Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Guru or Coach – Who do want to learn from?


To grow it is imperative to find mentors not gurus to learn from and grow professionally, this should help to make the distinction.

Guru – All about them
Coach – All about the athlete
Guru – Style
Coach – Substance
Guru – Full of information often unconnected
Coach – Bursting with knowledge that applies
Guru – Has the secrets
Coach – Open & willing to share
Guru – Quick with putdowns
Coach – Quick to praise and uplift
Guru – Dispenses and the Kool-Aid & expects all to drink
Coach – Water
Guru – No questions & has all the answers
Coach – Driven by questions
Guru – Big bold claims
Coach – Lets actions speak
Guru – In the spotlight on the FrontPage or ESPN
Coach – On the back page in small print or in the footnotes
Guru – Quick to follow the $$$$$
Coach – Driven by principles
Guru – Complexifier
Coach – Simplifier
Guru – Exclusive
Coach – Inclusive
Guru – Conditional

Coach – Unconditional

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Long Term Athlete Development, Not Winning, Key to Age Group Training

By Dave Crampton, Swimming World contributor
Posted on http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/long-term-athlete-development-not-winning-key-to-age-group-training/

Long term athlete development (LTAD) is a widely accepted concept within high performance sport on how to best train and develop junior athletes appropriately for elite sport competition.

Done well, it is focused on athletes, driven by coaches and supported by parents, administrators and sports organizations.

However it is misunderstood by many.

Top swimming coach Wayne Goldsmith, who was in New Zealand conducting workshops for coaches and parents last month, believes sports people are motivated too much by recognition, rather than long term achievement through hard work.

He says the job of a coach is to create an environment where an athlete can realize their dreams so that an athlete can give ‘everything they are capable of giving’.

Goldsmith, who has had more than 25 years of experience working with some of the world’s best swimmer and coaches, says a LTAD approach is more about adopting a strategic athlete-centered approach to swimming development, as opposed to working within a system.

“The essential ingredient is uniqueness and individual difference,” he says. “[Top swimmers] are not products of a system.”
“I’ve never seen a fool-proof system.”

Most recently the debate has become an issue of coaches choosing winning or development, as if they are mutually exclusive. Coaches who develop swimmers the right way don’t have to choose either or because winning and development go hand in hand.

Dr. Craig Harrison, the director of athlete development at AUT Millennium, a world class environment in New Zealand for high performance sports training, says in terms of importance, LTAD is ‘everything’, with a focus on process leading to achievement, as opposed to one on outcomes.

“We are prioritizing outcome… and getting a little bit lost.  Winning is definitely over-prioritized at the young ages,” he says.

He says that achievement is more about ‘getting better’.
“That drives people long term.”

But getting better is a process. A long term approach is not about getting age group and youth swimmers racing as quickly as possible as young as possible. Rather it is a focus on correct training, competition and recovery throughout their career, paying attention to their growth and development years.

While coaches want their age group and youth swimmers racing as quickly as possible, this will benefit swimmers only with talent and commitment while adhering to LTAD principles.

While maximizing sporting talent is an important goal of long-term athletic development, Goldsmith warns that physical talent is over-rated.

The only thing that physical talent does is get you recognized,” he says. “Hard work beats talent until the talent decides to work.”

Performance cannot be accurately assessed by times and results achieved, but by determining how closely a swimmer follows their race plan and how close they have gone to achieving their potential.

To do this requires what Goldsmith calls ‘performance practice’ – a form of deliberate practice.

“‘Performance practice makes perfect – it’s the way that you do it not what you do,” he says.

It is this deliberate performance practice that grounds the learning process, not short-term outcomes.

But even if a race plan is followed perfectly, a swimmer’s body is not always capable of producing personal bests.   A personal best is a result, it is not a process. Too high an emphasis can be placed on the achievement of personal bests.

The only thing swimmers are in control of in producing their best possible result is getting the process correct.

“Many don’t look at the next step,” Dr. Harrison says.

Focussing on the process rather than the result will make the sport more enjoyable for all parties, while also being more likely to produce positive competitive results over the long term.

The LTAD model has highlighted the importance of considering individual variations in biological maturation instead of chronological age when programming for youth.

There is conflict in that the competitive environment seeks and rewards rapid development, whereas a long term athlete development process attempts to ‘delay’ high performance long enough for all athletes to arrive at the same point simultaneously.

