TRYOUTS.

Without a doubt, it’s the worst time of the year.  If Christmas had an arch nemesis, it would be tryouts.  I have coached travel soccer for almost 20 years and I hate tryouts. It is an awful feeling to cut or choose players for a certain team and then have to call the player or parent and explain to them why their kid is on  the “B” or “C” team, when they thought they were an “A” player.  Or maybe your kid was on the “A” team last year and was one of the top scorers, but at tryouts all the coaches thought she would be best suited on the “B” team this year.  As a parent, you always want what’s best for your kid, so it’s hard to understand why the “B” team might be what’s best; and even harder to have to explain that to your young child.  And then like many parents, you begin to question whether or not your current club is the best place for your kid, solely based on a decision made at tryouts by a few coaches.

The hard part is that the decisions at a tryout often feels like an end point because it comes at the conclusion of a season.  So it is natural for parents and players to feel like their team placement is a culmination of what has happened the past year.  But I do not believe that tryouts are an end point.  What I do believe is that tryouts are just part of an ongoing process of learning and growth.  I believe that every player has peaks and valleys, some higher than others, and some deeper.  I believe that tryouts are a snapshot of where each player is AT THAT VERY MOMENT.  Unfortunately, we, as coaches, have to place kids on a team to start the season.  And do we make mistakes?  Of course we do.  So how do you navigate this whole tryout process, and how do you decide if a certain club is what’s best for your kid?

Here are some tips to help you navigate:

  1. Player AND Personal Development:

If your club/club directors are only concerned with winning championships and getting your kid a scholarship, and there is no mention of much else, RUN AWAY QUICKLY.  EVERY COACH AND CLUB WANTS TO WIN AND GET THEIR KIDS SCHOLARSHIPS!!!  But there has to be more.  Sports should be a vehicle for growth, and it should teach players how to be good teammates, good leaders, and good people.  Sports should teach players how to succeed and also provide an environment where the kids are comfortable enough to fail, knowing they will be applauded for their efforts, and picked up off the grass by their teammates and coaches.  If there is no mention about how the club or team will help your kid develop on and off the field, then don’t expect much development of them as a person.

 

 

  1. I want my team and club to get stronger and more competitive

But at whose expense?  What if at tryouts there were several new players and those new players took the spots that your kid was supposed to have on the “A” team?  If you are truly wanting your team and club to grow, then you have to accept that new players will join the club…and you should welcome that.  At the end of the day, as a parent, you have to model the team-first mentality, even though it might temporarily hurt your own child’s team placement and feelings.  No doubt this is a tough predicament, so what do you do if you feel like your child in on the…(see next point)

 

 

  1. Wrong Team?? Accept the Challenge: 

If your kid is placed on a team that you don’t feel is right, call the coach and ask her what are some things she needs to work on.  And then tell your kid to work her butt off every day to show the coach that you are willing to work.  It’s easy to go find a club these days where your kid would make the “A” team.  But what that’s teaching them is not to face a challenge, but to run away from it and find a more palatable answer.  And guess what will happen 20 years from now when they face a more difficult challenge???  Teach them to face the challenge now, so that 20 years from now they are telling their own children how they faced adversity head on.  Help give them a story they are proud to tell.  Don’t swoop in and be the hero every time.  Let them be the hero of their own story.

 

  1. Don’t choose to stay or leave because of a certain coach:

Look, I think I’m a pretty decent coach, but you’re not always going to get a great coach like me:)  In all seriousness, they are going to have varying levels of coaches, and life doesn’t always hand your kids what they want, but it sometimes hands them what they NEED.  Be patient.  Most coaches are really good people and they take a lot of time away from their own families and friends just to coach your kids, and most with very little pay.  Allow your kid to navigate different coaching styles.  No one is perfect.

