Saturday, April 27, 2013

The NFL Draft

Watching the NFL draft reminds me of all those years I worked for the NBA and LOVED it. There is a crazy amount of excitement and an amazing sense of innocence from all the players. It is the first time many of us get to meet these big stars, and they are so nervous! To be honest with you, they were so cute. Young, thankful, grateful and innocent.

I know the NFL is big business, but all I've seen at the NFL Draft is emotion - pure and raw. And that is why I, we, watch. The hugs between family members, the tears at the table, and the childhood dreams coming true as young men walk onto the stage to greet Mr. Goodell or answer a phone call from their new team owner. What a moment! And even though there is an incredible paycheck attached, when you break down this draft moment it is beautiful in it’s purest form. It is A DREAM coming true. And under those full beards and 2-300lb frames, they are still the same little boys waiting to get picked to play the game they love!

Once they hit training camp, the game is all business. But on draft night, when Roger Goodell calls their name…at that moment, it means they've made it. It means all of their hard work has paid off. All of their families hard work has paid off. You can see it. You can feel it. And, it is awesome. I have heard draftee’s say, “You get this one moment, you’ve got to go for it.” Go for it and hug whomever you can, cry if you want to, and jump up and down if that’s what makes you happy.

And then, of course, there are the ones that chose to be present at Draft night and did not get drafted. Even thinking about it now makes me cringe. Every time they would show Geno Smith, I would imagine what he was feeling, and I was sad for him. It was brutal to watch him get passed up time and time again. When they put him on TV, he was always looking down at his phone and probably wishing he could hide from the cameras. But he will be better for it. It is just another reminder of how young these men are even though they seem so strong.

We’ve all had our dream moments. For me, it was making the Olympic team and then winning a gold medal. Part of the joy of making the team was getting to enjoy the moment with my family and taking it all in. Draft night is just that, I would imagine. One part of the dream is realized, and they get to pat themselves on the back and relive the moment of their official announcement as a member of the NFL. And then they begin to focus on the second part of their dream… of doing something great with this opportunity both on the field and off. Dreaming of making it to the Pro Bowl, of an MVP season, and being named a Super Bowl Champion all while giving back to the communities around them.

Seeing all those dreams and goals in the smiles of a 21- or 22-year-old when he hears his name called, that's what the NFL Draft is all about!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sanders Details Marathon Experience via ESPNW

I shared my experience with ESPN following the events in Boston, and rather than rehash that day, I'd like to share that here as well.
Sanders Details Marathon Experience
Summer Sanders discusses her experience at a hotel room close to the Boston Marathon explosions.April 17,

