Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Please... Get Out of Your Own Way!

I just finished reading another interesting book!  This one was by Marshall Goldsmith called "What got you here won't get you there."  Marshall is an executive coach that helps his clients uncover the characteristics they have that are getting in the way of further personal progress and success.

Most people think that because they have been successful to this point they will continue to find success in the future.  This is a dangerous position to be in because there are many things that can get in the way of continued success. He has a list of about 20 habits that the individuals he has worked with were using to the detriment of their own success.  Some of the ones I found most interesting include:

#11 - Claiming credit you don't deserve
#12 - Making excuses
#16 - Not listening
#17 - Failing to express gratitude
#19 - Passing the buck

I thought he made some very valid points in the making excuses and passing the buck sections because although as an individual people might think they are escaping judgement... they really aren't! As he put it "I have never seen feedback that said "I think you are a great leader because I love the quality of your excuses." Or, "I thought you were messing up, but you turned me around when you made those excuses."

In the passing the buck section he said "When was the last time someone said "We think you're a great leader because we love the way you avoid responsibility." Or, "It seemed like you were making a lot of silly mistakes, but you changed my mind when you passed the buck and demonstrated someone else was to blame."  One of the biggest parts of being a leader is being able to take the brunt of problem and filter the message down approapriately through the right channels to make sure the problem gets fixed. 

No one is perfect I am pretty sure everyone gets that at this point!  We all have flaws and many of them.  This book teaches leaders to confront their problems and make themselves better in the process.  Instead of doing it behind closed doors Marshall uses 360 degree anonymous feedback.  He conducts one hour long interview with a list of people the client recommends him to talk to.  By collecting this type of feedback Marshall can ensure that when the feedback he receives isn't easily dismissed by the recipient (sometimes the truth hurts). These were the people the recipient wanted feedback from in order to get better in the first place so they are much more open to getting this information back. 

I thought there was an interesting additional comments when Marshall explained the data collection process though.  The respondents Marshall is interviewing are asked to follow the following 4 rules: 

1. Let go of the past - you are no longer allowed to hold a grudge against the recipient you are giving feedback on.  If you aren't willing to accept this condition you cannot continue to grade the process of the recipient. This makes sense because if the respondent isn't going to move forward then they aren't going to lend a hand in the progress someone who improving. 
2. Tell the truth - the process works best if people are as honest as possible and not just saying what they think the interviewer wants to hear
3. Be supportive and helpful - leave cynicism and negativity out of the process
4. Pick something to improve yourself - this way respondents are more focused on improving than judging and they may also experience how difficult it is to change as well

Another thing I made note of was to watch what you hear other people say about you when you are around.  It helps give you clues as to what you can do to be better.  You can also pay close attention to non-verbal communication which happens when people interact with you.  They give off the true message of how they really feel about you that the words they use may disguise. 

Overall these concepts help to shed light on some key ideas that may help you to get out of your own way which lets success come through a little easier.  You may have old dinosaur habits you are using from a long time ago that no longer fit with the concept of who you are now or who you are capable of being.  Don't be afraid of change!  Life is an evolution and some small changes can sometimes make a very big difference in how you come across to people.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Gas Hole and Fuel the Film

I just watched the movies Gas Hole and Fuel the Film and I have to say my view about oil has really changed based on these movies.  It is really important when watching movies like this to keep a critical mind about what is being shown. However, even after taking that into consideration both of these movies raise some interesting questions about the state of the world we are creating right now.  The ideas they bring forward in these films are rivoting.  For example, thinking about who killed the electric car and other alternative fuel patents have been bought and just to be squashed (Gas Hole). Oil interested lobbyists and the roles they play in funding the U.S. Governement Presidential candidates.  It is really scary that this is the state of things now! 

