Remembering Excellence Both Young and Old…

The sports world suffered two losses since I last posted.  Two individuals who took up the titles of leader, role model, and pioneer for their respective sports. One changed the light of how we view this sport, Arnold Palmer, and another who was on pace for a hall of fame career, Jose Fernandez.

imageJose Fernandez, Pitcher for the Miami Marlins passed away this passed Sunday morning in a tragic boating accident off the coast of Miami, Florida.  At the moment, there is little knowledge as to causes of the accident other than it was dark and the driver couldn’t see the rocks ahead.  Fernandez was having a tremendous season, 16-8 with a 2.87 ERA and a MLB high average of 12.49 strikeouts a game.  Originally from Cuba, Fernandez had seen his share of adversity being jailed as a teenager for a defect attempt. In another attempt it is reported that Fernandez saved the life of another defectee who had fallen overboard.  This hero made it to the US in 2008 at age 15 and has arisen to every challenged he faced. In 78 career starts, Fernandez went 38-17, recording 589 strikeouts in 4711/3 innings, and a 2.58 ERA. He leaves behind an expectant daughter who I’m sure will be proud of the father who passed before her time. RIP JOSE FERNANDEZ, YOU’LL BE MISSED.

Let’s take a look back at his historic season.

 

Arnold Palmer, in my mind, is the Jerry West of basketball, Vince Lombardi of football,  Babe Ruth of baseball, or the Wayne Gretsky of Hockey for golf.  He was the standard and it was because he lived it in and outside of the country club.  He lived a very long and fruitful life, one on the opposite end of the spectrum in contrast to Fernandez.  However, greatness doesn’t have to know an age, yet in consideration of how much Palmer accomplished in his 87 years, I food diary a clip that will do much better in telling the story.

 

I would just like to thank each of these men for being exemplary role models in their respective professions and showing us all how to let your athlete arise.

Inhale Confidence…Exhale Doubt (My Injury Story)

Rimageecently, I suffered an injury, nothing major but an inconvenience all the same.  In week 2 of my basketball season I tore my extensor tendon in my left pinky finger.  This is an injury commonly known as mallet finger where the tendon that holds and allows you to bend your finger snaps.  Upon the self-diagnosis, I was a little disheartened considering it was the beginning of what I thought to be a promising season.  I scheduled an appointment with a hand specialist and splinted myself up per Dr. Google.  I played twice before my appointment at my normal gym and found I could still somewhat function with a taped finger.

After my appointment the doctor gave me a 5 week recovery period, a uniquely splinted finger, and no need to miss games.  Adapting was difficult at first, I had less control of the ball and I had to think twice before acting.  In several of my early pick up games after the injury, I saw an increase in unforced turnovers, missed layups, and missed chip shots I’d normally make; the frustration was real.  The first two weeks after the injury I didn’t start for fear of messing up the chemistry with the first unit, but as I would check into games things began to feel more natural and one good play added to another built confidence. I got to a point where I didn’t think about the finger anymore, I just played. In my last three games I’ve started and posted a combined 54pts, shooting over 55% from the field, including 9/17 from 3.  Also, interestingly enough, I’ve made more layups with the injured hand than that of my strong hand.

I wanted to share this because I preach athletic wellness everyday, and I found myself in a situation where I had to take a piece of my own advice.  imageHere I am, the athletic wellness advocate, being tentative, passive, and unsure of himself.  I had to check myself for a minute and remind myself that fear could do nothing but limit me, but being bold would strengthen me psychologically.  What setbacks have you encountered recently that may have slowed you down or made you question your ability? You are bigger than your problem, and no gains are made without adversity. I have ultimately become a little bit better over something I thought would only be trouble.  I have become more confident and aware, understanding that this was a stepping stone. It has also been a tool that will push me harder upon a full recovery and continue to help my athlete arise!!

 

How Athletic Wellness Carries Over to Fantasy Football.


