Getting back in the saddle

Gemini

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Everyone who competes on a regular basis will sooner or later run into an opponent who is far superior than themselves. I have seen competitors who have folded under the load and never returned, and others who are able to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and return. My question is, what have any of you found that works to help someone get past such a bad experience and go on or worked to get yourself back on track. I know there is no "One size fits all" solution and I'm looking for options. I had one such student at a competition yesterday and I have one week to do the right thing.

I have alot more to add to this, but this is enough to start the ball rolling. Responses do not need to be limited to competition as I'm asking about a state of mind, not competition in particular.

Alll responses are appreciated.
 

FearlessFreep

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It never occurred to me not too. When I started sparring practice in class, I was the least experienced so I usually lost anyway :) Now I regularly train against someone who is much better than me so while he measures is attack, etc.. to my skill, in the back of my mind I still know "he's much better and would destroy me if he wanted". I still remember a guy I used to spar who was much bigger than me, and more experienced, but fairly slow. As a beginner, he was very difficult for me, he would plant himself in the middle of the ring and just take my shots in his arms. This frustrated me so I spent a lot of time working on techniques against a larger opponent and how to use my size to my advantage and other things; it was a challange to learn to 'beat' him.

I guess when I was younger, there wasn't much of a choice. I was on the swim team and we went to practice every day and then on Saturdays were the meets. I often got beat by much faster swimmers but, Monday afternoon we were all back at the pool practicing. Maybe since my parents took mye to practice every day there was never really a thought in my mind to quit because I had lost. Maybe my parents just taught me not to quit against adversity.

As a musician you realize that there is *always* someone better than you. Often much better. It's no shame to run into them, usually it inspires you to work harder and do better. Sometimes it makes you realize that you'll never be at that level, but you still keep playing because you enjoy the music you create anyway.

I guess the first thing to do is to realize that there's always someone better, and there's bound to be someone much better, and someday you may run into them. No shame in that. Second is that when you do run into someone better, take it as a challenge to become better.
 
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Exellant analogy. Fortunately my fighting and singing skills are up to par. If I didn't have the same attitude about my guitar playing skills I'd have quit decades ago. As it is I'm becoming a very competant slide guitarist.
 
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Gemini

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FearlessFreep said:
It never occurred to me not too....take it as a challenge to become better.
You and I have faced that demon and conquered it. The individual I'm talking about is only 12. On the verge of growing up, but not there yet.

Yes, there is always someone better, and I certainly appreciate your analogy. The problem is, when that someone better is going to knock the snot out of you is a bit different than a non contact sport or music.

It's very easy for young ones (and adults for that matter) to say, I don't have to fight this fight. I'll just quit and then not worry about it anymore.

We all know that "It's not the size of the Tiger in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the Tiger" is a very true statement. But from knowing that to saying, making someone understand it, then believe, and accept it, is the trick.
 

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I think we sometimes place too much focus on the external events. Unless your student is facing the exact same person in the same situation, the competition is irrelevant. The desire to win or the willingness to lose come with within.

How does the student feel about the match? We can spout philosophy all day long but unless we get to the heart of the student's feelings, it won't matter.

Perspective is created by how our mind frames the experiences we have. Losing the competition didn't have to be a spiritual loss. If it seems so to the student, I would start by simply allowing the student to open up about the competition and his/her feelings on the whole event.

Instead of jumping to the first bit of encouragement that comes to mind with what they say, keep listening. Sometimes we just need to be heard by someone we respect.

At the same time, take mental note of what is really getting to your pupil. Then, you can make the best use of your time by employing your wisdom and experience toward helping your student reframe their perspective.

I wish you well. Not winning the competition will never be the same as losing.
 

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I have a 13 yo son and 11 yo daughter so I know where you are coming from. As their parent, at this point in the game, I can make them get back in there if I think they need to. I mean, I can tell them that they *are* going to spar in the next tournament. I don't do it roughly or anything, I am considerate and encouraging, but I have the authority, if you will, to sign them up and drive them out and make them do it, so to speak. (The fact that I'm there as well probably helps).

So...talking to the child's parents may help. See if you can get them 'on your side' so to speak to encourage the student to keep at it.

