Saturday, July 1, 2017

Why You Should Watch Battle of the Network Stars with Your Kids

It's hard to find something the whole family will enjoy - at least in my family. There are some who love sports and some who are bored out of their minds watching any competition. A few years ago, my youngest was into watching High School Musical - OVER AND OVER AND OVER.  If I had to listen to "Get in the game" one more time I was going to pull an Elvis and shoot the TV.

Family members watching at our house ranged from age 2 to 61. Now the two-year-old just laughed at the dunk tank and then went off to do something else. My nine-year-old granddaughter liked the obstacle course the best. Everyone from nine and up liked seeing the stars they remembered from a few weeks ago (Fuller House) to a few years ago (High School Music) to more than a few years ago (Roseanne, Facts of Life).  There were a lot of exclamations of "Hey, I remember her!" which led to talking about "Remember when you were younger and that was your favorite show "  and "Yeah, Jenn and I used to fight over whether I got to watch my show or she got to watch her stupid old movies."  

Bringing back memories and talking with your children are too big benefits to watching the show - anything that has families sitting around reminiscing is good. Yes, I know that is such a mom thing to say but every mom has a sentimental side (yes, even me).

The MAIN reason you should watch Battle of the Network Stars with your kids


All that is nice, but the main reason for watching with your kids is the messages they hear from the coaches. Kim Fields and Lisa Whelchel were hesitant to compete in the swimming competition because they didn't look the same in a swim suit as they did 30 years ago. They talked to Ronda about people on social media judging your body if you are a woman, and now they are women no longer in their teens like they were the first time they competed on the show.

Ronda said,

"Strong is beautiful" ... and went on to tell them that no one should hold back on what they want to do in life because other people are judging how they will look while doing it.

As an older woman myself, as a mother of daughters ages 19-34 and grandmother of girls 9 and under,  this is a message we all need to hear.

Of course, I watched the first episode of Battle of the Network Stars because my lovely daughter, Ronda, was one of the coaches. Also, I'd been to visit her on set and the episode I saw had me laughing more than I had in years. The funny, silly and celebrity-spotting parts are important, I think, because, I can tell you, as someone who makes educational video games, to quote another childhood memory, "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."

In other words, your kids (and maybe you), need to get those positive messages about strong women and worrying more about what you do than about how you look doing it. However, they'll probably have more impact if those lessons come about naturally rather than sitting down lecturing them on following their own path and not giving up.

Both Ronda and fellow coach Demarcus Ware give a lot of positive advice to their teams who are very much not athletes - sometimes laughably not athletes - on just giving it your best shot and not worrying about your age or your level of skill. 

Get in the game. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Daughter Merchandise

So, Jennifer found the absolute dorkiest picture of herself she could find from her childhood and had it made into a blanket for me for Mother's Day.

I don't know WHOSE glasses she is wearing in that picture. It made us laugh and on top of that, it irked Julia who immediately sent a message to the family group text :

Best daughter? I don't think so!

Yesterday, we were at a game expo - E3, it was awesome - and they were selling t-shirts that said,

I can't believe I'm not an action figure already.

I told Ronda I should buy her one of those shirts and she said,

But, Mom, I AM an action figure already!

I told her that's what would make the shirt funny. I didn't buy it for her since she did not seem properly appreciative but the next day my cousin, Julie, sent me a message that she was at the store and saw this:

I am just putting the other two daughters on notice that I am expecting some daughterly merchandise for the next merchandise-supplying event.

Julia does the voice for Angie in Forgotten Trail, so, if we come out with some Angie merchandise, does that count?  These are the types of weighty issues that I ponder when I get my lecture written early.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Mom Thinks I'm Cool: Ronda Edition


I always think all of my children are amazing. Today is the Ronda Edition.  Sometimes, idiot people who don't know her say stupid things about Ronda. So, just you have an idea why her mom thinks she's cool  -

Ronda finished filming Battle of the Network Stars yesterday. She has been working 12-14 hours a day and then working out after the filming is over. She had lost her voice from coaching on the set and was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open.

She came by the house to have coffee (point number 1, visiting Mom on Sundays. You should all try it.) and autograph shirts and jackets she had donated for Gompers Judo fundraiser.


Three of our Gompers Judo students are dual citizens with the U.S. and Mexico and have been selected to compete in the Mexican junior national championships. I was concerned that one of them was too focused on cutting weight. So, Ronda offered to talk to her, called her house and spent the next 15 minutes giving a high school sophomore tips on having a healthy diet and still making weight.

