Monday, December 15, 2014

Specialization ≠ Special Results

            I recently received a call from a coach who wanted to know how to deal with a parent. This parent was inquiring as to their son’s participation in an individualized and specialized coaching scenario after the season was over.
            Let me explain my opinion on this phenomenon of specialized coaching, and for that matter, participation in said coaching. An athlete can improve at his or her sport by not playing it. Yes, that seems outrageous, but it is true. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Also, rest is a KEY component to a child’s health and long term athletic development. It is certainly a no more outrageous program than believing a parent pays a specialized coach to improve their child enough to get a D1 scholarship. While they may be able to get a small edge, is it worth the time, money, and stress added to the parent’s and athlete’s life? In my opinion, the straight forward answer is no. Unless of course it’s really just a status and ego thing, but I digress.
            If you send your child to a specialist you expect special results. When you take your child to a pediatrician and they recommend that you see a specialist in the area of your child’s discomfort, they are saying your child has a problem that requires specific, special treatment to get better. After seeing this specialist you expect special results that could not be attained by going to your regular physician. You feel a little tense that something is wrong with your child but you anticipate that going to the specialist will fix things. There is a latent, or in some cases blatant, need for immediate and substantial results.
The same applies to youth sports.
            Here is the kicker: when you send your child to a specialist in youth sports, first of all, the coach may not be so special. They may have a coaching certificate and may have experience in a certain sport at a level that gives them some status and the experience that you seek, but they may not be able to teach to the specific needs, if there are any, of your child. They may have been told by many people how great they are and started to believe it. They may also have such status that other parents and children brag about the advantages of going to them without legitimate results to back up their claims. They may just want to name drop and gain status. None of these scenarios are good for the athlete, and isn’t that what the goal is? If it’s not, it certainly should be.
            Sports are an art, plain and simple. Teaching those children how to play a sport or get better at a sport is also an art. It is not based solely on the pedigree of the teacher or the student. Your child may need rest just as much as training. They may need balance in their muscles. They may just need a break from what they are doing. They may not need a specialist at all, but a general anesthesia from the sport they are playing.
 That last sentence sure felt good to write, let me tell you. You want to have your child feel good too.
            So here’s what happens. A parent sends a child to a specialist and expects special results. The problem with this theory in youth sports is that there is nothing wrong with the child’s athletic performance to begin with so the visits are unnecessary. He or she just needs to have fun. They do not need the pressure associated with going to a specialist, pressure that originates from the knowledge that other kids went to this specialist and played better. How will they handle it if/when they do not perform at the next highest level of play?
 Money was spent, time was spent, status was displayed, and there is now pressure to justify the expenditure. They could get better results, in my opinion, by playing another sport, going to the library and reading, or just resting and doing yoga, than they would from going to a specialist.
            So I told these things to the coach, and said that he should tell the parent the facts and what it is he has learned as coach. If the parent still wants to send their child to a specialist, then it is their decision.
            Now let me explain that this coach gets it. He just finished his season and the parents sent him a letter stating that the kids had more fun playing for him than they had playing for anyone else, in any other sport. This varsity level high school coach has been in constant contact with me about the book I am writing on youth sports and has implemented many of the recommendations I have given him. In the consulting service I provide, I have conferred with and advised many players, coaches, and families about what they are doing in youth sports, and how they are doing it. The message is always the same. What is in the best interest of the athlete’s long term health, both physically and mentally? If you stay on that path, and keep the adult’s needs out of the equation, you will find the answer to the question.
             However, let me state that he had the ability and the answer to that question before hand as he had children who played youth sports growing up, and he questioned the results of their journey through youth sports. He wanted to get better, not for his own peace of mind, but for the long term best interests of the kids he was coaching. He was learning right along with the children, and that is the best coaching scenario.
In the end I told him he should tell the parent that he was very satisfied with their child’s level of play and participation on his team, which was true. I told him he should also tell the parent that the child would be better off playing another sport for fun, and to not go to the specialist. His goal for his team was to have fun, and the more fun they had the more they would improve. He is learning, as am I, and hopefully it transfers to his team, his work, and his life, so he can pay it forward to those around him. Because what we are doing is truly correct, it must be applicable to all walks and areas of a person’s life.
True change has to come from within and be intrinsic in nature. Children learn from internal realization, not extrinsic force.
 I can tell my son to pick up his room if he wants to use the car and go out with his friends or girlfriend. He will reluctantly do it. However, if I can teach him the benefits for doing it without me asking, he will be better off and have learned a life lesson. He will have less frustration, more free time, be able to find things easier, all while getting his father off his back.
 The same holds true with that parent. I wanted my friend to educate that parent, and explain the paradigm so that the parent could come to their own conclusion for the long term best interests of the child. Isn’t that truly what parents want for their children?