If a long term approach to training is not adopted, there is likely to be a plateau in performance when growth and development slow significantly, which may affect some swimmers performances.

At this point the short term training approach cannot be reversed, Dr. Harrison says, and swimmers often drop out before achieving close to their potential.

“They`ll plateau and get to the point where they disengage as they are not winning as they are not reaching the outcome goals they have set.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Differences Between Summer League Swimming and Year Round Swim Training

Posted on

Written by
Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

Differences Between Summer League Swimming and Year Round Swim Training Take Home Points
1. Summer league swimming can be an effective feeder system for year round swimming
2. With burnout a major problem in the sport, summer teams can help foster enjoyment at the grassroots level
3. It is important to strike a balance between enjoyment and building fundamentals

With summer only weeks away, country clubs, rec centers, and even full time swim programs anxiously await the influx of summer swim kids. Summer programs and year round programs have an interesting coexistence, where sometimes the only thing is common is the fact they involve swimming. At the extreme, summer teams are sometimes perceived as one step above Marco Polo games, while year round programs can seem like strict para-militaries to outsiders. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and can vary greatly depending on the team. Despite these differences, many of the sport’s elite have begun their careers as purely recreational summer league swimmers before gradually increasing their commitment to the sport.

Most important with summer teams is to encourage fun. In general, summer teams do this very well, with the sheer numbers of participants as evidence. This fact is especially important with burnout as one of the biggest challenges in the sport. Modern literature and anecdote has shown that long term results are best when kids are allowed to diversify sports. Summer league swimming allows kids to pursue other athletic endeavors at early ages.

But there is also a flip side to remaining in summer swim, namely the difference in mindset. Now, most would agree that having 10-11 year olds swim doubles and 40-50k per week is a bit excessive. While it may teach hard earned lessons of commitment and dedication, it can also cause burnout and injury. But we also cannot avoid the positives that come from an environment of dedication, specifically those intangibles that we all see but sometimes struggle to articulate.

Chambliss (1989) conducted a lengthy study of elites and noted, “Olympic champions don’t just do more of the same things that summer league country club swimmers do. They don’t just swim more hours, or move their arms faster, or attend more workouts. What makes them faster cannot be quantitatively compared with lower level swimmers, because while there may be quantitative differences, these are not, I think, the decisive factors at all…

The best swimmers are likely to be strict with their training, coming to workouts on time, carefully doing the strokes legally… Their energy is carefully channeled. Diver Greg Louganis practices only three hours each day, divided into two or three sessions. But during each session, he tries to do every dive perfectly. Louganis is never sloppy in practice, and so is never sloppy in meets.”
Ultimately one of the challenges in transitioning from summer league swimming into a full time program is a shift in mindset. While fun is the priority at the youngest ages, we also don’t want bad technical habits to develop. “It’s only summer league,” while maybe not explicitly stated, is often implicitly stated and may hold kids back who may consider a transition to a year round program. It is a delicate act to balance seriousness with enjoyment. Yet also consider that seriousness and enjoyment can also be one in the same…

As Chambliss continues, “The very features of the sport which the C-level swimmer finds unpleasant, the top level swimmer enjoys. What others see as boring, they find peaceful, even meditative, often challenging, or therapeutic….No amount of extra work per se will transform a C level swimmer into a AAAA swimmer without concurrent qualitative change in how that work is done. It is not by doing increasing amounts of work that one becomes excellent, but rather changing the kinds of work.”


Summer League Swimming Versus Year Round Swim Training Conclusion

Too often, people focus on volume, numbers of practices, and the fact that a team practices year round as the main discriminators between summer leagues versus full time swimming. Instead, it is a subtle difference in mindset that can distinguish the two cultures. But rather than being simply an academic discussion, recognizing this distinction can help coaches effectively transition kids from summer to year-round if they make that additional commitment.


