A Lesson From the Winter Olympics – Don’t Regret Taking a Risk

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The Winter Olympics have been my constant companion since the first minutes of the opening ceremonies. In fact, they’re on my office TV as I write this blog.

I’m a proud Canadian and have watched a number of Canucks, some of them favorites in their event, finish off the podium.

Skeleton racer and race favourite, Melissa Hollingsworth dropped from 2nd to finish fifth on her last run of the competition. Chris del Bosco, in sight of the finish line with a solid bronze medal in his pocket, took a risky jump and hit the deck. He finished fourth. Bobsledder Lyndon Rush crashed his sled after an excellent start – he was in third place at the time. A number of our Canadian downhill and grand slalom skiers fell on the icy slopes at Whistler.

I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Why? Because these athletes could have played it safe and settled for a performance that might have netted a minor medal but would have, in their mind, been mediocre. Instead, they rolled the dice and went for it all.

There is no big payout without big risk.

It’s a concept I am constantly trying to teach my young athletes. I ask them never to regret taking a gamble and pushing for more. Sometimes taking a risk works and sometimes it doesn’t, but they’ll never know their limits unless they try.

Thank you, Mellisa and Chris and everyone who has taken a gamble on that biggest of stages. For some of you, it has paid off wonderfully. For others it hasn’t. But it’s better to test your limits and crash then to always wonder how much better you could have been. It’s what competing and pushing for excellence is all about. It’s what the Olympics are supposed to be all about.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]Winter Olympics,Olympic skeleton,Olympic ski cross,Olympic bobsled,Olympic Downhill[/tags]

High School Graduation and Sport Championship Conflicts. Can’t They Be Avoided?

I see it happen every year – school officials scheduling their graduation ceremonies on the same evening as major sports championships.

Graduate_webThis year, for example, a local high school has scheduled its grad on the same Friday evening as the provincial soccer and track championships. Is it done on purpose? I don’t believe so – when the plans are made in the Fall, school athletics are simply not considered.

But it leaves student-athletes with the terrible dilemma of having to decide which event to miss: the culminating event of four years of high school sport; or the culminating academic and social event of four years of high school classes?

I’ve coached several high-school track athletes who have taken extraordinary measures to attend both events. Some have taken early morning flights after their grad ceremony while one made an eight-hour overnight drive. They all arrived just before their morning heats. Predictably, their results were highly compromised.

But why force students to make this decision at all?  School officials: while it may not be easy, when choosing grad dates,  please consider extracurricular events that might conflict – whether it be sports, chess, band or improv competitions. Instead of the traditional Friday night, consider a Saturday, weekday, or even a Sunday. Don’t restrict dates to those on which school board dignitaries can attend. Remember, grad is for students and parents, and quite frankly, they don’t care two hoots about having a school board official on the stage.

I realize that the teachers who help to organize graduation ceremonies are among the most caring in the school and the time they spend is generally unpaid. But choosing a graduation date that allows every grad to participate must surely be a priority in the planning process.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]high school graduation,sports,physical education,high school sports[/tags]

Running While You Study – Not As Crazy As it Sounds

A TrekDesk Work Station
A TrekDesk Work Station

I once coached a student-athlete who had the most peculiar study habits.

Like many students, she often found herself falling asleep shortly after opening her books. Her solution to this problem was unique. She began studying during exercise sessions. She would prop a book on her elliptical trainer or treadmill and read while pounding out the miles.

Soon, hitting the books became synonymous with hitting the gym. It became common to see her with a handful of notes while doing laps on her neighborhood indoor track. She once ran 100 laps while doing a review for exams.

When she began this routine, she could hardly be called an athlete. In fact,  this study-exercise combination helped her to drop 30 pounds and elevate herself from a recreational jogger into a second-team All-Canadian runner over the course of several years.

Having seen her attempt to study on a number of road trips (10 minutes-and-asleep), I always thought that her study strategy was pretty smart. In fact, it made sense, since she was using her brain while it was in a highly oxygenated and receptive state.

However, I must admit that I considered her study habits…unusual.

But no more. A company is now selling treadmills specifically for studying and working. Trumpeting the advantages of combining physical with mental exercise, TrekDesk now makes complete workstations that fit over any treadmill and allow you to walk while you work.

Apparently and unknowingly, my student was on the cutting-edge of exercise innovation.

I have absolutely no connection to TrekDesk, but you can take a look at their website at the following link:  TrekDesk

And my student-athlete who could only study while on the run? She’ll be finishing law school this Spring and will be articling with a firm she has worked with for the past two summers. They love her.

I just hope they have a treadmill in their law library.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]fitness,exercise,studying while exercising[/tags]

The “Sleep It Off” Misconception

Bottles_blog2As we turn the page on another year, I can’t help but think about a tragedy that marked the end of 2009.

