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Positive Partnerships

Today's blog is an announcement of Second Nature Sports partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance. A few weeks ago Steve was asked to become a certified coach and possibly even a trainer. He is currently in the process of meeting the necessary requirements for certification and beginning the mutually beneficial partnership. Steve, wholeheartedly believes in positive coaching and strives to maintain philosophy similar to what PCA believes in. Stay tuned for future updates on this relationship and Steve's progress. In this week's blog we feature an article from a great free resource provided by PCA, known as the PCA Development Zone, titled Running As Punishment For Poor Performance.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


positive coaching

Running As Punishment For Poor Performance

"My daughter's high school coach punishes the team for poor performance by having them run laps and do push-ups. What do coaches and parents think about that technique?"

PCA Response By David Jacobson, PCA Trainer & Senior Marketing Communications and Content Manager

One of the ultimate ironies of sports occurs when coaches discipline "lazy" players by making them run. Why is that ironic? Because it is lazy coaching.

If your players need conditioning, help them get it. If your players need discipline, help them get that. But don't fall back on running as discipline.

There at least two reasons:

  1. Your players will come to despise running and other forms of conditioning because it feels like punishment. You want them to love running so that they will want to run and become the best-conditioned athletes possible.
  2. You are abandoning an opportunity to teach life lessons about discipline, which is best done by talking about the subject and setting an example by exercising the discipline necessary to coach well.

For example, let's say that in an intra-squad scrimmage your players have trouble passing or receiving on the run. Don't default to punishing them with extra running. Instead, recognize the problem as one of conditioning and/or insufficient practice at these skills.

Address both issues at once by interrupting the scrimmage and instead of ordering laps in the name of "discipline" conduct a drill that demands running, passing and receiving. This way, their skills and conditioning both improve.

Your drill could include a competitive element, such as splitting the team in half and seeing who can complete the most passes on the run in a given time period. That helps avoid resentment that comes from mindless, endless laps and makes the practice fun so that players will want to continue acquiring the skills and conditioning they need. And you demonstrate creativity and discipline in your problem solving.

You then can explain to your players after the drill that instead of knee-jerk reactions, creativity and true discipline are better approaches to problem solving in sports and in life.

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Take A Whiff Of Perspective

Perspective

Whether it’s a parent trying to figure out which travel team to place their 8 year old child, or a country attempting to navigate a complex health care system, the mass exodus of children from organized sports is causing a crisis that is so devastating that most of us can’t fully grasp its impact.

Bill Dietz, director of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University laments, “They should be as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof about the tsunami of diabetes that’s coming their way. The cost of this rise in the prevalence of obesity is going to be staggering.”

So what do those costs look like? The Aspen Institute has a program called Project Play, Reimagining Youth Sports in America. Below is a paragraph that highlights some of their findings related to this growing crisis:

Levels of physical activity inadequate to meet current guidelines are associated with a significant financial burden for the U.S. health care system, as much as $131 billion a year (CDC, 2015). Direct and indirect medical costs related to obesity are estimated at $147 billion a year, twice the size of the budget for the U.S. Department of Education. Direct costs are expected to more than double by 2030. Adults who are obese will face decreased earning potential, and employers will pay in the form increased health care costs. (Designed to Move, 2012). In total, lifetime societal costs are $92,235 greater for a person with obesity, and if all 12.7 million U.S. youth with obesity became obese adults, the societal costs over their lifetimes may exceed $1.1 trillion. (Brookings Institute, 2015)

Much like our youth sports crisis where so many children are quitting, and none of us parents are willing to admit that it could happen to our kid, this problem keeps snowballing. At what point is that slap upside the head going to kick in and get us thinking about this in a more serious manner? Unlike a pick-up game of whiffle ball, when it comes to our children’s development, we don’t get a “do over”.

Having spent the past twelve years intimately engaged in youth sports and child development, I have seen and heard almost everything. Parents justify their decisions to push their children into highly competitive programs at unbelievably young ages and say things like, “Joey just loves soccer.” Guess what, Joey’s 7 years old and the only thing he truly loves is his parents, his siblings, his dog and an ice cream cone. The minute Joey encounters some coach screaming and yelling at him during a soccer game, he’s done!

Then there’s the conversation that I have heard far too often between two moms. It goes like this:

Mom 1: “How’s Jenny doing in soccer?”

Mom 2: “Oh, Jenny quit soccer last season.”

