Archive for January, 2014

29
Jan
14

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Alpha Tween?

So it’s been a while, yeah? Last week was a travel week for work, so as happens around here, we lapsed into silence. I’m almost over jet lag, so hopefully I’ll have my act in gear sometime soon. I always want to post more, I just never seem to get around to it.

This week hasn’t started off that well around Casa De Dad Moon Rising. Well, I take that back. I’m happy to be home amongst my loving family (who are super awesome for letting me do things like travel to Alabama for a college All Star game and then jet to Vegas for a ‘retreat’ with another company) and everyone is healthy and glad I am back.

However, for Alpha Tween, this week is not going well. He’s 12 and apparently being 12 his brain has ceased functioning on a regular basis. He’s losing things at school, stuff he swears he recalls putting into his folders or backpack or somewhere else, but never ends up home.

And it’s starting to be important stuff, like his schedule of electives for next semester. If he doesn’t get that in (and it may already be too late) he’ll get whatever classes they give him, not the ones he wants. He’s also lost his day planner (which begs the question, is he even using it?) and two hats.

He’s really upset. I mean, my wife and I are upset, frustrated and angry because there has been tremendous time and effort spent (mostly by my lovely wife) giving this kid tools which should help him stay organized. But he’s really, really broken right now.

Alpha is, of course, in trouble for all this because it’s been a constant problem and all the support we’ve been giving him isn’t helping. Plus, he constantly looks us in the eye and tells us “A” when the answer is “B” or worse, we tell him to do something and he nods and “yups” us about it, then totally doesn’t do what he’s supposed to.

The thing is, I get that a 12 year old’s brain isn’t fully developed and doesn’t work at close to 100%. I get it and, frankly, I’m not sure MY brain works at 100% most days. Maybe not even 50%.

But there comes a point where excusing it or explaining it away doesn’t help. He needs to face consequences and maybe we have been bailing him out too much.

The problem for me is, I don’t know how to solve this. I have no idea how to help him, partly because my own memory is occasionally poor for certain things and partly because I just don’t know what is wrong.

And he’d really, really upset. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as down as he was this morning. He’s frustrated, angry and pretty depressed. He isn’t happy with himself but doesn’t understand why things are happening the way they are and seems to feel he is powerless to fix this.

I’m not sure what we can do to help him. We’ve given him tons of tools, he just isn’t utilizing them.

Maybe letting him fail at a few things as a consequence is the way to get him to learn. We all need to learn how to overcome obstacles and failure. Maybe by screwing up he can learn to motivate himself to improve.

Maybe it’s time for him to fail a little.

It’s sure as hell not easy to watch though.

 

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20
Jan
14

Alpha Tween’s Poetry Corner

Howdy folks!

I’m writing this to you from Mobile, Alabama, where I am covering the 2014 Senior Bowl for my day job.

Recently, Alpha Tween has been writing poetry in school and he asked if I would share some of it with you. So, this week I’ll be posting some of his work here at Dad Moon Rising. It’s pretty good stuff, and it’s interesting to watch his “writing voice” start to form itself.

This poem both I and my wife found particularly moving, as it shows just how aware he is of the world he lives in and how what happens in it impacts his life.

Enjoy.

In spirit

I am Trayvon Martin

I am Sandy Hook

I am 9/11

And the Holocaust

And all the people in impoverished countries

Though nameless they may be in my poem

Are not nameless in my heart

I am the people who died for no reason

Other than that someone else had a thought

From racism

To pure insanity

I am just that someone couldn’t get by

I am one of the people who remember

When others have moved on

I am one of the people who see

What others overlook

I am in spirit.

15
Jan
14

TV Review—Friday Night Tykes Episode 1: “Weakness Leaving the Body”

via Hollywood Reporter

“You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ head off and let them bleed. If I cut ’em with a knife, they’re gonna bleed, red, just like you.”

“If you believe in yourself, you can do whatever it is you want to do in life.”
— Charles Chavarria, Head Coach, Jr. Broncos

There are a ton of quotable moments in Esquire TV’s new documentary series “Friday Night Tykes,” but those two—said by the same coach at almost the same time—perfect encapsulate the thorny and complicated series.