Two young men, who had been best friends since childhood, attended a Christmas party where they consumed, as young people often do, a significant amount of alcohol. Instead of driving home inebriated, they did the right thing and stayed over at the host’s house so they could “sleep it off.”

After a few hours of sleep and assuming they were OK to drive, they headed for home the next morning. It was 10:00 AM when they left. Unfortunately, during the drive, they hit a patch of ice and spun into a telephone pole. One of the boys flew out of the windshield and was killed.

The other fellow, whom the police assumed was driving, was tested and found to be still legally intoxicated. In addition to losing his childhood friend, this young man is now going through the court system and may face jail time.

It’s a tragedy for both families and for both boys – they are/were excellent people – the kind of young men you’d want your daughter to marry.

I guess there are two morals to the story. One, always wear your seat belt. Two, sleep isn’t a magic remedy for inebriation. Whether asleep or awake, it takes at LEAST an hour per ounce to metabolize the alcohol in your system, depending on your size and sex. In fact, that process might take even longer when you’re sleeping because your metabolism slows down.

That going to sleep will automatically make you sober when you awaken is a popular misconception and one that PE teachers, as the primary providers of health information in our schools, must contradict. This misconception is so prevalent that morning drive-time is now considered a high-risk time for drunk driving and many police forces set up spot-checks from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM.

A pre-determined plan for getting home, involving a cab, parent or designated driver, is always the safer option.

I hope the upcoming year is a safe and happy one for you.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,health[/tags]

“Hurricane” Hazel McCallion Illustrates the Benefits of Lifetime Fitness

Hazel_blogAs the end of 2009 approaches, I’ll leave you with an illustration of the true end-goal of  successful physical education programs – an example of the benefits of a lifetime of consistent exercise.

Hazel McCallion, at 88 years of age, has been the mayor of Mississauga for the past 31 years!  Nicknamed “Hurricane Hazel,” mayor McCallion has an approval rating of 92%, and has won 11 straight elections. She has outlasted eight Canadian prime ministers and has her own bobble-head doll.

Mississauga, a former suburb of Toronto, is the 6th largest city in Canada. Under McCallion’s direction, it is completely debt-free and has 700 million in reserves.

The mayor is incredibly busy, but includes exercise in her hectic schedule. A former player in a women’s professional hockey league, she leaves her skates and hockey stick in the trunk of her car so she has them wherever she goes. She sometimes sneaks into a hockey rink during the day with a stick and puck and skates around on her own. She bowls, uses an exercise bike and is incredibly fit and vital.

Check out the following video of a Rick Mercer interview (from CBC’s comedy show, the Mercer Report)  with Mayor McCallion and watch her engage in some of her favourite exercise activities, including hockey, bowling and exercise cycling.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY79KbCptTo

Have a happy holiday, everyone! I’ll see you in 2010! (Our next blog posting will be on January 4th).

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,fitness,Hazel McCallion,Mississauga[/tags]

Football Games and the True Excitement in Sport

FBall_web1I’m a big NFL football fan. In particular (after having attended the University of Wisconsin for six years), a follower of the Green Bay Packers. To me, one of the consolations for Fall’s shorter days and colder temperatures is the fact that I get to watch NFL football on Sundays.

That said, the two most exciting games on television over the past two weeks didn’t take place in the NFL. They were games in “lesser” leagues north of the border.

One example was the Canadian university game between Queen’s and Laval universities for the Mitchell Bowl, the Eastern Conference Championships. In this barn-burner, passing sensation Danny Brannagan of Queen’s built up a huge lead in the first half only to have Laval charge back in the second half, gain possession with two minutes to go, then ultimately lose by only three points. The game was broadcast only in French…which I don’t speak. Yet I couldn’t stop watching. The 6000 fans in the stands might have been 60,000, they were making so much noise.

The second example was yesterday’s Grey Cup game. This championship of the Canadian Football League (CFL) followed a similar scenario, in which the underdog Saskatchewan Rough Riders built up a two-touchdown lead, only to squander it and have the game come down to a final drive and a 43-yard last-second field goal attempt by the favoured Montreal Alouettes. That field goal attempt was wide, but a too-many-men-on-the-field infraction gave Montreal a do-over from the 33 yard line. Kicker Damon Duval, who had been horrible all game, put it through the uprights to give Montreal the win. It was shocking, and exciting and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

My point is…the excitement in sports isn’t determined by big salaries, big budgets and media hype. It comes down to hard competition and the ebbs and flows of a close game between two equal teams. And to the gut-wrenching pressure of last-second win-it-all plays. And that can happen at any level, including elementary and high school – as I’m sure all of you involved in scholastic sports already know!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]football,physical education,competition,Grey Cup,Mitchell Cup,CFL,CIS,NFL[/tags]