April 22, 2019

ROLE MODELS: HOW / WHERE DO ATHLETES FIT?

 “I am not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basket ball does not mean I can raise your kids.” Charles Barkley

 As troubles mount for Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius and Lance Armstrong’s status continues it plummet, we can use these events as a reminder to be careful in our choice of role models.  

Look at the following names and think about the good, the bad, the ugly actions for these athletes and coaches. Now look at the listed transgressions. Then insert letters (may be more than for each person) by the names. Many may get more than one letter.

ROLE MODEL ANSWERS Download

Name Letters Name Letters
Lance Armstrong   Kobe Bryant  
Tony Dungee   Lenny Dykstra  
Carlton Fisk   Dwight Gooden  
Chamique Holdsclaw   Marian Jones  
Michael Jordan   Bobby Knight  
Ray Lewis   Peyton Manning  
Mark McGuire   Joe Paterno  
Walter Payton   Michael Phelps  
Pete Rose   O J Simpson  
Pat Summit   Mante Taeo  
Tiger Woods   Mike Tyson  
Danica Patrick   Billie Jean King  
Minnie Minoso   Oscar Pistorius  

 Behaviors
A – Cocaine/Pot Use                                      
H – Illegal Performance Drugs
B – DUI / Drive under Influence                      I – Lying
C – Illegal Financial Activity                            J – Murder
D – Ignoring Crimes                                        K – Unfaithful to Partner
E – Meanness                                                 L – Sport Gambling
F – Stupidity                                                    M – Violence
G – Rape
X. So far so good, worthy of admiration What makes you believe the person stands out?

It’s easy to look towards popular culture role models, like athletes, coaches, singers, artists, celebrities, as our heroes to fill our idealistic desires. We see them; we believe because we want to and maybe we even need to believe. They compete, often win, may give to charity, and speak for social justice. Some overcome serious illness. Many, even with misdeeds, remain charismatic; they often sound great in interviews. Good sports we think, good winners and by golly our person, our hero.  

Sir Charles had it right: he is not to be our role model. Even if he lived an exemplary life we cannot know, we never know these people — only their personas.   

Admire abilities. Look for your role models closer to home. Look within your family and circle of friends.  Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Be careful who you are with and let go of disappointments.

We know the goodness of our family and friends. We know that their influence on us can be enhanced through understanding their imperfections and  their humanness.  Still, be picky on your choices.

If you read It is Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong, you can learn from it.  It would make a good book of fiction; alas Armstrong wrote it as truth.  

A good number of public figures are terrific and do good things.     Just remember you don’t really know them and probably never will.

Sir Charles was also wrong:  it seems fair for athletes and for each of us to strive to be role models for others — because that striving is also right. Some athletes and coaches are great    people; we just can’t be sure of which ones. I bet there are some in that list you really like eh?  

Well for me, Minnie Minoso, my first athletic favorite, is still (as far as I have heard) ok!

Bill

Jackie Robinson: The Right Side of History

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Martin Luther King

Jackie and Me
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Indianapolis
Playing through February 16

Playwright Steven Dietz adapted Jackie and Me from the book series Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman. Dietz recants the Jackie Roosevelt Robinson conversation heard between his 7-year-old white daughter and 6-year-old black son, a recent adoptee from Ethiopia. 

His daughter, the family baseball historian, tells her brother about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and adds “But if you were black you could not play.” The brother counters, “Why not? I play. I play ball.” He goes on in his newly learned language: “I have mitt; I have bat; they not stop me.”

I cannot help but hear my granddaughters, Zoe and Reese, in his voice. “I can do it. I play ball, they not stop me.”  Yes the nature of youth — not encumbered with prejudices, limitations, or beliefs. Thankfully they trust they can do or be anything. Unfortunately they learn limitations from the actions of others.

Dietz’s daughter ultimately gets frustrated with her new brother and says “Yes you could play the game. But you could not dream.” At this early age, she gets the nature of prejudice and understands the limitations of our dreaming.

How do we continue to learn from history? How do we avoid the preconceptions and prejudiced judgments of the past? How do we keep our dreams alive and create a country with equal ability to dream and to achieve? Jackie and Me centers on Joey, a white youngster of today. Joey is researching for a book report — wanting to win the top prize of theme park tickets.  He is transported back in time as a black youth to 1947, where he wants to learn about Jackie, the black baseball player.  Of course, the history lesson is expanded beyond his ideas of baseball.