Which, in turn, perfectly encapsulates the complicated nature of youth sports in America in general, and football in particular.

Before we get too much further here, a few things you should know about the show and the world surrounding it.

In Texas, football is king. Roll your eyes if you want, but it’s true—you need only read Buzz Bissinger’s excellent book Friday Night Lights (which you can bet the title of this series meant to evoke) to know that it’s not hyperbole to say it.

Even before I started coaching youth football last season, I’d heard stories about the intensity with which the game is played at a young age in Texas. To be fair, I have heard stories from throughout the south which echo the same fanatical intensity you hear about in Texas.

So when you watch this show, you have to know going in that this is going to be ratcheted up a few notches beyond what 90 percent of anyone attached to youth football—player, coach or parent—has experienced.

Beyond that, remember that this is a “reality series” more than a documentary. Which is to say, editing for drama is a must.

Which also means we are not seeing well-rounded people—actual people—so much as characters. Because a multifaceted person doesn’t always make for compelling television.

Finally, this organization—the Texas Youth Football Association—does not appear to be a Pop Warner football league, though it may be associated with USA Football, which is the governing body of youth football in America.

They are not associated with the NFL’s youth football safety program, Heads Up Football, according to the website For the Win.

You can tell it’s not a Pop Warner team because not everyone plays—in Pop Warner, everyone has a set amount of plays they are required to participate in, based on the size of your roster.

My son has played youth football both on Pop Warner and non-Pop Warner teams, and both were good experiences, though it is hard to watch from the sidelines when your team is losing and you know you aren’t getting in.

The problem this show—and because of the show, youth football—faces is that most people won’t know any of the above. So this show—for good and ill—is now the face of youth football in America.

And yet, the uncomfortable reality is the picture isn’t all that far off.

In every league, in every city, you have the super-intense coach, the more “positive” coach, and the “lifer” coach. You have the parents who have their son playing because they miss it as much as because their kids want to play, the parents who are clearly uncomfortable but not wanting to make waves and the parents who don’t know enough to know when their kid needs to step away.

Watching the initial trailer, I was put off for a myriad of reasons—not the least of which is that making a documentary or reality show about 8 and 9 year old kids makes me uncomfortable—but as the first episode progressed I recognized that there was far more nuance than I expected.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to shake your head at.

image via Awful Announcing.com and Esquire TV

Jr. Broncos coach Chavarria may love to try and give a rousing speech like Vince Lombardi, but he’s far from able to do it.

While he comes off as a blowhard, as you watch the show you can see what he’s trying to do—he just doesn’t have the words or technique to pull it off. Nor does he seem to have the understanding that the way you might fire up or drive a high school kid isn’t likely to work well with grade schoolers.

The most over-the-top coach we see in the initial episode, Chavarria is the one who has a kid puking mid-practice and then praising him for “playing through it.” He’s the one telling his defensive player to jump a whistle and hit the center early to “set the tone” and the coach who is saying he doesn’t care if the other team gets hurt or injured.

Every series needs its villain and Chavarria serves as Tykes’ bad guy.

It’s hard to blame it all on editing either. You can’t listen to him for five minutes and not come away feeling at least a bit off about him and some of his techniques.

But—and here is a hard truth—if you hang around August football practices, you’ll see a slightly less intense version of some of what Chavarria does. Kids run in the heat, kids get banged around and kids sometimes get yelled at. Chavarria may take it to an extreme, but the work is hard and the expectations often high (though it can be said that for 8 and 9 year olds, these expectations are too high).

image via USA Today

The most disturbing moment of the episode is that aforementioned vomiting.

Colby Connell, a 9 year old returning player, gets sick running laps and ends up throwing up pretty violently. Chavarria praises Connell in a voice-over that ‘the kid didn’t quit’ but you’re left with the feeling that maybe the parents and coaches should have made his take a seat for the day.

