Don’t be a jerk when your kid plays sports

My six year old son experienced an important right of passage for any Canadian child this fall: he started playing organized hockey. Despite his questionable skating skills, we dressed him up in his brand new (very expensive…oh so expensive) equipment and sent him out onto the ice with a stick in hand. During the fifty minute practice, he spent about 47 of those minutes on his back or stomach. But that was four weeks ago. Today, he was flying around the rink looking for a chance to score. It’s incredible how fast children can learn new skills.

 

While it’s fun to watch him grow and excel, being a hockey parent is no joke. It’s early morning practices, both Saturday and Sunday mornings, it’s a lot of money (did I mention how expensive it is?), and there’s a ton of housekeeping that goes on to keep things running smoothly. One of the most important to-do items was completing the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s Respect in Sport course, which one parent of each child playing hockey needs to complete. It took about one and a half hours and is mandatory. If you don’t complete it, your child doesn’t play. Simple as that.

 

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The whole idea is to teach parents how not to be jerks at their kid’s sporting events. You know, things like “how not to scream at your child because you see it as a personal failure when they miss that important shot” or “how not to guilt your child into playing a sport they don’t want to play because it was your dream and you didn’t succeed” – a slight exaggeration maybe, but not far off. Seriously, do parents actually do this?

 

Apparently they do. I have yet to witness it (and goodness help me if I ever do) but I’ve heard of many incidents of parents getting into fights with referees over bad calls, assaulting other parents, or harassing coaches about not playing their child. I find it hard to believe that adults would not only embarrass themselves in this manner, but in front of their children.

 

But that’s what this course is all about – telling parents what’s expected of them, how abusive behaviour can affect their children, and how to be respectful at their children’s sports events. It was all common sense to me, but apparently not for everyone. Want to know how to be respectful in sport? Don’t be a jerk. Simple as that.

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Top 5 reasons to start yoga…now!

Are you stressed out? Anxious? Depressed? Unhealthy? Overwhelmed? Happy? Satisfied? Content? At peace? Psssst. I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

No matter how you’re doing right now, yoga will make it better and here’s why. These are my top five reasons you should start yoga…now!

 

yoga

  1. It’s a workout and workouts are good for you
    If you’re one of those people who thinks yoga is all fluff and no substance, you’re wrong. It depends on which class you do of course, but there are some that are higher intensity and get your heart rate up in no time. Tip? If you see YIN yoga, it’s primarily stretching and lower intensity. FLOW and POWER FLOWS are what you want to do for a good workout.
  2. It will make you breathe and breathing is a good thing
    Ever have those times when you feel like you’re barely taking in a full breath, but are instead breathing in half, laboured breaths? Whether it’s due to anxiety, stress or prolonged pressure and demands on your time, I bet you’ve experienced the ‘there’s someone sitting on my chest’ feeling. That’s where yoga comes in. It forces you to breathe fully, which relaxes you and reduces those harmful feelings you may be experiencing. Tip? Wherever you are right now, try this: Breathe in deeply and slowly for a count of 4 – pause for a moment – and then breathe out slowly through your mouth or nose for a count of 5. Do it as many times as you need before you start to feel the relief.
  3. It will help you sleep better and who doesn’t like sleep?
    Stretching and working out the kinks in your mind and body through yoga will improve your sleep. This is because you will reduce your stress levels, allowing you to calm down and be in a restful and peaceful state for bedtime. It’s easy to lose track of how you carry stress, but I can guarantee that you’re holding it somewhere. Your neck? Shoulders? Lower back? Stomach? Hips? Wherever it is, chances are it’s keeping you up at night. Do a yoga class, breathe, and release. Tip? Before bed tonight YouTube “Bedtime yoga routine.” Dim your lights, stretch, and enjoy the benefits.
  4. It will boost your confidence
    Taking care of yourself physically and mentally makes you feel good. You will feel stronger, more balanced, and better prepared to take on whatever life throws your way. Taking an hour to escape the daily grind and focus on just you and the four corners of your mat will empower you. If you’re feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, tired, and like you have nothing for yourself, you should give yoga a try. It will reconnect you with yourself and what truly matters. Tip? Do a mental and physical scan of yourself. How are you feeling? What are you missing out on? What do you want more of? Figure out what you want and make it happen.
  5. It will balance you and bring more focus to your life
    We all go through bad times. We all have stress. It’s a part of life, but how you deal with those times is everything. You can be flustered and overwhelmed and out of control. Or you can be steady, focused, and balanced. You just need to decide which route you want to take. If it’s the latter, yoga can help. It will center you and help you eliminate the mental and physical clutter you’re carrying around to make way for peace and quiet. Try it! Tip: Most yoga studios offer great introductory deals for new members with no commitment necessary. Check them out and see if one may be a good fit for you. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

 

Namaste.

Career do-over: Would you do it?

Our family gathered together last night to celebrate the holiday. The conversation shifted from topic to topic – American politics, the weather, kids – and then settled on my nephew and his high school education thus far. He’s in grade 10 and just starting to think about what he wants to be when he grows up. He still has no idea, but he did make a comment that struck me: “I don’t want to grow up and wish I had become something else.”

 

Hm.

 

Part of me was struck by his innocence. He’s young and energetic and excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of him. I can only hope that he finds exactly what he wants to do and never regrets that decision. But I also found myself reflecting on my own career and what I have done in the twenty years since I was in grade 10.

