What Parents Can Gain from the Donald Sterling, NBA Controvery

Donald Sterling is the current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and he’s now embroiled in a complicated fight that, believe it or not, has much to offer parents. Sterling’s now ex-paramour secretly recorded, a private, at-home conversation as he expressed personal opinions and his limitations on her associations.  After she provided a celebrity gossip tabloid outlet with the recordings, Sterling has been deemed a racist due to statements he made in the recording, and Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA has banned him for life from participating in NBA functions, fined him $2.5 million dollars, and now pressing for a forced sale of his family owned franchise.

What does this story have to offer parents?

This situation, as well as so many current events, is loaded with opportunity to engage in thought provoking conversation that will not only be lively, but help to clarify personal ethics, character, principles, values, and morals when influenced by biases, prejudices, partial and uniformed consensus and popular culture.

As we groom our children to succeed, teaching them to become rational, critical thinkers is essential. The strength of the United States was built on free-thinking and thought leaders remain the innovators of the world. Engaging in dialogue that encourages your older elementary to high school children to think for themselves, have courage to draw personal conclusions, not automatically follow group-think but gather information, consider various perspectives, evaluate deeper principles, logically discuss many points, develops critical thinking and rational thought. It protects them from easy manipulation and builds the ability to analyze the world around them while defining their personal identity. It builds strong, rational, self-determined and confident adults.

Current events involving Donald Sterling, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus in contrast to others like Michigan State University basketball star Adreian Payne and his relationship with Lacey Holsworth can introduce topics of civil liberties, character, popularity, racism, censorship, cultural responsibility, consequences, mores, role models, and media influence to name a few.

To get into a productive conversation, ask leading questions and contribute thoughts that bring in another point of view and get down to core the issues. The point is to practice objective thinking and reasoning without becoming emotional, not necessarily to end with your childagreeing with your conclusions. Start out simply talking about current events especially if heard about on the news or radio while together, then introduce more thought-provoking questions into each subsequent conversation.

“What do you know about …”

“Seems like the popular opinion is… What do you think?”

“There are principles underneath, what other perspectives are there to consider?”

“While we might not agree with/like what someone does, what should be true for all of us?”

“What’s that situation mean to you?”

Engage your kids in discourse to get them thinking.

PS.  If you make it normal to have open conversations when they’re little, they’ll be much more inclined to continue to talk with they’re teenagers…

 

“Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – JOHN F. KENNEDY

GOOD COACHES TOUGH, NOT ABUSIVE

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Kelly Greenberg resigned as Boston University women’s basketball coach after allegations that she derided her players’ characters, not just their performance on the court.
Last week, Kelly Greenberg resigned as women’s basketball coach at Boston University after an internal investigation revealed that some of her interactions with players were “incompatible with the expectations and standards of university employees,” according to the school’s official statement.

Also last week, Butler women’s basketball coach Beth Couture was relieved of her duties after several former players made allegations of verbal abuse and mistreatment.

The news about both women comes a year after Rutgers fired men’s basketball coach Mike Rice when he was caught on video berating his players, using anti-gay slurs, kicking them and throwing balls at them.

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AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Beth Couture, fired as Butler coach, was accused by players of making emotionally abusive comments.
Each of these incidents has sparked a conversation about the relationship between coaches and athletes, about what kind of behavior is acceptable for coaches, what crosses the line and how much of the blame might rest on the shoulders of the athletes.

Playing college basketball, or any college sport, is an unpredictable, life-changing adventure. Incoming freshmen are just 17, 18, 19 years old — kids, really. Their minds and bodies are still developing. And yet there they are, going through the fire, trying to hold it all together through punishing workouts and tests of emotional strength, all while juggling schoolwork. (Yes, the vast majority of student-athletes really do study.)

Throughout this process, there is one person above all others who is ultimately responsible for guiding them: their head coach.

We often describe coaches as hard-nosed, strong-willed, disciplined, controlling, precise. Perhaps this language is why so many people seem to believe that coaches walk a fine line between tough love and emotional bullying, sometimes blurring the distinction on a daily basis.

It’s a dangerous assumption to make.

