We Will Win or Lose as a TEAM

 

We will win or lose as a TEAM.

Over the course of the 20+ years of coaching various sports one of the messages that I have shared with all of the players of the teams I coached is the importance that we would win or lose as a TEAM.

Nothing frustrates me more than when I see youth sports coaches today think nothing of running short benches to win games, tournaments merely to put another feather in their cap to have bragging rights.  When a coach sits players and play their favorites in lieu for most or all of games, more often than not it leads to those players who sat quitting their respective sports.

Why?

Because as my son so eloquently shared with me a few years ago when he and a team mate sat on the bench in a very cold rink for the better part of the game and  I asked him afterwards how he felt he said;

“I’m pissed because I was deprived of the opportunity to contribute to the outcome” 

90% of kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on a bench for a winning team.

He was only 14 years old at the time and I will never forget the statement, and I really wish the adults in the game (coaches) would take the time to put themselves in the kids shoes recognizing they are coaching an entire team vs. only the top “perceived” players.

As much as there are initiatives for equal playing time, there is no such thing (because all sports have penalties and coaches also must enforce discipline that will affect playing time), in lieu, sports organizations must incorporate policies to ensure fair playing time and it I the job of all all coaches to ensure that EVERY player has a role on the team where they will have an opportunity to contribute to the outcome.

Here as just a few recent examples how coaches at the highest level followed the same philosophy to ensure that all players contributed on their teams.

  1. Team Canada 2018 World Junior Hockey Team

At this year’s world junior tournament, Hockey Canada had a roster that many felt was not the strongest we have had,  there were no top 10 NHL first round draft picks but it was the direction of the Hockey Canada organizers to have a well balanced team vs. prior teams that had top draft picks like the 2015 team with Connor McDavid (the last time Canada won Gold).

The also wanted to focus on overall team speed so they could separate the puck from opponents as quickly as possible.

It helped they had some “pretty good” goaltending also, although Carter Hart again was between the pipes for an overtime loss against the USA, this time it was in Round Robin play vs. the final gold medal game vs. Sweden.  Prior to this years World Juniors, Carter was the leading goalie in the WHL Everett Silvertips with a 1.63 GAA and 0.951 save percentage even though he had a bout of mono that limited him to only 12 games in the fall.  When it mattered most, Carter made over 30 saves in the Gold Game and was voted MVP of the game.

 

The winning goal in the Gold Medal Game?

It could not have been scripted better by Hollywood as it was scored by 13th forward on the team,  when many questioned why head coach Domenique Ducharme continued to roll his lines in the latter part of the third period.  Tyler Steenbergen, had not scored in the Major Junior Tournament, but then he scored THE goal on a tip in the latter part of the 3rd period.  He was the ONLY forward in the tournament to have not scored to that point due to balance across all the forwards and could not have been more of an opportunist (Ray Ferraro comment) then getting that tip to bring gold home to Canada.

If Team Canada can roll 4 lines in the top tournament in the world for U20 players, then why do I see coaches starting with U9 age groups running short benches starting as early when the puck drops?

One of the kids that I knew quit playing hockey as a result of not being able to play at all in his second year of hockey at SIX, because the coach felt he was too small!. The coach that did so was not invited to coach the following year for a myriad of reasons, but the damage was done and the player became one of the 70% that quit youth sports before he was 13.

I was so happy to see Domenique and the 7 returning players win the tournament with the others that were added to the roster after a tragic shootout loss the prior season as they took the high road and every player had the opportunity to contribute to the outcome!

Kudo’s to Hockey Canada, management and all the staff for putting together a roster and bring back a coach that provided all players that opportunity to not only represent their country, but contribute to the outcome bringing home gold for the 17th time.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide Football Team

Nick Saban knows a thing or two about developing a culture of excellence on his teams, one of the winningest coaches in NCAA Div 1 History.

In this year’s National Championship Game, the team’s starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts struggled and Alabama trailed Georgia by 13 points at the end of the first half and Nick opted to go with their freshmen QB, Tua Tagovailoa (another QB from Hawaii) to start the second half as he felt he would stronger for the passing game he knew they had to go to due to Georgia’s strong run defence Jalen and running backs were struggling against.

In today’s era of prima donna superstars, Jalen’s reaction to being pulled could have been like Team Sweden’s World Junior team captain who thru his silver medal into the stands and he could have sat somber on the sidelines.  In lieu, he was smiling, cheering on Tua as a true team player should.

Sometimes it just is not your game, like goalies in hockey, pitchers in baseball, point guards in basketball and need to step aside to let other team members have their opportunity to contribute.

Result – Tua throws the winning touchdown in OT after Alabama missed the field goal that would have won the game in regular time and Nick Saban leads Alabama to their  14th National Championship and is now tied with Bear Bryant with 5 National titles at Alabama, whom Saban himself said was the greatest coach ever of college football.   He shared post game that it had to be a “Team” ball for the resiliency that the team demonstrated to win the championship. 6

Jalen Hurts Interview post game

 

Kudo’s to Nick Saban and the entire roster of Alabama for proving all the ney sayers wrong and making the necessary adjustments to win the national championship.

  1. Vegas Golden Knights – NHL

 

 

Thanks to the way the NHL changed the format for expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights were able to hit the ground running in a sense, in lieu of prior expansion franchises being bottom dwellers for years as they waited for trades and draft picks to develop

The franchise did three things to ensure that the expansion team in the sunbelt would be successful out of the gate

  • Hired a Great General Manager George McPhee, GM, who started his career with the Vancouver Canucks as director of hockey operations (mentored by Brian Burke) starting in 1992 and held that role during their run in the Stanley Cup in 1995 then became GM of the Washington Capitals thru the rebuild era and drafting Ovechkin as the first overall pick in 2004.
  • Hired a Great Coach, Gerard Gallant, his first words with all the players after the expansion draft it was going to take 23 guys, everyone has to compete, rolling 4          lines, 6 defence playing EVERY night.  They have been what any coach aspires, very hard to play against each and every night since the season started.

Hmmm … will win as a team, will lose as a team.

  • They took advantage of the expansion draft, selecting a well rounded team starting with a goalie who had won a Stanley Cup and a cast of tenacious players that would buy into Gerard’s system to be tough to play against every night where he recently stated in an interview that the veterans would not tolerate superstars like the majority of NHL franchises had

Where did Gerard learn his craft?

He played in the NHL then started his coaching journey in major journey followed by stints as assistant coach under the likes of Dave King, Doug McClean, Ted Nolan and Michel Therien. His first opportunity as head coach was with the Florida Panthers where he was a finalist for the Jack Adams award in the 2015-16 season but was let go to many peoples surprise early the following season.  In April 2017, he became the first head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights and will be behind the bench for team Pacific in the All – Star Game.

The Vegas Golden Knights are on track to exceed 100 points this season and compete for a playoff spot and are the highest scoring team in the league 5 on 5.  In their home town infamous for those betting on long shots, the odds have changed significantly for the Knights as it nears the mid way point for the all star break.

Gerard already has my vote for the Jack Adams award, for setting the example in the NHL we will win or lose as a TEAM.

Perhaps more youth sports coaches will gain insight from these great examples and recognize of developing and connecting with every player on their teams in lieu of falling back to playing their favorites only in key situations, as John Totorella learned all too well in the season he coached the Vancouver Canucks and the missed the playoffs only 3 years since their Stanley Cup run vs. the Bruins.

Ironically, a couple of years later as a result of Columbus Management telling John he had to change his barking old school style of coaching, as a result of his transformation he lead the team on a record winning streak, made the playoffs and was the recipient of the very same Jack Adams Coach of the Year award that I believe Gerard will receive this season for the great job his had done with the Golden Knights.

Let’s all work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.

 

Don`t be a kids last coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Sport Specialization does more harm than good 2018

 

As I am doing the final tweaks to my presentation for my talk at the upcoming Sport for Life Annual Summit in a couple of weeks, I have done some more research on early sport specialization vs. LTAD and thought would be good to do an update to prior post I wrote last year “Early Sport Specialization does more harm than good

It continues to be one of the top 3 questions I am asked after every presentation, just yesterday when I was asked to be a panel expert for UBC’s KINtribute to Active Society session several of the students that attended approached me afterwards.  Approximately ½ of those that attended the panel got in line to ask me questions as we wrapped up and literally every question revolved around early specialization, even a former gymnast who was now coaching that quit competing at 12 as wanted to try other sports in lieu of being at the gym 7 days a week (although gymnastics is one of those that do require early specialization, she was not the first that shared with me she burnt out early much like those in long term development sports do when specialize too soon).

  1. The Data does not lie – Early sport specialization does more harm than good

A recent study (Nov. 2017) was conducted by USCF Benioff Children’s hospital in Oakland California that looked at NBA players and whether they played multiple sports or just basketball (already specialized) in high school.

Those that had already specialized in High school and went on to college, play in the NBA suffered 10X more injuries and had shorter playing careers than those that continued in multiple sporting activities in high school and even in college.

“The study included 237 athletes, of whom 36 (15 percent) were multi-sport athletes and 201 (85 percent) were single-sport athletes in high school. The researchers found that multisport athletes played in a greater percentage of total games (78.4 percent vs. 72.8 percent), but were less likely to sustain a major injury during their career (25 percent vs. 43 percent). A greater percentage of the multi-sport athletes were also active in the league at time of the study, indicating increased longevity in the NBA (94 percent vs. 81.1 percent).”

Source:  UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital – Nov 2017 Study of NBA players

Many basketball players in high school become football in players in college who in turn are drafted to the NFL, Jimmy Graham, Tight End for the Seattle Seahawks being one of many.

  1. Kids are getting recruited earlier and earlier for NCAA Div 1 schools

I shared this recent tweet I came across on facebook and twitter, the youngest player I am aware of (to date) that has been offered a scholarship by a NCAA University is Havon Finney Jr, offered a scholarship to play at the University in Nevada in 2027!

