Aerial Yoga Athletes


Hannah Annie Pose - Bounce Gymnastics

Take a minute to close your eyes and imagine what it would feel like to fly through the air, with the wind blowing against your skin and the feeling of absolute freedom.  Now add to that the thrill of people cheering you on, calling out your name and becoming an inspiration to many.  Or imagine the excitement as you dangle from silk, using nothing but sheer strength to hold yourself up, or just knowing that you depend on someone to catch you as you flip from swing to swing in your circus act.  People who participate in Aerial Arts get to experience those feelings every day, and what an experience it must be!

Acrobatics have been practiced all over the world for many, many years.  As far back as 2,000 BC, people have been depicted balancing on the backs of bulls while performing different acts of acrobatics!  Acrobatics has been a part of Chinese culture since the Western Han Dynasty, where it was included in village festivals.  It eventually found its way into the noble courts, mainly through the 7th through 10th century.  Acrobatics remains a popular sport and form of entertainment in China, where it is still practiced today and considered to be an important art form.  China wasn’t the only country to partake in the acrobatic arts, though – Just like in China, acrobatics (along with juggling and other talents) were performed in the noble courts during the Middle Ages by the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

6 Year Old Boy from ChinaTightrope Walking is probably one of the most popular acts at the circus.  The performers are able to walk on the rope by shifting their weight over their legs and arms, which takes a lot of concentration and dedication to becoming completely in tune with your body and knowing just how you should move.  There are a few different styles of Tightrope Walking.  There is Tightwire, which is the act of walking on a highly tensioned wire between two points.  Some performers choose to use a tool to help them balance, such as an umbrella or balance pole, while others prefer going freehand.  There is also Highwire, which is exactly the same as Tightwire, only much higher.  Skywalking is closely related to Highwire, except it’s done at such great heights and lengths that it’s generally performed outdoors and between things like skyscrapers, mountains or any other object the performer would like to use or possibly sees as a challenge to overcome!

The trapeze is a daring stunt.  No matter if it’s Static Trapeze or Flying Trapeze, those men and women overcome any fears they might have just to entertain their loving audience while doing what makes them happiest!  There are many forms of trapeze, but the most known forms are Flying Trapeze and Static Trapeze – the only real difference between the two is, with Static Trapeze, the bars and ropes stay in one place while the performers do various stunts.  Flying Trapeze is where two performers act together, swinging and flipping and jumping — then are caught by the other performer.  There is also something called Multiple Trapeze, which is very similar to Static Trapeze except they use two or more bars instead of the usual one.

Aerial hoop – Sabrina Aganier

Aerial Hoops can also be used instead of the normal bars.  There are a couple different styles performers can choose from – a standard circular hoop that hangs from a rope, or a circle with a straight top that is typically used for more intricate Aerial Hoop acts.  Performers can sit inside or on top of the hoop (depending on which model they use) and acts can have multiple performers, just like with Trapeze.

Back when trapeze acts were still being developed, they didn’t use a safety net like they do today – they used to lay mattresses beneath the performers in case one fell.  Nowadays, performers are hooked up to a safety harness during practice until they have mastered whichever trick they are attempting.  Trapeze stunts are also done closer to the ground than they were back in the early days – now, the performers act at around 20 to 40 feet in the air and above a safety net. Although it’s rare, you can still find some particularly risk-taking trapeze artists who choose not to use a safety net at all!

Closely related to the trapeze is Aerial Silk – an act where a performer climbs a special kind of fabric, generally not even “silk” at all, but rather a stretch polyester lycra – without the use of any form of safety net or harness, but with only their skills and training to protect them (along with some rosin on their hands to help them grip the fabric!).  Once they’ve climbed to the desired height, they use the fabric to help them swing, fall, suspend, fly through the air and strike poses.

Blue Silks - Naja RossoffWhen it comes to Aerial Silk, the way you wrap yourself in fabric can help a lot with your tricks.  The more complicated the wrap, the stronger the friction – which means that, if done correctly, you can even let go of the silk and remain held up by the fabric alone!  Aerial Silk is a fascinating art form, but requires a lot of patience, grace, strength and courage to master (although, by the look of it, it’s well worth the effort!).

Similar to Aerial Silk is something called Spanish Web.  The tricks and moves are very much alike, only with Spanish Web, the performer uses a rope that has been covered in cloth along with an ankle strap (that can also be attached to their wrist) that attaches to the rope.  While suspended on the rope, someone called a “web setter” can spin the rope in large circles, which allows the performer to become almost completely horizontal to the rope.  The Cloud Swing is like a perfect mix of Trapeze and Spanish web and is fairly new to the world of Aerial Arts.  It uses a long rope that strongly resembles the rope used in Spanish Web, and the moves that are performed resemble the moves used in Trapeze.  There is another version called Mexican Cloud Swing where the tricks are performed at a higher altitude.

There are numerous health benefits to Aerial Arts.  Each of the different forms mentioned above have a unique way of working multiple muscle groups, resulting in a firm and toned body.  Aerial Arts and acrobatics are great for both the body and mind since it helps with things such as coordination, flexibility and perception — which is why it’s recommended by doctors all over the world.

Aerial Yoga is a popular new way to get in shape.  While using the same kind of fabric as Aerial Defying Gravity Aerial Yoga - Naja RossoffSilk performers, people who participate in Aerial Yoga learn how to do variations of standard yoga moves, but while dangling in the air! It’s easy to see why this trend it catching on – you get all the same benefıts that you would with standard yoga, but with the added fun of challenging yourself to perform the moves in a whole new way.  And besides, who wouldn’t want to strengthen their core and improve their flexibility midair?

Aerial Arts have come a long way.  New techniques for both the art itself and the safety precautions required to do the moves are constantly improved upon, and the venues to learn Aerial Arts are much more readily available.  It used to be that if you wanted to learn any type of acrobatics, you had to be born into a family that practiced the art form.  Skills were taught from generation to generation and, while this is still true for many circus families, there are now many schools you can go to in order to learn whichever form of acrobatics that you’d like– giving those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be born into a circus family the opportunity to learn impressive new skills.  And who knows…maybe you can start a circus family of your own right here in Eugene with BOUNCE GYMNASTICS!

BOUNCE GYMNASTICS is the only gymnastics studio in Eugene that offers training on aerial apparatus, which includes silks, trapeze, cloud swing (a thick rope that hangs like a hammock), and lyra (a ring shaped apparatus that hangs on end from the ceiling).

Aerial Yoga is an innovative program that blends the beneficial elements of traditional yoga methodology with the unique conditioning of aerial arts.  A cross between a yoga class and an aerial class, Aerial Yoga is designed to incorporate the balancing and stretching components of yoga with the strengthening and exhilarating components of aerial arts.  No aerial experience necessary. All levels welcome!

