The 30-Second Guide to The World Cup

Lisa writes: In English they call it “The Beautiful Game,” in Portuguese “La Joga Bonito” and, for the rest of the world, it is simply known as “Football.” This week in Brazil, the quadrennial global madness known as The World Cup, begins again. It is a sporting event so large that it is estimated that half the world’s populations will watch it. Here is what you and your 21st century kid need to know about this truly worldwide event.

US Men's Soccer Team

10 Seconds of History and Facts

The World Cup lasts for four weeks, is held every four years with 32 nations playing in 64 games.

The competition has been held 19 times but only Brazil, Italy, West Germany, Uruguay, Argentina, England, France and Spain have been victors. The United States has qualified 10 times, including this year, but has not progressed beyond the quarterfinals since 1930. In 1994, the US hosted the tournament.

More than 3.2 billion people watched some part of the 2010 World Cup on television (with over a billion viewing the final), and ESPN plans on airing 290 hours of programming around this year’s tournament. If it seems like The World Cup is always on, it is.

The tournament is organized into a group stage where four countries play each other and two teams from each group progress to the next (knockout) round. The US has three games in its group stage, vs. Ghana (6/16), vs. Portugal (6/22) and vs. Germany (6/26).

FIFA, the football governing body, has more member nations than the UN.

20 Seconds of Q&A

Who is favored to win?

Not us. Experts favor the home team Brazil and other highly rated countries include Argentina, Germany and Spain. Looking for a long-shot? Try Belgium.

Messi, Neymar

Who are the stars of this tournament?

Soon you will hear names bandied about like Ronaldo (Portugal), Messi (Argentina) and Neymar (Brazil). These players have been hoisted onto the national stage because of their fabulous wealth (Ronaldo was said to earn $42 million last year), their prodigious talent on the field, and their fashion sense.

Neymar

US players who will be in the limelight include striker Jozy Altidore, goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielder Michael Bradley and striker/Captain Clint Dempsey.

Why does the press say that the US is in the “Group of Death”?

The US was placed in one of the most difficult of all the groupings. If we play well enough to progress beyond the group, to the next stage, expect utter pandemonium to ensue.

Why are soccer players always injured and lying on the ground?

Soccer has no replays and it all happens terribly fast. Players seem to believe that clutching an “injury” and rolling around on the floor will influence the referees. Minutes later they are up running around. You would punish your kid for this, but in professional soccer it is widely accepted.

How does fashion figure into The World Cup?

For years it didn’t. Then along came the photogenic David Beckham and his pop star/fashion designer wife Victoria, and soccer was never the same again. World famous soccer players now take part in advertising the world over. Ronaldo recently appeared sans clothing, discreetly covered by his girlfriend on the cover of Vogue. The relationship between the world of glamour and sport has become so cosy that The New York Times explained, “The fashion world treats the soccer field like a runway. “

Ronaldo

Soccer fashion extends right down to the players’ feet. The once lowly black cleat has had a total makeover by Nike, Adidas and the like. Look for bright and bold footwear, enhanced by technology, to be the fashion side-show of the month-long tournament.

Why should I watch the World Cup with my kid?

The World Cup is a global moment. Like the Olympics, it grabs the world’s attention, unites us around a positive force and generally provides a great example to our kids, the global citizens of tomorrow.



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Competitive Sports and College Recruiting: Time to Pry Them Apart

Lisa writes: Competitive sports and college admissions often get intertwined, as if the only reason for the former is the latter. But aren’t we confusing two issues? If there were no college recruitment would there be no competitive sport? And, are there advantages to kids and teens to competing athletically at a very high level, regardless of collegiate outcome?

soccer, boys soccer

The reality is that most kids, even those involved in an intensive athletic experiences, will not be recruited to college. Getting recruited to play sports in college is the dream of many athletes, but the facts surrounding this process can be bleak. There are over seven million high school athletes and more the three million kids playing competitive soccer. Only around 5% of high school athletes will compete in the NCAA. And, it is a mere 1 percent of the seven million who will find themselves on a D1 team with scholarship money.

So if you are a parent whose kid has been playing hockey/lacrosse/soccer/football/basketball or you name it, for 10 years and they did not get a place in college, or if you are a parent staring down the barrel of those 10 intensive years, the question is are the time, money and effort you and your family put into sports wasted?

