No More Broken Eggs: A Guide for Athletes, Coaches, Parents and Clinicians for Optimizing the Sports Experience
Here in the United States we are often too focused on how good our kids are in sports by the time they are twelve. We use them, burn them out, and throw them away. We do not do much teaching, nurturing, or instructing; we just try to weed out those that are not the best and we keep pushing and pushing those that are the best to be better. Many young kids never find out how good an athlete they could have been because by the time they are sixteen years old the pressure on them over the years burns them out. They end up being broken eggs.
Because kids are athletes we often forget that they are still fragile children who need nurturing, instruction, and patience. The goal of this book is to help guide athletes, coaches, parents and clinicians to nurture and work with eggs, so they don’t end up broken. Many of the athletes I talk about could have ended up broken eggs and two actually did. I will talk about my work as both a coach and a psychotherapist working in the field of Sport Psychology. I will show how many of the athletes I worked with were very close to getting out of sports for one reason or another. I hope this book can guide some of those who are on the edge to figure out how to perform better in sports in general and over the long haul reach higher peaks than would otherwise have been attainable.
Here are some reviews:
Best Sport Psych Book Out There
By Curtis A. St Denis on January 31, 2009
From a psychological standpoint, I’ve reviewed several sports psychology books and this one is the best by far. It addresses several pertinent issues related to the psychology of the athlete and all those in the athlete’s life. As a psychologist, I’ve been disappointed by the callous and mean spirited nature of other books or the simplistic and superficial approach by other authors. Other books simply pale in comparison. A must read for every athlete and parent, and should be a prerequisite for any person considering coaching.
From Bobby Murcer – New York Yankees great:
“As a parent and as an athlete, I saw far too many people take the love of sports away from their children. Tom Morin sets the perfect tone in this book, making sports a great experience for kids.”
During the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Rick DeMont and I went to lunch at a café across from the swimming pool. We originally met in 1981 when I was an assistant swim coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Rick, in his late twenties, was coming to the end of a long and fascinating swimming career.
Like many children, Rick had asthma. Doctors give the same advice today as they always have given for kids with asthma — join a swim team. Rick excelled in swimming and as a sixteen-year-old, he made the U.S. Olympic team and swam in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. He qualified for the Olympics in two events, the 400-meter freestyle and the 1500-meter freestyle.
Rick had stated on his medical forms that he took two drugs, Marax and Actifed, for his asthma. At the 1972 Olympic Games, Rick swam the 400-meter freestyle and won the Gold Medal. Two days later he was to swim in the finals of the 1500-meter freestyle, his best event. Rick had set the World Record in the 1500-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Trials. After winning the Gold Medal in the 400-meter freestyle, he was clearly a favorite to win the 1500 as well.
Right before the race it was announced, “The FINA [the international ruling body] has decided to eliminate Rick DeMont, Gold Medal winner over 400-meter freestyle, on the proposal of the Medical Commission of the IOC [International Olympic Committee], from his start over 1500-meters freestyle.” Rick was pulled out of the ready room and not allowed to swim the 1500-meter freestyle.
Rick’s urine sample taken after the 400-meter freestyle was positive for the banned drug ephedrine. In Rick’s urine there were twelve parts per million of ephedrine—without question from his medication. He was stripped of his Gold Medal in the 400 freestyle and did not get a chance to win a second Gold Medal in the 1500 freestyle.
The next year at the World Championships Rick broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle and became the first person to break the four-minute barrier. He was named Swimmer of the Year in 1973. (For more information on what happened to Rick, go to http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/news/2001/01/30/usoc_demont_ap/.)
In 1992 Rick was in Barcelona as Chrissy Ahmann-Leighton’s personal swim coach. Chrissy went on to win the Silver Medal in the 100-meter butterfly. I was there as Matt Biondi’s personal coach.
What started out as a casual lunch in Barcelona became a turning point in my life. Like many sports, swimming is a world unto itself and those of us in the sport live and breathe swimming. We know all the stories. Those outside of swimming may have heard something about Rick, perhaps not. Terrorists and Mark Spitz’s seven Gold Medals overshadowed the Munich Olympics. To those in swimming, what happened to Rick was a tragedy.