1. Chambliss, D. The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers, Sociological Theory, Vol 7, No 1, (Spring 1989), 70-86.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sports Parents: 6 Ways You're Doing It Wrong

By: Dr. Rob Bell
From: http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=10cf69f91472821bb9b20a006&id=5611e9232d&e=9c8cc3d703

I love my kids more than anything. So, I get it, how they perform is important to me. But their performance is not a reflection of my parenting, just a shadow. The most important mental skill of  athletes reaching their full potential is passion- the love for their sport! Each of the following is related to nurturing their passion, not the parents. Here is 6 ways that sport parents are doing it wrong. 
1. Wanting it more than them- I get calls every single week from parents wanting our mental coaching for their son/daughter. I have to screen each parent, and one question I ask them, “Is this something your child wants?”  Whatever the situation they have to want it, period.  No matter the sport, the best athletes have that passion. They don’t have to be asked to work at it, because they love it. 

2. Not allowing them to fail- Losing hurts and it should hurt. The pain eventually subsides, but if we remove the failure, setbacks, and allowing them ownership of their mistakes, than we actually cheapen the joy of winning. How can we truly appreciate winning and improvement if we have never lost? The safety net for children has become dangerously close to actually touching them. They know mom or dad will take care of it… Example: “I forgot my glove, my gatorade, jersey, goggles, putter, etc, Mom and dad will pick it up for me.”

3. Traveling too early- It’s the gateway drug to specialization. Anything before late middle school is too early. A few travel tournaments or matches here and there is great, its fun! But even for young kids, the trips have become every single weekend. Here’s the danger, it becomes expensive and once they start traveling, it’s too easy to buy the idea that they now have to pick a sport and stay with it. Specialization isn’t all that either because the specific movements with different sports actually transfer. Jumping, running, throwing, all transfer across sports! Playing a variety of sports achieves that goal of skill development. Plus, each sport offers a unique advantage, competitiveness. When they learn to compete in many different sports, they will eventually transfer that skill of competitiveness to their favorite!

 4. Not emphasize & reward effort- Effort is everything. But, if we only emphasize the outcome, athletes will learn and internalize “all that matters is winning.”  Players that are good will win early and often, until they no longer win. If parents only emphasize rankings, final scores, and talent, then taking risks, addressing weaknesses, and competing become afterthoughts. At some point, they are no longer the best, and they can become stuck in limbo between past expectations and low confidence. Question: shouldn’t the best 12-year old in the nation almost always be one the best 18-year olds? Rarely happens because winning and outward appearance was rewarded instead.

5. Blame coach, system, or refs- I was sitting next to a parent of a future DI basketball player whose brother had made it to the NBA. This parent was miserable and every single play or refs call that did not go his son’s way, was heard by everyone including his son. I cried on the inside, because there is no way that this kid was happy either. A little league coach once told me when he knew parents were talking about him because the kids would no longer look him in the eye. Sad…It’s about progress not perfection. It’s not your role to call or blame coach about playing time, change coaches or schools, or get a lesson every time they play bad. 

6. Over-communicating with them- There are good opportunities to talk about their performance and not good ones. During the game is NOT the appropriate time. However, all the time, parents are communicating with their son/daughter. Body language doesn’t talk, it screams, and they can see your negative behavior. Also, the stands can be packed with hundreds or thousands of screaming people, and the ONE voice they will recognize is yours! Why are you trying to coach them during their performance? 
I get it, no one has an ugly child, but if he/she becomes great, then they will get noticed. Really want to be a good sport parent? Just tell them, “I love watching you play.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Psychological and Social Benefits of Playing True Sport

Article Posted @ http://truesport.org
Content excerpt from the TrueSport Report.

A growing body of research literature finds that in addition to improved physical health, sport plays a primarily positive role in youth development, including improved academic achievement, higher self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems, and better psychosocial.29,30 Many studies focus on the effects of sport on the five “C’s”—competence, confidence, connections, character, and caring—which are considered critical components of positive youth development.31,32 It has long been thought that the many facets of playing sport—the discipline of training, learning teamwork, following the leadership of coaches and captains, learning to lose—provide lifelong skills for athletes.
Sports do not build character. They reveal it. John Wooden, Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach
The literature on youth sport stresses the positive effects of participation in learning the important life skills of goal setting and time management combined with enjoyment; the development of a strong sense of morality; and the development of an appreciation of diversity.33 Longitudinal studies have shown that children and youth participating in sport, when compared to peers who do not play sport, exhibit:

• higher grades, expectations, and attainment;34
• greater personal confidence and self-esteem;
• greater connections with school— that is, greater attachment and support from adults;
• stronger peer relationships;
• more academically oriented friends;
• greater family attachment and more frequent interactions with parents;
• more restraint in avoiding risky behavior; and
• greater involvement in volunteer work (see Linver et al.35 for a summary).

