Monday, March 23, 2015

Zen thoughts on a championship game

Zen thoughts on a championship game
One game at the end of a season does not define you. It only puts an exclamation point on the end of the journey! We sometimes put so much emphasis on the score that we lose sight/joy of the journey, the memories made, the trust shared, and the lasting bond that is built. I can yell at someone young that I'm coaching and get them to do what I want. But praise them; I get them to do what they want to do better! As you look back, you will see great memories take time to develop. These things that take time are the most valuable. They are nurtured through time with growth, fun, and failure. This blend builds a solid foundation from which life skills are developed and nurtured. You got your shot and performed. It’s what we say to all. Most kids just need a chance, some time. And confidence. Head up, no back talk no showboat, hard worker, and a classy guy. You make a great team mate and citizen. So impressed by the way you handle yourself. The play you made under pressure today at that time in the game was great. I love pressure and competition and you excelled in both. Don't short change yourself you are going places too. It takes time. When you tie for team lead in scoring in a State Championship semi final with a duy who will play DI, you belong. You no longer have to say I think I might or someone else should when you arrive on the court. You can now look in the mirror and say I know I did. Believe it. So pleased for you and the team. I know today was rough. You handled yourself very classy after the injury, very mature. Impressive. The journey will reveal itself its not who starts first. Because they chose to sacrifice, and give more than they receive, they are rewarded a feeling that no score can erase.

To Jay, Jake, Pete and the boys

Monday, March 16, 2015

Full Length

Full length anything for kids under 10
Let’s use 10 year olds. People keep telling me that we need to have the kids play on full courts, full size nets, and baskets. As usual, they say it’s the way it is, that’s the way they are going to have learn to play in high school and college. But do we  bring in a PHD from Harvard to teach Quantum Physics to 10 year olds? Remember, a 10 year old is not half a 20 year old in terms of development.
 I say let’s try something different and here’s why.
Let’s say you have a 10 year old running up and down a court, field, or skating the full length of a rink. After talking with gym teachers I found out that even in shape, this age kid, and let’s be clear, most of them will get tired pretty quickly.
Since touches are the fun part of playing a sport, not only are they getting tired, but they are also less likely to touch the ball. They are less likely to complete passes, the very heart of team sport production. If you want competition and positive stress, which I am all for, keep track of TEAM pass completion %.
Furthermore when you are tired you keep making mistakes. And when pressure is ramped up to win, the mistakes keep happening because of the outside negative stress being yelled at them by adults. They do not get the memory reinforcement needed to build confidence. This confidence helps them relax, and relaxed players play better.
Then, just like a child with allergies, we put them back in the same environment that caused them to make problems in the first place. Now we sit back, shake our heads, and cant for the life of us figure out why they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. They become sensitized to the stimulus and regress.

Now as a treat, or a reward, you want to have a little fun, with little or no structure,  no keeping score, you can let them play full court, ice, and field, but only like any other drill. Keep it short, include all, and make it FUN.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


You want to teach kids and watch them grow independent? Free play and fun. Plus, it tires the heck out of them and leaves them feeling great.Our leadership tip: Taking care of those less fortunate is a great way to self realization.Self realization is better than extrinsic force any day for long term growth.You cant know where you are going if you don't know where you have been.Leadership involves taking joy and a backseat to others success. They must trust that you will lead until they no longer have to follow. Your positive reinforcement versus negative admonishment takes more thought and effort and produces much better results.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


  One trait I concentrate on my talks and seminars is a leader does not always have to be in front. A great leader has the inner security to allow and encourage others to "take the lead" and then models that behavior by being happy for that person as they continue on their journey of choice. We are losing the importance of community and accountability as a mistake has become equivalent to failure and not an opportunity for self evaluation and growth. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What If?

What if a child just wanted to be a child and dream different things and be different things every day and be happy and free, feeling loved and safe? What if as adults, we took joy in the very simple things our children love and supported them instead of pushed them? What if letting a child live in the moment while dreaming about the future through free play,fun creativity, and imagination, set them to a path they could enjoy and embrace instead of worry about? It takes baby steps to fix the problem. We do not want to try and change the culture the same way it manifests itself. Its all about the journey. Sometimes you have to treat the symptom to relax the patient first, then treat the disease. Peace of mind is victory