She thought that people would be more likely to donate to the judo program if it was a personalized item so she gave me some of her favorite shirts and jackets, including one from Battle of the Network Stars and several from Reebok. We had to go through this twice because when she came to autograph things she said,

"Hey, I really like that one, let me switch!"

and she gave one to Julia because it was sentimental and she remembered it being her favorite shirt at Julia's age. The point, though, is, these were things she really liked and it was hard to part with, so she figured fans might be more likely to donate money to get one.

The second part of this is that we discussed what to do with the dozen items she donated. My niece, Samantha, pointed out that the only people who can win an ebay auction are people who have A LOT of money. We thought it would be nice if people who had supported Ronda through thick and thin had more of a chance. So ... we decided to contact 12 people who had always been there for her and tell them that if they would like to donate $500 they could get anything from one of Ronda's favorite jackets to a t-shirt that Marina made for her to a t-shirt that she made herself. Yes, it's not cheap, but it at least gives a chance to people who don't have thousands of dollars extra lying around, and it will cover the expenses for the rest of the year for team jackets, a team dinner and our judo road trip to visit colleges and train (we always combine the two).

On Tuesday, we are having my grandson, Cal, pull names out of a hat to decide who gets what. He is only two and can't read so you know he won't cheat.

Update: Cal pulling names at 5:30 pm Pacific Time on Facebook Live today, June 19, 2017. 

(Sorry for the delay. I got backed up with work and our Master of Ceremonies was taking a nap two of the times I tried to arrange it.)

Just so you know, four of our students who started with us at Gompers Middle School are high school seniors this year. 

Meet our high school seniors

Did I mention that Ronda started this program (it was her sister, Jennifer's idea, so props to Jenn who did her student teaching at Gompers)? Ronda taught here for free for two years and has donated a lot of her own money and time ever since. (Also, those mats above are from Swain Martial Arts , from Michael Swain, just to show Ronda isn't the only judo champion helping make the world a better place).

Just to give you an idea of how hard these kids from south Los Angeles work and how much they deserve your support, here is just a little bit of practice yesterday. Now, mind you, Friday was the last day of school and they STILL all came to practice after school and Saturday was the first day of summer vacation and they STILL all got up and were in front of the school at 8 am to drive out to La Puente for an extra practice. 

video

I'm assuming since you read this blog you are NOT an idiot, but next time you read something bad about Ronda, know that THIS is what she did on Sunday after working nearly 200 hours over the past two weeks.

And then, she took her family to brunch.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I left it all on the field: Zero Regrets


You will never find me challenging the young adults on the basketball court.

I'm not joining the adult soccer league. For the love of God, my nineteen-year-old DAUGHTER plays in that league.

My friend used to play in the old-timers hockey league, up in North Dakota.
A lot of my friends compete in masters competition for judo.

Good for all of them but it's never happening for me.

Occasionally, my children, or other young people want me to go out and run with them, go a round of randori or some other stupid idea for when you are my age.

Forget all of that age is just a number nonsense.

This week, I was running around an obstacle course with my two youngest daughters, about whom it can be said that I am literally old enough to be their mother.


The next morning, Ronda called me and said,

Mom, are you okay? Do you need any ice or aspirin? Does anything hurt?

I told her I was fine, thank you, and I hurt when I wake up every day, but


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Here's what I do with my nine-working arthritic fingers - I make video games that teach math, social studies, English (and soon, Spanish). Get yourself some!




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it hasn't stopped me yet.

There are people who play technical judo and maybe they are out there competing when they are 60 years old, and, again, good for them.

If you ever read my book, (shock! you didn't? it's called Winning on the Ground) you'll know that the judo I do is a lot more physical. Years ago, when CBS sports asked Willy Cahill who to film, he said,

If you want judo that looks like ballet, get Robin Chapman (now Robin Chow). If you want judo that looks like a fight in a bar, watch AnnMaria.

So, now, I'm paying for it.

I don't feel sorry for myself, ever, but I'm not stupid, either.  Those years of two, three times a day practices, competing without weight divisions, despite injuries, took their toll. There is a reason you don't see a lot of former professional or Olympic athletes competing in the senior games.

Several years ago, I was at a judo clinic and a little kid asked 1987 World Judo Champion, Mike Swain,

How many times did you beat Koga?