If you like what you read here, and would like to find out how you can integrate the Frozen Shorts way into your youth or high school sports experience, go to our website at www.frozenshorts.com/book-vj to find out how. You can book V.J. to speak to your group, do one on one consultations, or coach mentoring, at vj@frozenshorts.com

Monday, December 8, 2014

Adulting Kids

Here is my response to a coach’s complaint about my equal play for all kids pre puberty. He believes in shortening the bench in some cases for 10 year olds.
Let’s be clear here, just because something like this is being done doesn’t mean it is right and should keep being done. Have you followed our political elections and system lately? That doesn’t seem right to me at all!
Medical science says puberty changes everything, so anything before 13 should be about development, both mental and physical. You are only giving a child a head start to a race that does not exist. Also, why are you putting a value on their play? They are just children.
 85% of all people who lose their jobs except for massive layoffs lose them because they don’t get along with other employees. Let’s teach them life skills. 70% of these kids who play youth sports at the age of 10 are quitting by the time they are 13.  There are 2 to 8 times more injuries for children who play one sport year round.
 When did we start teaching to the few at the expense of many? So an answer is to keep doing more of this, this way? Why are we adulting kids? Let them play and have fun. I was told by a coach who did not play a child in a blow out championship game that the child told him it was the most fun he had. That was very sad to me. Wonder what he says 10 years from now?
 Just because they are getting drafted to an “elite” team or are on a prospect list doesn’t mean they are going to good at 18. Only about 10% of the kids who are the best at the age of 12 are the best at the age of 18. Let’s follow these kids and see where they end up 10 years from now! We have and the results are not pretty.
 Most colleges have 20 year old freshmen playing hockey. Where are these kids that were on the list back then when they were 10 years old? The human body doesn’t develop fully until 22.23.24 and mentally about 27 and 28. Why are we trying to microwave development when it should be slow cooked? PLAY FOR FUN!
There are only so many scholarships to DI programs in hockey *(18) and over 60 DI college hockey programs with 25 players on each roster. There are only 700 players in the NHL, however when you deduct the 60 goalies its only 640 skaters and 60 goalies,  I have yet to hear of a goalie leaving the net and playing forward in the NHL or a defenseman changing positions to play goal.
The average career life of a professional athlete is 4.3 years with an average salary of $80K.Only 1% of ALL the children that go to a 4 year college play at the DI level and half of the 1% play for free, so I ask you how is it even remotely possible that so many kids being drafted onto elite teams are making it?
The average DI scholarship is $10,780 a year, so the cost spent on playing travel youth sports is not made back by the people spending it in most cases. There are 77 times as many non athletic scholarships as there are athletic ones for college. 25% of the children going to college get some kind of non athletic financial aid while only 1% gets athletic financial aid.
Ryan Callahan, Brian Gionta, Wayne Wilson (NCAA DI coach of the year 2010), Terry Gurnett Women’s D3 Soccer coach of the decade, Dr. Mike Maloney nationally known Orthopedic Sports Surgeon and Director at URMC Medical Center, Dr. Tom McInerney President of the Academy of Pediatricians, Andy Duncan CEO of Orthopedics and Rehab at University of Florida, Corey McAdam All American basketball player at Nazareth college, Phil Steckley a Certified Athletic trainer, Sue Moak an Elementary Physical Education teacher for 10 years, Katie Spring an elementary Education teacher for 10 years, and a mother of two children who went through youth sport with her kids, myself, and many others are trying to put some medical facts behind the decisions made for children playing youth sports.
They ALL agree that it should be equal play for kids’ pre puberty. They all agree that we should be not specializing in one sport for our kids and we should be ramping down the pressure on these kids.
It is unhealthy for a child, and these are children, not mini adults or micro professional athletes attached to adults personal joy sticks, to play for anything but fun prepuberty. 3.5 MILLION Kids went to the hospital last year for overuse injuries in the USA. $1.2 billion was spent on overuse injuries to kids.
Go to my website frozenshorts.com and watch video after video from many experts in their field and you will see that parents, children, and organizations are chasing a dream that is equivalent to chasing the lottery for success.
The farther you go up the ladder the better teammate you have to be. Then there is luck and timing. These children are going to be adults for the next 50 years of their lives and how are they going to react with this hangover when things don’t work out.
I’m a huge believer in choice but let’s make sure we have all the facts before we make choices for our children that are going to shape and impact their lives for the next 50 years.
As a college hockey coach for 21 years I can tell you and Wayne Wilson will agree, that there are no more hidden talents. If you are good college coaches will find you. It’s 80% of our job.
Only 20% of the coaches have any kind of formal training in youth sports and yet somehow they and the parents are deciding what is best for the children? They are learning coaching techniques by watching D 1 and professional level coaches’ coach. There is no correlation to the way those professional coaches coach to the way you should be coaching kids.
 The same people that have $$ invested or are making $$ and status on the journey through childhood playing youth and high school sports are the ones calling the shots?
 I see this as a conflict of interest.

