Posts Tagged ‘sports’

b-w-team-huddledI’ve been a part of teams for over 35 years and I know that one of the most important parts of being on a team is showing up. Showing up for off-season lifting and pick-up games, showing up for practices, for film sessions, for team meals, and then for games. The thing is, there is more to it than just showing up… how you show up matters most.

I’ve had the privilege of showing up as a player on elite, winning teams, and I’ve had the challenge of showing up on teams that go winless for an entire season. There is a very real shift in psychology when the excitement and hope of a season fades into the frustrated reality that opponents are going to be tough and the work that lay ahead may not provide the results the team truly desires.

Players want to play and teams play games to win. Period. Putting forth exhausting effort to come up short time and again, starts to weigh on players and ultimately on teams. The psychology of an athlete and a team is challenged at the extremes. The players who experience consistent playing time and winning are challenged to stay focused and humble. The players on teams experiencing losses are challenged to see a point in working hard, they have to navigate personal, ugly emotions that come with sitting on the sideline or losing. They either give up trying or they use a lot of energy to determine ways to keep fighting and to help their teammates do the same. It is much harder to be a part of a team that is in defensive battle mode.

The hardest thing to keep in mind is that true winning (competing well each and every outing) is always possible. It’s a decision to show up well.

This is not an easy decision, however.

The team I am currently coaching is 2 and 9 and facing the back half of a season with the same opponents who have already beat up on us once. We are experiencing the hardest part of being in battle mode.

This is where the true character of these players and the heart of this team will be tested most.

There are countless ways the guys can decide to respond. Countless ways to show up….or not. I’m challenged to help them to dig in and to find value in competing well no matter their record. It’s for pride. It’s for building upon the groundwork we are laying. It’s for sharpening the character tools in their toolboxes as they prepare to go on to college, or jobs where what they’ve learned about competing well will matter.

We need to continue to show up well:

  • Show up early (or at the very least on time)
  • Show up ready (bring all gear necessary)
  • Show up positively (find the good in other players and the fun in the game)
  • Show up focused (leave other thoughts off the field and bring mental focus into the task at hand)
  • Show up ready to work hard (no matter what you are able to do in a day, do your best)
  • Show up ready to learn (see each day as an opportunity to grow as a person and as a team)

Showing up happens on an individual level, but it is layered with an awareness of what showing up means to the team as a whole.

I’d like to say, after all this time on teams, that I’ve perfected the showing up thing. I haven’t. I am equally challenged to show up well and I need reminders to stay the course too. It is a daily decision and I need to come back to the decision each morning because, for me, any time I have the opportunity to be part of  a team I have made the implicit agreement to show up well.

 

Meagan Frank is the author of the Choosing to Grow series, a national speaker, athlete, coach, and mother of three. A 1997 graduate of Colorado College, Meagan was a four-year starter and senior captain on the Division I women’s soccer team and lettered in Division III women’s basketball. She has coached recreational, high school, elite, and college-level teams for both boys and girls.

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Copyright 2016       Meagan Frank   Choosing to Grow         http://www.meaganfrank.com

 

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The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.  -Vince Lombardi

I think Lombardi has it right. You pay for success with hard work, dedication, and a decision to offer the best of yourself each and every day.

The real challenge is knowing how to measure whether you succeed.

In a competitive world, it is the simple thing to measure in wins and losses…in points on a scoreboard…in stats we can count. We’re told repeatedly that only winners are successful.

I disagree. It is much more complex than that and I am challenged to stay mindful of what true success means.

Last night, on the way home from my first conference game (a lopsided loss) as the head coach for a boys’ high school soccer team, I had an interesting conversation with a couple of my assistant coaches. One coach commented about how there is a successful 17-year-old phenom who is playing professional soccer as a goalie. He lamented the fact that he is just a college kid, who isn’t playing goalie anymore, and who now has the goalie coaching job for fledgling goalies in a re-building program. Not newsworthy, in his opinion.

Another assistant coach, who is an incredible chorus teacher at the high school, also commented about colleagues who have “made it” and are big-time conductors with doctorates and incredible opportunities.

If success is only possible for the elite few who “make it”, or for the winning programs  and star athletes among us, then what is the point for the rest of us?

The point for the rest of us is the last part of Lombardi’s quote. “We (need to) have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” How we apply ourselves is to compete well. The definition of “compete” is to strive to win.

The point for the rest of us is that we learn how to compete well…always and in all circumstances. Competing well is how we succeed.

For that 17-year-old phenom, the best of himself is obviously incredible athleticism and goalie expertise. It’s going to matter how his stats add up. The task he has been handed is to compete with the world’s best.

We’re not all asked to succeed at that task.