The movies even talk about people who have gone missing or were killed for their inventions or views on this topic.  It was amazing to find out that both Henry Ford and Rudolph Diesel created vehicles that ran on different substances than the oil we know of today.  Ford used a type of alcohol and during prohibition the production was shut down until gas became the fuel of choice for Ford's cars.  The Diesel Engine was originally designed to run on peanut oil!  Mr. Diesel mysteriously disappeared when he boarded a ship and his body showed up a few days later in the water.  He had drowned! 

I also loved seeing how other countries have dealt with these types of challenges!  Germany's people demanded change and it happened for them.  Sweden was also incredible in terms of the stance they took to be more sustainable.

Please watch these films and comment on them.  We are all so powerful to make a changes.  The movies give a lot of different ideas to make an impact.  Vote with your dollars on the products you choose to buy and target political leaders who share your stance on these issues.   

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Self - Immolation

This one comes to you midway through the book "A Woman Among Warlords" by Malalai Joya about a young woman in the middle east fighting for freedom and speaking out against an extremist male centric brutal viewpoints of the warlords who currently control her country. 

Self – Immolation By Marla Gladstone

She set herself on fire
She walked into the flames to find freedom
In a world full of hatred, fear and death
Where killing a woman is equated with the weight of killing a small insect
When she marries her opinion holds no weight
She is seen as goods, a service, items for sale
Traded for livestock in the form of a simple business transaction
She isn’t a person.  She is property. 
I heard she set herself on fire
She walked into the flames to find freedom
How bad do things have to be for that to feel like a sweet and welcoming release
No simplicity in learning, growing, reading or writing
On her it is a viewed as a waste
Too much of a challenge on her inadequate mind
Her precious subtleties held under lock and key
Her beauty hidden away so not a soul can see

So she set herself on fire
She walked into the flames to find freedom
Her presence so potent she is forced to hid under fabric and scarves
Doing anything to escape the life in which she was born
So slowly her light gets buried deep inside for survival
No one can reach her down there
It is safe damp and dark
Full of tears pain and suffering
An unforeign feeling felt by many women all around our world
And yet there is still hope
A simple escape for even a few seconds as she hears these simple words

It’s called Self-Immolation
See I set myself on fire too
I walk into the flames to find my freedom
Not through dying but through living
Not through quitting but through giving
We are one in the same
Why would I hide when I have the ability to shine
I vote because you can’t
I raise my voice as I hold your hand
You are not alone
Only a few generations removed from these liberties we so easily take for granted now
A time when women had no rights on this very land
Not allowed to be owners for they were the property in which a man laid his stamp on her left hand
A woman married for survival - a kind of forced slavery
Doing chores, making meals, having babies everything he pleased
We’ve been living in the longest war since the beginning of time
The battle of the sexes
I refuse to be treated as “less than”
I won’t hide my beauty inside
I won’t let myself die
My goals, my dreams, my aspirations, my schemes
Are my weapons as I struggle through… by any means
Because when they damage you, they damage me
And I won’t rest until we find equality
When any young girl chooses to follow her dream
Not because she did what she was told
And not because she learned to “play her role”

So set yourself on fire
Walk into your fear to find your freedom…

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Marla's 55 Books 2011

So as I mentioned I set the goal that this year I was going to read 55 books by December 31, 2011.  Yesterday, I just reached it so I thought I would post my reading list so that people can see what I was reading.  Some of the books I didn't make a note of who the author was so forgive me.  I will do a better job of documenting it next time.  My cousin, made a great recommendation and asked me to include a Top 10 List in case you were interested in reading the best ones.  So here is the list...

