Raising an Olympian? The Smart Guide to Parenting Any Kid to an Elite Level

ImageThe Games of the XXII Olympiad are approaching.  I overheard a daughter ask her father, while watching national level athletes, if she could ever go to the Olympics.  As families watch the Olympics, that question will be asked in countless living rooms.  My daughter watched the summer games and pointed at the screen when she was 4 years old and said, “I’m going to do that someday, Mommy”.  It happens.  As some of those kids show passion and natural talent, parents may find themselves actually having future Olympians or other elite level athletes.  In other cases, parents put their child on the fast track to success hoping to manufacture one.  So, what’s the smart way to raise a child to an elite level of anything?  No matter what, you want to handle your child well so they can become all they dream of becoming.

< P = Z x C5 x E

1.  Perspective:  Begin with the end in mind.

  • Have clarity.  Be intentional.  Make decisions with the big picture in front of you.
  • Decide to raise a champion:  one who is capable and prepared to achieve much, not just a single goal, but continuously achieve whatever they decide to accomplish.
  • Dream big.  Start within your child; their center. Explore and fuel your child’s interests.  Identify and strengthen their natural talents, surround them with what they need, encourage them to see how far they can go.  Maximize their potential.
  • Life is bigger than any one goal.  While working towards making dreams reality, life happens.  It will go on whether the goal is achieved or not.  Be invested in the long-haul.  

2.  Plan:  Enjoy the ride.

  • Love your child.  The one you have.  Guard your relationship, their heart and soul over any aspiration anyone has for them.
  • Focus on developing the whole person.  It will serve them well to develop the mind, heart, and body of a champion.  Don’t overestimate talent and underestimate character in determining success.
  • Balance:  Allow your kids to explore, to risk, to try.  Let them be challenged, struggle, fail.  Don’t make it easy and don’t rescue them every time.  Have high standards and expectations.  Be neither too demanding, nor too permissive.  Reward the effort to learn, adjust, move forward.  Embrace the process not only the destination.
  • Expect surprises.  It’s best to do things well; to help your child lay a wide, firm foundation that will not only support specific goals, but will serve them in pursuing wide range of achievement.  Don’t rush the process, but pace through each course of development.    Wrenches, twists, and road blocks may cause the best laid plans to be redesigned and new goals set, but if the foundation is in place, the movement will continue forward. 

This begins a 6 part series of posts that will help you be a guardian over the right physical, mental and spiritual foundation being built into your child so that they can become the best they can be.  It’s what has to be in place for a child to move into elite levels of athletics or anything at a distinguished level.

I’ll be sharing my knowledge and experience as well as expertise from teachers, child development experts, sports psychologists, D1 university and club coaches and trainers to give you a simple, boiled down and practical grid of what’s important, both physically and mentally/spiritually to put into place during the elementary, middle school, and high school years to ensure success both in achieving great things, but also in life.

With rising champions in our house, we’re excited to watch the next winter Games in Sochi.  It’ll be on 24/7 in our house.  Looking forward to Rio 2016.  Go Team USA!




Publik House Discourse: Tiger Mom’s Controversial New Book


Do you think it’s possible to engage in productive civil discourse on a controversial topic?


Instead of throwing stones as so many impulsively do; discuss and debate, reason and consider?  It seems in our era of “tolerance”, once again we immediately attack the person who presents information that makes anyone uncomfortable or paints an unflattering portrait of real behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs.  We cast stones at the likes of Phil Robertson for stating tenants of his faith and personal preference before we even consider what he was saying, why and engage in reason about what we personally believe and why.  We call them bigot, racist, conservatives…and we walk away from their carcass after stoning and kicking them to near death. We jump on a bandwagon to stifle certain lines of thought.  I wonder why.  Are our own beliefs so insecure and threatened we can’t consider an opposing thought without getting a surge of adrenaline that leads us to fight or flight?


I’m anxious to read, learn and consider Amy Chua’s points in her new book, “The Triple Package”.  It takes a look at cultural groups and compares the commonalities among groups that are “successful” and those who are perennial “failures”.  I’m anxious to see if the three traits she’s identified as those necessary for success are the same as those I’ve found in parents who raise champions.  The language may be different, but I’m wondering if the core traits are the same.  I’m not afraid to read and reason, debate intelligently with my own beliefs, gain more knowledge that supports or refutes her conclusions.  I encourage you to do the same on topics you are passionate about.