 

Yes… you read this right, he will not be eligible to play collegiate football until he is 18 and was only 9 (Grade 5) when offered his scholarship last June.

It appears that the NCAA has a “little bit of work to do” in terms of early recruiting policies to ensure that we don’t have college coaches showing up at maternity wards down the road (I know that is an extreme but ENOUGH already, let kids be kids)

Kudo’s to NCAA Lacrosse for taking the initiative to eliminate early recruiting practices until kids are juniors in high school (Grade 10 – 15-16 years old).

The earliest I was aware of prior to Havon, was 12 year old (Grade 7) Olivia Moultie, offered a scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina, coached by Anson Dorrance who has lead his “women’s” teams to 22 National Championships.

 

Ironically, when Anson Dorrance was interviewed regarding recruiting players younger and younger he countered if he was not doing so, another Div I School would.

He further shared how it is hurting all concerned …

“It’s killing the kids that go places and don’t play,” he said. “It’s killing the schools that have all the scholarships tied up in kids who can’t play at their level. It’s just, well, it’s actually rather destructive.”  New York Times

 With NCAA schools providing the green light to coaches to verbally commit scholarship monies, what happens (a) when the coach is fired or moves on to another program and (b) what happens when the scholarship coffer accrual is for “prospects” vs. actual players?  With earlier and earlier recruitment, it is no wonder why parents are buying in to early specialization to ensure their kids are considered for scholarships and hey, even if they don’t get to play and sit on the bench, they will get the education the parents should have been saving for when their kids were born like my wife and I did.  I suspect the fallout in years to come is going to be significant and many of the verbal agreements being made now will be rescinded down the road.

  1. Is the cost (overuse injuries, addictions, mental illness) worth the price?

Tiger Woods

I tried to find the origins of early sport specialization and the only thing I came across was it started in eastern Europe when doping was the norm before the breakup of many communist countries (even though doping is still a hot topic today with now democratic Russia) but I would argue is one of the origins for the early sport specialization insanity in North America was due to Tiger Woods path focusing on golf starting 40 years ago. He appeared on Bob Hope’s show in the putting contest at 2 then the pic below when he was 5 showing his already powerful swing and was one of the World’s top amateurs in all his age groups until he turned pro in 1996 (at 21).

He did achieve great results, won 14 majors (second only to Jack), 79 PGA wins (2nd only to Sam Snead), was the youngest ever to win the Golf Grand Slam and held the #1 ranking in the world for 9 of 14 years.

PEBBLE BEACH, CA – JUNE 20: Tiger Woods watches a tee shot during the final round of the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 20, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

BUT ……

His body has sustained numerous injuries, many of which required major surgeries even before his professional career started so is the epitome how our bodies can not sustain the same repetitive motion that leads to overuse injuries incurred by athletes that specialize in a sport too early.

 

 

Below is the list of injuries that Tiger sustained that took away from competing on tour, his longest the most recent back fusion missing 15 months and only just coming back from another try to return

Before He turned Pro – while at Stanford University – 18 Years Old

Dec 1994 – surgery on left knee to remove benign tumours and scar tissue

After he turned pro in 1996 @ 21 Years Old

@ 33 Years Old

April 15 2008 – Anthroscopic Surgery on left knee to repair cartilage damage

May 2008 – Forced to rest his due to stress fractures on left tibula –  6 weeks off

June 2008 – Left Knee ACL surgery

Dec 2008 – Injured Right Achilles Tendon running

@ 34 Years Old

May 2010 – Pulls out of the Players Championship due to bulging disc on his back

@ 35 Years Old

April 2011 – injures left Achilles during the Masters, pulls out of Wells Fargo even to recover

May 2011 – Pulls out of the Players Championship for second time in a row due to MCL strain on left knee and strain of left Achilles tendon

@ 36 Years Old

March 2012 – Pulls out of the Cadillac Championship 11 holes into the final round due to strained left Achilles

@ 37 Years Old

June 2013 – left elbow strain that occurred at Players championship continues to bother him, pulls out of the US open and next few events to rest for British Open

@ 38 Years Old

March 2014 – Plays the final 12 holes of the Honda Classic with back pain that flared up initially in the Cadillac Open a few weeks prior

March 2014 – Withdraws from Arnold Palmer Invitational – Back Pain

April 2014 – Announces will miss the masters and will not golf until the summer

@ 39 Years Old

Sept 2015 – Undergoes second back surgery to remove a disc fragment pinching on nerve

Oct 2015 – third back surgery to relieve discomfort form second surgery

@ 41 Years Old

April 2017 – Back fusion to alleviate pain in back, neck and hip

Injuries Source: www.pga.com

Almost every injury he sustained was due to the torque and speed of his swing that did force event organizers to “Tiger Proof” their course adding distance due to Tigers initial domination but over the course of his career, injuries and rehab time forced him to pull out of many events or not participate at all so quite possibly would have achieved the 19 majors, most wins goals had that not been the case.

If Tigers medical history alone does not make you question if early sport specialization is worth the price, what will?

