An Open Thank You to Coaches

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My daughter with one of her coaches.

I wholeheartedly agree with “An Open Letter to All the Coaches Who Get Yelled At: I Want to Say Thank You” in Popsugar by Angela Anagnost-Repke. My kids have had all sorts of coaches throughout the years. I counted 14 in their age group swimming years alone. Mostly because they started really young and got new coaches as they grew older. Also the assistant coach job is one that turns over frequently. It’s low pay and and not many hours. Then when a long-time head coach switched careers and it took our team a few tries to get a coach who stayed.

From all the coaches my kids had, not one of them was perfect. But my children looked up to them and learned from each and every one. Some were better with parents than others. Some were better at technique or training. Some were better at team spirit and team administration. But all had something valuable to offer my kids. And like the open letter says, they played an important part of my children’s development.

Here’s an excerpt of the open thank you to coaches:

Dear Coaches,

Sometimes you get a bad rap. Parents will say you didn’t play the right kid at the right time. Or that you let little Johnny sit the bench for too long. Maybe you don’t push them hard enough . . . or you push them too hard. On and on. The complaints about coaches seem endless. But I want you to know that there are plenty of parents out there who are truly thankful for the dedication and time that you put into our children — because it not only affects them on the field, but is carried off of the field, too.

As a parent, I’ve sat on the sidelines and watched my children play football, basketball, swimming, and gymnastics. Sometimes they excel naturally at a particular sport, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they have a great game, and sometimes they play downright bad. I know that’s part of the cycle. And while I provide constant encouragement, it doesn’t mean as much as the encouragement that comes from you, their coach. I truly believe that you coaches ignite a true love of the game (whatever that game may be) within our children.

And I’ve seen it firsthand. My son recently started playing travel football, and thanks to his coaches, he’s improved tremendously. He went from being a kid who haphazardly toe-kicked the ball, to one who willingly goes out in the backyard to practice his new moves. He sets up his little orange cones and encourages his friends to join along in a spontaneous pickup game. And that’s all because of you. His coaches have not only helped him improve, but instilled in him the intrinsic motivation to succeed. And most importantly, they’ve done it at an age-appropriate level, allowing him to fall in love with the game of football — instead feeling pressure to succeed.

I don’t think many parents realise how difficult coaching a sport can be. As a former coach myself, of both high school players and little kids, I know that it is one of the toughest jobs out there. And many of the coaches of little kids are unpaid. They volunteer their Saturday mornings, weekday evenings, and more — all for our children. I think it’s time we gave you the credit you’re due. Because its coaches like you who are doing their best for our kids. You organise the practices, the very important snack schedule, and drills. You encourage our kids, teach them the rules, and help them learn to love exercise.

You also do something very important for our young children — you get them excited about sports. Athletics have come a long way, and it feels like today’s kids can face a lot of pressure about excelling at a sport. But it’s you who takes the time to show them how much fun being on a team can be. You teach them that the real joy from sports comes intrinsically, from the love of the game, not through reward or punishment.

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My daughter with her college distance coach watching a teammate’s race.

I think the role and influence a coach has on our children is immeasurable. I will admit that we weren’t always the best parents to have on a team, but we did learn as the years progressed. We wanted our children to be successful and happy. We wanted them to love their sport. With the exception of one or two coaches, our children’s coaches wanted the same things. They were invested in our kids and truly cared.

What are some of the traits you admire most about your children’s coaches?

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Humility: Is It Overlooked in Athletics?

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My daughter with teammates.

Yesterday I wrote an article about the amazing role models our children have in the world of swimming for SwimSwam.com. I was pointing out three greats as examples: Michael Phelps, Kaitlin Sandeno and Ryan Lochte. Yes, Ryan Lochte.

For non swimming fans, Lochte did something amazing this past week. His suspension ended a few days ago and he won a gold medal at the US Nationals in Stanford on Sunday. He turned 35 years old the day before. He was racing kids who were 17 and 19 years old! And he won decidedly. Talk about a role model. He didn’t give up despite really screwing up and blowing it at Rio and beyond. Instead he got his life back on track and trained. He got married, has two beautiful babies and entered rehab. He showed a sense of humility and gratitude after winning the gold medal that quite frankly was missing in his youth. Here’s the video of him winning the 200 IM.

