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The Scholarship Myth - Part 2

In December, I wrote a blog post about college scholarships that was prompted by an NPR commentary piece by John U. Bacon: To Get a College Scholarship: Forget The Field, Hit The Books. I then went on to share a personal experience that highlighted some of the points John was iterating in his commentary. The fact of the matter is that sports scholarships aren’t the only way to jumpstart a successful life, they are merely one avenue. Sure, trying to hit the “home-run,” living out your childhood dream, or just believing anything is possible is an exciting prospect, but the fact is athletic scholarships are the least likely of all avenues for financing a college education.

What sports participation can do in regards to a college education is improve your chances at admission into a school that you might not otherwise gain acceptance.  While that coach may not have a scholarship for you, he/she does have significant influence in the admission process.  With thousands and thousands of applicants seeking very limited slots in an entering freshmen class, having a coach promote your application can help set you apart from others.

Our children are much more likely to succeed by studying hard and gaining an academic scholarship or even building a strong network of personal contacts that can help them land that entry job out of school, aid them when the cards are stacked against them or even advocate on their behalf for that “big” promotion.

The lesson here isn’t to quit sports and solely focus on academics, but rather use sports as a tool to help develop our youth into more well-rounded individuals who have a healthy outlook on living their lives. A positive sports environment can help develop an individual that can thrive in even the most pressure-filled or demanding circumstances. Someone who can overcome adversity, build upon relationships/teamwork in order to achieve the ultimate goal, success.  Sports can lead to an individual developing passion and purpose, impart improved decision-making skills and confidence, and instill traits like empathy and persistence. These are all necessary traits and characteristics to succeed in not only sports but everyday situations that arise in life. I am not advocating to give up the “dream” of pursuing athletics but simply encouraging parents to make holistic decisions regarding their children’s future that will lead to the best possible chances for a successful and healthy life.

- Steve Locker

Below is an excerpt from a chapter of Steve’s book Playing for the Long Run regarding college scholarships:

The Great Scholarship Hunt

…Talk to parents and they will tell you that they harbor some hope of securing an athletic scholarship for their children as a justification for their intense involvement in youth sports. Furthermore, most “select” sports programs will brag about how many of their players have secured athletic scholarships at NCAA Division I schools. It’s a highly used form of manipulation to get you to believe that they can better develop your child than their competitors can. Remember, youth sports is big business, and everyone wants to maintain (and enhance) his slice of the pie…

…I hear parents talk all the time about athletic scholarships, but guess what. They have no idea how scholarships are allocated. Here are some simple facts from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA):

* About 7,000,000 children play high-school sports.

* 2% of them will find a roster spot on a college team.

* 1% of them will receive a full athletic scholarship.

We have a program available in the United States that might improve a young athlete's chances of paying for college. It’s called the lottery!

Some additional facts about scholarships as documented by the NCAA include the maximum number of scholarships permissible by NCAA rules. For instance, in the more popular sports in my community--like baseball, lacrosse, hockey and soccer--there are some surprising limits. A NCAA Division I institution may offer only 11.7 scholarships for baseball, 12.6 for lacrosse, 18 for hockey, and 9.9 for soccer. These are numbers for men’s sports. The good news is that the numbers in these sports for women is slightly higher. More important, keep in mind that these are the limits. Not every school has the full compliment of permissible scholarships.

When thinking about roster sizes, it becomes apparent that coaches are splitting up these scholarships in an effort to help as many young athletes as possible. In sports like baseball and track and field, the average scholarship is about $2,000. In thinking about some of our traveling baseball leagues, you quickly realize that many parents are spending much more than that sum for their 10-year-olds to play for one season.

According to the NCAA, the average athletic scholarship is about $8,707 per year. Tuition, room and board often cost as much as $20,000 to $50,000 per year. Interestingly, NCAA Division III schools grant no athletic scholarships. However, eighty-five percent of students attending private colleges do receive academic loans and scholarships. Average tuition discounts for current year freshmen equal about 51%. All of this data makes a compelling case for prioritizing our efforts towards academics, not athletic scholarships. (This data is from The College Solution and the NCAA)

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College Scholarship Myth

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College Scholarship Myth

NPR published the commentary from John U. Bacon’s talk about College Scholarships. You should listen to it or read it: To Get a College Scholarship: Forget The Field, Hit The Books.

About ten years ago, a family friend invited me to dinner to talk to them and their freshman son about preparing for college soccer. Their main quest wash to navigate high school and club soccer in such a way as to best prepare their child for the ever elusive college scholarship.

With nearly twenty years of collegiate coaching experience, they assumed that I would be able to provide some valuable insight into the process. As we sat down to the dinner table, the first thing the dad shared was that they had been spending approximately $15,000 per year for the past few years on Joey’s (not his real name) soccer development. The first words out of my mouth were, “you should take that money and send Joey to a private school.” They laughed.