Kids Circus Camp - Bounce GymnasticsCircus Arts Beginning levels AGES 7-17
In this class students will explore many of the core circus arts, including aerial silks, trapeze, spanish web, cloud swing, acrobatics, hand balancing, tight rope, slack line, juggling, and moOwner/Director

Naja Rossoff has over 28 years experience teaching gymnastics from preschool ages through competitive team levels.  She also teaches the beginning and intermediate level aerial circus arts as well as aerial yoga for adults.  Rossoff is the only Certified Aerial Yoga instructor in Eugene who teaches classes to the public.  Naja and her fantastic staff will ensure that every child and adult has a fun, safe and positive experience in every class.

CAMPS-SCHOOL’S OUT – Teen Tumbling & Trampoline – CIRCUS ARTS – Aerial Yoga – Adult Classes TEAM 2012-2013 – Open Gym Schedule – PARENT’S NIGHT OUT – Bounce Club

Contact info:
Naja Rossoff, Owner/Director
[email protected]






Martial Arts ~ The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Way

Students ~ Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Certified Training Center
Students ~ Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Certified Training Center

There are very few things as impressive as Martial Arts; fluid movements that can be so graceful yet incredibly powerful, or fast paced jerk-like movements that can hit before your opponent has a chance to blink.  There are many forms of Martial Arts to participate in – so many that it’s almost mind boggling!

Pretty much every country has its own form of Martial Arts, and some countries even have multiple!  There is the ever popular Karate (made even more popular by a certain movie from the 80’s that we all know and love!), Muay Thai, Taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu – just to name a few.  No matter which form of Martial Arts you choose to master, there is no better way to get great exercise while learning how to defend yourself.

The Art of The Gracie Way ~ MMA Owner/Instructor Adam Roberts
The Art of The Gracie Way ~ MMA Owner/Instructor Adam Roberts

When people think of Martial Arts, they almost always think of Bruce Lee.  He was a hero and inspiration to kids and adults alike.  Bruce Lee was considered by many to be one of the most influential Martial Artists of all time and has contributed to the Martial Arts community by founding his own practice called Jeet Kune Do.  Jeet Kune Do (or as it’s now known, ‘Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do’ after Bruce Lee’s Chinese given name – Jun Fan) is a fast paced Martial Arts system and philosophy of life. It uses minimal movements that have a maximum effect and has a system of moves that are categorized into different ranges: Kicking, punching, grappling and trapping. Each move is fluid and graceful – like swimming in water.  This is where the mantra “Be like water” came from.  Bruce Lee realized that Martial Arts moves looked too rigid and unrealistic.  He believed that Martial Artists should simply react to what is happening naturally and, you guessed it, be like water.  Therefore Jeet Kune Do isn’t just a set of moves to learn, but rather the practice of attacking when your opponent is about to attack, along with doing what comes naturally while in combat — and doing so without hesitation.

Group class ~ Mckenzie Martial Arts
Group class ~ Mckenzie Martial Arts

Another thing that almost automatically comes to mind is Jiu-Jitsu.  Ju-Jitsu originated in Japan and eventually made its way to Brazil in 1914.  Ju-Jitsu Master Mitsuyo Maeda opened up classes in order to earn money while staying in Brazil, and two if his students would later become well known for helping create a new style of Jiu-Jitsu.

Carlos Gracie and his father attended Mitsuyo Maeda’s class and brought the information home with them, piquing the interest of the youngest of the Gracie family – Helio Gracie.  Helio wanted to practice the moves of Jiu-Jitsu along with his older brother, but wasn’t allowed to learn until the age of 15.  Once he began, he found that the moves were too difficult and kept being defeated by his larger opponents. Instead of giving up, he spent time modifying the moves to make them easier for him. He decided to modify the moves in such a way that you depend on leverage instead of strength, as is usually do in traditional Ju-Jitsu.  Helio Gracie taught his newly created moves to his family members, and over time it became what is now known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Students ~ McKenzie Marital Arts
Students ~ McKenzie Marital Arts

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has magnified since its creation and is one of the most popular forms of Brazilian Martial Arts.  The philosophy of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is much more than simply a series of moves or a mindset – it’s a way of life. Helio and Carlos Gracie were firm believers in patience, efficiency and control and believed that those three concepts were vital not just in Martial Arts, but in everyday life.  Efficiency allows you to get a better result in fighting without putting in too much effort.  It’s always assumed that your attacker will be bigger and more skilled than you, so the method taught is to exhaust your attacker instead of exhausting yourself.  Ways to utilize efficiency outside of fighting are by being respectful to others and yourself by eating nutrient rich foods, along with being an upstanding and honest person.

The other two principles of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu are Patience and Control. Patience is an important thing to practice in all areas of life.  Acting impulsively can get you in trouble – especially in Martial Arts.  The important thing to keep in mind about acting impulsively is it can potentially wear you out when fighting an opponent which is, as mentioned above, against what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is about.  Being patient allows you to last longer in a fight.  You may not look like you’re doing much by taking your time, but in the end it’s the best way to be.  Your opponent will be tired, but you’re just getting started!  Your opponent won’t know what hit them (literally!).

Boys Work Out ~ MMA
Boys Work Out ~ MMA

Last but not least is control. Your goal is to control your opponent, and in order to do that you need to use patience and efficiency (see, there’s a method to all of this!).  You need to utilize timing and control your physical movements along with controlling your mental state. Staying calm and focused will help you take control over whoever you may be fighting with. Remember, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is about taking time and wearing out the other person so you can last longer and eventually take them out!

Filipino Kali is a style of martial arts that focuses on the ability to go from fighting with weapons to bare hands in a fluid motion, just in case you’re left without a weapon somehow. It’s not exactly certain how Filipino Kali started, but most people would guess that it started as a way for local tribes to defend themselves against one another, and eventually was used against the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500’s.  There are multiple forms of Kali that you can learn, and each form teaches elements of striking, grappling, weapons fighting, throwing and take downs.  When taking Filipino Kali lessons you will learn how to use your bare hands as if you were holding a weapon, though it’s considered mainly a weapons-based style of combat. Some practitioners can even turn household items into weapons.  That’s some powerful and useful knowledge!

Students in BULLYPROOF
Students in BULLYPROOF

At the Gracie Academy (McKenzie Martial Arts Family Center), there is a program for children called BULLYPROOF.  It is designed to help children learn defensive moves while also increasing their confidence and self-esteem.  Bullies tend to pick on other children that they know won’t fight back because they seem like they have a low level of confidence.  Children who participate in Martial Arts and especially take classes in the BULLYPROOF program are less likely to be the target of bullying and, interestingly enough, are less likely to start fights.  They have the confidence and don’t feel like they need to prove anything, so they go about their business with their heads held high and a smile on their face, knowing that they can defend themselves if they need to, but probably won’t since they’re so confident and likeable!