 

  1. Don’t be a serial club hopper.

There are reasons to move to or from a club (see below), but if you are hopping just to see what’s out there and trying to find greener pasture, try looking at the grass you are standing on and weed and feed it.  When you feed and water and take care of the grass you are on, it means that you are investing time and energy into developing your skills.  And in the same breath, there will be weeds on that very ground, and you will need to work just as hard to constantly pull out the weeds that are hindering your growth.  Remember, just like a skill, grass starts as a singular seed; what you choose to do with those seeds will determine how healthy the ground beneath your feet is.  Be where your feet are and make your own grass a little more green each day.

 

 

  1. I pledge allegiance to the club…

It’s important that your kid forms strong bonds with teammates and has allegiance to a club, and gives back to that very club to help create a positive culture.  Allow your child to grow some roots (I’m sticking with the grass metaphor for one more pointJ).  Loyalty these days is a fading art form, and it would be nice to bring that back.

 

  1. There are reasons to move to a different club if…
    1. The club/coach fosters an unhealthy physical and/or psychological environment
    2. The current club does not challenge your child, nor do they offer opportunities to play up, etc. (This is usually seen in smaller clubs)
    3. On a regular basis, your child hates going to practice and is not having any fun (This could also be that your child no longer likes the sport–eek!)
    4. Obvious one here–the club does not have enough players for your age group

 

At the end of the day, we all need to remind ourselves that tryouts are part of the process of growing and learning, and that there is no real beginning or end.  The highs and lows and tears and smiles are all part of this ongoing game of life.  As a parent, it is your job to help your young player navigate through all the highs and lows.  But one last tip: don’t walk in front of them and mow the grass down (ok, so one more grass reference).  Walk with them just enough for them to know you are there to support them every step of the way so that one day, without them realizing it, they will step forward to make their own path.  And in that snapshot of a moment you will know that all those tryouts were hard, but they were worth it.  President Theodore Roosevelt said it best:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

 

 

 

 

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What are you doing here??

This question often has various meanings behind it:

  1.  As in, literally, why are you in the present location
  2.  Meant to belittle someone; believing they don’t belong
  3.  Meant as a compliment to someone who might be “below” where they could be

I am going to focus on #3 because this question can come off as what I will call a trap question.  You know the question is a genuine compliment, but it also makes you feel as if you are not living up to your potential, and that your talents are being wasted.  It feels like a trap.

But I can assure you, it’s not a trap.  If you have ever heard a compliment like this, you should take it as the highest form of a compliment, because what it means is that you are doing the very best you can, where you are, with what you have.  Don’t take it as you should be somewhere else and are better than where you are.  You are the best where you are.  So be proud of that.

It means that you might not be coaching Steph Curry, but you are treating the kids you coach like they are Steph Curry.  And when you treat any kid you coach like Steph Curry, you are going to get the question, “What are you doing here??”

Take is as a compliment.  You’re doing something right, coach.

What’s Your Story?

Kids are hard-wired to be tough; to deal with adversity; to not be scared by the hard stuff.  Just watch any baby learning how to walk and you’ll see just how tough they are and how often they get hurt and fall down.  Then we, the adults, come in and feel a need to make things safer, less scary, and cozier.  Instead of coming in and kissing their “boo-boos,” after an accident, we don’t even allow those “boo-boos” to happen.  Forget the safety net on the tight rope of life because we have them in a harness so they can’t fall.

But I get why.  I have a 1, 3, and 4-year-old, so most of my days are spent making sure they are safe and protected.  And when I lay my head down at night, the thoughts that keep me awake are: “Am I keeping them safe enough?  Did I protect them?  Am I giving them enough?  Am I giving them more than I had?”  Let’s face it, we all want better for our kids, students, players, etc.  But all too often, instead of striving to make things better, we actually make things easier.  We have been taught how to deal with tough days, adversity, hardships and loss.  We have learned through our own experiences how to deal with this.  But instead of allowing our kids to experience it for themselves, we shelter them from the pain and hardship because we know what’s coming, and sometimes it’s easier to prevent an issue, as opposed to fixing it.  Easier, not better.

So we continue to make things EASIER for them.  Frank Martin, who is the men’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, recently said: “We demand less of kids.  We expect less of kids.  We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about.  We’re the ones that have changed.”

In essence, we have become soft because now we are afraid for our kids.  We fear that our kids won’t make it safely to some arbitrary outcome.  We are afraid of what others will think of us and the choices that we have made for our kids.  We are afraid that we are being judged by others on how we deal with our kids.  Can’t be too tough!  Can’t say the wrong thing!  Can’t get mad when expectations aren’t met because (insert excuse here)!  Gotta keep up with the Jones’  and have perfect kids, and perfect players, and perfect students!

Screw the Jones’.  Stop comparing everything you do to everyone else’s glorious and perfect status updates on Facebook.  We aren’t going to make better people by striving for a perfect status update.  We are going to make our kids, athletes, students, etc. more than what we ever were by expecting more from them, and by setting clear expectations for them.  When we raise the bar, we leave no other choice besides up.

So let your kids know that it will be hard and that they will make mistakes, but that mistakes are okay because they are not perfect.  They will learn and grow from their mistakes.   Allow them to experience failure and figure out how to bounce back from it. And when you set a clear standard and they don’t live up to that standard, you let them know what the repercussions are.  Don’t let them slip.  Don’t make an excuse.  Because if you do, you make it EASIER for them to slip again.

It is the hard that makes it worth it.  It is getting through the hard that makes us better people.  It is getting through the hard over and over and over again that  enables us to raise the bar and expect more out of others.

Never will you hear a great story about how some talented kid grew up and sometimes worked hard, but when he didn’t, his parents bailed him out from the situation.  Great stories are not born out of safe, or ease or mediocrity.

Great stories and great people are born out of great adversity and hardship and failure.

So the question is, what kind of story are you helping others write?

 

About that New Year’s Resolution…

We often set these great expectations of what we will do for ourselves or for others in the New Year because it’s what we think will bring us a positive end result.  We think that the end result will give more to us than the actual journey.  We become so driven by WHAT we might achieve that we lose sight of WHY we are actually trying to achieve it.

And when we lose sight of our WHY, we lose a little hope every time we slip or take a step back.  Our belief in our own self slowly fades.  When we focus on WHAT we are trying to achieve, we can only see one positive outcome, and that is in accomplishing our goal.  So when we slip, we become discouraged and feel like a failure.  And each subsequent slip only adds to that discouragement and compounds the feeling of failure.  And finally, when we feel like we can take no more failure, and that goal now feels millions of miles away, we quit.

Instead, we need to focus on the reason we are setting a resolution, or goal.  WHY do you want to eat more healthy foods, or exercise more, or be more positive, or save for an awesome vacation, or give us smoking?

When we focus on the WHY, we focus more on doing and on the process.  The reasons why we do something are the driving force, not the end result.  So even if we don’t make it to the end point, we still feel fulfillment in who we have become.

If you are more focused on WHAT you will get vs. WHO you are becoming or WHY you even made a New Year’s resolution in the first place, then you likely have already quit.

I am not saying resolutions are bad, but as a society, we have become so driven by the end result, or by the outcome, that we often forget about two very important things:

  1. The Growth during the Process
  2. The reason WHY we even set a resolution or goal

So whether you have already given up on a resolution, or are thinking about giving up, make sure to remind yourself that it’s not about the end, and it never was.  It’s about how you grow as a person during this process.  And if the reason, or the WHY, is important enough, then you won’t quit; because if your WHY is strong enough, failure is not an option.

Ignore the Thing

Ignore the thing.  Look past the money.  Look past the task, the chore, the deadline. Look past the negative.   Look past your own problems, because someone always has it worse.  Look past the time, because it’s moving, so don’t try stop it.  Except, you can stop time for someone else.  In fact, you can even take them back in time.  Ignore the thing and pay attention to the person in front of you.