Top 10 Books
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Steig Larsson - Novel about a kick ass chick that doesn't take crap! 
2. Discover you Genius - Michael Gelb  - About 10 genius' and how to use your own gifts to the fullest
3. Play their Hearts out - George Dohrmann - About the corrupt system of AAU Basketball in the U.S.
4. The Four Agreements - Miguel Ruiz - Being true to your word and not taking things personally
5. Born to Run - Christopher McDougall - Ultra-marrathon runners that live in Mexico and don't use shoes
6. Innovate like Edison - Michael Gelb - Thomas Edison' amazing attitude of continuning to move forward
7. Playbook of Success - Nancy Lieberman - Making a game plan for life and talking sports at work
8. Coaching Team Basketball - Tom Crean - Head Coach at Marquette teaches players to think team first
9. The Saint, the Surfer and the CEO - Robin Sharma - not taking life for granted and going after your goals
10. Quotable Michael Jordan - Quotes from interviews with Michael Jordan

11. The Devil and Ms. Prym - Paolo Coehlo
12. Complete Condition for Basketball by Human Kinetics
13. Step by Step Basketball Skills
14. How to play like the Pros - Jay Triano
15. How to improve at basketball - Drewett
16. The Solution - Lucinda Bassett
17. Take the stress out of your life - Jay Winner
18. Writing the killer treatment
19. Amazing Resumes
20.How to not make art - Julia Cameron
21.Secrets to the Monarch - Allison DuBois
22. Cover Letters that Knock 'Em Dead
23.Stress Solution - Penny Kendall - Reed
24. Women in Business
25. The Leader who had no title - Robin Sharma
26. The Wisdom of Bees - Michael O'Malley PhD
27. Leadership from the Monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma
28. Knock 'Em Dead Job Search 2009
29. Joan of Arc
30. Family Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma
31. Amazing Resumes
32. Blackfoot Book of Knowledge and Dictionary
33. Joan of Arc
34. By the River Piedra I sat down and wept - Paolo Coehlo
35. Harriet Tubman
36. Joan of Arc
37. Leonardo da Vinci - Christiane Weidemann
38. Harriet Tubman - Leading the Way to Freedom - Laurie Calkhoven
39. State of the Union
40. Big Book of Quotes
41. Life - Paolo Coehlo
42. How to see yourself as you really are - Dalai Lama
43. 11 Minutes - Paolo Coehlo
44. Big Book of Sports Quotes
45. The Book of Awesome - Neil Pasricha
46. Across the Line
47. Mixing Races - Romano
48. Selling the Wheel
49. A woman's guide to rapid weight loss
50. Malcolm X - Militant Black Leader
51. Money, sex, war, karma - Loy
52. Success Strategies Pt. 2 - Robin Sharma
53. Discover your Destiny - Robin Sharma
54. Harriet Tubman
55. The Pilgrammage - Paolo Coehlo