MMA ~ Women's Self Defense
MMA ~ Women’s Self Defense

Like the “bully-proofing” for children, self defense and self protection are an important priority for women.  As sad as it is, did you know that, on average, a woman of 21 years of age has a 25% chance of being the victim of a violent crime?  A lot of people view women as weak and easy targets that most likely won’t fight back and can be easily taken over.  This is unacceptable, and while it’s up to others to diminish any preconceived ideas of certain people, there is fortunately something women can do to protect themselves in the meantime.  Self-defense classes are widely available giving women the self-confidence needed to use techniques such as how to use everyday objects like backpacks and magazines to fight back if they are put in a threatening situation.

Readers Choice 2012 black

I recently visited the McKenzie Martial Arts (MMA) Family Fitness Center who teaches the
most practical martial art techniques ever known. You will not find a more effective or more complete self-defense program. McKENZIE MARTIAL ARTS (MMA) is proud to represent Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do Concepts (JKD) and the Progressive Fighting Systems (PFS).  These techniques have been taught to law enforcement officials and the US Military, including the Navy Seals.  MMA strive to keep the development of JKD alive by staying in the forefront of martial arts, fitness and personal safety for all ages.

MMA Family Fitness Center teaches everything you learn could potentially be used in a real self-defense situation. They cover self defense from realistic situations that happen every day. The instructors address all the “what if” questions students have such as: “What if I get grabbed from behind while jogging”, “What do I do if someone breaks into my bedroom”, “What if I get attacked while with my children”….Anything our students can come up with, MMA have a training method for it.

MMA Family Fitness Center is about families.  Their goal is to offer the cutting edge in self defense, combat sports, fitness, health and self discovery, to every type of person that walks through our door.  They appeal to all members of your family, not just the young athlete wanting the thrill of competition (yes we have training that you will love), but to professionals that work 40 hours a week and need a stress outlet… to the Mom who drops the kids off at school and wants a great work out… and to the martial artist who wants to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Lee and explore the world of martial arts, keeping the spirit of truth alive.

Boys MMAMMA instructors are part of an elite division of PFS: Descendants of the Masters (instructors Ryan & Rener Gracie are the grandsons of Heilo Gracie), and hold the highest ranks and certificates of Full/Senior Instructors under legendary fighter Paul Vunak. They are representing such arts as: Jeet Kune Do (street self-defense by Bruce Lee), Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (defend yourself while on the ground) and the Filipino Martial Arts (weapons training and multiple attackers) among others.  Sifu Vunak has been one of Guro Dan Inosanto’s (Bruce Lee’s training partner, best friend and protege) top students for 30 years.  Sifu Vunak was also one the first students of Rorion, Royce, Royler and Rickson Gracie in America (1985).

Whatever your reason for learning Martial Arts may be – whether it’s for self-defense, a way to make friends with like-minded individuals or you simply just want to be like your fast moving, Karate chopping hero – Martial Arts at the McKENZIE MARTIAL ARTS FAMILY FITNESS CENTER is a family friendly non traditional school which provides a non-intimidating atmosphere for everyone with no forms, no rituals, no uniforms and a no nonsense program that teaches discipline, coordination and humbleness; Traits that are needed both in the Dojo and everyday life.

Here’s The Gracie core principle ~ “Using no way as way, and no limitation as limitation.”


Simply ExtraOrdinary Coaching

#1 rated youth Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program in Oregon for 2010 & 2011. MMA earned 18 medals logos 006including 6 State Championships.

Phone: (541) 729-2455   Email: [email protected]

3666 W. 11th Ave Eugene, OR (Cross Street: Bailey Hill Rd.- Across from Lowes)

Serving Lane County for over 10 years

Leap. Flip. Twist. Balance.

"Gabby" 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist
“Gabby” 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist

Gymnastics is an absolutely fascinating sport, and easily one of the oldest.  As far back as 7,000 years ago, Egyptian royalty was treated to watching high flying acrobats for entertainment.  In Ancient Greece, young people would create and perform athletic feats with rules and moves completely made up on their own.  They were encouraged to mix both amusement and physical activity (even back then, they knew sports should have a healthy sense of fun and lightheartedness!). They would spend their time practicing these sports during their “scholarly” period.  Eventually, these activities became common and popular.  In every Greek city there were courtyards specifically designated for running, jumping and wrestling.  In time, after the Roman Empire took over and military training began, the Romans created and introduced what is now the modern day vaulting table.

Coach Rosen Manolov ~ USGA Eugene
Coach Rosen Manolov ~ USGA Eugene

Like with all sports, gymnastics provides a wide variety of mental and physical benefits, along with multiple life skills to learn.  Children who participate in gymnastics tend to have a longer attention span and are better at solving problems and making their own decisions.  They have higher self-esteem, are incredibly independent and know they can make up their own minds without feeling the need to “fit in” and be someone they’re not — generally not allowing others to badly influence them.  They have the confidence not to follow others and be leaders in numerous situations in life.  With the commitment and discipline gained from participating in gymnastics, they’re also a lot less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs and would rather feed their bodies with healthy fuel than fill it with junk.  Their bodies are like their prized possession and will do anything they can to keep it in top shape!

Ian ~ Courtesy of USGA Eugene
Ian ~ Courtesy of USGA Eugene

Gymnastics is a strenuous activity – so much so that it helps you to meet the amount of exercise recommended by the American Heart Association, and is an activity that teaches you to have great control over your body and the way it moves.  It helps develop motor skills, balance and coordination since gymnasts learn over time how to precisely move certain body parts while doing those impressive flips, jumps, twists and tumbles.  Your body benefits from gymnastics internally, as well.  Since gymnastics is such great exercise, it makes you a much healthier person and, as we all know, being healthy helps prevent things such as heart disease, obesity, cancer, asthma and diabetes. Gymnastics has also been proven to help increase bone density since it’s considered a weight bearing activity, and increasing bone density is crucial in preventing osteoporosis when you’re older.

Gymnastics are great for anyone and everyone, but are especially beneficial for children with disabilities such as ADD/ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and Autism.  Gymnastics instructors tend to work with their students individually, so they can easily tailor the lessons to suit different disabilities while helping each child build confidence and social skills.  At an early age, gymnastics can even open pathways in the brain and help with a child’s reading ability!

Courtesy USGA Eugene
Courtesy USGA Eugene

Children who just want to have fun with gymnastics can still get the great benefits of the sport without having to do gymnastics competitively.  Recreational gymnastics is a fun way for your child to make like-minded friends or spend more time with their parents, depending on the class they take. There are classes for different age groups and skill levels, plus “Mommy and Me” classes for children as young as 18 months who want to bond with their beloved mama!  It’s a great way to become closer and have fun while burning off excess energy. Tumbling is a lot of fun and great for toddlers who want to join in on the gymnastics activities.  What could be better and more amusing for them than rolling around on soft mats while laughing and having fun while making new friends?  It doesn’t matter what age or skill level, any child is more than welcome to join a class and have a great time walking on a balance beam, jumping on the trampoline and playing on the uneven bars.