One thing I talk to my kids about is learning to focus. As adults, we know how to focus on the goal and not on the pain, so to speak, but kids don't naturally know that and need to learn that...and sometimes need to be pushed through it. You get kicked and it hurts. Mentally you can focus on the pain and wrap yuor mind around it so that's all you notice, or you can focus on the goal and push past the pain. That helps a lot in cotinuing to fight regardless of pain or discomfort or even whether you are losing or winning or not.

One thing we talk about in class a lot is that if you are on the street, the 'bad guy' is not going to stop just because you took a shot that knocked the wind out of you or you got kicked and bruised or something. Yes, a real injury is worth stopping for, but in the sense of sparring and training for adversity, just getting 'hurt' is not sufficient to stop the match and to back out and cry over because when it matters, that's just going to get you hurt more.

As Navarre said, unless you have a very small circle of competition, the next match will be against someone else, so worrying about that one opponent is not productive. Remind the student of when he has done well, of any wins or any other successfull encounters he has had. Remind him of past successes to get him away from fretting over past failures.

Also, talk about the match he lost. Focus on he things he did well "remember when you XXX and it *worked*, don't forget to do that again, that was very effective" and also on some of the negatives, " he kicked you in the head because you let your hands drop and left yourself open...lets work on keeping the hands up" and also find techniques and approaches that were effective *against* your student and use them as examples. "Did you notice how he used switch stances and quick attacks to get you off your guard, that's something you can do, too...it's an effective technique" It helpls if you can get him not to thing of the match as "I got beat" and start thinking of it more objectively and think not about the fact that he got beat but *how* and *why* and what he can learn from that in being more effective as well as not making certain mistakes

One thing that may help is to basically treat him as if you assume he's going to compete again. Don't trat him like he's quitting, treat him like he's going to go into the ring again and you expect him to do well. It will be easy for him, at 12, to pick up on any negative in the sense of if you treat him like he won't fight again, then that will be something he uses to reinforce and justify his thoughts and decisions. If you treat him like you fully expect and assume him to spar again, that could help strengthen his resolve.



I only use 'he' in a general sense. You didn't indicate if the student was boy or girl and I have two daughters in TKD, so I don't realy assumme it's 'he'
 
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Navarre said:
I think we sometimes place too much focus on the external events. Unless your student is facing the exact same person in the same situation, the competition is irrelevant.
He may well face the same student again next week. If he does, I need him to be able to do it with everything he has, win or loose. That's my concern.

Navarre said:
How does the student feel about the match? We can spout philosophy all day long but unless we get to the heart of the student's feelings, it won't matter.
The student had an asthma attach and couldn't finish the match. That's the official version. Reality. The student had an anxiety attack caused by fear. I know this because after about an hour, the student came up to me and said, "I got my butt kicked". He acknowledged the reality of the situation. I looked at that as a very good sign and the student having the potential to get past this. Now it's up to me to be able to guide the student. I could still ruin this.

Navarre said:
Perspective is created by how our mind frames the experiences we have. Losing the competition didn't have to be a spiritual loss. If it seems so to the student, I would start by simply allowing the student to open up about the competition and his/her feelings on the whole event.
I agree with this and it was my intention to do so. I have not done this yet because I was looking for an affirmation that this was a positive course of action.

Navaree said:
Not winning the competition will never be the same as losing.
Idealy, no, but handled incorrectly, could be. What a shame that would be.
 

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Also remind him that it's just a sport, it's just a game. We put on all the pads so that you feel the shot and it takes some from your attack, but no-one really is going to get hurt, very likely. So getting your butt kicked is okay. It's tiring and your sore for a bit but, everyone lives to spar another day. An anxiety attack at that age over this is probably not too suprising, it can be very intimidating to get your butt kicked and sometimes at 12 your not able to see that even when you're getting your butt kicked, it's still just a sport, it's not something to be afraid of.

