Tuesday, September 16, 2014

F.S.L.M. Competitive Paradigm Part I

 F.S.L.M. Competitive Paradigm
I was speaking with a person in youth sports, and it doesn’t matter what sport it is, about our paradigm. He was saying that it seemed like we were not encouraging competition at the higher levels.
Let me state for the record: The Frozen Shorts Learning Method (F.S.L.M.) is a very competitive model for children’s long term athletic and cognitive development. I have used this method for all age groups and travel programs for over 30 years with great success. There is a process that should be followed to get to a high level of competition based on Science, Psychology, and data, not “tradition,” theory, and hunches.
(This current tradition is only about 40 years old)
We disagree with the current model on many levels. With obesity on the rise, Type II diabetes becoming more prevalent in our children, and kids quitting youth sports at an alarming rate, I am bemused by the forces defending the current paradigm model. The solution is simple, it is just not easy. It is a holistic and organic approach to childhood development.
The more fun you have, the more you will want to do that event. The more relaxed you are, the better you will be able to perform. The better you perform, the better the ensuing competition. This takes time, lots of time.
We want competition. We think completion is a good thing. True inclusive competition at the highest levels will only become a reality when a significant fundamental base is established that embraces the fact that they are children, and not mini adults, and not micro professional athletes. Children are not remote controlled objects attached to adult’s personal joy sticks and status mechanisms.
My son as a Kindergartner was not half a 6th grader, and when he was in 6th grade he was not half a senior in high school or a 12th grader. There was a process that that whole time continuum was sometimes he progressed quickly and sometimes he did not.
What we don’t want is winning and losing getting in the way of a Childs learning and growth curve, and that is what is happening on many fronts. Winning and losing are being used as an excuse for entitlement. Coaches are going to play the “best” so we can win today. We want the pool of talent to be bigger, longer, that ensures real competition when it matters.
Over the last 3 decades that I have been involved in youth, high school, and college sports, I have seen a remarkable transformation in the athletic model at all levels. Let me explain.
At the youngest level, and I am talking about 6, 7, and 8 year olds, I am seeing All Star travel teams. There is no medical data that supports this as a healthy program for six, seven, and eight year olds. On the other hand, there is plenty of Psychologists, teachers, and Doctors who state that the cognitive ability of these children to understand what they are being told to do on an athletic field, rink, or court is not up to the level they are being pushed to execute. We say, let them have fun. The more fun they have the better they will play.
Their self worth is being tied to an extrinsic force based on small myopic sample of their athletic ability instead of an internal realization of life lessons. This culture is ripe for stress and angst.
 Ever seen an older sibling take a ball away from a younger sibling? Watch the process that goes on. Now watch what happens when you step in and explain to both kids how playing together will help them both. See the interaction between them. Changes as your guidance gives them the necessary tools to cope and learn.
Yes, sometimes it does not go well and the older child just bullies his or her way. But that is where the parenting or coaching guidance comes in. Convincing them both to help each other, initiates a process more conducive to mutual growth, and growth is what leads to excellence. We believe in the power of inclusion, not the specialization of exclusion.
Take the example of an 8 year old soccer player. He or she is way ahead of the other kids. He or she can do things with the ball that the others can’t. People see this and start to anoint him or her as the next star. But what isn’t seen or talked about is the 8 year olds cognitive ability to handle this needless outside pressure. They are encouraged by extra playing time or status to believe they are better than the other kids. When, actually, they just have a head start in a race that doesn’t exist.
Only about 10% of all the kids that are considered the best at that age are still the best at 18. In many cases the natural progression of a child’s development is fast forwarded and causes long term physical and mental harm to the child because they are doing too much too soon.

 Sometimes, they are just closest to the cutoff date for their age group and have a 10 month age differential fueling that difference or advantage. Sometimes they have a little more advanced eye hand coordination at an early age from a genetic gift. BUT they are still just kids.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Today's thoughts Fun, Fat and Stress

In our book Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports we try and explain why Kids are quitting youth sports and the correalation to obesity and Type II diabetes.FUN, it is essential for kids to be creative and play. When that is taken away by adults you have a whole new generation that can equate activity and play with stress. thats why they walk away, and most never run back.
Play for fun with balanced excellence.Its so much easier to be active with someone than by yourself. Free play in parks with friends, pick up games with friends, and made up games with friends of ALL levels of talent and ability welcome are great. BUt an underlying problem is that we are bombarded with winning and being the best as an individual. It tears apart our sense of community which could be an essential part of a healthy life style. I dont want to be yelled at.If we are having fun together, we willl all feel good together, and for each other, in a positive way.We are having fun without stress.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ray Rice et al