For me, and my coaching staff, the task ahead of us is to build soccer skill, to build teamwork, and to build a program that can compete better in an incredibly tough conference. We need to show up every day with those tasks in mind.

For the players who play on our team, their task is to show up with the best of themselves each day with an attitude prepared to learn and grow as soccer players and as people. They can count themselves successful if daily they strive to compete well as individuals and as a team.

The world may not do a great job of measuring our successes, but if I’m stepping up to the task  I’ve been handed, I sure will.

Meagan Frank is the author of the Choosing to Grow series, a national speaker, athlete, coach, and mother of three. A 1997 graduate of Colorado College, Meagan was a four-year starter and senior captain on the Division I women’s soccer team and lettered in Division III women’s basketball. She has coached recreational, high school, elite, and college-level teams for both boys and girls.

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Copyright 2016       Meagan Frank   Choosing to Grow         http://www.meaganfrank.com

 

 

Winning feels good. Scoring goals, having a shutout, and performing well feels good. Losing hurts, as does poor performance or lack of production.  From the perspective of an athlete who has felt all of those emotions as a player, I still struggle with how to get rid of those feelings when I watch our children from the sideline. I don’t want to feel good or badly about how our kids play because I don’t think it’s the best way to parent. The only feeling I want to havefor them is love , so I have to practice processing and discarding any other emotion.

We cannot control the way we feel, and it takes a lot of practice to suppress the involuntary emotion so that it does not appear at the wrong times.

Let me tell you how I managed my emotions well this weekend… and how I did it poorly.

It was an interesting weekend in our house.  Two of our kids had tournaments.  One kid played awesome and her team won the tournament championship…the other kid is playing pretty average right now, and his team did well to get third place. What struck me most was my own struggle with emotional reactions to the parent chatter about our children.

When people would tell me, “Oh you must be so excited…she is playing so well right now” or “Congratulations, she did awesome!” I sit for a moment. Why are they congratulating me? I had nothing to do with it. I do respond, however. I don’t want to be that odd woman who turns silently and walks away, and I want to handle it in a way that reflects my parenting philosophy. I do better with positive emotions (who doesn’t) and it is relatively easy for me to respond well. I put the credit squarely on the shoulders of my hard-working kid. “Yeah, I’m so excited for her. She has worked hard this weekend.” or “Make sure to tell her that. She earned it.”

My daughter gets big hugs and smiles no matter what…I am aware that I give her the same kind of hug no matter how she has done.

I didn’t do as well with the more negative comments about her brother.  While walking out of one of my son’s games I heard this: “Skunked again huh?  He hasn’t got a goal yet? I bet that bugs him, huh?” I didn’t respond as well as I would have liked. It has been a rough year for our son, who has traditionally believed about himself that he is a goal-scoring forward.  He has been challenged to play defense for his team, and he is working hard to learn the position. He is trying to learn to add value when what he has known to offer before has been limited to offensive production.  It has been a challenge for all of us to watch him struggle to play the way he can.

So, my impatient response was, “No, he’s just ready to be done with defense.”

It’s not really what I wanted to say, and I did not give myself enough time to think it through.  What I wanted to say instead was, “He’s having fun playing, he enjoys his teammates, he works hard to protect the goalie, and I’m proud of him for trying so hard.”

I was able to compose myself enough before our ride home, and I was more positively present for our son.  I let him tell me about the game from his perspective…I listened to the ways he remembered being valuable.

“I stayed focused and didn’t sit with the girls before the game” he told me, “Did you see me kick the puck off the line? The goalie said I saved a goal.”

I had seen those things, but I had only “felt” the mistakes… the struggles.  I needed him to remind me about the privilege I have to be his parent.

I can’t help feeling the way I feel while watching our kids pour their hearts into something.  I am along with them for the experience, but I think it is really important that I don’t influence the feelings they deserve to have all on their own. My feelings are my feelings, and I never want my feelings about their performances to be the reason they feel any differently about themselves. The only feeling I want them to feel from me is love.

When we get in the habit of basking in the awesome feelings that come with positive performance, kids pick up on that…in contrast, they will absolutely know when we are disappointed or sad if their performance wasn’t good. It is a vicious cycle that works to convince kids that their worth is inextricably tied to whether they win or lose…score or not…play well or horribly.

Love doesn’t feel like that.

 

2012 copyright Meagan Frank                                      Choosing to Grow                             www.meaganfrank.com

                                                                  

Phew. My least favorite time of year is over.

The evaluations are done, the teams are named, and although it was not a painless process in our house this year, it was a time for significant growth for all of us.

Last week, as though perfectly timed with my personal journey, I attended a presentation by life coach Dr. Jean Davidson. She offered a number of intriguing nuggets of information, but one important idea she offered is the assertion that people in our western culture are reluctant to stay in emotion long enough to actually process through it.

