Skyhawks News
Nicknames – Standing Out In a Good Way

May 19th, 2014

The very first coach my son experienced, as a five-year-old baseball player, was fantastic. He gave encouraging and specific feedback at the right times, and was patient with clumsy catching and throwing skills. But what made really stand out – to me – was his skillful nick-naming. On the first day, he called out to a blonde kid with sunglasses, (who had decent hitting and throwing prowess) “Hey, Hollywood!” The name stuck. The kid wore sunglasses every practice and game. Even when it was cloudy. And he had this Fonzie-cool vibe, too. Now, did the being create the nickname, or the nickname create the being?

Not every coach can pull this off; in fact nicknaming children without their permission can easily hurt feelings. In just about every stage of childhood, there is some trait about which we feel self-conscious or insecure… even if it’s something others envy, like height.

But when it is an established tradition, as with Skyhawks coaches, it’s an easy, fun way to create community.

There are basic guidelines for choosing the right nickname in sports (or other cases of team-building).

  • It must be an accurate, positive characterization; conveying fun and appreciation. Bonus if it points out a yet-to-be realized trait which the child (or older person) can look up to. Consider these classics: Roger “The Rocket” Clemens, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Tom “Flash” Gordon, Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White, Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith,
  • Nickname NO-NO’s – Pointing out physical characteristics: Fats, Pigpen, Four Eyes and Sleepy, as well as Slim Jim and Princess or any other sarcastic names.

Tom Vogt is known as the quietly firm and kind “Mr. Vogt” by his own first grade class at Jefferson Elementary School in Spokane, Washington. But refer to him as “Mr. Vogt” up at Camp Reed, and you’ll get hundreds of weird stares. He is “Tom Buck Tu,” or “Bucky,” up there, where he and his wife, “Loco Lisa” have been Camp Directors for 13 summers.

Nicknames are as big a part of Camp Reed’s culture as insect repellant and sleeping bags. According to “Bucky” Vogt, staff nicknames have been a camp staple since 1968, when “Tricky” Tracy Walters (who, incidentally, coached “Joggin” Gerry Lindgren, the legendary Track and Field runner who graduated from Rogers High School in 1964).

“During Staff Week, we have a “Name Night,” Bucky explains. “Each person will leave the room, and we brainstorm. It has to be a phonetic match, fit inside the name, and be camp appropriate.” It usually takes about a half hour to hit the right one, and there are never any repeats. Also, siblings with established names influence the names of younger brothers and sisters. For example, Anna “Conda”’s little brother was obviously going to be “Python” Pete.

“It builds Unity,” among the staff members, he says, and gives hundreds of campers a collective goal. “They all spend the whole week trying to figure out the counselor’s real names.”

While your children won’t be given nicknames at Skyhawks, their coaches come with them. And it will be up to them whether to pursue their given names. They’ll likely be having too much fun to think about it.

No, Java-coding is Just NOT a Summer Activity

April 27th, 2014

My dad never woke me up at ten A.M. on a sunny spring or summer morning to say,

”Get out of bed, the computer screen is getting cold and that Java code isn’t going to write itself!”

(Granted, personal computer screens didn’t even exist when I was little.)

I can almost guarantee that even Mark Zuckerberg’s mother didn’t promote excessive technology use; she was trying to do what we all do… get our kids OUT THERE. You know, into the WORLD.

I have a dominant right bicep after the daily prying of mobile devices from my teenage son’s desperate hands when he needs to eat, sleep or do homework.

So it’s tough to be open-minded about the new existence of “TECH SUMMER CAMPS.”

You can find plenty of experts (since I’ve declared myself not to be, beyond having a Masters degree in Elementary Education) who will say that the knowledge kids gain in game-modding, java script coding and robotics are vital, particularly in the promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

It’s also great if the talents of computer geniuses can be celebrated. However, I shudder to think that these high-cost, indoor-dominated “camps” would be a child’s only away-from-home summer experience.

A promise on one popular computer camp’s website? “Be Like Steve.” To be clear, Steve is NOT the charismatic green-stripe-shirted man who used to host Blue’s Clues (OMG, mom, that’s SO pre-2001. That’s even pre-OMG!) Steve is a Minecraft hero: A pixelated cube warrior guy who mines himself pixelated cube castles, and protects said castles from the likes of pixelated cubed “Creepers.” Or something like that. Is Minecraft a less violent, more creative gaming alternative than Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty? Of course, but neither is even in the same world as a traditional day or overnight camp.

The child-centered watchdogs at Common Sense Media are onto the trend, too.

“Instead of rolling rivers, cabins, and canoes,” on camp brochures, they write, “it’s all about computer screens, ear buds, and kids gathered around an iPad.”

Technology, in the form of streaming TV shows and movies, social media, personal computers and smart phones are for disengaging in life – not a replacement for engaging.

Camp is a sacred time to be AWAY from technology, to unplug and engage with other un-plugged children, trees and grass and sky. And in our opinion, it ideally involves balls – soccer, base or basket – skillfully led by actual coaches.

And, ok, fine, we’ll even try to find you one named Steve.

Goals: Start Small. Reach, Change, Abandon, Fail, Succeed, Repeat

April 14th, 2014

Inspirational writers and speakers LOVE sports analogies to motivate grown-ups into action. So we can almost guarantee that the late athlete-turned-author, Bill Copeland, wasn’t referring to playing children when he spoke of the “trouble” with running “up and down the field” of life without “scoring. ”

In the realm of adulthood, “running” without “scoring” may lead to an inability to earn a paycheck or be in a relationship. In the realm of childhood, it may just describe a kid who doesn’t know how to play soccer yet.

Sports analogies aside, Copeland’s point, and mine, too, is that goals are a huge part of being a successful, engaged human being.

We make, reach, break, abandon and change goals on a daily basis.

Our first big life goals are made FOR us by parents; they involve sleeping through the night, saying “MA-MA” and peeing in a plastic potty. Around age four, we create our own goals, like writing our names in upper and lowercase, making a friend or riding a bike without training wheels.

Another example of small kid goal: “If I eat five more green beans, I can have dessert.” By the way, I do this all the time as an adult! I just threw something away in the waste paper basket by my desk and told myself, “If I make this in, I’ll go have two Girl Scout cookies.” The fact that the eating of the cookies impedes my bigger goal of looking better in shorts this summer then leads me to set a goal of going to the Y to work out for at least 30 minutes in the next day.

We are so seldom able to make and stick to big goals, there are myriad books, lectures, tips and techniques to pound into out heads the easiest formula to follow. (The most ridiculous one I found outlined a 24-step process for doing so. Yeah, 24.)

According to an article in Forbes magazine, the “IT” strategy for achieving big goals is lots of tiny goals. (Like the green beans and the garbage toss.)

A. Review all of the goals you’ve set in the past, but did not accomplish. (All of them?! Just this week or my whole life?!)
B. Identify ONE goal from that list that you’d still like to accomplish
C. Boil it down to a smaller goal – one that you can accomplish in 3-7 days.
D. Take action and complete it.
E. Pick another small goal.
F. Get it done.
G. Do this until you’ve got 3-5 completed goals under your belt.
H. Go after your big goal.

Listen, we all have big goals for our children, and if your own goals align with the Skyhawks goals, then we invite you to let them run down the field with us. We’ll teach them how to make a goal.

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