Saturday, 15 October 2011

"Powdering" up Before the Game

A few months ago I was at a company golf tournament and one of my co-workers asked me about why his daughter always felt the need to put on a bunch of make-up before playing her hockey games.  She and her teammates religiously applied foundation, powder, eye liner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick and whatever else they needed to feel “beautiful”.  They would then put on their equipment and headed out onto the ice as if the make-up was part of their uniform.  He knows I am an athlete and wanted to find out from me why she felt the need to do that.  Especially, considering when she emerged at the end of the game she “looked more like Alice Cooper than anything!” (with her eye liner dripping down her cheeks). 
The funny thing about this conversation is that it isn’t the first time I have had it.  A few men have brought it up to me on several occasions.  And to be honest I don’t really get it either. From when I started getting into sports in junior high up until I finished my basketball career in university there were classmates, teammates and friends of mine who battled with this exact thought process. 
After playing a super intense basketball game on a road trip when there was no time to even shower before we headed back on the bus for 3 hours some of my teammates would squeeze themselves back into their 2nd skin jeans and put on a super tight top.  They also had to swing by the mirror and make sure their hair and makeup looked just right.  The majority of my teammates were more concerned with being comfortable.  We breezed past the washroom to wash the sweat off our faces, threw on the sweatpants and hoody we came in and showed little concern about who was going to see us in the 5 minutes it took us to get back to the van.  It was going to be a dark ride home anyways so we didn’t care. 
I am going to be really honest.  I think makeup when you workout is dumb.  For one who cares about boys when you are in the middle of the game or a workout!  The focus should be on doing your best and that has nothing to do with looking pretty and has everything to do with being yourself.  Putting on make-up before a game is like putting on a mask.  It serves no purpose! When I was out on the court I wanted to be as real as possible and if that meant scoring the most points, playing the best defence or helping my teammates that was the important thing for me.  Of course winning was great too! 
Looking attractive while you play simply to pick up boys leaves you distracted from the purpose of what you came there to do!  Instead get his attention by playing your best and if he doesn’t like you for who you are then he who cares…next!  Boys are like buses if that one passes you by there will be another one no doubt about it.  I have had boyfriends that I met at the gym.  I was wearing a pair of basketball shorts down to my knees a baggy t-shirt that was 2 sizes too big and had my hair pulled back in a super tight pony tail.  He probably noticed me in a pickup game where I was cashing threes on his buddies.  When he came to take me out he couldn’t believe how beautiful I was when I put in a little effort.  Who wants the pressure of looking amazing all the time anyways?  No one in their right mind does.  Sometimes the priority is to be comfy and relaxed and that was when I played my best. 
My second point is makeup probably makes your skin worse.  Think about it!  You put it on and then go out and sweat.  Your skin soaks up the makeup, dirt particles are now stuck to your face because you are sweating and mixing in with your make-up.  On top of that now you have to put on more makeup to cover those breakouts too. At the end of the day, so what if you have a zit here or there it’s part of growing up and being a teenager.  Sure it is fun to look pretty and try some new make-up tips but leave that for another occasion.  You are never going to be in a face off and the other girl says “Wow!  I love your eye makeup… is it Mac?” And if she does then check her into the boards so the “boys” can get a fresh look at her make-up with her face smushed up against the glass!
If anything before you play sports you should washing your makeup off.  You’ll play better if you relax and free your mind of having to be pretty, tough, fierce, soft, aggressive and all of the other qualities that are competing against each other sub-consciously. Enjoy being young because right now you have nothing to cover up just be yourself that’s what is beautiful! (Your dad, uncle, brother, grandpa… think so too and I know this because they told me!) 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Running Shoes are Bad for You?!?

I had the opportunity to go to Ontario Basketball’s coaching clinic this summer called Coach School 2011.  A speaker by the name of Sylvester Walters was showing us some really interesting exercises to prevent injuries with our young athletes.  At the beginning of his talk he spoke about how developing strong feet is one of the most important elements to training athletes.  He mentioned that feet are the foundation and building strong feet builds strong athletes.  The flatter the shoes the better your feet can adjust on their own to their environment.  Sylvester suggested reading a book called “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. 

 "Born to Run" is a book about an isolated and reclusive group of people called Tarahumara that live in Mexico's Copper Canyons.  They can run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down deer as easily as Olympic marathoners.  They have the ability to compete in ultra marathons which are the distance of a few marathons strung together.  They wear thin sandals and have a contagious joy of running.  The book really took a very interesting turn when I read this:

“A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems.  Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries.”  Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University. 

Initially I thought that is a really big thing to lay at the feet of Nike.  Surely, shoes have benefits like keeping our feet clean, free of diseases, cuts and infections.  It is also important to note that they help me look flashy and stylish too!  Could they really be doing that much damage?  Kenyans have some of the most amazing elasticity in their feet which comes from running barefoot until they are 17.  According to this book there is no evidence that running shoes are any help to preventing injury.  There is no peer reviewed data to back up that shoes will decrease the risk of musculoskeletal running injuries or improve distance running performance.     

The book went on to talk about how every year between 65 to 80% of all runners suffer an injury.  Broken down further the claim was that nearly every runner is at risk.  The cost of these injuries can be high because if people aren’t being active to stay healthy than other health conditions can come into play like weight gain, heart conditions, diabetes, blocked arteries and so on once the populations begins to age. 

Painful Truth #1 – The Best Shoes are the Worst

The American Journal of Sports Medicine in 1989 suggested that the most common variable in injuries wasn’t training surface, running speed, weekly mileage, competitive motivation, body weight, or history of previous injuries.  It was the price of the shoe!  Twice as many runners wearing shoes that cost more than $95 get hurt than runners who wear shoes that cost less than $40.  What?!? How is that possible?  Doesn’t the cost indicate the value of the shoe? This statement really made me stop to think. 