It is an idea I have entertained before.  As I observe relatively normal people transform into crazy people on the sideline of youth sporting events, I often wonder what emotional baggage they might be trying to unpack.

It got me thinking about how evaluations, and the categorization of kids, plays a part in the craziness.

Our oldest got through his tryouts first, and while still reeling from the emotional fallout of the decisions that were made, our middle daughter started her run through the evaluation guantlet. I was pretty emotionally spent at that point, and had a rather strange perspective as I watched the girls and their parents tighten around anxiety with the tryouts. Girls had migraines, parents were visibly nervous, nausea ran rampant, and flushed faces of people I enjoy spoke frustrated lines about the performance of their 9 or 10-year-old daughters.

It is the way of youth sports. When labels are involved,  people become crazed.

It matters that you can say your kid is on an A team. Players identify themselves with the label they are given, and too often it becomes a stamp that ends a child’s willingness to pursue potential.

“Oh, he only made a C team,” I heard some of the 10-year-old girls giggle as they settled their own nerves about the impending A-team cut. Parental, peer, and personal pressures to make the right team often cloud patient perspective.

That’s what happened to me. I claim that I can look at most of this youth sports stuff with an objective lens, but if I am honestly pursuing a Choosing to Grow sort of mentality, I have to acknowledge the presence and power of emotions. Especially my own.

I am not proud that I got angry…I am not proud that I lashed out in a  post that made emotional assertions, but I won’t apologize for allowing myself to actually feel every bit of my life and the experiences I endure. By processing where I did…in an adult venue and never within earshot of my children…I was able to get through the tough stuff to better help them cope with their own emotions. Separating my emotions from theirs is imperative to both their growth and mine. However,  I can only effectively separate  when I give myself time to identify my own emotions and work through them.

I presented paranoia, anger, sadness, and I wrote it out in a public way because I honestly believe in providing a space for dialogue about what too few people are willing to address. People who responded positively to the post admitted “feeling” similar emotions. The dissenting opinion addressed logistics of evaluations and the business of categorizing children. Processing ugly emotions IS ugly, but like Dr. Davidson contends, absolutely necessary.

The denial of emotions does not make the feelings go away, it simply delays their arrival.

I think it’s fine that Minnesota Hockey sent this note of encouragement to parents who are battling with the results of tryouts. Tryouts: The Day After The advice is sound. What the message lacks is the validation that people are hurting.  What it is missing is instruction that people should give themselves whatever time they need to work through their feelings. I would never contend that this processing should take forever, but to simply tell people to move on, without any strategies for how, you end up with destructive back-room conversations, bitterness and sometimes a crazed parent who lashes out at an opponent or a ref. (obviously anger about tryouts is just one possible reason for pent-up emotion that explodes mid-season)

For all you parents who are standing in the dust of your post-evaluation emotions, I challenge you to not walk away too quickly. Whatever you might have felt…in the lead-up to the tryouts…throughout the tryouts…and now on the backside, take a few minutes to identify what those feelings were.  Write them down. Why did you feel that way? Write that out. Share what you wrote with a friend who has absolutely no connection to your sports world. Process with them. The validation you need is not that you are right about being slighted…the validation you need is that it is perfectly appropriate to feel the way you do.  Then leave it.  Burn it if that makes you feel better, but don’t hang on to the emotions.

Whatever ugly emotions you ignore, stuff, or move past too quickly will present themselves in some surprising way that may or may not be in a place you want it to happen.

Now that I have exhausted my efforts and I chose to grow through my own emotions about the world that emerged during this period of evaluation, I am ready to lift my face and see the path better. It is not to say that I won’t stop at any point in the future to process the places my feet get stuck. When I find myself stalled, I’ll stop and stay for a while.  I wouldn’t want to move on without letting myself feel the moment.

 

Copyright 2012                          Choosing to Grow                              meagan frank

 

                                                  

February 1, 2012

Today is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. DON’T STOP READING!!! I know the topic of women in sports can be controversial. There are those people who think women’s sports are a bore. There are the women who don’t understand the psychology of a woman who would sacrifice so much of her life to something that seemingly no one cares about but her. There is still blatant sexism when it comes to women and sports, and I am becoming increasingly aware of the tension. All I want is a small opportunity to share with you some of the recent growth I’ve done with regard to this subject.

Some cool things happened this past week to broaden my enthusiasm for girls and women in sports. On the other hand, things have happened to promote my awareness that there are many issues female athletes still face.