Mom 1: “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Mom 2: “Actually, it’s pretty nice now. We have our weekends back and it’s fun to do stuff as a family again.”

Mom 2 is the one who used to argue that Jenny loved soccer. She made the “A” team as a 9 year old, but by age 13 she had enough. Burned out! I often hear parents of teenagers lamenting, “I wish we hadn’t pushed so hard.” Sorry folks, no “do overs”.

As parents, we all get so caught up in the micromanagement of our children’s sports participation. Why.....because that’s what everyone else is doing. We are so afraid that our kid will get left behind if we don’t do everything possible to help him or her keep up. This fear is so incredibly powerful.

Here are three wonderful solutions to the aforementioned problems facing the health of our society:

  1. Help inform, educate and support parents in efforts to return sports participation to the children. Get adults out of the way and focus on the happiness and well-being of our kids. Let them play under their terms....not ours.
     
  2. Our health care organizations are spending billions on new hospitals. They see the tsunami coming and they want to be prepared. Why not earmark some of this money towards initiatives that get kids moving and attack our burgeoning obesity problem at the front lines?
     
  3. Record numbers of children are being cut from middle and high school sports teams. The model of Intramural Sports offered at colleges and universities across the country serves as a perfect solution at these younger levels. Let’s get the 75% of the kids who are quitting by age 13 back into the game at the intramural level where they can truly have fun again.

Schools complain that they don’t have enough money to fund these programs. Maybe this would be a nice place for the health care organizations to begin sharing the wealth!

- Steve Locker

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Psychology and the Game of Soccer

emotion

Quite often when I am coaching youth players I notice many of them with very vivid reactions to mistakes. Whether it’s their use of words, facial expressions, or the frozen stance some seem to take on from dwelling on their “imperfections.”

What are the causes these reactions? Why do we all do it? (Yes, I am absolutely sure I did this as a player too) As an athlete I learned somewhere along the line to let things go. Quite honestly, I can’t recall an exact moment that influenced me but most likely a series of events, coaches, or teammates that led me down that path. And those of you, who knew me as a player, know this wasn’t easy nor was it ever complete.

If you coach young players I encourage you to take notice of this and to create an environment where “mistakes” are accepted and in fact encouraged. College coaches are constantly asked what they look for when they are recruiting a player and I can guarantee most coaches keep a keen eye on players’ responses to mistakes. I know I do. We all want the player who keeps going and works through issues on the field.

The fact of the matter is to become truly great at anything you are going to fail more times than you succeed. We’ve all heard the millions of quotes out there. When I work with attacking players I’m constantly talking to them about letting go of missed shots and opportunities. Move on to the next and do it quickly. As a goal scorer you must be relentless. There’s no other way to play. Soccer is a game of mistakes, many of them.

My point is this applies not only in sport but even more so in life. Can we build persistence at an early age on the field through encouragement and acceptance of mistakes? Can we instill in athletes that failure is going to happen and its okay?

A great way to look at this is having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. When your athletes/children react by saying they “can’t” do something, I encourage you to take that opportunity as a teachable moment. Having a growth mindset opens doors for not only our own personal development but with our relationships with others as well.

- Christie Welsh

Additional Resources for parents and coaches is a book called Mindset by Carl S. Dweck, Ph.D.


Christie Welsh'sBio:
Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies. Christie is also, a former Hermann Trophy winner and former professional soccer player for multiple teams.

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Turnkey Tools for the Parent-Soccer-Coach

  First ever digital parent coach training tool   developed by former Harvard Soccer Coach

First ever digital parent coach training tool developed by former Harvard Soccer Coach

Columbus, Ohio Ask any recreational director what‘s the toughest part of their job and they will tell you:

  • Getting parents to volunteer to coach.
  • Having parent coaches adhere to the philosophies of the youth organization. 
  • Training parent coaches to not only effectively teach the game of soccer but also appropriately coach the child.  

The facts are clear: 

35% of all kids quit a sport each year & 75% of all kids quit all sports by the age of 13. Many families site the main reason their child quit a sport was due to a bad experience with the coach.

What’s the Solution?  

A perfect training session for a parent coach available in a matter of 2-3 minutes.  The Second Nature Digital Training Plan is the answer for the busy parent coach.  It allows access from their mobile device at practice.  The training session is designed for each practice with short videos, diagrams, graphics and photos. It’s an all- inclusive coaching kit that minimizes the time crunched parent coach’s prep time.   