Dinner was fine, and I shared some philosophy and perspective on player development, which I believe mostly was disregarded, as it really wasn’t what they ‘wanted” to hear. They wanted a road map to a college scholarship. It doesn’t really exist.

The sad news about this particular story is that this same young man called me four years later in February looking for a job. You see, he enrolled in a university that did not even have a men’s varsity soccer team, and he failed out after one semester….academic probation! Maybe my advice wasn’t that far off after all.

Why is it that parents refuse to believe the statistics about success rates within youth sports? If I took 10 parents and asked them to stand up together, and then asked them if they thought that their child would quit sports by the age of 13, I bet that not one of them would raise their hand. Parents cannot believe that their child would ever quit.

The fact is, 7 out of those 10 will have a child quit. With 70% gone, we now have the remaining 30% go on to play in high school. Oh, by the way, those 70% are now relieved because they have just gotten their lives back…no more running around the country every weekend, schlepping the entire family to some random tournament.

Now, of those 30% who made it into high school sports, only 2% will get a college scholarship. It should be noted, that in most sports outside of football, most collegiate coaches are splitting up their scholarships so that more kids can get help. So, while your kid might get a scholarship, chance are it’s only paying a small percentage of their actual college costs.

Are you ready for some more hard facts? 33% of all collegiate athletes quit. Roughly 50% suffer from severe anxiety and/or depression, many of whom are seeking counseling or medication…..legal and illegal.

Isn’t it time that we ask ourselves just what we are doing? John U. Bacon has got it right. We need to send our kids outside to play. They need to figure out how to play on their own and create fun games. No coaches, no parents, no referees…..just kids figuring it out!

- Steve Locker

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Copa America 2016

copa america

USA! USA! USA! USA!

That is the chant that you have all heard from those "crazed" soccer fans during the FIFA World Cup every four years. Maybe you have even been one of them yourself? Well, the good thing is that if you have been that fan or have ever wondered what the hype was all about you don't have to wait another four years to support your team or your favorite player, because a soccer tournament of nearly the same magnitude is taking over the month of June.

One of the hardest things for coaches to instill in young players is passion for the game. Think back to how you discovered something you are passionate about in your life. Was it because of playing pick-up games in the yard next door? Was it because of a teacher or coach that was so enthusiastic about a subject or sport that it rubbed off on you? Was it watching an iconic moment unfold while cheering on your favorite team? Or was it watching your childhood hero pull off the impossible with seconds left to spare in the game? We all can probably relate to at least one or more of those moments.

As it turns out one of the most prolific soccer tournaments, Copa America, is set to kick-off June 3rd on U.S. soil for the first time ever. Copa America is the perfect event for excitement, drama and passion that usually only a World Cup can provide. Watching these types of events as a group is one of the easiest ways to show young kids why a sport is so magical. It also gives you the time to explain things like sportsmanship and teamwork in a real-time situation that isn't so personal. So grab your team, your kids and your family and be one of those "crazed" fans. Follow your favorite team(s) or player(s) through the tournament and help instill that passion for the game in a young player you know this month.

If that wasn't enough to get you interested even Kobe Bryant is going to be watching and in the video below he tells you why you should be as well. The full T.V. schedule for Copa America is below.

Copa America Schedule:(in Eastern Standard Time)

Fri., 6/3 USA vs. Columbia - Santa Clara, CA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/4 Costa Rica vs. Paraguay - Orlando, FL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
               Haiti vs. Peru - Seattle, WA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
               Brazil vs. Ecuador - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sun., 6/5 Jamaica vs. Venezuela - Chicago, IL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
                Mexico vs. Uruguay - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/6 Panama vs. Bolivia - Orlando, FL - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Chile - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/7 USA vs. Costa Rica - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Colombia vs. Paraguay - Pasadena, CA - 10:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/8 Brazil vs. Haiti - Orlando, FL- 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Ecuador vs. Peru - Glendale, AZ - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Thu., 6/9 Uruguay vs. Venezuela - Philadelphia, PA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Mexico vs. Jamaica - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/10 Chile vs. Bolivia - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FOX
                Argentina vs. Panama - Chicago, IL - 9:30 p.m. FOX

Sat., 6/11 USA vs. Paraguay - Philadelphia, PA - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
               Colombia vs. Costa Rica - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Sun., 6/12 Ecuador vs. Haiti - East Rutherford, NJ - 6:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
                 Brazil vs. Peru - Foxborough, MA - 8:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/13 Mexico vs. Venezuela - Houston, TX - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                  Uruguay vs. Jamaica - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/14 Chile vs. Panama - Philadelphia, PA - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Bolivia - Seattle, WA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Thu., 6/16 Copa America 1A vs. 2B - Seattle, WA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/17 Copa America 1B vs. 2A - East Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/18 Copa America 1D vs. 2C - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FX
                Copa America 1C vs. 2D - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FX

Tue., 6/21 Copa America W25 vs. W27 - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/22 Copa America W26 vs. W28 - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/25 Copa America L29 vs. L30 - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26 Copa America final East - Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Viva la Copa America Centenario

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports

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Your child has just suffered an injury...what happens next?

injury

Injuries unfortunately are a part of sport and seem to happen at the most inopportune time. As parents and coaches we often find ourselves in what can feel like a high pressure situation just following a players injury. Can our team win the next big game without being at full strength? Is that player going to miss out on a scholarship or opportunity to play at the next level due to missed time on the field? The player may also feel as if they are letting their team down or missing out on the fun. All of these things can lead to rushing a child back onto the field before he/she is ready.

