Norway’s Answer To Youth Sports

I recently watched a show on HBO that explored Norway’s approach to youth sports. It was eyeopening. Anyone who has participated or been associated with youth sports in this country during the past thirty or so years will tell you, if they’re being objective, that the model is out of control. We train, pressure and attempt to develop eight year olds as if they’re pro athletes, so it should surprise no one that a study performed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports found that 70% of American children quit sports by the age of thirteen. One of the main reasons given for dropping out is that sports in no longer fun.

Enter Norway.

They basically take the approach that the United States is using, and do the opposite. Back in 1987, Norway adopted a statement called Children’s Rights In Sports. It governs how kids participate in athletics and all national sports federations are obligated to abide by the rules. The basic premise centers on making sports available for all kids with the goal of having fun. Instead of the pressure for kids to participate in one sport year round at an early age, like we do in the United States, Norway wants kids to play sports because its fun and they enjoy it.
By the way, 93 percent of children grow up playing organized sports in Norway, where there are no economic barriers, travel teams aren’t formed until teenage years and adults don’t begin separating weak from strong until children have grown into their bodies and interests. Leagues don’t keep scores until the age of 13, there are no national championships for teams younger than 13 and no regionals until 11. Once a child reaches thirteen, has begun to grow into their bodies and expressed specific interests, Norway’s sports federation make top coaches available to athletes skilled in those sports, but until then, it’s only about participation and letting kids be kids and have fun. Their belief is that it’s impossible to say at 8 or 10 who is going to be talented in school or sport. All children develop, physically and athletically, at very different ages.

What a concept!! Letting a child have fun, living their lives and playing sports for the pure enjoyment of it.

One would think that a system like this would come up short compared to our system of national championships for seven year olds, parents hiring coaches for nine year olds and families traveling across the country for tournaments. But Norwegian athletes get just as much physical exercise without having to play the same sports day after day, year after year, while they’re young. Their development is all encompassing and they are able to enjoy friendships and family without the stresses and commitments we see in this country.

Their goal is not to develop the best college or professional athlete, but the best well rounded person.

Oh, and if anyone thinks this approach doesn’t breed success, take a look at the last Winter Olympics in 2018. With a population of only 5.3 million people, Norway took home 39 medals, more than any country in the history of the Winter Games. And yes, they also have the best female soccer player in the world.

Is it any wonder that Norway always ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world?

Youth sports in this country is a 16 billion dollar industry bankrolled by parents who just don’t understand the long term impact on their children.

In a country where money speaks first, parents dictate direction and children have become a secondary priority, there is little chance that we will ever see the type of youth sports revolution Norway adopted.

And once again, children lose.

 

 

When A Couple Of Days Becomes A Couple Of Months

Sooooo…..how’s it going out there?

Been a while for me. Not that anyone is counting days but my last post was two months ago. That’s a long time without a sound in the blogosphere, especially when there is no justifiable reason. I’m fine, family is fine, (thankfully), weather is getting warmer, another Idol has been crowned, it’s lighter longer, politics is still an embarrassment and Thrones has finished.

And I’ve been gone.

Some people I know were celebrating that fact. Sorry to disappoint you.

It’s one thing to take a planned hiatus, understanding that you need to step away for any number of reasons. But I never planned to take a break. Two days suddenly became two months and I feel like I’ve missed a lot. So why the disappearing act? ( I’ll explain, in case you’re interested, of course.)

Well, March through July is usually a pretty busy time for our immediate family. We celebrate ten birthdays in a very short period of time, all of which have some sort of party. Throw in Mother’s Day, Easter, Fathers’ Day and our wedding anniversary and the days and weekends are pretty full. But then this year came along and we added two communions, two dance recitals, a kickboxing tournament and a college graduation to the mix.

But I’m just getting started.

In March decided to begin two projects around the house, both of which involves contacting contractors, waiting for them to possibly show up, getting quotes and scheduling the work. Two major projects. Call seven people and you’re lucky if three show up. For each project.
Oh, then there was that separate problem with water in the basement around the sump pump and contacting a half dozen people, each of whom had their own ideas and cost on how to fix it. Yeah, that was fun. This last ten months of constant rain has been a blast. Noah’s never around when you need him most

There’s more but I don’t want to wear out my dubious welcome.

Now, I don’t know about you but for me to write anything or string two sentences together, the stars pretty much have to align, and by that I mean, it has to be quiet, not only in the room I’m in, but in my head as well. Crowded mind, cluttered mind.  I’m not from the Stephen King school of writing.
You know those times when you’re moving through the day and you come up with an idea or two for a blog and you write it down so you won’t forget? I was never able to get to a pencil or paper or phone fast enough. And at my age, if I don’t record it at that moment it becomes like the leaves of an oak tree during a nor’easter in the fall.

Now I’m not complaining at all. I know I’m blessed. All the things I’ve mentioned are good things, except the water/weather problem, of course, but the Man upstairs seems to have a different opinion of that than I do. We’ve differed before. That’s okay. We always seem to make up.