Painful Truth #2 – Feet Like a Good Beating

The more cushioned the shoe, the less protection it provides.  Cushion provides nothing to reduce impact. When running the body is produces 12 times the impact.    A thin layer of plastic isn’t going to do much to change the blow.  I have heard many times that running shoes should be replaced every 3 months but a study was done by Barry Bates at the University of Oregon suggesting beat up shoes are better because when the cushioning is worn the runner has more foot control.  Are shoe companies suggesting that we get new shoes simply because it means more profits for them? 

In a way it seems like wearing running shoes is like putting pillows on your feet and in a way it is blinding them. Apparently in gymnastics, the thicker the landing mat the harder the gymnast has to stick their landing.  The same is true for more cushion in shoes as the foot comes down hard to ensure balance.  Think about when you lose your footing on ice and your feet react to find stability.  Essentially, that is what the foot is doing when you run because it isn’t aware of what is under foot.   The thicker the heels of the shoe the more people start to run on the heels of their feet and that isn’t how the foot was designed through evolution.  People who run in bare feet have lighter impact forces than those who run in shoes and run on the correct areas more efficiently.  When you are walking in bare feet you are receiving a continuous stream of information about the ground and the foot’s relationship to it. A covered foot is simply sleeping in an unchanging environment. 

Final Painful Truth – Humans Are Designed to Run Without Shoes

Dr. Gerard Hartmann has been a strong believer in barefoot running for years:

The deconditioned musculature of the foot is the greatest issue leading to injury and we’ve allowed our feet to become badly deconditioned over the past 25 years. Pronation has become a very bad word, but it’s just a natural movement of the foot.  The foot is supposed to pronate. Once you block a natural movement you adversely affect the others.  We’ve done studies, and only 2 to 3% of the population has biomechanical problems.  So who is getting all these orthotics? Every time we put someone in a corrective device, we’re creating new problems by treating ones that don’t exist. Just look at the architecture.  Blue print your feet, and you’ll find a marvel that engineers have been trying to match for centuries.  Your foot’s centrepiece is the arch; push up from underneath, and you weaken the whole structure.  Buttressing the foot’s arch from all sides is a high-tensile web of twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, twelve rubbery tendons, and eighteen muscles, all stretching and flexing like an earthquake-resistant suspension bridge.  Putting your feet in shoes is similar to putting them in a plaster cast.  If I put your leg in plaster , we’ll find forty to sixty percent atrophy of the musculature within six weeks.  Something similar happens to feet when they’re encased in shoes. ”   

My critical thinking comes into play a bit here too though.  Are we paying more attention to injuries now than we did before?  Are there more injuries to ankles, knees, and achilles simply because we are documenting them or are their more injuries because shoes are really that bad?  In the relative scheme of things running shoes have only been around for a short time in evolution but they are such a huge part modern of life. Personally I have many pairs of shoes for many types of sports so where do I go from here. 

This book has caused more questions than answers for me and I am only half way through it.  Am I about to go running down Lakeshore Boulevard or High Park with no shoes on tomorrow?  Definitely not!  But it has opened my eyes to a new concept that I am interested in researching further.  Maybe it is a transition to move away from orthotics and research ways to strengthen my feet and the feet of the athletes I coach.  Do I think that athletic shoes have played a role in my shin, knee and back injuries?  It could definitely be the case but I am not convinced completely.  I am not sure that playing basketball with no shoes on is a choice either.  I am interested in sharing the information I found and challenge you to think of your opinion on this matter.  Of course it is your choice to make the decision you would like to make but I never shy away from gaining more knowledge.  The only thing left to say is if this is what my sneaks are doing to me then I don’t even want to think about the high heels I wear to work are doing...  Yikes!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Let them be kids!

