83 : Changing The Game Project, John O'Sullivan

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John O’Sulivan is the Founder and CEO of the Changing the Game Project and Author of the #1 best selling youth sports book on Amazon, Changing The Game.  His book is a parents guide to raising happy, high performing athletes and giving youth sports back to our kids.  John played college soccer at Fordham University and then played professionally before becoming a division-one soccer coach at the University of Vermont.  John has also broken a total of 24 bones in his body so he obviously had some great advice for the injured athletes in this episode!

(Taken from Changing the Game Project's website) The mission of the Changing the Game Project is to ensure that we return youth sports to our children, and put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’  They want to provide the most influential adults in our children’s lives – their parents and coaches – with the information and resources they need to make sports a healthy, positive, and rewarding experience for their children, and their whole family.  Parenting and coaching young athletes is an art, not a science, and the information you find on their website can help you navigate the maze of youth sports, and put a smile on your young athlete’s face, whether he or she is 6 or 16 years old.

Their website is your one stop shopping for the latest and greatest information, research, and best practices regarding high performance, motivation, long term athletic development, fitness, nutrition, college recruiting, and more.  There you will find resources, training, videos, and books that can help you become the best parent or coach a kid could ever ask for.  It will help ensure that you do your part to make youth sports a wonderfully positive part of your child’s physical, social, and cognitive education.

Below you will find John's TEDx talk on Changing the game in youth sports.  John is an expert on the environment in youth sports and offers great insight into how we can fix it in this episode.  This is a must-listen for parents, coaches and adminstrators of young athletes.

Notes on Episode 83:

  • Trigger moments that made John want to change the game:
    • As an organizational director, while looking for resources to educate and help parents and coaches, information was lacking on how to communicate, motivate and inspire kids.
    • Watching his six-year-old daughter play soccer, on the next field over there was a ten-year-old game and it was chaos with the parents yelling at the 13 year old referee.
    • Saw the need for and intervention from someone with athletic, coaching and educational experiences. 
  • When does playing sports stop being about enjoyment?
    • We lose 70% of kids to organized sports by the age of 13, often before they ever have a trained coach.
      • No place for kids to just play for fun (pick up games/free play).
        • Lacking environments where kids have no fear of making mistakes.
      • Why do people think that if its not organized, it's not productive?
  • Usually pro athletes retire when the joy of playing no longer outweighs the injuries or the work needed to play at that level.
  • We live in a world now where we compare how we feel inside to how everyone else looks on the outside.
    • Parents fear their kid is getting left behind.
    • Very hard to think of the long-run.
  • Finding value in failure:
    • Adversity and setbacks leads you to where you are today.
    • Seek out adversity and protect against danger.
  • The difference between a bad coach vs. dangerous coach.
  • Great coaches coach the person, not the sport.
    • Customized coaching.
  • The importance of coaches embracing a growth mindset when they expect their kids to be openminded learners.
    • Making personal time for kids.
    • Being a better listener and communicator.
    • Making eye contact.
    • Being more consistent.
      • All can be learned.
  • John's Tib-Fib fracture when he was 17:
    • Coaches response to him sitting out in his first practice because of leg pain was,"What's wrong with you? You don't have the guts to make it"
  • John's approach to injured athletes when he was a coach:
    • Hurt vs. injured
    • Role of coach is to take an athlete to a place they never could on his or her own. 
    • Is this the time to push it?
  • John Wooden taking notes at National Basketball Coaches Association's Convention at 91 years old.
    • Embracing the growth mindset.
  • Moments of misalignment from John's current train of thought throughout his coaching career:
    • Didn’t realize the impact of his words.
    • Rule of 1, one athlete, one comment, one time can change everything.
    • You don’t get to pick and choose what the athlete remembers and forgets, so you better be intentional about what you say.
    • Shared personal story.
    • What did I want as a player? Am I acting that way now?
  • Sports Specialization.
    • For some kids it can be the right thing
      • If that’s what they want and they are not forced into it.
      • Still need well rounded strength and conditioning training and take time off.
    • Prior to the age of 12 research shows that's not a good idea.
      • Transferability to other sports.
    • More likely to burnout.
    • Overuse injuries.
    • An Athlete's whole identity being wrapped up in the one sport.
  • John’s injuries:
    • 24 broken bones.
      • soccer, skiing and mountain biking.
    • Yoga has helped him a lot to keep his movement and strength.
    • Tib-fib was the leg fracture.
      • Initially feeling sorry for himself.
      • Killed him to see healthy people who didn’t care.
      • John saw people in PT with catastrophic injuries at 17, realized he didn’t have it that bad, he is going to get over this.
  • Season ending injury advice:
    • For those losing interest or discouraged in returning, get back to where you were and then decide if you want to quit.
  • Career ending injury advice:
    • Is their life full with out the sport?
    • If empty, bring in professional help, like sports psychologists for example.
  • Transition to life after soccer:
    • Assistant coach at The University of Vermont.
    • Harder when he left coaching to work on Changing the Game.
  • Advice for parents coaching their own kids:
    • When practice is over you have to take your coach hat off, or else practice never ends.
    • Touching base with your kid to ensure they still want you to coach year after year.
    • Conscious of their friend dynamics.
  • Culture of safety pillars:
    • Every decision is made based on the welfare of the athlete, not the outcome of the game.
    • Those of us in charge of sports, educate yourself and err on the side of caution.
    • At the professional level they need to do better, because they are the model.
  • Toughness is having the courage to chase after what you believe in, even when its hard.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND MORE ON CHANGING THE GAME PROJECT?

WEBSITE | BOOK | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | YOUTUBE | PODCAST

WHERE CAN YOU FOLLOW JOHN O'SULLIVAN?

TWITTER | LINKEDIN | john@changingthegameproject.com

Download Episode 83 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud