My job: making tough decisions

Sometimes you have to make decisions that you’d rather not have to make. Unfortunately, that is part of my job (which I otherwise love). My volunteer job, that is, and it sucks to have people hate you (yes, I’m exaggerating) for something you volunteer to do.

I don’t know how the youth sport system is in your countries. I know that many countries have a school sport system where, if I can believe Ned’s Survival Guide on Nickelodeon, children either make the team or they don’t. We have a different system in the Netherlands. Similar to how you can be a member of a gym, you can become member of a sports club. It’s a volunteer organisation, so people contribute not only money, but also time to, for example, stand behind the counter, drive children to away games or to train other people. My job? I’m in the technical committee, so I’m in charge of the trainers, educating and coaching them and when the season is about to end, make decisions about which children are the best and which ones are mediochre.

That in itself is not so tough, though sometimes you doubt who is best because you haven’t seen children play together. Much tougher is handling the responses of both parents and children concerning their placement in certain teams. People feel they are better than others and should be placed in higher teams. Children would like to play with their friends. There are too many children in the team, there are too few children in the team… The list goes on.

The paradox in having to make such decisions is this: you can never please everyone. There is no way to satisfy all people and to uphold the goal of going for the highest overall level possible at the same time. So we don’t. Of course we try to accomodate somewhat, and people have the opportunity to tell us their preferences (playing with specific people, for example) up front, but the reality is that there’ll always be disappointed children and parents. As long as we support what we have chosen as a collective and have made these choices as fairly as possible, we have done the best we can.

It’s a tough job. Think you can do better? You’re welcome to try 🙂

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Don’t be afraid to show it

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” 

This quote from Marianne Williamson‘s A Return to Love, though it is also attributed to Nelson Mandela (and is not complete), is my mantra when it comes to sports. It hangs on the wall of the living room and when I feel insecure, I repeat it to myself.  It helps me to let go of tension and realize that every time again, I can play my very best, not holding back or worrying about how I come across to others.

That’s exactly what this is about. Related to sports, mediocrity is common in the Netherlands. If you try to stand out individually, or even as a team, you are shot down (though luckily this is slowly changing). Some people choose to do less than they are capable off, to prevent people from shooting them down. They are not afraid of not making it internationally, no, they are afraid to show what they can do.

Don’t hold yourself back. You are capable of so much more than you show and even than you think. If you put your mind to it, the sky is the limit. So don’t be afraid to show it!

Healthy sports canteen

Every year, our club hosts an international korfball tournament with over 150 people from the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain. A great weekend, because the English arrive on Friday, so it’s almost a three day event (there’s a smaller tournament for the first teams on Sunday, and last year we had youth games on Friday evening).  All these people spend at least one day playing match after match. In the sun today, though that has been different some other years.

 

French Fries

French Fries (Photo credit: fritish)

Playing sports is healthy, we are all aware of that. In a healthy lifestyle, exercise ought to play a part, as ought a balanced diet. But, weirdly enough, those two aren’t always combined. Have you played organized sports? Then you have probably enjoyed a beer and french fries or something similar in your canteen. Many teams enjoy the third half, consisting of alcohol and socializing, more than the game they play. And little children? Sweet drinks and candy. That’s not very healthy, is it? But it’s something that happens everywhere.

 

Some people (like me) bring their own food. I like to eat grapes on match days, or an apple, and I bring my own sandwiches. Not because I don’t like panini’s or fries (they also have regular sandwiches in our canteen, with today a healthy choice of salmon), but because I think what I eat is healthier. Especially the fruits, cause we don’t sell any fresh fruit, or canned fruit for that matter. And it’s such a shame! When I have my grapes with me, it’s always more than I can eat myself, but I barely ever have anything left. Simply because other like to help me finish it. It’s not that people don’t want healthy food in the canteen, it’s because there is barely anything available. Unhealthy is the easy choice! And that’s not the way it should be.

