Building Children’s Mental Toughness + Living with a SEAL

Rob Bell, coauthor of Don’t “Should” on Your Kids.
Building your children’s mental toughness.
Issues: Why “sports is 90% mental” is 100% wrong; when and how to talk to your kids about their sports performance; helping kids find their passions in sports; when to push and when to back off.

Jesse Itzler, author of Living with a SEAL.
31 days training with the toughest man on the planet
Issues: An inspiring, hilarious story of friendship, discovery, fitness, muscle soreness, pushing limits, and the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone.

Pre-game Rituals: What They Are and Why We Need Them

pregame ritualBy nature, humans are pretty superstitious and we do all sorts of things to bring us good luck (rub a rabbit’s foot, pick a four-leaf clover, pull wishbones apart, hang horseshoes with the open end up) or prevent bad luck (try not to break a mirror, don’t open an umbrella indoors, throw salt over your left shoulder, skip the 13th floor in tall buildings, and on and on). Nearly every group of people has its own luck-related superstitions (many Catholics cross themselves, many Jews don’t name their children after living relatives, actors say “break a leg” instead of “good luck” and refer Shakespeare’s Macbeth as “The Scottish Play,” musicians have theirs, construction workers have theirs, and so on.)

One of the most superstitious groups is athletes. Lebron James used to toss chalk; Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs wrote the Hebrew word for “life” in the dirt every time he came up to the plate and ate chicken (presumably kosher) before every game; former pro football player Ray Lewis did his squirrel dace for the fans; French soccer player Lauren Blanc used to kiss the top of his goalie’s bald head. There are team rituals too: some have a team meal the day before each game, some kneel in prayer before games, some slap the top of the dugout before running on to the field, and others just have a rousing “get-out-there-and-win-win-win!” cheer.

We often hear that sports involves much more than physical performance. Many experts agree that the mental part of any game is just as important. (Baseball philosopher Yogi Berra did the math a little differently when he said that “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”)

Credit: Flickr/majorvols

Credit: Flickr/majorvols

Just as pre-game stretching and warm ups prepare the body, the kind of pre-game rituals I’ve described here prepare the mind. They’re designed to build the individual’s or the team’s confidence, reduce anxiety, make players feel that they control the outcome, and help them stay focused. Do they work? (Would Wade Boggs be in the Hall of Fame if he were a vegetarian? Would he have played even better if he’d eaten carrots instead?). It’s impossible to say for sure, but I’m fairly certain that the answer is Yes, they do. If the coach’s or a teammate’s pep talk revs up the players and makes the team feel like an unstoppable force, they’re going to play harder and support each other more than if they just showed up 10 minutes before the game. And if you’re nervous before games and meditating, painting your toenails, or wearing a pair of socks you haven’t washed all season calms you, you’re going to play better. How could you not? As long as they’re positive, supportive, and healthy, pregame rituals are must-haves for any team or individual.

This summer, I’ve been partnering with Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes on their “Show Your Stripes” campaign, which is all about encouraging dads and kids to play sports with a sense of passion, sportsmanship, and team spirit. You can view an amazing video highlighting these themes on Frosted Flakes’ YouTube page, featuring the famous speech given last year by Coach David Belisle at the Little League World Series after his team lost:


A lot of that passion, sportsmanship, and team spirit starts before the game, with a ritual of some kind. Kellogg’s has a fun video about pre-game rituals here:

Did you or your teammates have any rituals when you were young? Does your child’s team have one? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Tweet it using #showyourstripes and help other dads and kids show theirs.

Let’s All Cheer for Team Spirit

Photo credit: Steve Baker/Flickr

Photo credit: Steve Baker/Flickr

Two, four, six, eight
Who do we appreciate?
The [opponents’ team name] !!


Anyone who’s played, or coached, or just watched youth sports has heard that cheer. The idea behind it is a good one: the winning team is thanking the opponents they just beat for having playing hard and done their best.

It’s also a subtle reminder to winning teams that how you win can be as important as whether you win. Insulting or humiliating your opponents simply isn’t acceptable, and neither is cheating or playing dirty. Being on a team that plays with integrity makes players feel good about themselves, helps bring them together, and builds team spirit.

That last part, building team spirit, is easier said than done.

A and ZWhen kids are very young, one of the primary goals of youth sports is to make whatever they’re involved in so much fun that they want to come back and do it again next year. Sure, people talk about winning, and the majority of coaches and parents support that goal by emphasizing sportsmanship, skill building, self-improvement, and teamwork. One of my favorite things about my daughters’ swim team is the emphasis on best times. There have been a number of instances when she’d ask me right after a race what place she’d come in, and I’ve had no idea. But I could always tell her whether she’d made a new best time.
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Sure, Winning is Great, but Good Sportsmanship is More Than That

We often hear that “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” In a perfect world, that might be true. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And there’s no question that it feels a lot better at the end of a game to have won rather than lost.

But there’s a big difference between “winning” and “winning at any cost.”

Z backstrokeMy 12-year-old daughter has played softball, basketball, volleyball, and been a competitive swimmer for several years. And I’ve been involved in competitive sports for as long as I can remember, playing Little League, lettering in swimming and baseball in high school, competing in martial arts, and playing in adult softball leagues. Over that time, I’ve seen plenty of examples of good—and bad—sportsmanship.

In one basketball game this past year, my daughter’s 6th-grade team was getting slaughtered by a taller, faster, older, and more skilled team. We were down something like 20-4 at the half and there was clearly no way we were going to make it close. So I was surprised that at the start of the second half, the opposing coach continued to play his starters. His players kept stealing the ball, blocking shots, running plays, picking and rolling, and widening their lead. I honestly don’t remember what the score was at the end—and I honestly don’t care.

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Simple Habits for Men to Maintain Their Eye Health

You work out at the gym, eat healthy and always take your vitamins to stay healthy. You may think you are doing enough, but chances are you aren’t paying enough attention to your eyes. To protect your eyes, include these simple habits in your routine:

Unplug From Your Screens

Are you constantly on your computer or smartphone staring into a screen? According to the American Optometric Association, people who stare at a screen for 2 to 3 continuous hours may suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome, which blurs your vision. Every twenty minutes you should look away from your computer to prevent the onset of CVS. If you can, unplug from all screens during the evening and nighttime. Your eyes will thank you for it.

Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods

vision healthEating healthy doesn’t just help keep you trim and your heart healthy, but also can protect your eyes. Web MD recommends that you eat the following foods to prevent macular degeneration, a condition that affects older men:

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Using Sports To Build Health And Character

Intolerance. Obesity. Bullying. The media is full of reminders about the negative things that affect young people today. And there’s a lot of truth there. There’s also a lot of truth behind the idea that participating in sports can help mitigate some of those negative traits. Unfortunately, too many obsessive sports parents are focusing on the material and self-serving aspects of sports instead of on the positive ones.

So let’s do the numbers: A boy who plays high school baseball has a 1 in 4,000 chance of ever playing in the big leagues. Given typical rosters of 20 or so, it would take some two hundred high school baseball teams to produce a single major leaguer.
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