Pay it Forward


“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” — Muhammad Ali

I recently turned 60 (yes… 60!) and it (of course) had me thinking about many things, like my own health, welfare and happiness. I feel comfortable and content in all of these things, however, I was thinking, “is there anything more”?

In 2000, when I was working with Rogers Video, we came upon a movie called “Pay it Forward” which I am sure many of my contemporaries will remember. The movie starred Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment (the Sixth Sense). The story is about a troubled young boy who is given a socials assignment: “think of something to change the world and put it into action”.  The boy comes up with the idea of paying a favour not back, but forward--repaying good deeds without a payback, but with good deeds done to three new people. The movie, though finishing in tragedy, had great messages (find it on Netflix et al and watch it again).

Random acts of kindness are often taken for granted by the receiver, and the giver often doesn’t realize they are doing it. I decided to reflect on the past week and see if I fell into the “pay it forward” category. Here is what I recalled;

Sunday: Came across a friend at a coffee shop, who recently lost a young cousin – gave her a hug – she knew what the hug was for

Monday: Filled out an online job reference for a past player I had coached – he asked, I completed it the same day

Tuesday: Forwarded a resume to a company contact for a young woman who told me she was looking for work and having a hard time finding employment – knowing the company CEO, she seemed like a good fit, so I helped her out – she wasn’t asking for it, but I thought I would help

Wednesday: Spoke with a university coach about one of our graduating player’s for next season – it was the right match for his academic and athletic aspirations

Friday: Afforded time and lengthy conversation with a newcomer to starting up a volleyball club – he asked, I helped

So, for the past week, unconsciously I completed 5 random things for people other than my family. I guess I paid it forward. Yes, these were acquaintances of mine, but I still expected nothing in return. Their thank-you and smiles were enough for me.


“If you stop for one second and do something, everyone is happy. You pay it forward and it comes back to you twelve-fold.” — Mariska Hargitay

Many acts that are paid forward are spontaneous (like holding a door open for anyone before yourself; very Canadian of us) but some are planned. Like my wife (Maryanne) who every year crochets numerous scarves and hats, giving them away to the less fortunate during the winter months. Like her mother before her (who would literally produce 100’s of jars of preserves for the church), she expected nothing in return. An angel handing down the skill of generosity to another angel.

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” — Maya Angelou


I feel it is my calling, to help those who need it in a way that I can make a difference for them. I focus on what I am good at and give it out whenever I can. I have been touched by so many parents and their children (initially) through volleyball, who at times ask for my help, and I love to reciprocate. It makes me feel good. Pay it forward. It will make you feel good too!



When We Push Too Hard


I think it is naïve for anyone to believe that helicopter parenting is somehow going to disappear in the years to come. I wish it were true, but it’s not. The fight to educate and change hovering behaviour is ongoing. I engage in this fight continually, not without positive results, but the war continues none the less.

I came upon a story in the LA Times from last year that I would like to share with my readers. It is a true story, a bit extreme, but it illustrates what can happen if you are not more careful.



“A cautionary tale of what can happen when a sports parent pushes too hard”
By Bill Plaschke – Mar 8, 2017 – Los Angeles Times 

The Purpose of Life


The Meaning of Life

I recently came across a great quote from Pablo Picasso, it reads 

“THE MEANING OF LIFE is to find your gift. THE PURPOSE OF LIFE is to give it away.”

I’ve been thinking about this quote, reflecting on my life and the life of others who have influenced me and their community. I want to share with you some thoughts.

One of my brothers over many decades became a very successful businessman. He, like I, worked retail at all levels for many years. His “gift” is his ability to inspire and influence others to be the best they can be. He is an accomplished consultant and public speaker, but one of his gifts is teaching. For many years he has been teaching a course at a local university college to young, aspiring business students and future entrepreneurs in various marketing streams. I can tell by how he lights up when asked about teaching these students. His “purpose” is sharing his gift of business knowledge to the young and motivated.

Rick Hansen, Canada’s Man in Motion has been inspiring people around the world for over 25 years. Through his own personal adversity, he found a way to influence change in the way people look at disabilities, making the world more accessible and inclusive. He is also an accomplished speaker, who now spends most of his time travelling the world, spreading the word of access and inclusion. But I think his “gift” is how approachable he is. No matter where he goes he always makes time to have a brief chat or discussion with people who he barely knows (and often poses for photo ops). His “purpose” is to show leadership in his field through kindness and thoughtfulness towards others. Rick shares his gift of wisdom every day of his life. 

I have recently completed the club volleyball season as the head coach of one of our teams and though it was exhausting at times, it was truly gratifying. I love coaching, but I feel that my “gift” is my ability to influence change. You see, we often see things that are (by consensus) wrong, but no one does anything about it. I choose to make a difference. Whether it is talking to parents about “curbing” their helicoptering or helping a young person with their life choices by listening, then presenting options, it’s making the effort that resonates, the “try” if you will, that’s important. I love being part of the village that raises the child and helping other villagers in their quest for parenting sanctuary. My “purpose” is to be an accessible, wise villager.

What is your gift? What is your purpose? Thanks Pablo.



Say Yes to Parents

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I am back for another season of coaching girls club volleyball with excitement and the usual trepidations. What will the team look like THIS year? How will they compete? Will they get along as a team? This is just the start of thoughts that go through any coach’s mind as they plan for their sport club season. But as we all know, coaching kids isn’t as simple as just being concerned about them. It’s their parents that come along for the ride that can add stress to the season. How involved are the parents going to be? Will they let me coach their child and not interfere? What if they’re not happy with how things are going? What about that inevitable confrontation that so many coaches dread? Helicopter Parents, Yikes!

The way I see it, there are three styles of coaching that one can adopt, whether it’s the coach or the entire organization. Let’s explore my take on the options.

My Way or the Highway. Let’s say you’ve had it up to “here” dealing with parental interference with your team. So you decide to go full on, “stay out of my business”. No parents allowed anywhere near my practices. Drop off and pick up only. No talking to the coach at games, not about anything. No communication with the coach on any subject surrounding the team, your child or even the organization. Complaints? Send them to the club director and they will deal with it. You might even go to the extreme and levy fines for disregarding any of these rules.
The Gain? You can coach the kids without any interference and get the most out of them, and them out of you. You can play the athletes you want to play, when, where and how you want. Your decision, no one else’s. The Loss? If you are okay with a revolving door of new kids and members maybe. Is this model really sustainable? Sure, you may keep the best kids, but even the best kid’s parents want their say at some level. I wonder how you would feel if your child was playing in a club like this? Just sayin’.

Even Steven. You want to make everybody happy. You let the parents have their say. You can make it all work. You give every kid equal opportunity. Better yet, equal playtime for everyone. You even keep track of time per player during games to prove your point. You are every parent’s friend, and everyone will be happy. The Gain? You’ve created a communal participation environment that caters to everyone’s needs. The Loss? The competitive environment can only be sustained for so long, because everyone gets to play. If that is the goal of the association and/or your goal then it may work. But eventually the competitive juices of the child and/or the parent (and eventually the helicopter parent) will come to the surface and trying to please everyone will be erode at the system.

Understanding the Village. Compromise to fit the community. Some communities are highly competitive, some are the opposite and some and a hybrid. You make a concerted effort to understand the culture of the village you are coaching in. What do the kids want out of the sport? Do they just want to have fun? Sure, they all do, but is fun also being competitive, and I dare say “winning?” What is the parent population expecting? Once you grasp the community persona, you attempt to meet and even exceed their expectations. You promote values on behalf of the association, back it up with a parental meeting, explaining those values and expectations from all concerned parties (including the kids). You follow through with what you say you will do and take on the accolades and concerns head on. You become proactive in your involvement with the parents. You promote a growth mindset and live it. “The kids are just learning. They make mistakes, heck, so do I.” The Gain? In a word, trust. The Loss? Not everyone in the village wants to win, they just want their kid to play all the time. Not everyone in the village wants to lose, they want the best kids to play more to win. Helicopter parents on both ends will rear their ugly heads.

My Experience

I’ve seen the first two models, some in the extremes, and they mostly fail. Regardless of the level of Helicopter Parenting that exists in North America, parents have the right to parent. But it is up to the association to determine the path on which to handle them. If the path is the one of “Even Steven” it is the safest but least productive, in terms of developing a quality, competitive program. If you want to run a “house” program, that’s fine. But it will be difficult to find a sustainable coaching model to support your program ongoing. Most coaches want to be part of a competitive culture. If your path is “My Way or the Highway” you will likely create a combative environment that’s also unsustainable, with high turnover and longterm degradation of membership loyalty.

