Tag Archives: sports parent

It is not just practice

Is your son or daughter athlete frustrated that he or she is not getting enough playing time in games, and only really gets to play in practice?  Then you should have him or her read today’s New York Times article on how Aaron Rodgers, currently the best quarterback in the NFL, dealt with that problem during his first three years with the Green Bay Packers when he rarely got into a game.

The parent trap

Many parents, including me, have fallen into this trap one way or another. You impose your own hopes and dreams upon your child’s athletic career. Even when you are conscious of it, this can be hard to avoid. Longtime Valley sports columnist Scott Bordow has warned parents for years about falling into this trap. In his must read column in yesterday’s Arizona Republic, however, Scott reveals that he, too, crossed the line and became too invested in his 14-year-old daughter’s soccer career. It hit him when she told him that she wanted stop playing on her club team.

“Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with pushing your teenagers to excel,” Scott writes. “We want what’s best for our kids. We want them to succeed in whatever they do, and to do that sometimes they need a gentle shove.

“But we shouldn’t burden them with our desires or our dreams, and that’s what I was doing with Emily. I was so proud of her on the soccer field — yes, I enjoyed bragging about her exploits — that I let her potential cloud my judgment.”

Good advice for all of us. — Dan Barr

Sports training for toddlers?

Are these fun activities and exercises in socialization or is it “Baby Mozart” stuff?  The front page of today’s New York Times features an article about the value of sports training for toddlers. Even more interesting is a six-minute video on the Times’ website called “Born to Run? — Sports Training for Babies and Toddlers.”

Do you know a comeback kid?

Now a Xavier College Preparatory High School graduate, 2010 Fan Fave winner Tayler Renshaw returned to her alma mater to present a $1,000 check on behalf of PCH Sports Medicine for Young Athletes to make the inaugural donation for the $1.5 million new sports field.

Do you know a young athlete who was forced to sit on the sidelines because of an injury, illness, or physical limitation? Someone who had to go to physical therapy or treatment while teammates were competing and having fun?

The PCH Sports Medicine Program Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program is a chance to reward that hard work and dedication to get back in the game.

Nominations are being sought for the 2nd annual Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program, which recognizes outstanding young athletes who have returned to athletic competition after receiving treatment for an injury, illness, or physical limitation.

Throughout the school year, contest nominees will have the chance of being chosen as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Week and highlighted on KPNX Channel 12’s Friday Night Fever or 12News Saturday Today. In April 2011, a panel of judges will choose the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year. An award will also be given for the “Fan Fave” who is selected by online votes. Both winners will be awarded scholarship money to be presented at an end-of-the-year banquet. The winners’ athletic programs will receive cash grants.

Nominations are open to Arizona residents between the ages of 8 and 18 who are currently enrolled in Arizona public, private, charter or home elementary or high schools. Nominees must have participated in organized sports (school, club  or intramurals) and missed part of a season due to injury, illness or physical limitations. You do not have to be a PCH patient to be eligible for the awards program.

Last year, PCH Sports Medicine received more than 100 nominations. From those, 28 comeback student athletes were featured on 12News as weekly winners. Two of those athletes, Brett Butler and Tayler Renshaw, were selected as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year and Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete, respectively.

Brett, who graduated from Corona del Sol High School last June, was diagnosed at the PCH Children’s Neuroscience Institute with a brain tumor that caused debilitating seizures. He underwent surgery to remove the growth, but the procedure resulted in paralysis to the right side of his body. He battled a long road to recovery, but eventually returned to Coronal del Sol’s cross country and varsity baseball teams.

Currently a freshman at Arizona State University, Brett was selected as the Comeback Student Athlete of the Year by a panel of judges.

In August 2008, Tayler began feeling ill and over time her health deteriorated to the point where she could barely run or jump. In February of 2009, her sickness was diagnosed by a team of specialists in the Division of Gastroenterology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Tayler found out she has Crohn’s disease.

In order to treat her illness and regain her strength, Tayler had to stop playing soccer for two months and now receives regular infusions every six weeks. Tayler worked extremely hard to get back into top playing condition during the summer before the start of her senior year at Xavier College Preparatory.

Tayler, now a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, was selected by a public online vote as the Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete. Over the 19 days of voting, close to 34,000 Fan Fave votes were collected.

Nominations will be accepted through February 27, 2011. To nominate someone you know, visit comebackathlete.azcentral.com.