 

The conversation naturally transitioned to the adults around the table talking about what they would be if they could go back and have a career do-over. My husband, a journalist, would be a lawyer. I, a communications advisor, would do something in nutrition and fitness. My dad, an inventory specialist, would have gone into the trades. And my mom, a sales rep, would be a teacher. This made me wonder, should we be forcing kids to choose a career path at such an early age? And if not, what is the alternative? I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know that the majority of the people around the table said they would choose a new career if they could.

 

So, consider this: If you could go back in time, would you stick with your current career or would you choose a career do-over?

 

 

The dreaded comments section

Let’s face it, more often than not the worst human beings show up in the comments section. That’s where the keyboard warriors are. That’s where the bigots are. That’s where the staggeringly misinformed are. And that’s where a good experience can take a turn for the worse very quickly.

 

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How often have you caught yourself fighting with a complete stranger on the internet because of something he or she posted? And how often has the fight ended with that person typing something along the lines of: “You know what? You’re right. You’ve actually changed my mind. Thank you for enlightening me.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say never. Maybe once, but probably never, right?

How often have you read a comment and thought, “There is no way this person is serious. He can’t possibly actually think this? This is irony, right?” Too many times to count, I bet.

How often, after arguing with a stranger in the comments section, have you thought, “What am I doing? Is this real life?”

If you’ve fallen into this trap too many times, the way many of us have, you need to stop reading the comments or, at least, proceed with caution and/or a good sense of humour. Here’s why: before social media, people could only share their negative, hateful, hurtful, and ignorant thoughts within their own circles. Now they can reach the world in seconds, and reading and responding gives them exactly what they want: attention. Don’t give it to them.

Calling all rebels

I work for a federal government department and we have taken big steps toward entering the 21st century when it comes to communications. We have a corporate Twitter account, we have a YouTube channel, and we have an e-magazine we use to share good news stories about our staff. This is a big deal considering just a few years ago we barely did anything that wasn’t reactive and strictly through the media. But the Government as a whole still has a long way to go.

 

We recently met with our colleagues at the Treasury Board of Canada to talk about migrating our e-magazine over to Canada.ca, the new website for all federal government departments. As it stands now, the magazine is hosted externally, outside of our department’s firewall (prior to launching, this nearly sent our IT Security folks into a tizzy), and it has a commenting section so that, you know, we can actually converse with and engage readers. Basic stuff, really, when you think about all that is available today in the field of communications and social media. But guess what?

 

Sorry, commenting isn’t possible.

 

Excuse me?

 

Commenting isn’t possible.

 

What do you mean commenting isn’t possible?

 

That’s right, a commenting feature is not something you will find on the Government of Canada’s new website. It may be – ‘down the road’ – but not now. And so, we won’t be migrating our e-magazine over because taking away the readers’ chance to provide feedback on our content just isn’t of interest to us. How on earth can we create a publication that actually resonates with people if we can’t engage with them?

 

This meeting happened weeks ago and it still confuses me. At a time when people can reach out to virtually any service provider and communicate with them directly and immediately via countless channels, how is it that the federal government hasn’t come around to a simple commenting feature instead of a ‘contact us’ form?

 

As I sit in my office today with my colleagues talking about our next project, which may or may not involve a virtual reality tour of a prison, I feel like we are trying to push the envelope in an environment that can be stifling. Every step toward innovation and creativity is met with red tape and policy and questions and side-eyes, but I can see that we are slowly creating change. And if we are seen as rebels because of it, we’ll happily carry that title.

 

Are any of you rebels when it comes to innovation and communications? What envelopes are you pushing? COMMENT below!

 

COM0011 – Introduction to Social Media Blog #1

I can still remember the first time I sat at a computer in a lab at my high school and received an email from a friend sitting across the room. I was maybe 17 years old with a brand spanking new Hotmail account. My mind was officially blown. How did it go from that computer to mine, I thought. In seconds? (Side note: do you remember your first email?)

 

Anyway, I’m proud to say that I remember a world without social media. I remember when an email was actually exciting. I remember when my heart stopped the second our family phone rang and my crush’s phone number showed up on call display. I remember passing hand-written letters to friends in class, many of which I still have stashed away in a memory box. I suppose you could say I remember a simpler time when two-way communication happened in one of three ways – in person, in writing, or on the phone.

 

My sons, now six and three, will never know a life that doesn’t allow you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. They will never know complete privacy because anything they do or say can be posted online and shared the world over within seconds. They will never understand that it actually isn’t  necessary to post photos of the food they eat, just because. And if I’m being honest, that makes me a little sad.

 

Here I am, a thirty-something-year-old mom of two longing for the good old days of communication. And yet, I’m an active member of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s how I keep family in different provinces updated on our family, it’s how I stay connected with friends from all around the world, and it’s how I work. Social media is engrained within every aspect of my life and it’s hard to think that just a few years (ok, maybe 17 years) ago I received my first email.

 

While I can see the negatives that social media has given society (keyboard warriors, anyone?), I can also see the positives. As a communications advisor with the Correctional Service of Canada, I use YouTube and Twitter to share our organization’s story with the general public so they can better understand what corrections is all about. It’s nice to answer their questions directly rather than having them call a 1-800 line and be put on hold. It’s nice to engage with them about the positive work we do. And it’s the best way to find out what our audience is looking for and why.

 

I suppose you could say that while I worry about what social media has done to society and our brains and our capacity to not crave new information every.single.second (Exhibit A), I also celebrate its ability to bring people together (Exhibit B).

 

PS. Anyone else in government manage to start a Facebook or Instagram account for their department without a massive strategy and 27 layers of approval? I’m asking for a friend…