Each digital training plan contains 5 main parts of a practice session from start to finish.  It includes a warm-up, stretching, soccer skill activity,   running activity and finally a “fun” game.  All sessions are age appropriate and produced for 3 different age groups: 3-5 year olds, 6-7 year olds and 8+  year olds. The method not only teaches skills for the game of soccer but also motor skill development, social awareness and an ongoing passion for the game. 

Developed by former Harvard Soccer Coach, collegiate and professional player, Steve Locker with the help of Ohio State University child psychologists.  This unique philosophy and coaching method “Second Nature”, is designed to enable coaches of youth recreation soccer to coach in a way that’s enjoyable for parents and players. 

For more information, visit Second Nature Sports. 

Contact:

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports
614-792-5522 | Chris@2nsports.com

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How to be a Good Coach…and a Good Parent

The following is an analysis of what makes a good coach and a good parent through the comparison of the 2014-2015 National Champion Ohio State Buckeye football team to the 2015-2016 team by James Allen.

James Allen taught four decades at universities and private and public schools. He has authored many articles on teaching and learning and during his professional career accumulated numerous teaching excellence awards. He has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles both locally and nationally. He received his bachelor's degree from Otterbein University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. He is a lifelong resident of the Columbus, Ohio suburb of Upper Arlington where he currently resides.


How to be a Good Coach…and a Good Parent

Good parents are good coaches. Good coaches are good parents. And both groups must be good teachers. And always stay together in victory or defeat. For the teachers, coaches and parents, they become good by not imposing experience on their kids who deserve to shape their own-share and mitigate their lives together, but not alone. Urban Meyer and his football team illustrated how this process works--and doesn't. How raw talent can win football games, but not championships if the team organism is jolted when the key actors go their own way.

I realized early on that another championship season would not occur. The culture had shifted too much for a repeat. But why? During the 2014-2015 season, misfortune became a team unifier. The individual could not construct a personal goal without embedding it within the group. The death of a teammate or a stinging early defeat could only be overcome and used as performance motivation if each person thought not of himself but the other guy in the same "battle" to overcome nasty life experiences.

And overcome they did in a remarkable run to the 2014-2015 national championship. The culture had won. The chase was complete. The devastation of previous experience had been substituted by the exhilaration of individual performance that was always linked and made possible by collaboration. A championship team was born. The teacher-coach had molded talented individual effort by showing parents that the NFL was more possible, and individual talent highlighted, when all parts of the organism functioned for the success of the entire group.

But what were those parents feeling and thinking early in the process? Was their trust in the coach and his teaching vulnerable? Probably. What the coach was telling his players was most likely not unlike what they'd heard at home. And here is where the parents own experience comes in. How were they able to diffuse, even eliminate, paralyzing disappointment in their histories? Were they now able to learn new strategies for embracing adversity to provoke and motivate their child's pursuit of excellence? They did that year and the final results were historical.

But then the shift began. Individuals were heralded, microphones thrust to their mouths. Magazine covers proliferated with faces of single contributors who had expertly performed on a national stage and were now glorified not for playing hard to make someone else look better but for their isolated contribution to the success. And then those individuals became the focus of the real "grind" to recapture the lost war culture that had succeeded at a high level in the past. Could the same "soldiers" from previous battles once again think first of the others in or would individual participation isolate itself without integrating the talent for the benefit of the whole? The answers began to emerge.

The miracle of the previous year was made possible when coaches, players, and parents viewed the group as the collective impetus for personal development and individual success. Rebounding from loss had propelled a renaissance that had made the whole much greater than its parts. Yet the focus had realigned to the parts. Who would be the quarterback or win the Heisman or be picked high in the NFL draft? The scrutiny had shifted from a collaborative triumph orchestrated by the coach to the decisions that he made which would influence a player's ultimate worth.

This new trajectory became apparent prior to the first game of the succeeding season. A star player had been suspended and other transgressions would follow as players who once thought first about the group were now assaulted by their own personal fame. And that fame had been originally established by overcoming adversity, not causing it to the detriment of the team. What followed was uneven performance, less unity, and a broken collaboration which culminated in November when a repeat championship was lost in the rain.