The third option works best for me and it is what I believe in. Much like the way a coach designs their season based on the make-up of the team they have selected (or been selected for them), you manage the parent’s expectations the same way. Start by introducing the parents to the associations code of conduct, for parents. If you don’t have one, get one. It is paramount. If you don’t, there are no holds barred, and you will have anarchy. Follow up (ideally before your first practice) your dialogue with the parents in a friendly meeting environment at a parent’s house. Talk to the parents about the usual stuff (schedule, rides, food and how parents can help you), but add in your coaching philosophy. For example, say one of your coaching codes is to have the athlete address an issue with you, not have their parent talk to you about it first on their behalf. If the situation isn’t resolved, then they are encouraged to talk to you. Most player-coach issues can be averted in this way without involving the parent. It teaches the child initiative and autonomy (lessons in leaving the nest). So why discuss this at the parent meeting? Because if the parent is advised at the meeting what their role is, YOU can call them on it if they don’t follow the code.

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The most important piece of understanding the village is about follow through and consistency. Show the kids and the parents you are true to your values and they will support you. It’s just my opinion and it has and does work for me. Which one of these coaching approaches or a hybrid works for you?





Avoiding the Helicopter Wedding


I think the ultimate test of letting go of your helicopter parenting ways is when your daughter gets married. Yes, that happened to me in November of this year. My daughter Jillian married a great guy, Nick. Both my wife and I have truly been blessed. I am not a helicopter parent (damn it!), but tendencies and thoughts can persist, especially when you are at the end of watching your daughter symbolically leave the nest. I think “giving your daughter away” is a great lesson in patience and dealing with some inner emotional conflict.

In my day the traditional wedding was, the parents of the bride paid for the wedding, the groom’s parents paid for the open bar. The guest list was dominated by both sets of parent’s friends and family. There were always a few friends of the bride and groom besides the wedding party who attended but they were often few and far between. It was as much a celebration of the life the parent’s as it was the wedding of two young people.

Today things are completely reversed. This generation of young people want and get control. They want to make up the bulk of the guest list with their friends, with family (of their choice) and a few of their parent’s friends sprinkled in.

The question then becomes, who pays? Thus the paradox. In general terms, this generation feels the need to control planning and running the event, but hope (and sometimes expect) the parents to pay. It can become a monumental struggle for a helicopter parent. If the hover parent pays, they want total control of everything (and the daughter will not easily relinquish that control), yet they feel compelled to give their daughter what they want. It can become a stressful time for the parents. Even if you are not a helicopter parent, you will find yourself conflicted, going in and out of decision making for “their” event.

There are several key milestones of a wedding that can create discussion and/or turmoil between parents and the wedding couple, and they are;

The venue and the menu; the dress; the list and who pays.

Venue & Menu – This is the easiest one of all. Let the wedding couple figure this out. Let them do the research, the site tour, the tastings, all of it. This step is the one that will really get them feeling you are letting them make their own decisions. If you think they are making the wrong decision (over budget for example), don’t “tell them what to do”. Instead ask them questions that will help them come to a better conclusion and minimize mistakes (and even if they don’t, they will be the ones that have to live with it, not you). Helicopter parents will desperately want to go with them and force direction, don’t! If your kids ask you to be involved (and they will), go to the venue, taste the food, offer your opinion, but let them know it is their decision, not yours.

The Dress – Personally, I am SO not a part of this one. I leave that to the mom’s and daughters. Mom’s, you will want to be there for them, and your daughter’s will want you there. Be the calming force. She will find the dress, don’t worry. Let her enjoy the hunt. Share your experiences in a way that will help her make a happy decision.

The List – Now this is the tough one. The "list" is what is the most feared by the wedding couple and parents more than anything else. “How can we invite your uncle Bob and not invite your cousin Julie?” Today, your daughter and her future husband will want to put the list together and be firm with it. Your input will be minimal! If you are a helicopter parent, I can already see your propeller fluttering out of control, big time! It is the ultimate symbol of relinquishment. Chill. I say, let them make the list. But let them know that you are there to help them if they need it, and would like to see the list and review it with them once it is complete. They will often assume that who they left off the list will not be cool with you (uncle Bob and cousin Julie are both off the list). When in fact, the lists are much closer than you think (uncle Bob can’t make it anyways and cousin Julie isn’t as close to you as they thought). Sometimes, they will exclude someone who they haven’t realized how important they are to you or to the family. There is nothing wrong with explaining the situation. In fact, I say pick your spots, but be diplomatic. In the end, a few friends and family won’t be happy, but they will get over it (including you).

Who Pays? – This becomes an economic decision and/or a control vice. If they want or hope you will pay, they need to be clear about what you can afford. Being honest and truthful with them will help them make informed decisions on the wedding itself (and you will watch them grow up right before your eyes). If they want to pay themselves, ask them about their budget and wedding costs. See if they have thought it all through. Do they have all the expense estimates covered in all categories? Be supportive, cautiously inquisitive and positive. If they want to have a low key, low cost wedding, let them. It will still be a beautiful and memorable event.

What about everything else? - Everything else is secondary. Only secondary by way of, let them figure it out on their own. If they want your advice, they will ask you.

My Daughter’s Wedding

To put all of the above in context, here is a recap of what transpired leading up to and including the wedding from the dad’s perspective.

The dress, the venue and the food: I let my daughter handle it. She involved her mom, her sister, her mother-in-law to be and her bridesmaids in various parts of the project. Ultimately she was in control and I was okay with it. The list: They made the list, we made our own family/friend list (why not) and then compared. In the end it was okay, it worked for them and it worked for us.
Who paid? They did. Pretty much the whole thing. That’s what they wanted. They saved and stayed within their budget. When your children can demonstrate an ability to manage an event like this and keep their finances in check, what more do you want? Very proud of them.

The wedding: It was beautiful. Everyone (from all accounts) had a wonderful time and there really weren’t any issues at all. I only had 3 things that I was personally worried about. 1) Walking my daughter down the isle without visibly crying 2) Getting through the father/daughter dance without screwing it up, dancing to “Daughters” by John Mayer without completely breaking down emotionally on the dance floor. 3) The speech.

Well I made it through the dance and down the isle without a hitch. And as for the speech well, that was our little surprise. We didn’t do a speech at all, or at least not in the conventional sense. You see, I am fine with public speaking, but when it comes to family, I get very emotional and choked up. So instead, we did a video. If you can’t do something different, something creative, then you won’t generate stories. That’s what I love to do. Generate stories. Here's to you generating great stories about your family!

Happy holidays everyone!

All you need is love. Love is all you need.



Young Coaches: We Want YOU!


I think most people these days get into coaching children's sports out of necessity.
You are a parent. You want to have your kids participate in a sports activity and surprise, surprise, the association doesn’t have enough coaches. Voila! You are coaching your child. Most parents who have defaulted into coaching this way do the best they can under the circumstances. Some are former athletes in the sport. Others are not, but still played sports as a kid, and some just want to help. These recruited parents are then thrown into the pool of coaching education requirements, numerous skill and game clinics and the inevitable organizational paperwork. It is a tough gig, not to mention the rest of the team parents who are always keeping their eyes on you.

At the end of the day, it is a rewarding experience for most. They get to see their child develop with kids their own age, learn how to socialize, hone their competitive juices and see how they handle being coaches by mom or dad (not always the best experience, but an experience none the less). But why did it take so long for most parents to get involved with coaching? Why wait until you have children? Did you ever think about giving back to the community before parenthood? I think it should  start when you are young.

Newly graduated university students who playing varsity athletics, club or intramural sports have so much to give back with coaching and so many reasons to do so. Let me explain:

Life Educating: When you coach, you learn how to manage people, communicate effectively, problem solve, organize your life, project manage, service customers, sell, run meetings, parent children and more. These skills will help you with your personal relationships, career development and future parenting skills. Not to mention the strengthening of your resume and an interview conversation starter (“I see you coach basketball. I used to play in high school”).

Community Connections: When I am speaking with new coaches (recruits if you will) for our club, I always tell them the same thing: When you coach a team, you are going to meet 12 or more sets of parents who will look after you in ways you can't imagine. Many a young coach has found their way to a career with the connections they have made with the 24+ parents of the team they coach. Parents recognize how well you are mentoring their child and will want to help you in your life as well. You are building a network that will have a long lasting impact for you!

Mentoring: I am sure that as a young person growing up you had your adolescent challenges. Maybe you were socially awkward, maybe you were bullied or were a bully yourself. Were you were a follower or a leader? What if you could help kids who are going through the same things you went through as a child and could relate to them in a way that made them feel better. Wouldn’t that be great?

I would like to share with you a recent story. Last year in our volleyball club, we brought in a bright, new, young coach. She had a successful playing resume a mile long, and while she had coached many times before, this was her first real foray into complete control of an older youth club team. Everyone was a bit skeptical at first (both athletes and parents) but she soon won them over at every level. In speaking with some of the athletes post-season, the most telling story was how the players felt about the coach, as a mentor. What impacted them the most was how she was genuinely interested in their lives, not just in the sport, but their life outside of volleyball. “She really cares about us” is what we heard over and over again. What I found interesting was that others who had coached these girls in the past also showed interest in their lives and cared deeply about them as well, but when it comes from a young adult who is only 10 odd years older, it often has more meaning than coming from someone who is an older coach or parent coach.


So take note all of you young, new potential coaches out there: You have the opportunity and (dare I say) "responsibility" to be a part of the village that raises the child and influence their lives in a positive way. It’s what we do. Be a coach!



The Elite Athlete's Sport Parent


You know who I'm talking about. They are bold, brash, cocky and incredibly sure of themselves. Their kid is going to "make it", so everyone else stand clear. But, instead of me getting on my soapbox, I would rather you read this article written by Asia Mape on a website call This is the kind of site that every sport parent should follow to keep them in check. Best to read this right away!



Are You An Elite Sports Parent?
by Asia Mape | March 20, 2017

I know you’ve seen that Mom or Dad on the sideline dressed head to toe in performance gear, tweaking out every time their child misses a shot. Well, guess what? Most truly successful athletes have parents who share certain winning habits with them. And it is not being an overbearing sideline nuisance.

In the spirit of helping all mankind, we offer this simple guide on how to become an Elite Sports Parent. By following these commonsense principles you can help your child succeed in the game by succeeding in life.

  1. Appearance matters. Let’s face it we are all judging books by their covers. Be fit, not sloppy.  Avoid the common temptation to dress like a super fan. You will simply look like a larger member of your child’s team and that is stupid.
  2. Oh, and by the way, you are not eligible to play. Rid yourself of the the idea that at any moment the coach may turn around and tap you to come into the game late to seal the win by making a big stop. The league has rules against someone your age competing. Make peace with this and move on. Quickly.
  3. Also, you are not the coach. So, do not coach. This is true before, during or immediately after tryouts, practices or games. It makes everyone uncomfortable. EVERYONE. Including the coach. It is especially hard on YOUR CHILD.
  4. Be friendly with ALL parents, even those from the other team, but not used car salesperson friendly; that just makes everyone doubt your intentions.
  5. Fifteen minutes early for tryouts, practices, and games is considered by most coaches ‘on time.’ Pulling up exactly on the hour with a child spilling out of the minivan pulling on cleats is not a testament to your Jason Bourne–like logistical skills. It is being late.
  6. Coaches are busy people. Do not text, email, or question the coach unless the answer you are seeking helps all parents on the team solve a real issue.
  7. Be positive about the team and praise the other players (not your own).
  8. A team practice is not a spectator sport. Drop your kid off … Make yourself useful … Come back 15 minutes before the end of practice.
    Carpools are good. They reduce pollution, save time and money for everyone involved, and give kids time to socialize.
  9. Do not OVER spend, OVER train, or OVER prepare. These are all red flags that you are OVER compensating.
  10. After every tryout, every practice, and every match tell your child one thing and one thing only: I Love to Watch You Play.
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Most of us, especially myself, are not there yet. While slogging along on the journey it is nice to know that the practical application of love and common sense derived from most of these suggestions can help catapult you to Elite Parent Status!

Summer Camp Life is Real Life

As the summer seems to quickly come to an end, I think about when I was a kid growing up in Winnipeg and the life of a summer camper. I grew up in a summer camp culture. Whether it was Camp Stevens, BB Camp, Peace Gardens Camp, Camp Masad or numerous other day and overnight camps, kids went away to camp somewhere during the summer. Part of the fun was coming home and getting together with other kids from the neighborhood to talk about their summer experience. Summer camps taught us so much about life including independence, resilience, problem solving, social skills, and the list goes on and on. Most importantly, we did not have (or need) our parents to depend upon. We had to fend for ourselves (with a little help from our counsellors or coaches).

I wonder if in today’s 1st world families whether parents (okay, those heli-parents) understand the importance of letting their kids have a home-away-from-home experience. For every child that has been given the opportunity of being away from the clutches of their parents for an extended period of time (more than 7 days) a future adult star is born. Proof is often in the pudding when the young adult is sent off to university, loaded some basic camp-acquired life skills to practice on their money and time management, organizing, cleaning and cooking (yes, cooking) abilities. I feel sorry for the child who has had everything done for them leading up to college then has to learn life skills on the fly, while having to deal with a shorter school year (by 2 months) and the ensuing academic pressures. It becomes even more important when the young college student commutes from home to the local university. If they haven’t been on their own before and they finally move out, things get even more complicated. I am not saying they can’t learn life skills at home (this is where many base skills are acquired), but given the chance to practice these and new learnings prior to being released into the real world is a distinct advantage.

My sister-in-law has been a director of an outdoor camp for many years, and knows all too well the benefits of the camp life. She recently shared an article with me that I would like to share with you.



Overnight summer camps are better for your kids than SAT prep classes

Away from the city, technology and academic pressures, kids can grow in creativity, independence and other qualities of successful people.

By LAURA CLYDESDALE The Washington Post

Thur., May 19 2016

“Do you even like your children?” the woman I had just met asked me.

The audacity of the question took my breath away. I had been chatting with her, explaining that my kids go to sleep-away camp for two months every year.

I quickly realized two things at once: she was obnoxious, and she actually didn’t care if I missed my kids during the summer. She was talking about something else.

I didn’t have to tell her the reason I “send them away” for most of the summer is because I like them. They adore camp, and it’s actually harder on me than it is on them. I often tell people that the first year they were both gone, it felt like I had lost an arm. I wandered around the house from room to room experiencing phantom limb pain.

Now, instead of being offended, I got excited.

I was going to be able to tell her something that my husband and I rarely get to explain: we do it because we truly think it will help our kids be successful in life. With underemployment and a stagnating labour market looming in their future, an all-around, sleep-away summer camp is one of the best competitive advantages we can give our children.


Surely, college admissions officers aren’t going to be impressed with killer friendship bracelets or knowing all the words to the never-ending camp song “Charlie on the M.T.A.” Who cares if they can pitch a tent or build a fire?

Indeed, every summer, my kids “miss out” on the specialized, résumé-building summers that their peers have. Their friends go to one-sport summer camps and take summer school to skip ahead in math. Older peers go to SAT/ACT prep classes. One kid worked in his dad’s business as an intern, while another enrolled in a summer program that helped him write all his college essays.

Many (this woman included) would say that I’m doing my children a serious disservice by choosing a quaint and out-of-date ideal instead. There are online “Ivy League Coaches” that might say we are making a terrible mistake.

We don’t think this is a mistake at all. It might not be something to put on the college application (unless my child eventually becomes a counsellor), but that isn’t the goal for us.

Our goal is bigger.

We are consciously opting out of the things-to-put-on-the-college-application arms race and instead betting on three huge benefits of summer camp, which we believe will give them a true competitive advantage in life:

1. Building creativity.

2. Developing broadly as a human being.

3. Not-living-in-my-basement-as-an-adult independence.

MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson says in his book The Second Machine Age that we have reached a pivotal moment where technology is replacing skills and people at an accelerated pace. He argues that creativity and innovation are becoming competitive advantages in the race against artificial intelligence, because creativity is something a machine has a hard time replicating.

The problem is that creativity seems so intangible.

Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” He believed that people invent when they connect the dots between the experiences they’ve had. To do this, he argued, we need to have more experiences and spend more time thinking about those experiences.

Indeed. According to Adam Grant’s book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, researchers at Michigan State University found that to receive the Nobel Prize, you need deep study in your field and those broad experiences Jobs was talking about. They studied the winning scientists from 1901 through 2005 and compared them with typical scientists living at the same time. Grant writes that the Nobel Prize winners were:

  • Two times more likely to play an instrument, compose or conduct.
  • Seven times more likely to draw, paint or sculpt.
  • Seven-and-a-half times more likely to do woodwork or be a mechanic, electrician or glass-blower.
  • Twelve times more likely to write poetry, plays, novels or short stories.
  • And 22 times more likely to be an amateur actor, dancer or magician.

You read that right. Magician.

It’s not just that this kind of original thinker actively seeks out creative pursuits. These original experiences provide a new way of looking at the world, which helped the prizewinners think differently in their day jobs.

The beauty of summer camp is that not only do kids get to do all sorts of crazy new things, they also get to do it in nature, which lends its own creative boost.

Most importantly, my kids have such intensely packed schedules full of sports, music, art classes, community service and technological stimulation throughout the school year that it makes finding these all-important quiet mental spaces more difficult.

