Thoughts on Managing Screen Time, Cell Phones & Social Media for Kids of All Ages

Before I had children, I sometimes looked at other moms and thought, ‘I’ll never let my kids ______.’  Fill in the blank with things like: watch TV before they’re two… play games on my smart phone or iPad… be pacified by a portable DVD player…  Now that I am a mom of littles, I laugh at those early declarations.  My 1 year old sings the theme songs to countless cartoons, and my 3 year old loves the LeapPad she got for her birthday from Grandma.  When I’m in a childcare bind and have to bring the kids to practice or chapel at Bethel, I definitely hand them my phone and let them play The Bible App for Kids to their hearts’ content.  I’ll admit, my husband and I are sort of winging it for now when it comes to our kids and technology, but we know that we’ll need to buckle down with a better plan sooner or later.  I caught up with a couple other Coach Moms this week to get their thoughts on this topic:

Technology is a blessing and a curse.  My husband and I have very specific rules with regards to it.  Neither of my kids are allowed to use technology Monday through Friday, because of the school week.  We also don’t allow much television during the week if we can help it.  Saturday mornings are a free for all while we catch up from the week doing laundry and errands, so we do allow cartoons.  My daughter (Kylan) loves her Kindle Fire for games.  She occasionally jumps onto my laptop…she is currently addicted to Minecraft.  My son (Camden) loves his Tag reader.

We are lucky that both our kids love to read so that isn’t as big of a chore as in some households. My daughter typically reads at least an hour a day.  We commit time to reading every single night with both children and have been lucky that they acquired a passion for it at a young age.  But make no bones about it, there are some nights I simply want to put them to bed!  My daughter who is 9, taught herself to read around age 4 and has been going strong ever since.  We try to make reading fun for them by allowing them to pick the subject matter.  Kylan is into fantasy so we just finished the entire Harry Potter series together in just over 9 months! Whew that was a commitment!  We are now onto The Hobbit, a much tougher read- at least for Mom!  I try not to care that she loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series- as long as she is reading. My son loves the Tag books that my daughter grew up on so he seems to be developing his own taste for reading.

Looking ahead and through my experiences with our team, my husband and I have already talked about what the future will look like technology-wise.  In over a decade of coaching I have seen a lot of changes.  The kids that we coach are essentially the same, but the environment around them has changed dramatically. Without question I feel like social media has and will continue to be one of the most toxic things in their young lives.  It creates such a false sense of self and of the people around them.  I often sit in the stands of high school games and overhear the conversation between both girls and boys about Twitter and Instagram and all the drama it creates.  And our children are growing more narcissistic by the year.  They may have 2,000 followers but very few real friends.  It’s commonplace to post pictures of themselves daily.  I am old school to some extent because I have told my children since a young age that the world does not revolve around them.  I make them write old fashioned thank you notes to teach the value of a gift they may receive or simply to say, ‘thank you.’  My husband and I have already agreed that our children will never have a television or computer in their bedrooms overnight.  We will have a common area or office where they will do homework, but laptops and cell phones will be turned in at their “curfew.”  If their homework isn’t done at that time, they’ll either have to get up pretty early to resume their work or suffer the consequences for their procrastination.  I think when your kids are growing up you have to teach them hard lessons and hope they stick and help them later in life.  My daughter of course has already asked for a cell phone at age 9 and knows not to expect to receive one until at least age 14!  But she keeps asking nevertheless!

So far there are no iPads in Kylan’s school but they have already started learning how to use Excel and Powerpoint.  I love that they teach them these types of programs but I still think there is a great necessity for free play, especially at the elementary level. I cringe on rainy or snowy days because I know my daughter’s indoor recess consists of screen time in the school.  Good ole fashioned playing is how leadership skills are developed and how kids learn to deal with conflict. We see less and less of that these days.  Everything is planned and scheduled for them.  Even playdates have planned activities for entertainment! It’s no wonder our kids struggle to be self-starters and entertain themselves.

At the end of the day my advice to moms when it comes to technology is to mirror the behavior you want to see repeated.  Technology isn’t going away and it’s a vital part of their future, but so are their social skills.  And that isn’t something kids can learn from behind a computer screen.  Our children are more knowledgeable than any generation before them but there’s an artificial maturity that is being created. It is our job as parents to help guide them through this confusing world and into young adulthood. -Marsha Frese

 

When my kids were younger, all we had was the home computer.  I never bought my older kids their own computer until they went to college.  My younger girls [eventually] had laptops at home. But my kids were never the first to have cell phones, laptops, iPads and all that. Nowadays, they are on their phones a lot, mostly texting. I don’t really have restrictions on how often they use their phones.  At their ages now, it’s the way teenagers communicate.  I know that both because of my own kids and because of recruiting.

My daughter Madison was the youngest of my kids to get a phone.  She got a hand-me-down phone from me when I was hired at Duquesne in 2007.  So she would have been about 11 at that time.  It was an old flip phone and she was constantly giving it to me because people would still call or message that number for me!  When our kids started using cell phones, it was a helpful means of communication, especially when they started driving. If they want to go somewhere else after basketball practice or if their plans change, they can easily let us know. We can keep track of where they’ll be.  If our kids are driving somewhere, we can ask them to text us when they get there.

When I first started coaching, I wasn’t into the social media world at all.  I got Facebook first, then Twitter and recently Instagram. My kids weren’t very young when they first started using social media. But now they have Twitter, IG and Facebook.  I follow all their accounts so I can see what they post.  It’s not that I see it all the time, but I will look back through their threads occasionally, look at their pictures and everything.  I have had to ask them to take things down–nothing major but just some things that could have been perceived the wrong way.  It’s the same thing we talk about as coaches with our players.  Once it’s out there on social media, you can’t take it back. Anyone can find it.  One day when you’re trying to get a job, employers will be looking at your online accounts.  That said, social media is a great way to keep in touch.  I think it was good for my kids to stay connected with their friends through social media when we moved from away from Minnesota (Suzie made the transition from Minnesota Lynx head coach to the same position at Duquesne in 2007).

When my kids were younger, they had video games and things like that they wanted to play.  But I grew up outside!  And we liked for our kids to be outside as much as possible too… If things were the way they are now when my kids were younger, my husband and I would have had more standards, guidelines, and expectations for the technology stuff. I’m by no means the perfect mom and I wouldn’t judge other parents’ decisions… but the main thing is to be sure your kids are making good decisions.  [With cell phones, social media, etc.] I think it depends on the child too, as far as their responsibility level. -Suzie McConnell-Serio

 

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Another View From the Sidelines: When Coaches Become “The Parents”

Do you interact much with your kids’ coaches? I like meeting my girls’ coaches and I try to always tell them good job after games regardless of the outcome, because I understand how much they invest in preparing the team. As a fellow coach I do not want them to think I am trying to interfere with their job. Several years ago, however, I did interfere in my daughters’ coach’s personal business when I introduced her to my handsome single assistant coach. Chalk it up as a win- they are now happily married!

Have your kids ever played a sport you knew little about? Volleyball. It helped me to just be a fan and not try to coach.

What’s the hardest part about watching your kids play “your” sport? I wanted them to be really good at basketball because it’s what I evaluate and analyze daily. The hardest part was that, like most advice, they would rather receive coaching from someone besides a parent even though it is the subject I believe I know the most about!

Any advice for Coach Moms whose kids are just beginning to play sports? Support what the coach says to help your child learn how to respect authority and how to be coachable. Don’t say anything critical about the coach in front of your child.

 

Which sports do your sons play? Justin (9) played in a developmental basketball league last year for the first time.  This will be his first season playing on a team with the same people every week.  His games start in mid-December.  Jaden (12) tried soccer early on… he played a little basketball… but he’s not really into team sports.  He likes to write.  Maybe he’ll be an author one day.  Or who knows… I didn’t start playing basketball until I was 13 so maybe he’ll be a late bloomer, too!

What’s it like being a spectator at your son’s basketball game? I relish in that time. I get to just watch and be a cheerleader instead of coaching and yelling things out. But I do find myself afterwards asking him (Justin) ‘How did it go? What did you think?’ He’s still young so we don’t get too technical. But I will mention things like, ‘You need to pass more, or that was a good shot you took…” In the stands, I’m just being a mom. But still coaching a little bit–teaching him to be a good teammate.

How have you taught your son to interact with his coaches? I haven’t talked to him about the coaching part but you reminded me maybe I need to do that! He’s pretty good about making eye contact with adults and always being respectful though.

 

How’s the view from the bleachers? I see it as an opportunity to look at my profession from a broader perspective. As coaches we tend to have tunnel vision because we’re so driven and so focused. We can lose sight of the big picture and not take into account everyone’s perspectives. Watching Bryce play sports reminds me to think about the players’ mindset. And I also gain a better understanding of how the parents are thinking.

Do you have postgame discussions with your son or do you leave that up to the coach? In the car after game, I let Bryce react while I listen.  For example, he fouled out of his basketball game the other night. He was doing the typical complaining about bad calls (“That wasn’t a moving screen,” etc) because he was frustrated. I listened to him but then I said, ‘If you really want to improve and learn from your mistakes, wait til your emotions are out of it. Then if you want to talk about it, we can do that.’ He will often bring stuff up the next day whether it’s a move his coach taught him in practice or something that happened in the game. I just try to reinterpret what the coach was saying. I’m always supportive of the coach, never undermining, especially in front of Bryce.

Golf is quite a departure from the sport you know best. How different is it from watching Bryce play basketball? He plays on the U.S. Kids Tour.  There are local tournaments every week in the spring, summer and fall.  Depending on how he does, he gets invited to different tournaments around the country–so it’s sort of like AAU.  Since he’s still young, we haven’t done all the national traveling yet.  But in the next year or two, we’ll get more into that.  Bryce plays 18 holes now, so his tournaments make for a 6 or 7 hour day.  I really enjoy watching him compete, but I don’t know all the technical things like I do with basketball.  I just try to provide resources for him and surround him with people that he relates well to.  And I do still try to guide him through the mental part of it–making sure he represents himself well and that he’s respectful to his opponents.

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Jacksonville Head Women’s Basketball Coach Yolett McCuin Talks Motherhood, Risky Business & Being Bahamian

Source: Jacksonville University Athletics

Source: Jacksonville University Athletics

Take a scroll through Yolett Mcphee-McCuin’s social media accounts and you’ll quickly suspect she’s not your average basketball coach. There is something uniquely inspiring and refreshingly honest about 32-year-old McCuin’s approach to leading her program at Division I Jacksonville University. In her 2nd season as a head coach, she feels confident that the culture she has worked to create within her team will begin to pay off in the Win-Loss column. The business of college coaching is tough and McCuin is as competitive as they come, but she is very intentional about maintaining a healthy perspective on life. She credits her humble Bahamian beginnings, her MVP husband and her two year old daughter for keeping her grounded in a profession that can make or break you.

The Hero Hubby
McCuin met her husband, Kelly, when she was an assistant coach and graduate student at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. “I was getting my Master’s and he was finishing undergrad. My sorority sisters hooked us up… It was just a friendship but then it led to something more,” says McCuin. “We only dated for one year before we got married.” But she knew he was the one she wanted to share her life with and build a family with.