Last week I was in a physical therapy facility and I watched as an elderly man was meeting with a physical therapist.  He began to tell a story about an event in his lifetime that had happened years ago.  I could tell it made him happy just to recall that memory.  His face softened, his eyes lit up, and his smile couldn’t contain his joy.  And then the thing happened.  The therapist interrupted and began to go on about his exercises.  The elderly man paused briefly to listen, waited for an opening, and with his light still shining, he continued to try and tell more of his story.  And then the thing happened again–the therapist nodded and pretended to be listening, and then carried on with the exercises.  At that point, the elderly man stopped talking, rested him arm on his cane, and put his head down.  The light in his eyes went out.  Rather, the light in him went out.  There was a task to be completed by the therapist, and there was no time for the person.

Who knows, that might have been the elderly man’s only chance to be seen or heard that day.

Tasks, money, deadlines, stress, problems, negative thoughts.  This Christmas season I urge you to look past all these THINGS.  You can do without them for a moment.  So just ignore the things that cloud your vision.  See people.  People need you.  Things don’t need you and you don’t need them.  But people…….you need them.

What is Character?

It’s often said that character is what you do when no one is watching.  While that may be true, that is only part of the truth.  Character is what you do when no one is watching, AND when everybody is watching.

When you’re all alone and no one is watching, you can convince yourself to do the right thing.  There’s no pressure, other than your conscience.  You know the difference between right and wrong, and you can choose to do what’s right.

But when everyone is watching you, well, that’s when it’s hard to do what’s right.  Under the microscope, we don’t want to do or say the wrong thing and lose the favor of our peers.  We become egotistical and selfish, wondering, “How will this affect ME and my status with friends and family?”  We get scared.  We doubt ourselves.  We worry.  We choose the road that has been traveled and paved.  We choose easy over hard.  We allow our character to be defined by everything besides what is right and wrong, just to appease those who are watching us.  We choose comfort and ease.

But someone is watching and, unfortunately, going to emulate that behavior.  Maybe it’s the student you teach; the player you coach; the neighborhood friend; your 4-year-old child….

Your character is shaped by those moments of fear, doubt, worry, and discomfort.  When everybody is watching, step into that fear, doubt, worry, and discomfort, and come through doing what is right.

Somebody is always watching.  You may not know it.  You may not see it.  You may not think it.  But they are.  So choose the hard over the easy.  Choose the right over the wrong.  Choose to make an impact with your character

 

Humble Pie

I recently listened to a podcast from a former Navy SEAL talking about leadership and what he thought were the most important qualities of a leader, and I wanted to share a couple of thoughts he had, because I 100%  agree with him.

When asked what was the most important quality of a Great Leader, he replied, “Humility.”  I’ll paraphrase from here, but what he basically said is that Leaders in any capacity need to have the humility to know when they are wrong, and when to ask for help, because there is not one person on this Earth that knows everything.

In addition, he talked about the dichotomy of leadership and said that the GREAT Leaders have balance.  Some examples of what he means are: Great Leaders are courageous, but know when to hold back.  They are aggressive, but not careless.  They know when to speak up, but also (and maybe more importantly) when to listen.

This is not to say that there should be an equal 50/50 balance, but Leaders need to constantly be evaluating themselves and recognizing where they might need to exhibit more balance in certain situations.

In regards to your Leadership, ask yourself some of these questions.

Are you too much of a micro-manager, or do you need to give more direction?

Are you too sympathetic or not nice enough?

Are you too negative or do you need to be more honest?

Do you make decisions too hastily or do you need to be more decisive?

Are you too close with the group you lead, or not close enough with them?

Think of other questions to ask yourself, as well.  If you have read all the way through this and thought, None of these apply to me, then you aren’t evaluating yourself, and definitely need to check the level of your Humility.

If you have read through this and thought of ways to improve, congrats.  You have shown humility and shown that you, in fact, don’t know everything, aren’t perfect, and you will likely ask for help.  And if you aren’t a Great Leader already, you are well on your way.

It’s hard to admit you don’t know everything, don’t need help, and don’t need to change.  Trust me, I am rowing in that boat with you!  But it’s necessary.  Unfortunately, necessary and easy don’t usually go hand in hand, so of course it’s going to be hard.  But if it were easy, then we would have Great Leaders around every corner.

So let’s all please check our egos at the door, sit down at the table together, and share some humble pie.

Daily Challenge Checklist

To all coaches (and teachers, etc!), here is a simple daily challenge checklist to help you and your players become better Leaders and a tighter knit family:

  • Reaffirm the plans and goals for the day
  • Bring a contagious, positive attitude
  • Reach out to all of your players with at least one compliment.  It can be as simple as a “Good job”
  • Find out something new about one of your players by talking to them
  • Challenge at least one player to try something new, or something outside of their skill set

Everything listed above is within your control, and it will show your players that you care enough about them to notice them and catch them doing good.  And the hope is that your players and other coaches catch onto this and start to also do it.  Model the behavior you want in your players.

Build relationships with your players and you will see your players and program soar to new heights because they will know that you care, and they will run through walls for you and their teammates.

Challenge accepted?

 

cartoon 28

You’re not ready for everything.  You can’t be.  As stubborn as I am, I’d like to think I can be ready for anything and everything, but even I know I can’t be.  We like to fool ourselves into thinking we can always be ready and say things like, If this would ever happen to me, then I would do this.  Or,I would never act a certain way.  That doesn’t make us ready.  What we are usually doing is being Monday morning quarterbacks to other peoples’ situations.  We are reacting.  That’s easy to do.  The hard part is taking action.

But you have to prepare.  What I mean is  you have to prepare yourself as best as possible for every scenario.  Being prepared to be ready for anything is the key.  It’s impossible to be fully ready for everything, but you can prepare yourself to be ready.   In fact, one of the definitions of ‘prepared’ is: “make ready or able to do or deal with something.”  So, when you prepare, you are making yourself ready.  And when you are prepared, you are ready, and you can take action.

I wasn’t ready for what happened last Wednesday night.  As I was feeding our 10 month old on the couch, I heard the sound of my 4-year-old daughter, Keelyn, choking in her bedroom.  My hubby, Blake, was reading bedtime stories with Keelyn, and gave her a good whack on the back and she stopped choking.  We thought that was the end of it, until we realized that she was holding coins in her hand and when we asked her if she had something in her mouth she said, “No.”  We obviously knew she was lying given that our great detective work told us that you have to actually be choking on something to choke…so we pressed her and asked what she put in her mouth.   She said, “crackers.”  Now she’s a smart kid.  We had some crackers for dinner that night and she even showed us a secret stash she had in her room, so we almost believed her…until she started shivering, then drooling all over her shirt, and finally throwing up.

So began what was quite possibly the longest 12 hours of my life (thus far–knock on wood).  None of us were ready for this, but we had no choice.  We had to rely on our instincts and preparation.  We had to act.  I went to the ER with Keelyn, and Blake stayed home with our other two kids.  Long story short, after several X-rays, an ambulance transfer to another hospital, an IV port (ouch!), and a surgery, the Doctors and nurses were able to pull out the quarter and nickel from the base of her esophagus.  I was hoping for a pot of gold as well. #silverlining

We’ve all been in situations like this–situations where you don’t necessarily sit around waiting for something bad to happen, but inevitably it does, and you have to act.  You’re not ready for these moments, but you hope and pray that you are prepared and your instincts kick in.  You hope your preparation leads you to do the right thing.  Life is not safe and it’s not meant to be safe.  If it was, then we WOULD be fully ready for every situation.

Then there are situations that we have been preparing specifically for, like a big game or a test, or a project at work.  So we prepare as best we can, so when that moment comes, we feel ready.  And, again, our preparation kicks in, and we hope and pray that our preparation made us as ready for the game, test, or project as best we possibly could be.