….would LOVE intelligent debate on the topic of:


Whether there are, in fact, character traits that determine a person or group’s level of “success” (defined by outcomes of income level, occupational status, test schools etc, not the process of maximizing individual potential)?


Are there, in fact, cultural groups that generally value and develop those character traits in their children than others in comparison to other groups that either don’t hold the same values or invest energy in developing or holding high expectations of them?


< P = Z ⋄ C5 ⋄ E  I believe there are 5 Character Traits that are common in those who imagineer a big life, maximize their potential, and accomplish amazing things that benefit all.


In order to comment:



Debate the “thought”…the idea..


Do not express opinion about the person expressing the controversial thought.


Be intelligent.  Unless you really have some genuine knowledge on which to base your personal thought or opinion, hold your conclusion until you’ve gained some facts or considered the information others present.


What are your thoughts?


Sprint Training: Fast Twitch Muscles

There are two types of muscles; fast twitch and slow twitch.

Slow twitch muscles have a large blood supply providing oxygenation, tap into fat for fuel and used in endurance activities.

Fast twitch muscles have little blood supply thus less oxygenated making them fast to fatigue. Fast twitch muscles rely on anaerobic metabolism and use glycogen for fuel and produce lactic acid. They have the greatest growth potential for use when power and speed, in short bursts, are needed.

Fast twitch muscles can be trained to metabolize and oxygenate more efficiently as well as improve strength, power and speed:

No more than 100m, 3-5 sets at race pace with rest 2-3X longer than sprint time. Add increasing drag or resistance while maintaining times.

Strength Training (strength, not size)
5-8 reps of an exercise at 80% max capacity using slow, fluid motions.

Isometric Exercises
Exercises using little or no movement, but holding body weight for up to 60 seconds; ie core Strength, yoga, pilates

Exercises that contract and stretch/extend muscles in rapid, explosive sequences and can include med balls and bands for increased resistance.

Anaerobic Interval Training
Repeating any of the above exercises,
at an intense pace (race pace or no slower than race pace +20% interval time or movements done as fast as possible while maintaining good form: chest high, neutral spine, knee/ ankle/hips no more than 90 degrees ), with rests of 2-3X that of the interval pace in between intervals.

To improve, adjust one factor at a time: make intervals faster, rests shorter, or add more repetitions.

Tabata training: 4 minutes total, 20 second intervals at maximum speed, 10 second rests.

Check out http://www.coreperformance.com and http://www.livestrong.com

Choking at Championships

Championship season. The pressure is on and tensions are running high. Stress has an interesting effect that can threaten performance. The official term for implosion under pressure is “choking”.

I watched American Idol last night as Hollywood week took place and wanna-be rock stars faced their first intense audition. To some degree it was the play-offs and they faced elimination if they didn’t rise up to the challenge. As practices went on and the show-down ticked closer, the show captured the drama of those who began “losing it”. Certain contestants brought in years of talent, years of practice, years of dreams to shine at this moment. But talent and hard work weren’t enough to keep them from falling to pieces in an emotional puddle. Some shut down and couldn’t think, others cried or became short and argumentative with everyone around them. In a few cases, they snapped and walked out. In every case, it affected their performances and stole life-long dreams of accomplishing something great. So, there’s more than talent and more than hard physical work needed when the intensity is high. There’s a need to harness the mind and make it work for you instead of against you.

Actions=Expectations + Belief
Actions are determined by what you expect and expectations flow from what you believe to be true. If you don’t believe in what can happen and expect to fail, you most certainly will. If you trust and have confidence in yourself, you most certainly can achieve your goals.

1. Believe in your potential
Believe in what you are capable of achieving.
Believe that you can push the limit of what you’ve done. Believe you can be more skilled, stronger, faster, better than you were the day before.
See yourself and believe you can be your best when it matters.

2. Believe in the preparation.
Trust your training and be certain in your readiness.
Be confident in the hours, weeks, months and years of practice you’ve invested. Know you’ve sweat more than anyone else.
Trust your coach and all those who give you direction. Don’t pull back but do what they tell you to do. Just remember, they know what they’re doing and now’s not the time to question what they’re telling you they want from you.
Don’t retreat to what’s comfortable and safe. Let go and unleash. Let your actions show that you expect to achieve your goals because you believe you have done what it takes to make it happen.

