All posts by Mickey Ellison

Mickey Ellison has over 18 years experience in the financial industry and has dealt with debt for over 22. He wants to use this experience to help improve the lives of others. Mickey also has a love for baseball and God. He plans to use what he's learned in baseball, finance, debt and life as a catalyst to helping others.

Purpose Driven Sports

 

Last night I sat down to watch a movie on ABC Family with my wife and two boys; Jordan is 13 and Jackson is 8. We decided to let our boys stay up a little later than normal as my wife and I thought it would be fun to watch “Goonies” with our boys. While there is some bad language in the movie, we thought since it’s on ABC Family the movie wouldn’t be too bad since it had been edited for television, and that turned out to be true. What we weren’t prepared for was the constant barrage of commercials that the boys would be exposed to. You ever have to explain to an 8 year old why the women are having to throw away their panties unless they use a certain pad to save the panties? Or, explain to your 13 year old why former “Hannah Montana” co-star Emily Osment is in the bed with some guy on her new ABC Family television series called “Young and Hungry”. If that’s not enough, you wonder when you might have to explain to your child what erectile dysfunction is.

 

If you haven’t noticed, there are very few places to go or things to do where our kids are not barraged with sexual content on television or graphic violence in video games. It isn’t even safe to watch a college or professional sporting event without seeing an advertisement by our over-sexualized and corrupt society. At one time, the worst you might see is a beer commercial with guys fighting over “tastes great” or “less filling”.

 

Think about the perversion that is taught to our kids, but it isn’t television and video games alone. We send our children to school where at one time children were taught things like math, English, science and history. Today they can get free condoms, and be taught evolution as if it is fact. Remember when it was called the theory of evolution? They are taught human sexuality at earlier and earlier ages, and there are very few schools that will simply tell our children that no sex before marriage is the one way to prevent all forms of STDs and has a 100% prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

 

There was a time when traditional teaching would focus on things such as honor, perseverance, honesty, hard work, humility, and love. Today, all you need to do is watch Nickelodeon or Disney to see the values taught by these shows. I-Carly seems like a harmless show, but I ask, where is mom or dad? Big Time Rush’s most important value is being famous, and the list could go on and on. Gone are the days of Opie and Andy Griffith where a lesson could be learned from every episode regarding thinks like honesty and love. What is my point with all of this? It’s not as if any of this is new news and our kids are the targets.

 

Where in society today can perseverance, honor, honesty, hard work, humility, or love be taught? Youth sports, but only if we are diligent enough to take youth sports back for our children. This isn’t going to be an easy task because there are now multi-million dollar corporations competing for our kids, and academies that will tell parents that their kids “must” specialize in a sport if they are ever want to be good enough to receive a scholarship. So many times these pressures cause well-intentioned parents to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, the “right” team, and travel that in the end doesn’t get the result the parents were expecting. Kids decide at 13 that they don’t like the sport any more, or worse they wind up injured because of overuse. Learn the truth about specialization from Changing the Game Project, www.changingthegameproject.com and Proactive Coaching, https://www.facebook.com/proactivecoach . If your son or daughter is ever to play in college or beyond, they must first learn to love the sport, and decide on their own that playing in college is a goal of theirs. Without that love for the game, there is nothing that you as a parent can do to “make” them successful. It must come from within.

 

Most of the kids are not going to play sports in college or professionally, but they can learn honor, perseverance, honesty, hard work, humility, and other life lessons that will help them live successful lives. That is the power of youth sports and all of the lessons from the Bible verses below can be taught to our children through sport.

 

2 Peter 1:5-9

New International Version (NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins

Mickey Ellison

The Ride Home by John O’Sullivan

The Ride Home

One of the saddest things I had to do as a Director of Coaching for numerous soccer clubs was conduct exit interviews, meetings with players whom had decided to leave the club. Children quit sports for a litany of reasons, and my job was always to see what we could learn, so we could improve the experience for other children.

When I got these players alone, and asked them “what was your least favorite moment in sports?” I often got a very similar and sad answer: the ride home after the game.

Sad kid on soccer ballIt has always amazed me how a moment off the field can have such a detrimental effect on it, yet when we think about it, the toxicity of the ride home makes perfect sense.  Emotions are high, disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion are heightened for both player and parent, yet many parents choose this moment to confront their child about a play, criticize them for having a poor game, and chastise their child, their teammates, their coach, and their opponents.  There could not be a less teachable moment in your child’s sporting life then the ride home, yet it is often the moment that well intentioned parents decide to do all of their teaching.