When the couple wed, Kelly got a crash course in the not-so-glamorous career of college coaching. “A lot of people think coaches just show up to practice with a whistle. My husband was not familiar with the coaching career prior to our relationship. I took him on the road with me and that made for some eye-opening experiences… That’s why we were married for five years before having [a baby]. We had to figure things out and learn how to make this work before that next step.”

“The norm is that the woman in the marriage would make the career sacrifice if need be. But my husband had to do something different because of my career. It has been a huge sacrifice from him,” McCuin recognizes. Kelly works in Student Accounts at Jacksonville’s rival school, the University of North Florida. When McCuin was previously an assistant coach at Clemson, Kelly worked on campus there. “My husband can do a lot of things. But he took this route because of my career. We knew that I might have to move around, so he chose something where he could always be marketable. Talk about sacrifice… he’s definitely the MVP.”

Bahamas Background
Coach McCuin was the first female basketball player from the Bahamas to get a Division I scholarship (University of Rhode Island). She is the first Bahamian female to coach a Division I program. And she is the head coach of the Bahamian National Team. “Being from a different culture allows me to have an appreciation for things that might be common to others. The Bahamas is not a poor country but it is not the same as the US. When I got my first job where I had my own office, I cried. It was a big deal to me! As a kid, I wasn’t poor and I wasn’t rich. I grew up in a blue collar home where I watched my parents work for everything we had.”

McCuin’s mother was a school principal. Her father is a legendary Bahamian basketball coach. “My dad is big time back home. I grew up in the gym with him. I remember crying with him after a big loss. I get my passion from him,” McCuin says. “I literally watched my parents change lives. My mom took kids from at-risk situations and helped them grow into productive citizens. We always had someone living in our house with us, either from a broken home or a bad environment. We took them in. That’s why my team gives back so much and does so much community service. It’s all I know.” As the daughter of two teachers, McCuin saw the impact of education in people’s lives. Her background has no doubt influenced her philosophy as a coach. “People sometimes just need someone to believe in them. Everything I do is to teach, develop and inspire young ladies. I don’t offer them scholarships. I offer them opportunities to be better people. They have to sign on to that. The commitment is basketball but it’s so much bigger than that.”

Being A Parent
McCuin’s daughter, Yasmine, turned two in September. “She’s an extreme Dora [The Explorer] fan. She’s so smart. She knows her colors and numbers. She’s starting to talk more… we’re working on potty training right now.” McCuin typically drops Yasmine off at daycare in the mornings. Kelly picks her up and will often take her to the team’s practice. In the evenings, McCuin’s time is dedicated to her daughter until she goes to bed at 8:30pm. Yasmine has never missed a home game at JU. She tags along with her dad to cheer on the Dolphins. “She loves popcorn! That’s her deal… Yaz spends a ton of time around my players. I have the team over to my house. I allow my coaches to bring their kids to work. When we have events, I want them to bring their families. It’s so important.”

“When I had Yaz, it totally prepared me to be a head coach. If I didn’t have her, I’m not sure I could honestly sit in a recruit’s home and talk to her parents about what I can offer their daughter, how I can help her, make genuine promises. Not to say other coaches can’t do that, but I just know I’m a different coach because I’m a mom. I look at my players as someone’s child. I am more understanding. I love them differently because I have a two-year-old.”

Coach McCuin's daughter, Yasmine & husband, Kelly

Coach McCuin’s daughter, Yasmine & husband, Kelly

#NoCeilings
To say that McCuin has taken professional leaps of faith is an understatement. The rise to her Division I head coaching position has not always been pretty. “At one point early on, I sent out 50 resumes looking for work. I lived in campus dorms my first three years of coaching (at Frank Phillips College in Texas). During my first job, I didn’t even have a car. I had to sell it so I could have some cash. At my second job, I bought a car for $1000… As a kid I was able to see my parents do a lot with a little.” McCuin’s blue collar beginnings and determination to succeed saw her through assistant coaching stops at Portland, Pittsburgh and Clemson before taking the reigns at JU.

As a young head coach, one might think it especially important for McCuin to assert her authority and create wide boundaries between herself and her players. But as a “players’ coach” and a naturally fun-loving personality, McCuin is intentional about being close with her student-athletes. To them, she is “Coach Yo.” She can often be found working out right alongside the girls, inviting them into her home or posting funny team commentary to her Instagram feed. If they didn’t know any better, passersby might mistake McCuin for a player herself. “In order for me to coach my players, they have to know that I love them first… My approach is risky. It makes me have to be vulnerable to my players. But it allows them to do the same. I want to be a players’ coach. At the same time, I want to make them winners. My players know they have to be honest with me. They know I have great expectations for them.”

A former player at Clemson helped McCuin come up with the hashtag that defines her coaching philosophy. “Our job as a coaching staff at JU is to prepare our young women to supercede any feeling or challenge that’s put on them, hence #NoCeilings. If my players finish here and don’t have the confidence to compete for top jobs or go after what they want, I have failed… Our players are Biochemistry majors, Marine Biology majors… they major in whatever they want. There’s just no limit. Why have a ceiling? Why can’t you be a mom, a wife, and a successful coach? Does it take hard work? Yes. But I don’t limit myself and I don’t expect my players to either.”

Much To Be Thankful For
The Dolphins are 1-4 in the midst of a challenging preseason schedule. McCuin’s team has battled against three high-major programs already, one of those a Top 25 team. And although there is work to be done, the team will enjoy a day and a half off for Thanksgiving to rest and recharge. When asked about what she’s thankful for, McCuin talked about these three things:

1) “I’m thankful that God is allowing my ministry to be coaching. I love what I do–to be able to impact lives. Not just my players, but also my coaching staff, fans, the campus community. I want to inspire people.” McCuin’s biggest professional accomplishment is when former players enjoy success in their future endeavors. She loves continuing relationships with them and being a resource to them after their playing days are through.

