Friday, January 30, 2015

Assembly Line Kids

FUN, is what you are doing to or asking a child to do fun? if not they eventually will lose interest. It really is that simple.If I keep telling a child what to do do I eventually crush the spirit. the creativity that drives a child to get better? Balance in a child is seen by them switching activities and changing their minds on what they want to do many times in a day, an hour. You see a child playing with friends by themselves. cant we create activities that mirror that as they seem to enjoy that more than structure. Are we as adults not obligated to teach children at their level and their interests and not what we feel they should be as adults?give a child a ball and step back and watch how creative they are and the things they do and games they make up all on their own? Amazing! Do you want kids to go through youth and H.S. sports like an assembly line worker? Just putting the pieces together without creativity?True victory comes when children are matched evenly and the will and desire to excel is brought out in fair competition and positive stress

Monday, January 26, 2015

Swimming across the lake

Swimming in the big lake.
Let’s compare youth and high school sports to swimming across a lake.
You must train to do this. You spend countless hours on your journey to prepare for this. You go to many swimming events and at these events you compare yourself to others. There are some pretty prestigious ponds to swim before you swim in the really big lake.
You tell your friends where you are doing to swim this weekend and even tell them about some pretty good swimmers that are swimming at this pond.
You start telling your friends about the big lake you are going to swim in. They don’t know much about lakes so you can basically make up any lake and say that the people at that lake who are in charge of the lake have invited you to swim and who will know the difference.
Now when the time comes and you have already swam three quarters across the last pond to get you to the big lake, and are close enough to the shore, you see this sign
You are not allowed to swim here. We did not invite you and this lake is for invited swimmers only. Holy crap, what do I do now?
Well since no one really knows that you were told you can’t swim at this prestigious lake, why not make some  stuff up. You were hurt, you didn’t like the coach, and you had other offers, anything but the truth, that you simply weren’t good enough.
So what do you do for the rest of the season? Do you really believe that you are going to out and give your best? Or do you get frustrated and disrupt?
 Back in my day we didn’t have that. We played for fun and if something happened it happened. We played at one level and if were good enough, lucky enough, and healthy enough, were invited to play at the next level. We dreamed when we were kids, but really, we just kept playing. And when that lest game in high school came, it was no big deal
I was with a young man who said he was going to get a full ride to college. He told me the school; I told him I could check on it. He said why I would do that. Why was I ruining his parade? I said because it was a lie that was effecting other kids.
I asked why would you make something like that up? Why would your parents?
He had no answer.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Building a championship team

