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


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 

The Four Horsemen of the youth sports apoalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Youth Sports Apocalypse:
This next series of essays will be in four parts, not including today’s essay.  Each part will detail what I believe to be the four parts of youth sports that have contributed greatly to the present day scenario that most experts agree is in need of a tremendous overhaul.
 My company, Frozen Shorts, works daily to initiate this change, all the while giving the reasons why the change has to implemented, and the positive results of this change. One of our sayings is “baby steps,” as this problem did not appear overnight, nor will it be cured with any quick fix solution.
 We believe strongly that the education of everyone involved in youth sports is vital to positive change. We give lectures, write blogs, present workshops, mentor coaches, and speak to organizations of all kinds, not just those involved in youth sports. We also do one-on-one consulting with families and athletes to initiate this change.
But this change must be intrinsic in nature to have any long lasting meaningful effect.
The four parts of the youth sports Apocalypse are college athletic scholarships, Division I and Professional sports on television, “elite” travel sports and the parents and coaches involved in them, and finally, injuries and mental health.
These four parts are intertwined and have grown into such a massive force that many people, both inside and outside youth sports, believe that it cannot be changed, corrected, or even slowed down. It has been referred to me on many occasions as a new social phenomenon, much like cell phones, Facebook, or texting. My reply is always the same: It is not a social phenomenon, but rather a man made disease.
However, a growing concern by the many people I have talked to, interviewed, and read about in increasing numbers are engaging in dialogue and action fueled by a desire to give children, families, and yes, even adults involved in youth sports a better way, a more fun way, to understand and enjoy youth sports and life.
Over the past thirty years I have kept all of my notes while coaching high school, college, and youth sports. While my children were growing up I also wrote down notes detailing my observations of youth sports, and after they were done participating, I continued to go out to youth and high school sports events. On my website you can see weekly essays and videotaped interviews with high school, college, and professional athletes as well as coaches, Doctors, Certified Athletic Trainers, children, and parents.
 As many of you know I have taken those notes and turned them into a book about youth sports entitled Stop The Tsunami in Youth Sports: Achieving Balanced Excellence and Health While Embracing the Value of Play For Fun. The book was written in long hand and then typed into a manuscript by my wonderful wife Kathleen. Who knew you could type a manuscript? Obviously, everyone but me!