As a parent, have you witnessed your older sibling fighting with a younger sibling? Have you seen the older one take something away from the younger one? We need to teach them how to get along better with a sense of community. The competitiveness is already there.

Monday, December 1, 2014

8 year olds

8 year olds
I was involved in an interesting conversation recently that I wanted to share with you. If you have been following my posts, you know that I believe children, especially the young ones, need time to develop in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. (And so do Pediatricians) We here at Frozen Shorts believe that children under the age of 12 should not keep score all the time, or get trophies. Let them play for fun. The competition will come naturally if patience is applied and rewarded. There is a mountain of medical and psychological evidence to back this up that says free play is a great and needed way for children to develop both mentally and physically.
Children learn by internal realization, not external force. By stressing winning and keeping score, adults put the cart before the horse, and eventually, the hoarse gets tired and quits.
This guy I was talking with, along with others, was insistent that kids wanted to keep score, needed to keep score, and that was enough justification to keep score. He cited the fact that kids he coached new the score days and even weeks after they played a game. Another guy chipped in that I obviously knew nothing about children, even though I have coached, mentored, and worked with well over 5,000 of them. The first guy made some great points about parents butting in, and putting too much stress on kids, but he wouldn’t let the score thing go.
No matter what I said to this man, he would not change his stance.
Now let me be clear. We are talking about second graders. If you have been in a second grade classroom and taught, as I have, and my wife is teaching now, you would know getting them to stand together in line is an accomplishment. Now I have run into some children who do want to keep score, in my experience, they do not do it in a positive way. They Lord it over the other kids, as do some of their parents. It is not healthy or productive.
When I mentioned pickup games he said that he always wanted to have the best player on his team. Where I grew up we always wanted the teams to be equal so the competition became the goal not the score. In basketball we kept score because the winner stayed in and played the next game. But I couldn’t tell you what the score was in any of these games. We just tried harder because we wanted to keep playing as did the other team. If there were only 6 of us we just played winners out.
Here is a quote from him “Cause even at 8-10 years old losing sucks.”  In my experience, kids pick their friends to be on their teams. 10 minutes after a game is done, if parents aren’t butting in and reminding them of the score, how they played, and why they sucked, the kids forget all about the game, as they have for generations before them.
I say this repeatedly. Take the age group you are coaching and take the kids out of this adult orientated structured pay for play and put them in a classroom setting of age appropriate learning where they are interested in the subject being taught to them. See what they think is important, how they learn, what they want to do to get better, and how they are taught. You will find it has nothing to do with the score of a test unless they are constantly reminded about the upcoming test.
Amada Visek, an assistant professor in the department of exercise science, recently conducted a study of 1,000 children. She found “winning” ranked 48th amongst the children as a reason they played youth sports. What did the kids value most? The top three were good sportsmanship, trying hard, and positive coaching.
As I have said many times before, no one knows how to win. No one knows how to teach winning. And no one really knows what winning means.