The difference between a demanding coach and an abusive coach is not a thin line that someone can drift over if he or she loses focus for a second before peeling back to the other side. It’s a wide gap — a mile wide — and it takes a long time for a coach to get from one side to the other and back again.

Some people believe there should be zero tolerance for a coach whose style drives numerous athletes to quit the team or the sport. Others believe the problem is with the athletes themselves, that today’s players are too coddled, too soft. This latter argument seems rooted in the belief that one of the main objectives of a coach is to separate the “weak” from the “strong” — to determine who is truly ready for the demands of big-time college sports. According to this survival-of-the-fittest mentality, if an athlete can’t stand the heat, regardless of the temperature, then he or she doesn’t deserve a spot on the team.

But arguing that it’s a thin line between right and wrong does a disservice to good coaches everywhere. Good coaches know how to be demanding yet supportive, disciplined yet understanding. They appreciate the balance between challenging a player physically and bolstering her emotionally, the push-pull of breaking bad habits and building better ones.

Good coaches are like magicians, turning self-doubt into confidence. They don’t try to separate and chase away those perceived as weak — because dividing the weak from the strong is herding, not coaching.

Good coaches shoot arrows around the feet of their players, keeping them on edge while teaching them how to dance.

No good coach would ever shoot an arrow at a player’s heart.

Sit in a room filled with former college basketball players, and they’ll rattle off stories about all those times when their head coaches turned red with anger. They’ll tell of basketballs whipped into the stands to prove a point, of profanity-laced tirades about stupid passes into traffic, of endless sprints and drills that bordered on torture.

There are thousands of players who have had their IQs questioned by an exasperated coach in the heat of the moment.

That was the dumbest play I’ve ever seen!

You’re killing us right now with your decision-making!

Get your heads out of your asses!

What all these “tough love” stories have in common is that the criticism, the disapproval, was specifically about basketball and their performance as players — not a laundry list of their perceived flaws as people.

The players who accused Greenberg of emotional abuse said she would often call them into her office, behind closed doors, and attack their personalities, questioning their overall character. Several of them claimed she would tell them, “You’re worthless.”

Some people might see little difference between “You’re playing like an idiot” and “You’re worthless.” But one is an arrow landing near the feet, while the other is an arrow straight to the heart.

It’s not just semantics.

All coaches set hurdles. The best coaches empower everyone to clear them.

Reprinted with permission: ESPN

Written by Kate Fagan
Joined espnW in Jan. 2012
Spent three seasons covering the 76ers for the Philadelphia Inquirer
Played women’s basketball at University of Colorado from 1999-2004

Why Me? 4 Ways to Help Your Child’s Comeback After Injury

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(Thanks to Tom Hurley for this great post!)

Why Me?

I’ve had a couple of really frank discussions lately about how a simple change in perspective can dictate nearly every choice that one is faced with making. This holds true in both sport and life. And as I pondered and discussed this with some of my friends I kept circling back around to the one critical point that sets us apart (as far as we know) from all other animals on earth; our innate ability to ask “why”.

Using that as my jumping-off point I realized quite quickly that the phrase “why me” is usually fraught with a serious amount of negativity. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard that phrase when dealing with both young and older athletes, especially following a potentially season and or sport changing injury. The “why me” part of the question however, is far less important than the feelings silently inserted between the words “why” and “me”; and it is there, in that simple space, where the champion is made.

You see, the missing link in the phrase “why me” usually sounds something quite similar to this: “why did this happen to me?” and the very instant that those words are uttered, the athlete has created a paradigm where: 1) they are the victim, 2) they have given control away, 3) they have opened a window for the demons of doubt to enter. All three of which are situations that, though incredibly real, can be assuaged with some really simple redirection and mental skills practice.

Of course it is quite natural to have an initial negative reaction to an injury or some other circumstance that threatens your continued involvement in a particular sport or activity; especially for younger athletes who have committed a huge portion of their free-time toward becoming as skilled as possible.

Fear is a primary emotion. That said, when a young athlete focuses on the fear of re-injury it is nearly impossible for them to focus on the prospect of returning to pre-injury play. The fear of re-injury not only inhibits intensity of play, but places the athlete at a higher risk of more injury due to compensatory movement patterns as they avoid using the injured or affected body part. This is the factor most commonly associated with an athlete’s return to full participation, and can be the most frustrating for the athlete to try to overcome.