As coaches we must realize that our teams best moments can come from a team pulling together to achieve goals even when the odds are against them. As parents we have to realize that scholarship opportunities aren't won or lost overnight. If the child is ready for the next level of play the scholarship opportunities will be there after the child has healed. Our children are resilient and missing the appropriate amount of time to heal is alright. Missing a month or two to recover is better than having lifelong health issues from pushing a child back into competition before they have healed.

In this week's blog our friends at PCA give us a brief overview of why it is critical to take enough time to properly heal from an injury rather than succumb to the pressure of returning to play too early.

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports


Dr. Joseph Donahue is an orthopedic surgeon at SOAR Clinic in Redwood City and has served as team physician for the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University as well as an orthopedic consultant for the San Francisco Giants. He is the team physician for Santa Clara University.

In this clip, Dr. Donahue emphasizes the importance of full recovery from injury. Too often, in pursuit of wins or scholarships, coaches and parents can rush a child back to competition prematurely. Youth athletes themselves may just sense the pressure or have the innate drive to hurry back to the fun and to avoid feeling like they let their teammates down. But a rush to return can have lifelong negative consequences.

A link to the original post can be found here.

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The New Dimension in Youth Soccer: Navigating U.S. Soccer’s New Age Groupings

Age change.jpg

No one likes change, and this is a sizable change for the millions of soccer families in our country. The soon to be “old” system of determining age groups, where the calendar year began on August 1st, will now become “Birth Year” groupings with a January 1st start. All of this becomes a harsh reality in the next few weeks, and parents are scrambling with the question: where should my child play?

Terminology Lesson: It will no longer be called U8, or Under 8. The new term for this
age group is now 8 & Under. Get used to it.

There is one gender issue at play, and let me address it up front. Generally speaking, girls have a greater pull towards playing with friends than do boys. This factor will be one that many parents will grapple with when trying to decide where to place their child. I will talk about the “friend” card in more detail as I delve into this topic.

So your 9 year old has been playing with his team for three years, and now we are dealing with the fact that half the team was born in 2006 and the other half was born in 2007. (Those with 2006 birth dates will jump all the way to 11 & Under. Those with 2007 birth dates will play at 10 & Under.) Your child was born in June of 2007, but two of his best friends have 2006 birth dates. What to do?

Let me make one critically important fact very clear: The coach of your child is the single most important factor in all of this. Which club you play for, and which league you are in matter less. Your child MUST enjoy their coach, or they will be out of the game in no time. It doesn’t matter how many friends they have on their new team, they will make new friends quickly.

A good coach will make the experience fun and they will continue the developmental process for your child and progress them with their skills, their understanding of the game, and most importantly, the continued implementation of life’s most important lessons.

When considering an age group, especially playing “up” an age group, here are some considerations that you, as a parent, must be ready to deal with: (Please know that the more honestly that you make this assessment, the better the experience that your child will have.)

Speed: At what level will your child’s foot speed and speed of play (decision making) allow for the most success. If you over estimate your child’s ability, you are setting them up for failure.

Physicality: Like speed, this has to be the appropriate fit.

Emotional (& Psychological) Maturity: Given this stage of your child’s development, where will they find the most success and the best chance of developing into a team leader?

Ball Skills: Is your child’s mastery of controlling the ball in line with the older players that you may be considering having your child join?

The Friend Card: The longer that a team has been together, the more challenging it is to break up those friendships. Because high school players compete against many different age groups in high school, they are more likely to be successful at playing “up” in order to stay with friends. As we examine the younger age groups (8-14 years), I believe that it is more important to keep these children within their ages. There are always going to be exceptions, and as long as a child can meet with success when playing against older kids, then that child can be a reasonable candidate for playing “up”. Please keep this fact in mind: kids make friends in the time that it takes you to check out at the grocery store! They are more resilient than we think.

When we look at all of these factors in regards to our children, our ability to determine the best fit is critical. It will make the difference between your child meeting success or struggling with fitting in. In these formative years, the more success that they have, the longer that they will play.

Let’s keep our kids playing, keep the process positive, and support them in their journey to make new friends. Isn’t that what sports is all about anyway?

- Steve Locker

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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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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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