Tag Archives: sports

5 Things You Learn When Your Preschooler Sees the Summer Olympics for the 1st Time

My child is not yet 5 years old, therefore this is the first time she has really seen the Summer Olympics on television.  When I first turned it on, I expected her to show zero interest in the games since many of the sports are completely alien to her (inexplicably, they don’t do a lot of Whitewater Canoeing at her preschool).  So, I figured she might ask a couple of general questions and then demand these shining spectacles of human accomplishment and perseverance be replaced by reruns of Paw Patrol.  I was extremely wrong.  It turns out when innocent eyes view the Olympic Games for the first time, you learn some things.

1.  Swimming is awesome

Young children can relate to the sport of swimming since they are still trying to learn the skill.  Many kids my daughter’s age can stay afloat to a reasonable extent and therefore understand and respect the general mechanics of the various strokes.  Other kids, like mine, still struggle with the basics and the only stroke they demonstrate is the lesser-known Plummeting Anchor.  My daughter watched in amazement as athletes shot through the water as if the act of swimming required little or no effort.  She also observed that none of them appeared to be wearing “floaties” or water wings, which may inspire her to shed her crutch sooner than later.

SwimCarnival 010

2.  Volleyball makes sense

Some events are more difficult to explain than others.  However, a preschooler can easily pick up the basics of volleyball since there is one ball and a net separates the two sides.  My child had never seen a volleyball match, but was absolutely fascinated by a women’s match between the U.S. and China.  And when I explained that most of the women were taller than her daddy, she gazed on in amazement as she surmised giants really do exists.

3.  Springboard Diving defies belief

Somehow I’ve taken for granted that there are people who can do somersaults and twists in the air before heading downward and knifing into a pool of water.  To eyes which have never seen this, it’s a phenomenon that defies all explanation.  My daughter quickly grasped the basic concept, but became impatient when divers stood on the springboard to collect themselves.  She couldn’t understand how they could control their excitement at having the opportunity to bounce off the board and splash into the blue (or later green) water.

4.  Synchronized Swimming may kill all of us

Much like her father, my child quickly became bored by this event.  At one point she yelled out, “I wish water didn’t exist.”  Confirming my suspicion that if she ever finds a genie in a bottle, we’re all toast.

genieLampHeart

5.  Fencing is anticlimactic and not at all like Star Wars

Imagine the disappointment on my sweet daughter’s face when, in spite of the competitors wearing cool masks and wielding “swords”, not one of them lost a hand prior to learning the true identity of a parent.  Additionally, not one competitor seemed to identify with the Empire or the Rebellion.  Instead, they all represented boring entities like actual countries.  Also, from the way some of the fencers whined about points, it was pretty clear none of them had trained in the Dagobah system and they probably needed to toughen up a bit.

Overall, watching the Olympics with my little one has been a fun experience.  The beauty of the games are that if my daughter is bored by one event, there is always another one to watch.  While she is less interested in some of the events I’d like to watch (distance running), many of the other events have become the subjects of long conversations that have led into general discussions regarding competition, nationality, adversity, and expectations (she asked me if I’d ever won a marathon).  In fact this Olympic Games may end up being my favorite of all time, even if nobody loses an appendage.

What has been your favorite event in 2016?  Comment below.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!

AVAILABLE NOW!

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

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Participation Trophies are Evil!! (Except for Mine)

“Trophies shouldn’t be given away, they need to be earned!”

“My child won’t be allowed to keep a trophy he didn’t win.”

“Participation trophies give kids an unhealthy sense of entitlement.”

Participation trophies are a hot topic and with good reason.  We’ve all heard quotes like the ones above when people argue that we are sending kids the wrong message by awarding them simply for showing up.  How insane must we be to allow our future generations to cling onto awards symbolizing an 8th place finish, when the only real accomplishment the kids made was to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide?

It’s silly.  It’s preposterous.  As adults, we know better and would NEVER subscribe to the current participation trophy culture that is obviously a sign of something horrible like the apocalypse or perhaps a Men With Hats concert.

