In this video, you will see how athletes, mere players of games, can transform, and are transforming, the world.

As the games start tomorrow, I wish the athletes from every country the best of luck and thank them for providing us our pride, our hopes and our dreams.


Greed is the name of the game….the pro game anyway

A friend of my dad’s once asked me “So you coach kids? Is there a lot of money in that? Sadly Pete there isn’t. Like a teacher I affect the learning, discipline, determination and character of young children. I give them lessons and opportunities to learn, perfect and perform skills. I help formulate the future by today affecting the children that will be adults tomorrow. That’s not worth much.

We American’s like to be entertained. We like our TV and our Movies and we like to watch sports and remember the day when we used to do sports. Often the extent of the action in our lives is limited to watching make-believe heroes do their thing on a large or small screen; and sadly the extent of our own sports is watching someone else play a game.

Sports heroes are a curious group. They get paid an exorbitant amount of money to play a game. Granted their careers often last less than 10 years and their earning power diminishes after they retire. They may need to put some money away for that day when they stop playing and get out of pro-sports. What gets me is how pro athletes feel that it’s acceptable to complain about how hard they work to make their pay check. I am sorry, but I train athletes that work hard, attend school, have a family life and make absolutely zero dollars doing it. They do it because they love it. I have a hard time feeling bad for these people and their stressful job. Where is the satisfaction in the game?

I love how they feel that they are just like everyday working schmo’s, like us. Their whole life is based on the measly pittance they collect from each game. “I’ve got my family to feed.”  Says former NBA guard Latrell Sprewell on why he wanted to sign a contract extension or be traded after making $14.6 million during the 2004-05 season. It must be tough telling your kids that there is no ice cream after dinner because Daddy’s check wasn’t big enough to get stuff like ice cream.

“People think we make $3 million and $4 million a year. They don’t realize that most of us only make $500,000.” Says Pete Incaviglia, former Texas Rangers outfielder on why baseball players aren’t overpaid. Geez, Pete you might have to truck the kids to stay over at Latrell’s house in the winter if the furnace goes out (but don’t expect ice cream).

There is a big disconnect between the people playing the game and the people paying for the tickets. When we agree to pay $50 for a ticket we acknowledge that the players have a high value. My family spends $50 and all four of us to go see a Mallard’s game; and the players play like they love the game. It’s more enjoyable, more human, and we even get hot dogs and a pop.  Nobody makes what they think they should, when is the last time someone said “I get paid too much for what I do.”? Never. We all think we work hard and collect too little. So that’s a common complaint. In the grand scheme of things we should be weighing out the value of what we do for society? I will argue that the janitor in a grade school plays a more important role in society than a professional athlete. Maybe if they wore jerseys they’d get paid more.

What’s worse is that because someone can play a game we give them a free pass on poor character or poor education. Some were pushed through college without ever opening a book because they had a high percentage from the free throw line, or could unleash a fireball from the mound. When Chicago Tribune writer Sam Smith suggested that Miami retire Shaquille O’Neil, Shaq told reporters “Sam is an idiot—I-D-O-U-T—idiot.”  This one time player and current bazillionaire is an idout and we paid him off so he could play a game for us. We didn’t want to worry about the fact that he is going to go through life  not being able to communicate or even balance his check book. But don’t worry, I think he’ll be ok: his accountant does his books, his PR guy does his communicating and I’m sure he even has a full house staff to clean up his mess. He was a great player but he’s a helpless idiot and we allow him to be that way.

And Character: How about when Randy Moss was asked how he would pay his fine for unsportsmanlike conduct and he said ““When you’re rich you don’t write checks… it’s Straight cash, homey.” Or the miscarriage of justice that was OJ Simpson, Aaron Hernandez, or Michael Vick. They can play ball so we can excuse a few indiscretions. Let me say that until we demand more from our heroes we will always get less.

What is my point? Why complain about this overdone premise? Because people need to understand that when we accept this behavior and poor character from our sports role models we give up the luxury of complaining about how children in sports are too aggressive, unsportsmanlike or in so many ways less responsible than children in sports years ago. I hear people in our lobby complain how kids in a youth hockey league were so aggressive last night at the game or how kids nowadays don’t get sportsmanship. I beg to differ. They get it; they just see that sports fans don’t value it anymore.

July 2018
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