These outcomes are thought to be related to the contribution of sport to learning values and skills associated with initiative, social cohesion, self-control, persistence, and responsibility.36 Theories of positive youth development stress the importance of sport in acquiring skills that are beneficial in other domains (e.g., school, family, work) that lead to better adaptive skills.37
People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society. Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach
Sport provides opportunities for children and youth to engage in valuable and positive relationships with adults, which is especially important when such benefits are not available at home. Thus, it is a missed opportunity for children who are “gated”—or not included in sport—during early stages of childhood because they are less well behaved than other children. These children are being prevented from participating in the very thing that could help them learn to control and regulate their behavior.38 Sport provides an opportunity for children to safely navigate and negotiate between right and wrong as they learn to interact with peers and adults.39 Research by Taliaferro et al.40 suggests that playing sport can even protect against suicide risk in youth. Compared to nonathletes, male athletes exhibit lower levels of hopelessness and suicidal ideation. Young males involved in multiple sports seem to garner even more protection in this regard. Similar results were found for girls. Research on the role of exercise in adults confirms that it improves mood and alleviates many forms of depression.41 Bartko and Eccles42 found that youth who are highly involved in sport are more “psychologically resilient,” that is, better able to recover from problems. Eccles et al.43 found that sport participation protects young athletes against social isolation.

Taliaferro et al.40 propose that youth who play sport have higher levels of social support, which provides higher levels of resilience. Becoming a member of a community that includes teammates, coaches, family, and the greater community provides “fertile ground for adolescent self-esteem development because teams provide opportunities for youth to engage with adults and peers to achieve collective goals” (p. 545).40 In addition, physical activity enhances one’s self-perceptions of body, competence, and self-worth.44,45 The assumed association between playing sport and improved psychological and behavioral outcomes (or character) is at times challenged, despite the overwhelming directionality of the positive associations. Skeptics also say that many studies have failed to examine whether athletes had specific character traits before playing sport. Moreover, many studies do not account for variations in sport participation by level of competition, type of sport played, and other contextual factors. Linver et al.35 caution that participating in other types of nonsport activities also can produce many of these benefits— for example, the performing arts, school clubs, and other prosocial activities. However, sport participation stands out over other activities as a confidence builder, showing a consistent advantage in building self-esteem and improved psychological functioning.46 This is particularly true during the later adolescent years (around 11th grade).42 Hansen et al.47 found that youth who play sport reported higher rates of self-knowledge, managing emotions, and physical skills compared to peers in academic and leadership activities.


Playing Sport Leads to Improved Academic Performance


I figure practice puts your brains in your muscles. Sam Snead, Professional Golfer
Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects of playing sport on academic achievement, in large part because of the positive influence of identity formation and emotional development. So, to flip Sam Snead’s perspective, practice figuratively puts muscles in your brain.
Data show that high school students who play sport are less likely to drop out.48 Participation in sport also has been associated with completing more years of education49 and consistently higher grades in school.50

CDC20 synthesized and analyzed the scientific literature on the association between school-based physical activity and academic performance and found that the majority of the studies found positive associations. CDC’s report notes, “There is a growing body of research focused on the association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance among school-aged youth” suggesting that such activity “may have an impact on academic performance through a variety of direct and indirect physiological, cognitive, emotional, and learning mechanisms” (p. 5).20 Similarly, research aimed at discovering whether sport participation can detract from academic performance found that participation in interscholastic sport and other team or individual sport, as well as other after-school physical activity programs, does not have a detrimental impact on students’ academic performance.

Research has shown that physical movement can affect the brain’s physiology by increasing cerebral capillary growth, blood flow, oxygenation, production of neurotrophins, growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, neurotransmitter levels, development of nerve connections, density of neural network, and brain tissue volume. These changes may be associated with improved attention; improved information processing, storage, and retrieval; enhanced coping; enhanced positive affect; and reduced sensations of cravings and pain.20 Linder’s51 research suggests that increased energy levels and time outside of the classroom—both byproducts of playing sport—may give relief from boredom, resulting in higher attention levels during classroom time. Research by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute52 has shown that physical exercise causes short-term relaxation, accompanied by improved concentration, enhanced creativity and memory, improved mood, and enhanced problem-solving abilities.
Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle. Wilma Rudolph, Track and Field Olympic Gold Medalist


Physical and Psychological Benefits of Sport for Girls


As described above, sport participation conveys myriad psychological, physiological, and sociological benefits. In recent years, research has begun to explore the particular benefits of sport for girls and young women, who are increasingly playing more sport at all levels. Studies are beginning to tease apart the issues that contribute to girls electing to play, factors that keep them playing, and reasons for their dropping out.