Is your child swim-team material?

Some kids seem to know what sport suits them; others need a nudge in the right direction. At age 13, I wanted to join the swim team because that’s where my friends were. It turned out to be a good choice. Athletically challenged, I was usually the last kid picked for games and sports during recess.

Swimming improved my coordination and boosted my self-confidence. In addition to racking up swimming medals, I lettered in high school track and volleyball and thought of myself as an athlete rather than a klutz. Now 47, I teach dance, body conditioning, balance and other group exercise classes to clients at Miraval Arizona; something I never imagined on playground days when team captains argued over who “would be stuck with me.”

Children who enjoy swimming as a competitive sport usually have very supportive parents, says Justin Slade, a 12-year swim coach who is now head coach for the Flying Fish Arizona Swim Team (FAST), a youth swimming program in Tucson. He suggests parents attend meets and practices and offer unconditional support.

My parents never “forced” my participation or reprimanded me when I swam poorly. My coach, Skip, made practices more fun than a chore and I have fond memories of traveling to meets with teammates. We’d stay in hotels or campgrounds and when not competing, we’d play cards, brown marshmallows over a fire and have pillow fights.

Our parents made it fun, too, by traveling with us, watching us compete, and tracking our improvement. The only teammate I remember who hated swimming had parents who screamed at him in front of us whenever he swam badly.

The experience a child has, good or bad, will likely become an ingrained, lifelong perception of training or working out. As a certified personal trainer and athlete, I’ve heard people refer to exercise as “suffering,” “torture,” “back breaking” and worse. I feel disconnected from such descriptions. Since most of my youthful swimming experiences were positive, exercise brings to mind laughing, friendship and feeling vividly alive. My participation in swimming as a youth led to a life-long love for fitness.

Parents sometimes ask what physical and mental qualities competitive swimming requires.

“It is like their first mini-job,” says Slade. They learn the relationship between hard work and success. They gain confidence in their abilities and learn “perseverance to overcome failure or tough situations.” The sport doesn’t deliver “instant gratification like a video game.” Weeks or even months of hard training are often required to get results.

Even though Michael Phelps’ long limbs, large feet, and amazing flexibility give him a physical advantage, determination and drive can often compensate for disadvantages in physique. Slade and I agree that any child who loves swimming should be encouraged to participate. For the most part, success “is in the hands of the swimmer,” he says.

I’m often a head shorter than other women on the starting blocks, but that doesn’t decrease the thrill for me. I’m not Dara Torres, but I still climb out of the water a winner every time. I feel healthy and exuberant and my physique remains sleek and athletic. I just hope that kids swimming today will feel the way I do when they grow up. — Susan Dawson-Cook


Susan Dawson-Cook lives in Tucson with her husband and two high-school-age children. A fitness professional, freelance writer and nationally ranked U.S. Masters swimmer, she holds three state records in breaststroke for the women’s 45 to 49 age group. Read her blog, Fit Women Rock.

A chance to soar

I was lost when I walked into my first Chaparral High track and field meet this season. What were the events again? I knew there were sprints and distance events, some jumping and throwing and relays of some sort. I wasn’t quite sure which part was track and which was field. I knew a little bit about the pole vault, because for some reason my freshman daughter had decided to try planting a 12-foot pole into a three-foot hole and see if she could soar into the air.

Emily Kaplan, the author's daughter, attempts a vault during track practice at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.

I had arrived late, and I didn’t know the order of things. How much had I missed? How long do these things go on? And where were my kids among the sea of red and white Firebird warmups lounging on the football field inside the track?

Standing by the fence along the finish line, I hoped one of them would see me and decide to acknowledge me. Then Emily came racing down the track, in what I later learned was the 200-meter dash. She came in second in an exhibition heat. Looked good to me, but she was disappointed because she hadn’t beaten her best time.

Best times. Exhibition heats. A co-ed sport that offers plenty of time for socializing and flirting between events. This was starting to sound familiar.

Our children have been swimmers for many years, and the similarities are striking. I knew from our swim coaches that track was great cross-training, but I never realized the two sports had so much in common. The scoring has parallels, with points given in descending order based on your finish, all combined for the team score at the end of the meet. You try different events and, as you grow, begin to specialize in one or two. Like swimming, the athletes carb load at pasta parties before each meet.