Fantasy sports has been one of the fastest growing entertainment markets over the last 10 years, which was exactly when I started playing.  In that time, I have managed a league for 5 years and some of the very practices I preach are the very reasons I’m successful in fantasy sports.  In 10 years of playing, I have finished 8 years in the top five, won a championship, and was runner up in another (this is just in football).  If you follow me or read my posts from time to time, then you’ll know that I believe athletic wellness spans from a proper balance of mind, body, and spirit.  When it comes to fantasy sports, I use these three factors as a checklist going into any season.  Let’s look a little closer and see how they apply…


1. Mind 

Before anything else, you must be knowledgable to some extent in the sport you are playing.  Knowing personnel is first and foremost, then you have to understand scheme and strategy of coaches and organizations. Without these two things, you will be solely depending on rankings and luck which only gets you so far.  After the application of knowledge, then there is the assessment of character, integrity, self discipline, grit, consistency, and dedication.  Social media is a great outlet to track players you may be interested in or like. I have found that those athletes who never lose sight of their athletic goals in the off-season, typically have the best seasons in general.  Also, athletes who give back to community typically are selfless and have a greater concept of team (less likely to get suspended or benched).

2. Body

As an athlete, your body is your money maker…similar to an Uber driver’s car, without it there is no income.  So I pay attention to athletes who are vocal about ways they take care of their body, and I watch for athletes who do or show the opposite.  Pay attention to when training camp starts…who’s there who doesn’t have to be yet? Who isn’t there because they don’t have to be yet.  When this type of thinking is an everyday process, you notice it without trying.

3. Spirit

The biggest thing I can touch on as it relates to spirit is have fun.  As a competitor, the stress I feel on opening Sunday isn’t supposed to drain me but remind me of why I compete in the first place.  The objective is placing my skills to the test, learning from mistakes, learning from other’s mistakes and successes, and lastly, networking and meeting new people.  There are several relationships that I have built and maintained all through fantasy sports that would have otherwise faded away.  

I challenge you!! Take some of these practices up as some of your own and see how they work for you.  It’s only the first week and many have com from behind to win it all and many have started great and ended horribly so there is still hope after week one.  I hope you enjoyed the read and as always, continue to let your athlete arise!!

Are You Listening or Judging Colin Kaepernick?

There has been an uproar in the sports world over the last couple of days. It started when Colin Kaepernick was noticed sitting during the playing of the national anthem and his third preseason game. He was then approached and ask as to why he was not acknowledging the flag. His reply summed up was that I will not pay tribute to a country who allows people of color and other minorities to be oppressed. Media, critics, sports fans and also military personnel and veterans immediately lashed out at his actions. Before I go any further, let’s take a listen in and hear what Colin had to say from self.

The first thing that I want to address is the military personnel who claim Colin Kaepernick is not a patriot because he did not stand for the national anthem. I’ve read posts of people calling him a traitor and I didn’t fight for this country for you to sit doing the national anthem. Yet, what I did not see was anyone saying Colin Kaepernick is exercising his right as an American citizen to protest in a peaceful manner which you also fight to preserve and protect. Interestingly enough, even after all of the criticisms no one ever actually addressed the reason why he sat in the first place. Why is it that people are so easily offended? 

Now I am neither for or against what he did I am not on the platform where I’m making $19 million a year, so I can’t say what I would have done. However,  he didn’t break the law and he spoke very eloquently and respectfully. He did everything how you’re supposed to in order to get his point across no matter how controversial it may have been. I bring no bias to the table, because I am not a Colin fan.

My next question is this, in my right mind, can I honestly question a man’s integrity based on how he’s performing in a particular sport? Also, are you judging him based on his background or ethnicity? What if Andrew Luck would have done the exact same thing? I’m pretty sure the reactions would have been a little different even in the midst of him coming off a bad season. I know it is a reach, but regardless it’s true.