One of the biggest problems on the ride home is that a simple question from you, often meant to encourage your own child, can be construed as an attack on a teammate or coach by your child. As Bruce Brown states in his book Teaching Character Through Sport, “athletes do not need adults to question their actions, the actions of other players, or the coach’s decisions concerning strategy or playing time.”   A simple comment such as “Why does Jenny get all the shots?” may be meant to construe to your child that you think she is a good shooter who should also take shots, but is interpreted by your daughter that “Jenny is a ball hog!”  Questions such as “Why does Billy always play goalie” or “Why does your team always play zone?” can just as easily undermine the coach’s authority, and again cause confusion and uncertainty for your child.

Many children indicated to me that parental actions and conversations after games made them feel as though their value and worth in their parents’ eyes was tied to their athletic performance, and the wins and losses of their team.  Ask yourself whether you are quieter after a hard loss, or happier and more buoyant after a big win.  Do you tend to criticize and dissect your child’s performance after a loss, but overlook many of the same mistakes because he or she won?  If you see that you are doing this, even though your intentions may be well meaning, your child’s perceptions of your words and actions can be quite detrimental to their performance, and to your relationship.

One of the things that Coach Brown urges parents to be a source of confidence and comfort in situations such as when your child has played well in a loss, when your child has played poorly, and especially when your child has played very little or not at all.  Even then, it is critically important that you do not bring the game up for them, as uninvited conversations may cause resentment in children.  Give them the time and space to digest the game and recover physically and emotionally from a match. When your child is ready to bring the game up and talk about it, be a quiet and reflective listener, and make sure she can see the big picture and not just the outcome of a single event.  Help her work through the game, and facilitate her growth and education by guiding her toward her own answers. Kids learn a lot when they realize things such as “we had a bad week of practice and coach told us this was coming”  Most importantly says Brown, remember that your child always loves hearing you sincerely tell them “I love watching you play.”

The only exception to the above ‘Ride Home’ rule is when your child engages in behavior that you would not accept at home, such as spitting, cursing, assaulting an opponent, or disrespecting a coach or authority figure.  In these cases you should initiate the conversation, not as a parent to an athlete, but as a parent to a child.  Even then you must be careful and considerate of the emotions of the match, and choose your words wisely.  Deal with the issue, and then put it to bed; do not use it as a segue to a discussion of the entire game.

Not every child is the same, and some children may want to discuss the game on the way home. My advice is let them bring it up, and let them end the conversation. if you are unsure, ask your kids whether they want to talk about the game, and honor their feelings and their position on this issue. There is nothing, aside from the unacceptable behavior mentioned above, that cannot be discussed at a later time. The best part is, you will likely have a far better conversation about it hours after a game, instead of minutes.

As many youth sports are entering the season of playoffs and state championships, emotions are higher than ever, stress and pressure are more prevalent, and it is crucial that you let the Ride Home belong to your son or daughter. They will thank you for it one day, that I promise.

 

– See more at: http://changingthegameproject.com/the-ride-home-after-the-game/#sthash.FbfPaOkm.dpuf

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports by John O’Sullivan

“My 4th grader tried to play basketball and soccer last year,” a mom recently told me as we sat around the dinner table after one of my speaking engagements. “It was a nightmare. My son kept getting yelled at by both coaches as we left one game early to race to a game in the other sport. He hated it.”

“I know,” said another. “My 10 year old daughter’s soccer coach told her she had to pick one sport, and start doing additional private training on the side, or he would give away her spot on the team.”

So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletics that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids. As movies such as “The Race to Nowhere” and recent articles such as this one from the Washington Post point out, while the race has a few winners, the course is littered with the scarred psyches of its participants. We have a generation of children that have been pushed to achieve parental dreams instead of their own, and prodded to do more, more, more and better, better, better. The pressure and anxiety is stealing one thing our kids will never get back; their childhood.

The movie and article mentioned above, as well as the book The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, highlight the dangerous path we have led our children down in academics. We are leading them down a similar path in sports as well.

Empty-benchThe path is a race to nowhere, and it does not produce better athletes. It produces bitter athletes who get hurt, burnout, and quit sports altogether.

As I said to my wife recently, the hardest thing about raising two kids these days, when it comes to sports, is that the vast majority of the parents are leading their kids down the wrong path, but not intentionally or because they want to harm their kids. They love their kids, but the social pressure to follow that path is incredible. Even though my wife and I were collegiate athletes, and I spend everyday reading the research, and studying the latest science on the subject, the pressure is immense. The social pressure is like having a conversation with a pathological liar; he is so good at lying that even when you know the truth, you start to doubt it.  Yet that is the sport path many parents are following.

The reason? FEAR!

We are so scared that if we do not have our child specialize, if we do not get the extra coaching, or give up our entire family life for youth sports, our child will get left behind. Even though nearly every single parent I speak to tells me that in their gut they have this feeling that running their child ragged is not helpful, they do not see an alternative. Another kid will take his place.  He won’t get to play for the best coach. “I know he wants to go on the family camping trip,” they say, “but he will just have to miss it again, or the other kids will get ahead of him.”