I’m a distance runner (not a particularly good one), and it is an incredibly humbling sport in which only a handful of individuals in any race can earn awards.  It would be nuts to think every runner should receive a trophy simply for showing up and taking part in an event.

Well, I mean most races give you a T-shirt with the name of the race printed across the front.  But, that’s different.  Most runners have to work and train simply to be part of the event and not everyone is as naturally talented as those who can actually win a race.  It’s not like the race organizers give away trophies.  Well, except of the times every runner gets a race medal.  But again, that’s entirely different.  As well-adjusted adults, we understand we didn’t actually win the race.  The T-shirts and medals are simply reminders of the journey and the sacrifices made.  For runners, medals are symbols reminding us that we were part of something bigger.  They are reminders that we took part in something that can be challenging, yet fun.  The T-shirts and medals are simply tokens that show we… participated in a journey.

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The PA Dart Classic – 12th place in dart throwing (probably)

Okay.  Maybe this isn’t the best example.  After all, not everyone is a runner and plenty of people don’t take part in sports in any way, shape or form.  The closest many of us get to playing a sport is to root for the local baseball or football team.  And we certainly don’t blur the line between celebrating the accomplishments of professional athletes and our role as a spectators.

Sure, we wear clothing labeled with the logos of the teams, but we know we are doing nothing more than showing support for the organization.  It’s not like we say things like “We swept the Dodgers last week” or “Look how we stopped their running game”.  And the last thing we would do is to rush out and buy a Super Bowl Champions shirt or hat if our team won it all.  We aren’t part of the team.  We didn’t earn a championship.  We know that.

But let’s not trivialize our roles by acting as if we were nothing more than bystanders.  We watched the games on TV, sat in the stands, yelled and screamed, and debated with fans of the opposing teams.  We were emotionally (and financially) invested.  We were part of the entire journey.  We… participated.

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Huh.

Now that I think about it, maybe participation trophies aren’t really the problem.  After all, there are kids who really do deserve a trophy for doing little more than showing up.  There are children who struggle with being socially awkward.  There are kids with disabilities who want nothing more than to play on a team with all the other children who don’t have the same obstacles.  There are young people who have to overcome huge hurdles simply to take part in an activity.

Maybe participation trophies aren’t really a big deal after all.

Maybe the fact we are teaching our children that a trophy, rather than the experience gained throughout a journey, is the true measure of accomplishment, is the real issue.

What are your thoughts on participation trophies?  Leave a comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

AVAILABLE NOW!

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

Resolve

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover

Preschool Steroids, Gymnastics Tailgating, and Novel Writing

I don’t want my daughter to take gymnastics lessons.

You see, if she takes lessons then she may want to participate in competitions.

If she participates in competitions, then she will be judged by people who cannot help but allow some measure of subjectivity to influence the score she receives.  Therefore, the end result will always seem somewhat ambiguous and possibly biased.

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So, I also don’t want my daughter to compete in diving, ski jumping, and figure skating.  Of course this also means certain kinds of snowboarding, bike riding, and dancing are off the table.  Pretty much anything that involves “style points” just has to go.

I want my little girl to grow up in a world where if your team scores more points than the other, you win.  If your time is faster than the competition, you win.  If your opponent lifts more weight than you do, she wins and she did it honestly.  Unless she’s on steroids or HGH, which has yet to have been a problem identified in her preschool class.  Or so we think.

After all, isn’t the world supposed to function in a manner where quantitative measures define winning vs. losing and improvement vs. set backs?  We evaluate companies based on stock prices, employee performance based on statistics, and organizations based on memberships levels.

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Except when we don’t.

How can I not let my daughter to partake in activities based on subjective judgments while I navigate the realm of writing fiction?  What could possibly be less objective than the process of getting books published, having readers assign values to your words, and then watching helplessly as your work is discussed – and yes, judged – by those you have never met?

The hard truth about writing is that there are some very well-known bestsellers that aren’t really any better than some manuscripts that never get published.  The only difference is that at some point a judge in a publishing company decided one book “stuck the landing” while another had a technical flaw.  If you ask another judge about the same two books, the answer will often be the opposite.