The first thing you need is talent. You can’t take a ham sandwich to a steak roast. I have played and coached over 30 championship teams and mentored another dozen or so coaches and teams to championships in all team sports. The one common denominator with all those teams has been talent. Coaches don’t know how to win, nobody does.
Winning is a result or a destination. I am sure if Scotty Bowman, Joe Torre, Greg Popovich, or Vince Lombardi coached a team with no talent they would not win. Scotty Bowman won championships in Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. Did he forget how to win in Buffalo?
Some of the youth and high school coaches are getting paid and, therefore, put a status on what they do, and in turn, winning games. They wear their team colors wherever they go and want to get recognized and praised for their win loss record and the level they coach. Well that’s fine, but remember, they open themselves up to criticism that way. They come off as a professional coach so they should expect the same kind of heat and analyzing.
When one of these coaches scouts another team, understand that most games are lost not won. Why then, after they scout, doesn’t their team win every time they play the team they scouted? They need to concentrate on their own team and not go out to make a show at another team’s game they are not involved in.
Coaches need to lose the swag. My teams all had humility and character. If the coach showboats, they will too. Say please and thank you. Have great manners, they are important.
Next a coach needs to take their ego out of it. It’s all about the journey and the kids. I repeatedly see coaches taking all the credit for wins, while continually making excuses for the losses.  A coach has about a 10% say on his or her team’s performance once a game starts. When my teams won championships, it was because of them. When we lost, it was my fault.
 A coach trying to manage games over player development has continually cost his/her team more losses than games won. Short term versus long term, except in that final championship game, will always have an expensive cost, even if the coach can’t see it. I see coaches scheduling easier opponents or dropping down a division to just to boost their win loss record. Then whamo, they lose in the playoffs.
 Coaches have to have patience. The last kid on a coach’s bench could become the coach’s best player, but not if he/she sits. No one gets better sitting on the bench. And remember, 70% of your best player is not better that 100% of a lesser talented player. Effort counts a lot! You never know when “suck” is going to happen.  A coach needs to be ready for it. How? Play a lot of kids. They learn from internal realization not external force. Let them make mistakes, and learn how to correct them. The more kids a coach plays the more they will compete. If they struggle? Well, that’s where real true coaching comes in. Learn how to motivate them. That means truly caring about them over a victory. That means little or no yelling at them. No one likes it when parents yell at them so coaches shouldn’t yell at the kids.
 And coaches should lay off the refs.  They are human too. Coaches need them.
I have seen some great coaches in my time. One thing they all had in common was humility. They really coached relationships. They took great joy in the success of their least talented player as much if not more than their best player or biggest win. They continually take time to build trust, which is a critical component of success and a must life skill to teach.
Now understand I am not talking about real professional coaches at the DI or major league pro level. There is no correlation to what they do and what youth and high school coaches are doing. “Professional coaches do it.” Well, these kids aren’t pros and 99.9% of them won’t play pro so they shouldn’t be coached like they are.
Interteam competition. Man, I cannot stress this enough. Play by performance for the older kids, post puberty, is the key ingredient to getting a team better. Once again, over and over, I see a coach playing his/her “horses” even when they are playing badly and losing. I watched an NFL coach not give his second string guys any playing time, and then was surprised when they didn’t play well when they went in for injuries. Coaches refuse to put in other kids fearing that they will lose a game, and not seeing the disgust the kids on the bench display. FEAR of seeing their team in the newspaper with a lopsided score, and then wondering what happened when their team loses in a close game because there was little competition coached in practice.
Parents stay out of it. Let the coach coach. You don’t have someone yelling at you at work or questioning your calls. On the way to the game or practice, just tell your child to try and have fun. On the way home, tell them you love them. Don’t yell instructions to the kids while they are playing. Do not go around the stands and tell the other parents what you think about the coach or the game. Lay off the officials. You can’t do any better than them so be quiet. If you think this is harsh, you are right. We have polled over 1000 kids and almost all of them don’t want their parents voices heard during a game or practice.
Laugh and have fun. You may not think fun is a critical component of a team’s journey to a championship, but it is. The more fun you are having the more you will want to keep playing. The more you play in that environment, the more effort your kids will put out. And don’t forget, these kids are friends, and friends want their friends to do well. When that happens, they naturally ramp up the competition between themselves. Create the right environment, and competition will ensue.
You want to talk about the will to win; nobody will try harder than me. Let’s talk about competing.  Coaches should make the teams even and fair, or at the very least, let the other team have more talent than mine, because I want to get better. Then let’s play. But that involves inclusion not exclusion. So if someone is talking about winning a meaningless game in the beginning of the season to pad my win loss total, by shortening the bench, I’m out. That’s entitlement, not competition. You want to be the best, play the best.
Heck, in a championship game I’ll bench my mother to win if she’s not playing well, and it won’t faze me.
And there you have it. Be patient, it’s all about the journey. Play a lot of kids, have fun, and build relationships. If you do that, you put yourself in a position more times than not to play for a championship. And that’s what I wanted to do as a coach. I wanted to put my team in a position to play the last game of the year. Even if you don’t win, you will have lasting memories that will far outweigh a single game victory. And really, isn’t that the final championship test of a true coach?