Summers provide a much-needed opportunity for my children to unplug, achieve focus and develop those creative thought processes and connections.

OK, OK. Creativity might be a compelling tool to beat out that neighbour girl applying to the same college, but what about this “developing broadly as a human being” stuff?

I didn’t come up with that phrase. Harvard did.

William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard, has penned a compelling letter to parents. It practically begs and pleads with them to re-evaluate the summer extracurriculars race and to “bring summer back,” with an “old-fashioned summer job” perhaps, or simply time to “gather strength for the school year ahead.”

Fitzsimmons writes, “What can be negative is when people lose sight of the fact that it’s important to develop broadly as a human being, as opposed to being an achievement machine. In the end, people will do much better reflecting, perhaps through some down time, in the summer.”

In terms of “developing broadly as a human being,” summer camp can provide an impressive list of life skills.

Studies over the past decade have shown outdoor programs stimulate the development of interpersonal competencies, enhance leadership skills and have positive effects on adolescents’ sense of empowerment, self-control, independence, self-understanding, assertiveness, decision-making skills, self-esteem, leadership, academics, personality and interpersonal relations.

Now for the cherry on top: independence.

Michael Thompson, the author of Homesick and Happy, has written, “ ... there are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micromanage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.”

So, yes, Ms. Tiger Mom, I am letting my children walk out the door and make useless lanyards for two months.

They might not have anything “constructive” to place on their college application, but they will reflect, unwind, think and laugh. They will explore, perform skits they wrote themselves and make those endless friendship bracelets to tie onto the wrists of lifelong friends.

The result will be that when they come back through our door, we’re pretty sure that, in addition to having gobs of creativity and independence, they’ll be more comfortable with who they are as people.

And just maybe they’ll even bring back a few magic tricks.

Laura Clydesdale lives in Berkeley, Calif., with her husband and children. She blogs at Follow her on Twitter @l_clydesdale.




Winning and Losing: A Parent Coach's Perspective

I often come upon articles that express the challenges of parent coaches, challenges mostly from over zealous, helicopter types. This one particularly struck a nerve. It is a story written by a mother soccer coach. Lots of lessons here. Mostly, just let the coach, COACH!



A coach's plea to parents

By Alison Belbin
Contributed to the Globe and Mail, March 28, 2017

I am here, on time.

My mortgage is two-weeks late; my oldest child is suffering through a medication change and trouble at school; my youngest child begged me not to leave, and my husband and I haven't looked each other in the eye for days. I spent much of the day holding my aging dog as she recovered from a seizure.

But none of this matters now. I am here. I compose myself and prepare for the next 90 minutes on the field with your child. And mine; she has already leapt from the car and disappeared into the growing crowd of girls.

Sometimes you wave as you drive away, and sometimes you don't. It usually depends if we won the previous weekend and if you felt your child had been given an appropriate amount of play time.

Your daughter is funny and kind and thoughtful. And tonight your daughter had a great practice. She struggled with a new skill and shook off a solid smack to her ear from a ball. And, we laughed. She also told me something that has been bothering her, asking shyly that I not tell anyone.

I explained why she was subbed off last game. She nodded in agreement and asked how to get better. We hugged, she thanked me, and we moved on.

She likes a boy, she hates her thighs. Her best friend ignored her today and she still has difficult homework to get through after practice. She got her period in art class. And yet she's here with me in the freezing rain, our cleats rotting and our noses dripping. She is here because her team provides a safe shield from the outside world.

We sweat together, we celebrate together and we all feel the same sting of defeat when the bounce of the ball is not in our favour. We step on the field with the best intentions. We try.

I always leave the field a better person than when I arrived.

In the time it takes me to drive home, dry off and microwave my dinner, you have hastily typed an e-mail. My youngest has fallen asleep on the couch and my husband is cleaning the kitchen while I sit at the table alone, reading how you feel I've let your child down.

You believe last weekend's loss was due to my poor decisions. Your daughter would have scored the winning goal if I only had subbed her in earlier or let her play a different position. You believe they aren't playing like a team should. You watched a Premier League game and they seem so much more in tune with each other.

It's a shame, I think, that you missed the girls hugging and cheering each other on tonight while you were at the coffee shop around the corner.

If we win, I'll read that it's because the more talented girls got too much playing time; that I'm too competitive; that I'm pushing them too hard; that I've managed to crush the souls of the players on the bench. If we lose, it's because I played the developing players too much; I am ruining the stronger players' chance at future glory; I'm not pushing them hard enough. What do we even do during practice anyway?

I know what you've told her about me and I know what you've said about her teammates. And yet, your daughter and I both keep showing up. We keep trying.

I may not do it the way you would. I may not speak to your daughter the way you would, but she needs more than one voice in her head.

I am not a professional. I am a parent who loves the game and has the desire to pass that on. I accepted the role I was offered; not for a paycheque, not for status, certainly not for praise. I accepted this role because I have been where your daughter is now. I see myself in her missteps and in her triumphs. I have felt them all and I feel them all over again through her. I, too, have been bruised by a ball, pulled muscles in tough tackles and played with a broken heart. I also had coaches who believed in me, just as I believe in your daughter.

Knowing I had someone in my corner who challenged me and called out my excuses was the greatest reward of my years in sport. I vaguely remember the final scores of even the most important games, but I sure remember how I felt. Winning doesn't promise pride, just as losing doesn't guarantee disappointment.

One of my parents' great gifts to me was their unwavering support of my coaches. They never wrote a letter, made a complaint phone call or disrespected a coach – even when my eyes stung and I desperately needed it to be someone else's fault. It was my team, my game, my experience to have.

I learned early on that my coach was neither my parent nor my friend. I admired them and sought their praise. I hated them sometimes, too. If I thought I deserved a higher standing on that team, it was up to me to earn it. My parents sure weren't going to earn it for me.

Criticizing your child's coach might simply be a reflection of your insecurities or long-held regrets as a former player. That's okay. We all have them. As adults we can understand this, but as a child, your daughter does not. She is being pulled in opposing directions between her team and her parent's opinion of her team.

On her team, she is finding her identity and her place among her peers. It is here she will decide if that place makes her feel whole and satisfied, or if it makes her edgy and hungry for more.

Let her discover this, on her own.

Let her play.

Alison Belbin lives in Nanaimo, B.C.

When Helicopter Parents Hover, all the way to the Workplace

Lonzo Ball celebrates with his father LaVar Ball after being introduced as the number two overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Lonzo Ball celebrates with his father LaVar Ball after being introduced as the number two overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.
(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Below is an interesting article written by Noam Scheiber of the New York Times News Service. The article goes beyond the extreme Lonzo Ball helicopter phenomena by delving into what some companies will do to face excessive parental hovering head on. I would suggest, while this may work for some companies to take on this strategy, it doesn't do anything for the future development of the young adult who needs to learn how to get on with their lives, on their own. Enjoy.

When the cameras started rolling Thursday night at Barclays Center, scene of the National Basketball Association draft, one of the biggest stories wasn’t a player, but a parent: LaVar Ball, father of UCLA phenom Lonzo Ball, who was projected to be among the top five picks.

As his son rocketed to fame, the elder Ball always seemed one step ahead, declaring that Lonzo would play for the Los Angeles Lakers; lecturing Charles Barkley on the psychology of a champion; comparing his own game to Michael Jordan’s and judging it superior. He is taking a central role in dealings with apparel companies and even teams over his son’s financial future.

But while pundits derided LaVar Ball as the state of the art in obsessive sports dads — an Earl Woods or Stefano Capriati for the social media age — he may actually epitomize a model that extends far beyond the arena: the helicopter parent of the workplace.

As millennials grow into their working years, with many of them coming of age in the daunting job market that followed the Great Recession, parents are more likely to feel a proprietary stake in their children’s careers, said Ryan Webb, a recruiter and former human resources director at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. The hovering is abetted by a full complement of real-time communications options — from texting to Skype and social media — and fueled by the desire to see a return on investment for sending children to college in an age of escalating tuition.

“Mom and Dad footed the college bill, made sacrifices to get that extra thing on their résumé, so they felt part of the process,” said Webb, who said that texting one’s parents was frequently the first reflex for the millennials in his charge after a run-in with a manager.

Brandi Britton, a recruiter with OfficeTeam, a division of the firm Robert Half, said she never saw or heard from parents when she entered the business nearly two decades ago but has increasingly felt their influence. She recalled a father calling her in the past two years in an attempt to get his son an accounting job. The father sent in his son’s résumé, scheduled the interview and, to her surprise, turned up with him in person.

“He was shepherding that thing,” she said.