For those who do want to practice gymnastics competitively, there are plenty of classes to choose from that cater to all ages and skill levels.  They’ll get to learn discipline and find out first hand that hard work and dedication really do make a difference and are worth any sore muscles they may have or any disappointment they may experience!  While making friends and having fun, they’ll learn how to follow directions and wait patiently while others are practicing their moves.  There will most likely be a limited amount of equipment, so this will allow them to learn how to take turns and respect others as they take the time they need to safely and accurately learn their gymnastic moves.  While speaking with their instructors, they’ll get an idea of how to speak with other adults which will help them learn how to speak with all types of people throughout their lives. Since there are very specific rules and codes of conduct, they will learn the importance of safety and taking orders from anyone who is in charge. After all, listening and obeying could always come in handy, or even be life saving!

Villa West Dance  & Aerobatics
Villa West Dance
& Aerobatics

There’s something about gymnastics that is awe inspiring.  Gymnasts have a massive sense of control over their body and the fact that they maintain the ability to focus on what they’re doing – even with a crowd of people watching and cheering them on – is nothing short of impressive.  While jumping on a trampoline, they can manage to twist and turn and perform perfectly while listening to an audience clap and yell and not get distracted.  This kind of concentration is highly beneficial.  Imagine how well those who participate in gymnastics do while taking tests or during job interviews!  What would cause a lot of people to fall apart under pressure is no sweat thanks to years of practicing concentration and learning to focus on what needs to be done.

Have you ever been to one of those beautifully artistic circus shows (Cirque du Soleil my favorite comes to mind), or even just seen the commercials for their upcoming live performance on TV?  Those men and women we see in those circuses who do tricks while hanging on a strip of cloth are practicing what is called Aerial Contortion or Aerial Silk, depending on where you’re from. They make millions of people happy by doing what they love and trained hard for.  It’s an impressive activity and there’s a way for you to experience something similar without needing years of practice.  It’s called Aerial Yoga or Anti Gravity Yoga and it’s a somewhat new way to tone your body while combating cellulite and enhancing your mental abilities and creativity. There are many classes available in countless cities, so enrolling should be a breeze.  Those who already take yoga classes would be particularly interested since it’s basically standard yoga, with the added excitement of being in the air!

Courtesy of USGA ~ Eugene
Courtesy of USGA ~ Eugene

Gymnastics is a fantastic way for adults and children of all ages to learn beneficial skills that will help out in everyday life.  If your child decides to do gymnastics recreationally or competitively, they will learn things like coordination and balance along with discipline and strength – both mental and physical.  These skills along with many others will help aid in their mental, emotional and physical development which will make for a mentally well-rounded, successful and success driven adult.

Ready to flip-twist-leap and get balanced? The United States Gymnastics Academy (USGA) here in Eugene is for kids of all ages and abilities.  Students come for recreation, fun, fitness, self confidences, coordination, social development, competitive training, and overall outlet for all that extra energy.

The important mission at USGA is to develop a students’ positive self-esteem by instilling the values of good sportsmanship, self discipline, respect and accountability.  The staff believe that if they can teach your children that they can achieve, they will remember these lessons for life.  At the USGA, you will find “World Class” Coaches that are enthusiastic and care deeply about developing your child’s self-confidence and sense of achievement.  At USGA watch your child’s confidence grow as they experience many small successes.

The gym area is over 10,000 square feet.  It’s filled with a full line of developmental gymnastics equipment as well as full sets of men’s and women’s apparatus.  Additionally they have several large foam pits to allow students to develop new skills in the safest way possible.

United States Gymnastics Academy ~ Eugene
United States Gymnastics Academy ~ Eugene

USGA offers many great programs including Zumba for parents who want to get a little exercise. This is a great way to have some fun and get fit at the same time. Don’t forget to ask about their FREE gymnastics classes offer! If you need more info: [email protected]

The USGA is located 4540 Commerce Street (near Wal-Mart west 11th) – Suite B Eugene, OR 97402 – 541-255-2883

Simply ExtraOrdinary Coaching

Dance As Sport


Dance As Sport

balletgirlbigI LOVE dance as a sport as much as I love baseball.  I can fondly remember my daughter as a thigh-high, tiptoeing toddler, in our cozy home with sparse living-room furniture, dressed daily in rummage sale prom dresses and pink tutus, leaping and swirling to the crescendo of Antonio Vivaldi from the stereo, and beaming with delight on her every move till the final bow, “Bravo ma petite enfant! Bravo!” In these living room “performances” came her desire to dance ballet and train professionally like the “big girls” at a studio in the hopes to become a prima ballernia.  Seems like only yesterday.  Tho much older, my favorite dancer still leaps, twirls and I still beam!!

Throughout my daughter’s joyful, magical childhood I watched her dance spontaneously,  tirelessly, and I experienced firsthand how creativity occurs in the moment, timelessly and freely.

Any and all forms of creative movement and dance give students numerous benefits, including Boy Ballet Dancera solid foundation in musicality, physical fitness, and social connections based on a shared love of dance.  Dance is a great way to exercise and create healthy habits, but you might be wondering if dance is something your child will personally enjoy.  There are so many different styles of dance that it seems the question is not, “Is dance right for my child?” but rather, “Which form of dance will my child enjoy?”  There are many different dance genres to choose from.  All dance forms provides significant rewards to your child’s character, as dance requires discipline. The physical rewards of dance are obvious: our country is currently in battle with an obesity epidemic. Therefore, it is vital for us as parents to find physical activities for our children. Children acquire musical skills through dance, therefore participation in dance can lead to their development as musicians as well.  Dance is equally important for boys and girls for developing strength, flexibility and an appreciation of the performing arts. Children will continue to benefit from experience in dance when they participate in any future physical activities, whether a child wants to pursue dance as a career or not.  Please consider this overview of the different dance genres to help you make your decision about which dance genre your child might enjoy.

Most dance genres begin with a form of creative movement.  In creative movement, children learn about their bodies, develop physical skills, and have fun!  Through the use of scarves, visualization and music, creative movement provides children with a unique dance experience. Creative movement focuses more on creativity and fun than technique, which makes this dance genre accessible for all levels of fitness and abilities.  Participation in creative dance increases musicality, and is a potentially rewarding practice for creative expression, in addition to being a great physical activity.

Ballet GirlsBallet instruction usually begins over the age of four.  Introductory classes expose children to basic ballet movements and positions, providing a foundation in technique.  Boys and girls who participate in ballet can gain many positive benefits, including confidence, strength, musicality and physical grace. Intense technical training begins around the age of eight.  It takes several years to develop the strength and mastery of techniques that are required to go en pointe, and for the student’s growth plates to finish closing (around age twelve).

Modern dance was created as a reaction to the strict nature of ballet, and focuses on expressionism and movement that emphasizes the torso rather than the feet.
Tap dancing allows kids to wear cool shoes that make noise! (I have never met a child who is not fascinated by the metal taps on the bottoms of tap shoes.)  Tapping gives students a strong foundation in rhythm.  Introductory tap classes teach students basic terminology. Students learn by first listening to sound, and then repeating it.  Feet are used as an tap shoesinstrument in tap.  Coordination and footwork are emphasized, but tap also provides a cardiovascular workout.