2) “I am extremely thankful for my family…my husband, Yasmine. They keep me grounded. I do not get to sulk a lot (about basketball) because of them. They give me perspective.”

3) “I’m just thankful to be in the present. People sometimes ask me what my dream job is. This is my dream job, to be a head coach and do things my way. I’m here living my dream right now.”

The McCuin Family

The McCuin Family

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And so it begins…

Just a quick post today to wish all you Mommas good luck this season!  It’s too exciting a week to talk about anything other than National Signing Day and your countdown to Tipoff!

I hope you all signed your A-list kids this week.  And if you didn’t, may your B-list players surprise you in a great way.

You’ve been weight lifting, running, shooting, practicing and scrimmaging for weeks.  And now it’s finally here!  The thrill of your team’s first game is so worth the work and the wait.  The only thing better than coaching a college basketball game is doing it with your family in the stands.  You have the best cheerleaders in the nation.  Bring #homecourtadvantage with you wherever you go!

I’m helping out with Bethel Women’s Basketball this season, and the bad news is that we don’t tip off until Tuesday.  The good news is that I should be able to catch some great games this weekend!  I’ll be watching from my couch under a heavy blanket with wool socks on because it is currently 18 degrees here in Minneapolis…

But it’s always sunny and 70 in the gym.  Enjoy!

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NC State Assistant Lindsay Edmonds Joins the Coach Mom Club

When her team traveled to San Diego last season for a holiday tournament, NC State Assistant Coach Lindsay Edmonds was not feeling well.  “My husband went on the trip with us and I felt bad because I was too tired to go do anything [extra].  Every free minute we had I just wanted to sleep!” she remembers.  After picking up two wins, the team flew back to Wolfpack country on New Year’s Eve.  Lindsay took a pregnancy test when she and her husband, Ulrick, got home.  She ran downstairs to tell him the good news.  “I was crying and he was like, ‘What did you say?’…We’re pregnant!”

Lindsay met her husband in 2009 when they were both working in the athletic department at James Madison University.  Ulrick is a football coach.  Referring to the logistics of a two-coach household, Lindsay admits, “We had some reservations about the whole thing, even just dating.  We wondered, ‘Can this work?’ We finally reached a point where we decided to worry about it when we get there and God will make a way for it to work.  Nothing is going to happen that we can’t handle.”  The couple married in August 2012 and lived together in Harrisonburg, VA for eight months until the first coaching move happened.  Lindsay took the job offer at NC State in April while Ulrick stayed in Virginia.  The football staff at JMU got let go after the fall season.  Then Ulrick began coaching at Old Dominion University, decreasing the commute between the couple to a three hour drive.  Lindsay and Ulrick were planning to make the distance work after the baby was born.  But shortly before her due date, Ulrick was able to secure a position on the NC State Football staff.  For the Edmonds family, it was an answered prayer.

Nylah Gray Edmonds was born on September 2nd.  “It’s crazy how fast time goes by.  It feels like it was just yesterday,” Lindsay says.  “Everyone says you don’t understand this kind of love until you have a child and it’s so true… I never knew my heart could love two people so much and so differently, between my husband and my daughter.  My mom used to tell me that once you’re a mother, your heart is beating outside of your chest.  I didn’t understand it then, but now I get it.  My heart is in this little girl.”  Lindsay’s contractions began the morning of her due date–September 1st.  But then they stopped, so she dismissed them as Braxton Hicks, or false labor.  But when the contractions came back that night, they were the real deal.  Lindsay went to the hospital at midnight and doctors predicted a baby by lunch time.  So it often goes with motherhood, though, things didn’t go as planned.  “[Nylah] didn’t come until 6:10pm.  I had pushed for two hours but then I spiked a fever and her heart rate went up.  I ended up having an emergency C-section.  I felt like I had done something wrong or let her down…all the emotions of that.  It’s definitely not what I wanted.  Whenever I got asked about a birth plan I said ‘I don’t have one except that I don’t want a C-section.'”  Even so, their healthy bundle of joy was born and the Edmonds went home later that week as a family of three.

Source: Kelly Blinson Photography

Source: Kelly Blinson Photography

Source: Kelly Blinson Photography

 

Lindsay worked with NC State Head Coach Wes Moore to arrange a 6-week maternity leave.  “Coach Moore has been great.  Having a boss who’s supportive makes a huge difference… People outside our profession think it’s crazy I’m going back to work at 6 weeks.  But I feel blessed and thankful for that time.”  Lindsay’s coaching staff had visited the hospital to meet Nylah.  Her players met the baby at the team’s photo shoot a couple weeks later.  Lindsay got a text saying that the staff would be getting some casual photos wearing jeans and a white shirt.  “There was no way I could wear jeans two weeks after my C-section!” Lindsay laughs.  She found some linen pants that would suffice.

2014-2015 NC State Women's Basketball team.  Source: NC State Athletics

2014-2015 NC State Women’s Basketball team. Source: NC State Athletics

“It was hard not to be there,” Lindsay says of missing her team’s preseason.  “But we planned my maternity leave so I would just miss individual workouts and not too many practices.  It’s about as perfect of timing as you can get other than April or May.”  When it was time to go back to the office, dropping her 6-week old daughter off at daycare for the first time “was the hardest day of my life to date… The first day I went to practice, I wasn’t coaching.  We had our DOBO (Director of Basketball Operations) cleared to be on the floor while I was gone.  So I was just sitting there being quiet.  But now that I’m back on the court, it helps take my mind off [Nylah] being in daycare.  It would be hard if I sat at a desk all day.”  The Coaches Edmonds are currently navigating the logistics of work conflicts and childcare.  This is undoubtedly the trickiest time of year with football season in full swing and basketball games on the horizon.  Thankfully, both Lindsay’s and Ulrick’s parents live less than two hours away and are willing to help.  Nylah will tag along with Ulrick to cheer on the Pack at home games and at some of the closer contests on the road.  “She’ll probably travel with my husband to Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest…  We’re going to the Bahamas for a Thanksgiving tournament and I still have to figure out things with Nylah since I probably won’t take her.  That will be tough because I’m nursing.”