As far as Michael Phelps, I was honored to hear him speak a few years ago. He told a story of his bouts with depression and substance abuse and said at one time he no longer wanted to live. He’s refocused his life and is making a difference in the charities he volunteers for as well as being a father and husband.

I am reading “Golden Glow: How Katilin Sandeno Achieved Gold in the Pool and in Life” and she is truly inspirational as well. She was a 17-year-old phenom who earned a spot on the Olympic Team in 2000 and 2004. Through her stellar career, she faced many hardships including undiagnosed asthma, a fractured back, shoulder issues and weight gain in college. Through it all she was humble, inspiring and a joy to be around. I highly recommend the book for parents and kids! For many years, she’s dedicated time as spokesperson for the Jessie Rees Foundation, named in honor of Jessie who died from inoperable brain tumors. Sandeno visits hospitals and connects with kids fighting cancer and brings them “Joy Jars.”

What incredible role models these three are, and they all show humility. Of course there are many more in the world of swimming, too.

I found an article called “Humility in Sports–Why Does It Matter?” by Malcom Shaw, a soccer player. He has some good stuff in his article. I feel like humility doesn’t get as much attention as other traits of successful athletes like talent or hard work. Yet, it’s just as important. Here’s an excerpt:

Humility is one of the most respectable and admirable traits that an athlete can possess. The prime essence of a humble athlete is the act of selflessness and modesty which transcends to the world. Oftentimes in the realm of sports we witness many accounts of prideful behavior, whether it be on or off the playing field. Being a competitive athlete myself, I’ve watched and observed professional athletes of the highest caliber. As much as I would gravitate to their individual skills and talents, I would even more so be observant of their character and demeanor.

When athletes talk about humility and comprehensively act on it (Principle 2), they set a precedent for fostering good character.

Below are a few ways humility is exemplified and embodied in an athlete. 

Modesty

A modest athlete is one who handles character gracefully on and off the field. An individual who doesn’t excessively floss their achievements goes far in character cultivation. When they are in the spotlight, they carry themselves in a way that draws limited attention (even when there is). Modesty in a successful athlete is a trait noticed and respected by many.

Leads by example

Leading by example can come in many forms. Whether on or off the field, leadership is noticed everywhere. Being the hardest and most consistent worker, or being the only one to help clean up equipment after practice are all ways leadership is exemplified . Leadership in the world of sports is not prideful, but it looks to inspire and better others.

Lifts those around them

Athletes who embody humility take responsibility for their actions, especially when things don’t go well. In a team sport setting, there are usually situations where blame shifting occurs. Examples of blame shifting can be things such as, “We lost because of you” or “Your mistake costed us the game.” In situations like these it takes someone with humility to diffuse the problem by sharing some of the responsibility. 

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Team cheer on the college swim team.

What are your thoughts about humility in today’s society?

How do you encourage kids to be champions?

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Junior Olympics third-place relay team.

The third time is the charm. The book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol. S. Dweck, Ph.D. Stanford University, was recommended to me three times. First, by a long-time coach, Tim Hill. Second, I heard about it in a webinar by David Benzel from Growing Champions for Life. Third, my son’s employer gave him the book on his first day at work and he said I had to read it. So, I finally did. I highly recommend that you read it, too.

Mindset is packed full of studies, research and entertaining stories about students, parents, teachers—and well-known musicians, coaches and athletes. In one chapter called, “Sports: The Mindset of a Champion,” I learned about the growth mindsets of tremendous athletes such as Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In another chapter called “Parents, Teachers and Coaches: Where do Mindsets Come From?” it described the differences in mindsets of two college basketball coaches—John Wooden and Bob Knight.

Dweck explained fixed versus growth mindsets: “In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.”

Although people are usually a mixture of both mindsets, since mindsets are beliefs, they can be changed. We should encourage our kids to have growth mindsets because they will thrive in the long run by learning how to work harder and smarter. They won’t be afraid of a challenge and they will persevere.