First, the cool stuff:

  • I took the minutes for a quarterly meeting for Positive Coaching Alliance. The launch committee for the Twin Cities office is comprised mostly of men, but I have felt warmly accepted by them and I feel encouraged to contribute to this effort.
  • I accepted an invitation to present at the Female ADM Symposium for USA Hockey about girl team dynamics and team-building
  • I attended the University of Minnesota Tucker Center Film Festival featuring Salaam Dunk– a documentary about a college women’s basketball team in Iraq whose members were competing on a team for the first time in their lives.
  • Little Sprout (our 6-year-old daughter) had an opportunity to skate with her team at the Excel Energy Center (where the Wild play) and no one cared she was the only girl.

Some of the not-so-positive things I’m noticing:

  • Mainstream media has little interest in women’s sports. Try this yourself: count the local sports news stories about girls or women. I saw one story the ENTIRE week. Apparently I am not crazy. An extensive study done at the University of Southern California determined that not only is the coverage of women’s athletics in LA abyssmal (1.6%) but that is DOWN from 1989. National sports giant ESPN is even worse. (1.4% coverage of women’s sports)
  • On a much smaller scale, but important in our house right now: Middle Sprout’s U10 girls’ team had to play in the worst rink our hockey association uses. It was the third time they have played there this year, and there seems to be a discrepancy in the way the association schedules the games between the boys and the girls.
  • I’ve struggled to get a response to repeated attempts to connect with the Star Tribune sports editors. (I know most editors are too busy to connect with anyone, so I hope it’s not the content of the articles I’m proposing…nor the fact that I am a woman that has delayed response)
  • And sadly, the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS), a league that had once shown so much promise for female soccer players, has suspended operation for this year. (and who knows if there will be momentum to get it started again?)

So, why are all of these things important: WOMEN’S SPORTS SHOULD MATTER TO ALL OF US. It shouldn’t matter to just the women who play at the highest levels, but also to the women who want a social place to experience the magic of sports competition.  It should matter to the men who father girls, to the men who marry them, to the men who work with and for them, and this will require a necessary shift in culture. We need to believe and promote:

Sports done right, make all people better.

It is widely accepted that sports are good for girls, specifically.  Youth sports expert, Brooke DeLench, has a phenomenal article laying out how Sports Benefit Girls in Many Ways. The benefits cover physical, social, emotional and intellectual aspects of life.

The benefits far outweigh the challenges, and I know with absolute certainty that I will continue to grow through the female sporting experience.

Copyright 2012  Meagan Frank                       Choosing to Grow

To learn more about Meagan Frank or the current book project she is working on, you can visit her at www.meaganfrank.com.

I wish I weren’t reeling from a mid-season parent/coach meeting I attended last night… but I am. I wish I didn’t feel like I have a responsibility to write about it this morning… but I do.

I am Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It, and I can only do that legitimately if I am willing to face… head on… the issues as they come. I look for lessons in everything. I work to see the teachable moment in all the things I do, and last night was no exception. I am on the front lines of the youth sports battlefield, and I figured out last night, I am not armed well enough.

The thing is, I’m not exactly sure whether I need more protective gear or a more high-tech weapon.

After the neary two-hour conversation, I feel like issues were addressed, communication lines were made more open, and opinions were generally expressed. Small steps in the right direction.

What I personally learned, however:  If it is a sports conversation, I barely have anything to offer…if the topic is about hockey, I can offer even less…and comments I make are only legitimized if my college-hockey-coaching husband stands up to defend my point.

It’s not fair to assume that every time I offer my opinion about sports I’ll feel as shunned as I did for most of last night. I approach every situation as an independent experience. I felt somewhat legitimized by the end of the meeting…but it didn’t start out that way.

I’m not surprised the coach came out swinging.  He didn’t know that my suggestion about a team meeting was so that the parents and coaches could be put on the same page. So that all of us could be going in the same direction and so the expectations and philosophies could be clearly explained. We hadn’t had a full parent-coach meeting yet, and too many assumptions, frustrations and miscommunications were building. I have acquired a number of coaching and communication tools over the years, and I was truly attempting to facilitate a platform for dialogue. I was thinking a meeting might help the coaches…so that the parents could help by aligning with them.

He assumed otherwise.

He told us he thought we had come with torches and pitchforks, and having witnessed, and experienced, such parent-directed meetings, I was not surprised he wanted to lay authoritative groundwork right away.  I respect that…I really do.

The thing is, I tried to waylay his concerns with an early comment about the intention of the meeting, and he sternly instructed me to follow his ground rules and let him run “his” meeting.

I spoke up, respectfully, a number of other times, but I was increasingly convinced that my opinion was of little consequence to him. He softened his posture, after my husband weighed in, and addressed our comments as a couple, but it really felt like I hadn’t mattered before that.