Hip hop is highly improvisational in style.  It is an interpretation of street dance styles, such as breaking, locking and popping, and is performed with hip hop music.  Jazz is also improvisational, and features bold movements, incorporating a mix of styles.  When you think of jazz, think “Michael Jackson,” as he was a master of and a contributor to the genre.  A variety of folk dance opportunities available, but these often vary depending on the cultural heritages that comprise your community.  Many cultures have a folk dance associated with them.  While dance is always a cultural activity, folk dance styles typically do not require professional technical training to master. Rather, one learns folk dancing by watching and becoming part of it. Some popular examples of folk dance styles are Turkish, Polish or Norwegian folk dance, clogging and square dance.

hip-hop-dance-movesIf your daughter/son are uncertain of which area of dance they would like to try consider enrolling them in a hybrid dance class.  Typically, the class will spend half of their time on one dance genre, and the other half on a different genre.  A common example of this is type of class is ballet and tap.  Camp is another way for students to gain exposure to a variety of dance genres, or to increase knowledge in one area.  A musical theater camp can allow students to explore choreography, even if they have never danced before. Perhaps a ballet student is interested in Broadway.Camp would be the perfect opportunity for him or her to explore an interest in musical theater.  Summer camps can facilitate new dance experiences, without adding to an already hectic schedule during the school year and without ongoing commitment.

Dancers focus on learning movement and techniques, but a dancer’s diet requires equal attention in order to stay on their feet.  All dancers in every genre require adequate nutrition.  High quality nutrition and hydration are essential for dancers to stay healthy and injury free. Protein helps to repair muscle tissue, stabilizes blood sugar and helps to maintain energy throughout the day.  Good sources of protein include turkey or chicken without the skin, soy beans, rice and beans. Carbohydrates fuel the body.  Bread, fruit, pasta and potatoes are excellent sources of carbohydrates.  Fat is also necessary for the dancer’s diet. Fat helps to form healthy cell membranes and insulation around nerves.  Taking quality nutritional supplements can ensure that a dancer gets enough micro nutrients, as a deficiency in any of minerals can impair performance or increase risk of injury.  It is important for dancers regardless of age to pay extra attention to staying hydrated, as physical rigor heats muscles and produces sweat, which depletes the body’s supply of fluids.


The advantages of incorporating dance into your child’s lifestyle are significant. Dance
provides your child with the opportunity to have fun and be physical, learn discipline, grow musically and gain stay healthy habits.  Your child can learn about another culture through studying a folk dance associated with it, or become an expert in a particular genre, or carry the skills learned through dance to other sports.  Focusing on nutrition and hydration will keep your dancer healthy and happy.  Now the only question is: which dance genre will your child prefer?

Regardless of choice…Crank up the Music and Let’s Dance!


Let’s get on that Horse and Ride Like The Wind



I think we can all agree that animals are wonderful creatures. Cute, cuddly and sometimes fearsome, each animal has something special to offer. Out in the wild, they do their thing to contribute to our ecosystem and, when domesticated as pets, they can teach us responsibility and what it means to have a true friend and companion. And most kids say if they could have any “dream” pet regardless of cost it would often times be a horse they call their own.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sports are a great way to learn useful life skills and gain qualities such as responsibility and self-reliance — all while teaching you how to communicate with people to get a certain goal accomplished, which may make you wonder… What happens when you take sports and add an animal to the mix? I’ll tell you what you get…. You get Equestrianism! A fun and interesting group of sports that help you grow mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

There are many forms of Equestrianism (which basically just means a sport involving horses). From Horse Racing to Haute Ecole, Calf Roping to Bronc Riding, there are plenty of ways to train with this beautiful and majestic beast. However, I’m going to focus on the basics of horseback riding because who doesn’t love the romantic or rugged idea of settling into a saddle riding a great steed galloping across the wide open plains or the shoreline of the beach? It’s a fun and kid friendly activity that allows you to spend quality time with a beautiful creature while simultaneously receiving numerous benefits and gaining skills you possibly wouldn’t learn otherwise. Horse-crazy kids grow up to be horse-crazy adults.

pirouetteCompetition in horseback riding is called “Eventing”, and it’s as interesting to watch as it is  to participate. Watching those gorgeous horses run and jump and their riders wearing their fancy gear is captivating, to say the least and conjures up images of sophistication (sounds strikingly like the Swan Lake ballet on pointe!) The show is made up of three phases – Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping — and lasts three days. Each day is a new set of intricate tasks for both rider and horse to perform, and takes such discipline and determination to get it right that it’s no wonder Eventing has been part of the Olympic Games since 1912!

Usually when people hear the word “sports” they imagine big teams working together to win. But sports don’t always use teams – sometimes it’s a pair or partnership. Horseback riding is an interesting sport in that you have a partner, but your partner is an entirely different species from yourself. Of course it’s common for there to be trouble communicating with your partner in any sport, but this takes communication issues to a whole new level! The good thing is, though, that horses are very intelligent and love to learn and please their masters. This means that once you start to understand your new equine partner’s way of thinking, training will be fun and easy and will soon become something both of you look forward to.

Best Friends ForeverWorking so closely with your horse creates a special bond between human and animal. You get to know each other on a very deep level that is hard to compare to any other type of human-animal relationship. Imagine if your pet, your best friend and your teammate merged together and became one — they would be someone who understands you and is loyal, who will stick by your side and remain patient while you’re both learning new strategies and moves, and wants to accomplish the exact same thing as you. Since you both have the same goal in mind (to win and have fun while doing it!) and it’s just you two who will need to work together to achieve it, you begin to depend on your horse and will start to know each other inside and out, which makes you form a sense of trust in each other. This is an incredibly important development since it can strengthen your human relationships and help you trust others, as well.

Admittedly, riding seems like it would be less physical of an activity than, say, soccer or ballet. It seems like it’s just a person riding a horse, with the horse doing most of the work. This is where looks can be deceiving! Riding is in fact very much a workout – both mentally and physically – for the rider and the horse. My now 18 year old daughter remembers as a kid being more exhausted from an hour in the ring with “Zeb” as a full afternoon rehearsal at the ballet studio her current love. Riding (ballet too!) improves your cardiovascular and respiratory health while teaching coordination, balance and even helps correct your posture (which is something a lot of people can benefit from. How many times in your life have you been told to stop slouching?).

Along with posture, it also helps with something called “core strength”. Have you ever   jumped over something while riding your bike? That tension you feel in your abdomen when your bike is in the air is what happens when you use “core strength”, which is something you really need when riding a horse. Since your horse will be jumping over bars, you will quickly improve your core strength, which helps with balance and stability – something you’ll find especially useful when riding. Stability and core strength are what keep you from falling off the sides of your horse when it runs or jumps, and also helps with everyday tasks such as bending to tie your shoe or pick up a ball.