If we constantly tell our kids how smart or how athletically gifted they are, we are giving them a fixed mindset. That means they will believe in their innate talent, and that hard work will label them as NOT talented. When things get harder, they will not rise to the challenge. They will lose interest or go back to finding something easier for them, so they can still be recognized as being a “genius” or “gifted athlete.”

What we should do is recognize our kids’ hard work. We need to tie in the process they go through to achievement. If we notice our children are working hard, but not achieving the success they desire, maybe they aren’t using the right strategies. We can help them try a new method.

The best teachers and coaches are ones with growth mindsets. They haven’t predetermined a child’s success. They treat all their students and athletes as important and they figure out a way to help each individual grow and thrive.

What is the mindset of a champion?

“It goes by different names, but it’s the same thing. It’s what makes you practice, and it’s what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you most need it,” Dweck wrote.

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Sectionals a few years later.

In what areas do you have a fixed or growth mindset? 

Is it time to take a break from youth sports?

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My daughter racing a few years ago.

If you have an athletic, active kid, chances are your lives revolve around youth sports—whether it’s tennis, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, baseball, soccer or another organized sports program. There are so many amazing reasons for our kids to enjoy, learn and have fun with teammates, but out of the 45 million who play organized games, 80% will quit by age 15. Not only that, but record numbers of young girls and boys are facing injuries and surgeries.

When is it time to put on the brakes and take a break?

According to a news report from FOX Q13 Seattle, “Should your kids take a break from playing sports?”

“This summer at Q13 News in a series called ‘Safe Summer’ we tackle the question — should your kids take a break from playing sports?

“Kids are more overscheduled, they’re focusing on a sport,” said UW Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Brian Krabak.

More practices, more games and matches, and more injuries is something UW Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Brian Krabak sees it firsthand.

“If you’re a soccer player we’re concerned about ACL types of injuries. If you’re a swimmer you’re more likely to get shoulder or lower back pain. If you’re a basketball player we’re more concerned with ankle or knee injuries,” said Dr. Krabak.

And it’s those injuries he sees in more kids now than ever before. Dr. Krabak says focusing on one sport or specializing instead of kids playing different sports limits their ability to develop naturally.”

I read in a USA Today publication,“Top orthopedic surgeon urges parents not to push young athletes too hard:”

“As spring turns into summer, most kids are given a break from the daily routine of sitting in the structured setting of a school classroom. For young athletes, however, summer can simply mean two more months of intense training, scrimmages, and over-passionate parents and coaches alike.

According to top New York orthopedic surgeon Armin M. Tehrany, who has been named one of New York City’s best doctors several times by New York Magazine, kids who play youth sports today have seen their risk of injury increase dramatically. Among the most common injuries, he says, are dislocated shoulders, concussions and tears of the ACL and meniscus. Believing that coaches and parents contribute greatly to the problem by pushing kids too hard, he urges them to understand the limitations of a young athlete.

“Competitive parents can often put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed in sports,” Tehrany said. “That has led to 70 percent of children choosing not to continue sports by age 13.”

“It’s important that parents and coaches voice the importance of never ignoring an injury or any type of pain,” he said. “Playing through the pain is dangerous, and can worsen an injury and increase risk or chance for surgery.”

As parents, we need to step in if our kids are playing injured. They may want to keep competing, but we are the grown-ups here, right? We want them to be able to enjoy being active in the long-term and may have to put their sports career in perspective. Yes, they may want to be at the Junior Olympics they’ve been training for, but missing a meet at 12, 13 or 14, won’t be the end of their careers.

My own daughter took a break from competing this summer. She took two weeks away from the pool and found out there were other activities like spin class, yoga and running. She believes that her break will allow her to come back and compete refreshed and stronger.

Here’s a great video with kids talking about how they feel about their parents watching their sports. It’s a good reminder for all of us sports parents. After all, we don’t want our kids to be among the 80 percent that quit sports, correct?

Have your kids taken a break from competing in sports? If so, for how long and was it helpful?

New Rules for Soccer Parents in South Carolina: Silence

images-1The big thing in sports parenting news today is that the entire state of South Carolina’s soccer association has made rules for spectators—this means you, parents—to be silent. That’s right. No cheering, jeering or yelling. Sit there and watch or you could be in trouble.