Maybe I'm silly but I find it relaxing to talk to my opponents before and after and just hang out and be friendly and just to remind myself, and them ,that....we're going to get on the mat and try to beat each other, but that doesn't mean we really want to hurt each other or can't have respect for each other and have a good time together

Remind him that, win or lose, it should be fun
 
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FearlessFreep said:
One thing I talk to my kids about is learning to focus. As adults, we know how to focus on the goal and not on the pain, so to speak, but kids don't naturally know that and need to learn that...and sometimes need to be pushed through it. You get kicked and it hurts. Mentally you can focus on the pain and wrap yuor mind around it so that's all you notice, or you can focus on the goal and push past the pain. That helps a lot in cotinuing to fight regardless of pain or discomfort or even whether you are losing or winning or not.
This is exactly what I did so far, but I still need to drive the point home. I don't feel I've done that yet.

FearlessFreep said:
Also, talk about the match he lost. Focus on he things he did well "remember when you XXX and it *worked*, don't forget to do that again, that was very effective" and also on some of the negatives, " he kicked you in the head because you let your hands drop and left yourself open...lets work on keeping the hands up" and also find techniques and approaches that were effective *against* your student and use them as examples. "Did you notice how he used switch stances and quick attacks to get you off your guard, that's something you can do, too...it's an effective technique" It helpls if you can get him not to thing of the match as "I got beat" and start thinking of it more objectively and think not about the fact that he got beat but *how* and *why* and what he can learn from that in being more effective as well as not making certain mistakes

One thing that may help is to basically treat him as if you assume he's going to compete again. Don't trat him like he's quitting, treat him like he's going to go into the ring again and you expect him to do well. It will be easy for him, at 12, to pick up on any negative in the sense of if you treat him like he won't fight again, then that will be something he uses to reinforce and justify his thoughts and decisions. If you treat him like you fully expect and assume him to spar again, that could help strengthen his resolve.
I have approached it in this manner, but I still have work to do. I'm waiting for the right time.

The hard part for me is that the student in question is my son. It's very difficult for me to be objective and I prefer to come here and raise the issue because, as any other parent, I doubt I treat my own kids the way I treat others. My objectivity goes out the window.

After the first round, he came back and I saw the doubt in his eyes. I don't remember what I said, but it must have been the wrong thing, because he began to wimper and said he couldn't breathe. I told him to stop, take a breathe and relax. He said I CAN'T BREATHE and began crying hard. This kid NEVER cries. I knew at that point it was me who was screwing up. I totally failed to bring him where he needed to be.

I know now I can no longer coach him, because I cannot be objective. I let my personal feelings of trying to protect my son interfere with what he needed. I just don't want to cause any more damage than I already have. I've seen too many kids allowed to excuse themselves from this situation. I will not let him be one of them.
 

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I fear you have suffered as much emotional damage as your son. It is clear you are traumatized by this event too, which is quite understandable.

I would, however, take a moment to reflect on where strength needs to be applied. Be careful that removing yourself from being your son's teacher doesn't make it worse for him.

Will he view this, however subconsciously, as being abandoned due to failure? You made a commitment to him just like your other students. You wouldn't leave them, would you?

Just like the rest of parenting, I think you need to buckle down and do your best. Shaking up his world even more seems to be a bad idea.
 

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This is exactly what I did so far, but I still need to drive the point home. I don't feel I've done that yet.

Trust me, it's not going to happen all at once. It's not something that just flips on like a siwtch in the child's head. It's a constant process, a learning process.

All you can do is see when they are about to go into the mode and try to refocus by reminding them of what they are trying to do. If you are coaching them and they get kicked hard in the solar plexus and you see them want to double over and back out when they lose ther wind, you can call out to them positive things to remind them of the goal. You can *help* them to re-focus and that will eventually be instilled in them as a habit, but it's not something you can just tell them to do and they suddenly 'get it'. You can talk with them about it afterwards.

The hard part for me is that the student in question is my son.

That can be good and bad. You lose your objectivity, but at the same time you have the authority to toss him back on the mat, so to speak. ou also have a lot more time with him than other students to talk things over.

It may be hard, but one thing you can try to do is think of the greater goal. In the short term hit hurts to watch your child get beat up, in the long term it may be good for him *if* it serves a better good.