We’re only halfway through the party/celebration season but at least the projects are now completed so I feel theres been a little more quiet in my head. A little more focus. Or at least as much focus as I’m capable of. Don’t expect too much.

So, that’s my explanation/excuse. It’s not much but it’s all I have. I know I’ve missed a lot and I’m sorry about that. If you want to break up, it’s understandable, You can even keep the ring. We’ll call it even.

 

Road Trip-Disney World

As a longtime Bruce Springsteen fan, I learned many years ago that there are two camps. You either like him and his music or you don’t. I’ve never heard anyone say, yeah, he’s just ok.
I’ve found the same holds true with Disney, You either enjoy going there or you don’t. For many I think it’s impossible to be a take it or leave it type of person with Disney. Some people are made for it and some are not.

Look, Disney isn’t for everyone. It’s not. You have to believe. You have to have the mindset of a child, not be bothered by ridiculous crowds, brutal heat during  summer months and holidays, long lines, being cramped into shoulder width space during fireworks, long lines, exorbitant pricing, ridiculous crowds, and in your face marketing and commercialization. You have to be flexible, overlook and understand irritable kids, (most of whom are not your own), not blink at the price of a burger or drink, be patient with the transportation system and be willing to plan days and times for rides. Did I mention long lines and ridiculous crowds?

So why go? That’s a good question. One that everyone who enjoys Disney answers for themselves. You really do have to see it through the eyes of a child and not through the logical brain of an adult because logical adult brains would scream at you to stay away. But in some strange way, if you approach and plan it well, it can be a blast. For as much commercialization as Disney is rightfully accused of, they do so much well. Considering the number of people who move through the parks on a daily basis, I’m amazed it runs as well as it does the majority of the time.

When we went in November with one of our daughters, her husband and two young granddaughters, we caught the last few days of the wine and food festival at Epcot, which was a lot of fun. Crowded, but fun. The parks were being decorated for Christmas so we also got to experience that for the first time and it was really special to see. The music, the snow falling around you at night as you walk through lighted streets in different parks. Yes, it was crowded. But if you have the ability to overlook some things and focus on the magic through the eyes of children, it becomes very special.

Here are just a few photos of the different parks.

Outside of Magic Kingdom.

Hanging With a Friend in Animal Kingdom.

Boardwalk At Night

Castle During Fireworks Night (yes the crowds are crazy)

Christmas Tree In Hollywood Studios

 

Main Street After Fireworks

Making A Gingerbread Carousel

    

With The Following Ingredients

For me the best of both worlds would be walking the parks with Springsteen playing throughout. But I realize I can’t have everything I want,  so I’ll settle for Disney music, hundreds of characters and princesses,  smiles on the faces of children and Dean Martin singing Marshmallow World.

Disney is not for everyone and it doesn’t make you a bad person for not wanting to come. Just leave the bitter beer faces at home. You’ve been forewarned. My public service announcement is now complete.

You’re welcome.

Is This Our Reality?

I never realized how much our general population enjoys a good train wreck. As much as we say we turn away and try to shield our eyes, many still enjoy the drama. How else to explain the popularity of some reality shows?

I try to imagine someone sitting around their office or at home playing with their kids and thinking, I’m going to create a show where I place a man and a women in a dangerous, isolated jungle somewhere without any food or water for 21 days and see if they can survive the elements. Oh, and I’m going to make sure they’re completely naked during their time together. Then, I’ll get really creative with the title and call the show, Naked and Afraid.
Nine seasons running with Emmy nominations.

Then there was that person who thought, I’m going to ask a guy who is not married if he wants to meet twenty or thirty women, get to know them, romance them, share intimate moments with them and God knows what else, all while being filmed, in the hopes of meeting his future wife. I’m going to call this show, The Bachelor. It’ll be easy to find these guys and apparently easier to find a large pool of women who are willing to be jilted each week, participate in catfights, compromise themselves, all on camera,  with the hope of finding a husband. And fame, of course. This show is so successful it’s been on for twenty-three seasons and had several spinoffs including The Bachelorette, (of course), Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, After Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games. (Really)

Or maybe I’ll find some rich women who are apparently bored with their money and families and ask them if they want to document their lives with other rich and bored housewives  in front of television cameras. I’ll tell them that it’s okay to be as bitchy and selfish as they want, expose their impressionable children to this type of environment and their lives to scandal and scrutiny because really, at the end of the day they have more money than they need and it really doesn’t matter what anyone watching thinks. They can care less. They’re only interested in showing off their wealth and “good side.” Just show me the money because I can never have enough of that. Let’s see, this show will start  in Orange County, (because why not), then go to New York City, New Jersey, D.C., Beverly Hills, Miami, Potomac and Dallas.
Since train wrecks are not just popular in this country Housewives was also created for Athens, Vancouver, Melbourne, Los Angeles (in French), Cheshire, Auckland, Sydney Toronto, Hungary and South Africa.