And Mike had the best answer,

Only one. The time that mattered.

So, yeah, I don't feel bad about having arthritis, a knee replacement and a thumb reconstruction. I don't care about all the tendons, ligaments or cartilage that I'm missing. It was worth the price.

But don't ask me to run in your 10 K.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Perfect is the enemy of getting shit done

"Perfect is the enemy of getting shit done."



Karen Mackey made that comment this week and I told her that I was totally stealing that line. I see too many people, whether in judo, school or their career that are less successful than they could be because they make way too many excuses not to work that SOUND good.
  • I would work out but there is nobody my size.
  • I'd apply for jobs but retailers prefer that you do it in person.
  • I would work out but there is no judo class on Wednesdays.
  • I would do the extra credit work but I'm not sure what the teacher wants me to do.
It SOUNDS like you aren't working out, studying or working because you would prefer to do it a better way, but the reality is you aren't getting shit done.

Last night, I was on the mat in Sioux City, Iowa with over 40 people. White belts worked out with brown belts. We tried to pair everyone up by size but when that wasn't always possible, larger people worked out with smaller people. We did turnover drills, escapes, matwork combinations and transition drills. I'm sure it wasn't a perfect workout, but everyone got in a practice where everyone worked on specific skills.

A couple of weeks ago, at Gompers Middle School, the judo room was closed for the day due to smoke exposure - there had been a fire in an adjacent building and the school decided to not allow practice inside. So, we practiced outside in the soccer field. We did conditioning exercises. We did gripfighting drills . We used bungee cords and did uchi komis. We did uchikomi drills. Was it a perfect practice? No, but we got in drills and got in a tiny bit better shape.

So, yeah, the next time you say you are going to work out or apply for a job or study but you are holding off for the perfect conditions, just know that it may sound to you like you are going to do something even better but to me it sounds exactly like you aren't doing shit.
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 When I'm not ranting about life, I make awesome video games that teach math and history and are fun to play. You should check them out. Some of them are even free. Whether you have a Mac, Windows, iPad or android, we've got you covered.


http://www.7generationgames.com/products/

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Retiring from Sports: How Not To End Up a Thirty-Five-Year-Old Intern

I know some unhappy people who were pretty successful judo players (which I'd define as winning multiple medals at the international level).

In fact, when I look at the "also-rans", the people who almost made the Olympic or world team, the people who went to the Olympics and went out the first round, generally did better subsequently than the winners. Pure speculation on my part here, but maybe those people who were number two or three in the country realized that they needed a fallback plan and so focused on their academics or building a career during their competitive years.

It's not a complete separation. There are some people like Dr. James Wooley (who was on two Olympic teams), Senator Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell (who was on the 1964 Olympic team) and, I'd like to think, me, who have had athletic success and went on to have successful careers and seem to be relatively happy. There is also Dr. Gerda Winkelbauer , an M.D. and world judo champion from Austria. I believe Olympic gold medalist Sue Williams has a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

The key is really simple: Work on your Plan B while you are still competing

 It was 1978 and I was at the collegiate national championships. After I had won and we were waiting for the medal ceremony, I was up in the stands with my textbooks, studying because we had finals when I got back. Several feet away was another guy studying for exams. That's why my friend introduced me to James Wooley, because she found it hilarious that we were studying at the national JUDO championships. I found it odd that we were the only two who had brought backpacks full of books. I mean, it was the COLLEGE championships, no?

 The same year I first won the U.S. Open, I started my MBA program. The reason this was a good thing was because I got used to being the person who didn't know anything, whose job was to grade 85 of the same essay exam. Not only did I learn how to read a balance sheet, design a database system and write a business plan, I also learned to not be such a prima donna jerk (admittedly, that last part took longer).

 While I was training, for the world championships, I was working as an engineer at General

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When I'm not rambling on about judo and other sports, I'm making games. Please check them out. You can learn math, social studies, build your vocabulary.  Here are some free games and demos for you just because I am so nice.

http://www.7generationgames.com/demo/

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Dynamics, learning a lot about manufacturing and programming. So, when I retired from competition at 26, I had an MBA, a full-time job and several years of post-graduate experience.

You don't have to have a law degree or an M.D. When you retire. Steve Seck was successful as both a wrestler and judo player. He reasoned that teaching physical education was one area where both of those accomplishments would be valued. He got his degree in Physical Education while competing. Right after retirement, he earned a teaching credential and masters degree and he's done quite well.