Play for fun!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Science, Psychology, and data of youth sports injury prevention

The Science, Psychology, and data of youth sports injury prevention
Frozen Shorts (For all the kids who sit on the bench needlessly freezing their butts off) is a youth sports and high school injury prevention company. We use Science instead of tradition, Psychology instead of theory, and data instead of hunches to forge a new youth and high school sports journey for the children playing, the adults coaching, and the organizations looking to increase participation.
 With 70% of all children quitting playing youth sports before the age of 13, V.J. and his company have developed a new paradigm. This new journey for the children is cheaper, the children get better faster, and they have more fun.  He stresses balance over specialization citing that the more creative kids are the more permanent the physical and athletic skills they develop will be.
His model is very competitive and stresses the fact that children are not mini adults and not micro professional athletes and must learn technical skills as well as life lessons at age appropriate levels. By having fun the negative stress levels are lessened.
 His belief that children learn more from intrinsic realization instead of extrinsic force allows him to apply his paradigm for children in all activities. His holistic organic approach is gaining momentum as VJ has been interviewed all over the United States and parts of Canada.
His quote “It’s not my goal to decide when, how, or if the light goes on. My job is to just keep flipping the switch” resonates to children and adults confused and frustrated over the current paradigm.
V.J. Stanley, President
585-743-1020

@VJJStanley

Monday, November 17, 2014

Letter of Intent

Letter of Intent:
On national signing day, hundreds of children sign 2 letters to commit to a D1, II, or III college to continue to play the sport they love. I am very pleased that so many young athletes are getting a chance to play their sport at the Division 1 level. It is a great opportunity that only about 2% of all the kids who attend a 4 year college get to experience. Even fewer of those children get to go to their chosen college at the Division I level, about 1% and even fewer, 1/2 of 1% get to play for free.
But the sobering fact is that this pursuit has gotten way out of hand. Let’s look at some facts as it relates to this race for athletic scholarships.
Basketball (13) and football (85) for boys, and gymnastics (12), volleyball (12), tennis (8), and basketball (15) for girls are referred to as “head count” sports and those children receive a full scholarship or nothing at all. Colleges do not have to fully fund their total allotment of athletic scholarships each year. For the most part, each year, each coach decides whether to renew the athlete’s scholarship for the next year. The average grant, even including the head count sports for ALL DI athletic scholarships is about $10,780a year.
 However, most athletic scholarships to the Division 1 level are partial scholarships going to athletes who participate in what is categorized as equivalency sports. What is not commonly known is that most of the other sports give out partial athletic scholarships. Let’s take a look at lacrosse. Men’s Lax has 12.6 athletic scholarships per team and 57 colleges play at the D1 level, with about 35 guys on the roster. Women’s lax has a total 83 colleges playing at the D1 level, and a total of 12 athletic scholarships for each team and about 30 on each roster. The average for these sports is anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 a year. This grant, for most athletes, is renewed every July. That is right; there are very few multiyear athletic scholarships.
It has been brought to my attention that I am trying to “upset the apple cart” and taking away from these kids accomplishment. Simply not true. What we do at Frozen Shorts, is present the facts. We are huge believers in choice. We say play for fun, and if something happens, great. But do not count on it. Enjoy the journey. You will play better this way, and we can prove it. But if you are going to make an educated choice, you should “have all the facts” as my late great father used to say.
Many families believe that the elusive D1 athletic scholarship is well within their reach. They spend freely for their child’s athletic journey. These parents  get quite upset when it is mentioned that most of the kids don’t get a full ride and the parents have paid way more $ during the journey, about 99% of them, than they will ever receive from colleges for their child’s athletic play. Interestingly, as I ask more and more parents what their total athletic scholarship dollar amount is for their child, they refuse to answer. The myth is perpetuated. I wonder why they refuse to answer.
Why is this a problem? Children are being pushed by parents, coaches, and organizations to compete and train for longer hours than they should. The children themselves buy into the program and put more pressure on themselves to excel. The ensuing negative stress that builds up in their bodies and minds is not healthy for them, now and in their long term future.
Families see a child signing a letter of intent and feel that with the extra amount of training and elite team participation they can achieve the D1 scholarship and the ensuing status and ego boost and encompassed with that process.
But along the way, kids are getting hurt in record numbers. 3,000 kids a day to go to hospitals with youth and high school sports injuries every day.  Last year alone, $1.25 BILLION was spent on overuse injuries for children, with 40% of these injuries occurring to children under the age of 15.The mental and physical stress on these children has long lasting consequences. The stress, angst, and tiredness during this journey has many children quitting before they even reach the age of 13.
Lots of kids just want to play with their friends and have fun. Many of these children now see youth sports as a stress filled environment without the essential ingredients of childhood such as creativity, fun, positive life lessons, and safe and fair completion.