So I am reading a fascinating book right now called “Play Their Hearts Out” by George Dohrmann.  It is about amateur basketball in the United States and how it has turned into a machine of recruitment and shoe company corporate dominance.  I wanted to blog about some of the concepts in the book because I find them interesting and at times a little scary.
I know our system in Canada isn’t set up the same and I am not professing to say that we are perfect up here.  It just seems like we are just more “untapped” to some degree.  I would say one of the major reasons is that basketball isn’t our main sport.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to coach at a summer camp for a Division I school in the U.S.  I was shocked to see the amount of kids with so much raw talent.  During the summer that school ran 6 basketball camps for only high school boys (there were other camps going on as well).  During the same summer in Calgary, where I was living at the time, each of the 3 colleges or universities ran only 1 camp each for boys.  One of the main colleges had to cancel the camp due to lack of interest that year.  I had my mind blown at that U.S. camp because 1) the boys were so skilled compared to the level I was used to coaching and 2) the boys at the camp were huge in terms of their height and muscle development.
Through recent research I have come to see how involved shoe companies are in the development of young athletes in the U.S.  and I think there is negative cost when you have sponsorship that entrenched in sport.  The book indicated that the ratio of sponsored to unsponsored coaches was 20:1 in the Los Angeles area alone.  That area also produces more Division I talent than any other metropolitan area in the U.S.  Essentially, shoe companies target coaches that have access to talented players and the “relationship building” begins. 
The talent of the coach on a skill and fundamental development level is secondary when compared to the access they have to talented players.  Often these coaches go after talented players from other teams to make their teams better.  They seem to be more about sales then coaching and skill development.  These coaches aren’t necessarily interested in building the talent themselves if they can just take the player and pass the end result off as their own product. Just because a player enters a tournament on your team doesn’t mean you have played a significant role in making them better. In fact, these shoe companies use this to their advantage because these coaches are seen as consultants operating independently.  So the shoe company gives access to product and in return they get unrestricted access to players.  If by chance the coach does anything off side the sponsor separates themselves by indicating that the coach is operating on their own accord.  It seems the company gets the best of both worlds and can side with any coach they choose as long as they get the player to see the best in their product. 
Many of the coaches who don’t already have a shoe deal have a hard time keeping up financially with those that do.  Getting one of those coveted coaching contracts is tough because these companies aren’t looking for more coaches they want more players to have access to the coaches they chose to back.  Some of the things they say to lure talented players away from unsponsored coaches would be “do you want to risk your son’s future by playing for an unknown coach?”  They use the term “exposure” to sell parents on landing a college scholarship by promising they will attend high end tournaments or have personal relationships with college/NBA coaches or scouts. This may or may not be the case but based on results parents buy in to what they are sold.
It is scary to see the progression at which sponsorship has evolved and as the years progress it continues to get younger and younger.  It went from the NBA level, to college, to high school and now is edging its way into junior high and even elementary school.  It makes me wonder when it will stop.  I could just imagine these companies busting into the delivery room to get their branded baby booties onto any newborn with parents who have a potential basketball pedigree. 
The idea of moulding a 10 year old for the NBA seems ridiculous to me.  Thinking back to when I was 10 years old I wanted to be an interior designer, teacher, fashion designer, model, business woman (so I could wear fancy suits) and a garbage woman (because no women did that in my small town and I thought I should be a trailblazer).  These were my thought processes in the span of a week!  Let’s be honest here these are children!!!  Thinking back most of the boys in my class wanted to be professional athletes of some sort because dreaming big is part of being young.  It is an amazing amount of pressure to put on a young athlete who is not even allowed to stay home alone, probably wants to eat junk food all day because it tastes good and has to be reminded to brush their teeth on a continual basis.  Plus it doesn’t take into consideration any jump in ability, growth spurts, injury, body development or even an interest in the sport long term which will happen as they mature.  No 10 or 11 year old has the capacity to be mentally tough enough to deal with the situation and it seems that parents with stars in their eyes don’t either.  Is seeing their young child on the cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids all that matters? 
The concern should be for the long term development of the person and ensuring they have a strong foundation to stand on in whatever path in life they choose.  Michael Jordan often makes the comment to let your children develop the love of the came first and I tend to agree.  Do corporations start trolling the playground for their next CEO?  It seems ridiculous when you compare this same concept to that of the corporate world.  They wouldn't be interested in succession planning to that degree because their are far too many unknown factors involved.      
Some of the most successful coaches in the world stress the importance of basketball fundamentals (dribbling, passing, shooting, and defence) at this young age.   If individual play is put first, in my opinion, it ruins the game because growth becomes stunted.  Some of the greatest lessons in sports come from losing.  Not being successful teaches humility, sportsmanship and hard work to strive for excellence.  If excellence comes without struggle it is similar to what happens when a baby chick is helped out of it shell in that it becomes weak and dies. 
Personally, some of my most memorable moments in basketball have nothing to do with the score board or getting a win.  They have to do with mastering something difficult my coach was teaching me and using it in the next game.  Overcoming an injury and getting back to playing at a better level than when I left.  The point is to be your best and to strive to reach your goals but no one puts on their resume when they won the Championship for 10 year olds and were sponsored by a shoe company.  The lessons have to be much bigger than just winning and the brand on your shoes.  
Before he passed, John Wooden, former coach of the UCLA Bruins, used to talk a lot about how style over substance was risky because fundamentals need to always come first.  He was also a man that wouldn’t compromise himself.  I remember reading one of his books on leadership and he talked about how many times he was offered sponsorships.  He mentioned that he always refused them because he wanted to be accountable to himself and make decisions based on what he thought was right.  I don't think that all sponsorships are wrong because their are some very worthy companies that have a great message.  There is a big difference between an adult making a decision based on their long developed principles and a child choosing which shoe company to play for at 10.  I think we need to let these players be kids first until they are old enough to know what makes sense for them personally. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Ultimate Teammate