[Read more...]



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How to Spend Super Bowl 2014 in New York City

Mary Dell writes: Super Bowl XLVIII will be played in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, but New York City is the party host. It is also the metro area where Lisa and I have lived and worked for many years and we offer these suggestions for how to spend Super Bowl 2014. Even if you aren’t one of the very fortunate 80,000 with tickets for the game, here are the ways to approach this amazing city, anytime.

Super Bowl, New York Super Bowl

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Why Parents Should Push Their Kids to Play Team Sports

Lisa writes: One of the great parenting quandaries is when to push our kids and when to back off. This issue surfaces in every aspect of their lives from academics to music lessons to team sports. For each child there is a different answer and for each family a different story, but on the issue of sports, there seem to be a few universal truths.

team sports, varsity sports, soccer team

Sports loom large in our world and while there are many insidious aspects to this, the value of sports, particularly team sports, in a child’s life cannot be overstated.

One of the good thing about sports is that many bad things will happen. Games will be lost. Injuries incurred. Your child might be benched, demoted, or not perform up to his/her abilities. Your child might hate his coach and feel that he is incapable or unfair. And all of this will be good. All of this will be the solid foundation that his later life will rest upon.

But kids sometimes want to quit. The practices can get tedious and time-consuming and the work involved can feel like all too much. We have been there. As moms raising four boys and one girl between our families we have been through this many times. All five kids have participated in team sports in middle school and high school, and three of them in college.

All five kids have had rough days or weeks or months.  When they were younger we pushed them to stay with their sports over their protestations, knowing what was to come.  The sport our children selected did not matter, neither did the level of play.  The benefits accrued from just being on a team. We come down hard on the side of team sports and of making our kids stick it out, and here is why:

1. Teenagers and Trouble

Teenagers get into trouble and extra time on their hands doesn’t help. Teens who have practices, games, team dinners and fitness sessions have less time for mischief. A study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine showed, “A survey of more than 14,000 teenagers found that those who participated in team sports were less likely to use drugs, smoke, have sex, carry weapons or have unhealthy eating habits.”

2. Happier Kids

Teams broaden a kid’s social world and research shows team athletes are happier than kids who do not participate. This study showed that among middle school teens who participated in team sports, “boys were five times more likely, and girls 30 times more likely, to describe their health as fair/poor when they were not playing on a sports team.”

3. Common Goal

Being part of something larger than yourself and working toward a common goal is always good, always.

4. Sense of Belonging

Beginning in middle school, cliques and mean girls can be social minefields. Boys can splinter apart into groups with well-defined lines. Sports teams cut across social divides pulling together kid’s from disparate groups on campus and increasing the number of kids your child comes to know. Being part of a team gives kids a sense of belonging.

5. Parents on the Sidelines

As kids gets older, they naturally develop their own lives and there will be fewer ways for parents to be involved; the sidelines are not a bad spot. Even teens who seemed determined to shut their parents out, tolerate mom and dad attending their games.

6. Practice and Determination

Teams set goals and thrive through cooperation, discipline and commitment. Parents can lecture all they want, but words only do so much. Sports is one of the best places for kids to learn the importance of practice and determination. In team sports there is the added element of teammates depending on you for participation and performance.

7. Expertise

Getting good at something, as good as your kid can be, through perseverance and repetitive hard work is one of life’s lessons. It is hard to teach in the abstract.

8. Good Health

Athletics encourages strong healthy bodies. Kids who compete know that they are only at their best of they are well fed and well rested. Alcohol and drugs impede performance and every kids knows that. In sports, strength and speed, rather than skinniness or other distorted body images are desirable. Team sports help kids better avoid obesity problems even better than activities like running or biking does, according to research.

9. Future Employment

A new study, conducted by Kevin Kniffin, a behavioral science professor at Cornell University, shows that men who played team sports in high school make better employees.

10. Memories of Home

Sports teams are the stuff of lifetime memories. The triumphs and defeats of a sporting season stay with us long after the season is over. And then one day our children are 18 and getting ready to go off the college. They will miss their family, dog, friends and their team. And that is a good thing.