Ray Rice et al:
Let me first start out by saying that with Ravens releasing him from their squad and the NFL suspending him indefinitely after the release of the elevator video, a clear statement has been sent. This kind of completely unacceptable behavior will finally, at least in this league, at this level of professional sports, will no longer be tolerated in any way shape or form without severe consequences.
In the coming days, and rightly so, many people will speak up and condemn these kinds of action against women. But I would hope that this kind of abuse would be condemned against all beings. Some child abuse, male, and female,  including animal abuse, and even racial abuse, from both sides, needs to be brought out in the open and discussed. Fingers will be pointed at this person or that organization for what they did or didn’t do. And the momentum gained, and possible lessons learned, will be stunted.
In Rochester N.Y. a young policeman was gunned down by a person who had just been released from prison two weeks ago. He leaves a wife, a young son, and a 3 month old baby. Instead of concentrating on the racial aspects as the cause and effect of this terrible tragedy, we should be discussing why we are producing, as a society, the kind of person who feels, not necessarily thinks, when in trouble that a solution is to take another person’s life? What has happened to them on their own personal journey to allow them the mindset that this kind of behavior is an alternative?
These acts of senseless violence have been occurring through time, I am well aware of that. But the increase in their propensity and extremism must be examined closely so that not only can a meaningful dialogue take place as to the root cause of these acts, but a plan, starting with parents and children to honor the sanctity of human life and to reintroduce the feeling of community for, by, and to each other.
And that people brings me to my point. In this day and age, with the me first, and the haves and haves not, tension has become a daily fixture in our lives. Whether it be driving down the road, fans “getting into it” at a sporting event, or our politicians and leaders modeling  a confrontational approach to life’s problems, angst and its long term devastating effect on people has come to the forefront of our society. Not telling the truth, or telling a lie you know to be a lie has become accepted in many circles. And then, a person sees this and repeats this negative behavior because they feel righteous indignation or justifiable entitlement and the problem intensifies.
Yes, here is a root cause of our problems. Escalation. When an irrational behavior is performed, do people really think that the behavior will curtail all by itself? On the contrary, it gets worse, because it is irrational and has no fundamentally sound base. It becomes like a snowball that turns into an avalanche encompassing all within it.
 The ability to share, sacrifice, and feel contentment has been replaced by criticism, stretching of the truth, entitlement, and  lack of acceptance, and not listening with an open mind, to contrary points of view.
How did it get this way? Why? How do we stop this version of the “Tsunami?” I certainly do not want to state that I have all the answers. Actually, I have way more questions. What I do want to say today is that as long as that kind of behavior exists, and it has existed in this way in one form shape or another, the time has come for a simple stand against it. I do not want to over simplify my suggestion or the problem at hand. But as the Chinese say, “A 1,000 mile journey begins with one step.” So too does my solution.
Simple manners. Opening the door and holding it for someone and putting on your directional when you are going to turn. Saying “please and thank you” ramps down the tension and angst. We want to calm people down. It is something we all can do. Be appreciative. A person can never be happy with what they want until they are thankful for what they have.

Thank you. I appreciate very much you taking the time to read this.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Swinging on a swing