Yes Tiger had* (*jury is still out what impact, if any he will make after his last surgery) a great career but had he been a multi-sport athlete like golf’s next phenom, Jordan Spieth, already winning 14 events, 3 of which are majors and only at 22 years had earnings exceeding that in only his second year as a pro!

Like the initial NBA study, I suspect Jordan will achieve more (in terms of wins and earnings) but also play longer and sustain significantly less injuries/rehab than Tiger has but only time will tell.

Todd Marinovich

 

 

The other example why early sport specialization is not worth the price, is Todd Marinovich.  Like Tiger’s Father aspiring him to become the best golfer in the world, Todd Marinovich’s father,  Marv a former NFL player himself , aspired for Todd to become the best quarterback EVER in the NFL.   Todd had an initial great run winning the Rose Bowl with USC, being drafted in the first round ahead of hall of famer Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers) by the Raiders in the NFL so did reach his (fathers) dream.

Sadly, due to the pressure he had been under since 5 years old from his father to focus on being that Quarterback his NFL career was short lived and what followed was decades of drug and alcohol abuse, struggles with mental illness and time behind bars for drug related offences.

Fortunately he has now received help from several people, including his two children and has turned the corner, being sober now for over a year but he paid a hefty price as a result focusing on football only starting at the young age of 5.  He was deprived of a normal childhood sampling many sports, other things like drama, band, art and just being a kid PLAYING before he chose the game he loved most after high school like Jordan Spieth and many others that followed the multi-sport pathway.

 

Let’s all work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.

PS Tagline - Dont be a kids last coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make it Safe 2018

 

Make it Safe from all forms of harassment

In many of my talks with coaches and parents I share 5 key takeaways, one being we must make it safe to fail and from all forms of harassment.

The latter is the focus of this post, an expanded version of prior post Make it Safe where I shared some of the great work being done by various groups to reduce harassment in youth sports.

In that post I shared the study that was posted by True Sport in their 2008 report, the most serious issue facing youth sports 10 years was harassment, identified by 38% of the respondents in a survey.

Fast forward 10 years later, harassment in various forms is not only prevalent, but I would argue has not improved, but has gotten worse as a result of cyberbullying now coming to the forefront as another means of harassment.

Having been a victim of bullying myself, I have never condoned harassment in any shape or form on my teams and encourage all coaches and parents in my talks to have zero tolerance but  one thing comes to light over and over again, ignorance what the various forms of harassment are and how to deal with.

Today’s post will focus on the top 5 forms of harassment facing youth sports today, and suspect as it continues to be a hot topic, more to follow in future.

#1 Bullying

Definition: “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour amongst individuals that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, the behaviour is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time”

Common for bullying is kids calling other kids names (something I can relate all too well), but also physical abuse (being punched, kicked, hit) by both fellow team or class mates but also the very people that are supposed to have zero tolerance towards can be the bullies (Coaches, parents or teachers).

Verbal – teasing, name-calling, taunting, threatening or causing harm

Physical – hitting, kicking, punching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someones things, making rude hand gestures

Social (relational) – someone is left out on purpose, spreading rumour about another kid or embarrassing a child in public

Ironically the focus of bullying is kids towards kids, but coaches, teachers and instructors also can be the bullies as highlighted in recent article about Will Martin bullying a player on his team in California among other coaches identified.

Per the National Centre for Education Statistics 28% of Us students in grades 6-12 have experienced bullying

In a Study done by Bradshaw, Sawyer and O’Brennan Over 70% in the same age groups have seen bullying happen in their schools

As I was a victim of all forms of bullying as was my brother and others I know so I take harassment very personally, but even more so as two class mates of my son and daughter at their high school committed suicide, one was a girl who played on the girls rugby team that allegations of bullying were hinted was one of the reasons why she did so.

The other, was a 15 year old boy who committed suicide on the same day that my son and all his buds were celebrating their high school graduation.  When I found out the news I literally fell out my chair sobbing as I had coached him 2 years prior on the high school junior rugby team, and had also coached his older brother, and two of his cousins in hockey.

Both cousins quit hockey before they were 13 one who happened to be a very strong player but as a result of the verbal abuse he and his team mates received on a spring team he quit hockey as well as other sports to become one of the 70% of kids that quit by the age of 13.

Why the young boy M took his life, no one knows, he was always one with a huge smile on his face but as more and more comes out about the damaging effects of depression the more we are becoming aware that mental illness impacts those in sport as well.  As my brother shared when I texted him about it as he also lost a close friend who committed suicide, he replied “Mental illness is EVIL.”

Ensure you join the conversation about mental illness on Jan. 31st, 2018 when Bell sponsors the 7th annual Let’s Talk Day

 

#2 Cyberbullying (origins approximately 2008 after the world’s first smartphone, the device of choice for Gen Z)

Definition: The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending a message of an intimidating or threatening nature

During this year’s world junior tournament, one of the top commercials being played is former Canadian World Junior Player Jordan Eberle sharing insight on cyberbullying sponsored by Telus below, almost ½ of kids have experienced cyberbullying in the past month!

Cyberbullying is a relatively new form of harassment that all adults in the youth sports space must be aware of.

