Are parents over the top for hiring video game tutors?

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Personally, I prefer my kids being outside instead of sitting in front of a screen.

A WSJ article called “Ready, Aim, Hire a ‘Fortnite’ Coach: Parents Enlist Videogame Tutors for Their Children” by Sarah E. Needleman, caused a furor this week. I’ll admit I stopped paying attention to gaming after my kids left home. The extent of my own video game experience was Mario Brothers and tennis on the Wii. My son liked to play Zelda and he used his GameBoy Color to play Pokemon. I guess you could say we weren’t a big video game family.

When my dad emailed me an article about parents hiring coaches for “Fortnite,” I realized I had no idea what Fortnite was! Since then I’ve learned that it’s a hugely popular video game with millions playing worldwide. Parents are hiring online tutors so their kids get better at the game, much as we hired Coach Todd to help my kids with their stroke technique in swimming. Why would parents hire tutors to help their kids play a game? There are many reasons including huge monetary rewards and even college scholarships. Who knew? Even my daughter’s college the University of Utah introduced Varsity Esports as a thing.

“The U and its nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program announced today that it is forming the U’s first college-sponsored varsity esports program. Utah esports will compete in multiple games and has confirmed the industry leading League of Legends as its first game with additional games to be announced shortly. The esports program is the first of its kind from a school out of the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern).

“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years – especially on college campuses,” said A.J. Dimick, director of operations for the U’s new esports program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it.”

The U’s esports program will be sponsored by the EAE video game development program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the past five years by The Princeton Review.”

Here are some excerpts from the WSJ:

“It’s not the violence or the addiction of the hit game that bothers mom and dad—it’s the losing.”

Ally Hicks fretted over her 10-year-old son playing the hugely popular shoot-em-up videogame “Fortnite.”

This is for your own good

It wasn’t the violence or the amount of time she was worried about. It was the result. He wasn’t winning.

So she hired him a coach. For about $50, Ms. Hicks purchased four hours of online lessons from a player she found through a freelance labor website.

For many children, “Fortnite” has become a social proving ground. More than 125 million people play it world-wide, according to its maker, mostly in a free mode pitting 100 combatants against each other until one person or team is left standing.

Winning bestows the kind of bragging rights that used to be reserved for the local Little League baseball champ. Just like eager dugout dads opening their wallets for pitching lessons, videogame parents are more than willing to pay for their offspring to gain an edge.

Nick Mennen was happy to pay $20 an hour for his 12-year-old son, Noble, to take “Fortnite” lessons. The dad is already dreaming of a scholarship—or at least some tournament money. (“Fortnite” creator Epic Games Inc. recently pledged $100 million in tournament prizes. Some colleges court gamers with financial incentives to join their varsity teams.)

Noble used to win “Fortnite” infrequently before he began taking about six hours of lessons a month. “Now he’ll throw down 10 to 20 wins,” said Mr. Mennen, a software developer in Cedar Park, Texas.

The success has made Noble competitive with his dad. “I should be the one charging him,” Noble said. “He’s not as good as me.”

Coaches can be found on social media or through contracting sites such as Gamer Sensei and Bidvine, which said it has hired out more than 1,400 “Fortnite” coaches since early March. Some coaches can’t believe parents want to sign up their children for lessons.

“It’s really surreal to me,” said Logan Werner, an 18-year-old “Fortnite” coach in Roy, Utah, who plays the combat game on a professional team called Gankstars. “My dad would have never paid for me to take videogame lessons.”

Hiring a “Fortnite” coach for a child is no different than enlisting an expert to help a child excel at basketball or chess, parents say. Some sit in on lessons to make sure coaches are professional and that their children, well, level up.

“I want them to excel at what they enjoy,” Euan Robertson said of his sons Alexander, 10, and Andrew, 12. He hired them a “Fortnite” coach in June, who can stay as long as the children keep up their grades.

Here’s a video from Good Morning America about the phenomenon of hiring tutors to help kids improve at Fortnite. According to their story, tournament play has up to $100 million in prizes. 