Everyone in the world of swimming knew about Rick and what happened to him. Although people know him by name, most would not know him if they saw him. This is typically the case in swimming—names are often known, but often there is not a face to match the name.
At lunch, by chance, we sat at a table with some of the Swedish Olympic swim coaches. It was community seating and we each had our own conversations. After a while we began to talk with the four Swedish coaches. Not knowing who Rick was, one of the coaches asked him “Is the first Olympics you have been to?” Rick replied, “No, I was at Munich too.” They asked, “Oh, what’s your name?” When he said, “Rick DeMont,” all four of them reverently rose in unison to shake his hand. They had a look of awe and admiration on their faces—as if they had met a living legend.
As we began to talk more with the coaches, I congratulated them on the Silver Medal the Swedish team won in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. In this relay, each of the four swimmers swims a 200-meter freestyle. Sweden won the Silver Medal and the United States finished third with the Bronze Medal. This was quite a triumph for Swedish swimming and was the first time since 1960 the U.S. did not win the Gold Medal.
Sweden’s population was about eight million people in 1992. The climate in Sweden is not what one would think of as conducive to producing great swimmers. Here in California, in the Bay Area, age group swimming is great, as California has a more appropriate climate. If we put together an All Star team of twelve-year-olds from the Bay Area, I am confident we could beat the national All Star Team from Sweden. By age twelve we often produce stars but in Sweden twelve-year-olds are just getting started.
However something was happening to these swimmers from the age of about twelve on. How could this small country of Sweden put together four swimmers that could beat the best four swimmers in the United States? When I asked the Swedish coaches this question I got a response I will never forget. They said, “Think of it like a carton of eggs. In the United States you slam all your eggs against the wall and most of them break. In Sweden we can not afford to do that. Our gene pool is too small. We have to bring swimmers along, nurture them while dealing with their setbacks and problems. We have to work with them during the ups and downs of their careers. In the United States, you just get someone else to take his or her place. In Sweden, we have to work on building and developing our swimmers.”
I have spoken to parent groups about this conversation many times. I felt what the Swedish coaches said was very true. Here in the United States we are often too focused on how good our kids are in sports by the time they are twelve. We use them, burn them out, and throw them away. We do not do much teaching, nurturing, or instructing; we just try to weed out those that are not the best and we keep pushing and pushing those that are the best to be better. Many young kids never find out how good an athlete they could have been because by the time they are sixteen years old the pressure on them over the years burns them out. They end up being “broken eggs.”
Because kids are athletes we often forget that they are still fragile children who need nurturing, instruction, and patience. The goal of this book is to help guide athletes, coaches, parents and clinicians to nurture and work with “eggs,” so they don’t end up broken. Many of the athletes I talk about could have ended up “broken eggs” and two actually did. I will talk about my work as both a coach and a psychotherapist working in the field of Sport Psychology. I will show how many of the athletes I worked with were very close to getting out of sports for one reason or another. I hope this book can guide some of those who are on the edge to figure out how to perform better in sports in general and over the long haul reach higher peaks than would otherwise have been attainable.
Here in the United States we run far too many kids out of sports before we ever really know what they could have done. One of my basic beliefs is that the benefits from a successful sports experience last a lifetime. Through sports, kids can learn the lessons of life. This only happens if they are active in sports.
James Michener wrote in his book The Bridge at Andau, “For any nation to deprive itself of the capacities of any man is really a sin against the entire society. And if a system not only refuses to use native capacities but establishes a regime for stunting or destroying those capacities, then such a regime is doomed.” Michener was talking about the horrible impact that communism had on the people of Hungary, leading to the 1956 revolt against their Russian oppressors.
The way our youth sport programs stunt and destroy many of our young and developing “eggs” is a sin against our society. It is time to stop and take a hard look at the structure of youth sport programs in the United States and the impact they are having on our children. It is clear that we are destroying far too many of our precious “eggs.”