Kudo’s to Telus and Jordan Eberle for bringing this serious issue to the forefront, “no kid should have to go thru getting bullied.”

Some other cyberbullying statistics;

  • About the same number (approx 50%) that have been victims of cyberbullying have been instigators themselves!
  • Over 25% have been bullied repeatedly thru their cell phones or social media
  • Over 50% do not tell their parents, less than 20% report to authorities
  • 10% have had embarrassing pictures of themselves posted without permission
  • 20% have sent sexually suggestive of nude pics of themselves to others
  • Girls are more likely than boys to be involved in cyberbullying

Source: www.bullyingstatistics.org

#3 Sexual Harassment

Definition: harassment (typically of a woman but roles can be reversed) that involves the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

Although not commonplace YET in youth sports, professional sports commentators Sportsnet Greg Zaun and NFL Network Analysts Marshall Faulk, Donovon McNabb, Ike Taylor, Heath Evans, Eric Weinberger have been suspended or fired for allegations of sexual harassment in latter part of 2017.

Hall of Fame NFL and CFL quarterback Warren Moon has received another allegation of sexual harassment, previously from a former cheerleader of the Minnesota Vikings and the most recent from an aid of his sports marketing company.

Where sexual harassment is starting to evolve and coaches must be aware of is in mixed teams, many girls like my niece played on boy’s hockey teams as their association was not large enough to have girls only AAA teams.   Having coached girls softball teams for many years coaches you must be very cautious of any comments you make that may be taken out of context also.

As the professional sports broadcasters found out more and more girls and women are speaking out via #metoo initiatives and rightfully so, no one regardless of gender should be harassed in youth sports, schools or the workforce.

#4 Sexual Abuse

Definition: also referred to as molestation, is undesired sexual behaviour by one person over another, the offender is referred to as a the sexual abuser or molester.

In a Study done by Parent and El Mimi at the University of Laval, 2-8% of minor-age athletes are victims of sexual abuse within the context of sport and of the 159 case of sexual abuse reported, the perpetrators were coaches, teachers or instructors in 98% of the cases

Recent examples of Sexual Abuse in Sports

2017 – USA Gymnastics – 125  former and current members of the USA Gymnastics team, including Olympic Medal winners, came forward with sexual abuse allegations towards former team doctor Larry Nazar which he pleaded guilty and sentenced to life in prison soon after. There is still fall-out how USA Gymnastics could have had the culture that lead to this and how some early allegations were not followed up on similar to the fall-out from USA Swimming 7 years prior.

2017 – Canadian Alpine Ski Team – former ski coach Betrand Charest from 1996 to 1998 gets a 12 year prison sentence for sexually assaulting 12 teen girls between the ages of 12-19 at the time.  Two subsequent charges were brought forth but put aside as they occurred while Charest was coaching in New Zealand, out of the courts jurisdiction.  Alpine Canada applauded all those that came forward and says it will continue to work with its partners on “all relevant initiatives that strengthen the prevention of any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination locally, provincially and across all sports.”

2016 – United Kingdom, particularly Football – Initial allegations came forward by many English professional footballers reported in Nov. 2016 they had been victims of sexual assault by coaches, then a month later allegations about former coaches and scouts started to emerge. from Scotland and Ireland.  By Sept 2017 the number of affected UK football clubs had grown to 331 with 285 identified suspects and 784 victims.  Although Football was the main focus in Britain, allegations came forward from individuals in others sports including basketball, rugby, gymnastics, martial arts, tennis, wrestling, golf, sailing, athletics, cricket and swimming.

2011 – Jerry Sandusky @ Penn State University – sex abuse scandal came to light, former football assistant coach was charged of 48 counts of sexually abusing minors and was found guilty of 45 receiving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison. Jerry not only destroyed the lives all those he abused, but the tenured coaching career of Joe Paterno, many argued was one of the greatest coaches ever who coached Penn State football team for 46 seasons !  Soon after the allegations came forward, Joe resigned and shortly after passed away from cancer that many argue was the dark cloud from not acting on initial allegations that came forward in 2002.

2010 – USA Swimming – A Television News Investigation reported sexual misconduct by a number of different coaches, one being Andy King who coached at various clubs on the west coast for three decades and was found guilty of abusing over a dozen teenaged female victims, one who had an abortion at 14 years of age.  More than 100 coaches were banned for life as a result of the investigation and the NGB was blasted for not acting on allegations sooner, even allowing coaches that faced initial allegations transfer to new clubs in other cities that lead to further teenage victims.  One of the coaches that has been suspended originated from Ireland, George Gibney who left Ireland who had been charged with indecent assault in 1993 but was successful in obtaining his green card to coach in the USA.

1996 – Graham James – Former WHL coach – identified by Sheldon Kennedy (co-founder of the Respect Group in 2004) and another unnamed player initially with others to follow that they were sexually abused by James.  He subsequently pleaded guilty to 350 sexual assaults over his coaching tenure in the WHL from the mid 80’s to mid 90’s and served several prison terms as more allegations were brought to light including Theo Fleury’s.  He is now out on parole, but many feel (yours truly included) that his prison term(s) should have been much, much longer.

