Monthly Archives: April 2013

An Academy Award Performance

I had a soccer game last night and it has gotten me thinking not about goals or passes or saves or even throw-ins. It got me thinking about dives.

I found this definition on Wikipedia (a source I will not allow my students to use as a resource but I feel in no way hypocritical for using it here) – In football (soccer)diving (simulation is the term used by FIFASchwalbe (German) is a popular term) is an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed.

Now I have heard many people complain about all the diving and theatrics in professional soccer and some won’t watch it because it is so bad. I agree – it is way too prevalent and I do think it diminishes the game a lot. But even at the coed recreational old people league, there are those who use the dive and use it all the time.

Midair dive

Look! He hit me from behind and then ran in front and pushed me and I fell down.

I hate these people.

Last night a guy on the other team completely faked a takedown in the box and ended up earning a penalty kick. For those of you who don’t know, penalty kicks, or PKs, are very hard to stop and often result in a goal. So we were down 1-0 and this guy got positive reinforcement for cheating. He had, just prior to this acting gig, tried to accuse me of tripping him. We both went for the ball and we both got there at the same time. Somehow, he fell and kicked me in the knees on his way down. The ref did not call anything but this guy was on the ground a few yards from me like I had laid the best NFL tackle on him and then stomped on his chest, just for good measure. Now, I can be aggressive and I do admit to knocking down that chick later in the game (she was in my way, in my defense), but I did not touch that guy. I shoulda known that he’d pull it again (and again and again).

This doesn’t just happen in soccer, but also in hockey and probably in most other contact sports. Maybe it even happens in baseball, although I’m not sure what advantage it might give you there. And while I get that a good dive can result in a penalty that will give your team an advantage, I just don’t know how these divers can feel at all good about themselves or think they earned any goals or points they may get as a result. Because really, it is cheating.

Of course, maybe I am just jealous since I can’t dive if my life depended on it. First, I really don’t want to fall on the turf – have you ever had turf burn? Hurts like hell. Second, I freakin’ want the ball so if you do run into me or try to knock me down, I do everything I can to stay on my feet and get that ball (and if you had tried to hit me, I may also offer a little payback as I get near you, but you did it first!). And lastly, I don’t have much on the pitch, but I do have my pride. And diving/cheating would take that away, too.

Or maybe it’s that I don’t have any acting skills and any attempt to get away with anything like that would likely result in me looking really foolish. Acting lessons might help. I’ll have to give that some consideration. And then prepare my acceptance speech.

“I’d like to thank the Academy…”

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Oh no he didn’t

Today I am biting my lip and restraining my email fingers (but thank goodness I have this blog on which to vent). My son is learning to play lacrosse goalie and he’s doing okay. Of course, I really can’t say I see the point of having a goalie in that game sometimes, the way players just sprint up to two feet in front of the goal and whip it in the net. But I’ll save that for another post.

What is burning me up right now is what my son told me his teammate (and good friend, I might add) said to him during the game today. I saw this teammate talking with my son a couple of times after he was scored upon. So I asked him what this friend was saying, figuring maybe they were talking defense or discussing how to stop those guys from shooting. No, it turns out this teammate was being oh-so-helpful by saying things like, “That was an easy shot, you should have stopped it.”

Small scream

Seriously, there is little in this world that irks me more than this kind of crap. I can’t stand it when I mess up a pass in my soccer game and a teammate yells at me for it – thanks, but I am well aware that I screwed up and I don’t need you to point it out. And while we’re at it, when you play a perfect game without any flubs or missteps, we can discuss whether or not you have the right to call me or any of the rest of us out.

Ok, so maybe that has happened to me once or twice in my life. Deep breath…

Back to my son’s game – am I wrong or is it totally inappropriate for this 10-year old to say things like that to a teammate? I don’t know or care if my son did make a bad save attempt or not. In my mind, the proper response is one of the following:

A. Unlucky
B. Sorry, that was my man
C. Next time
D. say nothing at all

I am now trying very hard not to step in and say something to the coach and this kid’s parents, whom I happen to know pretty well. I have talked to my son about how this is not acceptable and am coaching him on how to respond the next time (because I am sure there will be a next time). I have given him permission to look this kid straight in the eye and say “Shut up!” If he were older, I’d encourage him to add a choice word or two in between the “shut” and the “up” but, for now, I am keeping it clean. And if his buddy persists, I told him he should hand his goalie stick over him and say “go ahead and show me how it’s done.”

I have always believed that participating in sports is a great way to learn life lessons. The lesson here, I suppose, is that we really should all be trying to support each other, not criticize and bring each other down. No one is perfect, no one does everything right every time, no one makes all the saves. And there are coaches and teachers and bosses and parents to let us know when we do make a mistake and how we can fix it. Colleagues, classmates, and teammates, who are all in this together, should work to build each other up and be a stronger unit. Not drag each other down.

Another deep breath. I will let my son fight this battle. And his dad and I will be sure he knows we always have his back.

But man, just let me hear something like that…. all bets are off then.