So far, so good for this first-time mom.  But life with a baby is drastically different.  “I love sleep,” Lindsay says.  “My husband used to joke that we couldn’t have a baby because I sleep so hard!  Now I hear everything and wake up all the time.  The woman’s body is truly an amazing thing…I’m learning how to operate on less sleep.”  Daily routines revolve around Nylah’s needs.  And like every mother before her, Lindsay has discovered what a challenge it can be just to get out of the house.  “It’s hard trying to get anywhere on time with a baby!”  Her priorities have certainly shifted.  “At the office, one of my players said, ‘Coach E, I’ve never seen you with your nails not done!” Lindsay jokes.  “What seemed important before is less important to me now… Everything is about Nylah.”

The Edmonds Family.  Source: Kelly Blinson Photography

The Edmonds Family. Source: Kelly Blinson Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coach Moms Say the Darndest Things

We mostly tweet about sports news, our teams, motivational quotes and X’s & O’s.  But we can’t resist a tweet about our kids once in a while!  Here are some cute ones from the Coach Mom club:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You came through in the clutch with those cupcakes, Coach!  Yum!

Erika Lambert

Rebecca Tillet, Naval Academy Assistant Coach
Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga University Head Coach
L’Tona Lamonte, Belmont University Assistant Coach
Angelika Szumilo, Fordham University Associate Head Coach
Heather Vulin, Villanova University Assistant Coach
Brooke Stoehr, Northwestern State University Co-Head Coach
Coquese Washington, Penn State University Head Coach
Ebony Moore, University of Richmond Assistant Coach
Jennie Baranczyk, Drake University Head Coach
Allison Pohlman, Drake University Associate Head Coach
Kate Peterson Abiad, Cleveland State University Head Coach
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The Chicago Marathon, some advice for your season & why you should get a room.

Let me be clear: I did not run the Chicago Marathon.

But my best friend Lauren did.  And she totally crushed it with a PR time of 2:56.  That’s an average mile time of 6:45.  For twenty. six. miles. (and then some).

While Lauren was doing all that hard work, I had the pleasure of spectating with her parents in the Windy City.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a big race and it was incredible.  The elite men looked to me like they were running at an 800 pace.  And I seriously cried when Rita Jeptoo, the first female, crossed the finish line because it was just so beautiful.  Don’t even get me started on the handicapped competitors; extraordinary is an understatement.

Rita Jeptoo (Kenya) won the 2014 Chicago Marathon for the second year in a row.

Rita Jeptoo (Kenya) won the 2014 Chicago Marathon for the second year in a row.

Besides painting a poster and cheering my head off for my BFF (cowbell anyone?!), I was thinking of my Coach Mom friends.  A marathon is such a long race and it reminded me of the basketball journeys you have all now begun with your teams.  Here are three pieces of Chicago Marathon advice you can apply to your ’14-’15 season:

Count on things getting hard.  Have a plan in place for when that happens.

After the race, I heard my friend recount her thought process during the most grueling part of the course.  “I thought about Coach Bassett at mile #20.  At mile #21, I thought about Cassie because she’s one.  At mile #22, I thought of Jackson since he’s two…” and so on.  Coach Bassett was our high school basketball coach at South Jefferson, under whom we won a New York State Title together when Lauren, our PG, wore jersey #20.  Cassie and Jackson are Lauren’s super cute niece and nephew.

Every team will experience hard things this season.  Dominant programs may deal with cockiness while young teams might struggle with insecurity.  We all know what injuries can do to kill momentum.  And hopefully you aren’t hampered by any team drama, but let’s face it, it happens.  Fatigue… academic eligibility… 3-point shooting… Whatever the case may be with your group, anticipate potential challenges and have a plan in mind to get through it.

When you experience success, clearly identify the factors that worked in your favor.

When we made it back to the hotel after Lauren’s best run ever, I noticed her taking notes.  She was remembering exactly what she consumed during the race.  How many gels did she take and when did she take them?  Did she drink more carbs earlier in the race this time?  How could she replicate this nutrition pattern next time?

Coaches are very critical after a loss.  We spend a lot of time evaluating what went wrong.  But when you win, too, the evaluation is important.  Be intentional about analyzing the causes for your success.

Be equipped by your preparation.

“I kept waiting for the wheels to come off and they just didn’t,” said my smiling friend after the race.  This was Lauren’s 10th marathon, and she has mastered the training.

Continually remind your players that the way they practice in the early days of this season may well be the reason they are confident and equipped for the Championship game down the road.  Even though the postseason seems far off, every drill matters now.  When those crucial games come down to the wire, and it feels like the wheels might come off, your team will remain confident and rely on the skills they have rehearsed since Day 1.

Last but not least, I just want to mention how fabulous it was to spend a night in a hotel room all by myself, watching HGTV instead of Dora and spreading out across the whole bed.  (I’m not sure why my husband and I still have a queen-size bed at 6’4″ and 5’11”, but I think a king will be our first purchase as soon as he finishes Residency).  I took the short flight from Minneapolis to Chicago solo, thanks to my gracious husband and Father-of-the-Year candidate.  My days are currently filled by mothering 1- and 3-year old girls, along with some basketball coaching on the side.  Yours are spent coaching and caring for 15+ student-athletes as well as your kids at home.  In any case, moms need to recharge once in a while.  When the adrenaline of the new season wears off and you feel the first signs of weariness, do something that makes you feel renewed.  One Coach Mom told me, “I have found I need a personal vacation about every 6 weeks…this is usually a night away from the kids & team.  It has helped me to stay focused and not feel overwhelmed throughout the year.”