After four decades as a teacher, the winning "seasons" were always the same. They provided the exhilaration. When parents and their kids trusted the teacher, the triad had been formed. When the class coalesced as a team, the learning magic was palpable. Everyone--parents, kids, and the teacher--left feeling good about themselves because they had won this championship trusting in the coach at the head of the class. They were all on the same page. When they were not, victories were sometimes summoned but transformation was elusive, usually impossible.
The triad model is shattered when individuals, players or parents narrowly redefine winning as an individual pursuit and losing as the final score on the board. In the 2014-2015 season, an ugly score appeared to preempt ultimate success until a collaboration was formed and a team emerged where the group could only succeed together, not as individuals seeking fame and fortune for their highlighted, sports center moment.

And then the new model of the post-championship season climaxed in a devastating loss in November. The star running back then famously complained that he could have run the ball more. He revealed explicitly that his stardom could have made a difference. The difference had already been made. The blaming was exposed. The only remedy this late in the season would be a return, with nothing to lose, to a collaboration where all stake holders learned that failure can and should be a powerful learning tool.

Players, coaches, parents returned to each other to commiserate on "what could have been." They had each other once again when the adversity reappeared when they were more separate and apart. They reconvened, reconnected and surely learned never to lose sight of each other in victory or defeat. The reconnection looked and felt like the joy of the previous season. The battles had returned as a collective effort, a collaboration where the parents were on the team. It was too late for a repeat but vivid and instructive with what went wrong.

- James Allen

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A Testimonial For The ‘Average’ Kid

Average Kid

I recently had the pleasure of having a conversation with a Head of School and we were discussing some of the correlations between education and athletics. The bulk of the conversation was spent exploring ways for educators and parents to collaborate more on methods of developing children in a more well-rounded manner through both sports and education. As the conversation evolved, it became obvious to me that this educator had an incredible amount of knowledge regarding the development of children (from an educational perspective), and many of the terms that she used happened to be the same terms that I was applying to athletics.

She shared with me a story about her adult son who was a baseball fanatic as a child. He loved baseball. He loved playing the game, watching the game, and studying the game. As a family, however, they decided that they would not allow him to play ‘travel’ baseball in the summer. She feared that that decision may have held her son back at that particular point in his life, but she and her husband were not willing to force the kind of sacrifice that was necessary for this to happen, upon the rest of the family.

At first, it started out as one of those stories where parents lament that their child never fully experienced the game as perhaps he could have. This story was different. It turns out that he was able to make his high school team, a perennial power among top schools in the state. Not only that, this young man became a very productive member of a team that won a sate championship. Imagine the memories that go along with such a wonderful accomplishment.

My Head of School mom who was sharing this story was a bit perplexed by the entire phenomenon of how this all played out for her son. Most confusing to her was the fact that, in comparison to his classmates, her son wasn’t that strong of a player as a young athlete. She said there were plenty of other boys his age who were much better, but it seemed like they all quit before high school. She said they were the boys who were playing year round, had special coaches, played in multiple tournaments, and weren’t able to play other sports.

I get asked the question all of the time from parents about just wanting their child to be able to play high school sports, and I often advise them that everything should work out fine because 75% of the kids will quit by age 13 anyway. Most of those kids who are forced into specialization will usually burnout before they get to high school.

Because we parents only get one chance per child to do this right, we’re always a bit scared about doing it well. We don’t want to make any mistakes, and we don’t want our children to be left behind. As children are developing through their formative years of 6-13 (pre-puberty), the comparisons are difficult to ignore. What I have found to be very consistent is that so many of these children do catch up with each other around the age of 14, and those that have had a more relaxed, patient experience actually end up with better attitudes and a significantly increased chance of being successful in sports at older ages.

- Steve Locker

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Write a Blog

Write a blog. These aren’t words I have said in my head much, or maybe at all. What to write about, who would my audience be, what would I add to the conversation? I guess the question has always been why? And here, today, I answer with a why not?

About a month ago I made contact with Steve Locker through a Penn State connection. We sat down and so began our back and forth banter about the state of soccer, sports, and all that those two things encompass. That conversation turned into a bunch more and before I know it I’m introduced to Second Nature Sports and I’m on board.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you can never stop learning. I learn things every day and I aim to constantly put myself in environments that help me grow as a person. But before I dive head first into my beliefs, I’d like to share a bit about me.

A quick Google search and you can find mostly anything you need or want to know about my soccer playing and coaching career. But in an age where human connection is constantly on the back burner because of technology, I’ll ironically share via technology some things you won’t find through a Google search.