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How Parents Ruin Youth Sports…By Obsessing About Winning

Lisa’s story on The Atlantic.com, “Parents Ruin Sports for Their Kids by Obsessing About Winning,”  appears below:

Every sports cliché you can think of, I have uttered: teamwork, respect for the coach, being part of something bigger than yourself, and practice making perfect. But as I look back over a decade and a half watching my sons play youth sports, I have to confess the dirty truth: I wanted to win.  I worked hard, I spent hours in preparation and I wanted to win.  I had organized snacks and brought drinks.  I scrubbed uniforms and cleats.  I drove for miles, arrived an hour early, stood in freezing temperatures, forsaken anything else I might have done with my day. I did not want to return home without a win.

youth sports, youth soccer

The aching desire to win can be seen on the sidelines of competitions even among the youngest participants. Parents pace the sidelines, twitching at every kick or pitch or shot of the ball, shouting exhortations at their children and the team. I have watched parents cover their eyes, unable to watch, such is the stress they feel.  In many cases it becomes clear that it is the parents who want to win. Parents want the dopamine thrill of winning, the heady rush that adults feel with success.  Winning, even for spectators (and the research was done only on males), gives a testosterone surge, and losing actually lowers hormone levels.  As parents we so identify with our kids that their success quickly becomes our own.  As spectators, parents seek confirmation even at the earliest stages that great athletic possibilities exist for their child:  a better team, starting spot, varsity experience or college scholarship.

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Soccer Moms and Dads Misbehaving

Lisa writes: And then there are the jerks…Earlier this week, we sang the praises of parents who have made standing on the sidelines such a joy, but we would be remiss if we failed to mention a few others.  The list of what we are grateful for is long but, examples of soccer moms and dads misbehaving abound.  Here, on the other end of the spectrum, are those parents we will NOT miss:

Soccer Mom

Badmouthers

Soccer moms who say bad things about other’s children, criticizing their play, their abilities or their contributions to the team.  You know who we mean.  There is the dad who grumbles about the amount of playing time someone else’s child receives, or the mom who mumbles biting comments when she thinks she sees a mistake in the play.  When it comes to other people’s children, the rule of thumb is pretty simple, STFU.

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Saying Goodbye to the Sideline

Lisa writes: It is the beginning of the end.  As the cool autumn air descends, Mary Dell and I stand on the sideline for one final season, watching our seniors take to the fields with their respective high school soccer teams. We are breathing in memories from the days when their little legs were so small that their soccer shorts and socks had barely a gap between them. We also recall the final inning home run in third grade and the game-winning touchdown in high school, both straight out of a feel good movie. There were spine-tingling buzzer beaters and heart breaking losses. There were seasons spent mostly on the bench and seasons spent in starring roles.  We remember it all.

Team Sports, sideline parents

As we move from the sidelines of our kids’ games to the sidelines of their lives, still watching, still cheering, but at a distance, it all comes rushing back. We remember terrifying trips to the ER for x-rays or stitches, clutching a child in our arms and wondering, if only for a minute, whether competitive sports really were such a good idea.  There were tears to be wiped, tears of disappointment, frustration, anger or confusion. But, these tears reminded us why our kids play on teams and how many of life’s lessons can be learned on the playing field.  And there was joy, pure exultant joy, the cup-overflowing happiness that comes to a child who has worked and practiced and, with a bit of luck, finds the success they pursued.

We have cheered and consoled.  We have offered first aid and Gatorade. But we have never stood alone.  At our sides stood some of the most wonderful parents we ever hope to meet. Some of these parents were our closest friends, others we might never have crossed paths with and count ourselves lucky that we were able to share a bleacher.

In the spirit of offering our thanks, will be eternally grateful to:

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At the Super Bowl, Cheering for New Orleans

Superdome, New Orleans Superdome, NFL stadium, New Orleans football stadium

Mary Dell writes: The Super Bowl returns to New Orleans on Sunday and I am a lucky holder of a ticket for a seat right next to my husband.  While it’s a business trip for him, not so for me. I admit it: though I love football, my excitement is less the game and more the venue. Instead of picking between the ‘49ers and Ravens, I’ll be cheering for New Orleans.

NOLA and I go way back though it has been decades since I’ve visited. I feel about the city like I do about a distant, somewhat exotic, favorite cousin whom I very rarely see. So it sits in that wispy section of my memory, the part with more shadows than clear lines. It’s lodged with other places I knew well when I was young and have never returned to, like the town where my grandparents lived. [Read more...]



