Posts Tagged ‘Tumble and Trampoline

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?

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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
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.

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.




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