I was a very gifted soccer player from an early age. Mostly it just came natural to me, but I loved it. I had wonderful coaches as a youth player and didn’t even recognize this until later in my career. Once I made a commitment to invest more into MY OWN development my game took off to a level I wasn’t even aware existed. I constantly struggled with the idea of “fitting in” versus being myself, but was lucky enough to have a strong sense of confidence from within (a product I believe from my upbringing). Nothing made me happier than playing soccer. Well, maybe food… but that’s a whole other story.

I battled injuries, thankfully not too many major ones, but I have years of experience helping and encouraging teammates through some pretty physically demanding times. I’ve seen first hand what soccer demands on the human body and how with such early specialization players are “burning out” fast. I finally understood later in my career how nutrition, sleep, and recovery are paramount to success. And I can’t even dive into the psychology of it all without wanting to run out onto a field right now. I’ve had ups and downs and experienced a plethora of emotions tied to this beautiful game and through it all managed a pretty long career.

So in the end what does all this mean? A sense of perspective I hope. One that may help you in your coaching career or simply as a parent who wants to support their child play a sport they love.

- Christie Welsh


Christie Welsh's Bio:

Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies.

In 2005, Welsh helped the U.S. National Team capture the Algarve Cup, scoring a team best five goals, including a massive game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Germany in the finals. She was also named the Golden Boot Award winner as the top scorer of the tournament.

Welsh was the first Penn State player to earn NSCAA All-America honors in each of her four years, while leading her squad to an impressive four-straight Big Ten titles and two Final Four appearances from 1999-2002. She was the first player in conference history to be named Big Ten Player of the Year three consecutive seasons. On the field, Welsh set the Big Ten's record for goals (82), assists (52) and points (216), with her career points mark still a current record. She was recognized as the top collegiate player receiving both the Hermann Trophy and M.A.C. Player of the Year honors.

Following her collegiate career, Welsh was drafted second overall in the 2003 WUSA Draft by the New York Power. In her first season she led her team in scoring and would go on to play internationally for KIF Orebro of Sweden's Top Division in 2004. In 2005 she brought her talents to Olympique Lyonnaise of the French First Division.

Additionally, she helped the Washington Freedom to the 2005 W-League championship, and the NJ Wildcats to the 2007 title, garnering MVP honors along the way. She also played in the Women's Professional Soccer League, competing for both the LA Sol and St. Louis Athletica in 2009 and the Washington Freedom in 2010.

She hails from Massapequa, N.Y. where she led Massapequa High School to the 1997 New York State Championship and earned Parade All-American honors twice. In 1998 she was named the Gatorade Circle of Champions National High School Girls' Soccer Player of the Year and ended her high school career named an NSCAA All-American.

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Teach Your Kids Well

Teach your kids well

Recently, we have been hosting some 3 versus 3 pick up games for eight and nine year old boys and girls. They are really fun events that we hold on Friday nights, we bring in some pizza, and the kids play until their hearts are content.

For the most part, the parents drop off their kids and head to a pub with the other parents and enjoy a little adult time. Some parents do like to stay and watch the kids play. Because I have created an environment where the kids own the games, the parents who do stay understand that there is no coaching permitted. They are not allowed to talk to the kids while they are playing. It should be noted that the reason for this is that when children are allowed to own their play, there is an increased likelihood that they will develop a stronger sense of passion towards that activity.

For anyone accustomed to the typical screaming and yelling during a youth sporting event, the relative calm during our pick up games is quite comforting.

While all of this really positive play is going on, there is an interesting phenomenon that begins to unfold while watching the children play. I started to pick up on this several years ago when my kids were about six or seven years old. Every time my child touched the ball while playing soccer, he would turn around afterwards and look towards me. For the parents who do stick around to watch, I’m seeing the same thing happen with their children.

Have you ever wondered what they are looking for? While I know fully well what’s at play here, I wonder how many parents are cognizant of the dynamic that is taking place? Like the input that we often provide before or after a game, our children have become accustomed to seeking feedback during the game, only this time it’s nonverbal.

I’ve addressed this issue of non-verbal feedback in my book, but as I learn more and more about the long term emotional challenges that children are carrying with them into adulthood, I see where the early onset of this behavior is leading to these more serious emotional problems. We seem to be programming our children to be dependent upon our constant input and feedback. Without even realizing it, our body language is sending them very clear messages. These can be messages of approval, disapproval, disappointment, or possibly, a message that gets misinterpreted. As discussed in an earlier article (Could Over Praise Be Polarizing Our Children?), children have become too dependent on our praise of ordinary achievements to the extent that when they become adults, they do not possess the confidence to succeed in the competitive real world. They are afraid to take risks.

