Coaching at the park
As we struggle to adjust to the new normal after Covid, I feel like people may be focusing on the wrong things. In stressful times we tend to think about logistics and tactical solutions; How many chairs can we have in this space?
How many days should we have people back in the office?
Should I wear a mask or not?
But maybe a better model is to try getting back to being human and thinking about connecting with people again. Not just friends and family you have missed….just people.
Every Wednesday I do my best to get my exercise routine in. It varies every week but I try to at least stay consistent with taking a walk to our local park, Central Park, where there is a turf field and then I run sprints there. Nothing super dramatic, just strenuous enough to keep my cardio fit and my legs working.
Usually there is an eclectic group of people there; the Asian parents and grandparents with their strollers and little ones, the “Mommy and Me boot camp” group, and various soccer or lacrosse folks.
They each try to carve out a little piece of real estate in order to maintain some social distance and isolation. There is hardly any interaction outside of each “pod.” And that has been the case all through this pandemic. But now that restrictions are being lifted, people are getting vaccinated, and more opportunities to connect present themselves it’s interesting to see how people tend to stick to what has been comfortable for over a year. They default to isolation.
This week it was especially empty, basically myself and a father and son duo who were working football drills.
I love this scene.
It reminds of all the times my son and I played catch or worked on hitting and pitching drills. We still work on fitness training at the park so it’s a scene that is familiar to me and has fond memories.
I was running sprints and stretching and they were working routes, agility ladder, jump steps and hurdles.
It was awesome.
Many of you know that I am generally an introvert. I am usually in my own bubble, day dreaming or having my own conversation in my head. But I couldn’t help noticing some of the movement issues the boy was having while working his drills.
Then of course the internal dialogue happens:
He has a lateralization problem.
He doesn’t know where the ground is so he has to spot every time.
He is ….it goes on and on. (You can take the chiropractor out of the office…).
The other part of my internal dialogue was, “ Should I go over and say something?”
There is a slew of ancillary thoughts that come into play when you ask a question like that of yourself.
I thought about how the dad would take it.
Would he be like, “whatever?!” or “who the heck is this guy?”
I didn’t have a mask on, would he be freaked out?
Was I overstepping or showing off?
Was this a case of ego maximus? (I made that up but its a good word, right?)
Why would you do something like that?
What was my motivation?
And then I had that critical moment where you have to decide to put up or shut up. Either go over and connect and share or go back to your routine of isolation.
What would you have done?
I actually started to walk away and heading home.
And then I literally spoke out loud to myself- “Don’t be an idiot and just go talk to them.”
My motivation when it comes to sports is single minded- minimize injury.
So I went over and we chatted. We talked about early walking as part of his sons development and how that could create some issues with sensory processing and lateralization. That in turn can cause kids’ brains to not understand where the ground is.
What does this mean for your young athlete?
They jump and land with a thump. Since the brain doesn’t quite know where the ground is, its kind of a surprise when they hit the ground. Hence, the thump. A compensatory behavior is to try to “spot” the ground while doing activities like jumping or running.
Another thing that happens is kids don’t pick up their feet much when they are running. So you will see a classic shuffle sort of gait, like they are almost dragging their feet when they run.
The tragedy is that most people think the kids are not “athletic” or “coordinated” but the reality is their brains are struggling to keep their body’s safe.
If you didn’t know where the ground was, how eager would you be to run fast, jump high or let your contact with the ground be free?
So we worked on a quick set of cross crawl exercises and had him do the drills again.
He learned to keep his head up and trust the information his body was giving his brain.
He was able to get up on the balls of his feet and be more agile.
It was great fun.
Then something amazing happened- his dad and I shook hands.
His son and I high fived.
Yes, actual physical contact.
( I was careful not to touch my face after. ;-))
All it took was a moment of courage. Yes, courage.
I think we don’t celebrate enough when we have these moments of courage that really matter.
We think of courage as saving someone from a burning building or times of war.
But I think true bravery happens daily.
When we decide to do something despite our uncertainty, fear, anxiety, norm.
Willing to put ourselves out there despite our fears of rejection.
I think that is truly being brave.
I want to believe that I made some positive impact in their day as well as their training regime.
But the gift I received from the dynamic duo were magical words.
When I was getting ready to leave, the dad turned to me and said-
“This is what people should do”
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Tristan and Bishop for my gift today.