Blogpost, self-reliance

Bio-Chemical War on Yourself

cannonI just wept in front of a room of teenagers.  It wasn’t part of the lesson plan but every once in a while, you just have to go with it.  Whenever I talk about a particular former student, it is bound to happen.  It has almost gotten to the point where the waterworks start before I even tell the story.  That’s because I’ve let it happen.  The memory does not have to be painful.   It is a combination of factors that make it so and they’re all within my control.

It seems as though many of us have a very hands off relationship with emotions.  They are things that happen to us rather than our creation.  Emotions are the effect of some cause outside of ourselves and all we can do is point the finger at the guilty party.  As we become more tethered to technology it seems to be getting worse.  Rather than the local humans and situations that can impact how we feel, there is now a virtual world that can impact us day or night, instant by instant.  So we deflect, deny or deliberate on why we feel this way regularly.  But as is usually the case, the answer is all inside.

The chemicals coursing through our brains are there to make the feeling happen.  So in a sense, you are in bio-chemical warfare at all times.  Bringing out the big guns of oxytocin and serotonin to combat the overwhelming attack of cortisol.  It’s not the stuff that they make movies about but it is the reason that we watch movies.  Our brain and body are in a constant feedback loop with each other.  The secretion of these chemicals are what makes feelings happen but we have our hands on the release valves and need to pay attention to these things in order to influence them: physiology, focus and inner dialogue.

Physiology is the way that you use your body.  It includes movement, food, sleep and many other factors but movement is crucial.  Exercise, facial expressions, posture and any other movement that you can think of influence your feelings through your physiology.

Focus is the things that you pay attention to.  At any given moment, there are thousands or possibly millions of stimuli coming in through your senses.  We can only pay attention to a finite number.  So we either pay attention to the obvious things or we need to take control of our focus.

Inner dialogue is the things that we say to ourselves inside of our head.  For good or ill the consistent things that we say to ourselves affect how we feel.  Being mindful of habitual self-talk is extremely important.

These are the ways that we can turn the tide of the chemical warfare that we have going on inside.  It is by no means an easy fix.  Each of these component pieces takes diligence and practice but we are not by any means helpless.

You’re fighting for your life, literally!

Pete

 

Blogpost

5 Ways to Avoid Youth Sports Burnout

EmSoccer.jpgI remember playing soccer as a kid pretty vividly.  There’s a smattering of games, practices, camps, travel and associated activities swimming around inside my head.  Perhaps I’ve forgotten but there was only one time that I ever considered “quitting” soccer and that was near my transition to high school.  However that was because I was considering going out for football.  So other than that, I truly don’t have a recollection of not wanting to play anymore.  Perhaps I’m wired differently because I also ran track through high school and into college.  Basketball got left behind as a sophomore in high school.  That was more of a “talent” and interest thing than burnout.  When you’re getting the token minutes as a freshman, the writing is on the wall.  I needed to get a lot better in order to be successful at the sport that was not my priority.

Define Burnout – With the quick anecdotes above, it’s obvious that I am defining burnout differently than just discontinuing participation.  There are seasons for everything in our lives and sports are no different.  Allowing one season to end in order for others to begin or become more prominent is not something to bemoan.  It is the natural order of life.

So what we are specifically talking about is the idea of saturation to the point of generalized overwhelm, exhaustion with and possible contempt for the activity.  Notice the underlined word, generalized.  Everyone has moments where the things that they pursue can become difficult in the moment.  Burnout is much more than that, it is a constant rather than a one off.

The following suggestions are not the only possibilities nor a silver bullet but rather the beginning of a conversation.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is a relevant metaphor here.

Give them an “out” – Even though they may never take it, giving kids a visible way out of something can be an antidote to burnout. This can come with some stipulations such as finishing out the season/year but the message should be clear “if you don’t want this anymore, that’s ok.”

Renew the contract – This may seem like the same thing as giving them an escape route but it’s not.  Kids do not process things in the same way as adults.  Even though they may know that the can get out if they want to, they may not evaluate that “want” regularly.  At the end of the season AND before the next, check in to make sure that they want to continue.

Align the goals –  “I love soccer/football/hockey/badminton/etc.” may mean something completely different to your child than it does to you.  Make sure that the goals that you and your child have for the sport are aligned.  If you’re thinking, “college scholarship” and they are thinking, “I love hanging out with my friends and the games” that disconnect is going to cause friction at some point.  There’s always room for changing course but if parents and kids are pointed in different direction, problems may arise.