A 2007 study found that women who played sport in high school were 73 percent more likely to earn a college degree within six years of graduating high school than those who did not play sport.53 This advantage held up even for students facing socioeconomic challenges to graduating college.
Playing sport also conveys other beneficial outcomes: Girls and young women engaged in sport are less likely to be overweight or obese, depressed, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have unwanted teen pregnancies. This may possibly be related to the goal of maximizing athletic performance or the goal of protecting sport eligibility or scholarships.16 Suicide and sexual victimization also is lower in girls and young women engaged in sport.

Sports psychology research has shown that girls gain confidence and self-esteem through participation in sport and physical activity. A positive team sport experience may mediate the risks of low social acceptance and dissatisfaction with one’s body. Determining the relationship between selfconcept and sport participation is complicated by the measurement models used across studies, but greater participation in sport has been found to be relational to greater emotional and behavioral wellbeing. Donaldson and Ronan’s38 findings suggest that for girls the psychological benefits of participation are not related to the level of competence but rather to the act of participating.
Sport participation also may meet the developmental needs of adolescent girls, including having a sense of belonging, a sense of mastery over one’s body, the experience of generosity, and the sensation of mattering.54 Life skills such as persistence, teamwork, goal setting, leadership, and character development may transfer from sport to academics, family life, and the work setting. Sport involvement, in addition to making college attendance more likely, correlates with greater levels of overall extracurricular and community involvement. This is true for both boys and girls.
Peer and parental support also influence girls’ enjoyment and learning of sport.55 Girls develop important social relationships through the physical activity of sport, both with their teammates and with their adult physical activity leaders, but girls may suffer negative psychological consequences if their developmental needs for feedback and encouragement are not considered by instructors or coaches.


Sport as an Agent for Social Change


Some research has shown that sport contributes to the development of social capital.
Longitudinal studies, such as the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, have found that men at age 32 who played high school sport were paid 31 percent higher wages than men who had not played sport. The National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 found that men at age 31 who played high school sport were paid 12 percent higher wages than those who did not.56 Of course, there could be other explanations for these findings. Barron et al.56 suggest that higher-ability individuals or individuals with lower preferences for leisure are more likely to play sport. These same people are then also more likely to seek higher achievement in the workforce. Athletic competition might serve as an excellent training activity for individuals who are already highly motivated to succeed.

Research has shown that the longer youth play sport, the greater attachment they have to their community, according to a series of measures. Studies using data from the University of Maryland’s National Youth Survey of Civil Engagement show that sport participants, compared to those who do not participate in sport, are more likely to register to vote (66 percent versus 44 percent) and to follow the news (41 percent versus 27 percent).57

Studies by Eccles and Barber50 show that youth sport participation is positively related to adult involvement in community activities that can last a lifetime. Youth who participate in sport are more likely to make friends, including those of different races.58 Young athletes are better able to acquire emotional control, learn the value of teamwork, and exhibit initiative,59 all social skills that can contribute to a better community. However, with many of these findings, the associations could be correlative rather than causal, because youth who choose to be highly engaged in sport also may chose to be highly engaged in other community activities.

There is no question that providing opportunities for youth to play sport provides community benefit—if for no other reason than idle time can be filled with activities that are healthy and positive. For example, when Phoenix, Arizona, basketball courts and other recreational facilities were kept open until 2 a.m. during summer hours, juvenile crime dropped 55 percent.60 Similarly, crime rates dropped by 24 percent after late night recreation programs were started in Cincinnati, Ohio.61
Finally, Jamieson and Ross62 suggest that sport can even serve as a useful intervention in international peace-building activities. Organized sport efforts in the Middle East have provided youth with positive and constructive experiences, creating peaceful and productive relations with neighbors. “Youth and youth sport leaders play vital roles in transforming dangerous and violent conflict situations associated with terrorism across the world” (p. 28).62