Just like with other sports, horseback riding instills a sense of pride and increases your self-esteem. Working with such a beautiful creature and knowing you have a special bond with it is bound to make you happy and feel good about yourself! But horseback riding is a unique sport that will teach you some useful skills that you wouldn’t learn with other sports like football or basketball.

Since horses scare easily, you’ll quickly realize that you need to be gentle with the way you speak and with your movements (which is definitely not something you’d learn with football!). This is a way of learning empathy and understanding different needs, which will help you learn how to speak and interact with different people. Some people can’t hear well and need you to be a bit louder than usual, while some people prefer a softer voice. Some people can take jokes while others are sensitive. Learning how to speak and act with your horse will help you understand how to adjust your way of speaking and acting with others.
Horseback riding has many mental benefits.

Special Needs ChildOnce you start learning about horseback riding, it’s almost like you never stop. There is so much to learn that from the moment you take up this fun and exciting sport, your mind is constantly working. It makes you more mentally alert, which means you can react much more quickly to any situation. From emergencies to math problems, you’re able to react swiftly. And since you’re constantly learning new things while riding (whether it’s new terms or how to groom your horse), your memory will improve which will keep you sharp, focused and ready for anything!

With all these amazing benefits, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that horseback riding isn’t used strictly for sport – it’s also used as a form of therapy. Therapeutic horseback riding is often used to help aid people with disabilities, veterans and at-risk youth. Whether for physical, emotional or mental problems, horses provide a calming and enjoyable way to deal with a number of disabilities.

Horseback riding increases motor skills – both fine and gross – and can even help with social skills. Something as simple as holding the reigns can help with flexibility in your joints and improve hand-eye coordination. Brushing your horse is something that can help fine tune your motor skills over time while giving you an opportunity to bond with your new best friend (your horse, of course!).

Many veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have greatly benefited from horseback riding. Since they sometimes avoid social situations due to fear or paranoia, horseback riding helps because they are able to interact with a gentle horse in a peaceful environment, which eases them onto the road to recovery. Depending on the level of disability, some people may need to have an assistant help them with their horse. This will allow them to interact with others and, if needed, help with speech and language — which is one of the reasons why therapeutic horseback riding is strongly encouraged for children with autism. Some autistic children feel a stronger bond with animals than they do with people, so having your child interact with a horse will allow them to feel a closeness with someone and hopefully help them eventually feel more comfortable and bond with other people.

Whether for sport or therapy, horseback riding is an incredibly enjoyable activity for people Veternan Riderof all ages that gives an opportunity to take a break, get out and enjoy nature. Improved fitness, flexibility and respect for the great outdoors is something everyone could benefit from, so why not take up horseback riding and make a new friend in the process? Horses are intelligent, intuitive and gentle animals who want nothing more than to make people happy – all of which are qualities of a great teammate and friend forever!

Let’s Ride Like The Wind,


Hey Mom, where’s my glove?


Baseball_kidsYou know, as unfortunate as it is, I don’t think many people truly realize the benefits of physical activity and playing sports – especially as a youth. Recently, on one of the few warm days here, my 12 year old son asked me “Hey Mom, where’s my glove?” soon followed by “When’s baseball practice start? Are we wearing purple this season?” His enthusiasm about the game and willingness to get outside and play made me start thinking about how other people perceive sports.

Sure people realize sports are fun…I mean, what’s not to love about them? They bring people together and inspire healthy rivalry and competition, plus they teach you important life skills without you even knowing it. But the act of actually being on a team or simply getting outside and moving seems to be on the back burner of many peoples’ minds, which is a shame because there are so many wonderful benefits from keeping active. Whether young or old, our bodies and minds have so much to gain from getting out there and working up a sweat! kids-baseball

As a child, physical activity is crucial. Did you know being active increases your child’s metabolism? It’s true! If your child runs around instead of sitting in the house all day, they’re less likely to get colds, the flu, allergies and even cancer. Physical activity has been proven to increase brain function and blood flow while both reducing anxiety AND improving memory! It also reduces the risk of diabetes and strengthens his or her cardiovascular system. Something as simple (and fun!) as playing baseball can improve your child’s heart and lungs. Now doesn’t that make you breathe easier as a parent?

It’s not just general physical activity that helps your child – being on a sports team has all the benefits listed above along with it’s own separate list of benefits. Children who participate in sports are often times much happier and more confident than those who don’t. Running around and getting sweaty has been proven to release endorphins, which naturally make people happier. And as for confidence? Well, how could they not be more confident while playing sports? Doing something as spectacular as hitting a home run is a huge ego boost!

Along with gaining confidence, playing on a team also helps teach… you guessed it… teamwork! Being on a team means that everyone in that particular group is needed – they have their own ability and will be relied on at one point or another, but in order for their efforts to be rewarded, they need to communicate and work together to reach a certain goal. Because of this, children learn to wait their turn and to do their absolute best when it’s their time to step up to the plate, which is important in sports and will come in handy in other aspects of life (such as teaming up with their siblings to get those chores done faster!) and later on when they start to work. After all, the workplace today is a team environment!

TBall KidYou’ve heard of the term “to be a good sport” before, right? Well, there’s a reason for that! Sports are a fun way to learn about defeat (if there ever was a fun way to learn about that!). There will be moments where you strike out or don’t make it to a base in time, which is disappointing at first. But eventually you will learn to accept it and try harder next time without placing any blame on yourself or others. Sports teach poise and grace in the face of defeat, along with the power of discipline and determination. I’ve been aware of how sports affect the body and mind almost all my life. When I was younger I played sandlot baseball with the boys in my neighborhood and absolutely fell in love with the game.

Participating in that and experiencing first hand how it helps you improve as a person is one of the many things that has kept sports a passion of mine, and why I strongly encourage children (and their parents!) to take up sports. I love sports so much, in fact, that I’ve been involved with them and have coached kids, from first grade up to high school, for over 30 years now and have been a volunteer Kidsports coach for 4 baseball seasons. One of my favorite things to do as a coach is take my team to watch the local Eugene Emeralds baseball team play. It’s a fun and exciting way to learn firsthand about the game while being inspired by the players to keep practicing and get better and better!

Now, if your little slugger is going to be outside playing baseball all day, they’re gonna need the proper fuel. Foods such as carrots, nuts, seeds, fruit and healthy trail mix or granola bars (made with dried fruit and oats – those are fiber rich foods which will keep your blood sugar stable) are great snacks to keep your child sustained while running to each base and hitting home runs (sssh these are secrets). It’s incredibly important that your child has enough nutrients to keep their bodies going so they can keep practicing and become the next Babe Ruth, and they can’t do that by snacking on a Baby Ruth candy bars! Girl Baseball

Of course along with proper nutrients, your child will need to stay hydrated. Water is the best thing for them to drink, but sports drinks (I can recommend some that are good for you) are another good option since they help replenish electrolytes. Just be careful of which brand you buy since many can contain a ton of sugar, which helps give them energy, sure, but the crash they experience afterwards isn’t worth the short burst of energy they may get in the beginning.