Joey is thirsty and walks up to a “whites only” fountain. As he is chased away, imagine how he feels realizing he is black! Then he meets Rachel Robinson and sees Jackie again. Anger, disbelief, frustration and eventually courage — Joey learns to deal with a mix of emotions as Jackie and Rachel Robinson show the way with pride, patience and perseverance.  

Dodger teammate Dixie Walker did not want to share the field or the club house with a black man. At the same time teammate Pee Wee Reese, a Kentuckian, responds differently standing with Jackie in the face of racism. Eventually, Walker quietly offers that he was “just brought up that way and had little choice in his beliefs.”

How often do we say or think: “that’s just the way it is / just the way I learned / just the way he/she acts?” We may even add: “I can’t do anything about it / I can’t change it / I just want to mind my own business.”

COURAGE — General Manager Branch Rickey and player Pee Wee Reese display bravery to stand up for the right side of history. Rickey signs Robinson. When Pee Wee Reese accepts Robinson to the team, it helps other teammates adjust. Baseball adapts, the world doesn’t end, and black players become part of major league baseball.   

Dr. King said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  Work continues towards his Dream.

So in 1947, while racism did not stop, they all play the game together with a “new norm” for baseball; the country takes a giant step toward the right side of history.

May each of us, individuals, parents and grandparents, practice genuine tolerance, teach acceptance and demonstrate decency that reflects the encouragement of children’s dreams for accomplishment regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

Bill

(Some information from IRT playbill)



Sports Connections, Priceless for Our Health

“I did not choose to be a fan of one of the least successful franchises the NFL has ever known. The Lions were given to me, as teams so often are from father to son.” Taylor Plimpton (Sports Illustrated, November 28, 2011)

A heartfelt piece was published in Sports Illustrated emphasizing the highlights of sporting interests that contrast to the ongoing events at Penn State. Terry McDonnell poetically wrote “In My Tribe” — an article on courage, integrity and fair play in sports.

Generally no one says it better than Sports Illustrated. Until I’ve read SI, I often say a major sporting event is not done. As sportsman, sports fan and mental health professional, I want to add to what SI offered.

Last week a reader commented on the “We Are Penn State” blog saying there is also the joy of playing a game. Very true! That might be best seen watching our kids follow a soccer ball around, chewing on grass, or laying down in the outfield in a tee ball game. We watch and often become friends with other fans / parents, even those cheering for other teams. Today some people may root for collegiate and professional athletes on opposing teams.

Coaches typically add value. A coach does this work to teach sportsmanship, cooperation and team work. Winning of course but many don’t say at “any cost.”  For the most part coaches are volunteers or underpaid, yet positive models for our children. We can be grateful for their involvement.

Stemm, Siler, Murphy, Janzaruk, Bellamy, Hoover and Ronzone are names from my past that the reader won’t know. But these names ring with honor in my head. Their day at a time, sport to sport influence continues in my life today.

Teamwork and camaraderie are integral parts in the journey of athletes. Even in individualized activities such as golf, wrestling or track, the athlete is part of a larger whole.

Recently Yale Quarterback Patrick Witt was invited to interview for a Rhodes scholarship. His Yale football team was scheduled to play the rival game with Harvard the same time as the interview. He requested a different interview time and the request was denied.  Witt chose his teammates and his responsibility to them first, over the Rhodes interview. Some thought him foolish to choose the game. I suggest they don’t know what it’s like to be with a team, don’t understand the value of that camaraderie and don’t know how, in its strongest form, it speaks to our soul.

Sports have a unique language. People know it. Find a stranger and there is frequently a common thread that will be understood and a conversation begins. Day to day we get together to talk of last night’s game. I see a Lions hat and start a conversation of Bears and Lions, games we commonly know.

Relationships are standard — like the one of author George Plimpton and his son Taylor, also in the same issue of Sports Illustrated. Name the team!  Family and friends unite around that team legacy. I remember clearly the first time I took my family to a White Sox baseball game. As I exited the Dan Ryan and turned onto 35th Street, I saw old Comiskey Park and started crying.

In that moment, I had this memory of my dad taking me to a game at the same park and how that was being repeated. The reaction was unexpected and now in itself a fond memory.

My son and I talk of our Sox history. Fox, Melton, Fisk, Ventura Thomas, the 2005 Championship and now, Ventura again. We go to the park and remember: sitting behind the godfather, back to back to back homers off Randy Johnson, and the play inevitably shown on the big park screen of Fisk tagging out two runners at once at home plate. It is part of our history and language.

We have friends that tailgate for every Purdue game. Yes they want Purdue to win but it seems more important that they are with their friends and allies these 6 times per year. This happens at stadiums across the nation.

Go to the sports parks. Observe the pictures being taken with friends and family. These will have significance for them. Being there is a special event and it is being marked by a picture often framed with the field in the back ground.

My friend Jamie tells of listening to the Red Sox baseball games with her grandmother. When Jamie visited grandma and the Red Sox were playing, the game would be on the radio. Grandma remembered the championship in 1916 and hoped they would win another. Grandma would listen and sometimes swear at the radio about a play. She died in the mid 90s.

So when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, after 86 years of futility, Jamie visited grandma’s grave site and tearfully placed a Red Sox pennant on the head stone. She noticed other headstones also with Red Sox Pennants in that same cemetery.

That act was repeated in the Midwest by White Sox fans in 2005. Cubs’ fans will do the same when their next championship comes. The memories, emotions and language, all happen because the connections are more important than the victories. We relish the connections and rarely want those victories at any cost.

We get involved in our sports and are disappointed with a villain of the week. We are Penn State and we (and Penn State) are much more than that.

Sports Illustrated published an expose on Walter Payton, the greatest running back in football. Payton played for the Chicago Bears and was a long time hero of mine. It took a while before I could finally read the article.

I admired him even as I knew only my image of him. The article pointed out stories of his painful humanness.  We can get self righteous (usually it is about the opponent) but we also remember and notice the ongoing list of sportsmanship, courage and integrity from teams and players we’ve cheered for and the experiences we’ve had during those times.

Check out both Sports Illustrated articles: McDowell’s “In My Tribe” and Plimpton’s “In Thanks of Turkeys” — expect you will be moved.

Cheer for your team and your friend’s team. Support fair play, sportsmanship and courage. Enjoy and treasure the memories!

What is your sports story? What is your sports connection? Comment here. Or share via the contact form at www.solutiontherapycenter.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

Bill

Parenting: A Reference Summary

“All children behave as well as they are treated.” Anonymous

“I looked on childrearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully interesting and challenging as any honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.” Rose Kennedy

Parenting — It’s the most important work many of us will ever do.

Over the weeks, you’ve read ten blogs on guidelines to improved parenting. Following are key reference points to use in your quest to raise healthy, respectful and happy kids.

SPANKING:
“Spanking does not teach inner conviction. It teaches fear, deviousness, lying and aggression.” Dorothy Corkhill Briggs

  • You can be a better role model and more effective parent yet never spank. It is typically not helpful and, at its worst, spanking teaches hitting will solve problems.

ROLE MODELING:
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better  be changed in ourselves.” C.G. Jung

  • Kids model what they see! Being a good role model is the most important guide you can provide your kids.  You want a loving child, be a loving parent. You want a non smoker, don’t smoke. You want kids to use good language; you use good language. Continue lifelong learning to set an example of education for your child.

ATTENTION:
“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it.” Jesse Lair

  • It is what is most important to kids.
  • Kids work to get the attention of their parents.
  • They quickly learn bad behavior first gets attention and often is followed by getting their way.
  • Give consistent praise for good behavior. Without children will increase misbehavior.
  • Kids will learn appropriate behavior brings attention and privileges.

COOPERATION:
“We find what we expect to find, and we receive what we ask for.” Elbert Hubbard, editor, publicist and writer

  • Doing what they are told is often the primary concern of parents.
  • It could be helpful to count how often you child obeys.
  • Praise is THE key way of attending to positive behavior.
  • Tell children what to do when there is no option.
  • Ask them when they have the option to say no.
  • Give them time to start the activity.
  • If they do not start in 30 to 60 seconds tell them again but more firmly.
  • If they still do not cooperate use Time Out.
  • If they break a rule use Time Out.
  • When they cooperate…praise.