Last week while attending a high school basketball game, a dad in the stands kept coaching his son from the bleachers. A high school game. What struck me was the fact that the boy kept looking towards his dad when he was yelling to him. For me, this clearly illustrates a significant problem that we have in youth sports. Not only was the dad wrong, but the boy kept acknowledging him...also wrong. In my facility where we host these 3 versus 3 pick up games, I make it a habit to clearly state the expectations for everyone (kids & parents) at the first event. I tell the parents that they are not permitted to talk to the children during play, and that they should refrain from any kind of coaching when the children come off the floor. I ask them to abide by my rules so that I’m not forced to embarrass them should they not comply.

I, like most parents, truly enjoy watching my kids play sports. What I started to do when my son kept looking at me after he touched the ball was to immediately look away or pretend to be engaged in a conversation with another parent. I got to enjoy watching him play, and he soon began to own his game and not feel dependent upon me for an immediate response.

Teach your kids well. Let them own the game!

- Steve Locker

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The World According To Trump: The NFL Has Turned Soft

NFL has turned soft

Sports and politics are two of the biggest topics in our media, not just at the moment, but on a daily basis. As a presidential hopeful, Donald Trump has made it a habit of saying things which seem to be aimed at getting people agitated. At the moment, his tactics seem to be working well for him.

While I believe that most Americans are looking for change and solid leadership, I’m not one who believes that Donald Trump possesses the compassion and ability to lead our nation. He seems good at stirring things up, but at the same time appears to lack the interpersonal skills and diplomacy to bring people together to work for the common good. Funny how once again sports mirror life.

In Trump’s latest rant, he compared the USA to the NFL, and said that both have turned soft. He referenced Dick Butkus and the old style of the NFL where players would use themselves as projectiles and throw themselves with reckless abandon into each other, sacrificing their bodies for the good of the game.

Oddly, it was just yesterday that the report from the Journal of the American Medical Association (Neurology) was released regarding the findings from the autopsy of Michael Keck. Keck was a 25 year old former football player who was forced to quit while in college because he suffered too many concussions. The researchers lamented that his was the worst case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE that they had ever seen in such a young person.

The effects of his severe head injuries caught up with him in college, and got so bad that he suffered symptoms that most of us have no idea how to relate to. According to the report, He developed painful headaches, neck pain, and blurry vision. He was driven to distraction by a constant ringing in his ears. His sleep suffered, his mood darkened. He became anxious and irritable, then violent. After he quit football, his headaches were so bad that he couldn’t read and was incapable of finishing college. Because of his condition he was unable to work and this challenged his marriage in the worst of ways.

We sports fans adore our professional athletes to the point that they are of rock star status in our culture. They demand huge pay checks and lead seemingly glorious life styles. But what about the ones who have retired and suffer so much on a daily basis? Frontline reported on numbers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University, where researchers studied the brains of 165 people who played football at the high school, college, or professional level. They found evidence of CTE in 131 of them—79 percent. Of the brains studied, 91 of them belonged to former NFL players, and 87 of those 91 (96 percent) had signs of CTE.

Michael Keck was of the caliber that many thought would catapult him into the NFL. Unfortunately, all of his suffering was for naught, as he never made it to his payday. Concussions are gaining more and more awareness in sports, with the recent release of a movie about this problem in the NFL. A billion dollar settlement was just achieved to help pay retired players for their injuries related to concussions. Many argue that that is not enough.

For me, this problem hits a lot closer to home. Interestingly, as a collegiate soccer coach for nearly twenty years, I recall only one instance when one of my players suffered a concussion. One. In the past year alone, I coached two teams of young teenagers; one boys team and one girls team. Together, we saw six players suffer concussions. Six. One of those children was rushed to the hospital because she suffered convulsions and her parents thought that they might lose her. How scary do you think that might be if it were your child. Think about that for a minute. These players are playing on a team where the focus is on development, where they are encouraged to make good decisions, and they know that they are not looked upon to play recklessly. Yet, we still saw six players suffer concussions. Try as hard as you like, and you can still become a victim.

Too many of our youth sports teams are being pushed into more physical play at younger age ranges, and yet we parents think that youth sports are the answer to everything. When are we going to wake up and start supporting good decision making as parents? Something has to change.