Chaparral has some terrific track and field athletes, including state champ pole vaulter Liz Portanova, sprinter Nikko Landis, twin distance runners Shane and Shawn Maule, and triple-jumper Cody Moore. They benefit from an excellent coaching staff, with decades of experience and an Olympic gold medal in the trophy case of pole vault coach Nick Hysong.

But it’s a huge team and it appears that most of the kids, like mine, are there to learn and have fun and stay in shape. That takes a lot of the pressure off the kids, though it’s not necessarily a recipe for a championship team. Maybe that’s not surprising, given all the emphasis on football, basketball and baseball, and the club sports that take up every moment in between. Still, it’s a shame for those dedicated, one-sport athletes who miss the chance to sample what high school has to offer and try something new.

I find my way to the bleachers and recognize a family whose son joined the team last year. They patiently answer my questions and explain some of the rules. I’m still scouring the field for my son when he whizzes by in another exhibition heat of the 200-meter dash. It’s his first race ever and he looks great.

It occurs to me that I’ve never seen my kids run like that, a full-on sprint with techniques they had surely learned in the past few weeks of practice. They might never run track again, but these were lessons they could take with them. I was learning, too, about a new sport, meeting a new batch of families who were cheering on the team and reacquainting with parents I hadn‘t seen in years.

The regular season ends with a home meet April 21 against Desert Mountain, followed by the Scottsdale City Meet on April 28. That’s likely the end of the season for my junior-varsity track dabblers. Regionals and finals are set for early May.

Emily is still working on getting over the crossbar in competition. I’m in awe that she’s chosen what looks like an impossibly difficult event and she loves it. But she turned down her first chance to compete at the last meet, afraid that she’d fail, and she wasn’t entirely happy with her decision. That’s the beauty of high school: You can still miss opportunities, make mistakes and take chances, without so much at stake. The next opportunity she gets to soar into the air, I’m betting she takes it. — Mary K. Reinhart


Heightened aggression in women’s sports

Here’s an interesting analysis piece in today’s New York Times, “In Women’s Sports, Pushing Back At Stereotypes.” While no one seems to know why, this piece posits that “anecdotal evidence suggets a coarsening of behavior in women’s sports among coaches, players, parents and fans at various levels.”

State cheerleading finals

The state cheerleading finals will take place this Saturday, January 30, at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.  The 4A/5A finals will take place between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the the 1A/3A competition will start at 5:30 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m.   A schedule of the finals and a list of the teams participating can be found here.

One of the teams participating will be the defending state champion Mountain View Toros, whom we featured in this blog last September.

Admission to the state cheerleading finals is $8 for adults and $6 for students with a student ID card.  An all-day pass, which gives you the ability to re-enter the arena, is $15. Make sure to dress warmly.  Because it is hockey season, the temperature inside Tim’s Toyota Center will be kept between 62 and 70 degrees to preserve the ice. If you cannot make it to Prescott Valley this Saturday, you may watch the cheerleading competitions live here — 4A/5A and 1A/3A.

If you have a young daughter or know of a young girl who is interested in taking up cheerleading, you should view Vicki Balint’s video about American Elite Cheer in Scottsdale.   — Dan Barr

With wrestling, there’s no substitute for hard work

Robert Balint (left) faces an opponent on the mat.

I was introduced to wrestling during my freshman year of high school. In fact, before the wrestling coach recruited me during football season, I didn’t even know that Brophy College Preparatory even had a wrestling team. Before high school, I played baseball, basketball and soccer, but I never once came into contact with a junior high wrestling program.

Arizona is far behind states such as Pennsylvania or Iowa, where the sport of wrestling is closer to a way of life than a mere pastime and 4- and 5-year-olds are hustled onto the mat by screaming parents. Like all sports, athletes who begin training earlier have a greater advantage than latecomers, as they have more time to learn and master the techniques, giving them a head start on muscle memory and body awareness.

That shouldn’t discourage high school athletes who have no prior experience. There’s no substitute for hard work. No matter how experienced a wrestler is, he still has to work for victory.

So what should you do if you have a child in seventh or eighth grade who is interested in wrestling?

Find the nearest grade school with a wrestling program. It probably will be a club program, not an actual school team. Club coaches teach the basic rules and fundamentals. They’ll take just about anyone who shows up ready to work. Here are some contacts to try:

Desert Mountain Wolfpack Wrestling Club
12575 E Via Linda, Scottsdale, AZ 85259
602-826-8887 • cfredericks@susd.orgwolfwrestling.com

Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy
P.O. Box 12520, Scottsdale, AZ 85267
480-205-3015 • gressley@sunkistkids.orgsunkistkids.org

How is wrestling different from other sports?

Wrestling is a balance between an individual and a team sport. In dual meets, which pit two teams against one another, the two wrestlers in each weight class wrestle each other. Whoever wins captures team points, the number of which awarded depends on the nature of the win. After all 14 weight classes are done, the team points from each individual match are added up, and whichever team scored more is the winner.

Each team member has not only a personal desire to win, but also a responsibility to do well for the good of the entire team. Getting pinned sacrifices the most team points, so even if a wrestler has no chance of winning, he still has to fight hard to avoid giving the other team extra points that could decide the match.

The victor.

Concerning individual matches, wrestling is as close as you can get to a non-team sport. There’s nobody out there on the mat to help you. There is only your opponent. It’s a do-or-die situation: no substitutions, no half-times, nothing.

What are the time commitments and physical challenges of wrestling? What are the benefits?

Athletes should be prepared to dedicate a large amount of time to wrestling. Because the sport demands an extremely high level of conditioning, going to practice every day (grueling though that may be) is crucial to success. As for the physical challenge, there is not much that is more difficult than doing sprints after a couple of hours of drilling techniques and sparring with teammates. After all, it’s full-on combat.

However, if you commit, the rewards are great. Close bonds with teammates, personal pride and self-confidence are all gained from a sport that lets you be as successful as you want to be: it all depends on your personal work ethic. Wrestling helps develop determination, confidence and a refusal to quit. Like Olympic gold medalist and American wrestling legend Dan Gable said, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” — Robert Balint

A real hockey mom

Rachel's back windshield.

Rachel Harris is a Hockey Mom. It even says so on her car. For the past six years, she has nurtured and supported the hockey career of her 12-year-old son, Jack, who is now a rugged 110-pound defenseman for the Arizona Hockey Union U-12 97 team, otherwise known as the Polar Bears.

Jack playing hockey at age 6.

“When Jack was 4, he was invited to the Polar Ice rink in Chandler for a birthday party,” Rachel recalls. “He was frustrated that he couldn’t skate, but he saw some 5-year-old hockey players learning how to skate. He decided right then that he wanted to play hockey.”

Luckily for Rachel, an on-air contributor for Channel 3’s mid-morning show, “Your Life A to Z,” and her husband John, a local attorney, the Polar Ice rink in Chandler is a five-minute drive from their home. But I’d guess that the miles they have put into hockey-related driving since Jack first learned to skate would equal the distance to the moon and back.

“In second grade, he started taking private lessons at 6:30 in the morning. He would work on his skating, shooting and one-on-one situations,” says Rachel, who acknowledges that being a Hockey Mom can be time-consuming. “But it is a lot easier [now] than when I had to stay at the rink and tie his skates.”

Jack has steadily moved up the youth hockey hierarchy, from Mite to Squirt and now to PeeWee. He now has practice three times a week with the Polar Bears and plays about 50 games during the season, which stretches from July until March. Included in those 50 games are six tournaments, some of which are out of state.

Rachel and her mom in Hockey Mom and Hockey Grandma tees.

“We went to Whistler (British Columbia) in July for a four-day tournament against some Canadian teams. It was a great experience for everyone,” says Rachel, noting that several of the Polar Bears families are good friends because their sons have played together for the past six years.

The Polar Bears also played in Denver this past October, and are tentatively scheduled to play in Las Vegas in December and Salt Lake City in the January.

“Travel for these tournaments has made our family more cohesive,” Rachel said. “We usually plan some vacation [time] around them.”

Hocky Mom Rachel and Jack (12).

So what does Rachel think about that other Hockey Mom, who is currently on a well-publicized book tour?

“I got teased a lot during the presidential campaign, especially because I put my hair up and wear glasses. But I’ve had my Hockey Mom sticker on my car for six years, long before anyone heard of her.”

So what are the benefits of youth hockey in Arizona?

“Hockey has taught Jack self-discipline and he is very careful to eat healthy foods. I cannot say enough good things about it,” Rachel says. “And, oh yes, hockey is so great in the summer. That’s when I can’t wait to get inside the rink.” — Dan Barr

2009 Polar Bears Hockey Team.