And here is the difficulty the series will face—while we see a coach pull Connell aside, we don’t see any examination or steps being taken to make sure he is fit to continue playing. And yet, as a youth coach, I find it hard to believe that there weren’t precautions taken. There must have been some time taken to make sure that he wasn’t about to collapse with heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

You don’t see it though, so you’re left wondering whether the Jr. Broncos coaching staff didn’t care or if the editors and producers felt that spending time showing the staff making sure Connell was OK robbed the moment of drama.

And that, more than anything else, was my issue with the show. All too often I was left wondering how much was left on the cutting room floor. I’m pretty sure, for example, that the coaches spent time on proper tackling technique—if just so their own players aren’t hurt. You’d never know it though, as barely a minute is spent total on any sort of coaching beyond admonishing the kids to hit harder, faster and more brutally.

Having been on the practice field, I can tell you that any practice has moments during which a team or coach looks bad or harsh. The team I coached, we spent countless hours drilling the kids on proper technique but if you just filmed our tackling drills, I would imagine we’d look a lot like these coaches. If you filmed only portions of our practices, you might see us yelling at some of the kids (that we were dealing with 12 year olds is besides the point) but not see the positive reinforcement we constantly gave them.

You might see the kids who came early trying to lose weight so they could play sweating and moaning and stumbling, but you wouldn’t see the extra time, effort, support and praise we gave them.

I know all these things and even I had a very hard time trying to keep perspective on what was happening during this show. I can imagine that parents or people who are not or never have been involved in football will look at it and be horrified. And while some of that is certainly justified, some of it is also unfair as we know we aren’t getting a balanced view of anyone.

You’re left with the impression that most of these coaches are insane but the feeling that something is missing.

The show does have a counter-balance to Chavarria and the other coaches in Brian Brashears, the head coach of the Predators.

image via EsquireTV

image via EsquireTV

Brashears, while certainly tough and demanding in his own way, is far more of what people might feel is the “ideal coach” for youth football. While winning is important, he clearly wants his kids to have fun (he even says so—a rarity by any adult during this show) and seems to come across as there for the kids, not because he wants to be Bill Parcells.

During the final ten minutes or so of the show, the Jr. Broncos and the Predators square off and there is definitely a bit of a “good vs. evil” vibe to the setup. Chavarria is angry, grouchy and has a player take a penalty early to “set the tone” (which may seem like poor sportsmanship but is not an uncommon tactic). Brashears encourages his kids, tells them to have fun and comes across as supportive, relatively calm and cool.

In true Hollywood fashion, the white hats beat the black hats but even that feels a bit empty and staged.

Overall, the show is far more intriguing and nuanced than I expected it to be. I came into it assuming I would be disgusted and horrified for 43 minutes—and to an extent that was the case. However, while there are moments that make you cringe, there are also moments which were good food for thought and debate. There are concerned parents, struggling with how far to let their kids get pushed. There are kids who make you wonder how long they’ll be able to—or want to—put forth the massive effort required. There are coaches who go too far and some who seem even keeled.

While I mistrust a lot of what I see and feel that a lot of the events will be made out to be far worse than they are, I am interested to see if the show can strike a balance between the inherent drama of yelling adults and colliding kids with the positive aspects I have seen in my son’s three years playing. How kids can learn leadership, how they can learn to work as a team, how they can overcome adversity.

While Chavarria might seem nuts—and he does—he isn’t wrong when he says that you can learn how to overcome anything if you believe in yourself. You can learn that on a football field and I have seen many kids do so.

Whether we see that in this show is something I am interested in finding out.

My recommendation is to watch, but to take it all with a grain of salt. As I have said before, football isn’t for everybody and every team is very different. Don’t paint every one of them with the same brush as these teams.

Even watching this show, we really don’t know what’s real and what is manufactured.

You can catch the first episode at Esquire.com.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

07
Jan
14

I’m as Cold as Ice….

photo(2)….and that’s enough of that song.

It is however, cold. Cold enough to where I had to force everyone, including the dog,  from their beds multiple times. Cold enough to where The Professor declared that it was “crazy” and “irresponsible” for there to be school today. Cold enough to where it seemed like out heaters just said “Screw you guys, I’m not dealing with this nonsense.”

It’s not even as cold here as it is elsewhere in the US (congrats Minnesota!) or even in the state of New Jersey.

However, it’s definitely colder than it’s been since we moved east and even though we’ve been through several winters and many storms, I can’t recall it being this cold before.

I love winter, and I much prefer it to summer. In my opinion, it’s a lot easier to put on layers if you need to than take them off and end up arrested because of all those pesky nudity laws. Or anti-nudity laws.

Whatever they are called—maybe anti-hairy butt laws, I don’t know—I’ve heard you get in trouble for stripping down and yelling “IT’S JUST TOO DAMNED HOT” as you run through Whole Foods.

I’m a much bigger fan of winter and cold than I am of the hot and humid July and August months where I live (which, again, isn’t even usually the worst humidity in the country).

But this is ridiculous. Penguins are going south for some warmer climes. Polar bears are grabbing scarves. Ice cubes are shivering.

It’s cold ya’ll. But hey, my Iphone app says it should get up to 10 degrees later!@

SO WE HAVE THAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO.

And we thought Ned Stark was crazy.

image via Troll.me

02
Jan
14

Pee Wee Football Coaches Gone Wild!

I can’t begin to tell you how disturbed I was when I saw this ad this weekend.

First of all because:

The Esquire Network is a thing? Good Lord there are officially too many channels (sorry ESPN 18).

More importantly because this show highlights everything wrong with youth football.

Screaming coaches with no rational thoughts in their addled heads, parents telling their kids to play tougher, encouraging kids to hurt other kids, consequences be damned—every nightmare about youth football in one show.

And of course it takes place in Texas, home of the incredibly and frighteningly intense football culture (see the book Friday Night Lights if you don’t believe me). There’s even terribly dangerous, helmet-leading tackling.

I’m sure there’s some positive stuff in there….probably right after commercial break when you’re up grabbing a beer or something.

I’m sure this is an entertaining show, in a cringe-inducing, stomach-churning way.

I know leagues are like this in many sports. I know it because I’ve seen parents get into fights, scream expletives at their kids and take a game the child loved and make it into a way for the adults to relive their own playing days. I get that. And I get that the over-the-top insanity is compelling television. Would you feel like watching if it was all positive? Probably, but when it comes to “reality TV” yelling is selling ads.

But this is profoundly disturbing to me. Encouraging kids to hurt other kids? There’s a disconnect there.

I tell my kids to hit hard and I talk about making the other team want to give up but to physically tell someone to hit the other team so hard they don’t get up? That’s a really scary thing to be telling children.

And a scary thing for parents to see if their kids want to play.

There’s encouraging kids to play hard, to play through aches and pains, to attack the other team—and then there’s screaming at kids, making them cry and telling them they should be injuring other players.

This is going to make youth leagues wince because selling parents on the sport will get harder if anyone sees this garbage (assuming the preview is really indicative of the show). You already have to deal with worries about concussions and other injuries—now you have these coaches as examples of what youth football is about.

All I can say is, as hard as we are on the kids where I coach, we don’t do this. We go out of our way to provide a safe environment for our kids.

None of us are auditioning for the NFL like these coaches seem to be,

I mean, holy shit.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

01
Jan
14

My Non-2014, Non-New Years Non-Resolutions

via cdn.ndtv.com and Google

Happy New Year!

Every year people decide that January 1st <insert current year> is the day to make sweeping changes.

It’s a good day—we’re beginning a new year and so everything sort of reboots.

However, I find that quite often we think of these things as things we have to force ourselves to do—as punishments and things we have to do rather than want to do.

I don’t want to approach this year with “resolutions” but rather “changes.”

So these aren’t resolutions, and they aren’t something I came up with this year. These are goals I am setting for myself, changes I want to implement and they have been on my mind for a long time.

Now is as good a time as any to embark on these journeys.

Change how/what I eat

I don’t want to say “diet” as that always seems to have a negative connotation. Besides, this isn’t about losing weight—though it’s a desired byproduct. It’s more about eating healthier so I feel better.