3. Believe in the ability to accomplish the goal.
Set goals that reflect what you can control. You can focus, keep technique tight, exert every ounce of strength, be strategic. You cannot control the outcome. Set mastery goals and not outcome based goals. Be certain that focusing on the details gives you the best chance at getting the desired outcome.
Believe you can perform better than past performances and push past prior limitations.
Expect to succeed.

Details. Details.

Details. Details.

I sat in the stands and watched a 17-year-old boy walk onto a mound, not to face down a batter, but radar guns held by hundreds of university and pro scouts.

There were several hundred boys there too. Every one wore cleats, pants, jerseys and hats positioned so the flat brim was at their eyebrows. They all carried a glove. They all wore a number. They all were about the same height and build. They all played the game since they were 4 years old. They all had talent. They were high school all-stars. They all had the same dreams….to be a stand out.

But then, on THAT field, they weren’t standouts. They found that somehow they had become average. Ordinary. The average had been raised and to be singled out and noticed, even to be above-average, they suddenly had to be…extra-ordinary.

This is when the details count. The fine details. It’s when the elements that separate one from another come down to “extras” that propel one athlete out in front of the others.

So, finding those elements that will give an athlete the edge and maximizing them will become critical to competing as a high-performance, state, national or world-class athlete….or even one who wants to make the travel team!

An athlete must start with raw materials. They will either have the natural factors or they won’t. They must maximize what they have, but no amount of coaching or training can produce or alter certain natural attributes.
• Physical: natural athletic ability and body build that is best suited for a particular sport.
• Mental: the passion and will to compete at a high performance level in a specific sport.

Details that an athlete can maximize (future posts to come on each of these):
• Core Motivation: determining sustainable goals revolving around mastery and character of a high-performance athlete over outcome goals.
• Prioritizing: determining what’s most important and resolving to making choices of how time is spent accordingly.
• Level of coaching/coachability: having the best, knowledgable coach, allowing them to coach, and working to do what they say
• Work ethic: training with 100% commitment
• Mental game: training the mind to handle high-demand training and competition, strategy etc.
• Recovery: being wise about nutrition, recovery methods, rest.
• Emotional support: surrounding self with others who support and encourage you, share the same aspirations.

And, yes, the 17 year old boy…was my boy.

Zero Regrets

Every one of us has choices, and the way we frame them and make them sets us on our paths- Apolo Ohno. Zero Regrets.

It’s the New Year. Time to set goals. What are your goals for 2011?

Without clarifying what you want to do and why, life’s activities become sort of purposeless and random, right? You wind up reacting to influences that carry you somewhere until, one day, you wake up and wonder how the heck you got where you are. You just went with the flow; drifting. There’s nothing wrong with that, if your goal is to experience the adventure of being aimless, but if you have any dream of who you want to be or what you want to accomplish, you’ve got to define it. Seeing the destination provides you with direction. Having a goal frames your choices. It sets you on your path.

Know who you want to become and what you want to achieve. Define a plan for the work it’s going to take to get there, being determined to go the distance, not looking for shortcuts. Accept the sacrifices of not being “normal” and drifting with the influence of others, and team up with those who are going the same direction. Then chase it all with everything you’ve got, relentless in your pursuit…full out.

In a defining moment in Apolo Ohno’s life, when he was struggling to define, own, and pursue his goals, his dad said, “You have a choice. I don’t care what path you go on in life. I don’t care if it’s sports or academics or business. Whatever it is, it’s all fine by me. But whatever that is, you truly have to do it one hundred percent. Dedicating yourself…sacrificing because you want to give that one hundred percent, because you want to be the best or you’re not going to do it at all. If you don’t do something one hundred percent, it’s not worth doing.”

• Don’t decide what you want to be or do, decide who you want to be and what are you willing to do to get there. Do you really know what you want and what’s worth pursuing 100%?
• What’s your plan to avert distractions? How will you avoid bad influences in the first place and what’s your plan if faced with pressure from outside sources to veer off course?
• How will you gain mental strength?
• How will you train to gain physical strength?
• Who do you need around you to help you? Who is going the same direction that you should travel alongside?
• What can you do daily so you’ll have no regrets and won’t say, “what if….If I had only…”

Each day, make choices that keep you on a direct path so you arrive where you intended. Keep your eyes on your destination, be uncompromising and gain strength with every step knowing it’s moving you to becoming the person you want to be. The sacrifice of each day, the pain of giving everything you’ve got will pale in comparison to the years of regret you’ll have if you don’t frame and make your choices well. Choose to have zero regrets.