 I tell kids all of the time,

 "Have a plan for competition! In the middle of the match is not the time to figure out what you want to do."

 The same is true of life. Have a plan WHILE you are competing and work on it.


I was extremely fortunate that when I was training at Tenri Dojo in Los Angeles there were several people who had been nationally ranked competitors, and  who were 5 or 10 years older than me. It was right in front of my face that their later success had very little to do with their success on the mat and everything to do with their preparation for life after judo.

Oh, and get some credentials. I get resumes from people that include what tournaments they have won, what teams they are on and I just shake my head. If you're applying for a job, you might put "4th degree judo black belt, 2004 Olympic team member" and, unless the job has something to do with armbarring people, that's it.

Get a degree. Get certified as an EMT or a real estate broker or something. Work a summer internship. Get a job in your field and start building your professional network.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why People Don't Retire from Sports: A Cynical View

I'm about to say what some people might consider a mean thing, so if your feelings are easily hurt, read no further.

Recently, someone asked me why a certain person in their thirties was still heavily involved in judo. She said,

What's the point of spending all of that time doing something with no probability of paying any money that takes time away from your career?

My answer was that for many people who were elite athletes in judo, they miss being the center of attention, they miss being 'special'. They miss coaches, managers, officials treating them with respect, recognizing them, catering to them. Oh,you want water, let me go get that for you. They miss traveling on someone else's dime.



I have had a lot of people in their twenties work for me in entry level positions as well as a few teen interns. I like to think we're not jerks at our company, but the youngest people are generally those who know the least, have the least experience and because of that, get paid the least. They have the last choice of shifts to work because the other people were here first.  They generally aren't traveling on business because they don't know our business very well yet and schools want someone who can come in, install software, answer their questions and provide some staff training.


It's true in most sports and particularly true in a minor sport like judo, when an elite athlete retires, he or she goes from the top of the heap to the bottom of the totem pole.


When you come back from winning medals in Europe, Asia and South America and a boss asks you sarcastically if you were too busy to get a report in on time, it is hard to bite back,

"Don't you know who I am? Don't you know what I've done?"

Truthfully, your boss probably doesn't give a fuck what you've done in sports.
He or she just needs those figures to tell whether sales are going up or down, the graphic layout of the annual report or whatever else the company executives are focused on.

It's hard to go from somebody to nobody. It's hard to go from feeling like an expert to feeling like a complete novice.

So, sometimes people stay LONG after they should have retired. I remember when I was competing calling an athlete arrogant and our youngest U.S. Team member said,

"How can that guy be arrogant? I've never seen him win!"

That's when I realized he had been competing for several years after his peak and it was true, he hadn't won in a long time. What else could he do, though? He was in his mid-thirties and had never had a real job. So, he just kept working at temporary jobs and going to judo tournaments. 


Sometimes what happens with those same people when they are too injury-ridden and old to keep competing is that they continue the same pattern but




When I'm not teaching judo, I'm making games. Please check them out. You can learn math, social studies, build your vocabulary.  Here are some free games and demos for you just because I am so nice.

http://www.7generationgames.com/demo/



 as a coach. They get a job where they can get by and then all of their energy, passion and talent is put into judo where they can be a big shot.


In America, judo is a sport where you can reach a fairly high level with a modest level of talent. Don't bother arguing with me because the numbers are against you. There are millions of people in this country who swim, play basketball, football or soccer. To get to the top of that group, whether as an athlete, a coach or an administrator takes more effort and talent than to be a top judo player in the U.S. It's harder to be number 3 out of the maybe 300 people in your division who compete than to be number 3 out of 30,000. In some divisions, I'd question whether we could really find 300 people in the country who actually compete.


So, you have put out moderate effort and gotten to be on the podium, call yourself a national medalist or even national champion, maybe gotten to represent the United States in international competition. To get that same level of recognition in business, in academics, you're going to have to work really hard for a long time. You have to start at the bottom and you may be 10 years younger than your non-athlete colleagues. Not only do people not look up to you, but you are a thirty-five-year-old intern. Is it any wonder people want to stay in judo for life?


Yes. I still teach judo. In fact, I'm teaching this afternoon. However, it's not the center of my life it once was because I retired and went on to other things.

How to NOT be that thirty-five-year-old intern? That's my next blog post.