I'll give you an example. My son was in a match and he 'won', but he got a 'bye' in the first round and the only match he fought, the other kids had to forfeit from a leg injury. However, I though my son fought poorly; he suddenly realized the rules allowed him to do head kicks so every attack was a head kick, but he was very slow and easily blocked. I thought he was going to lose the match until he won by forfeit. Now, my son is naturally talented things come easily to him and he usually does well. As a result he sometimes gets an ego and he doesn't handle failure very well. I truly wish he had lost that match, because he was out fought; I don't think he won it in a way to be proud of, and I think his ego could use a notch taken down. We have a tournament next month. I will be very proud of him if he goes in hard and does well and wins, but I also know that if he loses, it will be good for him. I think he really needs to get his butt kicked by someone of his peers so he can learn to get past that adversity, because it doesn't happen often for him

My daughter got beat in her last match, her first time out and she was dominated by a larger boy. Now I have to mentally and emotionally pick her up to prepare her for the event and let her know that *I* believe in her and that she can be successful. I wasn't happy watching her get beat up but..it's a sport, and she got beat by a better opponent so it's something to learn from and go forward from

I know now I can no longer coach him, because I cannot be objective. I let my personal feelings of trying to protect my son interfere with what he needed. I just don't want to cause any more damage than I already have. I've seen too many kids allowed to excuse themselves from this situation. I will not let him be one of them.

I think you have to. You have to show him you believe in him, that he can believe in you. Don't let him quit, but don't quit on him either
 

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Gemini said:
Everyone who competes on a regular basis will sooner or later run into an opponent who is far superior than themselves. I have seen competitors who have folded under the load and never returned, and others who are able to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and return. My question is, what have any of you found that works to help someone get past such a bad experience and go on or worked to get yourself back on track. I know there is no "One size fits all" solution and I'm looking for options. I had one such student at a competition yesterday and I have one week to do the right thing.

I have alot more to add to this, but this is enough to start the ball rolling. Responses do not need to be limited to competition as I'm asking about a state of mind, not competition in particular.

Alll responses are appreciated.

How long has your son been sparring/competing? Rather than having him look at sparring/competing as win/lose, he should be looking at each time as a learning session. It certainly does get frustrating, but it needs to constantly be re-enforced that he needs to get back in there and keep trying. Obviously, having him train with people who are better, will in turn, make him better. Of course, this needs to be done in a way that will benefit him, not turn into him being someones punching bag.

As for you not feeling like you can no longer coach him...I don't see why you would or should stop. It may be good to have someone else coach him, but you can still give input.

Mike
 

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I've seen this happen to kids that I've coached, and sometimes they might fall into that funk of thinking that there's no way to win. At the risk of sounding like some ancient lesson reciter, I'll simply say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

One way that I've found can help ease them out of that funk, is to show them some tapes of the other folks that beat them. I won't initially focus on what the depressed kid may have done wrong, but instead, will have him take a long, hard look at the other guy's actions. That's where we discuss strategies, the tendencies of the opponent, etc. Sooner or later, you will find something that might be an opening, and point that out to the kid, showing that the opponent isn't invincible, after all.
 
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I want to thank you all for your responses. It's the different ways of looking at the situation that I wanted feed back on.

First, I will admit that yes, this was traumatic for me, not because it happened, I always knew this day would come. It's because I couldn't re-focus him when I needed to. Something I've always been able to do with the other kids. I don't look at removing myself as his coach from the stand point of abandoning him, as much as to get out of his way. Our Sabumnim will coach him next time. We had 10 kids in the tournament and as often happens, eight of them went at the same time.

He's been competing for about two and a half years. I've coached him the entire time. I'll of course, still be close by, but this is one of the opinions I was looking for. You and Mike (MJS) seem to feel it's a mistake. Maybe that's something I need to re-consider.

FearlessFreep said:
It may be hard, but one thing you can try to do is think of the greater goal. In the short term hit hurts to watch your child get beat up, in the long term it may be good for him *if* it serves a better good.
I agree whole heartedly. At some point this had to happen. It's part of maturing. As the old saying goes, "The first time it happens isn't anyone's fault. The second time it happens is your own fault". That's what I'm looking to avoid. He's lost before. No big deal. Now he's been beat soundly. Fine. But not again.

On a positive note, after the tournament on Saturday, he went out and played hockey. (His other sport of choice) and soundly dominated the other team. Almost like he had something to prove. Two more games on Sunday, same thing. I think he did it to heal himself.

For my part, I've been playing it off as just another tourney. I'm only showing the chinks in my armor here. Never in front of him. And yes, Grenadier, we'll be watching the tapes at some point this week. I need a better game plan. He needs better execution. Let's go to the tape.

Thanks again, guys.
 

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Don,

First let me say good for you for seeking advice on this! :asian: Parenting is tough and trying to coach your own child is even tougher I think! I agree about the whole perspective discussion going on here. If you can help your son change his perspective on this he might come to see this differently and take away things he never knew he could before. Hopefully you can help him to open up to his feelings so you can better understand what is in his head. As a parent of two kids in highly competitive sports I'm going to share some random thoughts with you:

First it would be great if you could find some private time to discuss some of your son's feelings with him. One really great way to get kids talking is to find something in your own childhood or life that might come close to what he is going through and first open up to him about how you may have felt. Kids need to know that they are not alone in how they feel. It will help him relate to you better if he sees that you can connect with what he is going through.

I don't mean this next part as a criticism, just something to consider. Is winning important to you? As parents we are proud of our children when they find success in something. It's very normal to be excited for them. In fact it is difficult not to be excited and enthusiastic when they win or do well at something! How can you not? :partyon: The thing to be aware of though is that each time this happens we project something about how we feel about winning and losing to our children. I ask because sometimes our children are seeking our approval in the things that they do. If your approval is important to him and he believes that winning is important to you (whether or not it is), he may be having a difficult time accepting anything less because in doing so he may feel (from his perspective) he is letting you down. If this is the case it will be magnified by the fact that you are in a duel role here.

In terms of coaching, I agree that you should not suddenly drop out of the coaching role. That could lead to feelings of abandonment. Your son is 13. He is growing up - a teenager, so instead of dropping out I would, with sincerity, discuss with him how he feels about your being his coach, and share your concerns if the moment calls for that. Let this discussion help you in your decision making on this one. If you come to a decision together that you should take a lesser role in his coaching, be sure he knows that you are always willing to be there for him in that role.

MJ :asian:
 
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mj-hi-yah said:
Hopefully you can help him to open up to his feelings so you can better understand what is in his head.
Well, that's the trick. As most males, he's not really inclined to talk about feelings. When trying to find out where his head is at, a good deal of attention needs to be paid to his how he says his typical single word responses. He doesn't (and never has) liked to talk about how he feels about anything. Apples don't fall too far from the tree.

mj-hi-yah said:
One really great way to get kids talking is to find something in your own childhood or life that might come close to what he is going through and first open up to him about how you may have felt. Kids need to know that they are not alone in how they feel. It will help him relate to you better if he sees that you can connect with what he is going through.
I definately agree and have done this. Giving examples of both when I was his age, and when I was facing an opponent far superior than myself. No response, but I know he heard me.

mj-hi-yah said:
I don't mean this next part as a criticism, just something to consider. Is winning important to you?...If your approval is important to him and he believes that winning is important to you (whether or not it is), he may be having a difficult time accepting anything less because in doing so he may feel (from his perspective) he is letting you down. If this is the case it will be magnified by the fact that you are in a duel role here.
Well, I have a very different approach to winning and losing than most people. Winning or losing isn't the goal. It's the result of the goal. I'm very analitical about it. If you train, prepare (mentally and physically), devise and execute, you will win. It isn't magic. If you don't, you see were you fell short and adjust. No. I don't look at winning or losing as the goal. Winning is always great, but losing is an opportunity to evaluate, adjust and grow (to FearlessFreep's point). Then try to win again. The only thing I have no tolerance for is the failure to represent. That holds true for all my boys in all their efforts. Carry yourself with pride, always give your best and NEVER degrade another person. They know my mind in this.

mj-hi-yah said:
In terms of coaching, I agree that you should not suddenly drop out of the coaching role. That could lead to feelings of abandonment. Your son is 13. He is growing up - a teenager, so instead of dropping out I would, with sincerity, discuss with him how he feels about your being his coach, and share your concerns if the moment calls for that. Let this discussion help you in your decision making on this one. If you come to a decision together that you should take a lesser role in his coaching, be sure he knows that you are always willing to be there for him in that role.
I've been giving this serious thought as you all have shown me I probably jumped the gun here. If I ask him, he'll say "yea". But will it be because he won't want to hurt my feelings or he really wants me to. Hmmm. Again, it's the read into the one word response I'm going to get.