It’s not likely you’ll have the opportunity for a vacation night this time of year, but don’t underestimate the importance of carving out pockets of personal time.  Afterall, you need all the energy you can get to complete this marathon-like journey we call basketball season!

(Did I mention that my friend finished 91st?)

(That’s 91st out of 18,390 female runners.)

Erika Lambert

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Maternity Leave for Coach Moms

When I attended the Coach Mom learning lab at the 2010 Final Four, a common theme was communicated by both the panel and attendees: Coaches often regret not taking more time off for maternity leave.  I heard it said that, “I should have taken more time to slow down and be with my baby” and “If I could go back, I’d do it differently,” as Coach Moms around the room nodded in agreement.

Maternity leave is a tricky arrangement for working mothers in many professions, but coaches’ job descriptions, work load and athletic calendar make it especially hard to take a leave of absence.  Is your due date in-season?  Will you be ready to leave your newborn if an important recruiting period occurs?  What is your university’s parental leave policy and does it even apply to you in the Athletic Department?  Are you a head or assistant coach?  Can your players operate (successfully) without you?  Do you have a full staff that can pick up the slack while you’re out of the office?  Will you really rest and bond with your baby or will you just be taking your work home with you?  These are some of the many concerns for expecting mothers in coaching.  Maternity leave looks different for every Coach Mom but one commonality is that we all try to make it work in a way that affects our basketball programs the least.  And we will probably still feel guilty about it.

Curious about how your colleagues arranged their maternity leave?  I sat down with Jenny Huth (UCLA), Kerri Brinkoeter (Southwestern University) and Kendra Faustin (Niagara University) to discuss.

“When Tanner was born, I planned to drop everything, take three straight weeks and do nothing.  We anticipated him coming at the end of February, and I had planned out with my staff exactly which road trips I would miss.  But he came three weeks early!…  I had him on a day off–Saturday.  We had USC that Tuesday but I didn’t go.  Then we had our last two home games and I wanted to be there for the seniors.  I was on the bench but had no coaching responsibilities and did not coach the rest of the season.  I did not go to the PAC12 tournament… The most difficult part was watching my team on TV!”

“Being home with my son was excellent.  It was nice to have that time.  There’s nothing more important than that… I am in charge of our team’s skill development, so I worked myself back into things [during postseason].  I tried to do all my workout planning on Sundays and then only went to campus for those workouts [over the course of several weeks]… I didn’t go recruiting during the Spring Evaluation period.  Our DOBO went in my place, and also went for the first part of July.  We did some good maneuvering!… I work on a great staff and I give our other two assistants a lot of credit for picking up the slack.”

“We (coaches) are under different contracts than other university employees, but we’re still under state law [concerning maternity leave].  I felt totally supported in that.  It’s really in my head coach’s hands and we collaborated.  I work for a great boss (Cori Close) and I know you can’t always control that…  If I had to do it over again, I would do it the same way, except I’d pick the timing of birth differently!”

“We work in a profession dominated by males and single people.  Women coaches have the fear factor that they can’t move up or will be looked down upon for having kids… If I could go back, I may have had kids sooner in my career when I had a higher energy level.  It’s super hard!… I relish the opportunity for my players to see my family side.  I don’t have to be an all or nothing coach, or appear to have it all together.  [Since Tanner was born] I’ve needed help.  Our players have seen me being a parent, my more vulnerable side.  It’s important for young people to see that… My best advice [for Coach Moms] is to be ambitious and pursue your career goals, but know that there’s nothing like having your own child.  Your career has pulls on you but it’s not the same priority level.  Don’t feel guilty about keeping your child first.”

“When Makenzie was born (October), my husband had a job where he worked from home.  So he was able to take care of her and I could bring her to the office as needed.  I didn’t really take any time off.  In 2 weeks, I was back for practice, in and out of the office, that kind of thing.  There was no real time away from the job and frankly, that was my choice.  At the time I thought, ‘I can be flexible.  It’ll be fine.’  And it was… [Makenzie] traveled with me on as many [team] trips as possible.  I asked my Mom to come with me and help… It was fine mentally and physically, and it probably would have been a great thing had I not gotten pregnant 5 months later!.. When Logan was born (January), I missed two weekends of games and then I was back on the court coaching full time the rest of the season… Getting pregnant so soon after [my first baby], my thought process switched to resignation.  I thought, ‘There’s no way I can do this with two kids.'”

“Looking back, I probably should have just taken some time off after season and taken a breath.  But I resigned and stepped away from college coaching for five years.  It wasn’t because of my school.  My school was fantastic–incredibly supportive of me being a parent.  My athletic director, who was my college coach when I played at Southwestern, actually stepped in and helped coach my team when my son was born…I left on a really good note.  When I resigned, I didn’t think I was going to go back to college coaching.  I thought I was closing the door.  But the job (at Southwestern) came back open in 2010.  My kids were going into kindergarten and 1st grade, so it was good timing.  This is my fifth year back.”

“During that five-year period away, we stayed in Georgetown (TX).  I stayed in coaching.  I was happy to do it and it kept me sane.  I coached our Fury Select (AAU) team and I was the Athletic Director at Grace Academy… I was a full-time mom but I never completely got out of coaching.  I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do that… I watched games at Southwestern and it was strange to not coach the girls I had recruited.  But my time was filled with other things… When I came back I wondered, ‘Am I ready? Is my basketball mind ready?’  Coaching an AAU team is very different than coaching a college team full time.  I had to study up on technical things.  Our Men’s Basketball coach was the same as when I was here the first time.  He’s phenomenal and when I came back I spent time in his office talking and studying [Xs and Os].  There are so many great resources.  It did all come back really fast.  When [basketball] is in your blood, it never goes away.”

“[Coaching full time] does get harder as your kids get older.  You miss out on more things.  I remember one time we were all standing in the kitchen and I asked my kids, ‘How would you like a mom who could come to all your games, eat lunch with you at school, be president of the PTA…?’ And my daughter said, ‘Mom don’t you do that now?’  That’s what I needed to hear.  My kids love that I’m a basketball coach.”

“At the DIII level, it is exponentially hard (to take a maternity leave) because you have to have someone else coach your team.  I had an assistant coach and an administrator who stepped in to help… We feel like we have to get back to our job.  We feel a sense of loyalty to those young women (players).  That’s why we do what we do.  But babies do change everything!.. I had the same Athletic Director the first time I coached at Southwestern and when I got hired back.  She’s still here… I’m incredibly blessed.  They call me ‘Boomerang.’  My story is probably one-of-a-kind.”

Faustin

“My oldest son was born in October.  I worked for a great boss (Athletic Director) at the time who was incredibly supportive.  He has three children and he told me to do whatever I needed to do (for maternity leave).  He said if I needed to take 12 weeks off, I should do it.  But that’s not what I wanted to do.  I was at practice yelling at players on October 3rd, then went in for a C-section the morning of October 4th.  I knew I wanted to take two weeks off and not hear anything about basketball.  It worked because I had a great staff and we had been preparing for that all summer.  My 1st Assistant Corrine Jones led the team… I tried to do too much to come back to work and got an infection in my incision.  It prolonged my recovery and I ended up being out for six weeks.  When I did come back, I was on campus for practice and that was it.  I dropped Cal off at the babysitter’s for 2-4 hours a day.  And anytime someone needed me they could get me on my cell… My husband had just finished his MBA and wasn’t starting his new job for a few months, so he was home with us.  I was really fortunate that my assistant coach’s wife was able to help watch the baby at the office and on road trips.  My mom also traveled with us.  Cal went everywhere with us (the team) that year.”

“We had some trouble getting pregnant and were told we would need assistance from the doctor to try for a second.  That was not the case and my second pregnancy came as a surprise–the best surprise (Blake was born just 16 months after big brother).  Maternity leave was a little different the second time around.  We had an Athletic Director change and while he was still supportive, we had to do things by the book.  He wanted to make sure I was legally protected and that the university was protected.  Human Resources was involved… I remember being really frustrated that the rules of maternity leave and disability insurance did not fit with what I wanted to do.  It made it really hard to come back early but still have the flexibility to be a Mom and do what I needed to do.  It got complicated because of policy and the policy doesn’t take into account the nontraditional schedule that we have as coaches.  I felt support from the university and administration, but the legalities were frustrating.”

“Overall, [maternity leave and work/family balance] is something I’m really passionate about.  The book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg talks about how the workplace has not evolved to allow women to be in positions of leadership and have a family.  That goes for men, too.  The US is the only developed country that doesn’t require paid family leave.  I can look out my office window and see Canada, where the official length of maternity leave is an entire year!.. Corinne, my recruiting coordinator, had a baby this past March (6 mo. old Barrett).  Corrine is incredibly dedicated to our program.  I told her, ‘You tell me what you need and we’ll make it work.’  She said she wanted to take 6 weeks off.  I told her that full maternity leave is 8-12 weeks and she should consider taking it.  But she said, ‘Well, you didn’t take it.’  And my response was that there are benefits to being a head coach and there are benefits to being an assistant.  She took the full 12 weeks.”

“My advice to expecting Coach Moms is to be really clear with your administration on what you need for maternity leave.  Most administrations will [be accommodating].  If they cant give you what you want, just do your job to the best of your ability and you’ll make it work.  Do everything you can beforehand, so you set your players up for success… I did an interview with ESPNW when I was pregnant with Blake.  When I read that article now, I’m angry at myself for thinking and saying I could do it all.  If I had to do it again, I would take my full maternity leave.  I got it wrong twice so I don’t know if I’m the best one to give this advice.  But I really think you should take your maternity leave.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy.  It’s so hard, especially with your first baby because you don’t know what you’re doing!  But you never get that time back with your kids and it doesn’t slow down after that.  At least I got something right the second time around and did not go to the [Conference] Tournament (10 days after C-section).  I decided to do what was most healthy for everyone.”

 

Photo Source: Buffalo News

The Faustin Family, October 2013. Kendra with her husband R.J., and sons Cal & Blake. Photo Source: Buffalo News

 

Erika Lambert

 

 

 

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Team Bonding Instagram Scavenger Hunt {Free Downloads}

I love a good scavenger hunt.

When you’re a little kid, it’s like pretending to be a pirate looking for treasure.  For grownups, the stakes are higher, a la The Amazing Race.  And when college teams do scavenger hunts, it’s just plain fun.  If you’re still thinking of some team bonding time for your kids this Fall, try an Instagram Scavenger Hunt!

Divide your team into three groups that will compete to earn points doing silly (& somewhat challenging) tasks, all the while posting pictures to Instagram.  Coaches can monitor and score teams’ progress in real time, using a designated hashtag.  See more detailed instructions in the downloadable files below.  There are three templates you can use to do scavenger hunts on your campus, in a shopping mall, or in a downtown area.  The social media piece of this means your players’ and team’s “Followers” can join in on the fun and get to know your group better.  Plus, if your players dress in team gear and carry schedule cards, you have a promotional opportunity as well.