In school I was a no non-sense girl when it came to sports.  The evolution was amazing because I started out as a shy little girl to a fearless warrior.  When the game started the goal was to win.  I attended the same school from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and was always the 3rd tallest in my class behind Luke and Tim.  When they hit a growth spurt I wasn't far behind.  I was very thin and was often teased with the usual nicknames like "Stretch", "Bean Pole", "Baby Giraffe"... you name it I was probably called it.  People even called me things like "Pipes" because when I flexed as hard as I could my tiny bicep would pop up or "Wings" because my arms looked like they were touching my knees when I was standing up straight.  When I stretched them out to the sides they seemed never ending.  I refused to be the tall girl that slouched because I was proud of my height. I barely had any muscle definition I was just lean and mean!   I would get teased all the time about how big my feet were, how gangly or uncoordinated I looked but the point was I didn't care!  The more people teased me the more relentless, determined and aggressive I became when the game was on. I learned early to channel that anger and let it out when it was most productive... on the battle field! Soon the teasing stopped.   

My classmates would line up against the gym wall to make the teams.  The usual cast of characters would get picked early on: Tim, Luke, Dusty, Jordan, Jerett and me.  All of the other girls would get picked last except my best friend Tamara who was the prettiest girl in the class and always seemed to have someone crushing on her. I loved getting picked before the other boys!  It was like being a girl was an oversight and if I could contribute then I could play.  The feeling of being respected for my contribution to the team, instead of being the eye candy, definitely built my confidence.  (Tamara was sporty too so she wasn’t just eye candy)

I have to admit that sometimes it was hard fitting in with the girls because when my team lost in gym class I took it hard. You would too if you loved gym as much as I did.  I would count down the days for the next battle.  When I was in a funk the other girls would just go on to their cutesy drawings and tell me things like “who cares”, “it’s just a game”, or “you can win next time”.  I wanted to win every time! Didn’t they know that?!?  Playing sports with the boys every recess would have been ideal but I knew that sometimes I would have to do skipping and hang with the girls to have friends.  Plus I wasn’t a complete “tom-boy” . Sure I liked to play sports but I also was a bit of a fashionista with my accessories.  I wore a lot of pink and was very particular about my 80’s neon fashion rocking the side ponytail, slouch socks and bike shots with lace.     