This system sucks.

It sucks for parents, many of whom do not have the time and resources to keep one child in such a system, never mind multiple athletes. There are no more family trips or dinners, no time or money to take a vacation. It causes parents untold stress and anxiety, as they are made to feel guilty by coaches and their peers if they don’t step in line with everyone else. “You are cheating your kid out of a scholarship” they are told, “They may never get this chance again.”

It sucks for coaches who want to develop athletes for long term excellence, instead of short term success. The best coaches used to be able to develop not only better athletes, but better people, yet it is getting hard to be that type of coach. There are so many coaches who have walked away from sports because while they encourage kids to play multiple sports, other unscrupulous coaches scoop those kids up, and tell them “if you really want to be a player, you need to play one sport year round. That other club is short changing your kid, they are not competitive.” The coach who does it right gives his kids a season off, and next thing you know he no longer has a team.

And yes, most importantly, it sucks for the kids. Any sports scientist or psychologist will tell you that in order to pursue any achievement activity for the long term, children need ownership, enjoyment and intrinsic motivation.  Without these three things, an athlete is very likely to quit.

Children need first and foremost to enjoy their sport. This is the essence of being a child. Kids are focused in the present, and do not think of long term goals and ambitions. But adults do. They see “the opportunities I never had” or “the coaching I wish I had” as they push their kids to their goals and not those of the kids.

They forget to give their kids the one thing they did have: A CHILDHOOD! They forget to give them the ability to find things they are passionate about, instead of choosing for them. They forget that a far different path worked pretty darn well for them.

So why this massive movement, one that defies all science and psychology, to change it?

We need to wise up and find a better path.

Parents, start demanding sports clubs and coaches that allow your kids to participate in many sports. You are the customers, you are paying the bills, so you might as well start buying a product worth paying for. You have science on your side, and you have Long Term Athletic Development best practices on your side. Your kids do not deserve or need participation medals and trophies, as some of you are so fond of saying, but they do deserve a better, more diverse youth sports experience.

Coaches, you need to wise up as well. You are the gatekeepers of youth sports, the people whom play God, and decide who gets in, and who is kicked to the curb. You know the incredible influence of sport in your life, so stop denying it to so many others. Are you so worried about your coaching ability, or about the quality of the sport you love, to think that if you do not force kids to commit early they will leave? Please realize that if you are an amazing coach with your priorities in order, and you teach a beautiful game well, that kids will flock to you in droves, not because they have to, but because they want to!

Every time you ask a 9 year old to choose one sport over another you are diminishing participation in the sport you love by 50%. WHY?

To change this we must overcome the fear, the guilt and the shame.

We are not bad parents if our kids don’t get into Harvard, and we are not bad parents if they do not get a scholarship to play sports in college. We should not feel shame or guilt every time our kid does not keep up with the Jones’s, because, when it comes to sports, the Jones’s are wrong.

As this recent article from USA Lacrosse stated, college coaches are actually looking to multi sport athletes in recruiting. Why? Because they have an upside, they are better all around athletes, they are not done developing, and they are less likely to burnout.

You cannot make a kid into something she is not by forcing them into a sport at a very young age, and pursuing your goals and not your child’s goals. Things like motivation, grit, genetics and enjoyment have too much say in the matter.

What you can do, though, is rob a child of the opportunity to be a child, to play freely, to explore sports of interest, to learn to love sports and become active for life.

Chances are great that your children will be done with sports by high school, as only a select few play in college and beyond. Even the elite players are done at an age when they have over half their life ahead of them. It is not athletic ability, but the lessons learned from sport that need to last a lifetime.

Why not expose them to as many of those lifelong lessons as possible?

Why not take a stand?

Why don’t we stop being sheep, following the other sheep down a road to nowhere that both science and common sense tells us often ends badly?

It is time to stop being scared, and stand up for your kids. Read a book on the subject, pass on this article to likeminded people, bring in a speaker to your club and school, but do something to galvanize people to act.

There are more of us who want to do right by the kids than there are those whose egos and wallets have created our current path. We have just been too quite for too long. We have been afraid to speak up, and afraid to take a stand. We are far too willing to throw away our child’s present for some ill fated quest for a better future that rarely materializes, and is often filled with so much baggage that we would never wish for such a future for our kids.

If you think your child will thank you for that, then you probably stopped reading while ago.

But if you want to get off the road to nowhere in youth sports, and to stop feeling guilty about it, then please know you are not alone. Our voice is growing stronger everyday. We can create a new reality, with new expectations that put the athletes first.

We can put our children on a road to somewhere, one paved with balanced childhoods, exploration, enjoyment, and yes, multiple sports.

Someday our kids will thank us.

Originally published on Change The Game Project.