Category: 2012
Published: Tuesday, 22 May 2012
                Gas prices are rising, an unpopular war is being waged, and we are seemingly inundated with messages that tell us to ignore long-term goals and to concentrate on me and today.  Some people respond with a paradigm shift in their thinking.  They stand up and say, “No” to this expensive, time-consuming pursuit of youth sports. 
Quality family time needs to be brought back to the forefront of our goals and desires.  We must regain the balance in our lives.  A sense of community, and what it stands for, needs to be returned to for the benefit of all.  This is what the goal should be: “balanced excellence” in youth sports and in life. There is a need for the voice of logic and reason, based on facts, not fantasy, to change the toxic atmosphere that rears its ugly head in youth sports. 
There is a need for a voice of logic and basic fundamental reasoning based on facts not fancy to change the sometimes toxic atmosphere in youth sports.
What coaches do in the context of a team, in terms of how they grow the team concept, can and will affect the players, now and in the future.  Embrace and praise good manners, unselfishness, camaraderie, and an excellent worth ethic.  These traits will stay with us throughout life. This is why coaches should continually tell their players to visualize past positive team experiences.
                The more we walk on the same path, the easier it is to follow that path.  The easier it is to do, the more consistently we can do it.  When the path is altered, we have a base from which to react confidently. The more relaxed we are, the less stressful situations will affect us, and our performance will increase.  We can choose our paths based on intrinsic knowledge, not on outward pressure.
                This has two benefits:  1. When crisis happens, we are more prepared to handle it calmly and are less likely to have it negatively impact performance, 2. The more relaxed we are, the less energy we use thinking negative thoughts, and we won’t stress out.  Think of how negative thoughts can wear us down, and those around us.
                Think of a friend or relative telling a tale of woe.  Look at him. See how just by telling the tale wears on him.  Imagine how the actual event must have felt.  See him tense up. Remember how it felt during the conversation.  Apply the knowledge gained to everything in life.  Pay it forward, as the saying goes.
There was an expression, “Positive. Keep it positive.” I told this to my players. I repeatedly tell my children the same thing. But, since I am only around them 20% of their day, other friends and peers have a great influence on them. I continually reinforce the message through actions and examples. The base has to be set and stay reliable for them, so that when they leave me, they will have a foundation on how to handle life’s travails and react positively to the world around them.
Good manners are paramount in setting the base.  Fundamental skills are needed to be successful in all areas of life.  Compassion and thoughtfulness are key components of manners and success.  We want to emulate leaders we admire. Find one who is solid and stable. He must be grounded in the fundamentals. Watch him; learn from him. Then, find your own path. Be polite in all things. Saying “shut up” never works. It is one of the most overused, abused and hurtful phrases used in everyday speech. People say it’s nothing, but it is something. Its use is demeaning and bossy and has a lingering undertow.   Please try to avoid saying it.  It cannot help us achieve a positive outcome.  It inflames when we are trying to achieve calmness. 
It is not a life sentence of eternal damnation to be wrong.  Don’t “jump on” someone just because he or she makes a mistake.  We should admit our mistakes. We are all going to make one soon enough.  When we apologize, we can say, “My bad”or“I’m sorry” and mean it.  Do it in a classy manner.  Be gracious when someone apologizes to you. “Please” and “thank you” are simple fundamentals. We don’t use them often enough. Neither do our players.  People would be surprised if they truly knew the impression that those words, and manners in general, make on others when said.  It also makes the person saying them feel good too.
                Instead of perpetuating questionable behavior with subjective, irrational thought and actions, it’s time to say, “Enough is enough!”  Parents and players should be made aware of the dangers ahead and not get overwhelmed and dragged down by the negative emotions.  We are going to set an example of decent, proper behavior, even while others choose negativity and entitlement over positive reinforcement.  It is time to stop the tsunami and put fun back as the number one priority of youth sports.  We need to take a stand. The future of our children’s happiness and contentment and their children’s depends on this.
                Look at what is going on and examine whether or not this is the future we want to hand to our children.  The issue of ethics both on and off the field will have paramount importance in the quality of life we seek for ourselves and our children in youth sports.
                We are social creatures by definition. Treating others as we would like to be treated is a foundation of life. This maxim forms an excellent base from which to grow.  Its youth sports: not professional sports, behavior counts.


