3 in 1

Category: 2012
Published: Sunday, 30 December 2012

 3 in 1

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

Trouble in Paradise

Category: 2012
Published: Monday, 24 December 2012
Trouble in Paradise:

 

            This story is about a high school hockey team. They were playing a game against an inferior opponent, and they beat their opponent easily, 7-0. There were two plays that happened during this game that caught my eye. Both plays were a direct result of a lack of knowledge about how important humility and teamwork are to a successful program.

 

            The coach of this team is not a yeller. He has been coaching for a long time and truly understands the journey and how important it is to keep things in perspective. His teams do consistently well both on and off the ice.

 

            The first play I want to discuss was actually a culmination of a series of plays that resulted in a key player getting injured and removed from the game After scoring 5 goals in this game, the player scoring , was celebrating and playing to his friends in the crowd. The other team twice tried to hit him before they caught him with his head down and delivered a clean check that resulted in an injury.

 

            After the fourth goal I turned to the friend I was sitting next to and said this is how kids get hurt during a blowout and no one understands why. They point a finger at the opposing team and its players for dirty play without being held accountable for their role in the injury. And most of the time the kid that gets injured is not the player who scored the goals, but sometimes, as in this case, it is the guy who scored the goal.

 

            There is an expression is sports that says when you score a goal, a touchdown, or some other event that you act like you have done it before. We used to say act like you expect to do it again, and that you appreciate the many players that helped you make it happen.

 

            I had the good fortune to talk to this young man  a couple of days later. about what had happened during the game. I explained to him what really happened and why it happened. He is a very good kid band comes from a family that understands the journey.

 

            The second play happened a little later in the game and was connected to the winning team’s reaction to one of the star players getting hurt. One of their best players took the puck from behind his net and skated all the way down the ice, cutting in front of the other teams net trying to force the puck through the other team’s goalie. Now what really happened there was that player could have got hurt also.

 

             Or, he could have passed the puck to one of the players on the ice that hadn’t seen a lot of playing time, thus having that player become more involved in the team’s success. He would practice harder and feel better because one of the best players had included him in the play during the game.

 

            People fail to realize what happens after a game is over, and the long term consequences of what happened during then game to mental well being of the players on both teams.

 

             Kids talk, will text, face book, or something. Players that don’t play feel excluded. I know some people argue that they have to earn playing time and know their roles on a team. WRONG. Human beings do not fully develop until they are into their twenties. Saying an athlete’s level of skill and future ability is already established by the age of sixteen is not supported by scientific facts.

 

            The more kids you play the better the whole team will be. Inter team competition and team development still is and always will be the most part of a team’s  long term success. Players develop at different times in their lives and at different speeds. The more chances you give them the better chance you have of finding out who can play. The less chances you give them the less they develop. The less they develop the more they feel disenfranchised. They don’t work as hard and as often as they should because they figure what is the use.

 

 

 

            Most of all of this behavior, and its cause and effect principles have been lost on today’s reincarnation of youth sports. It is now important to win and win big. You have heard the expression blowouts don’t help either team. Hopefully in this blog you have learned that they actually hurt teams, both teams. The winning team had a good player get hurt and the losing team stopped playing together and decided to seek revenge for what they felt was poor sportsmanship by the other team. Ironic, the very behavior they were upset with, was the very behavior they used (poor sportsmanship) to even up the “score.”

V.J. has written a book on youth sports called Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports.You can follow him on twitter @VJJStanley, face book( Frozen Shorts) website: frozenshorts.com, call the office 585-743-1020, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Competition versus Entitlement

Category: 2012
Published: Sunday, 16 December 2012

Once you get past puberty and by that I mean the varsity level of high school sports it should always be play by performance. In hockey we have the saying: “you are only as good as your last shift.” No player should think that he or she is entitled to playing time just because they have talent or are the coach’s kid.