If you are interested in learning how to coach a championship journey, please give us a call or email me at We teach it every day at Frozen Shorts.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Greg Norman

Over and over I hear from parents and coaches that winning for little kids is an important part of growing up. “Survival of the fittest”, “that is how life is”, “the kids want me to win”, “they need to learn about winning and losing at a young age”, “You were probably picked last for gym class”, and my favorite “V.J., you are mamby pamby about winning”.
 These statements are false, all of them.
What we believe in here at Frozen Shorts and teach every day is that winning is, as Nick Saban says, “a destination”, or as we say a result. How you get there, if you get there, does not, has not, and will not happen based on a  non scientific belief gleaned from watching sports on television, or going to a clinic, and applying it to children works long term for the kids. And that benching kids under the age of 10 teaches anything positive long term for children.
Greg Norman, at one time, the number 1 professional golfer in the world, was interviewed after a loss at the Masters Golf Tournament, where he blew a lead on the back nine on the final day of the tournament. His reaction, when asked about the loss was very telling. He said, “I try and put myself in a position on Sunday so that I am in contention to play for the championship.”
 Greg, considered one of the best to ever play golf, did not know how to win, no one does. He realized that the key was to embrace the journey. He knew that by staying in the moment, and being fundamentally sound, he could compete to the best of his ability, and gave himself the best chance for the long term victory.
 Bringing the whole team along, and giving them each repeated chances to play after they made mistakes, was paramount in getting us ready to play for the championship.  A short term victory was never assured unless we were playing a far inferior opponent, which I tried to avoid whenever I could.  Heck, I’d bench my mom in the last five minutes of a game if she wasn’t playing well and it wouldn’t bother me.
I wanted those kids to be so psyched to come play for me, because they knew they would all get a chance to play. They knew they would have fun. I knew engaging their minds as well as their bodies would allow them to help themselves and their teammates get better. If their minds weren’t engaged, their interest and what we were trying to accomplish, would wane. They would get bored, and not try their hardest, and that goes for ALL the kids, not just the stars.
The result or the destination was always on my mind. How could I get my team to play at their best at the best time of the year? To think that they could play at their best all season long is a pipe dream. You never know when suck is going to happen, and it happens to all of us at some appropriate time during a game or season, most seasons. We tried to get better every day.
That is how I have coached for the last 40 years. A meaningless win early in the season, where I would have to bench my lesser developed players (and note that we might not win the game even if I did that, which I never did) at the cost of splitting the team apart, was never worth it, ever.
A teacher, and that is what a true coach of children is at his or her core, not a game manager, does not spend more time with the kids who are getting “A’s” in the class than they do with the kids who need and want extra help.
Game after game, and I have watched well over 1,000 youth and high school games, I see coaches strutting around after a victory in their team “gear” looking for self adulation, all the while ignoring the kid on the bench who did not get to play and no longer wants to give his best effort. That kind of winning is not for me, you can have it.
The coaches, parents, and organizational egos were not in play for me. I wanted to win, not for my ego, but for the team’s long term success.  I knew there was a formula for this process. I honed and crafted this idea for 30 years as a coach and teacher.
I wrote a book about it, and put a put a name to it. We call it the Frozen Shorts learning method. It embraces long term athletic and academic development as the key to victory.
We believe strongly in balance and that the journey will reveal itself over time. Inter team completion, not specialization, or playing weaker opponents is a key to success. We learn so much more from failure than we do from cheap meaningless wins. That education then allows the children to build a base where adversity is just another building block, and that failure does not mean we are failing, but a chance to learn how to execute better as a team. Trying new things on their own, and the ensuing self discovery or internal realization is better than any intrinsic force a coach, parent, or organization can apply.
Only one team wins the last game of the season. I want my team, like Greg Norman says, to have a really good chance to play in that game. Then let’s see how the lessons learned during the journey play out in that crucial critical contest.

Now you have my attention.

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 to find out how. You can book V.J. to speak to your group, do one on one consultations, or coach mentoring, at

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 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!!!