Category: 2012
Published: Wednesday, 16 May 2012
                We tend to look around for the outrageous and the outlandish as a way to vent frustration about what’s happening in our own day to day existence. We can say, “Hey, I’m not so bad after all!” or “What a jerk that guy is!” but still pay attention to his or her behavior.  The athlete can be categorized in many negative ways.  But what we don’t understand is that when we do that, we are giving the athlete the attention he or she craves to fuel continued poor behavior.  It emboldens them.  Gives them the attention they are craving so they keep doing it.  They get the short term attention they desire. It becomes like a drug. They need more and more of it with less and less benefits and satisfaction.  Be careful we do not do the same kinds of things with our children and athletes.  Try to not reinforce negative behavior.  By continuing to play a player when they are playing poorly, just because they are one of your more talented players, a coach reinforces the fact that if you play poorly, and are talented, you get special treatment. 
                Some athletes think just like Madison Avenue.  Any publicity is good publicity. When coaches keep giving attention to poor behavior on and off the field, we encourage more of the same kind of behavior. It is really basic.  If a child misbehaves and the coaches keep talking to the child, making excuses for the behavior instead of disciplining the bad behavior, they just reinforce the behavior. A long winded lecture has the same result. The child sees our response as getting our attention so he continues the behavior.  Whether it is positive or negative attention, he’s still getting the attention he craves.  Frustration then grows. Coaches then resort to harsh tactics to verify frustration at the child when in reality the frustration is within.  The coach is enabling the child to disable his own growth.  The situation can become untenable.  The coach gets frustrated, the child gets frustrated…the cycle continues.
                Hard work and effort should be rewarded as much as talent.  In the long term, the life skills messages taught far outweigh the benefits of a short term win. It’s all about teamwork, effort, and having fun.  When you follow the rules and don’t try to be above them, when you set the example instead of being the exception, it is then that you realize the true purpose of youth sports.  It is enlightenment not entitlement. 


Category: 2012
Published: Tuesday, 08 May 2012

I was recently talking to a high school football player.  His season was over and he commented about what went on with the new craze of 7 on 7.  He came to me asking what I thought he should do.

         I did not answer him directly.  What I did was inquire as to how much fun he had playing football this past season.  He said it was OK.  The team had done well, he started, but you could tell there was something missing.  I probed further.  He told me of a game where he was playing defensive back.  The game was out of hand and one of his coaches kept screaming at the players on the field.  He was directing them and shouting instructions.  When the ball was snapped, he was not in position to make a play.  The wide receiver went by him in a flash and scored a touchdown.
       The next time they got on defense, the coach was yelling at him about his last play and demanding that he not let the wide receiver get past him.  He said he had to tune out the coach so he could do his job.  He stopped talking and asked me with his eyes what I thought.
       Here’s what I told him.  “If I was your coach I would have pulled you aside and told you, ‘Listen, I watched two hours of tape on this wide receiver.  Every time he points his right foot inward he runs a slant pattern.  Next time he does it I want you to jump the route.  If he fakes and goes long, I’ll take full responsibility for the play.  But it is important to me that you know I’m behind you and giving you an opportunity to use your skills to the best of your ability without having to worry about consequences.  I think you will play better this way and have a lot more fun.’”  His only response was, “Mr. Stanley, with knowledge from the heavens.”
      You see, it is not about winning and losing. It is about getting better, feeling good, and enjoying playing sports. Ask any DI athlete, and they will tell you some of the best games they played did not end in victory. Winning is the result of doing the little things right, embracing fundamentals and team sacrifice.
      This young man told me he is still thinking about what I told him that day. That should be our goal as coaches and parents. Not to have the children be our own personal joy stick or robot for our own status, but not to need us, be independent and grow, while maintaining and building upon the things we taught them, and they behavior we modeled.


Category: 2012
Published: Wednesday, 02 May 2012

Have you asked the kids if winning are why they play youth sports? WE HAVE! It's their sport. Here's what a majority answer. They play for fun! What is being advocated by many people is an extrinsic reward on a child’s internal development before they are fully developed. The test, winning a game, takes priority in terms of its importance to the child versus development?  Does the child who sits up first, crawls first, walks first, automatically become the fastest child? NO!