In “New rule requires S.C. soccer parents to be silent on the sidelines,” an article from USA Today spells out the rules:

ONE
All parents and visitors shall be silent during the game. No cheering, no jeering; just enjoy your player and the game that they love. Also during this Silent September, all parents and visitors shall be on that half of the parent touchline opposite their team’s bench.

TWO
In the event of a parent or visitor violates this rule, on the first instance during a game the referee will ASK the coach to counsel his parents/visitors to remain silent, on the second instance during the game the referee will TELL the coach to counsel his parents/visitors to remain silent, upon the third instance during the game the referee will direct the coach to DISMISS the offending spectator(s)—if they do not leave or the coach refuses—then the coach will be sent off. If there is not an appropriately carded adult to continue coaching the game, the game will be abandoned and the circumstances reported to SCYSA. Likewise, if the offending spectator(s) still refuse to leave, even after the coach is sent off, then the game will be abandoned and the circumstances reported to SCYSA. If in the opinion of the referee the situation warrants, first two steps (ASK/TELL) are not required.

THREE
Prior to the beginning of the season, each team manager shall obtain parent signatures on behalf of each player on their roster acknowledging their awareness of the parent/visitor code of conduct.

FOUR
Team managers are expected to be on the parent touchline in order to address any inappropriate behaviors directly.

FIVE
Teams / Parent Groups / Individuals who are reported as having been dismissed from a game are subject to sanctions for their inappropriate conduct. Repeat offenders will be sanctioned more severely. The purpose of this SILENT SEPTEMBER is to make parents/visitors aware of the SCYSA focus on appropriate sideline behavior and of the existence of a CODE OF CONDUCT, and re-establish that managing parent/visitor behavior is the responsibility of coaches and clubs, NOT referees. Following SILENT SEPTEMBER, SCYSA will have periodic SILENT SATURDAYS/SUNDAYS as a reminder.

 

This story is being reported widely, throughout national and local news. A local South Carolina NBC TV affiliate, Channel 4 WYFF, reported on it as well:

The South Carolina Youth Soccer Association oversees soccer referees throughout the state, and is the state governing body of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The association said it is having so many problems with parents heckling referees and with referees that quit because of the heckling, it is implementing “Silent September” for all South Carolina Youth Soccer Association sponsored league games, at all levels statewide.

The SCYSA posted a memo saying that because of the “continuing problems with sideline behaviors on the parent/spectator touchline and the impact that inappropriate behavior has upon our youth, especially upon youth referees; and the additional impact that inappropriate sideline behaviors have upon overall referee retention, SCYSA is implementing a Silent September for all SCYSA sponsored league games, statewide, at all levels.

In an article called “Poor behavior leads SC officials to silence youth soccer fans,” from The State you can read more details and direct quotes from the people involved:

Andrew Hyslop is co-executive director of the Carolina Elite Soccer Academy (CESA), which has had “Silent Sundays” from time to time in the past.

“I don’t think it’s pointing the finger at one group in particular,” Hyslop said. “I think it’s coaches, players and parents kind of coming to see that there needs to be a common ground, which will allow referees, especially younger ones, to make mistakes. Players need to be allowed to make mistakes, and referees need to be allowed the same leeway. It’s probably long overdue. I’d like to think in coming years we don’t need to take these kids of steps, and people can enjoy being at a game on the weekend.

This all seems heavy-handed to me. However, I am not a soccer parent, but a swim mom. I can’t imagine that the SCSYA made rules like this out of the blue. They must have thought about this for some time. I don’t know if the parents from the swimming and soccer sports are that much different, but in many ways, swimming isn’t as subjective. In swimming, the clock and the swimmer’s time is the ultimate authority. Yes, there are officials who disqualify swims, but when they make a call, rarely do you see a parent argue or protest.

I love cheering for my kids. I love cheering for their teammates and some of my best memories are standing at the end of a lane during Junior Olympics with noise makers, pom poms, cheering loudly with other parents. One time, our team was so loud, we were told to tone it down. But, our cheering was being done with enthusiasm and good will.