Besides a “diet” seems to involve guilt and varying amounts of self-loathing. I prefer the idea of a change because it always allows me to indulge a little without the guilt and while I can be strict with myself it’s not about doing without until I hit “goal X” but making a long-term change.

I’m not changing my eating habits to reach a goal—I want to change my habits as a goal.

It’s especially tough working from home and even more so because I leave the house in the middle of the day to walk dogs. If I don’t bring a sandwich with me, I just grab something on the road and that is never healthy.

So I have to start making lunches to bring with me on my dog-walking expeditions.

Like I said—this isn’t a diet, it’s a wholesale attitude shift.

Kick soda once and for all

Consider this an addendum to the first Non-Resolution.

I will probably always drink soda now-and-then because it’s an addiction. However, I was able to do more “then” as opposed to “now” for a long time and would like that to be the case again.

Frankly, I can tell the difference in not just my body but my emotions. Sound silly? I’ve definitely found my overall disposition much worse when I regularly drink soda. My temper as well.

Can’t tell you why, but it’s a definite thing.

So I will gradually ween myself off soda. I say “ween” because the only thing worse than me on soda is me cold turkey.

I kicked soda a few months back and then got sick and stressed out and spun out of control.  I won’t say I “gave up” but view it as a strategic retreat.

I was being overwhelmed by hostile forces, pulled my surviving units back and marshaled my strength for a winter offensive.

So if I am an asshole online here or there I apologize in advance. It’s not me, it’s the highly processed sugar or lack thereof.

Write a book

I have decided to write a book. Probably fiction, possibly horror, maybe not. That’s all I have for you now other than I will keep you updated.

This is more about writing non-football stuff and setting a goal around something I have always wanted to do. It’s a challenge I am setting for myself and I am excited.

Exercise/Get outside more

I spend way too much time on my ass.

A lot of what I do requires it, but it’s a bit ridiculous. I was jogging for a while but the same time my diet and soda intake spiraled, the exercise stopped.

I also love being outside and do not nearly make myself get into the sun nearly enough.

So, I am going to get out more. Because I need the exercise and growing things need daylight.

Release myself from anger

This is a big one and the one non-resolution I am most daunted by.

It’s not a secret that 2013 didn’t go as planned. And some of it involved things which felt like betrayals. That left me angry—furious really—for a long time. I’ve tried letting it go and then all of a sudden something trigger the anger again.

It’s not healthy and I’m pretty sure it’s damaged some friendships at least a little. That’s what happens when you explode—some folks get caught in the debris field whom you didn’t to.

On top of it all, it’s just not a healthy way to be. Sure, I may feel justified—and probably am—in a lot of it. But being pissy isn’t a good look and probably contributed to a lot of health problems and the complete strategic retreat from all the healthy stuff I had been doing.

When you’re constantly angry, it leaves very little energy for anything else.

So I’m going to let go of that anger. I’m not saying I won’t be angry or won’t feel angry even about things that have already happened.

I am saying that I will do my damnedest to stop letting it bleed into everywhere else and just let it go when I feel it.

Spend more time with the family and friends

When you are a freelance writer—especially in an ultra-competitive space like NFL journalism—it is easy to spend your days frantically churning out content to prove you can write whatever needs to be written.

It’s super-easy to forget the rest of the world exists.

While the NFL continues to roll on and I am just getting into looking at 2014 NFL draft prospects, things are about to slow way down.

Normally, I put my head down and grind almost work harder.

Not this year. This year I am going to make the time to play more board games with the kids. Take my wife out for dinner. Re-connect with friends I never see. Make new friends, because even 42-year-old stay-at-home-dads and writers can do that.

Otherwise what the hell is the point of all the work?

I’m sure I’ll come up with more of these as the days move along. That’s the great thing about non-resolution resolutions—they aren’t a fixed amount and you can add to them whenever you feel like it.

ps – I am celebrating New Years Day with a burger from Five Guys as a last hurrah and a SCREW YOU to traditional resolutions. HAH!

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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages