Make reading a workout

exercise-your-brain

Most experts suggest kids should read 20-30 minutes a day. It sounds like a good idea, but timed reading often leads to two unintended consequences – clockwatching and stalling.

Instead of absorbing the material in the book, kids look at the clock every couple of minutes in hopes that the time will be closer to ending. Either that, or they take the entire time period to read one page.

No coach ever instructs his/her team to do five minutes worth of push-ups. The team is commanded to drop and do 50. Give kids a specific number of pages to read. Younger kids get fewer pages. Older kids get more.

Your children will stop clockwatching because the objective is the number of pages. Their eyes will stay in the book. Stalling won’t help as slugging through page one won’t help them get to page 20.

Coaches have long known that giving kids specific and doable extra workouts will help them in their chosen sports. Basketball coaches tell players to shoot a certain number of free throws or three-pointers after practice.

Boxing and wrestling coaches assign specific numbers of push-ups, pull-ups and squats. If a high school wrestler does 20 extra pull-ups a day, that amounts to over 7,000 pull-ups a year.

The wrestler who does 7,000 more pull-ups than his opponent has a decided advantage on the mat. Same with reading. If a kid reads 20 pages a day, they’ll complete at least a book per month, maybe more depending on their grade and reading level.

A kid who reads a dozen books a year also has a decided advantage over their classmates and a leg up in the pursuit of higher education. Many parents want their children to be eligible for athletic and academic scholarships.

Well, if you want a scholarship, you should first try being a scholar.

 

The King and I Revisited: Arnold Palmer at the Musials and a Requiem for Royalty

Ten months ago, I had the honor of spending a Saturday evening with Arnold Palmer at the 2015 Musial Awards. He accepted the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The character of the man was bigger than the total of his trophies and accolades. Arnold Palmer passed away Sunday at the age of 87.

Palmer and Stan Musial were great friends. I don’t know how the rough the sand traps are up there, but at least Stan has himself a ringer now.

Below is the blog post I wrote after last year’s Musials. Rest in Peace, Mr. Palmer. Your race has been well-run and your work well-done.

The King & I

I had drawn this straw before. In past Musial Awards, my role often involved making sure a celebrity presenter or honoree got from Point A to Point B without issue.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Aeneas Williams, Lou Brock and Joe Torre have all been assigned to me at one point or another. I’m not security nor a bodyguard. Referring to me as either is disrespectful to licensed security personnel like my friend Dave Gilbert at Peabody, or the men and women who literally put themselves in harms way for heads of state and other VIPs.

The most I can say is that nothing will happen to you on my watch.

This year was different, though. This year Arnold Palmer, golf immortal and 2015 Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, presented a new challenge. I would be responsible for every move he made in the Peabody Opera House last Saturday night.

We had meetings, plans and warnings about what to do and what not to do regarding the 86-year-old luminary. I was worried about how he might react to me – a big guy he doesn’t know telling him where to go and how to get there.

My anxiety disappeared about five minutes into the evening when Palmer leaned over to me and asked, “You’re on my team tonight, right? Because if there’s a fight or something, I want you in front.” I told him if anybody wanted to fight him, they’d have to fight me first. We laughed and things settled in from there.

The Musial Awards are full of emotion. Seriously, we really should get a tissue sponsor at some point. But the most emotional moment of this year’s Musials didn’t occur on-stage. It happened in the Green Room before the show started.

Honorees and presenters got a chance to meet Mr. Palmer and take a few pictures. When that was over, he asked for a few minutes to address the group.

In front of Stan Musial’s daughter and grandchildren, Ozzie Smith, Mike Matheny, Brett Hull, Lori Chalupny, Ernie Johnson, Dave Peacock, Scott Schnuck and every other Musials honoree, he talked about Stan.

Mr. Palmer talked about Stan, not as the greatest Cardinal of them all or even as the namesake of the event. Arnold Palmer talked about how much he loved Stan and about how much he misses his friend. He said, “If you try to live your life as Stan lived his, then you can really say you’ve done something. Stan was my friend…and I miss him.”

Although I helped Mr. Palmer get to and fro on Saturday, he helped reinforce something I know to be true: It’s not about the trophies or championships. It’s not about the parades or paychecks. It’s about people and how you treat them.

Be good to others and they’ll treasure that forever.

In sports and in life, history repeats itself

my-family
My wife asked on her Facebook page: “Who will protect our protector?”

It was 1990. I’d saved enough money to buy a Kansas City Chiefs sweatshirt. I finally had some authentic NFL gear and I was happy about it.

We lost our first football team in 1987 when the St. Louis Cardinals left for Arizona. My allegiance is to the Show-Me State and I rolled with the Chiefs in the absence of a hometown squad.

Mom wouldn’t let me wear the sweatshirt to school, though. St. Louis had fully adopted L.A. gang culture and that red sweatshirt may as well have been a bullseye if I got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I couldn’t wear blue, either. My wardrobe consisted of a lot of black, gray and some wild colors no gang wanted to associate with. I remember having a few orange t-shirts. I’ve always been a big guy, so imagine me walking down the street in a bright, orange t-shirt – looking like Halloween candy.

Mom was terrified I’d get killed if I wore the wrong clothes. This terror made her dress me in stuff gang members would either laugh at or ignore.

I survived the 90s and I don’t wear orange shirts anymore.

Fast forward some 25 years. St. Louis has lost another football team and what I have on is again an issue. This time, it’s not my clothes. I dress like a dad. I wear khakis and polo-style shirts most of the time. And the polo-style shirts are the ones I get from work.

This time…it’s my skin.

I feel some eye-rolls coming through the screen even as I write this. Oh, here he goes, playing the race card. Let me be clear: My race is not a card that I get to play like an ace in a poker game.

I’m black 24-7, 365. I’m black in a Leap Year. I’m black on holidays and weekends. I’m black in every city, state and time zone. I’m black when I leave and I’ll be black when I get back.

People who look like me are dying at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect them. I’m not here to play good cop vs. bad cop, either. Been down that road. I just want the killing to stop.

Beginning this Friday and for most of the next two months, I will speak to children about how they should have fun, be good, play right and live by the principles of good sportsmanship. Many of the children will look like me.

As I make them laugh, think and maybe tear up a little, a part of me will fear for them. A part of me will fear they will meet an authority figure who doesn’t see them the way I do.

I sometimes fear for myself. As I drive to schools all over the region, I hope I don’t roll through a stop sign, make an illegal lane change or go to fast to avoid being late. Paying for a traffic ticket with my hard-earned money isn’t a concern. Paying for a traffic ticket with my life, well, that’s another story entirely.

 

Breaking: Cal Ripken and Tamika Catchings to be honored at 2016 Musial Awards

CAL RIPKEN JR. TO RECEIVE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR SPORTSMANSHIP AT THE MUSIAL AWARDS IN ST. LOUIS ON NOV. 19

 WNBA STAR AND 4-TIME GOLD MEDALIST TAMIKA CATCHINGS TO BE HONORED WITH MUSIAL AWARD FOR EXTRAORDINARY CHARACTER

 TICKETS ON SALE TOMORROW FOR SHOW CELEBRATING YEAR’S TOP MOMENTS OF SPORTSMANSHIP AND CLASS ACTS IN SPORTS

ST. LOUIS – Sept. 19, 2016 – Stan the Man set the standard. The Iron Man lived up to it. For embodying the class, integrity and humility synonymous with Stan Musial, Cal Ripken Jr. is receiving the pinnacle honor for sportsmanship: the Musial Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ripken will accept the honor at this year’s Musial Awards in St. Louis on Saturday, Nov. 19. He will be recognized alongside individuals from around the country responsible for extraordinary acts of sportsmanship – including Tamika Catchings, one of women’s basketball’s most prolific players and greatest ambassadors. Catchings is receiving the event’s other special honor, the Musial Award for Extraordinary Character.

Hosted annually at the Peabody Opera House in Downtown St. Louis, the Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University – celebrate the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports who exemplify class and character. The event and its awards are named for the late Cardinals Hall of Famer who was beloved in St. Louis and around the world. It is a fitting tribute to Stan the Man, whose career and life were defined by the virtues of sportsmanship.

In receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, Ripken is being honored for the way he played the game and the manner in which he carried himself on and off the field. A 19-time All-Star and holder of baseball’s record for consecutive games played, he is admired for his consistent, respectful and humble approach. Like Musial, Ripken spent his entire hall of fame career with one team – 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He remains active in the game teaching “the Ripken Way,” particularly at the youth level, and has authored a series of books that uses baseball as a theme to address issues faced every day by kids who play sports.

Ripken joins Joe Torre (2014) and Arnold Palmer (2015) as the recipients of the Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

In her 16th and final WNBA season, Catchings put a selfless twist on her farewell tour. Normally, athletes of her caliber are celebrated with pregame ceremonies, speeches and gifts in each city where they make their last appearance. But the 10-time All-Star opted to forego the pomp and circumstance and instead used the opportunity to give back. At each final WNBA stop, she presented a $2,000 grant to a local charity and hosted a postgame meet-and-greet with fans. She signed autographs and auctioned off personal mementos, including the game shoes she wore each night.