After running around for a few hours playing baseball, chances are your child will be exhausted. It’s important to make sure they get an adequate amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause irritibility and overall moodiness, which isn’t something someone would want in a fellow teammate. Can you imagine trying to play a game with someone who hasn’t had enough sleep? They would throw temper tantrums and wouldn’t be able to concentrate! They say there is no crying in baseball, but crying is exactly what would happen without enough rest. Lack of sleep also effects memory, and after a day of learning new moves and techniques to the game, that’s the last thing anyone would want.

Girls BaseballRest isn’t just important for the mind, though. The body needs a break, as well. Allowing your body to rest gives it a chance to repair any damaged tissue and replenish energy stores. If you don’t allow your body to rest for a bit, it will keep breaking down from intense exercise, which decreases sports performance, and what’s the point of playing a sport if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover? So tell your mini Yogi Berra it’s ok to take a break, no matter how much they want to keep playing!

I’m very proud of the teams I have coached and what they accomplished during a season. One of my favorite things too see is the look on a kid’s face when they throw a perfect pitch or hit a fly ball. I can tell they have a sense of pride in what they’re doing, and are happy knowing that their hard work and determination paid off. It gives them the confidence to try other sports or activities they didn’t think they were able to, and gives them something to talk about with friends, family and neighbors. “Guess what!” they’ll exclaim with a tone of excitement and pride, “I threw a no-hitter!”photo (51)

My biggest reward with coaching is knowing that I’m a part of something so wonderful a feeling that is completely irreplaceable. I’ve developed the Purple Crushers P.R.I.D.E. for my team and do whatever I can to encourage them to keep going and be proud of everything they do – no matter how big or small the accomplishment may seem. Every game there is a reward for player development – The Purple Crusher Spirit Award! It is the coveted award on our Team as the number one criteria for being chosen is the enthusiasm for the game.

So oil your glove, lace up your cleats, get out there and show some P.R.I.D.E! It’s time to play ball!!


Choosing a Summer Camp

Horse Back Riding
Horse Back Riding

The Benefits of the Camp Experience

When you begin to plan what your child will do over the summer break from school, you will notice immediately that there are many summer camps to choose from. The idea of making a decision about which one is right for your child can seem overwhelming! A safe, fun opportunity to learn something new ranks highly on most parents’ lists for possible summer camp choices. The camp experience is a great way for kids to learn skills of independence, have positive social experiences or gain new skills. Parents often rely on word-of-mouth references for summer camps. Indeed, that is how our family has chosen most of our children’s summer camps. However, note that your child might miss out on some important benefits of camp if you enroll them with their friends. Perhaps your child is interested in drama, but they go to a school that doesn’t consider drama “cool.” You might want to include drama in the types of camps you’re considering. Camp can give kids a “blank slate,” freeing them from the social pressures of their school context or clique, resulting in an empowering experience for them.

Factor #1 ~ Goals and Activities

Consider what you would like your child to get out of camp. Choose a camp with a curriculum

Kayaking & Watersports
Trackers Camp ~ Kayaking

that supports your child’s growth and interests. Decide whether you prefer your child to attend a single-sex camp or a coed camp. Get a sense of what the daily schedule will look like at camp. The schedule will give you information about the focus of the activities. Will your child have an appropriate amount of exercise or sedentary activities, or do you want a camp that focuses primarily on physical activity? Here are some examples of interests that summer camp can support: Team or Individual Sports, Watersports, Adventure, Creative Arts, Performing Arts, Science, Education, Travel, Faith-based, Green/Ecological.

Factor #2 ~ Day or Overnight

If you are considering whether to do a day camp or an overnight camp, you might wonder if

The Skill of Archery
Trackers Camp ~ Mastery of Archery

there is any benefit to sleeping over. Sleeping over at camp can, in fact, have valuable benefits. Children learn independence and resilience during the short-term separation from parents that the camp experience provides. Note that there are more day camps than overnight camps, with 14,000 day camps and 7,000 overnight camps nationwide to choose from (American Camp Association). Overnight camps should have a doctor or nurse on staff. The ratio of counselors to campers is a key consideration for safety. Here are the recommended ratios for counselors to campers provided by the American Camp Association. Notice the ratio is much lower for overnight camp:

Day Camp Overnight Camp

Summer Fun Together
Summer Fun Together

Ages 7-8 1:16 Ages 6-8 1:8

Ages 9-11 1:8 Ages 9-14 1:10

Ages 15-18 1-12 Ages 15-18 1:12

Factor #3 ~ Special Needs

There are many specialized camps focusing on a plethora of interests and experiences, and this

includes special needs. Parents must always consider cost and distance when deciding whether a particular camp is right for their child(ren). The perfect camp for kids with ADHD might be in a neighboring state, and it could be worth it to arrange transportation. Be sure to inquire about the staff’s training and expertise.

Factor #4 ~ Understand the Philosophy of the Camp

You want to make sure you’re on the same page (at the very least, in the same chapter) with your child’s camp on issues that are important to you. You definitely want to understand their policies on discipline. If your child often inspires impromptu teacher-parent conferences, you want to understand the rules before you get a call home. You could even discuss these rules with your child ahead of time. A discipline policy can protect your child and helps to establish boundaries. Simply ask how does the camp handle conflict between campers?

Factor #5 ~ Know the Key Staff’s Credentials

Fun & Encouraging Staff
Fun & Encouraging Staff

Great counselors can enhance the camp experience for your child. Indeed, they can make something that would usually seem boring to your child the most fascinating subject on earth. My daughter participated in a drama camp at a university a few summers ago. She remembers learning about the technological aspects of a production more than anything else at camp. I asked her, “Why? I thought acting was your thing.” She said, “The counselors were awesome! They made learning about tech so much fun. We played tag on the stage to learn how the lights worked.” Check out the staff’s credentials if you are trying to choose between two camps. Previous experience as a camp counselor and academic experience in the camp’s main theme are good indicators that their heart will be in it.

Factor #6 ~ Start and Keep a “How To Make A Decision” Checklist

1. Actively listen to your child’s needs/desires in a camp (archery, music, special interests etc.). Involve them in the whole process (if age appropriate).

2. Confidently know your family’s requirements (location, budget). Write these down.

3. Write a short list of possible camps based on answers to the first question.

4. Consider which camps you can eliminate from the list.

5. Narrow your choices down to two or three camps. Review the info you gathered.

6. Establish a relationship with a key staff member.

7. Ask the staff if there are a few parents to call. Speaking with these families can give you valuable insight about the camp and the families that send their children there.

8. Inquire about the camp safety plans and security of its campers.

9. Find out about what medical facilities are available and what medical staff is on site.

10. Inquire about a refund policy if a camper leaves early.

Factor #7 ~ Research Early. Plan Early. Decide Early. Apply Early!                   Summer Camps logo

Camps fill up months ahead of time! You must apply early in order to ensure your child will be able to participate in the camp you select. Now is the perfect time to get the conversation started! After all this is a big financial and perhaps emotional decision for your family, and you need to feel confident that you are making the right choice. So take your time (tho now is the time to start the research), do your homework, and don’t be bashful–ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS!