As a player at the College of Charleston, my team did a downtown scavenger hunt one year and it was so much fun.  As badly as my group wanted to win, I blame our last place finish on the fact that my injured teammate was slowing us down in a wheelchair.  Have you ever seen Charleston’s uneven sidewalks and cobblestone streets?

 

Download (PDF, 116KB)

Download (PDF, 190KB)

Download (PDF, 191KB)

Erika Lambert

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Fact: There are too many turnovers in Women’s Basketball

There are too many turnovers in women’s basketball, and it kills our credibility.

I loved sitting in on the marketing symposium at this year’s WBCA convention.  “It’s Our Game!” was all about creative ways to promote women’s basketball.  Giving away free bacon, coaches dribbling through city streets, and hosting Halloween carnivals (think players in the dunk tank) were some of the ideas shared.  But as I listened, I just kept thinking our game would have more appeal if women would quit turning the ball over so much.

There are some great things that distinguish women’s college basketball from the men’s game–purity of play, fundamentals, family atmostphere, 4-year players, etc.  Unfortunately, turnovers are another strong distinction.

 

Turnover Trends in NCAA Women’s Basketball

2005-2006 Statistics are earliest available online record for DI-DIII.  2013-2014 Statistics are from the most recent season.  Note: Reclassifying teams were not included in analysis.

2005-2006 Statistics are earliest available online record for DI-DIII. 2013-2014 Statistics are from the most recent season. Note: Reclassifying teams were not included in analysis.

 

To be clear, I’m not trying to make this all about girls vs. boys.  But the men’s statistics are the best available standard of comparison.  As you can see in the stats above, both women and men have decreased turnovers in the last nine seasons.  However, the women’s national averages are still not stellar at 15.9 (DI), 16.8 (DII), and a whopping 18.0 (DIII) TOs per game.  In my humble coaching opinion, this is a glaring statistic that everyone working to grow the women’s game should give more attention to.  It’s only one column on a box score but TOs impact our overall credibility.  In everyday life, we use the expression, “dropped the ball,” to describe someone who made a careless error.  And if that happens too often, it’s hard to take that person seriously.  For women’s basketball, the parallel is literal.  We need to hang on to the ball in order to improve both the fan and participant experience.  It’s no fun to watch or play sloppy games.  How exciting is a game that almost guarantees over 30 turnovers per contest?

The obvious question here is, “Why do women turn the ball over more?”  If someone asks why women don’t play above the rim as much as men do, the answer is simple: we’re not as tall.  But when you ask why women turn the ball over more than men, the answer is…  I’m not sure.  We could attribute it to the idea that young girls don’t grow up developing basic passing and catching skills.  For instance, when a group of girls gets together to play, they generally don’t go out and throw a football as often as boys do.   Along the same lines, young female basketball players don’t opt to play as much competitive 1-on-1, thus they don’t develop a consistent comfort level with possession of the ball.  Do women’s turnovers have anything to do with style of play?  Up-tempo, running teams can be successful while getting away with more TOs, but I don’t believe this factors into the men vs. women debate.  Can women’s TOs be blamed on great defense?  Honest, hard-working, fundamental defense is a strength of the women’s game, after all.  Officiating is certainly a factor.  If defenders are allowed to clobber the ball handler, it’s no wonder why they come up with a steal.  Doug Bruno’s call for “ONE CHANGE” addresses this issue, and NCAA officiating rules have been adapted to protect the ball handler, shooter and offensive post player.  This led to a general increase in foul calls last season, and only time will tell if it decreases our game’s turnover totals.

Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a magic formula to clean up your team’s TOs.  There are any number of ways you can emphasize regard for the basketball and the value of a possession.  But the most important thing is simply that you do emphasize it.  Find a way to fight the unforced error epidemic in our game.  Andy Landers says players will do what you tolerate.  So when your team hits the floor for practice, outlaw turnovers with no defense.  Even though it requires more effort, work turnovers into your charting records in practice, all the time.  Passing drills are good, but they don’t always create the pressure of a game situation.  Analyze the errors that occur within your competitive drills.  Take the time, especially early in the year, to listen to your players and make sure everyone understands why TOs happen, which TOs are acceptable and which are not.  While you want your kids to treat the basketball like it’s precious, you don’t want them to be so afraid to turn it over that they hold back.  Add game-like defenders in every drill you can.  How beneficial is dummy defense, really?  Make your girls play 1-on-1 regularly (especially high school and youth coaches), because otherwise they probably won’t.  When it comes to postgame review, don’t assume that your players are paying attention to turnovers on the stat sheet, or that they understand how that stat fits into the big picture.  Make time to discuss it.  Analyze team TOs in your film sessions.  And lastly, let each individual player know your turnover expectations according to their position and playing time.  Your point guards probably understand this already and your experienced players may pay attention to it, but you might be surprised how many players are clueless in this area.  Let’s say your freshman forward is the second one off the bench and she feels pretty good about the 9 points and 7 rebounds she gave you one night.  But she may not understand how much impact her 3 turnovers had (or the fact that she is not “allowed” to commit 3 TOs in a game).

Val Ackerman’s White Paper (2013) united the Women’s Basketball community’s discussion of how to improve our game.  Debbie Antonelli’s 100-shots-a-day challenge reinforces the Paper’s emphasis on the need for more scoring and higher shooting percentages.  I agree with Ackerman and Antonelli that putting more points on the board will lead to a better overall product on the floor.  But players can’t put the ball in the basket if they throw it away first.  Clean up the turnovers!

Listen, I’d be the first in line for free bacon, but I just think the beauty of women’s basketball is in the game itself, not the gimmicks.

Erika Lambert

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