Her “Legacy Tour” in itself is deserving of Musial Award recognition. But add to that the grace, generosity and perseverance she has shown throughout her career, and Catchings is a perfect recipient for the Musial Award for Extraordinary Character. Overcoming a hearing impairment that affected both ears, Catchings became a four-time All-American at Tennessee, the No. 2 scorer in WNBA history, and the league’s all-time leader in rebounds, steals and free throws. She was named league MVP in 2011 and won the WNBA championship with the Indiana Fever in 2012. This past August, Catchings earned her fourth Olympic gold medal as a member of Team USA. Even with all the accolades, she remains humble and accessible. In Indianapolis, she is a community icon.  Since 2004, her Catch The Stars Foundation has empowered youth to achieve their dreams through programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring. Universally liked by fans, coaches and players, Catchings is a two-time winner of the WNBA’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award.

The Musial Award for Extraordinary Character recognizes an individual or team who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship. Previous recipients were the St. Louis Cardinals (2013), Mo’ne Davis (2014) and Lauren Hill (awarded posthumously in 2015).

In addition to the Lifetime Achievement and Extraordinary Character awards, the Musial Awards will recognize several other individuals connected to the most inspiring stories of sportsmanship in 2016. The complete list of this year’s award recipients will be announced next month.

MUSIAL AWARDS TICKETS:

 Tickets for the Musial Awards go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 20). Tickets are $50 (orchestra level seating) and $30 (mezzanine level seating), and can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com, at the Scottrade Center box office and all Ticketmaster ticket centers, or by phone at 800-745-3000. Additional service fees may apply.

The Musial Awards also offers all-inclusive tickets and packages that provide prime seating for the awards show plus a pre-show dinner, reserved parking and more. Information can be obtained at www.MusialAwards.com or by contacting Emily Thompson at 314-345-5111.

TELEVISION SPECIAL:

In addition to the live awards show on Nov. 19, the Musial Awards will air as a primetime one-hour television special in December on KSDK-TV Channel 5, St. Louis’ NBC affiliate, with potential syndication in other markets.

MORE ON THE MUSIAL AWARDS:

The Musial Awards is produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation. In addition to keeping alive the legacy of Stan the Man, the event aims to inspire selflessness, integrity and civility in sports and society. This marks the 11th year the Musial Awards has taken place in St. Louis.

Showtime on Nov. 19 is 7 p.m.

 

Kids at the Musial Awards: Chase Vasquez, Scooter Terrien and Miles Rodriguez

The Musial Awards recognize remarkable individuals and amazing stories of character, kindness, selflessness and integrity in sports. People of all ages and from all walks of life have taken home the coveted ‘Red 6’ each year.

However, this space is specifically dedicated to uplifting kids. The young people honored at the Musial Awards over the years are living proof of the Martin Luther King quote, which states, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

Chase Vasquez, Scooter Terrien and Miles Rodriguez did a great thing for a classmate. Please watch their story in the video below.

In addition to honoring Chase, Scooter, and Miles at Musial Awards, we also use their story as an example of good sportsmanship for other young people at our Musial Moments assemblies. Hundreds of St. Louis area kids have been inspired to make positive change in their schools and communities based on the actions of these awesome young people.

The 2016 Musial Awards take place on Saturday, November 19 at the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis. We want kids represented in a big way on this special night and there is a special offer available for St. Louis area young people and their parents if they wish to attend.

Please call 314-345-5130 or email salexander@stlsports.org and type Special Offer on the subject line for details.

 

Fill and throw away your #BasketofDeplorables

basket-of-deplorables

Gotcha! This one’s not about politics. It’s about behavior. Some adults, particularly coaches, exhibit deplorable behavior toward children.

We need to gather our deplorable behaviors in a basket and throw them away. I’ll start with the following list. Let’s gather as many as we can and get them away from youth sports…away from our kids, period.

  1. Yelling.
  2. Schadenfreude.
  3. Insults.
  4. Condescension.
  5. Put-downs.
  6. Name-calling.
  7. Profanity.
  8. Physical punishment.
  9. Dishonesty.
  10. Selfishness.
  11. Greed.
  12. Self-righteousness.

That’s a good start for my basket. What about yours? What behaviors do you exhibit that your kids can do without? Medals and trophies will tarnish and chip. Stories of the game-winning score will change depending on who tells them, but people always remember how you treat them.

Musial Moments: Halls Ferry Elementary [Video]

Thanks to principal Leo Ganahl, his faculty and staff and the wonderful students at Halls Ferry Elementary School for inviting me in and so enthusiastically receiving the Musial Moments message. Here’s the finale from Friday morning’s presentation:

Musial Moments is a free, fun, interactive and impactful 45-minute presentation that motivates students to care about sportsmanship and to be good to those around them – just as Stan the Man did during his illustrious career and life.

To book Musial Moments for your school or youth organization, please call 314-345-5130 or email salexander@stlsports.org.