For most kids and families it is simply a race that does not exist.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inner City Fun

Frozenshorts was active again in the youth sports this month. This time it was working with urban children in a semi tournament environment. Children were brought together for academics and athletics to help prepare them and give them a head start towards high school. These mostly eighth graders were formed into teams for different sports including, baseball, soccer, basketball, and touch football.
                This program has been around for quite some time and really has shown a benefit to the children and the community. The children study academics in the morning which include Social Studies, English and Math. After that they had lunch and participated in some activities before having some free time to play in an open gym environment.
                The Social Studies class I taught took a decidedly different twist as to what the children were going to study. We started out with a short movie about the declaration of independence, move on to the Civil War. We connected both of those events to Frederick Douglas, the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, The Viet Nam War, and finally this year’s Presidential Election.
They had a debate over the North and South in the Civil War and also a Presidential debate which they then presented to the rest of the children in the other Social Studies class in the form of a campaign speech. We then held a general election on the last day of class.
                The children made up a list of ten things that they thought were important about the Declaration of Independence and the people who signed them. The list was covered up and then with each subsequent event in American History, we went back and found how those things the children put up on their lists were still relevant to each new event.
                You see it was the journey that was important. How was civil disobedience manifested, and in what form throughout the history of the United Sates? How could they learn from these events and apply the ideas and thoughts they had on their lists to their life today. How important it was to listen to what others had to say and try to understand their point of view if not necessarily agreeing with them.
                Now for the sports parts. Because of the interviews I have been doing with athletes and coaches I was unable to attend some of the sporting events. When I did I was mostly and observer. I wanted to watch and see what was happening.
                Here goes. In the basketball tournament I was observing a lot of coaching of the players. It seemed the coaches were being quite competitive for the games and some kids, unfortunately were not getting a lot of playing time. A coach yelled at a player to “get his head into the game” while another said to kids “you’re embarrassing yourselves out there.”
                One coach, however, made a list of all his players and the substitution pattern so that each kid got equal playing time.
                 We had a young man on our team who was a ball hog. He was “High Stepping” while he dribbled and was causing quite a bit of consternation with the head coach and the other players on the team. He would get yelled at, but continued to play and individual style of play. Finally I pulled him aside . I told him that it did not look like he was having much fun, nor were his teammates. There seemed to be stress and angst everywhere on the court and sidelines. I suggested to him a solution to his problem. Why didn’t he pass the ball to the other players and get them involved. While the other team was guarding the guy with the ball, he could run free to get open and use his speed to create an opening in the defense and to create a little confusion. He looked at me a little funny but agreed to try it. The first time he passed the ball the other player wasn’t ready to receive it. Why, because he was not used to this young man passing the ball unless he was blocked or guarded to closely to continue to dribble.
He gave me a look on the sideline as if to say, “See, that’s why I don’t pass.” I calmly told him to relax and to tell another boy that he would be passing him the ball the next time he got it. Things started to click. On the last play of the game this young man passed the ball and broke for the basket, along home run passed nestled cleanly into his hands and he put up the winning shot.
                In our homeroom on the last day of class I asked this man what he had learned and he said teamwork was  fun, the team played better, and he enjoyed playing basketball now instead of it being so difficult.
                During the football tournament, things did not go so smoothly. We did not have a true quarterback and had to take out lumps. I suggested to our head coach that he give one of the players a try at the position as he was throwing the ball well during open gym. The kid was a little nervous and at first said he did not want to do it. In the next game he changed his mind and gave it a try. In the very first series of downs on the very first play, he threw an interception and you could see he did not want to try that again. However he did catch the game winning ball in the end zone and lit up like a Christmas tree.
Another boy was given a chance to quarterback. He panicked and dropped the ball. However in the last series of downs he made an interception to end the other teams’ final drive.
The last boy to quarterback certainly had the talent. He complained though that receivers weren’t getting open and that they were not catching the ball when it was thrown to them. I pulled him aside ad quietly suggested that he tell the guys to look quickly for a pass when they left the line of scrimmage.  First pass incomplete, and then it started. Three touchdown drives in a row.  Quick short passes to different kids with smiles all around. After the game he came over to me and smiled. I asked if he had fun, it was not the question he thought I was going to ask. He said “yes”, I said” good.”
                At the end of the school semester I gathered three of the young men around me and asked them if when they take a test in school if the teacher stood over them yelling instructions to them and telling them what to do? All three shook their heads no. I then asked why then should coaches do it to them during a game or practice? All three looked at each other and then one said to me, “I never thought of it that way.”