When OfficeTeam solicited employers’ helicopter-parenting stories in a 2016 survey, they found this was not unheard-of. One told of a job candidate who piped his mother into an interview via Skype, while another recalled a mother asking if she could sit for an interview in place of her child, who had a scheduling conflict. A third mother interrupted in the middle of an interview to ask if she could observe.

While such parents, like LaVar Ball, may be outliers, and most millennials are perfectly capable of negotiating their own way in the workplace,some organizations genuinely appear to be struggling with a scourge of parental meddling. In her book “How to Raise an Adult,” former Stanford freshman dean Julie Lythcott-Haims reports that officials at Teach for America have been mystified in recent years by the volume of parents who intervene on behalf of their adult children, whom the group employs as teachers.

A Teach for America administrator told Lythcott-Haims that parents had called him with complaints about such issues as their child’s being disciplined by a principal or having a run-in with a fellow teacher, as though the adult child were still a student. (Teach for America did not respond to a request for comment.)

Andrea Colabella, a recruiter for companies like hedge funds and private equity firms, said that one of the crucial questions her firm asked candidates before they ever received an offer was, “Who do you need to talk to before you make a decision?” They do so to avoid any last-minute blowups when an offer does come.

“For millennials, at least those who have graduated in the past five years, 80 percent of the time it’s parents, versus friends or a mentor,” she said.

The data would appear to back her up. In a 2015 study by Robert Half that surveyed university students born between 1990 and 1999, more than 80 percent said their parents or guardians would influence their career choices after graduation. (Millennials are generally defined as the generation born between the early 1980s and late 1990s to early 2000s.)

The phenomenon began emerging as millennials hit the job market more than a decade ago. In 2007, the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University published a survey of 725 employers that found that nearly a quarter had encountered parental involvement in the hiring process and the early stages of workers’ careers.

Within that group of employers, more than 30 percent reported parents submitting a résumé for their children; 15 percent reported fielding complaints from a parent when the company didn’t hire their child; and nearly 10 percent said parents had insinuated themselves into salary and benefit negotiations.

In recent years, many companies have begun embracing the relationship between parents and their adult children rather than chafing at it, perhaps even co-opting it for their benefit, which some experts believe has largely defused the worst parental tendencies.

This November, LinkedIn will hold its fifth annual Bring In Your Parents Day, an event the company said has spread to scores of companies globally. Blair Decembrele, a LinkedIn official who oversees the event, said part of the rationale was the realization the workers relied heavily on their parents for career advice.

“My dad came to a few — he’s been really excited about what I do,” she said. “He knows my team, colleagues, boss. We can have much more in-depth conversation about professional career development with him having insight into that.”

Or consider Cornerstone OnDemand, a company based in Santa Monica, California, that develops software that employers use for recruiting, training and managing workers. Cornerstone started its “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” around the same time as LinkedIn, according to Kimberly Cassady, its vice president for talent, partly because employees were already toting their parents to the office.

“It was not uncommon to meet a parent in the elevator, walking around the office,” she said. “They would rave about the place but still have this question — ‘I still don’t know what he/she does.’”

Alexandra Geller, the company’s investor relations manager and a millennial herself, said the event allowed her mother, who flew in from Connecticut, to put faces to recurring characters in their conversations.

“She was able to meet people she hadn’t met in the past, who we talk about on a regular basis,” Geller said.

Perhaps inadvertently, the event has also highlighted some generational differences. According to Cassady, the millennial workers — who make up about half of those who attend — tend to hang out with their parents for parts of the day. The older workers, by contrast, tend to “come in at 10 a.m. and go do their work.”

Of course, professional sports may be the one corner of the workforce where parental involvement was very much the norm long before the millennials turned up, if for no other reason than that it involves adult children playing a kids’ game for a living. One can only assume that NBA parents have been harassing coaches for years, even if they only recently started getting caught doing so by fans with ready access to social media.

Still, there does appear to be something uniquely millennial-parent about LaVar Ball, who in addition to hatching Big Baller Brand, the family apparel line, has created a sports talent agency, Ball Sports Group, whose sole purpose will be to represent Lonzo and his two brothers, high school standouts who are expected to follow their brother to UCLA.

Perhaps most tellingly in this regard, Ball reportedly demanded that any apparel company intent on signing Lonzo license the Big Baller Brand, telling USA Today that a deal including all three sons would have to yield them $1 billion. (The apparel heavyweights all told him no, thanks, according to ESPN.)

While other prominent sports parents have exerted influence over their adult children’s business decisions,“I can’t think of anybody who turned their back on the marketing might and power of a Nike, an Adidas, or any of those companies, and said, ‘Nope, I’m going to do it myself,’” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising. “It’s definitely unprecedented.”

As word of Ball’s parenting style has spread — he has reportedly been training his brood for the NBA since the time they could walk — some have compared him to Marv Marinovich, who groomed his son Todd to be a professional quarterback with a fanatical regimen that began in utero.

Todd Marinovich, a heralded college player, managed a mere eight games in the National Football League in the early 1990s and has struggled with drug addiction much of his life. But while his highly programmed upbringing led to his being labeled “Robo QB,” he says his father, in stark contrast to Ball, had no involvement in his negotiations with teams or marketing officials.

“One thing about Marv, he knew his limitations,” Todd Marinovich said in an interview. “In terms of representation, he knew he was out of his element.”

He added, “He comes from an older generation.”

Signs: On the Lighter Side

I have always had a bit of a fascination for signs. Road signs, store signs, professional or handmade, you name it. It's one of the ways people communicate. There are some many signs out there that try to convey the message about helicoptering. Take the baseball diamond sign from Pleasanton, California.

Signs often work, but sometimes the sign makers don't use words, get the grammar wrong, or it's just their community's way of communicating. So just for a change of pace, I would like to share with you the numerous signs we encountered on our recent trip to the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. They have some unique ways (unique compared to our North American culture) that will make you laugh and ask yourself "what are they saying?" Enjoy!

Astoria, Oregon, USA

Astoria, Oregon, USA



Vanuatu - check out the two signs below the main sign. one is in "english" the other is in broken "english". Priceless.

Vanuatu - check out the two signs below the main sign. one is in "english" the other is in broken "english". Priceless.

Australia's version of Burger King

Australia's version of Burger King

In Melbourne, Australia, MacDonald's is called Macca's. It is the only place in the world (that I know of) where MacDonald's adopted the local's slang name for their restaurant.

In Melbourne, Australia, MacDonald's is called Macca's. It is the only place in the world (that I know of) where MacDonald's adopted the local's slang name for their restaurant.

Who knew they called waldo "wally" in australia and new zealand?

Who knew they called waldo "wally" in australia and new zealand?

In Auckland the buses lower their hydraulics to the road level for patrons.

In Auckland the buses lower their hydraulics to the road level for patrons.

Taken at Hobbiton in new zealand. some cultures it is okay, but not here.

Taken at Hobbiton in new zealand. some cultures it is okay, but not here.

Only in new zealand!

Only in new zealand!

New zealand

New zealand



The Downside of Year-round Hockey

In my last blog, I spoke about the recent challenges with injuries in youth sport. A few months ago an interesting article was posted on the National Post, written by Wayne Scanlan. The article discusses the declining athleticism among youth from the Ottawa Senators strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz.  

Some great points in this article. Enjoy!

The Downside of Year-round Hockey: Ottawa Senators Strength Coach Warns of Declining Athleticism Among Youth

Chris Schwarz has a dream job.

As the strength and conditioning coach of the Ottawa Senators, Schwarz helps keep world-class athletes such as Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone finely tuned.

Schwarz isn’t referring to those star players, nor is he citing recent flu virus issues in the NHL when he says: “I can’t tell you how we’re in trouble. It’s an epidemic.”

Schwarz is talking about the lack of athleticism among our youth, even including some elite hockey players who didn’t play other sports or freelance in the playgrounds as children. He offers this simple test for parents: “Ask your kid if he or she can somersault. See if they can play catch with both hands. Can they run backwards? Do those three things. I think most parents would be astonished that their kids can’t do it.”

"How can play happen with no physical education and no balls in the schoolyards anymore?"

"How can play happen with no physical education and no balls in the schoolyards anymore?"

Those same parents approach Schwarz at his Fitquest private strength training centre and ask him to “make my son skate fast.” Unfortunately, it’s a losing proposition if the child hasn’t first learned to run and play; to kick and throw a ball.

Surprisingly, in this era of the professional who trains year round, some very good hockey players have come through the system, only to hit a wall at a certain point because their hockey aspirations lacked a foundation.

“We do assessments on players in the summertime,” says Schwarz, a former professional volleyball player in Europe. “I can tell if they have the ability to be a really good player by the way they see other games.

“I get kids here, and they missed this stage, because they’re not catching, running, throwing. They don’t process it. They can’t be creative. … you flick a puck over their heads, they can’t react, because they never caught a football that way.”