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Life Lesson #2: Stuff Happens

My current job is as an adjunct instructor at a local university and an (almost) local community college. I really enjoy teaching and working with the students, who come from all walks of life. Lately, however, I have come to realize that my job goes beyond teaching the concepts and skills outlined in the syllabus. I also have a role in helping these folks figure out what to do when life jumps up and bites them in the butt.

I am going to change the scenarios a bit to protect confidentiality, but some of the issues that my students have been confronted with lately (and that I have then been asked to consider as reasons for missing class or not getting assignments done) have included a parent with a recurrence of cancer, a foreclosure on the family home, sick or injured children, car accidents, and increased work responsibilities to help the family after parents have lost their jobs. Yes, these are all stressful and terrible things. Yes, I agree that, in most cases, some leniency is reasonable. I certainly feel sorry for them when I hear their stories, but another thought also quickly flits in my mind. And that thought?

Sh#% happens!

Ok, so I don’t actually say that out loud, but it is becoming the underlying theme of my response. Most of these students are young and they may or may not have experienced bumps in the road before. But now that they are adults and in college, their response has to start being different than it was when they were children. I am more than willing to work with each of them to find a way to get their work done in the midst of their personal or family crisis. I have been there myself, more than once, and I still remember and appreciate my professors and bosses who supported me and worked with me to manage all that I had going on in my life. Some of these students, however, do not make it easy to be supportive. Instead of coming to me and explaining the situation, they drop off the face of the earth, only to emerge days or weeks later asking me what they missed and how they can make up the work.

Heres’s a tip for anyone out there who may be in a situation where something happens to upend your life and you miss some work or drop the ball on your responsibilities – don’t just pop up one day with your (very valid but late) excuse and ask someone else to “fill you in” on everything you’ve missed. Perhaps this is part of the life lesson – people are usually quite willing to work with you IF you communicate with them along the way and treat the situation as a collaboration and not a “you must help me dig myself out because my life sucks” expectation. This is true in school, at work, and in relationships. No matter how bad things are, you still have responsibilities that are not necessarily going away. And by the time you tell those who are also affected by your situation, if you don’t choose to do so as soon as possible, it may be too late to fully recoup all that you have missed.

In my case, the semester keeps rolling and the other 20 or so students in class are motoring on towards the end of class. Missing one assignment may not seem like a lot, but sometimes assignments build upon each other. So missing one piece early on is like missing the foundation of a building but then trying to add to it anyway. At some point, the whole thing might crumble down on all of us.

So, I hope that I convey empathy when my students approach me but I also hope that I make it clear to them that they need to communicate with me (and other teachers, bosses, and friends) so that I am in a better position to compromise and collaborate with them on what they have missed.

There is simply no way to avoid this simple fact of life – stuff happens. And the corollary is equally important – life doesn’t stop when stuff happens. The sooner we all learn this, the better.

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Get out of the way!

One of my students, who had been a no-show for her latest speech in our public speaking class, stopped me today to explain that she missed the speech because she had a “confidence crisis” and just couldn’t get herself to do the speech. That got me to thinking about what we do to ourselves in our own heads. In almost every case, what we think will happen is MUCH worse than what will actually happen. Our imaginations are good.

I empathize with this student, although I hope I would have at least let my instructor know beforehand, and not after failing the assignment. I have always been one of those people who is in my own head way too much. Age has reduced this significantly, but if I were able to give my younger self any advice it would be this – get out of your own way, you big dork! (Okay, so name-calling is not so nice, but my younger self really needs a kick in the butt).

A perfect example of how I took myself out of the game before it had even started was when I was a high-jumper on the high school track team. I somehow convinced myself that I could not clear 5 feet in competition and – guess what? – I never did. I even tried visualization, which didn’t work so well considering that I kept visualizing myself knocking the bar off as I jumped. I think that visualization tactic works better if you actually are successful in your mind. Oops.

I’ve noticed that my son is not like me in this way and, for that, I am grateful. In sports, at least, he doesn’t waste time over thinking things and, so far, doesn’t defeat himself before the puck even drops. He is like this in most aspects of his life and where it is not, he is working on getting out of his own way.

When I read articles about sports parents (just read this one about soccer parents), I try to take the advice to heart and stay positive and let the coach do the coaching and help my son have fun. What I find is that I have to get out of my head so that I don’t get into his. I can get pretty wrapped up in the game and I am learning to keep most of my thoughts to myself and to stop overanalyzing events over which I have no control. I’m not out there playing and I do not have the knowledge nor skill to teach my son how to play hockey or lacrosse. My job is to make sure he gets where he needs to be at the right time, with the right gear, and pay the fees so he can continue to play. Oh, and to be sure to have a stash of snacks in the car for before and after practice and games (pre-teen boys must be fed at regular intervals or they may starve – no joke).

Front of a box of Scooby Snacks from Suncoast.

I think most of us could benefit from getting out of our own way sometimes. My student would have done a fine speech. I could have easily cleared 5 feet and maybe higher. And my son will be a better person overall if I get out of his way when I should and let him find his own path.

I’ll just be sure to stash some snacks along the way.







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