Sport Alone Does Not Build Character—Context and Environment Matter


The benefits of sport do not necessarily always accrue. Positive outcomes are more likely to occur when a sport program emphasizes mastery, includes positive adult behaviors and supervision, and focuses on personal skills.63

In fact, some studies have found that young athletes in some sports are more likely to be involved in risky behaviors— such as alcohol use—than those who do not participate in sport.46,64,65 Research also has found that in addition to physical injury, sport can create stress and anxiety and even promote heightened aggressiveness. 59 These outcomes can be shaped by the nature of the athlete’s experience—for example, the attitudes and behaviors of coaches, teammates, and parents. Research by Zarrett et al.36 highlights the importance of not only the quantity of participation, but also the quality of the experience.

Several researchers have found that some male youth who are highly engaged in sport actually engage in more delinquent behaviors, such as lying and substance use, compared to youth who are more involved in school-based clubs and school work and youth who are involved in multiple, diverse activities.42 For example, well-known studies by Barber et al.,49 Eccles et al.,43 and others have found that student athletes reported drinking more frequently than nonathletes.

Rutten et al.66 tried to understand the possible reasons for and consequences of these findings. They investigated the contribution of organized youth sport to antisocial and prosocial behavior in adolescent athletes and found that “coaches who maintain good relationships with their athletes reduce antisocial behavior, and that exposure to relatively high levels of sociomoral reasoning within the immediate context of sporting activities promotes prosocial behavior” (p. 263). Thus, high-quality coach-athlete relationships can protect against antisocial behavior.

Gardner et al.67 also tried to understand the complexities of context and the relationship between an apparent association between sport participation and juvenile delinquency. They found that previous studies had compared behavior of athletes against behavior of students who participate in other nonsport activities (e.g., school clubs, theater). In those comparisons, athletes are more likely to exhibit delinquency than students in nonsport activities, but still less so than youth not involved in any activities.

Gardner’s review of the literature found that several factors mediate the apparent delinquent behavior of athletes, including peer pressure, urban setting, opportunities for unstructured socializing, and prior problems—particularly during childhood. Thus, as in all aspects of adolescent and teen development, the complexity and diversity of context plays an important role. Gardner concluded that participation in organized sport neither protects against delinquency nor increases its risks. However, the social stature gained by participation in certain sports can result in more social opportunities that can lead to problem behaviors (e.g., drinking).

There is also research suggesting that certain sports can influence a tendency toward delinquency (e.g., contact, team) and that the nature of the sport in which a high school athlete participates may have more influence on violent and delinquent behaviors outside of sport than any other variable.68 For example, students who play in the more highly publicized and physically aggressive sports are more likely to be involved in antisocial acts off the field or court than athletes in other sports.69
Thus, playing sport does not automatically build character. Hodge70 argues that character must be “taught” not “caught.” When fair play and sportsmanship are part of the game, character can be enhanced. And when sport is played in a caring environment, social, emotional, and psychological benefits for youth are enhanced.71 Many factors influence a young person’s experience in sport, such as the training of the coach; the support that the young person receives from that coach, family members, and peers to participate in that sport; and perhaps even the type and competitive level of sport being played. Researchers also suggest that the competitive nature of youth sport is a key factor that drives both the positive and negative effects of participation.


Optimizing the Potential Benefits of True Sport


The Sport in America research found that, overall, sport is delivering on what most parents expect their child will learn, particularly the values deemed most important by the majority of parents— having fun and doing your best. Indeed, nearly all parents who hoped that sport would teach their children to have fun also say this expectation has been exceeded or met (Figure 1).
However, the Sport in America data indicate that, despite their children’s relatively strong engagement in sport, adults perceive sport generally as having limited positive influence on youth today (Figure 2). Those adults who are personally engaged in sport-related activities or who work directly with children perceive sport as having relatively greater positive influence. Respondents were asked to rank the actual and potential influence of eight factors, including sport, on today’s youth. Although this survey ranks sport ahead of only music and social networking sites in terms of its potential positive influence, general population adults perceive sport as having less actual positive influence on youth than all elements listed, including parents/family, friends/peers, and school.
Despite the perception that sport has a relatively soft influence on youth, adults recognize many positive benefits of sport to society. Four out of five adults agree that sport provides a source of fun and enjoyment and can reduce youth crime and delinquency—and that losing in sport can teach valuable life lessons. However, almost two-thirds of adults also agree that sport overemphasizes the importance of winning, a belief most strongly felt by older adults (ages 45 to 64) who are significantly more likely than adults overall to agree that sport overemphasizes winning.