Find the model – If your youth athlete has expressed an interest in play at some higher level whether it is high school, club, academy, college or professional.  Find someone who is at that next step and talk to them about what it takes to get there.  Do not try to jump steps.  Your 8 year old does not need to understand the training regimen of a professional athlete.  Most young players would say that they want to go pro.  That’s not the question in the beginning.  The relevant question in the beginning is do they want to practice when no one tells them to?

LOVE THEM, no matter what – This should be obvious and it probably is to you, as the parent.  Often messages get convoluted in the day to day grind of all of the responsibilities that we have.  Regardless of the outcome of games, tryouts, tournaments or anything else; your child should have an overwhelming sense that their performance and your love are completely separate items.

I hope that after reading this that you’re saying to yourself “I didn’t need this article!”  Nothing would make me happier!  The unfortunate thing is that many people do.  So if you could spread it, that would be great!  I’m extremely passionate about my sport of choice, soccer, and also helping young people.  Almost nothing is more disappointing to me than to see a child who had a love for a sport driven out of them.

Sports are a great opportunity to bring the best out of our children.  Let’s take that opportunity to raise our children up and not wear them down.

Make today a great day!

Pete

Uncategorized

Cheering for Someone Else’s Kid (An Exercise in Perspective)

Huryk-LukeEvery weekend the players line up on the field, the referee blows the whistle and the microscopes come out.  I’m speaking figuratively of course.  Although a fusion between youth sports and science would be great, I’m talking about the tunnel vision of the fans on the sidelines.  It’s actually not their fault.  It is in our nature to pay attention to the things that we care most about.  So a parent’s focus on their child at a time of high emotion is both normal and expected.  Our youth sports culture has definitely swung toward the extreme with cost, intensity and behavior.  The thing that we often lack as we go through life is perspective.  We tend to think that the way we perceive the world is the way that the world is.  It is only our version.  There are billions of others and none of them is completely correct either.  So it may be valuable to gain a different perspective.

Go to a youth sporting event of someone else’s kid, not a niece or a close friend’s son but two levels of separation.  It may just be a different age group at the club that your child plays for.  Choose a child that you’re going to “support” for the game.  If you’re a cheerer, then cheer.  If you’re the quiet pensive fan, then be quiet and pensive.  Whatever you would normally do at your own child’s game, do you best to recreate it (bring your spouse to bicker about the coach if need be).  I understand this will be uncomfortable and feel odd for most people but here are some things that will probably happen.

You’re probably going to lose focus on “your player” from time to time and watch the overall game.  All of the reactions that you would normally have will be slightly muted.  You may be able to look at the player and pick up on subtle cues about them.  Do they like the sport?  Do they play with joy and look like they are having fun?  Are they afraid to mess up/of contact/of trying too hard?  Are they embarrassed by the stranger cheering for them (keep it under control)?  At the end of the game, was success or failure based solely on the score/outcome?

The payoff in this experiment will be different for everyone.  If the difference between the fan that you are in the two situations is small, that’s probably a good sign.  If the difference between the fan that you are is vast, it might be helpful to consider why.  In the grand scheme of the world, both games probably meant about the same amount.  Sports bring out some of our best and worst characteristics as humans.  The kids are practicing regularly in order to be their best, let’s be at our best as well!

Go!

Pete

Blogpost

You’re Never Going to Know

DivingI’ve not watch a NFL game for about four years.  I used to love it but now I can’t stomach to sit through a play or two.  The exorbitant contracts don’t bother me.  Although the blind eye to domestic (or just regular) violence off the field do bother me, that’s not it either.  It’s the fact that the people inside the sport no longer want to play the game.  They want to play the system.  Rather than going for the ball, they go for the call.  Games are more about referees than players.  The game has become a sad shell of what it was.  I’ve got the same complaint about my preferred sport of soccer but it has not reach the point of boycott YET!  There are millions of dollars (or whatever currency) on the line, I get it.  The problem is that the we’re all being robbed, not just the fans.

The reason why sports are such an ingrained part of our world is that they are a metaphor for what it is like to be alive.  Whether it’s football, soccer, badminton or any other athletic endeavor; it is a meeting of body, mind and spirit that is a test on what we are capable of.  When you look at sport in this light, it is easy to see that every time that someone tries to dupe the referee and succeeds, we lose.  The fans, the players, the coaches and sport itself loses because we are no longer testing what we are capable of, we are finding out what we can get away with.  I’m not picking on professional athletes because unfortunately it has become a cultural norm.  The reason why I point them out specifically is that they are in the spotlight and have the ability to move the culture.  They train for most of their lives to become the best of the best on their field but then become snake oil salesmen when it truly counts.  And none of us will ever know!