According to professional trainers such as Schwarz, an ideal developmental model for an athlete has him or her learning fundamental movement skills — crawling and rudimentary gymnastic exercises — up to the age of six. Sporting fundamentals, including running and jumping, are introduced from ages 9-12. From 10-14, children “train to train” and learn the basics of a specific sport. Training to compete is ideal for boys 14-18 and for girls 13-17. The performance focus is the final stage, in the late teens.

World renowned sport scientist Dr. Istvan Balyi developed this Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model (for late specialization sports) now used by most sport federations in Canada and it’s the foundation for British Columbia’s sport system.

Conditioning coach Chris Schwarz works with Ottawa Senator forward Kyle Turris at the CTC on March 14, 2017.

Conditioning coach Chris Schwarz works with Ottawa Senator forward Kyle Turris at the CTC on March 14, 2017.

If basic athletic movements aren’t experienced at a young age, the most well-intentioned athlete, even if she or he is physically mature, presents a potentially compelling shell but with no foundation.

“Movement skills, 60 to 70 per cent of that should be accomplished when they’re young,” Schwarz says. “Into mid-school, it’s less about that and more about power and strength. What we’re doing now, kids are coming to me at the NHL level, and they don’t have the movement skills. There’s no basis.”

In recent years, Schwarz says he has become equal parts strength coach and phys-ed teacher, introducing games and movements to players who missed out on that development. In some cases, it’s too late. Athletes need the cognitive ability to interpret and process information, as well as motor control. Thought, interpretation and movement work as a unit.

“If you lack one of those, you’re done,” Schwarz says.

“We’re trying to Frankenstein things,” says Schwarz. “We’re trying to take one aspect of sport and put it all together. But it has to happen in those early years, when play happens. And how can play happen with no physical education and no balls in the schoolyards anymore?”

Long before concerns about athlete burnout, before LTAD and “physical literacy,” there was play. Simple, unadulterated play. We ran in parks, played road hockey endlessly and invented games such as “burby” baseball, outlining a batter’s box on a brick wall. We wrestled at recess, sometimes attracting a crowd if it was a real good tilt.

Who knew we were inadvertently building our physical literacy (a term borrowed from the academic realm) and creating a foundation for athleticism and recreation for life?

Children don’t play much anymore. Parents are either too concerned about the safety and security of their kids running free, or they can’t tear them away from screens (phones, television and video games all vying for attention). Play at recess has all but been outlawed for fear of injury.

Recreation is something that gets scheduled, like a dentist appointment. And if a child is good at a game such as hockey or soccer, parents are often drawn into year-round programs that exclude other sports.

In recent years, specialization in sport, especially for preteens, has come under fire by educators and most sporting bodies.

These issues have led to a slow but steady crawl into something of a sport and health-care crisis.

You know some of this story: That children are chronically inactive, leading to soaring obesity rates (according to the Canadian Medical Association, 27 per cent of youth between the ages of two and 17 are overweight or obese). Playground play is just one endangered species in this tale. At school, phys-ed class is something to be skipped — not just because it’s the Friday afternoon of a long weekend, but skipped by most students altogether after Grade 9, the last year it is mandatory in the province of Ontario.

It infuriates Schwarz that children are kept from doing what comes naturally, being physically active.

“My son can’t bring a ball to school,” he says. “Some kid in Toronto got hit in head with a rubber ball and they’ve banned all balls in the schoolyard.”

Balls aren’t the only schoolyard targets. A few years ago, a school on Long Island banned cartwheels and games of tag. One can’t be too careful.

Schwarz, the father of a boy and girl, ages 9 and 12, keeps a trampoline in his backyard so his kids can develop co-ordination through jumping. On weekends, he rounds up neighbourhood kids and takes them to a playground with a bag of balls.

“Play is free,” Schwarz says. “Throwing a ball at the garage door is free (though not always popular with mom and dad). So is bouncing a ball off the roof, or playing catch.”

Numerous studies have shown that playing just one sport dramatically raises the risk of injury. Schwarz knows this first-hand.

Hockey players who didn’t learn to evade danger on the playground or football field lack sporting instincts when a player is skating at them.

“They don’t know enough to step to one side — kids run right into each other,” Schwarz says. “Then when they fall, they haven’t fallen before in wrestling or gymnastics … they bang their heads on the ice.”

The Increase in Youth Sport Injuries: Is it a Problem?

In recent years, there has been ongoing talk amongst coaches and administrators in youth sport about the apparent increase in injuries being sustained by young athletes between the ages of 14 and 18. Bone breaks, muscle strains, ligaments tears, concussions and non-sport related illnesses (ie. mono and flus), you name it, there seems to be more of it happening all the time.

So why is this happening? Is this a specialization problem, a multi-sport problem or something else? I would like to open some discussion on this topic with my blog audience and challenge you to think and respond.

Is it specialization? In my book, The Hovering Game, I speak about “The Theory of Extra Everything”, talking about the pros and cons of specializing in only one sport. Starting too early in age could be the problem. Is it really necessary to have a child in a sport academy at age 13 or younger? Now I’m not talking about gymnastics or other early adoption sports that persist with a younger maturing age competitors. I’m talking about traditional team sports where athletes mature physically much later in their teenage years on the road to adulthood. How young should they be to warrant practicing 4 times a week for almost the entire calendar year and in just one sport? Many elite sport programs do a good job balancing traditional practices and competititons with pre-hab/physical training, warm-up/cooldown routines, sport psychology and nutritional guidance, following the LTAD model (long term athlete development) developed by Sport Canada. But when you start before grade 9 or 13 years of age, you may be setting your child up for future health issues. And even with the best intentions for the older kids, the potential for over training between their high school, club, provincial team and private coaching is daunting. The intent by all of the aforementioned is to share with each coach the athlete’s training schedule to avoid overtraining, but it is often not practiced in the real world. So, is specialization the problem, what do you think?    

IMG_0883 copy.JPG

Is it multi-sport participation? When we hear some of the great athletes speak about their past, like Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, they talk about when they were kids, how they used to play a multitude of sports throughout the year. So were they on the right track? Maybe they were, but maybe the risk is in the misunderstanding of what they meant by multi-sport participation. In those days, yes most kids practiced the art of multi-sport, however, rarely did one sport cross over into the other. Football or soccer was in the fall, hockey in the winter and baseball was in the spring. Summer was usually a break from sports with family vacations. Nowadays, multi-sport means cross over sport participation, like running from a basketball game to a soccer practice or having to play in an icebreaker baseball tourney the same weekend as the provincial volleyball championships. In this all too common practice, the athlete has no chance to rest, hydrate or refuel (and if they do it is on the run). They often step right into the next activity with little or no warm-up. Could this be why we seem to have more injuries? Our volleyball club endorses and supports multi-sport participation to encourage (non-volleyball) muscle stimulation, enhancement of competitive senses and simply a break or change of pace for the body and mind. But the constant competition to lengthen the season by all sports may be creating an environment that increases the odds of injury. What do you think?

DSCN5533 copy.jpg

Is it something else? Maybe it is the extreme from the hours of sedentary behaviours like internet, gaming, TV and smartphone activities to hard core sport training for athletes. There is no in between, no walking (kids are driven everywhere) and no ease of transition. It’s all or nothing. Maybe it is their dietary choices. Everyone “speaks” eating healthy, but are they? Take a look at what kids are eating at their competitions. Sure, they bring vegetables and fruits, but see how many processed foods and sugar based snacks are in their lunches as well. How many kids eat a regular healthy breakfast in the morning (if any breakfast at all)? Do they drink enough water? Try checking matching their sudden cranky behaviour with the last time they nourished their body with protein or liquids. Maybe it’s under the under reporting of injuries? When you ask your child if they are hurt from a recent fall in their sport, do they pretend they are okay when really they aren’t? How do you or the coaches assess the injury? Does the coaching staff follow concussion protocols or just assume they are okay because the athlete or parent said so? Regardless of the injury, coaches and parents need to have a heightened awareness of the child’s immediate post injury behaviours to ensure they aren’t hurt more then they lead us to believe. Better safe than sorry in most cases is the best approach. Maybe it’s helicopter parenting? Are the parents pushing their kids beyond what their bodies can endure? What if it is all just a media hype? Maybe we are such an overreacting, instant communication society (social media) that we think there is an increasing problem, when in fact it is the same as it was in the old days? What do you think?

My thoughts. In my opinion, I think it is a combination of all of the above. It is partially over specializing, partially a misunderstanding of how to benefit from multi-sport activities and the millennial culture of activity extremes, nutritional health practices, lack of injury diagnosis comprehension, injury exaggerations and helicoptering parenting. However, in all cases, each situation has a uniqueness to the athlete’s situation. It could be any of the above or more. I am sure there have been many studies written on these subjects that support or attack my thoughts, but I would welcome any feedback.