                There are now five athletes who are going to play youth sports differently than they would have before they were shown the Frozen Shorts way. We take baby steps, little baby steps, but those five guys, and maybe not all five, will now have a clear vision on how important it is to have fun when they play youth sports. And they will show others the way, and so forth and so on….and so it goes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Simon Says Long Term Sub Part III

Two weeks into my tenure I noticed that there were children missing classes on Friday and these same children were coming in on Monday tired. I went up to see the Assistant to the Head Master for the Middle School and asked her if she too noticed this phenomenon. (Another great child loving lady who was very thoughtful and helpful to me during this time) She said some of the kids were going to play with their elite club sports teams over the weekend and that they had seen this happening for a few years now.
I had heard of this happening at many schools I had visited, but this was the first time I had seen it up close. Boy did the kids look tired and stressed before they left and after they got back. Did not seem like fun to me. But there was another problem I had to cope with, so I generated what I thought was a single workable solution to both problems.
This school had adopted block scheduling for their classes on certain days. What this means is the children would have a double session, or two classes of the same class in a row. I noticed that the kids were having a hard time staying focused during the entire hour and fifteen minutes of class. Combined with the kids who were playing for their club team, I needed to reenergize the minds of these children.
I called the teacher I was substituting for and asked her if I could introduce a new concept in class. It’s called “Simon Says.” She loved it! I believed that the more active the children in the classroom the better they could engage their minds, and thus would be more attentive to learn. Exercise is fuel for the brain. The brain is a muscle; let’s exercise it along with physical movement.
 I am my father’s son and I am my brother’s brother. No matter how you arrange this, it is always true. It’s called a reciprocal truth.
They had to earn this “play time.” I explained to them I needed thoughtful participation, positive reinforcement to the other students when they answered questions, no criticizing wrong answers, and paying attention. They got it.
 With all the testing going on even in Physical Education class, I thought let's go a different route. I modeled the game for them.  We did a couple of sessions and immediately the kids were engaged. After a couple of times with me leading it, I asked if anyone would like to try it. Many hands went up in the class.
The kids then took over with me sitting