I would have thought the awareness that started when Sheldon Kennedy then all others since who have come forward would have been enough to nip sexual abuse of minors in sport in the bud right then and there but it appears that all sporting organizations still have work to do both in the recruiting of their coaches and reporting procedures for their athletes.

The question I have now is what program is next?  Are there any other sexual predators out there that we don’t know about YET?

I hope not… I truly hope that the awareness created now will ensure that all sports programs implement the check and balances needed to ensure these tragic events don’t happen again EVER.

Coaches, as a result of the sexual abuse issues above, many sports groups are asking for police checks of their coaches annually or bi-annually. I feel your pain, particularly if you have to get multiple police checks done each year, as I am involved with various children’s programs and charities I have to get 2-4 police checks done each year and thanks to the fact I share the same birthday as a pedophile, each time I have get fingerprints as well.  I do so without hesitation, it is all about protecting the kids.

 

 

#5 Hazing

Definition: any initiation process involving harassment, regardless if the victim provides consent or not due to peer pressure to do so.

 Contrary to Bullying that is more about exclusion, hazing involves the very same forms of harassment, abuse or humiliation but is all about inclusion, initiating a new member to the team.

It has long been touted as “boys being boys”,”the Badge of Honour” or “part of our tradition.”

Below is the most recent example of the extremes of hazing, yet another scandal at Penn State University where a student pledge to a fraternity died as a result of excessive drinking of alcohol.

There are three distinct forms of hazing

  • Subtle – picking up pucks, balls after practice, calling senior players sir
  • Harassment – yelling or screaming, personal chores or servitude, wearing humiliating attire
  • Hazardous – forcing others to drink, eat vile substances, sexual acts, coerced alcohol, drugs, burning, branding, illegal activities, bondage, forced exposure to extreme weather, exercise

The reason why Hazing is so serious is since it merely escalates year over year, particularly in sports programs as we all want to do “better” that prior teams did.

According to a study shared by stop hazing, 47% of students experience some form of hazing before they graduate from high school and 74% of players on varsity teams go thru hazing.

Joe Sakic, Hall of Fame former NHL player had his head shaved like the Whitecaps players in prior post Make it Safe in his rookie season and he vowed he would never do the same to another human being.

Don Cherry, the OHL and numerous other sports leaders and organizations have zero tolerance for hazing rituals but merely putting “Hazing of any kind will not be permitted” in an associations policy is not enough, coaches, players, and all adults involved with the teams must be educated on the various forms of hazing so even the subtlest forms do not start.

One of top Universities in Canada, McGill, had their entire 2008 Varsity Football program shut down due to hazing (less than 10 years ago!)

A couple of years back when I was doing research on hazing, one of the experts I reached out to referred parents to contact me. They thanked me for taking the initiative to do so as their 18 old son died as a result of hazardous hazing during pledging for a fraternity. They shared there is not enough education being done and if there had been, perhaps their son would still be alive today.

Needless to say, I was very sombre when I read their note as I dug into researching hazing further, he was not the only one, there have been over 200 hazing deaths since they were first tracked in 1838 (average 1.11/yr) but 40 from 2007-2017 (4 per annum)!

During Feb. 5th – 9th I will be one of the guests of the free end bullying summit hosted by Dr. Jen Fraser, author of Teaching Bullies, and encourage you all to register for to hear from some of the world’s top experts what we can do to eliminate the various forms of harassment that continues to impact youth sports today.

Here is the link to sign up FREE for:  GoTime Learning End Bullying Summit

I am not sure we will ever eliminate harassment completely, but we can no longer condone it, sweep it under the rug, turn a blind eye and we must deal with it head on providing safe reporting procedures for the victims and timely investigation procedures, too many kids are getting hurt by the various forms of harassment that exist today.

If you can eliminate harassment on your team as one coach, or in your classroom as one teacher we all will take a HUGE leap forward.

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.

Don`t be a kids last coach

 

TURN OFF THE SMARTPHONES!

 

In recent year’s there has been a large emphasis by various sports groups how kids have replaced their former active play time with inactive screen time.

Now kids between the ages of 8-18 spend on average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen based on all the electronic mediums available to them;

  1. Video Games – Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch

Now the gamers that spend 30+ hours a week playing to hone their craft they have been identified as “athletes”, and live egames events are selling out in minutes so their “fans” can watch them compete against other elite gamers live.

  1. Streaming – Youtube, Netflix, Crave – not only kids but even is leading to adults binging for HOURS on end watching

How many of you still have analogue cable subscriptions?  Many of the former cable providers have switched to network based platforms that will permit all family members to watch TV on all of their portable devices

  1. Smartphones – The world’s first smartphone is only 10 years old (iPhone) and still continues to be the front runner in terms of market share but with numerous others getting their piece of the pie including Samsung, LG, Huawei

Probably one of my biggest pet peeves when I am privileged to get tickets to go see a live sporting event is watching all the people around me on their phones and totally oblivious to the event itself with exception of taking a selfie so the can post to their various social media platforms.  If asked what the score was of the game afterwards I am certain many would not be able to answer.