Final note. Let’s bring back fun into sport shall we? Participating in sport is supposed to be fun, and it is! Thanks for listening.






Growth Mindset

I am back! After a long, well deserved vacation to the South Pacific, our son's wedding and the heat of club volleyball season, I am back. Blogging again, rejuvenated and invigorated. During our 7 weeks on the cruise ship I was able to catch up on the readings of many books. One in particular sparked my enthusiasm, "Growth Mindset" by Dr Carol Dweck. I would like to share a video & transcript from an article on I found recently from Dr Dweck and her research on children's behaviour: fixed vs growth mindset.



Carol Dweck: In my work, we find that some students have a fixed mindset about their intellectual abilities and talents. They think intelligence is just a fixed trait. You have a certain amount, and that's that. This is the mindset that makes kids afraid to try, because they're afraid to look dumb.

But other students have a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence can be developed through their effort, dedication, learning, and mentorship from others. They don't think everyone's the same or that anyone can be Einstein, but they understand that even Einstein wasn't the guy he became before he put in years and years of dedicated labor.

I'm going to organize this by telling you about a study we did with hundreds of students making the transition to 7th grade. They're about 13 years old. It's an extremely difficult transition, the work gets substantially harder, the grading gets more stringent, the environment becomes less personal, and that's a crucial time. It's a time when many students turn off to school.

So, as they entered we measured their mindsets. That is we saw whether they believed intelligence was fixed or could be developed. We monitored their grades in math over the next two years. We also measured a lot about their attitudes toward learning. They had entered 7th grade with just about identical achievement test scores. But by the end of the first term, their grades jumped apart and continued to diverge over the next two years. The only thing that differed were their mindsets.

Now, let's see why and how this happened. The first thing we found was that they had completely different goals in school. The number one goal for kids in the fixed mindset is look smart at all times and at all costs. So their whole lives are oriented toward avoiding tasks that might show a deficiency. But in a growth mindset, where they believe intelligence can be developed, their cardinal rule is learn at all times and at all costs.

That brings us to the second mindset rule. In a fixed mindset, effort is a bad thing. They believe if you have ability, you shouldn't need effort. And if you need a lot of effort, it's a sign that you don't have ability. I believe that belief, that if you have ability, you shouldn't need effort, is one of the worst beliefs that anyone can have. I think it's why so many of our promising students don't fulfill their potential. They go along, coasting along, not trying that hard, the other kids have to try. One day they have to try too, and they can't do it. Whereas students in a growth mindset say effort is what activates their ability.

And rule number three, in a fixed mindset, a setback or deficiency measures you and reveals your limitations. So what we find is that those students in a fixed mindset try to hide their mistakes or run from their mistakes, conceal their deficiencies. But those in a growth mindset, they make mistakes, setbacks, natural part of learning, its what happens when you take on challenges. So a fixed mindset gives no way for students to handle difficulty. They may get discouraged, give up quickly, or become defensive, acting bored. Often this idea, the statement, "It's boring" is a cover for a fixed mindset, it means "I'm afraid to try," or acting out and blame the teacher or the material.

How are these mindsets transmitted? We've studied this in a number of ways, but maybe the most interesting way is through praise. For 15 years, we have studied how adults' praise affects students. We undertook this work at the height of the self-esteem movement, when the gurus were telling us all to praise our children's ability. Tell them how brilliant and talented they are. But for 15 years we have found that praising children's intelligence harms them. It puts them into a fixed mindset and turns them off to challenging learning.

Let me tell you about a series of studies we did with 10- and 11-year-olds. We brought them to a room in their school and we gave them 10 problems from this non-verbal IQ test, initially. They did pretty well, because they were matched to their age level, and each child received one form of praise. A third of them got intelligence praise, "Wow, that's a really good score, you must be smart at this." Or process praise, that's about the process they engaged in, it could be their strategy, their effort, their focus, their persistence, "Wow, that's a really good score, you must have tried really hard." And the control group, "Wow, that's a really good score." I won't talk much about them, because they tended to be in the middle.

Now, if you listen carefully to the message embodied in each statement, the first one says "I value intelligence." The second one says "I value process." Let's see what happened. First, yes, indeed, praising intelligence put kids into a fixed mindset compared to praising the process. But the most astonishing thing to us was that praising intelligence turned kids off to learning, because after we praised them, we said "What do you want to do now?" "Anything's fine with us." "Do you want a hard task you can learn from but you might make mistakes or do you want a task that's like something you're already good at?" The majority of kids who were praised for their intelligence rejected the chance to learn in favor of something they were sure to do well on. But those praised for the process overwhelmingly wanted the hard task they could learn from. They didn't feel they were in jeopardy if they struggled for a while.

Later, we gave everyone a difficult set of problems, and here we found that those who were praised for intelligence lost their confidence, didn't enjoy the problems anymore, and even when we went back to the easier problems, their performance suffered. Those who were praised for the process remained confident. They saw these problems were harder. Many of them said the hard ones were their favorites, and when we went back to the easier ones their performance flourished, because they remained engaged and they remained learning.

A few months ago, we published a study showing that mother's praise to their babies one to three years of age predicted that child's mindset and desire for challenge five years later. So now I feel justified when I interview with mothers at airports who are telling their babies that they're geniuses, I have the data. So remember, praise process. But it's even more than that. It's convey to children a new value system. It's not about quick, easy, smart things, but like this: sit around the dinner table and say, "Who had a fabulous struggle today?" And each person shares a struggle. Or if a child does something quickly and easily, instead of rushing to tell them how good they are at it, we should say, "I'm sorry, I wasted your time. Let's do something hard. Let's do something you can learn from."

Recently I have fallen in love with a new word, "nyet." I heard at the high school in Chicago, where when they didn't master a unit, instead of a failing grade, they got the grade "not yet," and I thought, isn't that great, because not yet means, "Hey, you're on that learning curve, you're somewhere." So, when a child says, "I'm not good at math." "Yet." It's like, "Get back on that learning curve." "I can't do it." "Yet." "I tried but it didn't work." "Yet." The more research shows us that human abilities are capable of growth, the more it becomes a basic human right for students to experience that growth, to live in environments in which all students can fulfill their potential.

Books and Movies

As a rookie writer, I have learned many, many things about the book business. Coming from a traditional retail and wholesale background, I have found this industry very different, interesting and at times frustrating. In the book business, things have changed over the past few decades, with traditional bricks and mortars book selling hotly contested by on-line purchasing and downloadable e-books. Who would have thought that any person having a desire to write a book could easily self-publish in the early millennia. But you can, I did and it’s been a fascinating experience.

With any experience in a new industry, there are learnings. I have had many. But the most telling for me has been the social habits of people today and how it relates to book reading. Reading a book for pleasure falls into the same category as watching TV, going to a movie, exploring the internet or playing a video game. All of these sedentary leisure activities compete for each other’s time. However, these leisure activities vary greatly in time spent, intensity and frequency.

During the late 90's and early millennia, I worked in the DVD rental business for over a decade, so I have a keen perspective on the comparison of the movie business vs the book business. When in the selling phase of promoting my book, I found myself thinking back on the movie business and how it differs. After all, both activities tell stories, so there must be similarities.

Here is what I know: When a typical movie releases in the theatre, approximately 60% of movie goers see it in the first week. 80% of the remaining 40% see the movie in the next 3 weeks. After 4 weeks, the remaining percentage of people who attend a movie is so small it hardly registers.  A blockbuster movie will have longer legs, but the percentage remain about the same. Movie goers get instant gratification. They see the movie in 2 hours, then generate stories about the movie to their friends, which gets more people to the theatre. The whole process is fast. Not so with a book.

When a typical book is released, a small percentage of early adopters buy the book, read it and tell others who may buy the book as well. But with books, they don’t necessarily read the book right away. In fact, I have found that people will buy a book but then search to find the time to read it. Further, most people do not complete the book in once sitting. Most read a chapter at a time, one day at a time. The process takes much, much longer, unless of course it is a blockbuster book. These are often books written by authors who have released several books beforehand and have built a following (think Harry Potter), only then do they really start selling books well.

When you compare movies and books, movies are in and out quickly. In the theatres for a few months at best, then off to pay TV, then soon after Netflix. With books, it could take 6 months or more for people to buy the book, read the book, generate stories about the book, with more people buying the book. Books have longer legs, movies don’t. Books are the tortoise, movies are the hare.

Feedback that i have received from people who have read my book “The Hovering Game” have found it to be an enjoyable, easy read. But I know getting more people to read the book takes time. If it makes people happy, then I am good with that, regardless of the time it takes.