What the heck is this essay about? Where am I going with this one? What does this have to do with youth or high school sports, or sports injury prevention? Glad I asked!
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of swinging on a swing, and even for those who have, I present an essay on the “Zen” of swinging.
Remember that feeling when you get to the apex of the swing and seem to be floating? The risk involved at that exact moment, seemingly suspended in mid air, and the drop after that was so cool. There is the exhilarating feeling at that pinnacle of height that gave you a mental and physical adrenaline rush. It made the whole swinging experience awesome. Well, the journey to that apex and the ensuing feelings were quite revealing and lots of fun.
A long time ago when my children were little we used to go the playground often. Our children would meet new kids, interact, and play for an hour or so, or until tired. The social aspect of this time was intriguing to say the least. My wonderful daughter Molly would go up to other kids and simply ask them: “Would you like to be my friend?” Clayton, would find another kid and they would just horse around and play. Kids chased each other and laughed while having a really good time being kids.
Sometimes, a child would trip, or fall or a problem would ensue between a couple of kids, but, for the most part the children would handle all the issues themselves. If it got to rough a parent would intervene, but mostly the children learned all on their own to play socialize and learn life skills by themselves without any input from adults.
But the swing was a little different. Because our kids were little they would need a little help to get started. Sometimes, we would hold onto the swing and push the child and the seat forward and run right through the push and out the other side. Great fun.
But what I want to talk about today was the feeling the kids had doing this. A constant refrain, of “more please”, “Higher please” could be heard each and every time they were swinging. We would watch the children trying to compete with the child next to them to see who could go the highest.
They learned to kick their feet and pull on the chains in unison all on their own. You could see their faces as they got high higher and higher on each successful pass.  They loved the risk and reward. The enjoyed pushing the envelope of their ability and fun. Children figured out their own boundaries. It was exhilarating to watch them master this event.
Of course being kids, you had to sometimes tell them that was “high enough” or to not jump off the swing when they were too far back in the pendulum or too far forward.
You could watch their faces as they learned the feeling of accomplishment and gratification while they were swinging. It was a great fun workout.
Swinging on a swing. What a great metaphor for their lives. Give them a little help, keep them safe, and let them learn and grow at their own speed. Watch them push their abilities, all the while learning how to cope and adjust in a safe healthy environment. Just like sports, and all activities should be encouraged at their own pace, on their own path, what fun it was!
 They got exercise in a fun and strengthening environment. They learned balance, co ordination and enjoyed some friendly competition. Children  learned to push their boundaries and limits.
It seemed like so much fun that it brought back memories of when I used to swing.  So, one day, my wife and I got on the swings, and had a blast.

 Maybe you should too!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Adult Scheduling Olympics

Adult Schedule Olympics:
For those of you who have followed my blogs you probably saw this one coming a mile away. In the course of my attending over 2000 youth and high school sporting events, a constant theme has started to emerge. Parents are complaining about their hectic youth, club, and high school sports child delivery service. Some combination of all four mixed together has produced a new psychological status paradigm.  I call it the “My schedule is so much tougher than yours Olympics.”
I have written and talked about the “keep up with the Jones mentality pervasive in youth and high school sports. ( and society) There is an idea and strong belief that if I don’t do all these things for and with my children they will fall behind the other kids, and then there life will somehow be change dramatically for the worse, forever. (Or at least the parents and coaches are convinced of this)
Nonstop, at almost every single event that I attend in my “fly on the wall” mode I hear this refrain constantly. “My son/daughter has to be at this event at this time or another. Then I have to go take them to another one the same day in another city, or hurry back from there to play another game in their hometown. Next weekend I have to be in three places at once, so my spouse and I won’t see each other all weekend.” Whoa is me. Look at all I am doing for my kids, Not to be outdone, another parent chimes in with their schedule, and it is ALWAYS more hectic than the first parents lament. And when the schedules can’t be ramped up any higher the amount of money is brought up. They never say exactly how much they are spending. A simple statement rattled off listing ALL the places, equipment, and teams that they are involved in so you have no doubt that they are under a lot of stress and financial burden.
Then the Gold medal entry comes in. “Well I wish that was all WE had to do for our son. We had to take him to a Sports Orthopeadic surgeon (Insert Dr. name for status purposes only.) Then we had to take him to a personal trainer (insert first name ONLY of trainer for status purposes) and then he went for Physical therapy.
Well it does not have to be that way. The race they are being told that they are falling behind does not exist. In actuality, all that running around, is probably causing their child to be fatigued. This fatigue actually hinders a child’s development and makes the child more susceptible to injury. Also, psychologically, when a child feels the pressure to do all these things because they HAVE to and not because they want to, their desire and passion fade, it becomes a tedious job.
 Lastly the data points to rest being a crucial part of a child’s athletic development, and all the travel, multiple teams, and multiple events tires children out.
The very stress that the parents are complaining about for them is actually happening to their children on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. How ironic. The idea that you can try and mimic what you THINK top athletes are doing and have your child become an elite athlete and not be just a weaker copied version is inaccurate. While expecting professional results from this process is misguided at best and certainly has the potential to be very unhealthy children are not being allowed to be children.
At Frozen Shorts our organic holistic balanced way for a child to develop is less costly financially, physically, and mentally. The journey taken through the F.S.L.M. is more long term lasting, healthier, and of course my favorite, more fun!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Let the dream take her as far as it can