If I am going to describe how that feels…deflating.

This is not the way I have been trained in discourse. My husband and I went to Colorado College, where every class is a debate/discussion that includes respectful banter where all ideas were respected and contemplated. The professors are part of the conversation and simply encourage the direction. Through countless hours of discussion, I never felt as though my opinion didn’t count as much because I am a woman.

I felt a little bit like that last night.

It’s actually something that has been gnawing at me quite a bit lately. For more reasons than the recent conversation, I am noting a subtle, yet persistent, discrimination when it comes to women and sports.  As much as things have changed in the sporting world…there is quite a bit that is exactly the way it has always been.

Title IX is practically forty years old, and girls have more opportunity to play than ever before. The next phase in progress will be when women can have a voice, and take a confident stand, in that other male-dominated room…the coach’s. It is telling that in the last ten years there have been multi-million dollar sex-discrimination lawsuits by women in the college coaching ranks. Fresno State’s debacle is one of the most drastic examples. 

The male-dominated sports culture still exists, but I would like to take this opportunity to express that times are changing. The shift in the youth sports wind smells an awful lot like women’s perfume. There are more and more girls, who have benefitted from Title IX, who are the moms on the teams men coach, and more and more women are willing AND ABLE, to coach with and against them. Things will change… but change is never easy.

Besides my own sporting experience, I have been working really hard on this project, researching the smartest sports psychologists, interviewing and meeting with some of the best minds in the business of youth sports, and I know I am gaining knowledge and insight about communication, team building, teaching and coaching. What I learned last night:

My sports opinion doesn’t really matter… yet.

Right now, my expected role is similar to what these women do (or don’t do) in the Responsible Sports example of how to run a hockey parent meeting. I won’t apologize that I am uncomfortable sitting quietly, and I am open to be influenced by what happened yesterday… but not deterred.

So, my skin is a little thicker and I am eyeing those protective shields. At the same time, I am manufacturing a different weapon. My weapon is one of strategy, negotiation and cooperation.  I am fighting for my kids and for kids in general.

I may not battle the way men do, but I can fight, and I am not afraid to get into the fray.

To learn more about Meagan or her current book project, you can find her at www.meaganfrank.com

Women's hockey team 1911

I don’t know any of the women in this photo. Few people probably do. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a self-defining experience with sport.

I too am a female athlete…with a story. I played sports to the highest level available to me at the time (except for national team and olympic-level competition). I am a title-IXer, a division I soccer player and a division III basketball competitor. I was surrounded by some of the best female athletes of my era. Ninety percent of the women with whom I developed as a soccer player went on to play for division I college teams. My sister, and longtime training partner and teammate was an All-American. My teammate and college roommate went on to compete internationally in cycling and triathalons. The captain of my college soccer team went on to become a gold-medal winning weightlifter in the Olympics. Another teammate competed with the Canadian National soccer team. I competed against women who played with the US Women’s National team…the same one that won the US World Cup in 1999. For all intents and purposes, my sports story is as complete as practically anyones.  The thing is, I know it is not a story that anyone else knows. I am sure you have never heard of any of the women I describe.

Recently, I read the November 28, 2011 Sports Illustrated article “Sport in America: My Tribe.” It is a fourteen-page center-spread about the sports stories that define us. Two women’s stories were included in the piece. I think the article accurately portrays the American Sports Story. There is more said in the ommission of women’s stories than could be said with a lame attempt to include them.  I get it. Women’s sports are not part of what define us as a society, but they are what define me.  I had a bit of an epiphany as I noted the ways I could hardly identify with the professional sports stories in the article.  My female sports story is not the sports story of those men.

Maybe that’s the reason I have always loved the Olympics more than any other sporting event. At the Olympics, women’s athleticism is legitimately highlighted, and whether it is a man or a woman in an American uniform, the country unites in its support of their efforts.

So what do I make of the plan to create an HBO documentary called Sport in America?  I think the project should be more accurately  called Sport for Men in America. It is not that several of the stories they offer did not affect every American, they definitely did, but there is not enough for the women. When I checked today, of the 165 people who have taken part in uploading their sports story, 17 of them are women.  That is only a 10 percent female voice.

There is a section of the site that offers Moments to Consider, and I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that there are only three women’s stories offered as potential sports moments to ponder.  Even more incredible is the fact that there are four horse stories. There are apparently more momentous sports achievements involving horse athletes than there are those of female athletes.

For the record, I am not pounding my fists as a crazed women’s libber. I am a firm believer that women are getting fair opportunities to play, to have those great sports moments, to be defined by our own struggles with defeat and victory. And although no one else will ever care about it… those moments define us.