My third and final question is,what does Kaepernick’s salary have anything to do with this issue? Many people made reference that the man makes $19 million a year and he wants to speak about people who can’t speak for themselves. Some people spoke saying how can you talk about people being oppressed and you make that type of money. My response to people with this thought pattern is would your values change if you suddenly get the lottery tomorrow? Would people say “Oh, he’s rich now he doesn’t care about the community!”? There are many, many people who do so much for the poverished community. What would you have them do? Give up everything that they have and live the life that you’re living? If so, that is the same poor man’s mentality that keeps you there in the first place. 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however if you are not observing all the facts before forming one, then your opinion is flawed. Also, if someone will be judged and made to be in outcast for standing up in what he believes, what’s the point of the freedom? Lastly, address what’s being said, that’s the reason why we continue to have the same problems that he spoke of. It’s not being addressed and it’s is being swept under the rug. Address the issue! You won’t address the issue because you don’t care about the issue and you wish it would go away! Kaepernick did what he thought he was supposed to and that’s what letting your athlete arise is all about, bridging the gap between cognitive awareness or development and performance. I hope he has a successful season.

True Gold Stories (A Rio Recap)

We have finally wrapped up an amazing 2 weeks of Olympic competition and I must say I have enjoyed it immensely.  Outside of the household names and the common sports we have all grown to love, I really was able to learn a lot about different athletes and sports I weren’t familiar with.  So today I want to honor those athletes who weren’t on everyone’s radar but had a true gold story.

  1. Chierika Ukoga (Nigeria) – Chierika is the first of Nigeria to row in the Olympic games. She trained for 30 hours/week with the top athletes in the Philadelphia area under coaches at Vesper Boat Club and Conshohocken Rowing Club, while conducting women’s health research at the University of Pennsylvania.  NigerShe didn’t receive any funding from Nigeria and raised the money on her own and through gofundme.  She is a Stanford Grad (2014), competed D1, and completed pre-med coursework in the process.  She founded a non-profit organization called Flip Flops for Africa and donated 10,000 pairs of flip flops to Nigerians in need.
  2. Kariman Abduljadayel (Saudi Arabia) – Kariman was the first Saudi women to compete in the 100m competition and took 7th in her preliminary heat.  She didn’t qualify for the finals but was praised heavily for her courage and willingness to break the norm.  105580636-Kariman-Abuljadayel-SPORT-xlarge_trans++rbV8E1vvGHaBNJhAQrBCaeU-5NBdMS2kWAh6ufw2hAEShe is only the second Saudi women to compete in the Olympics but surely there will be more and likely not her last time as she is only 22 years old. Kariman is seen on the left wearing her hijab, as is customary for middle eastern women not to reveal certain portions of their bodies. Sarah Attar was the first Saudi to compete in the 2012 London Games.
  3. Matthew Punza (Zambia) – Matt was ranked 112th in judo and was facing off against Israel’s Golan Pollack ranked 6th.  I’m sure he was happy just to be at the Olympic’s and was merely just trying to do his best.  However,  his best landed him likely the biggest upset in the Olympic’s.  If you don’t know anything about Israel, understand that they are a very well trained nation in combat.  000_E03DC-635x357Every male , after age 17, must spend a minimum 1 year in the military where they are trained to be ready for combat as a civilian, if necessary.  Matthew’s upset was short lived, as he was defeated in the next round, but definitely a success nonetheless.

 

If you missed the Olympics, be sure to check in with your local cable provider and catch some of the highlights.  There were definitely more amazing stories and some that were not as glorious but lessons all the same.  These Olympics held more meaning for me than any other due to the maturity and growth I’ve made in the last four years.  The dedication it takes for these athletes to compete on this stage is unparalled to anything else in the World. These are my heroes and should be yours as well, as we all continue to let our athlete arise!!

5 Back to School Sports Tips for Parents of Young Athletes

Charter schools in the Chicagoland area and others alike have started their 2016-17 school year and most public schools will be starting shortly.  There is always excitement surrounding this time of year for the parents and the child.  Parents get worn out, students get bored of being at home, and both anticipate what a new school year will bring…new teachers, new challenges, new friends, new crushes, and a new season for sports.

Portrait of soccer team divers looking team of little boy and girls holding prize cup and football ball smiling and cheering isolated on white

As youth sports continues to grow and become more competitive, parents and students alike must prepare and adapt to some of these changes.  Whether it be finances, knowledge, or support you need, there is usually a means of keeping your child involved.