 

Some things will probably never change. If we try to ditch the beer, people will riot, definitely. But we could limit the times we sell beer. And for the food and snacks, we can offer healthy alternatives. Place the crisps out of sight and have a fruit basket with apples and bananas, or small boxes with grapes (I’d love that). If you place something in sight, it’s already way more appealing. Have sugar-free chewing gum and add some low-calorie drinks to the assortment. Without a doubt, there will be people who chose the healthy option.

 

It’s a difficult fight for a healthy sports canteen. You can try asking for certain products if you can’t get them at the moment, or if you don’t have any direct influence on the buying. Another option is to start a petition: ask around whether other people might like a change in assortment as well. And if nothing works? Just bring your own healthy food!

 

Starting the new season

KannibalenToday was the first day of practice for the new season, with the competition starting in less than a month. Even though we’ve had summer training in the gym, nothing quite prepares you for the first real day of practice… I’m exhausted! The worst we had to do was probably carrying someone hanging on a korfball pole to the edge of the field and back again. Four times, because we had to make it twice (with two different people) within 3 minutes… and that’s tough. I was generally the person hanging on the pole, being carried as though I was captured by some cannibal tribe. Except I had to keep myself up, and that was more difficult than I expected. With the bouncing up and down whilst they were running, my arms and legs hit the pole repeatedly. I can now clearly feel I have a preferred arm and leg, as my right hurts way more than my left.

It feels good though, having done something. You’ve probably experienced that as well, after jogging, playing football or whatever you do. But it also leaves you very tired, hankering for bed… So that’s where I’m going now 😉

My walking challenge

Do you ever take a walk outside? My husband and I rarely do. We have a four-day walking event our club organizes where we walk 5 kilometers four evening in a row… but that’s about it. During the previous week, THE four-day in Holland took place for the 97th time. Almost 50,000 people, not only from the Netherlands but also from America, Sweden and many other countries, take part in one of the biggest walking events in Europe.

30, 40 or 50 kilometers a day, starting between 4 and 7 am. Four days in a row. About 900 people drop out every day. They haven’t trained for it, they have blisters or sprained ankles or they can’t cope with the heat. Mentally or physically, they weren’t prepared for the challenge the four-day poses.

I’m very proud of my sisters-in-law and my father-in-law, because they completed the four-day! And I have to admit: I envy them. They have had a week they’ll never forget, and completed quite a physical challenge. So, you won’t be surprised that my husband and I have decided we want to enter too. The four-day of 2013 has ended, but for us, the four-day of 2014 has already begun!

We have started our training yesterday with a 15 kilometer walk through the forest. It was a green route starting and ending at the same train-station, an initiative of a single man who creates about 2 routes every week. If you are in the Netherlands, try one (route description in Dutch), because the routes are very enjoyable! Ours took us through three different forests and a lovely heathland. The heather wasn’t flowering yet, but I could imagine it turning completely purple in a few weeks. And the smell of the forest! That mossy, pine tree smell that’s actually difficult to define. The mosaic of light and shadow as a result of sunlight through the trees is quite magical… I felt in place.

My challenge in training for the 2014 four-day: take walks through nature every week. Be it for pure enjoyment, to gather fruits and herbs or to walk as fast as possible, I’m sure I can do this and add another dimension to my training.

Hulshorsterzand Hendriksbos Middelhart Westeindse Heide

 

The four elements in exercise

Today was my first korfball training of the new season. It felt… painful, but mainly because I had barely done anything over the summer. But it also felt good to finally do something physical, to get tired and take a nice shower afterwards. The joy of physical practice!

Physical practice is a great way to cleanse yourself, combined with a nice shower afterwards. You tread the earth, feel a fire within and get very warm, your breathing (pattern) is essential and you start sweating. All four elements combined. In addition, exercise can clear your head. so you feel more open afterwards.

Any kind of exercise is possible, as long as it raises your heart rate. Try it out sometime!