It got me thinking about women in general, and I started to think that there may be an explanation for the popularity of my youth sports survey among the women. Of the 330 responses I have to the survey right now, 65% are women.  There are probably a couple of reasons for that: one, my first book was about marriage, and 99% of my audience were women. Over 75% of the followers on my Facebook page are women, and that is absolutely with whom I engage the most. I do wonder what men might think when they see a call for youth sports opinions and then, if they are curious enough, and they see that it’s a woman, do they hurry and click it or move on to another sports experience? That I don’t know.  Maybe they know, at a very deep level, that their sports story is not my sports story.

Maybe the women have something more to say about the youth sports story, because youth sports is the one place where so many of them can participate. When someone is called a soccer mom, or a hockey mom or a basketball mom, a stereotyped version of an involved sports woman comes to mind.  They can align themselves with the team of moms who participate in sports like they do. They can organize tournaments, wear buttons with their kids pictures, see themselves in the little legs running around, and engage intimately with the athletes performing. Maybe the youth sports world is starting to mimic the professional sports world because everyone wants to experience those defining moments at the highest level possible.

Hear me out for a second.. Maybe, just maybe, the sports story that women can most relate to, are the stories of their kids. Terry McDonnell, author of the SI article writes, ” the excitement comes from knowing enough about the athletes to care who makes the shot and who misses.”  The athletes that women know, the ones with whom they can have to most intense emotional connection, are their own kids. They don’t have women athletes (or very many) with whom they can identify, they don’t fully connect with the testosterone-laden male athletes…but they do have their kids.

The women’s stories and the youth sports stories are not among the moments to ponder for the Sport in America documentary, but maybe they should be. There are plenty of people, including me, who define themselves by those experiences in sport… even if no one else does.

To learn more about Meagan Frank, visit her website at www.meaganfrank.com. Or you can follow her author page here: Meagan Frank or the current sports project she is doing at: Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It.  Her twitter handle is @choosingtogrow.

Yelling Back

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

If I’m going to honestly pursue personal growth through sport, I cannot ignore those nagging thoughts in my mind. The ones that wake me up at 3:30 in the morning. The ones that keep flashing themselves into my head, and I know they will not go away until I write them down.

So here I sit…trying to procrastinate even longer.  I don’t want to deal with some of the things that my recent book research has unearthed for me.  I don’t want to work through some obvious issues that I can feel trying to manifest themselves in my reactions and emotions.

I worry that what I need to address may upset people, and in the case that I inadvertantly offend someone… I am sorry.

I’m not entirely sure where this blogpost is going to go, but I want it to go someplace honest… and that is about all I can promise.

I have been the mother of a competing, athletic boy for six years.  I have only been the mother of competing, athletic girls for two. I feel like I’ve done pretty well with the boy…helping to coach him through the ups and downs of what it is to compete in youth sports.  I’ve been able to explain away bad parent behavior and he has honestly handled most of it pretty well. I am struggling much more with youth sports’ navigation for my girls.

Obviously, you say. You were a girl athlete.  Yes, that is why I struggle.  But it is with what I am struggling that gives me pause.

My issue has to do with the men and dads who are around my girls. Nothing too outrageous has happened, but my sensitivity is most certainly heightened, and I need to get a handle on my fears here, or it is going to paralyze me…and probably both the girls too.

I have an issue, and it is MY issue, with loud men involved with girls’ youth sports.

Here is probably why:

My very first sports memory is of my dad putting up a basketball hoop on our driveway. Actually almost all of my good memories with my dad involve athletic endeavors: running football patterns in the backyard, shooting baskets, catching a ball as I jumped off the diving board, learning to kick a field goal, or holding my breath for a length of the pool so I could go to Dairy Queen.

Many of my bad sports memories involve my dad too.

As I got older, and my dad’s alcoholism got worse, he was the dad who would show up on the sidelines belligerent and angry.  He would yell at refs or “encourage” through his frustrated tone. He was thrown off of soccer fields, out of wrestling and basketball gyms and there is likely a large part of me that has not sufficiently dealt with what that did to me.

He coached one of my basketball teams, and during the pre-game chalk talk his hands were shaking so badly (from withdrawal) that he couldn’t even write the x’s and o’s. Noone sounds quite as frustrated and irritated as an alcoholic in withdrawal. I know our team lost that game, and he very nearly got thrown out. We were an hour away from  home, and when we stopped for lunch, he went to the “bathroom” for about fifteen minutes. The two girls who were riding with us went to get in the car with me and we discovered four of six newly bought beers were gone. His shaking had stopped, but the girls and I shook in the backseat the entire way home.

There are other stories of embarassment, frustration and hurt connected to my dad and his presence in my sports life. It was the only common language we ever spoke. He yelled and I did everything I could to please him…to be good enough to earn his approval.