When I hit junior high I was on all the teams: volleyball, track and field, badminton but not basketball.  During try-outs the unthinkable happened. I was cut from the team by the teacher everyone called Mr. Zamboni behind his back.  He was the teacher that drew the short straw and HAD to coach the Junior Girls Team.  I was so hurt!  How could he do that? It took the wind right out of my sails and I was contemplating not playing sports forever.  My Sister Mandy was not having it.  She hated to see me defeated and was determined to make me as strong as possible.  She told me about how Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity team and to use that pain as fuel to prove everyone wrong and that I should do the same with Mr. Zamboni. 

She used to call me outside and would throw the ball at me until I would catch it.  It didn’t matter if I was ready for it or not she was throwing it.  If I was running away from her she would throw it.  If I would go in the house she would come after me and throw it.  If I hid or ignored her she would find me and throw it.  Her methods were questionable but over time she wore me down, by imprinting my entire body with basketball bruises, and we got to work. 

She started out easy using the hoop on our garage to teach me layups, dribbling, shooting and her very effective form of passing.  The driveway was quite the slope so you went from shooting a 10 foot layup, an 11 foot outside shot and a 12 foot three.  So, most of our shooting practice took place at the nearest playground that was often referred to as Bosch’s.  After school and in the summer we spent hours playing and practicing.  She taught me all the things she had learned and although a lot of our sessions would end in fights we both refused to give up on each other.  The next year I made the junior high team and ended up being one of the best players on our squad. When she heard one of my teammates bragging about how many points she scored my sister piped up and said “you’d have a lot more assists if you would pass the ball and maybe you would have actually won the game!” She has never had a problem with speaking her mind.  We continued to work on my game as she learned new things. 

By grade 9 I hit another growth spurt and had improved tremendously.  I made the Senior Varsity Team... it was the same team she was on and to top it off we played the same position.  She was in grade 11 and what she lacked in height she made up in heart.  She was the best rebounder and post player on our team.  I was taller than her at that point and the battle was on!  I respected her so much and wanted to be like her.  Not only was she tough and tenacious but she could trash talk like nobody I had ever met.  She probably taught Gary Payton what to say! Sometimes I would get so fired up because she knew the exact buttons to push for me to lose my temper.  For those years I think we were barely sisters because we just were so used to battling each other as teammates.  Soon I was used to playing mad and my teammates knew it.  During a rebound they might take turns hitting me to make me play better and give an extra boost to the team. 

I wanted to gain Mandy’s respect so I kept getting better and playing hard.  I never knew how much she cared about me because we were both too proud to show it.  When my parents got divorced she took a part time job at a restaurant to make sure that we both had money to play sports.   She wouldn’t give me an inch of room for error and I wouldn’t show her that I cared what she thought.  In a small town it is easy to get trapped in the easy life so she set a very high standard of achievement and was like my second Mom when it came to reinforcing her plans. 

I learned all the concepts of being a good teammate from her.   If she hit me in practice it wasn’t personal it was to make me better.  If I got knocked down she was the first one there to pick me up.  She did her part to make sure I did my best and wouldn’t give up on me.  She pushed me to make me stronger and picked me up when I was down.  She stuck up for me when I needed support and battled me to make me better. I went on to play in many practices, games and tournaments long after we were teammates.  I never forgot the passion, drive and desire she had.  For me the motivation never changed when I looked at my coaches I saw her face I wanted them to be proud.  When I looked at my teammates I saw her face because I wanted to beat them and make them better.  When I looked at my opponents I saw her face and wanted to destroy them by doing my best.
She planted the seeds that helped me achieve many of the goals I have reached.  My Sister - The Ultimate Teammate.