There are four vital elements that should be considered when dealing with the psychological aspects of all of these injury scenarios.
1) First and foremost it is vital to validate the athlete’s fear as a rational, normal and completely expected outcome of having been injured.
2) Set specific, progressive, reasonable goals for the athlete’s full return to play.
3) Utilize imagery and relaxation techniques.
4) Incorporate positive self-talk.

All of these elements are equally important, however the one that may have to most long-lasting effects, and help a young athlete learn about the importance of resiliency and become more of a process centered athlete is #4. The incorporation of positive self-talk is where we get to redress the initial “why did this happen to me” and change that one critical word from “to” to “for”.

“Why did this happen for me” directly changes the 3 negative components that we mentioned earlier.
1) They are no longer the victim, rather they have been given a challenge, 2) they have accepted that they are in control of how they receive this challenge; 3) they have eliminated a stronghold for the demons of doubt and have given themselves a point of focus. As well, they have given the phrase “why me” an entirely new and positive perspective; one that they may carry with them far outside the world of sport.

I love when a young athlete grasps this concept, in both sport…and life.

 

Anything You Can Do, Can I Do Better?

We’ve all seen “those parents”.  The ones dragging their kids to practice, screaming at their kids from the sidelines, berating them on the way to the car after a poor performance, then complaining to all who will listen that if the coach would do his job and pay more attention to their child, they’d be as good as…..

The behavior stems from a fundamental belief that all children are created equal, born with the same raw materials and with a blank page of interests, and that with just a decision and work, any child can become a superstar.

If we just push more, scream louder….blame…reward with affection and withdraw in disgust when they fail…punish harsher…Image

Are you, “that parent”?  

Do you believe that all children are born as equals? If given the same field, would it be level for each child to achieve the same success if they invest the same effort? Apparently, according to a CBS Sunday Morning survey, 23 percent of us believe we have genetic differences that will determine if one will be more successful at becoming an elite athlete, a complex thinker, a gifted musician… Sixty-one percent believe the sole determinant of achieving greatness is practice and only 14 percent believe the outcome is a combination of our natural strengths and the effort we invest in developing them.  

Raising our children under the belief that they can do whatever they put their mind to is right and also terribly wrong. It’s true that we can do whatever it is we put our mind to doing.  

I can sing. I can decide that I want to record a song and get it on the radio.  I could get in line with others that audition for American Idol.  Every one of them believes they can sing to superstardom too.   I can practice day in and day out. BUT, there’s no amount of practice I could ever do that’ll give me the X factor that will catapult me to rock star status just like the many we’ve laughed heartily at during the season openers of America’s Got Talent.   The same is true with ballet. I’m a 5’11”, large-boned German woman. Guess what? I can put on a tu-tu and dance. I can.  I took ballet in college thinking it would help me become graceful.  To think that if I just practice hard enough, I can become Prima Ballerina for New York City Ballet… Sorry.  Maybe a comedian…

Malcom Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, says that achievement is talent plus preparation, lots of preparation, 10,000 hours on average to master something, to be exact.  He noted that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation does.  In, The Sports Gene, David Epstein, has found that talented people, practiced more.  What separated the best of the best was how long and intently they worked to master their interest.  BUT, He found that the elite have natural abilities and aptitudes helped them use that time more effectively and efficiently.  Their degree of mastery, given the same amount of time, was far greater than someone of lessor natural talent.  

So, there is something to be said for finding aptitudes, natural strengths, innate physical attributes and developing them.  It’s a better return on investment of effort.   And clearly, it takes intense, long-term development to maximize the potential.  Applying those natural abilities to a passionate quest is where the greatest success will be discovered.  

Imagine if 61 percent of us believed that our children have been created with a unique, personal blend of strengths and talents and added 23 percent that embrace, “practice means perfect”, with the 14 percent that already know that finding the combination of both, what could the next generation achieve?

Parents:  Discover your child’s individual natural aptitudes, strengths, and abilities and fuel the development of them in what they love to do.

 

5 Tips to Finding the Right College Match for the Student-Athlete

ImageI’ve begun casual conversations with my daughter about her future.  It’s time.  She’s ending her sophomore year and the next 15 months can be overwhelming for any parent, let alone a 16 year old.  Because she’s the baby, and my middle one is graduating leaving the house in a few months, it’s terribly emotional, and I’d love to somehow pretend the whole process is not happening and put off college decisions for the third time, but it’s time!  If we don’t have light, enjoyable discussions about her college plans. that keep communication open and moving, it can get intense if left until crunch time.  There’s just too much to consider and it’s too overwhelming, even without adding high emotions due to time pressure and panic. I’ve found that an attitude of exploration, adventure and casual discussion with time to process works best.  Take the entire 15-18 months to wade through tons of information so that you’re down to 3-5 choices before they begin their senior year.  College visits occur in September and October and early signing happens in November.  The important thing is to find the best match in 5 particular areas among your college choices.

Here are 5 factors that will help sort through colleges and help you and your child find the right college match:

 

  1. ACADEMIC:  Explore career paths and interests, identify schools offering courses and major to match.  Often it’s much easier to change majors at a larger school, so if undecided, identify the biggest school that your child would feel comfortable attending to give them the widest choices.  When school choices are narrowed down, find out the GPA of the teams and graduation rate.  You can find how their job placement is too.  Clarify the balance of academics and athletics and how valued each is at the school.  Often the culture of the school reflects that balance.  It’s also smart to ask what academic support is offered for student-athletes.
  2. ATHLETIC Focus: It’s important to recognize what your child’s athletic goal in college will be; are they looking to have their sport just be a ticket to get accepted to a dream school, or do they want a college team experience, to compete at the NCAA championship level, or want to develop beyond school and compete nationally or professionally?  Ask about school/team/coach goals and ensure an intensity match.  High expectations are attached to scholarships and pressure to perform must be shared with an athlete’s personal desire to excel.  Compare roster size with those who travel and compete.  Your child will need to decide if it’s important to go to the biggest school, to say that they are going to the biggest school even if they never get to compete, or are a team superstar at another school.
  3. COACH: As you go through your child’s junior year, getting to speak with coaches is important.  They may not contact your child, but you can initiate a call or email to ask questions.  As soon as coaches are permitted to speak to your child, do so.  Also encourage them to engage with athletes on the team to ask questions about the coach.  Try to discover the coach’s style of coaching, find if there’s a natural, easy personality connection, what their expectations of athletes are, how long they’ve been at the school and their 5 year plans.  The school’s reputation in a sport has more to do with the coach.  Dynasty’s can be traced to specific coaches.  Look for the right coach over the athletic reputation of the school, especially if the current coach has been there less than 5 years and is building a program.  You want someone who clicks and can bring out the best in your child and who wants to help your child achieve their goals to be the best match.
  4. PROGRAM:  Ask questions about team training.  Do they build athleticism, functional development that is sport specific?  Do athletes improve there?  How many move on to national or professional play?  Are records or championships current or all set in a prior era, under another coach?  What’s the team culture?  Is it more social or are the athletes committed and focused on excelling?  Does the college support the team or are athletic programs in jeopardy of being cut?
  5. SCHOLARSHIP:  Coaches who have scholarships to offer will do so, but it doesn’t hurt to ask what it takes for an athlete to get one at the schools in which your child is interested.  It’s not hard to get a feel for the level of athletes on the current team and size up whether your child would fit in as a contributor.  Understand that accepting a scholarship, especially at the D1 level, is somewhat like being hired for a job and performance is expected.  D3 schools can’t give athletic scholarships, but have scholarship and financial aid packages they create that actually could be more generous than D1 schools have to offer.  Consider the debt load your child will carry post-graduation and make sure they don’t start life in a pit of debt right out of the gate.  

If you have any questions, ask away…  I may not have the answers, but have some interesting perspectives on how to navigate the recruiting process.  My son played baseball with most of his Bucknell University cost covered (Patriot League schools have unique scholarship rules) and daughter will attend Cal-Berkeley on a full scholarship in the fall.  My youngest just began receiving her first pieces of mail and emails and so begins her recruiting season.

Raising an Olympian: Why Allowing Our Kids to Fall, Makes Them Stronger.