       Extrinsic rewards may help a few but when did we start teaching to the few. The rewards’ start to lose their meaning and the children need more and more of them with less and less satisfaction. Not unlike an addiction.
        Education in life and sports does not always have to be so cut and dried at an early age. How many more lessons are taught before a test is given? How many teachers ask for more time to plan lessons and work with their children before they give a test?
      Rewarding someone when they don’t do well can be just as  harmful as giving a trophy to a child  just because he participated How many games are not competitive, or are only a few really good players getting most of the playing time, just because they are better at an early age?.With many youth sports teams set up so that better players are on one team and then played at the expense of the other children just to win a meaningless game. This victory or win is going to affect the way they deal with their friends, co workers, spouse, and children later on in life. They will believe, because they were trained this way to put more value on self than community. So many games against so many opponents and the kids are pressured to win, the parents and organizations buy into it and the parents support it. It sets a precedent. I’m not for trophies for anyone.
What happened to the value of a job well done? The kids know when they get whupped; they know when they played well. The scoreboard you refer to is mostly for adults. The kids don’t care 10 minutes after the game is over. They change their minds all the time. If you are talking anything under varsity level high school development takes precedent over winning.
75% of all the 10 year old kids playing youth sports quit by the time they are 13. Winning and losing at an early age does nothing to prepare them for life. Getting along with each other is way more valuable and happens way more often in their lives, and thus is way more important to learn.
       I coached for 21 years at the collegiate level and never once talked to the kids about winning. I graduated 28 doctors and lawyers and 24 engineers. I thought that’s how we kept score. This experiment that I called teaching has culminated in over 30 championships for the teams I coached and played on. The championships we won pale in comparison to the lives we changed. That comes from notes from my players.
      The players rarely talk about the championships when I see them or hear from them. It’s always about the journey. Inter team competition is what motivated us. True completion is not resolved by the score at the end of the game, but in giving your all against the sport with your teammates.
      If you insist on comparing youth sports to the workplace, then let’s do it. When you first get a job are you tested on how well you do it? Doesn’t the boss stress getting along and working together? Isn't most of you time spent getting along with instead of competing with co-workers and other companies? You get a paycheck once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month. That is your trophy!


Category: 2012
Published: Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Simply put, for 99% of the children, youth sports are not a vehicle for or a means to an end. It is not about status, glory, scholarships, or playing professional sports.  According to the National Alliance of Sports,   70% of our children quit playing youth sports by the time they are 13 who were still playing at the age of 10.  To get the fun back into youth sports, we need to balance the importance of youth sports and the time we spend on them, the effort we put into them, in proportion to the rest of our lives. This is “balanced excellence.” The pursuit of balanced excellence is the ability and desire to pursue excellence in all areas of our lives in an even manner.
            Sometimes, children develop other interests and outgrow their desire to play a particular sport.  It doesn’t have to be burn out that causes them to quite.  It could be not willing to commit the time, effort and stress it takes to play structured youth sports.  Dating, money, and socializing, all play a part in the decision-making process of athletes to pursue other interests.  Let them make an individual choice based on their individual interests, needs, not on parents and coaches wants and desires.  Kids should be playing sports for the right and healthy reasons, in a safe and healthy atmosphere.
            Parents, coaches, players, and organizations can get wrapped up in and wildly enthusiastic about Division I college athletics and professional sports.  But, there is little correlation to our children’s involvement in youth sports.  We need to keep this in perspective.  We need to insure that we are focusing our attention and efforts on all areas of our life and the lives of our children.  The number one priority in youth sports is to have fun!
            If you are having fun, you are having fun; you can never put enough value on play. If children are not having fun, they should stop playing on that team. They don’t have quit entirely, but if the sport isn’t fun, at least 75% of the time, you should not participate on that team. Organized and structured youth sports organizations are not the end all answer to development. They sometimes can be harmful.
 Find a team that shares similar philosophy and play for fun.  Text some friends; go to a field, court, or rink and have fun!  Organize your own pick-up games.  Play is not a job. We ought not to make it one.
            There are common expressions used by parents and players that are heard time and time again: “I will fall behind if I don’t play year-round…The coach says I have to go to this camp…I have to play for this club team; they are the best…..She can play soccer with a brace. It will be all right.” These statements heard on many teams over many seasons are an indication of unhealthy problems.
            Playing youth sports is still worth playing, even if it does not include playing in high school.  Watch the kids sit on the bench during a high school game. Are they having fun? Are their parents getting their money’s worth out of their children’s participation in “pay for play” sports?  There are pick-up games, recreation leagues, intramurals, and adult leagues on which kids can play, now and through their adult years. The fun, the camaraderie can be found in any and all these alternatives to “pay for play” youth sports.
            The underlying current of youth sports participation has changed radically over the years.  Do we understand the significance in that change, as well as the long-term ramifications, both mentally and physically?  We tend to be consumed as a society to be on top, to be number one, to win no matter the cost.  We are losing the idea that youth sports are supposed to be a way for our kids to learn life lessons, skills that will stay with them when they are adults. Youth sports, too, are a means for our kids to get much needed exercise, a means to socialize, a means for having fun.  Playing youth sports is part of the continuum, the journey of life. Youth sports should not be just about winning. Winning will take care of itself if the other parts are in place and are encouraged continually.

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