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Why I Never Let My Kids Quit…Anything

Lisa writes: Quitting. We quit jobs, we quit marriages, we walk out on friendships and sometimes we let people down when the going gets tough. Sometimes it is necessary, even the right thing to do. Our kids quit teams and music lessons, art classes and after school programs. Sometimes it’s necessary, but sometimes they are bored or don’t like the coach or would just rather play video games at home. Deciding when to let your kids quit something, be it Gymboree, Little League or SAT prep, is a question that never goes away.

sports, varsity girls sports, girls sports, lacrosse, girls lacrosse, team sports for girls

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Making an Urgent Case for Physical Activity

Mary Dell writes: From the moment we know our children exist, months before we lay eyes on them, we hope and pray for their good health. Unfortunately, the news that Lisa and I learned last week at the Social Good Summit is not all good.  At a session titled Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda, a terrible statistic was flashed on the screen behind the speakers:

Today’s youth could be the first generation in history not to outlive its parents’ generation. They are on track to have a life expectancy that is five years shorter.

The reason? physical inactivity.

Charles Denson, Nike brand president; Allyson Felix, Olympic gold medalist; Dr. Bill Kohl, Professor of Epidemiology and Kinesiology at the University of Texas; and the moderator, Adam Ostrow from Mashable took the stage to present study findings titled Designed to Move (DTM). Denson spoke about how his company has teamed up with 70 other organizations around the world to shed light on the risks of physical inactivity.

These chilling statistics were presented for the US:

The typical child in the US becomes 75% less active between the ages of 9 – 15.

Physical activity in the US has declined 32% during the last 44 years.

The direct cost of inactivity will lead to a 113% increase in health care costs by 2030.

DTM is targeting kids up to age 10 (and their parents and schools) with two major initiatives:

1. Create Early Positive Experiences for Children - A generation that enjoys positive experiences in physical education, sports and physical activity early in life has the chance to shape the new future. This generation could break cycles of inactivity where they already exist, or prevent them before they start.

2. Integrate Physical Activity into Everyday Life - Economies, cities and cultures can be shaped and designed to encourage and enable physical movement. In fact, some already are. These are the bright spots. To ensure a better future for all, they need to be the norm.

So what about the rest of us who don’t have young kids around the house or don’t interact with that age group?  Does this mean that we can smugly go about our business as if the risks don’t apply to us?

The answer, of course, is no.

After the Summit, Dr. Kohl referred me to a series of papers published in July in The Lancet to which he contributed. Referring to them as “the best current science in the area,” they were published with the summer Olympics as a global backdrop. Here is a brief excerpt:

There is substantial evidence to show that physical inactivity is a major contributor to death and disability from non-communicable diseases (NCD) worldwide…. Unlike…tobacco, diet, and alcohol, the importance of physical activity has been slow to be recognised, and the emphasis to tackle it as a population level has not been forthcoming.

As I now sit (!) at my computer (which I do for a good part of my day) reading about the dangers of a sedentary life (the irony is not lost), I note that inactivity causes “9% of premature mortality ….which is as many deaths as tobacco causes.”  Clearly, I have been seduced by the on-line benefits that I enjoy –  reading the news, blogging, emailing, ordering groceries, looking at the latest photos on FB and much, much more – and turned a blind eye to the toxicity of my relationship with my computer. And I know I am far from alone.

Whether we have the responsibility of young children to raise or merely our own health to tend, to paraphrase Nike, on a global basis, we all better just move it!



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Spinning Class – Exercise for the “Lazy”

Mary Dell writes: In the realm of athletics I am a dud, both coordination and motivation-challenged. When I attended BlogHer’12 this summer and heard Katie Couric describe herself as “lazy” (regarding exercise) yet willing to ride a stationary bike in a spinning class, I began to wonder if this might be a good workout for me since I’m a little lazy, too.

spinning class, soul cycle, katie couric, BlogHer

As if the gym gods were sending me a message, I picked up More magazine’s September issue and found an article on spinning inside. I read about SoulCycle, a small but growing chain of spinning studios that happen to be Katie’s choice.   [Read more...]



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