  1. My 1st tip is to spend money according to your child’s interest.  If my kid loves to play baseball, it may not be in my best interest to spend a lot of money on the new KD’s or Lebron’s.  Reason being, all gym shoes are not crafted to be effective the same way.  KD’s shoes were made for basketball and trying to convert them into baseball shoes may not be the best idea.
  2. My 2nd tip is to investigate early in the school year the cost of each individual sport your child may want to play in.  Most schools can have team fees that start as low as $35 and can go up to $125.  Many times this can vary due to the popularity of the sport or it can come down to the talent level of the school.  A middle school I used to work at had more basketball games for their young men than a lot of high schools I know.  However, these were highly scouted and talented 7-8th graders and the idea was to teach them as much basketball as possible before the next level.
  3. My 3rd tip is to look into more locations than just your school for after school programs.  Often times, local park districts and YMCA’s have after school programs that will see to it homework is done and then give students additional time to play sports.  This benefits parents as student’s will come home with work done, ready for dinner, and finally bed.
  4. My 4th tip is for those of you who may have a child that is special needs. NEVER, NEVERFlourishing Families SDFM Cover 2013feel that because your child has a special need he cannot participate in sports.  Reach out to your school’s case manager and physical education teacher and find out what can be done to accommodate your child.  I worked with the special needs population for 5 years and accommodations must be made for those students by law. They have just as much rights to play a sport as kids who aren’t disabled.  (Click here for some more information on this topic)
  5. My 5th and last tip is to be involved!! One of the most important things to a kid is to impress his/her parents.  I remember when I was a kid, playing basketball at my local park district gym, I made a shot and I could hear my mom jumping and screaming in the bleachers.  That was the moment I craved for more than anything as a child.  Now I am an adult and it is still fun for my mom to come see me play every once in a while.  Your child needs and craves your support, be their #1 cheerleader!! It’ll be the one guaranteed thing that will help their athlete arise!!

Feel free to reach out with any specific questions you may have and as always let your athlete arise.

Sometimes it takes a little longer to understand the significance of someone else’s accomplishment and sometimes, even your own. For example, Kobe Bryant retired this year and although I followed his entire career, the impact of his legacy didn’t really hit me until it was all over. I was able to watch this guy play at a high level for 20 years and end his career as an ELITE athlete! Same with guys like Calvin Johnson who just recently retired after a short but fascinating career and he still is one of the best receivers in NFL history. Lastly, the news of A-Rod’s retirement came and although it is met with scrutiny, he was the face of baseball during my time. These are names my kids may ask me about because tomorrow’s athletes will be compared and measured to them. I wonder how much more significant it’ll be then?

maxresdefaultWell, the Olympics is that ultimate stage, the promised land, the light at the end of the tunnel, and the peak of any committed athlete’s dreams. There’s no higher prestige, no success greater, and you have to wait four years to compete for the gold. This year’s Olympics has been that much more significant to me for that reason, because four years ago I wasn’t in the mindset to see it yet. These athletes put in none stop work to be the best, teams have to build faith, trust, and a sense of family in order to stand a chance. This is the one place where you can say, I am one of the best in the world at what I do. The top 1%…who’s better?

This week my message is to simply stop and witness greatness! Take the time to learn what it took for some of these athletes to get here.  Outside of players who are in professional sports, these are everyday people with jobs just like me and you.  olympian_fencing_timMy mind goes to Timothy Morehouse, an Olympic silver medalist fencer from the Beijing games I met a few years ago, and the power of his story.  You may probably remember him from the Chase Bank commercials a year or so ago.  He wasn’t always a great fencer and was often destroyed in different tournaments around the country.  He invested his money into training around the clock and eventually won a tourney which led to him eventually qualifying for the 2008 games.  There, he won silver and this guy is a pedestrian citizen just like myself who just saw a goal that could be tackled.  I already blogged about Sgt. Elizabeth Marks and her accomplishments and what it took for her to get to Rio, and there are hosts of others.  I challenge you to learn more about these athletes, and not just Americans.  There are athletes from around the world who make it to the Olympics and must train in far worst conditions than we’d ever think of.  These are my superheros! These are truly people who have made their Athlete Arise!! Don’t miss Greatness!!