If you ever get the notion to write a book, my advice is, be patient, like a monk!



Hockey: It Ain't as Easy as it Looks

In 1996, the inaugural year of the Western Professional Hockey League, I took on a job with the Amarillo Rattlers Hockey Team. They were in early start up mode, and I was hired as a consultant to set up their merchandise operations for the club. While there, we met some interesting people, including city officials and key members of the business community. Amarillo, located in the Texas panhandle, was, at the time a population of 120,000. Hockey was a foreign sport to the locals, all of the sporting goods stores were filled to brim with football gear. In fact, the nightly sports cast was inundated with junior and senior high football game results. Very little room for a hockey team story.

The city had one indoor rink, the Amarillo Civic Centre, a facility large enough to warrant a small, professional league team. Less foreign to the community was roller hockey, and the city supported a well-used roller hockey rink. It was a covered barn of sorts, where many tried out this latest of the popular trendy sports. The community leaders, who fancied themselves as (former) athletes, wanted to try out this new sport called ice hockey. Now they had been on ice skates before, so in their minds playing hockey would come easy. The club owners graciously offered to provide them with gear, sticks and pucks to try it out. They agreed, so we took them out to the rink.

Hockey, as many Canadians know, is not as easy as it looks. It takes lots of practice and hard work to master the skills of skates, puck and stick. But sometimes, people think things are easy until they actually try it. Sure, these guys could skate, but when they tried to shoot a puck (while moving) or take a slap-shot (while stationary) it was quite the scene. Many-a-fall for the newbies. Within 30 minutes or so, they had had enough, and humbly acknowledged that the sport was much tougher than they had imagined.

This story reminds me of some wannabe helicopter parents. The ones who coach from the sidelines. When you have been watching a sport for many years that you have never played, somehow people think that they are experts. Well, the truth is they are not. If you have never been on the pitcher’s mound with all the pressures that surround it, then you really don’t know what it is like. Further, you are NOT qualified to give advice, let alone coach your child.

If you really think you know a bit about the sport your child is participating in, maybe you should try it first before giving them advice on how to play. You will find it’s best to leave the coaching up to the coaches. That’s why they are in those roles, and why you are the parent.




Tweeter: A Street Hockey Game (not Twitter)

Tweeter: A Street Hockey Game (not Twitter)

I often think about the old days when I was a kid. The good times we had and how we always found ways of having fun without the electronic distractions of today. One of my fondest memories as a kid was playing Tweeter in the winter. Unless you grew up in Winnipeg back in the early 70’s you likely won’t know what I mean by Tweeter. Tweeter was a street hockey game invented by kids on the street.

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Such a Brief Moment in Time

I often peruse the internet, searching for articles that relate to the helicopter parenting dilemma. Occasionally I come across something with a unique and different approach. Kate Leavell is involved in youth lacrosse in the US, and her blog has some great perspective on the subject. Here is my favourite blog of hers:

 A letter to my former self as a new sports parent:

One day you’re going to get in the car with your kid’s water bottle that he left at home for the last time, that sour shoulder pads and cleat smell coming from the back seat, and the little chunks of dirt that have been knocked loose from muddy cleats all over the once new floor mats. You’re going to climb the stadium stairs one last time, listen to his name announced, watch him take the field and shoot a glance up your way and a little wave. You’re going to hear the last whistle, watch the last half time talk, the last hand shake, eat your last stadium hot dog, shade out that last bright sun beam blocking your view, and then you are going to get in the car and you won’t ever be back again.

Today may be the first time he sits in your lap as you lace up his cleats and then walks onto that field, and he may be terrible, he may be fantastic, he will likely have moments of both, but when it’s all over he’s still that piece of you that you love no matter what.

 All I care about now at the end of this journey, is that he had fun, that he has memories that he cherishes rather than ones he hopes to forget. His playing time, lack of college offers that he never cared about or wanted anyway, coaches’ philosophies, club teams, stats – none of it mattered. Not one bit. Don’t waste time keeping up with the joneses of sports parents, just love every.single.second.

When he is small, sports will seem like such a milestone and you will be in a hurry to get him into as much as you can. If he shows promise you may start looking ahead, thinking you are depriving him if you don’t get him the training he deserves. Be ready, because the second it starts the comparison and expectations are instantly out of reach. Don’t miss the fun, don’t miss the laughs, don’t miss the chance to reassure when the tears come, hug him tight, hand him an ice pack when he gets hurt and then send him back out there. And when he wants a break, when he says he misses his friends, respect that request.

Don’t worry about what the coaches are doing, how the team is playing, who should be playing, if they are learning as fast as other teams, if they are a super star, or if they are winning. Just look at them – are they happy? Are they growing and learning and reaching and stepping outside of their comfort zone? Because at the end of their sports experience that’s all that matters. You won’t care about anything else when it’s over.

There are so many things outside of sports that he loves to do, that he is so amazing at. There are so many opportunities that are going to get missed if he is training all the time. He doesn’t want to play in college, that was my destiny, not his. But the things he learned playing sports he will use every day when he leaves for college next year.

Don’t let him forget that he has other talents, to explore as much as possible, to focus on the things he loves but to also constantly try something different just for the experience. Don’t let his self worth become directly tied to his athletic abilities. Don’t let your relationship become coach and player instead of parent and child.

 Soak in every moment of every game, absorb the cheers, the goof ups, the missteps, the sometimes less than perfect effort, the sometimes mind blowing plays, the team events, the mud, the smell, the tears, the joy, because one day its going to be over.

You’re going to miss the smell that you think you hate on that drive home from practice, you’re going to miss the constant shuttling to and from practice, volunteer responsibilities and team events, you’re going to miss all the time you spent worrying about team stuff instead of just relaxing and watching him love the game, you’re going to remember those band-aid moments, emergency room visits, got cut from the team and then, years later, the being made captain moments. Hold on tight, and remember why he is playing, never miss an opportunity to experience the complete and total joy you get from just getting to watch him play, because it doesn’t last, and it doesn’t come back.

Kate Leavell is a high school varsity and youth girls' lacrosse coach in Atlanta. A US Lacrosse Coaches Education Program trainer, she is the author of the Coaches Emergency Practice Guide. Read more of her thoughts at

Your time in organized sports with your children is but a brief moment in the time. Best to make the most of it, relax and enjoy the view!





When Youth Sports Transcends to Adulthood

As a parent, you may ask yourself, “what’s the big deal? So my kid has stopped playing sports. He will find other things to do with his life.” You may be right, but I would ask you to consider a few things:

Why did they start playing organized sports? Was it because you encouraged them? Was it their idea? Did they get into it because their friends were playing sports too? Regardless of the reason, I would venture to guess that they had fun. Mostly because they were playing with kids their age, their friends and some who became their friends. 

I often think about the days when I played volleyball, not as a kid, but rather as a young adult. Whether it was on the beach, indoor for league or mixed grass tournaments, they were good times.  I have fond memories of the friends I made (and still have) and the competitions, which seemed to make it all worthwhile. But to appreciate why the adult world of sports was so dear to me, you have to understand where it all began: when I spawned a love to play sports. Any sport! 

It all started with me playing sports as a kid. A pick-up game of baseball, street hockey or basketball to name a few. Organized sports taught us me the basics and finer points of the game, but the impromptu touch football game or the 500-and-your-up baseball game (anyone remember that one?) is what made it all fun. When I was in my teens, we used to frequent the junior high school during the summer where they ran a drop-in centre. We would play basketball during the day, volleyball at night. It was all unplanned, unorganized, mixed with guys and girls, and highly competitive. I so looked forward to those summer days back then.

I never wanted to stop playing sports after high school, and I did not. But why do so many of today's kids stop playing sports after high school? Don't they know what they're missing? I'm not saying all stop, but many do. Is it because they were pressed so hard by their overbearing parents to succeed at all costs in their athletic endeavours that they finally said, no more?

When your adult child no longer plays sports, they are being denied so many great experiences. Social interaction, physical conditioning, lots of fun and more!

However, those that do still play get it. In June of this year, I was at the Steveston Salmon Festival in Richmond, BC, and there was a large grass tournament taking place. There had to be 30 or more courts with teams playing reverse mixed 4's on a grass field. The event was well attended with lots of young people, playing hard and having fun. Many a married couple have come out of these types of athletic events. I met my spouse at one of those events, and it was the best thing that could ever have happened to me.

So whatever your kids interests are, whether its sports, music, camping or the arts, if you push them so hard that it is no longer fun, they will stop playing in their tracks. Maybe not when they are still under your roof, but when they leave they may never ever play again. Not the kind of parental risks anyone should be toying with, don't you think?