Monday, August 21, 2006

American Sports Terrorism

Hot off the wire!

Russian hockey coach Gennady Velchkin is upset that his best player and top NHL prospect Evengi Malkin is gone and headed to the Pittsburgh Penguins. "They all like to talk about democracy, the American way and then they shamelessly steal our best players. This is pure sports terrorism," Velichkin said. Hmm, intersecting choice of words when if you believe internet reports, that say the Russian league is run or at least greatly influence by organized crime. Over the last few years the Russian mob has been linked in the media/internet to many professional athletes. Accurate or not where there's smoke...There's fire. A prominent Russian Figure Skater had their car blown up or so says the news. The Russian sports executive who was investigated for his alleged involvement in the Salt Lake City judging scandal was found shot to death gangland style. There are well documented cases of the Russian mobs attempt to extort money from Russian born NHL hockey players. Now that's sports terrorism! Mr. Velchkin, the American way is to allow the individual the FREEDOM OF CHOICE! Take a look in the mirror, I think some of your countrymen wrote the book on "Sports terrorism".

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Here is a portion of an editorial I wrote in the Professional Skaters Magazine. I took some crap from some of my skating friends but many were supportive of my "shake the tree" mentality. Well I finally got a response to me at work from someone who thought I had no clue... Which in reality might be accurate, but I'll let the reader be the judge. Below is the offending editorial, the e-mail and my rebuttal. Enjoy!

Now, as I sit and reflect on the new direction my life has recently taken and the path I would like to see the PSA follow, I keep coming back to one of my favorite saying's, Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way. It reminds me of a recent article written by leadership author, Brent Filson called, The 20/60/20 Rule of Leadership. Don't Go Solving the Wrong Problems. Not that there are problems but if the PSA has 6000 members and only 400 come to conference ...
The 20/60/20 Rule of Leadership goes like this. About 20 percent of the people in a group won't do, or at least won't want to do, what is essential to get the job done. In comparison, these are the coaches that won't spend a dime to learn what they believe they already know; especially from those coaches they feel are inferior. These are the coaches that complain about the unfairness of ratings; ratings that they have never taken. (Did you know that examiners are all master rated, attend a mandatory training and take an exam?) Another 20 percent will be your leaders in getting the work done; the tireless volunteers who work a thousand hours a year for little acknowledgement, who in many cases spend their own money to get the job done right. The final 60 percent will be sitting on the fence so to speak, waiting for strong leadership to push them in one direction or another. This majority makes up the bulk of our organization, goes to just enough seminars to get their credits and generally supports the association. The percentages say's the author, are approximate.

In Filson's second topic, he wrote about solving the wrong problem. The author tells a story of a pilot and co-pilot who struggled to fix what they thought was a malfunctioning landing gear as they prepared for a landing at a Florida Airport. The landing-gear light was on, signaling that the gear was deployed; but both men did not hear it actually deploy. As the men sought to understand whether they had a defective landing-gear light or defective landing gear, the aircraft kept losing altitude. Too late, the plane crashed, killing everyone aboard. That tragedy has subsequently saved many lives, for the pilot and co-pilot's actions have been used in flight simulation training programs to demonstrate how NOT to troubleshoot problems in the cockpit. The incident has become known as the Landing-gear Fix, a diligent attempt to solve the wrong problem.

How will the 20/60/20 rule help Staff and the Board focus on the right problem? First and foremost, it will help them decipher where to put the PSA's time and limited resources. The lowest 20 percent I believe would be the wrong problem to solve. Obviously, the coaches in the bottom 20 percent may never change and no matter how much pleading or prodding we do, they will most likely never participate. Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933) said, "nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent" I guess we could ask them to follow or get out of the way. In contrast, leaders in the top 20 percent need very little in the way of management. They participate in almost every educational opportunity and volunteer often. I will follow those leaders and support them, as they need very little in the way of motivation if given just a small amount of direction and an ultimate goal.

This brings us to the 60 percent in the middle. As many in this group love what they do, they need strong leadership to show them the way. It is this group that we shall lead. Putting this all together, Filson exclaims, Don't get caught applying diligent solutions to the wrong problems. Apply the 20/60/20 Rule and focus on getting the right results in the right way at the right time.

The PSA mission is simple; to educate and accredit professional coaches. Those who want to better themselves will do what they have to do to succeed. In reality those who fall in the lower 20 percent probably think they are doing a lot more and believe they are members of the 60 percent group. I challenge everyone to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are doing everything to make yourself the best. If we are going to ask our skaters to act that way, should we not practice what we preach?

Subject: Inside Edge - Editorial Comment

Mr. Santee,
I'd like to respond to your editorial on how many PSA members attend a conference etc. First of all, I think you forget that many of us that teach skating are NOT doing it as a full time job, but also work a full time job, have families and responsibilities. PLUS, in many instances we are teaching skating because we need the extra income to survive and do not have discretionary funds to attend a conference.
I think the basic concept of the PSA is great, however, I and many of my fellow PSA members in the lower Connecticut area also find it hard to give up a full day to drive 150 mi. to Boston yearly to get the necessary credits and take exams etc. The program there is exceptional, but I wonder why nothing is ever offered in Springfield MA, Hartford, Stamford, or any other place in Connecticut. It's now picnic getting to the Boston area even on a Sunday.
Last but not least - the unfairness of ratings. If you don't think that bias and prejudice does NOT exist between the examiners in some instances and those that are taking their rating exams, you are greatly mistaken. You have some people in those positions that should never be an examiner. I think you need to get a clue.

Thank you for your response. When I wrote that editorial 8 weeks ago, I was not the Executive Director yet. I was managing an Ice arena, 4 outdoor pools, a Driving Range, Batting cages, a members only dog park, teaching Learn to Skate and power skating classes, privates, coaching a short track speed skating club, performing as the mascot for the Chicago Wolves and trying to be a husband and father of three very active children. I KNOW how hard it is to make a living teaching skating. So its not like I sit in my office and don't know what's going on in the real skating world. I sat on the Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Institute, the ISIA Education Foundation, the PSA Board, and the Board of my former town's Civic Orchestra. I believe all of the above plus the fact that not only was I a National competitor in Speed Skating, a two time US figure skating champion and International competitor and 11 years as a principal skater in Disney, that this does allow me to have an opinion. In fact many people who haven't done anything have an opinion and that is extremely important. I can't fix it if I don't know what the membership thinks... I know Blah, Blah, Blah. When this job became open I decided I would apply and if chosen, I would take it head on. In life, we can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution... More yada, yada, yada.
Sorry, I do get on a soap box. By the way, look next to my name in the directory and you won't see any ratings. That is because for many years I listened to my "friends" who said it was the ratings were unfair and biased. In fact those who know me best are amazed that the PSA would hire me at all as I was not a supporter. