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.”