Content excerpt from the TrueSport Report. Download the full TrueSport Report (PDF)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Six Words You Should Say Today

Abridged (Swimgym)
Posted on April 16, 2012 by Rachel Macy Stafford

Very rarely does one sentence have immediate impact on me.

Very rarely does one sentence change the way I interact with my family.

But this one did. It was not from Henry Thoreau or some renowned child psychologist. It was a comment from kids themselves. And if I’ve learned anything on this “Hands Free” journey, it is that children are the true experts when it comes to “grasping what really matters.”

Here are the words that changed it all:

“… College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: ‘I love to watch you play.’”

The life-changing sentence came at the beginning of an article entitled, “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent and What Makes a Great One.” Although I finished reading the entire piece, my eyes went back and searched for that one particular sentence; the one that said, “I love to watch you play.”

I read it exactly five times. And then I attempted to remember all past verbal interactions I had with my kids at the conclusion of their extracurricular activities.

Upon completion of a swim meet, a music recital, a school musical, or even a Sunday afternoon soccer game, had I ever said, “I like to watch you play”?

I could think of many occasions when I encouraged, guided, complimented, and provided suggestions for improvement. Did that make me a nightmare sports parent? No, but maybe sometimes I said more than was needed.

By nature, I am a wordy person—wordy on phone messages (often getting cut off by that intrusive beep) and wordy in writing (Twitter is not my friend).

And although I have never really thought about, I’m pretty sure I’m wordy in my praise, too. I try not to criticize, but when I go into extensive detail about my child’s performance it could be misinterpreted as not being “good enough.”

Could I really just say “I love to watch you play” and leave it at that? And if I did, would my children stand there cluelessly at the next sporting event or musical performance because I had failed to provide all the “extra details” the time before?

Well, I would soon find out. As luck would have it, my 8 year old had a swim meet the day after I read the article.

Her first event was the 25 yard freestyle. At the sound of the buzzer, my daughter exploded off the blocks and effortlessly streamlined beneath the water for an unimaginable amount of time. Her sturdy arms, acting as propellers, emerged from the water driving her body forward at lightning speed. She hadn’t even made it halfway down the lane when I reached up to wipe away one small tear that formed in the corner of my eye.

Since my oldest daughter began swimming competitively two years ago, I have ALWAYS had this same reaction to her first strokes in the first heat. I cry and turn away so no one sees my blubbering reaction.

I cry not because she’s going to come in first. I cry not because she’s a future Olympian or scholarship recipient. I cry because she’s healthy; she’s strong; she’s capable. And I cry because I love to watch her swim.

Oh my. Those six words …

I love to watch her swim.

I had always FELT that way—tearing up at every meet, but I hadn’t said it in so many words … or should I say, in so few words.

After the meet, my daughter and I stood in the locker room together, just the two of us. I wrapped a warm, dry towel around her shivering shoulders. And then I looked into her eyes and said, “I love to watch you swim. You glide so gracefully; you amaze me. I just love to watch you swim.”

Okay, so it wasn’t quite six words, but it was a huge reduction in what I normally would have said. And there was a reaction—a new reaction to my end of the meet “pep talk.”

My daughter slowly leaned into me, resting her damp head against my chest for several seconds, and expelled a heavy sigh. And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure’s off. She just loves to watch me swim; that is all.

I knew I was onto something.

Several days later, my 5 year old daughter had ukulele practice. It was a big day for her. The colored dots that lined the neck of her instrument since she started playing almost two years ago, were going to be removed. Her instructor believed she was ready to play without the aid of the stickers.

After removing the small blue, yellow, and red circles, her instructor asked her to play the song she has been working on for months, Taylor Swift’s “Ours.”

With no hesitation, my daughter began strumming and singing. I watched as her fingers adeptly found their homes—no need for colorful stickers to guide them.

With a confident smile, my daughter belted out her favorite line, “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind; people throw rocks at things that shine …”

As her small, agile fingers maneuvered the strings with ease, I had to look away. My vision became blurred by the tears that formed. In fact, this emotional reaction happens every time she gets to that line of the song. Every. Single. Time.