Find your greatness

The Olympic Games end tonight with the closing ceremony. We’ve seen so many great things, unimaginable for the most of us. Only the absolute best athletes in specific Olympic sports can perform at this highest stage in the world, once every four years. And only the best 5% or so can amaze and win medals. The Paralympics are perhaps more impressive, athletes that are not able-bodied, performing at the highest level possible. Of course they are influenced by their handicap, but they have refused to let it stop them from pursuing their dreams.

I play sports myself and try to go as far as I can. It’s not my ultimate goal however, and not where I think my talent lies. I know from myself that I am always happy and that I can bring a smile to people’s faces, as I’ve noticed during my work on campings, in a store and now in a nursery home. My intention is to inspire people to start moving, to find a sport that suits them. All people are good at something, have bodies or attitudes fit for specific sports. They just don’t know it yet. Perhaps they have bad experiences with sport and decided they’d rather do nothing. Such a shame! There is a sport for everybody!

Perhaps you didn’t like the more established sports of for example basketball or tennis. Then go try out something else, such as cycling, fencing, or archery. Maybe you’ll find you enjoy it and are somehow good at it. And mostly we enjoy things we are good at. You don’t have any money, there are no facilities, but you want to try something anyway? Most cities have a way of financially supporting people wanting to play sport, at least in the Netherlands. Or try running, you don’t need any club for that, just your two feet. Go for a swim and try to cover the same distance in less and less time. You have a disability? Plenty of opportunities for you as well, just look at the Paralympic Games. And remember, what you see there and during the Olympics is only the tip of the iceberg where sport types are concerned and even more where athletes are concerned.

Not many people can make it to the top, but we can be great in our own way. We can find a sport and get better and better, improving and enjoying ourselves. The last woman finishing a marathon, sweating like crazy, a red face, a hand at her waist because it hurts so much but going on anyway, how is that anything less than the man completing the marathon first? We don’t have the same body or background. We are not fit for exactly the same, which is why people specialize in mostly one sport. But in that sport we should try our very best to come as far as possible, to persevere. We can all deliver our own great performances, if we just dare to try.

So.. I dare you

The best Olmypics ever

It’s so great Oscar got to participate! It took so much debating, literally about the advantage of the artificial legs (as if it’s a benefit not to have lower legs). Great inspiration, this photo especially, so thanks for sharing it!

The Poetry of the Earth

The best Olmypics ever

“Maybe my favorite of all the recent photos of Olympians. He’s Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. She’s Ellie, she’s 5, and she got to race him. She won all four times. Oscar = Cool.” – Brant Hansen

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Development 100 m sprint for men

Jamaican Usain Bolt broke the Olympic record on the 100 m sprint yesterday with 9.63 seconds, making it the second time he has won the gold medal in the Olympics. He has also broken the world record in 2009, with a time of 9.58 seconds. Nobody had expected someone to run that fast. More extraordinary, it appears that Bolt could go even faster and perhaps make it under 9.5 seconds. We’ll have to wait to see that, though.

Since the first Modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, technique and technology have become increasingly better. It is now possible to look at the movement of an athlete in slowmotion (have you all seen the super slowmotion of the speedwalking contest, which showed that none of the competitors followed the rules: all had a flight moment in which neither of the feet touched the ground). I will do a blog post about technology and sport later in time, so let’s focus on the effects for now. In swimming, new swimsuits were developed that allowed players to go even faster. These were banished by FINA (Fédération Internationale du Natation, the international swimming federation), but many world records had already been broken using these new suits. Some people in these Olympic games have again broken these records, using the older textile, which makes it even more remarkable.

The 100 metres sprint has been included in the Modern Olympic Games since the first occurence. Technology and technique have changed this sport as well. Better training, training equipment and better shoes. A better analysis of technique with video analysis. So many possibilities. And it has led to great improvements in time, with the WR by Bolt in 2009 shocking the world. They had not expected someone to run this fast in at least ten years. But here came Bolt. I can explain it to you, but this video by the New York Times shows it much better.