LECTURING:
“We live in an emotion-dismissing culture,” says John Gottman, Ph.D., author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, “but if you build an awareness about your child’s emotions and your own, particularly an awareness of smaller emotions, then it may not be necessary for emotions to escalate.”

  • Explaining over and over is rarely helpful. It gives to much attention to the inappropriate behavior and the child typically zones out. Parents will simply increase their own frustration and waste their breath.

PUNISHMENT:
“There is a strong chance that siblings who turn out well were hassled by the same parents.” Robert Brault

  • It must not be dependent on pain, physical, mental or emotional; Punishment is only to help to decrease the unwanted behavior over time.

IGNORING:
“The prime purpose of being four is to enjoy being four – of secondary importance is to prepare for being five.” Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, 1985

  • Used correctly a punishment stops attention for non-destructive undesired behavior, such as a tantrum.
  • When ignoring is used, the behavior may get worse before it improves.

REMEMBER:
“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” Benjamin Spock

  • Be aware of what workswith your child.
  • Be thankful for the good immediate results.
  • Be more focused on and aware of the long term results.

Parenting is hard work and conceivably the most satisfying hard work you will do.

Be present and enjoy this work.

Bill

PARENTING: Interpreting Kid Talk

“We live in an emotion-dismissing culture,” says John Gottman, Ph.D., author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, “but if you build an awareness about your child’s emotions and your own, particularly an awareness of smaller emotions, then it may not be necessary for emotions to escalate.”

Hearing and Listening: Are you hearing but not listening?

It is important that we translate what others say to us — particularly when our children talk to us. Often we hear the words, take the  meaning literally and get distracted from what the context and delivery offer in the broader more accurate interpretation.

We can never be absolutely sure of meaning for any given communication. Words are only a small part of meaning. Context, tone, volume and facial expressions also need to be considered. Only the sender can know for certain the meaning or intent; sometimes the sender gives a mixed message.

Children want to be understood; they want their parents to stop and listen. When a child is not allowed to do some activity, he may say, “I hate you” or “you are a bad mommy.” Parents often get rapidly upset with those words and give attention with a lecture, punishment or give in to a tantrum letting the child have his way.

It is more useful to translate the communication. Acknowledge the feeling yet minimize attention. A parent’s response might be “I know you are disappointed (or angry) that your friend can not come over.” Be done with it; go on to what’s next.

Explanations are often particularly odd, saying a child is not allowed a certain feeling such as hate or a certain opinion. The oddness comes to play because nobody can control a child’s feeling or their opinion. Typically the feeling or stated opinion is not what is really going on.

Explanations generally serve to give more attention. For many children, the intensity and length of a lecture reinforces what they wanted — parental attention. If they get the attention, they may also eventually get their way.

Realize: “A tantrum is not a bad thing. It is actually an important developmental experience all kids need to have. Kids who don’t learn to express powerful feelings may have more trouble expressing them later. Your goal many not be to stop the tantrum, but instead to help your child work through it in a way that’s right for his development.” Gillian McNamee, Ph.D, Director of Teacher Education, Erickson Institute

If you can not ignore the words, Consider Time Out! It’s a much better solution for these situations.

Finally, in the midst of communication, give your children the most generous interpretation of what they say. It is not that they “hate” you or think you are “a bad parent.” It’s the here and now struggle with not getting their way.

Acknowledge that and move on.

Bill

Couples & Money: Financial Social Work to the Rescue

In the May/June 2011 issue of Social Work Today,  Financial Social Work experts discuss relationship issues relative to the stresses from financial difficulties.

Money is one of the big issues that bring couples into therapy. Learn about a relatively new social work specialty that is offering solutions.

With the divorce rate in the United States hovering around 50%, combined with an economic recession that has affected all demographics, it should come as no surprise that more couples are turning to social workers for financial therapy. While financial difficulties may not be the root of all relationship strife or marital demise, they certainly play an important role—one that therapists are addressing.  . . .

While disclosing financial stressors is paramount in couple’s financial therapy, a term being bandied about these days is “financial infidelity.” As Bill Frederick, LCSW, PC, of Solution Therapy Center in Muncie, IN, explains, many couples often employ the “this is my money and that is your money” approach—with the implicit understanding of who buys the groceries, who pays for the truck, who covers the electric bill, and so on. (read full article)