Over the last few days we hosted both of our respective families for Christmas get togethers, the first was with my wife’s family on Christmas Eve, the second on Christmas Day/Boxing Day my brother’s Brady Bunch.

The first evening my nephews started playing Nintendo Dance but then they played like the kids they are, they played hide and seek for over an hour, pulled out some of my son’s old toys and pretended they were pirates, cowboys and ran amuck thru the house for better part of the evening pre and post dinner.  Even some of the adults (myself included) got involved as the good or bad guys in their various games they played.

It was refreshing to see that kids still could be kids without an electronic device in their baggy jeans or sweatpants pockets with earbuds in their ears.

The second evening was a complete reversal, my brother and his significant other are both divorced with 3 children each (6 total) so we have nicknamed them the Brady bunch.  Their ages range from 7 to 15 and all but the 7 year old brought their latest and greatest electronic device ranging from iPods to iPhones, tablets and even mini robots controlled by their devices.

Although I was impressed with the technology in part, I was not impressed with how many times had to tell them to unplug.  My 11 year niece’s biological father got her an iPhone for Christmas (which my brother and I felt was too early but that is another story in itself) and she would not unplug at all for the 24 hours they were with us (they all slept over).  At first my brother defended it, then the following day he too got frustrated and as 4 of the kids were sitting on the couch as they were getting ready to have breakfast had to scream TURN OFF YOUR SMARTPHONES! and come and eat.

A couple said, “just a minute” and thought he was going to blow a gasket much like I had the prior evening, although they live in the Vancouver area, we only see each other a few times a year due to all of our hectic schedules and get togethers should be just that, an opportunity to share how we are all doing and what plans we have for the year to come.

The one solace for me and him was I had spent the morning cleaning up our garage and getting our pool table ready and pulling out all of our various board games for an evening of good old play without being plugged in.  Once the garage warmed up to a point we could all tolerate it (the only place our house could accommodate a pool table) a handful went and played pool, while others pulled out various board games including the older “kids” for a spirited game of Risk (including yours truly).

After the young ones crashed in various parts of the house, the adults took their favorite beverages to the garage and played pool until the wee hours of the AM, improvising as the tips of the longer cues had been broken off.

Good times were had by all, some of the kids returned back to the garage for more pool, while others “regressed” to their electronics to get their dopamine fixes on snapchat, youtube, instagram and texting but at least they had a few hours hiatus the prior evening.

The message I want to share with all parents and coaches, is somehow/someway we need to get kids off their devices for 60 minutes a day so they can be active again.  Run around and play hide and seek, get out the pool cues, bubble hockey, ping pong paddles, bikes, bats, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, board games, pillow fights or whatever is lying around and just play.  Play without the immediate supervision of the adults so it is safe for them to fail again.

One of the biggest reasons that video games have become the go to for kids is it is safe to fail, there are no adults telling them what to do, criticizing their mistakes and when they “lose” they merely press the reset the button and play again.

 

 

When I was getting grumpy about the electronics, my brother reminded me about the time I got my Atari console with one game, Asteroids, and how much I played initially (on a black and white 12” TV) until the novelty wore off.  He said the same would hold true with all the electronics kids were on today but will it? Or will it continue to get worse?

The only way I believe that it will is parents have to start saying NO.  We must create the environment at home that limits their electronics use just as the greatest creator in our households today EVER did;

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. [Steve] Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” 
(Nytimes article, Sept. 10, 2014)” 
― Nick Bilton

If Steve Jobs limited the time that his kids used electronics at home, I think we could all learn a valuable lesson to do the same.

I think the holidays should also be an opportunity for families, friends to get together, talk, eat and be merry without the distractions of various electronics. Sit in front of the fireplace or at the dinner table, in the kitchen and share stories, talk about the past, the present and what we all aspire will be the future.

Below is a great video clip from Canada’s largest retailer, Loblaws, and the campaign they rolled out to coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary “Let’s Eat Together”

Notice how many of the adults were glued to their smartphones, tablets and screens at the beginning and as they all headed into their apartments?

Kudo’s to the mother who took initiative to invite others to have dinner unplugged, although the lone nut with her daughter being the first follower others joined for a festive holiday meal, conversation and laughter without all of our various electronic appendages, something that seems more the exception than the norm today (when was the last time you went to a restaurant for a meal and people kept their phones in their pockets?)

As we go into 2018,  adults, set the example for your kids, spend time off your devices and spend more time with them playing unplugged.

The starting point, have a rule at your dinner table to TURN OFF YOUR SMARTPHONES and share your day with you kids and let them do the same with you.

Then create the environment inside and outside your home so they are motivated to play so they get their minimum 60 minutes of activity a day and are active for life.  We never will get back to the good old days where kids played for hours on end, but we MUST find the happy medium so they get their minimal physical activity requirements daily.

Let’s work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.

PS Tagline - Dont be a kids last coach

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Coach

 

As we are approaching the holidays break, I wanted to take the opportunity to extend thanks to all the great coaches and teachers out there that commit 100’s, if not thousands of volunteer hours so that kids can have the opportunity to play their respective sports they love.