            That actually hurts the development of the player and the team’s chances of winning. Let me explain. Players need to know they will be rewarded for their efforts. We are a goal orientated society and we get rewards in real life (a paycheck) after our week of work. So to should children see the benefits of their efforts? “You always run faster when you are being chased.” Is one of my favorite expressions.
            Let us say you are having a bad game. Why not take a breather and let someone else take a crack at it. If that player should do well we should embrace that as a positive as that will make the team and ultimately all players better.
             Now let’s look at the flip side. What happens when the better player is left in a game when they are not playing well? They start to develop bad habits. They are not accountable for their performance. Other players see this as favoritism from the coach and subs consciously start to resent either the player or coach, OR BOTH.
            Slowly but surely the team chemistry starts to erode and the team dynamics associated with that chemistry start to implode. You want to see an underachieving making it very difficult for the team to get better and play with consistency unhappy team, go watch a team where the coaches’ kid plays all the time and certain kids sit way more than is even remotely necessary.
            You see, most human bodies, that’s right MOST not the 1% of the 1% who are genetic freaks, take time to develop. They do not fully develop until they are into their early 20’s so no one should be sitting on the bench a whole game if they are on a team in youth and high school sports. All that is happening in that scenario is that certain kids are getting a head start and will of course play better than the kids who don’t play…for a while. These kids actually are being hindered and not helped in their desire and effort to win. Then, when they don’t win, well, that’s when the you know what hits the fan.
            Then, the dreaded “it’s not my fault” starts creeping into the picture and finger pointing and sulking start to appear. The coach gets upset and says "the heck with it, I can’t please everybody,” so he stays with his starters. His thinking, maybe winning will satisfy them, or me! The coach has any sub that plays on a short leash and benches that player when they don’t do well all the while letting the more talented  player stay in the game even though mistakes are being made.
VJ’s new book Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports is now available through his website in paperback. You can follow him on twitter @VJJStanley, on face book at Frozenshorts, email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him at 585-743-1020

Coaching and Playing to Win leads to Negativity and Stress not Victory

Category: 2012
Published: Thursday, 06 December 2012
Coaching and playing to win leads to negative stress and mistakes not victory
            In recent conversations and presentations I have been presented with scenario of how much different is to play to win versus playing for fun. It has been presented to me in different forms and variations that it is the kids decide that they want to play to win. (A concept that is so abstract that even professional athletes cannot define and execute winning continually. )It has also been stated on numerous occasions, and I understand completely how this thinking evolves, that the kids “want the coach to coach to win.”
            Let’s analyze this and break it down to its basic components. Many many coaches, players, and parents see this style of coaching going on every game, or so they think they do. They see what appears to be this paradigm playing out where a coach just plays his top players. If the game is close the bench is “shortened.” And he still doesn’t win!
            They see it play out constantly in youth sports, high school, college, and the professional ranks. What they do not see in the upper levels is how play by performance comes into play. But that is a conversation for another essay.
            In a recent conversation with a long time high school coach I was struck by the fact he didn’t see how playing for fun ultimately had his whole team playing better, and that , if done correctly and consistently, gave his team a better chance of winning on a consistent basis as did playing to win.
            He recounted a story about how his team was going to face the best team in their league, and since his team was clearly outmanned he didn’t tell his players the clichés of “working hard, you can win, because unless something extraordinary happened, and isn’t that what we want, they were not going to win.       
            He said instead he got the team together for pizza at lunch and then before the game told his players to go out and play hard but have fun. He told them to try new things on the court and to pass the ball around a lot and not worry about the score. Whatever happened he was going to take the team out for pizza after the game.
            The next thing he said to me stays with me to this day.”AND YOU KNOW WHAT THEY PLAYED BETTER!” He had a smile on his face as he described how well his team played and how they put a scare into this top rated team. He was genuinely proud of his kids for their effort and persistence. The fact that he got ALL the kids into the game was a source of pride. When I asked him if any of the “subs” played exceptionally well, He exclaimed, YES they did!
            He then said to me that he wasn’t comfortable putting in his “subs” when his team was up 15 points. He was nervous the other team would come back and score. When I told him that interteam competition was something he could embrace by scrimmaging two equal teams in practice and just let them play he smiled. But I knew he was thinking about it. I had planted the seed. It was up to him to see what was going on with his team and apply what we talked about to his own circumstances. Growth had to come from within not without.
            The next thing he said showed why coaches need to stop coaching and just let the kids play for fun. He said, “VJ, you know I couldn’t do that before, during, or after a game we knew we should win. The players wouldn’t stand for it. They want to win.”
            So I then asked him to tell me how he was going to win the next game his team played. He said" he couldn’t do it, no coach could. There were too many variables involved both on his team and the other team so that there was no way he could predict the outcome." I agreed. I told him that many professional team owners, coaches and general managers would love to have a formula for winning. But in the all the time I have been around sports I haven’t heard of anyone who did.
            I don’t know who said this as I heard it late one night on TV. (I only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night and I can tell you there is some really bad TV on late.)
            “All great coaches have great players, the rest of us are eventually unemployed. Take the Auburn football coach. Two years ago with Cam Newton at quarterback he won a National Championship, now after finishing last in the SEC this year he was fired.
            However coaches who coach to get all the kids in and for EVERYONE on the team to get better and have fun as the season progresses, they are the coaches I want to learn from. They are the coaches I want coaching our kids for they are going to teach life lessons of community, chemistry and teamwork.
            Youth sports are about inclusivity not exclusivity