We’ll never know what they could have done.  Had they just played through the foul, the contact or the almost contact of their opponent.  It puts the result of the day on the line for sure and I know that everyone loves a winner but at what cost?  If gaming the system is the most common way to win, then we need to consider very heavily what it is that we’ve lost.  More than likely it is the willingness to put it all on our own shoulders.  Until we do that, we’ll never know what we were capable of and that is the point.

So I beg of you, as you go out into your own life today, don’t take the dive.  Don’t look for the loophole or the shortcut.  Even though you’re not a professional athlete, we all have the opportunity to find the greatness within ourselves.  The key to that is that you must demand a higher standard of conduct.  Because if you don’t give it your all, you’re just never going to know!

Don’t give up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Am I Good? Is the Wrong Question

TestThe spring season brings rejuvenation and tryouts.  Soccer tryouts, hockey tryouts and I’m sure many others.  The constant evaluation of players is now a cultural norm.  While it may seem like a necessary evil, it is our job as the adults or forward thinkers to ensure that it doesn’t become pure evil in the mind of a young player.  The constant question can go swirling through their head “Am I good?”  While it may be a common question, it is probably the wrong question.

Comparison is all around us.  There are grades, likes, follows, rankings and so many other ways to compare people and anything else.  Some of them are objective and others completely subjective.  They are easy to focus upon because they feel real.  A sense of power and prestige can be derived from comparison but the opposite is also true.  It is often easier to feel powerless and insignificant because we are usually comparing our worst with our projection of other people.  Neither of these pictures is completely accurate but the feeling of inequity can be overwhelming.  So we often look for validation from others, such as coaches, teachers, parents or others with the question, “Am I good?”  The answer is never going to satisfy in the long term.  It becomes a button that needs to be hit every so often to keep things in balance.  Multiple choice is not your friend in most instances.

Although most people avoided them in school, it is two open ended questions that allow for a more compelling look at one’s self.  “How am I better than I used to be?”  “How can I progress forward?”  Both questions are asked with a leaning toward positive self discovery.  Our brains are an amazing piece of machinery that will answer almost any question that we ask of it, even if it needs to make the answer up.  Consistently asking “Am I good?” will inevitably lead to plenty of instances where the answer will be “No” because metric and competition change frequently.  However by asking the open ended questions, the question sends a subtle signal that in some small way you are better than you were.  Also there are ways to progress forward if you’re willing to look for them.

These are obviously not the only questions that can be asked.  They are simply two examples that can break the comparison chain.  Done consistently, proactive questions like these can be life altering because we are evaluating ourselves and our lives continuously.  Wouldn’t it be better to stack the deck in your favor?

Have a great day!

Pete

Blogpost

Major League Soccer as “Fragile” Frankie Merman

FrankiemermanIn “The Junk Mail” episode of Seinfeld, we are introduced to Frankie Merman.  He is Jerry’s childhood friend who has many quirks including digging holes to sit in when he is upset.  Despite his eccentricities, George is slightly jealous of Frankie because Frankie and Jerry attended camp together.  George ruefully refers to Frankie as the “Summer Me”.  He even goes so far as to lie to Jerry about an imaginary summer friend of his own.  All of this ridiculousness is par for the course in the world of Seinfeld.  As far fetched as it all may be, it got me thinking about the soccer world in which American fans live.

PremNext weekend marks the end of the Premier League.  For those who religiously follow teams from England on Saturday and Sunday mornings, there is hole to be filled.  Recognizing this fact, it might just be time to embrace Major League Soccer as your “Summer League”.  I can hear the protests now, “MLS sucks!”  “There’s no promotion or relegation!”  “It’s a retirement league!”  I’m well aware of this and all of the other vitriol that comes out whenever someone suggests that our domestic league should be watched by our domestic fans.  I understand the thought process.  My son and I just took a trip to England to see two matches.  The allure of European soccer is not lost on me.  The only question is do we want it to be this way?  Do we truly want to be thousands of miles away from the best soccer in the world?  Americans account for the largest number of ticket buyers at the World Cup, other than the host nation.  Which means that we travel to far off lands at great expense to see the best in the world compete.  In 2026 when the World Cup is here, will Americans not attend the games because they are here?  That would be a ludicrous thought!  We want the best games with the best players to be in our backyards.  BUT we’re impatient, entitled and shortsighted.  Let’s take a look at each.