Next up I will be taking a closer look at local area camps. Summer Fun is just around the bend!


Coach Mom


By Dene Eller

Timothy GreenRecently my 11 year old, sports loving son and I decided to sit down together and watch “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” – an uplifting, sentimental (and surprisingly sports related) story of a childless couple who desperately want to have a baby of their own. After a sad and unfortunate visit to their fertility doctor they learn that, despite their efforts, it would be impossible for them to ever conceive. Heartbroken and looking for a way to try and cope with the news, they go home and decide to write down all the qualities they had wished for in a child onto a slip of paper. Once they’ve finished, they put the paper in a box and bury it in the garden. That night a storm unexpectedly passes and, to their astonishment, the husband and wife wake up the next day to find a muddy 10-year-old boy named Timothy in their kitchen. To make an already bizarre situation even more strange, Timothy – a child neither the husband nor wife has ever met before — refers to the couple as mom and dad.

Despite being thoroughly confused, the Greens decide to take in the young boy and determinedly pass off Timothy as their newly adopted son. However loveable, the boy is indeed odd — both innocent and knowing, he manages to teach his new parents what a magnificent gift it really is to have a child. He’s not short of eccentricities, with his strange habit of basking in the sunlight (sounds like one of my right fielders) along with a spray of snip-proof leaves sprouting from each ankle. He may be odd, but these qualities of his are what make him special and a unique little miracle to his parents – just like any other child is a unique little miracle to their parents. Timothy is strange, yes, but the Greens wouldn’t want him any other way.

Unbeknownst to his parents, one of his leaves falls off each time he fulfills one of the qualities or achievements listed on the original slips of paper – one of those achievements being to score a game winning goal, which he ultimately ends up doing (however, not exactly as planned). As it turns out, both parents had unfulfilled sports successes and hoped for a child who could accomplish what they hadn’t.

DSCN0325It’s easy to see why Timothy’s parents would encourage him to be active in sports. Playing sports as a child, whether for fun outside with your friends during a bright summer day or competitively on a team, creates a sense of belonging and an understanding of how to work both as a leader and in a group. It’s easy to get caught up in technology and want to stay inside, especially now with all sorts of gadgets that can easily catch a child’s eye. But try encouraging your kids to get outside and kick or throw a ball with you, even if they may not seem that interested at first. Of course you shouldn’t force them, but encourage them to at least try – you never know, they might uncover a hidden love for sports that they never even knew they had. Plus if you’re the person they play sports with, it’s a wonderful way to bond, spend time together and create memories or traditions that they could pass on to their children.

There are many reasons to give sports a go; there are a bounty of benefits, but the main one in my opinion is that sports make for a happier, healthier child – physically, mentally and emotionally. Children who play sports suffer from depression less and tend to have much higher self-esteem and a better body image. They quickly realize that sometimes you’re not going to win and you know what? That’s perfectly okay. They’re also a lot less likely to use drugs or smoke cigarettes. Playing a sport has taught them what an incredible machine their body is and they know to think twice before jeopardizing the abilities they’ve developed. These qualities and this mindset will make life much easier and enjoyable for them when they grow up. Participating in sports is also a great way to release some of that built up energy, which means less arguing around bedtime!

parentsandkidsAs viewers we got to share in their long-awaited joys and trials of parenthood. There are numerous “we are sorry” expressions made to Timothy by these deeply caring, enthusiastic, well meaning adults in regards to what they willingly declare as poor parenting. As parents, it’s okay to acknowledge that we’re not perfect and are going to make mistakes from time to time. We’re all merely humans who are learning, by trial and error, how to do the right things in life and set a good example. But as long as you stay supportive of your children and let them know that you love them and you’re doing the best you can — that’s what counts. Genuine love and enthusiasm of being a parent trumps perfection any day.

To distract this pre-adolescent boy from a girl who has suddenly come on the scene, the parents go about convincing the home town coach to allow the physically awkward and “odd” Timothy to join the soccer team. On his first day of practice, after several missed kicks which land Timothy on the ground, the coach barks, “Green whattaya got to say for yourself?” to which Timothy’s immediate but shy response is: “I can only get better?” which is a wonderful way of thinking, even if Timothy doesn’t realize it. Children should learn early on that even though you may not be good at something at first, you can always improve. They should be encouraged to keep their head up and not let their inability to do something perfectly right away get to them. Perseverance and determination are key in being a happy child and growing up to be an equally happy and successful adult.

Timothy occupies the bench all season, spending his time feeding the coach and his Grandpa cups of water on the sidelines. Finally, a chance to play comes up later on with an injury to a key player. There is much at stake as the championship game is tied 1-1. Strict playing orders are delivered by the Coach to just stand in one place and not move. This game plan works for a while until he is powered up by the sunlight and, when the ball comes near, he begins dribbling toward the goal and eluding the other team’s defense. Just as time is running out, he sends a perfect kick into the corner of the goal — unfortunately belonging to the other team. Timothy shot the winning goal! Sure it was for the other team, but he shot a goal just like on the wish list nonetheless! Life mission complete.

Soccer players with coachThere is much to be learned about how to become and act as an encouraging parent, and even perhaps a Coach, from an “odd” but gifted child with a bright spirit. As a Coach & MOM, initiate a Heart-To-Heart conversation at the beginning of each season with your sports enthusiast. Set reasonable expectations together about all aspects of the game. Let them know that doing their best and having fun is what counts — not how many goals they make or how high the score is in the end. Center your ongoing mini “coaching” chats on giving meaning to the true joys of sports participation: The 3 “Es”. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Effort. Keeping your kid(s) in the game with encouraging words and the 3 “Es” will create: Exceptional!

Speak encouragingly and remind them before and after every game that you love, accept and are proud of them regardless of who wins the game. They should know that their happiness is what matters and if they had a good time playing, then they’re the winners in the end – who cares what the final score was?

coachmomOn the way home is a great time to initiate a mini “coaching” chat – as long as there are no electronics to distract them and there are plenty of great snacks to nibble on. During this time you need to remind them that it’s all about loving the sport and not the score. Revisit the mini “coaching” chat about giving your personal best in the present, having fun with friends and putting your body in motion. And just as importantly, partner with a Coach that shares your same values.

Oh and MOM (or DAD)…don’t forget the snacks!

Win The Moments,

Simply ExtraOrdinary Coaching

Dene Eller, PHD is the mom of two active children who are both sports enthusiasts. Dr Dene has coached a variety of sports for various ages for over 30 years and is an active volunteer Kidsports Coach here in Eugene. She would be happy to share her wisdoms about coaching-parenting sports minded kids, chat about success coaching principles, keeping your sports’ stars (MOM’s too!) healthy and super fed for optimal performance. You can find her at or send an email to [email protected]