I hear him in the stands at our girls’ games. Not literally him, but the things he used to say, the frustrated tone he used to use. The hairs on my neck raise, and all I want to do is walk up to those dads…those coaches… and yell in their faces, “Do you have ANY idea how talking like this to your daughter is going to hurt her? She doesn’t want you to yell like that at her! She just wants you to cheer for her and tell her that she’s working hard.”

Given the fact that I cried while writing this, I can tell I’ve tapped into something that has needed my attention for far too long. I don’t want to lose it on a dad I barely know.  I want to see the learning opportunity for my girls and to stay objective enough to offer insight to them.

I am learning…I am growing…and I know all too well, that process is NEVER pain free.

Learn more about Meagan or her current book project at www.meaganfrank.com

copyright 2011  Meagan Frank      choosing to grow

*****DISCLAIMER: There is a very real chance that someone will be offended by the following joke and post.   Actually, there is a very real chance that everything I write could be offensive to someone…so… nevermind.*****

Tom Brady, after living a full life, died. When he got to heaven, God was showing him around. They came to a modest little house with a faded Patriots flag in the window. “This house is yours for eternity Tom, said God. “This is very special; not everyone gets a house up here.” Tom felt special, indeed, and walked up to his house. On his way up the porch, he noticed another house ………just around the corner. It was a huge 3-story mansion with Orange and Blue sidewalks and drive ways, a 50 foot tall flagpole with an enormous Broncos logo flag waving, a swimming pool in shape of a horse, a Broncos logo in every window, and a Tim Tebow jersey on the front door. Tom looked at God and said “God, I’m not trying to be ungrateful, but I have a question. I was an all-pro QB, I won 3 Super Bowls, and I even went to the Hall of Fame.” God said “So what’s your point Tom?” “Well, why does Tim Tebow get a better house than me?” God chuckled, and said “Tom, that’s not Tim’s house, it’s mine.”

Everyone wants God to be on their side. If you laughed at this joke, it’s because you have been following the feverish insanity surrounding Tim Tebow and the “miraculous” wins of the Denver Broncos. Maybe God does have something to do with the last-second wins. That would be something worth believing, right?

I am luke warm about my feelings for Tim Tebow, but I am in the minority.  People either LOVE or HATE the man, and it is not just because of who he is.  You love Tim Tebow if he is the reason you cheer at a football game.  If you are on the losing end of Tebow Time, you cannot stand him. If you identify with the message that presents itself in his post-game interviews or as the Bible verse under his eyes, then you love him.  If you are not Christian, or you have a bad taste in your mouth about religion, you hate that Tim Tebow has any success at all. If you have been a Tim Tebow fan for a while, and you can see that he is at it again, you feel like you are part of his successes. The Broncos fans who voiced their desire to have Tim Tebow play are thrilled…to the point of fanaticism…that what they thought would happen, is happening. I’m not sure enough people consider that…

Tim Tebow is not unlike so many other celebrities in this country. The most divisive aspect of his persona is his belief in God, but that is truly not a new stance. People have believed in God for…well…ever and Jesus for over 2000 years. This is not new.

What is new is the way that superstars are created, molded and eventually digested by a media-hungry society.

I live in Minnesota, so my access to Broncos news is likely the national coverage.  I don’t think Colorado fans realize how media is forming the Tebow haters and creating a culture of such great opposition.

Last week I saw the highlights of the Broncos win, and it looked like this. Picture of Tim Tebow…yada yada talk about the score…kicker scores tying kick (on a LONG kick BTW). Picture of Tebow…signs of Tebow fans…overtime kick highlight…flash back to Tebow’s face.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that Tebow was a kicker!

There was no coverage of Tebow’s post-game concession that the defense and the kicker won that game, so from a national perspective it looks like Broncos fans are completely fanatical about Tebow and they’ve forgotten to give credit to the other members of the team. I know for the majority of Broncos fans, they know better.

This got me to thinking…because it is so much more comfortable to be surrounded by like-minded people, we are constantly aligning ourselves with people who think like we do. Media only helps to magnetically pull people to those respective sides. Then there are problems if the people in your group aren’t pleased with what you say.  Just ask Tim Tebow:  Tim Tebow screws up Maybe it’s better to not be on a side at all!

If you’ve read any of my writing you know that I constantly try to straddle that line and to see things from both sides.  This leaves me without a camp and it can be somewhat polarizing.  So here are my fence-stradling declarations.

I am a Christian

I think it is blasphemy to put Jesus on a jersey

I believe positive leadership inspires teams to win

Sometimes that person is named Tebow, and sometimes not

I love the information that 24-7 media can provide…both lovers and haters

I am disheartened that people are comfortable and don’t want to see the big picture

I have friends on both sides of the fence

Want to dangle your feet  with me?