On a positive note, he hasn't even hinted that he doesn't want to compete next week. If that's really the case, I've never seen a kid adjust that quickly. It's very suspect to me. He needs to know it's okay to have doubt. But if that's the case, I need to know now. Unfortunately, I've seen where even bringing up the issue has raised doubt where there was none before. Tricky business, this....
 

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Gemini said:
On a positive note, he hasn't even hinted that he doesn't want to compete next week. If that's really the case, I've never seen a kid adjust that quickly. It's very suspect to me. He needs to know it's okay to have doubt. But if that's the case, I need to know now. Unfortunately, I've seen where even bringing up the issue has raised doubt where there was none before. Tricky business, this....

Good advice given here by so many already it is hard to add anything that may help. I offer a word of encouragement stating that I think you looking past your own experiences and looking to others is a good measure of the kind of man you are. If it is true that the acorn don't fall far from the tree, then you already have your answer. I know what works for my youngest (who also doesn't like to talk about her feelings until she is darn well ready) is to return to regularly scheduled programming, sorta speak. He will let you know what he needs, kids are great for this. It may not be straight forward, but you will know. Good luck this weekend Gemini, you seem to be doing well so far, don't change a thing until he lets you know it needs changing. 12 year olds teeter between pre-adulthood and children, this is when they need to know we are behind them the most.
 

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Gemini said:
Well, that's the trick. As most males, he's not really inclined to talk about feelings. When trying to find out where his head is at, a good deal of attention needs to be paid to his how he says his typical single word responses. He doesn't (and never has) liked to talk about how he feels about anything. Apples don't fall too far from the tree.

No response, but I know he heard me.
People can change, so teach him how to become an apple pie instead of a plain ole apple by becoming one yourself...The more you talk about your feelings the more he will be inclined to open up about his...either way, he's definitely listening...so just keep talking. It seems you're on the right track with parenting, winning, attitudes and all!


On a positive note, he hasn't even hinted that he doesn't want to compete next week. If that's really the case, I've never seen a kid adjust that quickly. It's very suspect to me. He needs to know it's okay to have doubt. But if that's the case, I need to know now. Unfortunately, I've seen where even bringing up the issue has raised doubt where there was none before. Tricky business, this....
This is tricky and I don't envy you here! I wish you a good outcome! :)
 
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Gemini

Gemini

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Lisa said:
I offer a word of encouragement stating that I think you looking past your own experiences and looking to others is a good measure of the kind of man you are.
A dumb blonde if you ask some...*poke,poke* :uhyeah:

Seriously, I have a great deal of respect for many people on this board and the opinions they offer. It wouldn't be the first time people didn't agree with me, but sometimes it shouldn't be. That's why I ask the question. I don't have all the answers, not do I have a problem admitting it.

Lisa said:
Good luck this weekend Gemini, you seem to be doing well so far, don't change a thing until he lets you know it needs changing. 12 year olds teeter between pre-adulthood and children, this is when they need to know we are behind them the most.
Thank you, Lisa. I will definately post how it goes.
 

MJS

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Gemini said:
I want to thank you all for your responses. It's the different ways of looking at the situation that I wanted feed back on.

You're Welcome! :ultracool


He's been competing for about two and a half years. I've coached him the entire time. I'll of course, still be close by, but this is one of the opinions I was looking for. You and Mike (MJS) seem to feel it's a mistake. Maybe that's something I need to re-consider.

I certainly don't think that its a mistake. I appologize if that's the impression that I gave off. You both have an obvious interest in the arts, so IMHO, I feel that its a good thing to play a role in this activity.

Mike
 
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