Bowling

Category: 2012
Published: Friday, 30 November 2012
Bowling
            Even though it is early in the 2012-2013 varsity bowling season an important date is looming in the Mcquaid keglers’ future. January 3, 2013. On this date Steve Pogal long time Varsity bowling coach and three time defending City Catholic champions has decided he wants the record.
            Now at this juncture let me point out that the Mcquaid bowling team is about to set another record. Most players on their team EVER! Is it the popularity of bowling? Is there a huge growth sport?
             Not really, it is the coaches’ mantra of PLAY FOR FUN and that is exactly what this team does. In the ever escalating world of High School and youth sports athletics and the damaging mantra of playing to win, more is better, and the status of being the couch and  his “club” team connections, Mcquaid bowling is saying there is another way to approach high school athletics and it is working. Their slogan of “three holes and a dream is typical of their approach. Loose, fun, and different.
            From having his players discuss certain current  events during the matches to relax his players, or  bowling against a girls all star team to raise thousands of dollars for charity, to using 6 lb. balls for an exercise in FUN and camaraderie, the McQuaid bowling team is the antithesis of what youth sports and high school varsity sports have become. They are different. It’s all about having fun and being a good teammate. OUTSATNDING! And it’s working. More and more players are flocking to his team and the word around school is spreading and in the Rochester New York bowling community.
            The President of the school has shown up for numerous matches. The Principal was there. The athletic director has attended and had his picture taken with team. A student was brought in to sing the national anthem. The schools cheerleading section called the “Samba Society” has attended a match.
            Let’s be clear here. There is real coaching going on at many different levels on this team. The coach has had requests by parents to have his players play year round. He has explained why it wasn’t a good idea. He has been stringent about academics. He cares about the kids outside of bowling.
             His resume as an outstanding bowler and holder of seven three hundred games is impressive. He does teach bowling. But what he teaches that is more important than just the technique of bowling. He teaches fundamentals of life and how much fun you can have playing a sport and have it be an integral part of the athlete getting better. Instead of chastising and benching a player for trying out for the schools’ PLAY he asks for tickets and wants to bring the whole team to the performance.
            You really want to know what youth and high school sports should be about, go watch the Mcquaid Bowling team in action!
            The coach routinely asks players who have never bowled before, or have been under tremendous pressure to play a sport year round to come out for bowling and have some fun. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.
             New bowlers are quickly put into the starting lineup and instructed to have fun. Why does he do it this way? Well, because it works. His bowlers continually reach heights of excellence and top scores with this approach.
             What is the response from those watching from other so called bowling experts as they observe this wonderful team I n action? One comment was, “the Mcquaid bowling team is having too much fun!” Another response was a complaint to the bowling alley where the Mcquaid team practices and plays their matches. “They are disrespecting bowling.”
             In actuality he is simply proving a point to people. Let the kids have fun, encourage them to have fun, and watch the results. This brings me back to the point of this essay. On January 3 2013 at 3:45P.M. in the afternoon Mcquaid will take on its rival Aquinas in a bowling match of little consequence in the big picture of the season. What the coach would like and I believe he has earned the right to ask for, is to have 100 students attend the match and cheer for the team. That would be the record he most wants to have. How great is that? He wants the cheering to be LOUD but positive and classy. And to show his class in terms of the big picture he wants his fans to cheer for Mercy High School’s bowlers, Mcquaids all girls sister school who will be on the lane next to his teams.
            What a tremendous message to send to all who watch and participate in youth and high school sports. What a wonderful idea and thought for Mcquaid bowling team, a team made up  of the most diverse athletes and nontraditional play for pay athletes to send to all of Monroe County and Section V athletics. Well done.
Vj's weekly blogs are an ongoing series in support of youth and high school sports. you can follow Vj on twitter @VJJStanley email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. go to his website frozenshorts.com and purchase his book Stop The Tsunami In Youth Sports. PLAY FOR FUN!

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