The big secrets to success in the writing industry are:  1. Having some ability to write.  2.  Possessing a knowledge of the business.  3.  Getting lucky.  4.  Remembering that #3, trumps all other aspects.  The entire enterprise is extremely odd.  There is a ton of subjectivity involved and, while hard work helps, it does not guarantee an author will achieve any predetermined level of success.

Of course, now that I think about it, in the business world our performance could be evaluated unfairly by a supervisor.  Even if one uses statistics to assess your performance, who is to say the right stats are used?  And in our personal lives, we are constantly judged by some subjective measure.  The chances are you didn’t marry your husband simply because he rated high on a battery of tests and his Myers-Briggs personality type was found to be compatible with your own.  Not to mention, we often remind our kids that life isn’t fair and there is a reason that adage has been passed down for generations.  It’s because… life isn’t fair.

Someday, my child will get passed over for a promotion she earned.

Someday, my child will get screamed at and heckled for simply doing her job.

Someday, my child will own a broken heart because some guy made a subjective judgment.
(May I use this moment to remind any future potential suitors of her daddy’s training and background)

She will be judged, just as all of us get judged.  I suppose she may as well get used to the feeling.

Damn.  Do people tailgate for gymnastics?

I’d love to read your opinion on the topic.  Comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

AVAILABLE NOW!

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

Resolve

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover

 

 

Why the Rust Belt Cities Shine

As anyone who has read my novels knows, I’m a huge fan of Pittsburgh.  When my wife and I moved to this area from Washington, D.C. several years ago, we didn’t arrive with extremely high expectations. Okay… the truth is we set the bar of expectations so low that we would have had trouble tripping over it. At some point in the past, we had accepted images of an industrial age Steel City as being relevant to this century. It didn’t take much time for us to realize Pittsburgh is a vibrant and exciting city moving in a positive direction. But more importantly, the city had something I had sorely missed during my time in D.C. – which is a place where few people seem to actually be from. Pittsburgh, like many Rust Belt towns, had a personality.

city 1Pittsburgh

The Forging of a Populace

I think this is the case with most of the so-called Rust Belt cities. Cites like Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Detroit were forged with hammers and sweat. Gears turned, sparks flew, and engines roared due to people with calloused hands and severe dispositions. They were – and are – people of will, character, and pride. They built their cities from the ground up and now some members of the subsequent generations have resuscitated, and put their own stamps on, towns that declined due to changing economic conditions. A culture of perseverance thrives when a city’s citizens are molded by the fire of experience. This is something one could take for granted if he has never lived elsewhere.

DetroitGM Headquarters in Detroit

History Doesn’t Always Equal Identity

Obviously Washington, D.C. has a rich history unlike anywhere else in the nation. However, the transient nature of the population and the cookie-cutter developments of the suburbs can leave one feeling the area lacks an identity. The same can be said for other cities that have either not had to take punches that echoed for decades or have lost their own identity because of economics or population decline.

Reversal of Brain Drain through Adoption

Regarding that decline, one of the issues the Rust Belt has faced has been that many of those who have fled have been young people with college degrees. I think this trend is not only slowing, but is being affected by people like me who have moved into the area, fallen in love with it, had kids, and have developed a positive attitude about the region that will likely rub off on future generations.   And interestingly, transplants into the Rust Belt don’t necessary dilute the blue-collar, pride-filled personality that exists.

Rock and RollRock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland

Instead, the personality of the area becomes part of the transplanted individual. I think we (transplants) feel the need to step up our game and live up to the expectations of cities that don’t take excuses. You can’t cry over spilled milk, because the guy next to you is wondering why you aren’t drinking a good beer. You don’t blush if you fall down, because the people all around you have been there – done that. And you don’t make fun of Rust Belt sport teams because… well… you just don’t.

Who Made Who?

Perhaps the magic of the Rust Belt is that transplants don’t adopt the cities, but the cities adopt, and transform, the people who move there. The buildings may scar; the streets may crack; and the bridges may tarnish. However, they can be – and are being – rebuilt. Some of the hammers are being replaced by scalpels and the vats of molten steel have been largely supplanted by keyboards housed in Fortune 500 companies.  But the hands wielding these tools belong to people who either were raised in a city where fortitude is a must, or adopted by a city in which the bar is continuously being raised.