Ricky Davis 79We’re impatient.  Major League Soccer is barely 20 years old.  Even the re-branded version of the English first division is older by around 4 years.  Comparing MLS to any of the historic first divisions from Europe is at best an apples to oranges comparison.  At worst, it ignores all common sense.  Teams and leagues are made up by players and their endeavors are supported by fans.  European fans have supported their clubs for generations.  MLS clubs have not existed for a generation yet.  Love for a team or club is not built overnight.  It is a slow process and we’re in the thick of both the development of love for clubs and a talent pool.  If the desire is that MLS should just buy the best talent in the world, do some research on the Cosmos.

LeaguesWe’re entitled.  Other than MLS, the other major sports leagues based in the US are arguably the best in the world.  NFL, no competition.  MLB, takes whatever talent is produced in other leagues.  NBA, second tier talent from the US go to play in the other leagues.  NHL, brings in talent from all over the world.  Is it really that disheartening to have one league of the top five major sport that is not YET the best?  Especially when you consider that with the exception of hockey, the others are “American” sports.

We’re shortsighted.  In the 1990’s my knowledge of English soccer was actually pretty limited.  At the time, the Italian Serie A was arguably the best league in the world.  The ingredients that contribute to the rise or fall of the fortunes of a particular league are multiple.  One of the most important parts to a successful league is fan interest.  If there are not enough fans, there is not enough money to buy enough talent and the product on the field suffers.  The shortsighted thought that, “MLS sucks now.  I’ll pay attention when it’s better.”  is a recipe for disaster.  The league cannot reach a status of world renown without the backing of American soccer fans.  If you want the best players in the world, playing in your backyard for your local team, then you need to pay for it now, not then.  We never get there if we don’t put down the deposits (both financial and emotional) right now.

So yes!  Major League Soccer might be Fragile Frankie Merman.  It may have all kinds of eccentricities that may not fit your model of a perfect replacement.  BUT if you spend your summer pining for the return of George and don’t pay attention.  Frankie will continue to disappoint and your summers will always be George-less.

It will never be “The Summer of George”

Pete

Blogpost

Borrowed Time

PokerOur concept of time is messed up to a certain extent.  Not the measurement of time.  Seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. are effective units to use for measuring time.  It is our relationship with it that may be in need of a revamp.  Perhaps I am only speaking for myself but I generally don’t think that I’m so unique to have a completely new thought.  Time is something that in our younger years we waste so often it is as if we believe that there is an infinite supply for us.  Then as we get older, we lament its passing, wishing that we had some of that wasted time back.  It seems that the only people who truly grasp the limited resource which they have are the people who have a brush with their own mortality.  There are a multitude of stories including George Lucas, Franck Ribery and so many others who gained clarity from a near death experience.

For me, I was too young.  Too young to remember and I never got the lesson.  When I was two and a half, I had meningitis.  I almost died.  Despite knowing this story since I was a kid, it never really sunk in that I was working with borrowed time.  At this moment I am forty one years into a lease on a life that easily could have passed by already.  So what does one do with this realization, even if it comes extremely late?  Like so many things in this world, the first thing is most likely to be grateful.  None of us is owed anything in the world.  So gratitude for all that has sprung out of that borrowed time is the most natural course.  Then comes the projection forward.  If you’re playing with house money, do you play it conservative only betting on the best odds?  Or do you look for some long shots that would pay off big because let’s face it you were supposed to be cashed out long ago?  I’m sure that you had a gut feeling about what you would tell me to do.  The question is can you follow your own advice?

We’re all living on borrowed time.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve beaten a terminal disease or been healthy as a horse since birth.  It’s not completely up to us when we cash out.  So with that little bit of clarity from your gut, you need to decide, what are you doing with the chips that you have today?  There’s no particularly wrong answer, just an answer that’s right for you.

Deal ’em!

Pete

Blogpost

It’s Not Going To Work!

SantaSchaefandIThere is so much fear at the moment about failure, rejection, looking foolish or being called out.  These are not new fears by any stretch but they seem to have become more pervasive as each of us lives a half-public life.  At times, I feel slightly sorry for the people who have grown up in a world with the internet and social media.  Largely because they’ve never known anything different.  Since I am not a digital native (first time on the internet was in college), I remember a time where I could fall flat on my face and only the people there to see it could really laugh.  So taking chances on things that might not work felt “safer”.  Although it may not always seem that way, it is a choice to feel safe or afraid.

In my early twenties, my best friend, Schaef, was about to get married in two months.  At the time, I was living in NJ but was spending a lot of weekends in Baltimore.  One particular night, I was hanging out in the Fell’s Point area with my friend, Damion.  A problem was lurking for me because I did not have a date to my friend’s wedding.  So I decided in that moment to ask the most attractive girl in the place to be my date.  I don’t remember exactly what Damo said but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of “that’s not going to work.”  And common sense would tell anyone that he was probably right.  Random guy, asks random girl to a wedding two months in advance when he lives in a different state.  Slim to no chance!

This is not exactly what I said but it is pretty close.  “Hi!  I was wondering if you could help me.  I’ve got an issue with my best friend.  You see, he’s getting married in two months and he made his brother his best man.  I’m a little upset with him because we’ve been extremely close for years now and I should really be his best man.  So in order to get back at him, I’m going to bring a date to his wedding that is so beautiful that no one will look at the bride and that woman is you!”  I did not get a yes right away but what I did get was a date for the next weekend and an eventual yes to the wedding.

Most of the time the problem isn’t that other people tell us “no”.  It’s that we tell ourselves “no” before we even make the attempt.  The world gets very few chances to reject us because we cower in the shadows afraid to gamble our self-image.  And therein lies the problem of the day.  We are protecting the image that we have of ourselves and it seems magnified by the device that sits in our pocket.  The fact that we can beam out our most perfectly angled selfie for all the world to see, also makes us afraid that anything less than that level of perfection will be chastised.  The world is not waiting for you to fall.  It’s actually not waiting for anything from you at all.  But maybe… just maybe… if you’re willing to risk those slim odds that you’ll end up finding out what you’re truly capable of.  Then next time it will be easier for you to say “YES!” to yourself because until you do, no one else will get the chance!

Put that first foot forward today!

Pete

 

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Soccer Karma

IMG_3939Our beliefs tend to color or almost define our worlds.  The thoughts that we hold most dear are the filters through which we cyphon our experiences and produce meaning.  Recognizing this would make one think that people would be deliberate in the creation of their beliefs.  Unfortunately this is rarely true.  People’s beliefs are often a mismatch of heritage and circumstances.  This haphazard approach is bound to lead to disaster more often than not.  I’m not here to offer a complete belief system but rather one small sample: Soccer Karma!

I’m a huge believer in soccer karma.  It is a term that I may have coined (or stolen, not sure!).  The concept is simple.  On the soccer field, if you give a good ball, you’re going to get a good ball.  Meaning that if you give a quality pass to a teammate, they’re going to give you a quality one back.  This is of course, not completely accurate.  It’s completely possible that you give a good ball and get a crap one back!  This is true.  However the belief matters more than the reality.  If I believe that my intent is going to have positive returns, I’m more likely to put effort in that direction.  That effort will eventually influence those around me, especially if we all believe the same thing.  This belief acts a ratchet that brings positive returns.

For years now, I’ve been professing the positives of this belief system.  While I know that it has paid dividends for my players and teams on the field, my hope has always been that the metaphors of our sport are not lost on those who play it.  The moment that we step off of the field, we are being released out into a larger venue with bigger stakes and uncertain scoring.  Regardless of that, the belief system can be applied with equal effectiveness.  If enough of us believe in it, then we truly can make life “a beautiful game”.

Blogpost

Make The Promise

cropped-hurykunlimitedlogolarge1This month I will post at least once per day.  Seven days per week for all of May!  It’s something that I’ve balked on before.  I’ve had streaks that have lasted weeks but not an entire month.  I can get ahead of the game by writing a bunch in one day and releasing them individually as I see fit.  BUT if a post is not out, then I don’t eat until one is released.  Now right there I’ve done some of the things that I know but do not always apply.

  1. I made a definite goal.
  2. I defined my terms.
  3. I’ve broken it into manageable pieces.
  4. I set the stakes.

If you’ve got something that you have been putting off or know that you need to do, then MAYbe, May should be your month too.  Thirty days to make something big happen is not too much to ask.  The question is are you willing to commit to yourself?  Or do you need to commit to someone else who won’t let you off the hook?  Promises can be powerful things when used by people who mean them.  If not, then they’re just words.  So let’s keep each other honest.  Are you up for thirty days of action?

Then let’s go!

Pete