Happiness

Live, Hope, Love

Learn more about Meagan at www.meaganfrank.com

Copyright 2011 Meagan Frank                                                                                              Choosing to Grow

I spend my weekends surrounded by fans.  This weekend, there were fans in my family room watching  Thanksgiving football. There were cheering and jeering fans at Buffalo Wild Wings and there were fans at each of the hockey games I attended too.

The thing is, I’m a pretty pathetic fan.

I don’t do all the things that fans are supposed to do.  I don’t consistently wear the team colors or stand up to emote my excitement or disappointment.  The closest I have ever been to claiming fan status was when I attended college hockey games with my friends and we wore t-shirts to spell out words. Even that felt incredibly awkward to me.

My closet is void of team sweatshirts, (except for the teams I’ve coached) and I am often completely oblivious about the schedule of the games.

I am not a good fan.

I may not do fan things well, but I love watching sports. I don’t watch for the fan experience, I watch because I so appreciate the athleticism, the talent, the human story in each game, and if I’m going to be honest, I’m entertained by the fans themselves.

Fans are such emotional beings. They rise and fall with the successes of their teams. You can hear it…especially if all you are doing is listening to the emotional crescendo.

Something even happens to the eyes of fans while they are watching, and I have learned to let the emotion fade before saying much to a disappointed fan. (An art mastered as the wife of a Vikings fan)

That’s all I need to say, right?  If I tell you that my husband is a Vikings fan, a picture probably pops into your head. How about for a Steelers fan? A Lakers fan? A Red Wings fan? A Yankees fan? There’s a persona, right?

I’m a huge party pooper when it comes to fandom. I don’t have a favorite football, basketball, hockey or baseball team.  I enjoy watching good games and I’m compelled by the personal stories of triumph and teamwork, but I’m not super cool to hang out with if you are looking for that fan experience.

Fans generally have a running commentary on the plays of the games. They verbalize frustrations with the players, they yell at refs, they engage with opposing fans, they continually critique the coaches and the coaching decisions and they are most excited when they are surrounded by fans who think and feel like them.

Maybe this is why the youth games I attend are becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me.

The fans that show up to a youth sporting event are not just fans of the sport, they are not even just fans of the team, they are fans for their individual children. What’s wrong with parents being fans of their children, you might ask?

Personally, I don’t think it is wrong for parents to be fans of their kids, just as long as it doesn’t interfere with their ability to parent well.

When fan emotion mingles with logical parenting decisions, too often the emotion wins out. Frustration over performance, the negative emotions that accompany losses, disappointment with what seems unfair are all things that fans experience. Parents need to filter all of that to offer objective, loving guidance to help their children navigate sports as a small aspect of their life experiences.

 

It fascinates me…honestly.  I walk around the rink at the games for the youngest kids, and I hear parent after parent yelling instruction through the glass, or over the boards,about what a kid should do. “Two hands on the stick.”  “Get up!” “Go after it.” “Skate faster.” These instructions are even beyond the calls of a fan. The parents who feel like they need to instruct are fans and coaches wrapped up into one. (an entirely separate blogpost) They forget that they should be parents first.

Kids need parents on the sidelines.  They need people who are there and are genuinely invested in the longterm goal of raising a kid of character. Of supporting them when they fall, not yelling at them because they did.

 

Fans want an experience, and that’s fine. The problem is that kids who play sports want the sports experience as a player, but they need the parent-child relationship more than they need an adoring fan. If the sports experience is disappointing, and the emotion drives a conversation between a parent and a child, the relationship takes on a twinge of disappointment too.  It all gets really confusing…especially for a young child.

So are you more of a fan or more of a parent?

Checklist of a fan:

  • Prep for the games getting yourself all psyched up
  • Have superstitions
  • Wear team gear
  • Plan life around games
  • Feel as though you are part of the action
  • Speak critical commentary about plays during the game
  • Verbalize opinions about the refs
  • Criticize the coaching decisions
  • Feel extremely disappointed when the team loses
  • Feel extremely pleased when the team wins

Checklist of a parent:

  • Feed and rest their children so the children are prepared to play
  • Prep children with emotional fuel
  • Schedule games into the lives of the family
  • Enjoy watching the action
  • Cheer effort of their children
  • Let the refs ref
  • Let the coaches coach
  • Help to support a child when he/she loses
  • Point out the ways a child worked hard no matter the outcome of a game

I think every parent who has their children involved with sports will have elements of both a fan and a parent, but I think much more time needs to be invested in drawing those lines so that appropriate parenting decisions take precedence over experiencing a child’s event as a fan.