Next week: Division 1 athletic scholarships

Part II of the Youth Sports Apocalypse

Division I and professional sports on television have a tremendous influence on youth sports and high school athletes. They also have a remarkable effect on coaches coaching youth and high school sports. This influence can be seen in every game and many practices.
 Now to be fair and clear, this influence has been reflected in youth and high school sports since sports first appeared on television. Heck, you can even go before that when most of a fan’s exposure to pro and Division I sports was from actually going to watch a game in person.
But today’s influence has been ramped up and super sized to the extent to where I have seen performances that make me shake my head in disbelief and wonder if this phenomenon can be slowed down and put back in perspective.
First let me go through an example of two sports:  soccer and basketball. Now I could go through the others but you will see the picture clearly, I hope, from just these two examples.
Soccer:  I went to a varsity soccer game. The winning team was up by 4 goals with ten minutes remaining in the game. There was no way the losing team was going to catch up. So what happened when the winning coach starting to substitute his “bench” players? (I despise that terminology.) The losing coach saw the substitution, how could he miss it, it happened right next to him, and decided NOT to substitute. With THREE minutes left in the game he had five of his subs start to warm up by doing what I believe to be the most ridiculous “preparation” to enter a game in all of youth and high school sports. With one minute left he subbed them in. I asked the coach after the game about this and he said, “They don’t play hard in practice so why should I worry about their playing time in a game.” So, I said, “They won’t practice hard if they don’t think they can get into a game; and I don’t mean a couple of minutes at the end of the game! He said,”They only sub three guys in a game in the pros!”
This coach is limiting competition. This is just another form of entitlement. I went to four of his games and for the 320 minutes of soccer I watched, I saw them complete four passes in a row ONCE! He did not sub more than three kids in a half, and only subbed more than six once. Does he really think that the other guys sitting on the bench needlessly could not do this poorly?  Oh, by the way they scored 6 goals in those four games.
You want to know why  kids are quitting youth and high school sports. Here it is. It is no fun when you don’t get to play. NO ONE gets better sitting on the bench.
If I could I would have “on the fly” substitutions in youth and high school soccer, just like hockey. I would have a 5x10 foot box in front of the bench and have kids hand off a “pinney” to each other as they came in and out of the game.
Basketball: I followed a varsity high school basketball team for four games. I really only needed one game to figure things out, but I wanted to be sure, and I like watching sports. The coach was constantly calling out plays, just like in DI and the pros. (To be clear I have seen this done as low as sixth graders). He would yell Georgetown, Kentucky, and other major Division I colleges as a code for them to run a play. So I started charting these plays to see how often they were successful. I also wondered why each play was called. After all, in DI and the pros there is a reason for who plays with whom and what play is called.
 I started to watch the players on the bench. By the second half they were totally disinterested. Why should they care, they were not going to get to play. The coach told me they were “role” players and they were satisfied with their roles to “help the starters get better.” So I talked to the players and asked them. They were not happy.
As I asked one player, “What do you think of having to know math to participate at the varsity level of high school basketball?” He smiled and nodded. You see he knew exactly what I was talking about. These kids that sit on the bench know that he had subtracted or added the score of the game by either how much they were ahead or behind. Then he had to divide that by the coaches’ ego, the amount of subs sitting next to him, and the time left on the clock to figure out what were his chances of getting into the game.
The solution is simple. It’s just not easy to implement. It takes a true commitment by adults to give youth and high school sports back to the kids.
There is absolutely NO correlation between DI, pro sports, and high school and youth sports for 99% of the children, organizations, schools.
 Make the healthy choice. Equal play pre puberty and play by performance post puberty, Junior Varsity and up.
Sweden which sends more professional athletes per capita than any country in the world does not make cuts until the children are 17
Play a lot of kids, and keep playing a lot of kids. Inter team competition is the best way to coach. Every one runs faster when they are being chased.
There is not that big of difference in the guy who you think is your best player and the last guy on the roster. The more you play one child and the less you play the other child, the less chance you have of your team building the competitive chemistry needed to be a really good team and the removal of entitlement as a coaching tool.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Simon says: Long Term Sub Part II

 I have read studies where teachers have commented about children’s lack of hand strength. We would incorporate the physical and the mental for the balance needed to learn and grow long term.
I wanted to teach them balance and the importance of the journey. The kids loved the change, and embraced the new learning technique. It was a fun thing to do. They were engaged. We had a base for growth. Let’s play.
When I was doing just a day long sub I used to tell the kids:  "Give me 35 minutes of work and I will reward you with 5 minutes of free time at the end of class."  This paradigm served me well, but as always, there are some things that just do not go as planned and you have to adjust on the fly. But as their trust in my ways grew, more and more kids wanted to embrace this paradigm. Some even commenting, “Mr. Stanley we want to learn.” "Mr. Stanley, we believe you.” “Mr. Stanley, this is good.”
 There was a saying I thought up for the kids and related it to the children at the beginning of my first class. After a while kids requested it from me at the beginning of class. Children have an innate desire to learn and grow. I just add the fuel. Here is the saying.
“I’m a huge believer in choice. I can’t force you to study nor do I want to. But I can and will create an atmosphere in this classroom for those children who want to study and learn, can do so in peace and quiet. The deck is stacked, the game is rigged. I’m going to win. I’ve seen me do it. It’s not my job to decide when, how, or even if the educational light goes on for you, my goal is to just keep flipping the switch.”

I also taught them a handshake. It is the same handshake I taught my players and other students. It’s called “The peace of mind is victory” handshake. You take the first two fingers in your right hand and make the “V” for victory sign palm up. The other person does the same thing palm down. You then slide your fingers over their fingers in a quick snap motion. Kids like it.