Having been a youth sports athlete myself in many sports, I know the benefits we all reap as a result of those volunteers.

Not only learning the skills of the game but learning valuable life skills like;

Team work

Sportsmanship

Respect

Commitment

Resiliency/Never Give Up

Selflessness

Humility

Gratititude

Punctuality

Work Ethic

Determination

One of the top lessons I learned from several coaches was how important it was to win with humility and lose with dignity.  They would say to our team, not matter what the outcome of the game, when you left the field people should not know whether you won or lost.

Nothing frustrates me more than poor losers or those that think nothing of excessively celebrating, particularly when there teams are way up on other teams.

What many forget to share when they talk about life skills is how many hats coaches do wear

Father or Mother figure

Social Worker/Counselor

First Aid Attendant

Sport Psychologist

Chauffer

Cheerleader

Confidante

Mentor

Role Model

 

Most importantly – the role of a teacher

 

 

Looking back at all the sports I played and all the great coaches I had, many truly cared about me as a person and not only helped me become a better athlete, but also a better person.

The coaches that I remember most were ones that really guided me to turn the corner when I was in high school, I went thru several years while in junior then senior high school bitter that my father passed away when I was really young and had it not been for those coaches that kept me on track who knows where I would be today.

In grade 8-9 I got involved with a very bad group of kids who were destined for the dark side, doing drugs, petty crimes like B&E’s, Vandalism, shoplifting and so forth and fortunately many of my coaches steered me beyond that.

Probably the biggest influencer aside from my coaches was my Grade 12 Honours French Teacher, in addition to playing numerous sports, being raised by a single parent I also worked on average 24 hours a week plus would attend numbers social events with my teams on weekends.

I will never forget one Monday morning where our first block was French and I stumbled into glass exhausted from a full weekend of work, practices, game and partying until the wee hours and a couple of minutes in she shared that we were going to have a suprise quiz.

I said loudly with an explitive … THAT, I am not doing a quiz.

To which she said “Mr. Mulcahy, outside NOW”

I got up and headed in the hallway and she followed and slammed the door behind her and immediately ripped into me telling me that I had so much potential, that I was wasting my opportunity and if focused more on school it would take me much farther than sports and a part time job would.

This was only a year after I had my head coach do the same, telling me that family came first, school second and sports third as he had gotten wind that some of us on the football team were just “getting by” in our classes and he knew that all of us were top students that had been accepted into honours programs.

Both my coach and my teacher made me realize that I did have to focus on schooling more so that I could pursue post secondary education.

Thanks to a coach and a teacher that truly cared about me, I did go on to college, played collegiate Rugby then completed a university degree and a college diploma.  I worked for one of the largest retailers in the world, started several businesses, have been happily married for over 20 years and also have two children of my own.

 

 

 

How does this relate to sports?

Everything.

If I had not had great coaches when I grew up that cared, supported and encouraged me especially when times got tough for me I never would have really listened to the teacher that did the same.

In today’s sport culture we here so much about the abusive tactics that coaches are using, screaming at players, in lieu of being demanding for excellence and aspiring their athletes to become the best they can be, the critique every single mistake in ways that is demeaning.  Almost every day social media posts videos of those “Bad” Coaches, and although we still have a lot of work to do to weed them from youth sports, there are so many good coaches at teachers out there and it is important we remind our kids to say thanks for everything they do, but I also encourage parents to do the same.

As we head into the holidays to spend time with family, friends and teams head to tournaments, I know that many coaches feel that they are getting a bad rap due to “the vocal minorty of coaches”  that has been identified as one of the top reasons why 70% of kids are quitting by the age of 13.  The reality is only “some” of the coaches just like “some” of the parents are doing so, the vast majority of coaches are committed volunteers are giving back to help kids and instil the same love of the game that they have.

I also know as a coach of 20+ years how thankless the role can be, you may get a coffee gift card with a mug, perhaps a card, perhaps a Keg gift certificate if team funds permit.  The most memorable end of season gift I received was a photo album with every player in it and the values that we talked about that season, something that I will always cherish.

The biggest thanks you can ever receive though is when a player on your team not only comes to you with his hand extended to shake yours and says thanks coach each practice or game but also if they come back the following season.

That is all the thanks I look for, to have my players come back year after year with a big smile on their face so they can continue to develop their athletic skills but I can help them learn the very same life skills and lessons that my coaches and teachers taught me.

So as we go into the New Year, although youth sports still has a myriad of issues that have come to light the last couple of decades will take many years for us to reverse, in lieu of focusing on the doom and gloom think of all the positives that have come out of your coaching experience to date.

The great kids that you have had the opportunity to coach or teach, their great parents and the numerous other volunteers that make it possible for kids to play a game they love.

Here is a great example of the impact that coaches and teachers can have, get out your box of Kleenex for this one.

 

 

THANKS COACH !

Let’s continue to work together to bring the game back to the kids …  where it belongs

 

Don`t be a kids last coach