Last year, I played PE teacher. I hadn’t taught in a classroom since before I had my own kids and wasn’t expecting the cultural shift that had since taken hold of both parents and school administrators. I walked into the gym in September expecting to provide fun fitness experiences and information that would be life-lasting. By October, I knew I had a literal fight on my hands. I had been called into the principal’s office consistently to redirect my plans. I couldn’t infer a child needed to improve their fitness since that would make them feel bad about themselves. As the weather chilled, I could no longer take them outside where they might get cold. I couldn’t use the fields in the morning since it would make their shoes wet. I couldn’t use the climbing rope since they might fall. I couldn’t use the trails because they might trip and fall on unpaved surfaces. I couldn’t insist that a child run, as they MIGHT have an underlying medical condition that MIGHT cause a problem. If a child’s face flushed or they breathed heavily, I was encouraged to have them sit out. I was called into question for children not being given A’s on their report card. It was offensive to suggest Pop Tarts and Lunchables should be replaced with healthier choices. It gave me a window into the environment being created for many kids today. Adults want to give kids a great life and do what’s best for them. They’ve created a calm, safe, easy, happy and….

… incredibly debilitating life for kids.

If I could have at least one do-over in parenting, it would be to have been a much more hard-core mom. In my quest to be the most loving mom, the one who provided as best I could, the one who would protect the hard blows, rescue, soften, make easier, I missed an opportunities to make them tougher. I could’ve strengthened my kids more, not only to handle elite levels of competition, but to thrive in real-hard-core-life.

Sports pyschologists have done research, but it doesn’t take a doctorate to figure out that one “IT” factor of successful people is their mental toughness.

So, do we just get mean? Nasty? Abusive? Is that what it means to be a tough parent?

Come on…. common sense, good judgement and balance…

It means that from the time our kids are toddlers, we need to become “velvet bricks”. It means to love them enough to let them experience the positive and negative consequences of the choices they make and the discomfort of new experiences. We need to allow them to take risks and feel the anxiety; stretch to feel pressure. It means working through challenges, obstacles and difficult things while handling distractions and interference. It means allowing them to feel the pain of falls, the frustration of setbacks, the anger of shortfalls, struggle of work and wrestling to figure solutions. It starts as they wobble across the room during their first steps and picking them up to go a little farther and progresses until they take their leap into adulthood as you smile encouringly. It’s only then, they gain the self-assurance and elation of their accomplishments.

Parents: Tough parents raise strong kids.

Toughness strengthens character, attitude and thinking needed to maximize potential.

Make it normal for kids to take appropriate risks and face challenges, work and figure out solutions to problems, resolve consequences, and make improvements.

Diminish externals and strengthen internals: don’t allow kids to blame or make excuses, but own responsibility for their effort and responses.

Focus on building the child, not the “star”, on the process, not outcome and responding objectively not emotionally as they develop.

Encourage with positive guidance. Help your child learn how to analyze situations and performance, determine how to improve, adjust, and move forward.

Acknowledge when it’s hard, but encourage them to overcome: “I know it hurts”, “I see that it’s hard.” “When that happens, yes, it’s frustrating..” “Yes, you’re sad”
“… but let’s move on and figure out how to make things better.”

When your kids face the hard things in life, to have equipt them with strong character, attitude and thinking helps them not just survive, but thrive in maximizing their potential.

Raising an Olympian: What Parents Can learn from Mikaela Shiffrin

“I enjoy pushing myself to new limits” – Mikaela Shiffrin

There are definite ingredients in people who live big lives and accomplish great things. The one ingredient that’s the trigger then the fuel is passion. They all were exposed to things at 2, 3, 4 years old and something clicked, powerfully, with one thing. For Mikaela, it was skiing and by the time she was 6 years old, she was training. But, it wasn’t her parents manufacturing a champion. They weren’t driving her to great heights. The passion was within Mikaela. As with almost every champion, she loves what she does. She loves the process of improving and repeating the details until she gets it right.

“You put your best into it, and at a point, you’re not even trying anymore, it just works”

Parents:

Be involved with your children. Explore the world with them from the time they’re toddlers. Let them try everything and anything especially when they’re 2-3-4 years old. Watch them discover their passion…

Then make your home a happy, fun, light environment to fan the flames.