Summer Sanders went to Boston to run the marathon she'd always dreamt about -- and finished it in 3 hours, 33 minutes, 13 seconds -- all before bomb blasts shook the city and changed everything. Here are her thoughts and feelings about that experience.
I always say that the Olympic Games, and my moment in 1992 in Barcelona, was the culmination of all the emotions an athlete can feel. This experience at the Boston Marathon has brought out those emotions 100 times more.
Leading up to this race, I blogged about how beautiful it is -- every part of it. In Hopkinton, where the race starts, people open up their homes and set up stands to give free sunscreen, Vaseline and safety pins to runners. These people get it. They celebrate the marathon in every way.
The best way I can tell you about the Boston Marathon is by taking you through the heart of my day. Here goes:
I remember the start well, including all the people volunteering and helping runners and the children handing out water in Dixie cups. These were the people who got me started on my journey to 26.2.
I saw some spectators multiple times throughout the race. They were holding the same signs. It was as though they were traveling with me -- I loved it.
My people were cheering for me at Mile 17. I had a tear in my eye when I ran by my mom and my cousin.
20-yard from the finish line
The last 6 miles were not pretty. I kept thinking, "You can do this," but my legs were so tired, and they were cramping up. My friends had told me about the Citgo sign (runners get a big view of the Citgo sign between Miles 24 and 25), so I got excited when I finally saw it. The same thing happened as I turned onto Boylston Street, which is where my hotel was.
As I pushed toward the finish, I saw my mom at the very top of the stands with her neon green sign, so I could spot her. I crossed the finish, and I had no idea what time it was. The race clock said 3:37. I had a quick interview with Universal Sports almost immediately, and they asked me to send a message to my kids, Skye and Spider. Here's what I said: "This is a reminder from Mom that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I love you more than you'll ever know."
The mood in my hotel was jubilant when I walked in, but That didn't last long.
I could barely walk due to the cramping in my legs, so I was taken to the medical tent. I had been digging as deep as I could, mentally and physically, to finish, so I had nothing left. I was crying because I was so grateful to be there and to get medical attention.
I didn't stay in the medical tent long because I wanted to meet my family at my hotel, the Lenox. It's right there on the corner of Boylston and Exeter streets. Every time a runner walked into the lobby, the crowd would erupt in a cheer. It felt wonderful.
My family and I went up to my room. That's when we heard the first blast. We felt it, too. The second blast was louder and felt stronger; I screamed because it was so frightening. We looked out our window and saw the scene below as people started reacting.
My first thought was to leave. But almost immediately an alarm sounded throughout the hotel and there was an announcement that we were in lockdown. We couldn't go anywhere. We were also told to turn off our phones.
It was a blessing that I was with my family. My mom sent an email to everyone to tell them that we were OK. The first thing I thought of was my kids. I went into survival mode. If I couldn't do anything to help, I needed to get home to my kids.
The next alarm and announcement was about 20 minutes later. It said that we all needed to evacuate. We were walking as fast as we could -- marathoners who'd just finished the race, trying to go down nine flights of stairs. It was hard to hold it together. My mom's words -- "This isn't our time" -- helped me.
When we got outside, we were a massive group of people who didn't know what to do or where to go. Many runners hadn't even seen the news yet. We just started walking. We saw military trucks arriving -- reinforcements in full gear. Somehow we found our way to the car that would take us to Logan. I just kept thinking about my 5:15 p.m. flight and how I needed to get home to my kids. There were a lot of other marathoners on my flight.
My husband, Erik, was worried about me, so he turned on the news. The kids heard some of it, and Dad had to explain that there was a bomb. He told them that we didn't know who caused it, but it was definitely a bad person.
Spider's first question to me was so telling: "Do you have any scrapes or scratches, Mom?" And then, "Why would that bad man do that?" I said I didn't know. My 5-year-old son was worried about me, my scrapes and scratches, but I had none.
I was so touched by all the friends and family who reached out to make sure I was safe, and I'm grateful to everyone who responded with help or aid or encouragement during that awful time. I know that I'm not alone. Our running community will be even bigger now. Runners are my family, and I will have even more family to run with now.
It's important for me to remember that I accomplished something Monday, in the spirit of the 117th Boston Marathon. Boston is a strong, resilient city. I'm forever connected to it.
This isn't what the Boston Marathon stands for. Boston put its arms around me every step of the way. All I want to do is give back -- to put my arms around it. I'll start by getting out there to run again today, in honor of everyone who was injured and those who died.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In Boston, it's all about the Marathon!

You must be sick of me talking about it, but this is a big deal.  After being here and  seeing it in full swing, I can say without any hesitation that The Boston Marathon IS all it’s cracked up to be.  It literally takes over this city, from the new running shoes on the Lenox Hotel employee’s feet to the banners in every store front to the Sam Adam’s 26.2 brew!

You can’t get away from it, even if you wanted to.  In fact, I am pretty sure people who have never run are now inspired to get out there a pound the pavement a bit.  The feeling on the streets is electric.  It’s like one giant reunion with strangers coming together from all over the world through their passion for running

I have embarrassed my best friend about a millions times because I like to talk to strangers. I do this everywhere, from the elevator to a restaurant to the golf course.  But I think she would have been proud of me when I walked up to this wonderful woman on the street wearing a 2003 Boston Marathon jacket as we were both walking down Boylston Street toward the Expo. In our 3 block and 2 escalator conversation, I learned that she was running in her 10th Boston Marathon, she was from Santa Cruz, CA,  recently broke 3 ribs and hadn’t run in 5 weeks, but that she was guaranteed no worse than 3rd in her age group, the 80-84 women's group. Her name is Katherine and she is 80!
 I met John at breakfast. He's from Alabama,  he qualified for Boston running a marathon in Napa with his wife, and he’s hoping for a time of 3 hours tomorrow. Just like me, it will be his first Boston.  And then there was last night when I met Amby Burfoot and Jacqueline Hansen. Amby  will be running and celebrating the 45th anniversary of his 1968 Boston win, and Jacqueline  will be recognized as she marks the 40th anniversary of her 1973 victory...I am completely in AWE!

The bottom line is, this event is Fun. I feel like a kid who is a little scared and a little nervous, but mostly super excited to hear the starting gun for wave number 2! Life is too short to dream small, that is why I will tell anyone who listens, to make everything COUNT & DREAM BIG! Have fun tomorrow my brother and sisters,  sweating, living and hopefully loving every step of those beautiful 26.2 miles.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Impact of coaching styles

The Mike Rice coaching conduct video reminds me once again how lucky I was as an athlete.  And let me be very clear, I do believe I was lucky.  Lucky to have parents that were involved just the right amount – who knew when to stick up for me with my coaches – and lucky because my coaches were simply, fantastic.

First, it takes a special person to be a coach.  I am floored at the time and energy that my coaches poured into their “work”.  Yes, it might only seem like they conduct a couple of 2-hour workouts a day, but there is planning, prepping, recruiting, traveling and emotional investment, which can leave very little room for anything else.  To be a fantastic coach, I believe you have to pour a majority of your heart and soul into it.  And it takes a special person to be able to make that passion and commitment work in their overall lives and yours.

I had two major coaches in my swimming career.  One who came to our little swim team in Northern California when I was 10 years old. His name was Mike Hastings, and I had no idea of his credentials until much later in my life.  He had coached several Olympians and had just returned from a stint coaching over seas.  We knew the moment he stepped foot on the pool deck that he meant business.  His favorite word was “respect” and his biggest pet peeve was being late. Being late was disrespectful of his time and our teammates, and we would earn a minor punishment for it. One of those minor punishments leads me to the first time my parents stood up for me.

Because my parents were divorced, we spent six months with my mom and six months with my dad.  My mom worked very hard to make ends meet and even harder to get home from work in time to get me to swim practice.  One afternoon we were running late, and I knew what was going to happen when I showed up at the pool, but I ran as fast as I possible to get dressed and onto the deck. Coach Mike stopped me, yelled at me, and his tone made me cry. He said I was being disrespectful.  My mom immediately went up to him and said, “Don’t you ever yell at her for something that is not her fault. She was ready to go, and I was the one who was late. If you want to yell at someone, yell at me!” That was a big moment.  From that point forward, Mike put me in the respectful category because he knew that my parents understood discipline, but that they were also going to be just as involved in my life as he was as my coach. 

I chose my second coach when I committed to Stanford University. Coach Richard Quick was a

coach’s coach. By that, I mean many coaches learned the art of successful coaching from him. He also commanded respect without fear, but he gained his respect and through positive reinforcement and motivation. At 5:30 a.m. every morning he would show up to the pool singing his country western songs, holding the next two hours of our lives in his hands on a blue piece of paper, and when it was time to hop in the pool he would yell, “Let’s go swimmin’ women!” He was that coach that could make you believe you could accomplish the impossible.  And in my three years with him, he only yelled once.  I will never forget it.  It was frustration, and yet since we had never heard him yell with anger, it was extremely impactful. Instead of telling us what we couldn’t do, or criticizing us about our mistakes, he focused on positives, goals and improvement.

Throughout my career, I saw many coaches who used verbal abuse as their coaching style. Many of my friends would leave the pool in tears after almost every race. And I know if they had to do it over again, they would have stood up for themselves. There are many tools that coaches can use to be effective, even when dealing with different personalities.  Some athletes need the aggressive words from their coach to become motivated, while others crumble under that kind of intensity.  Some kids need every detail of information from their coach before they can perform at their best, while others just need to hear, “You know what to do, go get um!” The use of positivity in coaching is greatly underestimated.  I firmly believe that your kids shouldn’t fear you, they should respect you. There’s a HUGE difference.  And a good coach recognizes those differences, adjusts their coaching style to each athletes needs, and gets the best out of everyone.