Apolo Ohno decided he wanted to be the best speed skater in the world. He made clear decisions about what he’d do, who’d he spend his time with and how hard he’d pursue who he wanted to become. He has Zero Regrets and has become the most decorated winter Olympian of all time.


Crabs. I never thought that I’d find crabs in the sports world.

They can be found on the court, field and pool, but even more so in the bleachers, stands, and mezzanine. There are those individuals who have the crab mentality and the higher one athlete achieves high-performance, surrounding crabs reveal themselves.

“If I can’t achieve it, have it, experience it, get it, neither should you” captures the crab mentality. Crabs-in-a-bucket is a metaphor for what happens within a pot of crabs. One crab could easily escape from a basket or pot, climbing to freedom, but when more are put together, one will grab another in a continuously futile king-of-the-hill battle ensuring the collective demise of all. When athletes and parents exhibit it, they’ll pull down, negate or diminish the importance of another teammate or other athlete who achieves success beyond another out of jealousy or competitive feelings. If their resentment boils, they can scrap more intensely by discrediting and dismantling more than just a performance but aim to damage the person and can stoop to pretty low means depending on the level of desperation. Tanya Harding….enough said. They can seek to damage someone physically, emotionally or socially. [1]

The crab mentality is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than unified, long-term constructive mentality. Dr. Marshall Mintz, a consultant of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and listed on the US Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry, stated that those who don’t achieve the level of success they want and blame others show a lack of emotional maturity to focus on themselves and take responsibility for their level of performance. They lack the ability to acknowledge the true reasons they are not achieving the success they want and find excuses that place the cause on others. “They get all the attention of the coaches. If the coach would pay more attention to me/my child, they’d be just as good”.

I am being reminded, once again, that crabs are nasty and hurtful after receiving an off-handed negative comment from a parent after a set of spectacular wins by my daughter at a highly competitive meet this past weekend. Apparently it didn’t stop there and it is suspect that the same parent has stirred up trouble that could seriously impact the life of her coach. In talking with parents of high-performance athletes on other teams, I’ve found the plague of crabs has affected them as well. In one case, false accusations led to catastrophic personal and team results. In the other, reputations are on the line because of unfounded gossip. I find it baffling that there are those, mostly parents, who are so wrapped up in the success of their children, that they fixate on the performances of others and live and breathe the crab mentality. I wonder constantly what gain their destructive words and actions provide for them? How will undermining the achievements and lives of others make their child better, faster, stronger? Will tearing another down, raise them up?

What if each of us could focus on our own lives, our own children?
What if we acknowledged our individual strengths and maximized them?
What if we supported and celebrated every other athlete and parent for doing the best they can with what they have and believe in their potential?

Doesn’t a rising tide raise all ships?

If you are the parent of a high-performance athlete:
• know that the crabs will be there and demonstrate the crab mentality. Know that not everyone will be thrilled with the success of your child.
• Prepare yourself and your children for how to maturely handle those who will say and do mean things. Don’t stoop to the same level, but be an emotional champion in how you respond.

If you are a crab:
• Understand the futility in being negative and mean-spirited when you say detrimental things, gossip, and defame others. The derogatory comments you make and possibly the harmful actions you take will not make your child any better as an athlete or a human being. In fact, it will be their demise and yours as well.
• Understand your off-handed comments and negative actions can have serious repercussions. If you damage someone else’s life, are you ready to take responsibility for your actions? Is the success of your child that important to you that you’re willing to harm someone else in an attempt to climb to the top of the heap?
• If you are a parent, find your personal strengths and do something to maximize them. Create your own goals and pursue them to take the pressure off your own child to succeed to meet your personal needs.
• Focus on helping your child to become the best they can be instead of sizing them up against the successes and failures of others.
• Be realistic and take responsibility for your child’s level of achievement acknowledging the true reasons why your child may/may not be accomplishing what they’d/you’d hoped in that particular sport. Make choices for what’s best for your child. Maybe a coach is legitimately not meeting your child’s needs. Maybe your child’s strengths would be better applied in another sport. Instead a blaming, simply choose to find a better situation. This is far more productive and beneficial for helping your child reach their maximum potential.
• Often, your behavior will come back to bite you as more and more see and hear your negative, non-productive thoughts and actions. Your reputation and social standing will be the one that suffers and so will that of your child.

Share your experience with crabs below.

^ http://emanila.com/philippines/2010/01/19/crab-mentality-is-universal/