Regardless, there are some new sparks flying around in Rust Belt cities.  And when sparks start showing up in those towns, you know something serious is going on.

What are your impressions of the Rust Belt?  Feel free to share your story in the comments!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Planes, Trains, and BENGAY in Uncomfortable Places

I learned a great deal in school.  I learned how our government is structured.  I became acquainted with the roles of protons, neutrons, and electrons.  I discovered I’ll never be able to finish Wuthering Heights.  I learned that if I’m on a Train A which is traveling at 35 mph, and Train B is 5 miles ahead and traveling 15 mph, it will take me until Hell freezes over to figure out when I’ll catch that stupid train.  But, I also learned a great deal outside of the classroom through sports.  There are 5 main lessons I learned on the baseball diamond, basketball court, and cross-country trail and all of them have proven to be extremely valuable in life.

1.  We all have limitations

If you watch TV commercials, you can be fooled into thinking that if you work harder than anyone else, you can make it to the pros.  Here’s the thing… you probably can’t.  Some of us can work extremely hard, but will not possess the physical gifts to be able to play centerfield for a professional baseball team, linebacker in the NFL, or win a marathon.  If fact most of us – regardless of the level of effort given – will not be good enough to play at the collegiate level.  And that’s okay.  If we pay attention to this lesson, we figure out that we can get a great deal out of the struggle to achieve, whether or not we actually reach our goal.  Not everyone can be a pro hockey player and not everyone can be an astrophysicist.  Maybe you wanted to fly a jet in the military, but your eyesight isn’t good enough.  That’s just the way it is.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best, but it puts our “failures” in perspective.

  1. Sometimes you lose

Our best, or our team’s best, may not be good enough on a given day.  Sometimes things just fall in place for your opponent, or maybe you have been the victim of a bad officiating call.  It happens in sports and it happens in life.  At some point, most of us have been rejected for a job for which we knew we were qualified.  Or you probably missed out on a promotion you felt you earned.  I think this is easier to handle when you learn winning is not absolute at age 8, rather than when you are 28.

crying

  1. People need to be able to depend on you

Most sports and jobs involve a team.  This means there are others who need to know you will show up and try your best each and every day.  If you mentally check out, the ramifications are not limited to your own well-being.  Just as your basketball team needs your full attention, your work unit is relying on you to finish an assignment.

  1. Never rub BENGAY on a pulled muscle, forget about it, and then go to the bathroom.

This is just solid advice.  Always.

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  1. Practices should be just as difficult, if not more difficult, than the real game

I played basketball in high school and I cannot remember one single game that was harder than our practices.  One of my fondest sports memories is when we beat a talented team from a much larger school, in triple overtime.  We won because our practices were so demanding that even a 3 OT game wasn’t overly daunting.  We were both mentally and physically tough because our coaches pushed us beyond what we thought were our limitations.

It’s the same if you are giving a presentation or coordinating an event in the workplace.  If you can make the practice sessions ridiculously hard, everything goes smoothly on game day.  That lesson has served me well when I was in law enforcement and when I moved to the “civilian” side of operations.  When your game day feels like a rest day, there is a decent chance you’ve already won.

 

There are plenty of other quality lessons we learn from sports when we are young, but these may have been the most important for me.  What concerns me now is the fact so many kids are not participating in sports and instead lose themselves in a videogame world where you never really deal with loss, but simply start over with another life.  While I played my share of videogames, my parents always encouraged me (but never forced me) to compete in athletics.  This forced me to deal with the elation of achievement as well as the despair of defeat.  Now, I fully realize that not all kids are able to play sports, but there are other ways to learn these lessons.  Whether the field of play is a baseball diamond or a math field day, the same lessons can be learned – although you may not need the BENGAY advice for a social studies fair.

What lessons have you or your kids learned from competing?

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

AVAILABLE NOW!

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

Resolve

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air