In USA Today, “Fortnite tutors are a thing. And yes, parents are paying them,” written by Caroline Blackmon, writes that the craze over Fortnite is like Beatlemania. Really?

It’s turned kids into couch potatoes.

It’s caused professional athletes to crash and burn at their jobs.

It’s even infiltrated daily conversations with its own vocabulary.

Fortnite arrived on the scene last July as a free-to-play shooter by Epic Games. But it started off as less than a success when first released.

Then, in September 2017, Epic added a free-to-play “battle royale” mode, in which 100 players on a large island fight for survival.

That’s when things went crazy.

It captured the Minecraft generation with its free play, bright graphics and ridiculous costumes. It even overtook Minecraft in March as the most-watched video game in YouTube history.

“In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis and the ingestion of Tide Pods,” according to the New Yorker.

Now instead of pushing back against the addictive nature of the game, some parents are doubling down on Fortnite by hiring tutors for their kids.

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I prefer this view to a video game.

What are your thoughts about hiring tutors for video games? Do you think it’s a reasonable thing for parents to do or not? Are parents going way over the top, or is it fine to give our kids all the reasonable advantages to help their self-esteem and perhaps earn a college scholarship?

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Waffles was a brat and what I did about it

IMG_9916We started the day off with our walk around the park and Waffles was not listening and was stubborn. My daughter said, “He’s being a brat.”

My daughter and Waffles walk faster than me, so they will often get far ahead and double back to me. Every time they changed directions to come back to me, Waffles stopped and wouldn’t budge. Then he tugged and pulled to go in the direction he wanted.

After the walk, Waffles sat in the kitchen and stared up at the counter and barked. He barked repeatedly and loudly. When that got him nothing, he scratched on the laundry room door, which I had closed because he had knocked over the trash can and dug through it moments before.

 

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Maybe Waffles misses his swim team?

 

Then, I remembered the HuffPo story I wrote about earlier called “The Best Parenting Advice My Mom Gave Me” by Taylor Pittman. There was one bit of advice in there that might work for a pupper as well as kids.

“With Mother’s Day less than a week away, we wanted to know how our readers’ moms affected their lives. We asked members of the HuffPost Parents community to share the best pieces of parenting advice they ever received from their moms.

“Some of the tidbits are funny, while others are more earnest. They’re all endearing in their own way.”

Here’s the bit of advice I used on Waffles when he was barking in the kitchen, rummaging through the trash and scratching on the laundry room door:

“‘Have you tried going to the bathroom?’ Great advice from my mom, which I’ve shared with my own children time and again. Sometimes the solution to the problem is as simple as that.” ― Elizabeth Meinicke Flynn

And, it worked! I took him outside, he went to the bathroom and immediately settled down. I don’t have an answer on why he acted so stubbornly on our morning walk around the park, though.

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Waffles’ smile.

 

What advice do you have for children or pets when they’re acting out?

The last meet is coming

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PAC 12 2015

There I’ve said it. My daughter’s last meet is days away. It’s her senior year and her final meet will be the PAC 12 conference meet in Federal Way, WA. I’m kind of jumbled up on how I feel about it. I love being a swim mom and I find myself looking back on little moments with nostalgia and sadness. I will miss going to her meets.

My husband and I were browsing through the App called Meet Mobile this morning looking at different conference results from local schools where our children’s friends are swimming like UCSB and UCSD. I realized that I know a couple of the seniors’ names, but other than that there aren’t a whole lot of swimmers I recognize.

The past few years haven’t been all rosy. After a great freshman year, she got a high ankle sprain chasing after Trax, the public transportation train in Salt Lake City. That meant she couldn’t push off the walls for weeks during long course season and didn’t get her Olympic Trial cut. I think that was a devastating blow to her at the time, although it doesn’t seem like such a big deal now.

Then at last year’s PAC 12s, she got the flu. A really bad flu where the coaches didn’t let her swim or even out of her room until the final day of the meet. It was decidedly weird sitting in the stands for PAC 12s and not having a participant in the meet. Her last and only event she gave it everything she had. I was so nervous I thought I’d faint. I wasn’t sure if she was going to survive that mile-long race, but she did. Her coach said it was a “heroic swim” and he was so proud of her. It was close to a best time.

This year she’s been fighting through a bad shoulder injury. I worry if it was because she started swimming so young, so intensely or for so many years? What should I have done differently as a swim parent? Make her stop? Let her take time off?

She will take time off this year. But what I’m hoping for is next year, after my surgery and I’ve healed, that she will swim with me at a Masters meet–so I can be a swimmer and a swim mom all in one day.

 

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My daughter’s coaches and teammates cheering for her during the 1650 at last year’s PAC 12s.

Any bets on if I’ll cry at my daughter’s final college meet?

 

 

5 Things That Affect Academics

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My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.

I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.

They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus five main issues that affect academics:

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Work
  4. Sleep
  5. Cold/flu/sore throat

imgresThe letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”  because they seem to go hand in hand. However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress–which in turn can lead to anxiety. That can make your student more susceptible to getting sick–which also will affect academics. They suggest seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and keep a higher GPA!

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As the parent of swimmers, my kids were good sleepers. My daughter still swims and she has no problem falling asleep. Ever. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim! It even works for me. I feel so much better after a good night’s sleep and I’m likely to get more work done and have a positive attitude.

Here are the tips from the University of Utah on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
  2. Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
  3. Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
  4. Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  6. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
  7. Engage in regular physical activity.

BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My kids during break.

My kids during break.

 

How does sleep or lack of sleep affect your day?

When you get that “alert” that your child’s college is on lockdown

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University of Utah campus view.

Last night my daughter texted me to say her college was on lockdown. Then, I began getting “alerts” from the University of Utah. It’s one of the worst feelings when you get notifications of a lockdown at your children’s college. Not only did I lose a night’s sleep with worry, but I’m so sad that our kids have to live through this. We never envisioned our kids living through terror-filled nights when we sent them off to college.

Other moms I know had an awful night, too, as we waited for news about our kids. We prayed for them to be safe. We commiserated by text and Facebook and I wish the world wasn’t such a scary place. Thankfully, my daughter is safe along with the children of my friends.

If you missed the story on the news today, a man with a long history of crime and run-ins with the law was camping with his wife in the canyon above campus. The wife left him for the University to report a domestic dispute. The husband must have followed her because next there was a shooting of Chen Wei Guo, a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from China.

In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, you can learn more details. Can you imagine sending your child to the United States as a foreign exchange student and finding out that he’s been shot and killed?

“University of Utah officials, fellow students and friends were coming to grips Tuesday with the Monday night shooting that left a student dead at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.

“ChenWei Guo, of Salt Lake City, would have turned 24 on Sunday. 

“Guo was parked in his vehicle near the gate at the mouth of the canyon when 24-year-old Austin Jeffrey Boutain attempted a carjacking, police said. During the encounter, Boutain allegedly shot Guo, who suffered fatal injuries.”

Last night reminded me of a horrific night while my son was at the University of California at Santa Barbara a couple years ago. Here’s how that story unfolded:ucsb

View of the UCSB campus.

Friday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 

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 A view from a dorm room at UCSB.

Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing deceased male roommates who had been stabbed from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe we all tried to find a cause for this horrific tragedy to try and make sense of what had happened when that was impossible.

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.

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A Deltopia party picture.

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but just becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?

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The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Maybe if this is the new norm, as awful as that sounds, we need to be more aware and prepared. I don’t know the answer to any of this, but I’m thinking our kids need to know what to do in the case of an emergency. Are colleges adequately ready to support our kids in times of danger? The alerts let them know when something is going on and does tell them what to do. That’s something that wasn’t around back when I was in college.

How would you prepare your kids for emergencies when they’re away from home?

Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.

 

Are millennials awful? Or, is it the normal “old vs. young” thing?

 

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My millennials and pupper.

While my husband and I were driving to the movies, I had the radio tuned to a top-40 countdown. We were at number two–ready to find out who was the top song of the week–when he turned off the radio and said he couldn’t stand today’s music.

I told him, “I guess you really are an old fart.”

He said he was thinking exactly the same thing. “I’ve become one of those old geezers who can’t listen to the younger generation’s music.” He said it sounded like noise to him and he didn’t get it.

That exchange struck me today when I was reading an article in Business Insider that talked about how helicopter parents may be better than what we get credit for and that the millennials are turning out okay.

According to Libby Kane in “Millennials are turning out better than anyone expected — and it may be thanks to their parents” her generation was set up for success better than previous generations and a lot is thanks to their parents. Many of the bias against them could be due to generational differences. She talked with researchers to find out if her theory was true.

“ ‘What we’ve learned in our Generation Nation deep-dive is that, while behavior and beliefs may be influenced by generations, they’re dictated by life stages,’ wrote the researchers, who decided to do this research to have cross-generational data points after years of studying millennials specifically. ’In other words, how Gen Z is today is just as Gen X would have been today had Gen Xers been born 35 years later.’

“I spoke to principal researcher Michael Wood about the report, and floated my theory by him. Are millennials really so entitled, and lazy, and difficult to deal with? (You know you’ve heard it.) Why is hating on millennials so popular?

“ ‘If you go back in time, Boomers were also referred to as the me generation,’ Wood told me. ‘We’ve always carried biases against people who are younger than we are.’

Millennials are those between the ages of 20 and 35. Both of my kids fall into that category, although on the younger end. The older millennials were set up for success by their “helicopter-caring” parents, and then their futures got hit by the economic crash a decade ago.

“One of Wood’s standout findings from the research was the incredible resilience of millennials. ‘They’re still very upbeat, they’re very hopeful, and they have a positive outlook on their generation and what they’re going to contribute to the greater good,’ he said. ‘I find that fascinating and reassuring, and it confirms what we’ve always believed.’

“In the report, millennials were more likely than other generations to agree with statements expressing a desire to make the world a better place, confirming a purpose in life, and projecting a confidence in the US, the government, and each other to work together to solve problems.

“Plus, here’s a sentence from the report to inspire some teeth-gnashing: ‘Playing against type, millennials are actually an employer’s dream.’ This is largely because millennials are willing to work hard for an employer who supports them, and they tend to blur the lines between life and work — they’re more willing than members of other generations to catch up on work during their personal time. ‘Millennials truly care about their work,’ wrote the researchers. ‘And they care about it beyond being a means to a paycheck.’ “

During college orientation with my daughter at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, I learned many of these facts about millennials in a talk called “Supporting Your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs, and a psychologist. I wrote some parenting tips from her talk here.

I think it’s important to learn about generational tendencies to better understand our own kids and what they’re going through. Here are a few of the things I learned from Dr. Ellingson:

Millenials are those born from 1980 to 2000. They are a generation that doesn’t like to suffer. They like having nice things and they don’t mind working for it. But, that can interfere with their education. It’s best if they work on campus. A student that works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Also, delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 and 28.

HOPES
We all have hopes for our kids that include these things: Graduation. Career. Education. Responsible Adult. Financially Responsible. Time Management. Problem-solving.

FEARS
Our kids will go through fears during their years in college. For example, those who did well in high school with very little effort will find they won’t do as well in college and it can become an identity crisis.

They firmly believe not to stay in a major they do not like. A child dreams of being a doctor their entire life, but they may find they don’t like the smell of hospitals, or they can’t pass the Chemistry class–this can be another identity crisis. It’s important for them to take advantage of general ed requirements their first years of college to find what they do like. Internships are important, too.

INDEPENDENCE
First steps are towards you as a toddler. Every step after that is away from you. “How can I be on my own?” is another one of their fears.

Dr. Ellingson’s final statements stayed with me. “Most people who enter crises come out stronger and ahead on the other side.” And as for us parents of millennials?
You will change from “taking care of them, to caring for them.”

What are your opinions of millennials? Do you they think they are a different generation from us because of technology or traits such as laziness? Or are our differences between generations the normal living through life’s phases that we all go through?

 

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Back in the day.