And finally, there are the situations that we have prepared for and rehearsed in our heads and told ourselves, If this happens, then I will do this!  But then that situation comes to fruition, and we freeze.  We had rehearsed this scenario in our heads a million times: If we would ever see someone being bullied by another person, then we would stand up for that person and tell that bully just where he or she can go!  And right in front of you that scenario begins to unfold.  You’ve seen this moment.  You’ve prepared for this moment.  You open your mouth to say something, but nothing comes out, because you don’t know what to say to your best friend, the bully…

You’re not ready.  But you have to act.  You know what you need to do.  So do it.  You didn’t sit around waiting for this specific incident to happen, but here it is.  That person needs you to take action, just as much as my daughter needed Blake and I to take action, even though Keelyn didn’t ask for it.  Don’t let your preparation be for naught.  You are as ready as you can be.  Act.  Don’t let that person continue to choke.  

 

 

 

 

You’re not ready

CLACK..CLACK….CLACK……….CLACK………………..CLACK……………………….

Think of the highest, fastest, most fear-inducing roller coaster you have ever seen or been on.  Now think of various times in your life as that roller coaster, because it is.

Close your eyes and think about that roller coaster.  Remember how long you waited in line, and as you inched closer and closer to the front of the line, your emotions would ramp up.  There was excitement, fear, wonder, sickness(??!!)–adrenaline fueling them all.

Then you picked your spot on the ride.  Some of us bravely chose the front, while others opted for a “safer” space in the middle, or the back.  You buckled your seat belt and the lapbar restraint came down, firmly locking you in.  The coaster jolted forward and there was no turning back.

Next, after all that waiting in line, well, you have to wait some more for the fun to really start.  But you know it’s coming.  The coaster begins its ascent up the hill and you hear the familiar CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK of the wheels being pulled up on the rails.  And you keep climbing…and climbing….and climbing…then a slight pause at the top of the hill….and down you go!!  50, 60, 70, 80 , 90+MILES PER HOUR twisting, turning, spinning, going up and down again and again and again!!

With your heart pumping furiously and your white knuckles firmly grasping the bar in front of you, the coaster finally slows, and you are able to catch your breath.  You slowly release the death grip you have on the bar, and look around at your friends with nothing but smiles.  As you catch your breath, you think, wow that was fun.  Let’s do it again.

All of that waiting and waiting, and seemingly endless climbing for a couple minutes of excitement, and your first thought is that you want to do it all over again.  Why?  Because it was worth it.

The various times in your life are those roller coaster rides.  When it is something important to you, there are a range of emotions that run their course–from excitement to fear to joy to pain.  Often you have to be patient and wait.  Often you have to climb, and then climb some more.  But you just know that if you wait long enough and keep climbing, you will reach your destination.  The descent will come and bring with it all the excitement you can possibly bear.  It will be fun and it will be worth it.  And when the ride slows and finally comes to a halt, all you will be able to think is, Let’s do that again!

But there’s one main difference between a real roller coaster and the roller coaster of life.  In real life there are no seat belts or lap restraints, and you can’t see the top.  Nothing will give you even the slightest illusion of safety and security.  And yet you still have to wait and climb and believe that it will be ok, fun, and worth it.  You have to believe that there will be a descent where all the excitement and fun happens.

However, because there are no seat belts or restraints, we can also choose to get off the roller coaster at any time.  Unfortunately, a lot of us exit the roller coaster too early because we can’t see anything but an uphill climb.  We become impatient, and get tired of working so hard.  We stop believing that it’s worth it.

If you never stay on the roller coaster long enough, you may never reap the rewards of your patience and hard work.  You may not know when it’s coming or be able to see it, but you have to believe it’s there, and it is coming.  So fasten your seat belts, pull down the lapbar, and keep waiting, working, and climbing, because the ride of your life could be one CLACK! away.