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Life on the Playground
As a primary school teacher for the last 10 plus years, I have always loved taking my classes out onto the playground.  You get to know your students in a whole different way as you watch them "free play".  Children spend a large part of their days being told what and when they are going to do things and ways to think about things.  Teachers place them into homogeneous groups and heterogeneous groups to work on problems.  Many primary teachers also assign seats so students are told where to sit and whom to sit next to.  (There are many sound educational reasons that these decisions happen.)
Enter...the playground.  Recess, it's most kids favorite part of the school day.  I have students who cannot tell time, but they know when recess happens.  If we ever miss recess, half the class lets me know it. 
As we burst out of the school onto the playground, choices happen and groups form almost instantly.  You have the group who loves to swing on the swings and see whose feet can touch the sky first.  Then there is another group who imagines they are the "good" guys and the other group who are the "bad" guys (they have to take turns on this one), and they run full speed ahead trying to catch each other.  Then you have the group who are competing to see who can get across the overhead ladder the fastest.  And then the group who just likes to hang out under the slide chatting.
Leaders of those groups form and it is interesting to see how that leadership takes shape.   If leaders don't think about the group as a whole, they are quickly ignored, and possibly avoided, and the group quickly follows another who values the group's wishes.  All of these decisions happen without an adult orchestrating the process.  Students who might not get the opportunity to lead, because maybe physical prowess is not valued in the classroom, get the chance to shine.  Their self esteem soars!

 By Kathleen Stanley

Monday, February 9, 2015

Winning, Development, and Fun are not mutually exclusive

3 in 1
I recently interviewed a high school varsity coach who also coached an n “elite club” team. The sport does not matter for this discussion. Hopefully by now you know my mantra that if it is really true, than it applies to all sports, and life. I did not tape record this interview because quite frankly, I did not think it was going to be anything special. I was interested in getting some more background information on the “elite” club team mentality. Specifically, how it applied to the younger children.
The beginning of the interview went very well. The coach was quite open about what he thought an “elite” player was and how his club tried to get all the younger players pretty much equal time during the games and to stress fun.
 I explained to him that was very commendable because only 1% of the kids going to college play at the DI level and only half of them play for free. I also told him that human beings don’t physically develop until their early twenties so it was good to get kids as much playing time and fun as possible. We believe in inclusion not exclusion.
What he didn’t understand or see is that I was trying to plant an idea with him about how he could adapt this fun philosophy to his high school team.
I was struck by his belief in winning over development and that how he understood very few of them would ever get a D I scholarship, but it didn’t matter to him. He had to win to keep his job, he said. But the rub is, he had only won one sectional championship, and then his team was loaded. Why wasn’t he open to change?
 I went and watched his team practice and play in two different games. Stunned doesn’t even begin to reveal how different his approach was with his high school team versus the club team he coached, or the way he said he coached. He rarely substituted. Even far ahead or behind he did not use a lot of extra players unless it was a complete blowout. I went back to see him for another interview.
I started by asking him about his substitution policy as it pertained to his high school team. He said that the reason he rarely substituted was that his starting players needed to continue to play together so that they could form a more cohesive unit. When I explained to him that his starters rarely completed more than four passes in a row, he just shook his head and said the subs would complete even less passes. These players were all mostly “elite” club players and I wondered how they could be so weak in this department if they played on the same “elite” club team all year.
Again, I was stunned at the answer. He said that kids have to play on “elite” club teams if they want to get the exposure by major colleges to get a DI scholarship. When I asked how many kids he has sent to a DI college on a full athletic scholarship he could not answer. When I checked around, I found the answer to be ZERO.
I then asked him why his substitute players, (a term I dislike immensely) should practice hard for him if they knew they would not be afforded a chance to play in a game. He stated evenly that they were role players and knew their position on the team was to help the starters (I dislike that term also) get better and to push the starters in practice so that they could play better.
When I told him I went to two of his games and saw the disgruntled players sitting on the bench ignoring what was going on during the game he did not believe me. He said that the substitute players weren’t good enough to play very much and that they had not developed during the year to even suggest to him that they deserved playing time.
When I asked him maybe the reason they had not developed was because they felt helpless and knew no matter what they did they would not get to play. He got upset and asked me what the purpose of the interview really was? He suggested that I did not know enough about his team to question him about playing time. He had won a championship coaching in high school and played at a very high level and knew what he was doing.
Now I could have let it go right there but I figured since I had gone this far I might as well ask one more question. Did he think playing more players and creating inter team competition would help his team, keep his better players rested and fresh, and foster a greater team chemistry? Which, of course would lead to a higher level of play, and more victories, I believe. No he said. The weaker players would not get better and would just bring his good layers “down” when they were playing instead of the starters or with mixed in with them that would wreck any team chemistry. The he added the kicker. Besides, his players wanted him to play to win and they were content to sit on the bench.
If you think this is an isolated incident or interview, it is not. You want to know why? This is actually a combination of three different interviews I did with three different coaches in three different sports. I melded their answers into one.
You can follow VJ on Twitter @VJJStanley, face book frozenshorts, website, email, and at his office 585-743-1020