I cry not because she has perfect pitch. I cry not because she is a country music star in the making. I cry because she is happy; she has a voice; and she is free. And I cry because I love to watch her play.

I’ll be damned if I hadn’t told her this in so many words … or rather, in so few words.

My child and I exited the room upon the completion of her lesson. As we walked down the empty hallway, I knew what needed to be said.

I bent down, looking straight into the blue eyes sheltered behind pink spectacles and said, “I love to watch you play your ukulele. I love to hear you sing.”

It went against my grain to not elaborate, but I said nothing about the dots, nothing about the notes, and nothing about her pitch. This was a time to simply leave it at that.

My child’s face broke into her most glorious smile—the one that causes her eyes to scrunch up and become little slices of joy. And then she did something I didn’t expect. She threw herself against me, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, and whispered, “Thank you, Mama.”

And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure’s off. She loves to hear me play; that is all.

Given the overwhelmingly positive reactions of my daughters when presented with the short and sweet “I love to watch you play” remark, I knew I had a new mantra. Not that I would say it like a robot upon command or without reason, but I would say it when I FELT it—when tears come unexpectedly to my eyes or when suddenly I look down and see goosebumps on my arms.

I now know how important it is to say it—say it simply—in moments when I feel that heart palpitating kind of love that comes solely from watching another human being who I adore.

Now at this point, I could wrap up this story with a nice, tidy, Kleenex-required ending, but living “Hands Free” means taking it a step further, going outside the comfort zone.

And it struck me that there is one other person to which this new mantra could apply. It hit me when this person, donned with white bandage on his arm from giving blood, was hoisting a large trashbag as we cleaned the art room at a center for residents with autism.

I watched him, my husband, from the corner of the room where I was dusting shelves with my youngest child. Embarrassingly, I had to turn away so no one saw me tear up. In that moment, I reflected on other recent events where I had been going about my business and had to stop to take pause. Moments when I stopped to watch my husband in action simply to admire the loving person, the devoted husband, and caring father he is.

But had I ever told him in so few words?

It was time.

And since writing is much easier for me than speaking, I wrote my observations down. There were no long-winded paragraphs or flowery descriptions, just words of love, plain and simple:

I love watching you help our daughter learn to roller skate. I love watching you teach her how to throw the football. I love watching you help your employees in times of need or uncertainty. I love watching you interact with your brother and sister. I love watching you read side by side with our daughters. I love watching you laugh. I love watching you love our family.

I typed up his note and plan to give it to him when we have a quiet moment together this weekend. I don’t know what his reaction will be, but it doesn’t matter. I feel these things, so I should say these things.

When simply watching someone makes your heart feel as if it could explode right out of your chest, you really should let that person know.

It is as simple and lovely as that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Instilling The Qualities In Overcoming Adversity

Taken From: Instilling the Qualities in Overcoming Adversity
Written By: BJ Foster

These 7 characteristics are commonly found in people that have overcome tremendous adversity. It is important to instill these in our children to prepare them to triumph when trouble rears its head.
A Powerful Inner Drive.
I don’t know if this can actually be instilled, but rather found. This comes from passion. Everyone has something that lights their fire. Help your kids find what gets them excited and encourage those desires.
Faith and Hope.
Model a spirit of optimism and confidence in their future. They are going do what you do. Teach them the beauty of things not coming easily and the opportunity that comes in challenging times. Praise them when they overcome difficulty no matter how small.
Ability to Visualize the Goal.
Teach them to keep their eyes on the prize. They need to learn how to picture the end goal. This takes a level of focus and creativity. Help develop those skills in your child.
Resilience and Tolerance of Pain.
Endurance for pain is built through experience. Don’t shield them from life’s difficulties. Instead, help them respond well when difficulties come.
Lack of Self Pity.
Having self-pity will make it difficult for them to accept the situation and move forward. Balance the amount of attention you give when they experience pain. Choose times where you back off and let them work through the situation. Pay close attention to when they are overly dramatic and give them proper perspective.
Teach them how to delay their gratification. Gauge their present ability with the marshmallow test. Make them earn money by doing chores. Give your kids daily responsibilities to manage.

Teach them to keep their promises and hold them accountable when they don’t. Help them weigh through the consequences when they are contemplating quitting.