The Right Thing to Do

The LA Times’ TJ Simers writes about Johann Olav Koss, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating for Norway in the 1990s, who is improving kids’ lives and making the world a better place through his Right To Play organization. Read this article and be grateful for the wonderful lives our sport-playing children have in North America.

The most rewarding career

“Where does the time go?” This was one of my mother’s favorite sayings when I was a child. Now I know what she means. Just the other day I was in the grocery and a good friend, Katie, walked up in line behind me. Her son, Gus, was a 12 year-old on the first Majors team I coached. She said, “Can you believe that boy you taught to play baseball just graduated from college?” No, Katie, I can’t.

Half of my four are already out the door. The oldest two are in college, the third is mid-way through  high school and our baby girl, (wasn’t she just born last year?) starts high school in the fall. It’s amazing how fast it has all gone. When they were all much younger, a man who was my mentor in business and like a second father to me, Tony Arminio, and I were talking about our families. He was in the twilight of his career, having already put six kids through college. I was just starting out. He told me something I’ll never forget: “You’re just renting them for eighteen years.”

I didn’t want to waste a moment of that rent. I’ve coached each of them in various sports, sometimes as many as four teams at a time. Many weeks, I put in as many hours on the field as I did in my job. During any “down time” when I wasn’t with one of the teams, then I was at the school with my kids pitching batting practice, running passing routes, playing basketball or kicking the soccer ball.

Would I have more money if I hadn’t coached over a thousand games of baseball, basketball, soccer, football and roller hockey? Sure. Would the retirement fund be a little healthier if I’d worked more hours, if we hadn’t paid for travel baseball and soccer, expensive bats and mitts, gas and hotels to out of town tournaments all those years? No doubt. Would I trade that money now for the memories and bonding all that time with my kids produced? Not a chance.

If a young parent were to ask my advice it would be this: Just as it takes drive and determination to succeed in a career, those same qualities are necessary to succeed as parents. And while the definition of successful parenting will vary widely, I believe one foolproof way to define success is in the amount of time spent together. It doesn’t even have to be coaching or sports for that matter. Time in the car, or playing a game or watching a movie, anything that means they’ve got your undivided attention – that’s what studies say they want more than money and things. There were plenty of times I didn’t feel like going down to the park and pitching batting practice or kicking the ball around. There were days I’d rather have been doing something for myself – resting, for instance. But little is more rewarding than knowing you gave 100% effort as a parent at the end of the day.

Of course we all need to work to make a living, and there are economic realities we must face. Some have more freedom and time to devote to their children than others. But even if you only have a few spare minutes a day, use them wisely. Because when those minutes are gone, they’re gone forever. There will be plenty of time to rest soon enough.

OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

Our May issues of OnDeck will be sent out to 13,000 + soccer, baseball and softball leagues tomorrow. If you’d like to catch up on any issues you missed or sign up to receive tomorrow’s and future issues, you can do so here.

Parents and playing time post popularity

Forgive the alliteration, but our Parents and Playing Time post continues to be popular with readers. Here is a recent email we received:

I just read your piece on “parents and playing time” and was blown way. That is great stuff and something I wish I would’ve stumbled on much earlier in my current season. It really helped me mentally with a difficult situation I’m dealing with right now as a coach. Thank you and keep up the good work.

It seems that from the youth sports level all the way up through high school and beyond, parents continue to feel the need to “help” their children get what they want in their sports careers.

Five keys to sustaining the motivation to finish

In my work with athletes I hear all sorts of reasons why it’s too tough to finish. Some of them are indeed creative, but most of them I have heard a thousand times before.  For some, the task no longer offers enjoyment or intrinsic rewards.  Sometimes meeting failure so many times can build a negative habit of disbelief which is hard to extinguish.  I hear from students that “others” expectations of them far exceed their abilities and they simply lose interest because it’s impossible to please their parents.  Emotional outbursts can sometimes mask themselves as fear and worry about injury. When there is fear there is often a reduction in motivation.

Remember, confidence is directly related to repetitive task success regardless of how large or small the task is.  If success is perceived to be always out of reach then motivation will slowly expire.  If the wind can no longer fill the sails and provide the momentum to move forward doubt will creep in and we will develop a belief system that does not support desire and motivation.  With this type of thinking going on we will strongly consider giving up.
One of my students can’t seem to get the academic grades his parents want, or win a tournament even in the face of hours of practice, desire, and motivation. This smells of either external pressure or higher than usual performance expectations. I am here to tell you that “it’s not how you start, but how you finish that is the most important” regardless of the time it takes to get there. If you have a plan based on reasonable and measurable performance objectives you will achieve incremental success.

Regardless of the school project or the skill mastery required to succeed at a sport there are methods you can use to keep the fire burning and the motivation to succeed at the forefront of your brain.
1. Have a written plan with a goal in mind and milestone objectives.  The size of the task might seem gargantuan and therefore seriously challenging to envision success.  The #1 objective is to accomplish the task or complete the project on time. In the process of execution it’s important to have little successes along the way. We do this by breaking the task into little “increments” to be accomplished over a period of time.  This reduces stress, anxiety, and makes the task much more manageable. By making the task increments more manageable they are consequently easier to complete and therefore satisfaction comes more often and confidence grows.  The success inspires the athlete to tackle the next milestone.  Accomplishment builds intrinsic value and therefore self reward for the accomplishment.

2. Momentum is your # 1 supporter.   Accomplishment builds confidence which builds belief in self, which develops the trust one needs to execute without distractions.  I call executing without distractions a “functional performance.”  Functional performing requires clear and conscious process oriented thinking.  You need momentum!

3. Avoid distractions.   Distractions come in two forms; internal and external.  Internal distractions are the thoughts, and feelings that block us from conscious process oriented thinking. The good news is that we have the power to control internal distractions. Where external distractions are things outside of us we cannot control and actually have no real bearing on our success or failure unless we let them. Distractions creep in when confidence is at a low point, concentration wanes, or boredom sets in.  If too much information congests the mind you will becomes distracted.  The mind can realistically only give one subject 100% of focused effort.  Research suggests no 100% focus can last a maximum o 45 minutes, depending on the subject, which is just about the max amount of time anyone can focus with true clarity. Too much mind chatter causes mental congestion and confusion which causes thought drifting and loss of focus. To avoid distractions you need to know your limits and be aware of what distracts you.

4. Take time outs.  The #1 objective is to focus for as long as possible without getting distracted.  To beat the distraction monkey it’s important to know your concentration time limit.  When you reach your processing capacity take a planned time out.  Almost every sport has time outs. They are designed for regrouping, rest, stress reduction, and strategy.  You are a performer so why not build in scheduled timeouts during your performances to clear and rest the mind.  I like to suggest 4-8 minutes for mind clearance. Walk the dog, take a quick ride on your bike, listen to music or enjoy a cup of tea. The whole idea is to fill your mind with something unrelated to the task at hand.  When you return to the task you will feel energized, alert, and ready to move forward.

5. Lighten the load.  We create way to much stress for ourselves.  If it’s not for the high expectations we create for ourselves it’s about the expectations others create for us that we stretch to accomplish.  All day long we collect what I call “stress nuggets.”  By the end of the day these nuggets weigh us down physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Life is about much more than the “performing” we do to reach that pre-determined goal.  Whatever it takes please be sure to reduce the stress. Incorporate these 5 tips to keep the fire burning.  It’s not always about the end result, but more about the process and the joy we encounter while on the journey.

For more information about this article contact or for information on mental game coaching contact John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach at Protex Sports, LLC. You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.

NSPCC video archive

We came upon a fantastic video series developed by the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which should be viewed by every sports organization. Covering topics from bullying among peers, inappropriate behavior from coaches, discrimination and push parents, these brief (less than two minutes) videos dramatize real situations our sports-playing children may face, and provide tools and guidelines league administrators can use to address concerns. These are absolutely must-see for anyone involved in sports activities with children and young people including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organizers, management committees, participants and parents.

NSPCC – Keeping Children Safe in Sports Series

An introduction on safeguarding for anyone involved with children and young people in sports activities including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organizers, management committees, participants and parents.

Pushy Parents
This video provides advice on keeping children safe in sports and dealing with pushy parents to help anyone involved in sports activities with children and young people – including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organizers, management committees, participants and parents.

Coach’s Inappropriate Behavior
Does your sports team or club have clear guidelines on appropriate behavior for a coach?

Verbal abuse, aggression and inappropriate workloads
This video provides advice on keeping children safe in sports and what’s considered verbal abuse, aggression and inappropriate workloads.

Disability Discrimination
Is your sports team or club accessible for children and young people with disabilities?

Responding to concerns about physical abuse
How does your sports team or club handle concerns about physical abuse?

Inappropriate demonstration of a technique
This video provides advice on keeping children safe in sports and what’s considered inappropriate demonstration of a technique to help anyone involved in sports activities with children and young people – including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organisers, management committees, participants and parents.

Confidentiality and safer recruitment
Does your sports team or club have a careful recruitment process for people working closely with children and young people?

How do you respond to bullying?

Responding to concerns about sexual abuse
How does your sports team or club handle concerns about sexual abuse?

Responding to concerns about self-harming
Know what to do if you think you think a child or young person is self-harming?

Victimization following a complaint
How does your sports team or club handle complaints?

Supervision Levels
What’s an appropriate level of supervision for children or young people playing sports?

Harassment of a referee or official
Know how to deal with parents or spectators harassing referees?

Racial Discrimination
What is your sports team or club doing to prevent racism?

For more information on the NSPCC go to

The perils of over-coaching

By Dave Simeone (Part three of three)

The games that youngsters play on Saturday mornings in their local leagues and associations should be viewed as a vehicle for learning. The same is true concerning their one, or two, days a week in practice. The acquisition of playing ability is a long-term process that begins at the ages of 5 or 6. It is unrealistic to expect youngsters at 10 or 11 years of age, and younger, to have an adult perspective on the game. Because of their maturity level youngsters are learning about the broadest parameters of play. They are at a stage where development is the priority since the acquisition of skill, elementary decision making and an appreciation and passion for soccer are founded. Young players learn, and are a product of their experiences. They learn more from their experiences ( games, activities, and the environment ) than they do from the coach. The role of the coach is to then organize and set up games and activities that the players enjoy and learn from.

Unfortunately, the majority of over-coaching occurs with youngsters who are between the ages of 5 to 11. It occurs, in part, because of the “profile” of the average parent/coach. These parent/coaches bring little practical soccer experience with them. At the same time they are learning about soccer they are learning about coaching. The availability of coaching education throughout state associations, combined with the information that is presented in the courses, simplifies coaching. Once youth coaches are exposed to this information they can assume their role with greater effectiveness While coaches are somewhat responsible to educate the parents of their players parents, in turn, should evaluate the effectiveness of the coach: is my child learning to play soccer or is the coach preoccupied with drills that only permit the players to play at soccer?

Parents should evaluate the demeanor and approach the coach takes towards games: is the coach willing to allow youngsters to play the game for themselves or is he/she absorbed with their active, but unnecessary, participation? Is the coach most concerned with making decisions for the players rather than accepting that the players must make decisions on their own? Overall, there should be uniform agreement and understanding between the parents, coaches and league or association administrators on this matter. This shared responsibility helps ensure that play remains a leisure activity with a long-term interest of player development. REMEMBER…..Play is a key word in player development!

Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.