“Let the dream take her as far as it can”
I have heard this statement form well meaning parents repeatedly over the last five years. This story encompasses them all into one poignant moment.
 I had a parent bring his daughter to me after one of our presentations and tell me: “My daughter is an excellent athlete and a great lax player. I am going to give her every financial advantage and support that I can so she can live her dream.”
This little girl had on a pink hoodie and was only 12 years old. Her father was at least 6” 4” tall and a good 250 pounds. His hand was so big I could barely see this young girl’s hand as he held her close. I kneltd down to speak to her as I feel looking children directly in the eye at their level is critical to gain their trust and show that you truly care.
I simply asked her: “Would you like to go play with your friends from school tonight and do something different?” She looked me right in the eye and her face grew all aglow. Her smile lit up the room and reminded me of when my wonderful young daughter was playing at the playground with her friends having a ball without any interference from adults.
At that point her father glared at me, squeezed her hand, and all the joy in that little girl’s face was completely drained out. It was replaced by body language that was sad and fearful. He walked away with more than just her physical being; he walked away with that little girl’s dreams.
You see she was only 12 years old. And yes it is true that many children will say they want to play, and keep playing that sport, because they love it. But in that one instance, I saw a scenario that I have watched play out over the last 20 years of my coaching, mentoring, and parenting life. A child’s reality was sacrificed, even with very well meaning parents, for the parent’s need to keep up with the “Joneses” on their child’s team, their associates in work place, and their friends in the community.
 Television with the professional athletes, and the way TV is mass covering college, high school, and youth sports is sending a message of professionalism to parents and children that is myopic, misleading, and unhealthy. Words and descriptions used to define a childs developing athletic talent that not so long ago was only used for the very top of heap athletes, and only those who were 15 and 16 years old. This extrinsic force of glory, money, and status permeates the air waves. I am not here to decry that coverage. There is obviously a supply and a demand for it. But what I do question is the message it is sending to parents, coaches, and athletes. If that they don’t play year round on the best “elite” travel team, get personal trainers, play in showcases, and devote their free time to specialization instead of balance, that there is a race that parents are falling behind in.
However, it is a race that doesn’t exist.
We want children to dream. We want them to use their imaginations and creativity to think happy and wonderful things. But there is a difference between dreams and goals, and it is the parents role to know that difference and keep it in  perspective. Because when those dreams are not realized there can be a tremendous push back from the children. We see it every day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Trophies for Everyone

Trophies for everyone
At each and every presentation I am asked about my opinion on whether or not trophies should be handed out to all the children participating in a youth sports game. My answer is no. Not only do I not think that all the kids should get a trophy, I do not believe that the adults in charge of these children’s activities should even keep score. Before the age of 13 it should be equal play.
Putting an extrinsic value on child’s play is a relatively new concept. Whether it be in the form of a trophy, or in a fancy new uniform or organizational gear, the belief that a child should have his or her self worth determined by something they are wearing or getting materialistically , is not backed by any science or child psychology. Giving a child a trophy to let him or her know whatever they do requires some kind of recognition or external reward goes against the very proven concept that children need to learn from internal realization and not external forces.
Science, psychology and even data gleaned from studies on childhood behavior over centuries,  not just the last 30 years, does not support the current youth sports dynamic as being a safe, healthy, educational path ,and journey for most children participating. On the contrary it is becoming in the words of the Chief of Pediatrics/Orthopeadics at URMC a national health problem.
Children grow and understand at different times and at different paces. To lop them all together into a situation that requires then to compete against each other in the very atmosphere that that should be learning cooperation and sharing to build a stronger self, is against the very nature of childhood growth and long term development. Giving them a trophy for that only confuses them.
The belief that somehow an adult youth sports coach can come in and teach children how to win and the consequences and benefits of winning and losing, when even the very top professional coaches and team owners don’t know how to win, is amusing at best and in reality quite impossible and frustrating to understand. So the reaction to this was, well we have to do something, so let’s give them all trophies. No.
Let the kids play for fun. Let them learn from each other. Allow them to fall down, get up and learn from their mistakes and failures, without the needless extrinsic pressure of winning and losing.
 A trophy at the end of a game or tournament is just another misguided and certainly not scientific or psychologically based reaction by adults to put their feelings and egos into a child’s play and fun, and make everything nice nice for their kids. It really is just another form of entitlement. The trophy just ends being put in the basement or worse, as part of a shrine reminding the child that their life is tied to a great extent to their youth sports journey. Hey, no pressure there.
 It is psychologically proven that children are creative and learn more when left alone to their own path and journey with less structure and more freedom. When this environment is created, children will literally play all day by themselves, or at least until they are exhausted, or called home for dinner.
Guidance in the form of positive support and having to have your child be the best in that small myopic group you call a youth sports or high school team has thrown this whole journey out of whack.

 At frozen Shorts, we are bringing the backyard back. Coming soon, we hope, to a community near you.