As a parents, I know it’s tough to know when to step in as an advocate for your child versus when to stay out of it and let the coach, coach. It can be a very fine line, but my suggestion is let the coach manage the team, teach and make game decision, but always error on the side of protecting your kid when it comes to requirements and discipline. Discipline is required for athletes and teams, and as long as the discipline is fair, distributed equally, and respectful, don’t interfere. Example, disciplining an athlete for being late or not paying attention is one thing, but berating them with foul language for not making a shot is another. The negative, unconstructive yelling is ridiculous and cowardly. Physical abuse is never ok. So be sure your children understand that, and are willing to talk to you or their coaches about the situation. And be willing to stand up for your child if the coaching environment is not healthy. 
Sport is supposed to be fun. I know there is a lot of pressure to perform on the big stage, but it’s also about character and self-discipline and the love of the game.  We all need to remember that we got into sport because it was fun, and can achieve great things with respect and a positive environment.

To learn more about positive coaching and to find coaches in your area committed to teaching in a positive environment, check out the Positive Coaching Alliance.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Busy Mom: Keeping it all together

I'm fairly certain schedules are crazier than they ever were for our parents, and I remind my mom of that all the time.  There are SO many more opportunities for kids, which of course is great, but a true scheduling challenge for parents.  This is where/why the term “it takes a village” is often used.  Racing around like a NYC taxi cab trying to keep up with the insane schedule that YOU have created, using what has become the most common phrase in the house, “Hurry up, we’re gonna be late!”

I know I am not alone in this.  I have an  6-(almost 7) year-old who goes to piano once a week for a half-hour, gymnastics three times a week for two hours, is just about ready to start soccer again on the weekends, and was devastated when I told her she simply had NO time to do karate.  She was clever too.  She said, “But I have Monday’s after piano and Thursdays!”  At that moment, I became the defender of her free time, her time to just chill or play outside, and I stuck to my guns. I told her something had to be dropped for her to sign up for karate, and she decided karate could wait.

I remind myself every day that my kids are young and have plenty of time for crazy schedules.  Maybe I am just overly aware of how nuts life gets in junior high and high school, due to my schedule then: four early mornings a week, getting up at 4:07 a.m., driving with my mom 40 minutes to swim practice or weights that lasted about an 1.5 hours; then I would go straight to school until 3 p.m.; after school I would hop back in a car to ride to afternoon practice, which would last for 2.5 hours.  I didn't get home until 7:15 p.m. most nights. That's 4:15 a.m. - 7:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday, an afternoon workout on Friday, and a longer 3 hour morning workout on Saturday.  So I know life can and will get even crazier.

But for now, my biggest challenge is organizing activities and making sure everyone is picked up and dropped off with as few mess-ups as possible. Enter my village.  I, like everyone else, have forgotten practices, messed up times and/or confused locations.  I feel like my mommy brain has turned into quite a trapper keeper calendar that could have been very useful to me in college, but nonetheless, is getting it’s full use now!  Mom’s are somehow able to keep their kid’s schedules all locked tight in their brain, but our own is a total loss at times.

My friends and I are so keen to the “village” needs that if anyone of calls during the end of school/busstop drop-off times, we know we must answer because it usually means that a mommy is panicing and cannot make it on time.  To which our only reply is always and simply, “Don’t worry.  We’ve got you!”  Ahhh, such sweet words.  The “village” has your back!

Here are my 7 Keys to Keeping it All Together

1. Fight for your child’s free time.
2. Write down your schedule on a dry erase board that is in a central place, like the kitchen.  More conversation takes place in the kitchen than anyother room.
3. Divide, delegate, and conquer.  Let me be the 10,000th person to tell you it's ok. You CANNOT be in two Places at once.
4. Talk to your kids about their schedule.  My kids have such better memories than me when it comes to stuff like this. Sidenote (I will often tell my kids’ what I need at a store before I walk in and then ask them before I leave the store as a checklist. They never fail!)
5. Carpool! It isn’t as complicated as it seems, especially if your carpool pals are flexible!  Establish flexibility in the beginning and don’t keep score.
6. Don’t panic if you mess up. Run through PLAN B with your kids in case you are not on time so they know what to do and where to go.
7. Play hookie every now and then.  Escape from your schedule every so often.  It feels great and your kids will LOVE it.