Like I said, I’m not a soccer mom and I’ve been to very few soccer games. I wonder if it’s the majority of parents making this so tough on the players, coaches and referees, or is it a handful ruining the experience for everyone? If it’s only a few individuals, I wish they’d be dealt with and let everyone else cheer and have fun.

One of my biggest pet peeves, when my kids were in elementary and middle school, was group punishment. I never did buy into it and felt it unnecessarily punished kids who weren’t deserving of it. I talked with a few teachers about it and they felt it was a tool where peer pressure would get the troublemakers in line. Tell me how this will work with parents?

I think we all have to remember that sports are for the kids. They have so much to gain from competition, staying fit, and being with friends. If we put the focus on the kids learning life lessons and what they’ll take away from their sport, rather than winning at any moment in time, things may fall back into perspective.

What are your thoughts about the new South Carolina “Silent September” soccer rules? Do you think they are warranted? I’d like to hear from soccer parents if things are things really that out of hand?

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What’s the epidemic hurting our kids in youth sports?

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My daughter’s high elbow freestyle stroke.

After reading an article in the New York Post, June 19, 2017, called “The Epidemic That’s Ruining Youth Sports” by Kirsten Fleming, I realized there’s something going on that’s hurting our kids—including my own.

The whole point of youth sports is to teach our kids life lessons like perseverance, time management, good sportsmanship, confidence, etc. Also, an active kid learns healthy habits and doesn’t have time to get in trouble. Our kids are gaining so much from sports, but they are getting hurt, many from overuse injuries.

Excerpts from the NY Post:

“The injuries are a byproduct of many factors, including hypercompetitive athletes, a growing number of travel teams and tournaments, and overzealous parents pushing their children too much because they believe they have the next LeBron James on their hands.

“There is a huge amount of delusion, I think,” says Kelly of the latter.

“But the largest cause is young athletes specializing in one sport at an earlier age. Instead of playing lacrosse, basketball and football, they are opting to stick with just one, and it’s taking a toll on their bodies.”

“A 2015 survey in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that 60 percent of all Tommy John surgeries in the US are for patients ages 15 to 19 — startling considering that professional baseball player Tommy John himself was 31 when the surgical-graft procedure was invented to repair his damaged elbow ligament in 1974. In 2010, AOSSM launched the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries campaign to combat the worrisome trend.”

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Nighttime swim practice.

Kids work so hard in their sports and give 100 percent—sometimes more than 110 percent. My own daughter has suffered overuse injury of her shoulder and I’ll admit she specialized in swimming since she was five years old—and she’s a distance swimmer. She has one season left to swim in college and hopefully, she’s going to make it. There have been some scary times and tears when she’s said her “shoulder quit shouldering.” I wonder if shoulder surgery will be in her future?

 

Looking back on all of her years’ swimming, I honestly don’t know what we would have done differently. She was healthy all through her swimming career until the past couple years. Maybe all the repetitive motion has finally caught up with her body. In any case, she was the one who wanted to swim. She loved every minute of it and wouldn’t have dreamed of not swimming year round. We tried early on to expose our kids to many other activities but they both loved the pool. And yes, mom and dad were really into it, too.

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My daughter swimming in the eight and unders age group.

Do you know any kids who have overuse injuries? Did they need surgery? Also, were they specializing in their sport for many years? Please share your stories.

 

How Sleep Affects Your Student’s GPA and Other Tips for Academic Success

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

My youngest child came home for one week of Christmas break. I’m sad to say, she left already for two weeks of intense swim training at school. She’s a freshman and when she was home, it felt like she had never been away. It was such a great feeling to have her go to morning practice, come back and lounge in her room watching Netflix. I think I was shocked that she had to leave again!

My son, who’s in his fourth year — notice I don’t say senior year — came home for a few days. Left to return to his part-time job. And will be back to celebrate New Year’s with us.

In the meantime, 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 5 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. It can lead to anxiety. It can make your student more susceptible to getting sick. They suggest 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and have a higher GPA!

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As the parent of a swimmer, my daughter gets her sleep. She has had no problem falling asleep. Ever. My son, on the other hand, can’t fall asleep. He stays up until the wee hours, and then we cannot wake him up in the morning. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim!

Here are the tips from the University of Utah:

  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.