What do you think? Is it possible to go even faster? Perhaps to run under 9 seconds over 100 meter? What is the limit?

Why a gold medal?

(c) Reuters

Yay! Yesterday Marianne Vos won the first gold medal for the Netherlands these Olympics! The ‘golden girls’  from the 4×100 m relay swimming unfortunately didn’t prolong their title and had the silver medal to comfort them (which they are happy with… only it took a while to get from ‘losing gold’ to ‘winning silver’). Our archer has reached the final 16, Epke Zonderland has reached the finals in gymnastics and has a real chance of finally winning gold in gymnastics, Dex Elmont (judo) was so tired from his previous matches he lost the small final for the bronze medal. These are just several stories of Dutch successes or misfortunes during the first few days of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

10,960 athletes are competing in London and surroundings in 36 different sports, all trying to win that wondrous, special, GOLD medal. Silver is not enough for them, they have but one goal: GOLD. But why? Why is it not enough to be announced best of the world, to feel the glory when listening to the national anthem, to have the honour of being called Olympic champion? The modern Olympic Games were founded to “build a better world through sport”, based on the ideology of Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin (if you want to know more about this, the IOC has published a document in 2000).

The Ancient Olympics were different. I read an article today about the Pagan origins of the modern Olympic Games on about.com by Patti Wigington. It very clearly explained that the Ancient Olympics were first and foremost a religious festival. Competitors would honour Zeus by swearing an oath to him, offering and competing. The winner would be announced immediately after the event, so everybody could hear he had won, and red ribbons were tied around his head and hands (how symbolic, a colour of will and power). On the last day of the Games, all victors would be announced again and the kotinos (olive trea wreath) were placed on their heads. Some of these victors can still be named today! The organic material of the kotinos would not last forever, but the fame and glory of the athlete would.

Michael Phelps wins the gold medal (Athens 2004)

When the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 in Athens, the winner of an event was awarded a silver medal and an olive branch, whereas the runner-up would get a bronze medal and a laurel branch. Though the silver medal was new, the olive branch was somewhat similar to the prize at the ancient Olympic Games. Only in 1904 did the triad gold-silver-bronze become the standard.

So… why was there a need for medals and a gold medal in particular? Silver and bronze were enough, compared to the single winner in the ancient Olympic Games. Perhaps it has to do with the symbolism of the medal and the qualities of gold (though the Olympic medals are not made of solid gold anymore, they are >90% silver and copper). The medals are circular, to represent the world and possibly the everlasting glory of winning the Olympics. Gold is one of the least reactive solids: it will stay good for a very long time, unlike silver which turns black. It can therefore be a symbol of endurance and of everlasting glory. Gold can also symbolize the sun, or a sungod (though it was probably not intended as such). Alchemists strived to make gold out of ‘natural’ substances such as salt. It is believed to be a metaphor for their journey to wisdom. Perhaps the gold medalists have also completed their journey, only not per sé to wisdom, but to an amazing athletic achievement!

I love watching the Olympics, it’s on tv all day long and there is only a one hour difference, so we get to see most events live. It is spectacular, seeing what the human body is capable of! Though I agree we ought to honour these athletes because of their remarkable performances, I don’t know whether the medals are necessary. But on the other hand, it is also something the athletes can take with them, take home and remember their victory by. The medals are different every Olympic Game, so people will presumably collect different ones. I like the medals of the 2012 Olympics in London especially, because it looks so nice and has so many symbols on it 🙂 But though they are pretty and the athletes get a lasting object to symbolize their victory at the Olympics, I do not believe they are necessary. Any other object could have been chosen to give to the athletes. Nowadays however, the gold medal is the standard thing for athletes of Olympic sports to strive for, so it is appropriate that athletes get one if they win. I hope the Netherlands wins many more of them in the coming weeks!
This’ll hopefully spark some debate, I know it did here when my fiancée read it! What do you think about awarding medals to Olympic champions?

London 2012 Olympic gold medal

Design of the London 2012 Olympic gold medal