Of course there’s also Jersey Shore, Temptation Island, Love Island, Here comes Honey Boo Boo, The Kardashians, and a host of others including your favorite and mine, The Apprentice, where careers go to die.

I know if I ever chose to get into a discussion with anyone about these train wrecks I would hear about the social understanding they derive from watching, how it helps them understand what makes people and relationships tick and survive. Yeah. To that I say, blah, blah, blah.

I’d stay longer, give you more examples and try to explain the strangeness of the public’s fascination with these shows but I’ve only been writing for a short period of time and I feel like I need to take a shower and take out the garbage.

I know I probably offended some people who enjoy these shows and I know you’re probably waiting for me to say I’m sorry but there is something caught in my throat.

 

 

Road Trip- Kennedy Space Center

I was eleven years old when John Kennedy made his famous, “we choose to go to the moon,” speech, fifteen when Grissom, White and Chafee died during a pre-launch test, eighteen when man first landed on the moon, 24 when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff and 51 when Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. So I’ve really grown up with the space program. Understanding the significance of the race to the moon with the Russians back in the 60’s and the pride we all felt during that time is hard to explain to someone unless you lived through it. It would be hard for younger generations to understand.
Strangely, there are those who still believe man never went to the moon; that it was all staged on a Hollywood movie set. To those conspiracy theorists , I’d ask you to watch a new documentary that was recently released in theaters, called Apollo 11. It’s fascinating.

I’ve always wanted to visit KSC and see some of the spots where history took place. So on a recent road trip we spent a day at KSC in Merritt Island Florida. There are quite a few exhibits, movies, and hands-on attractions that entertain and educate adults and children. They’ve also done a great job of turning this into a great way to spend a day away from Disney, if that’s your destination. (It’s only about an hour east of Orlando.) From the space shuttle that’s opened up for you to view, to the actual lunar spacecrafts to being able to sit and experience what a shuttle launch might feel like if you were on board at liftoff, to touching a moon rock, it was a fun and educational day.

So here are some of the sights, which only give you a glimpse of what you might expect if you choose to visit.

Entrance

As you enter, JFK fountain with a portion of his speech.

A portion of the rocket garden

The original seven as seen in the Astronauts Hall of Fame

The view across the water at the launch pad.

The Vehicle Assembly Building, at 129,428,000 cubic feet, it is
one of the largest buildings in the world by volume and the largest
single story building in the world. Designed to assemble
large pre-manufactured space vehicle components such as the massive
Saturn V and the Space Shuttle; and stack them vertically onto the
Mobile Launch Platform and crawler transporter.

 

Alan Shepard’s spacesuit with moon dust still on the shoes.

Standing under these rocket boosters at the Apollo/Saturn V Center
was pretty impressive. The photo doesn’t  do it justice.

Astrovans which shuttled the astronauts from their quarters to the
launch pad.

   

Hard to imagine spending any amount of time in something this confining.

   

What the control room looked like on February 20, 1962 as John Glenn
became the first U.S. astronaut  to orbit the earth.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

So if you’re in the area and would like to actually have lunch with an astronaut, think about visiting the KSC. If you’re lucky and time it right, you might even be there for an actual launch, which must be pretty impressive to see.

Oh, by the way…we’re planning to send man back to the moon in a few years.
That should be interesting.

Living With Dreams

 

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” 
James 4:14

Thirty-nine years ago today my father passed away suddenly, less than a day after we buried my thirty-two year old brother-in-law who died of cancer. When you spend a week and half sitting in a funeral home making final arrangements for two people of your immediate family, life has a way of changing you. Not immediately, and sometimes not even in ways you can understand or explain. But it does change you.

It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by and even more difficult to think about everything they missed and everything we missed sharing with them. We lost a part of our future and past in a matter of days. I don’t know if we ever really recover from loss or just throw a blanket over it to allow us to function each day. We carry on, we laugh, we welcome new family members, we enjoy life because there is no other choice. We live for the living and for ourselves. Still, there’s always a hole, always moment in days where we stop and maybe smile at a memory or what they might have done or said about a family situation. Or the way life has changed so much over the years.

Here’s the strange part of the story…

A couple of weeks before my Dad died, I had a dream. In my dream, I saw him in a coffin at the funeral home, exactly as he appeared after he passed away.
Ten years earlier, my grandfather, (my father’s father), died unexpectedly. A couple of weeks before he died, I had a dream. In that dream, I saw him as he appeared in the coffin. My grandfather lived in Brooklyn so I had never been to that funeral parlor. And yet, when I walked in, everything was as I had seen it. In detail. I remember it very clearly.

A couple of days after my father was buried, I told my mother about both dreams. For obvious reasons, I had never told anyone about them before. She wanted to know why I didn’t tell her. She wondered if there might have been something we could have done if she had known. But as soon as she said the words, she understood.

You can’t alter your life chasing those types of dreams, just like you can’t alter your life chasing what might have been. There’s no time for that, no secret recipe for the secrets of life.

So hold the ones you love close. Those that are here and those who are not. And if the ones who are here don’t understand, hold them closer.