When will sportsmanship once again become the main ingredient that we teach our kids? I am not sure what Donald Trump’s athletic experience looks like, but I can tell you that he has no clue about sports and how that relates to the political problems of our country. Once again he comes off as the Bull In The China Shop, spinning around out of control and hoping to shakes things up. His comments lack responsibility. I certainly wouldn’t want him coaching my child, and you can pretty much guess how I feel about him as a prospective world leader.

- Steve Locker

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Parent Coaches: The Most Significant Influencers of Our Children’s Athletic Experiences

influencers

When I began my coaching career, I took a number of steps to help ensure my success in this chosen profession. For instance, my first coaching course was a three week residential course in Germany. It was a licensing course that qualified me to coach all the way into the professional ranks of German soccer. While living and playing in Germany, I made it my mission to attend as many games and training sessions as possible....it was here that I became an incredible student of the game.

This was all done to help set myself apart from others who were entering the coaching profession.

When I returned home, I enrolled in graduate school and pursued a degree heavy in psychology to better understand the psychological aspects of heightened performance. Additionally, I took First Aid classes, CPR, and several referee courses. Along the way, I worked in multiple summer camps, with the intent of learning from others who had been in the game much longer than me.

This list of preparatory steps paints only a small picture of the efforts that I took to help ensure that I was a well prepared coach. I share this information to illustrate a point about the value of education and preparation in working with athletes.

As a culture, we place an incredible amount of importance on youth sports and the development of our children through sports. We want them to learn the many valuable life lessons that sports can teach us. We want them to be successful, and on the best teams. We hope for them to play in high school, college, or perhaps the pros.

As I examine our hopes and dreams as parents, and I consider the extent (or lack thereof) to which we prepare our parent coaches, it becomes amazingly clear that there is a tremendous gap between our expectations and the reality of what we are experiencing.

In every youth sport that I know, we ask parents to volunteer coach. Yet there seems to be this notion that parents are too busy to attend any kind of training program, so we send them out to work with our children totally unprepared. We have bolstered the mindset that if you have ever played sports, then you are qualified to coach kids. Sporting organizations have great websites that list seemingly appropriate ideals and values, but somewhere along the way, adherence to these philosophies gets lost in the process.

There are many skill sets that are necessary to being a good coach. Two of the most important are: the ability to advance athletes with their skills and understanding of the game; and the understanding of how to communicate and relate with your children athletes. Let’s examine this for a moment.

At the youth level, probably the single most important concept is that we make it fun and create the environment that keeps kids excited and wanting more. Too often, we place a disproportionate amount of importance on results, and our (adult) efforts start to drive kids away from the game.

Most parents are comfortable in dealing with one or two of their own children. Some maybe not. Without a lot of experience, how comfortable do you think a parent is when given 10 kids to coach? Some questions worth considering are:

  • Are they well versed in age appropriate activities for the particular sport that they are coaching?
  • Do they know how to make it fun for a bunch of 4 or 5 year olds, or 8 and 10 year olds?
  • Do they have an appropriate understanding of “why” kids are playing?
  • Are they harboring their own personal agenda?
  • Do they understand the value of parity, or are they trying to form a team that will ensure success in the won-loss column?

My goal is to illustrate that we live in a time where we rely very heavily on our parent coaches to deliver, yet we do very little to prepare them for success. Don’t get me wrong, there are some parent coaches out there that are absolute naturals....they’re wonderful! But on the other hand, one of the complaints that I hear most is, “my son quit because his coach was a nightmare.” What parent volunteer wants to hear himself/ herself described like that?

Every parent wants their child to play for a good coach. What I’m seeing, however, is that there are simply not enough good coaches to go around. So how do we solve this dilemma? We can start by driving parent coaches towards educational solutions that are easily accessible and effective. We also need parents to gain a more patient understanding of how the process works, and to encourage them to start working in a more supportive manner with their children’s coaches.

One organization that I am aware of is doing a tremendous job in supporting families in youth sports. The Positive Coaching Alliance (www.positivecoach.org) has created the infrastructure to provide this needed support. This is an organization that is worth examining.

I firmly believe that parent coaches want to do a great job. We simply need to modify our mindset and begin to implement more rigid training programs for our youth coaches. Imagine, if a coach realized that an education program was available and would allow them to be a more successful parent coach....I think the lines would start to form.

- Steve Locker

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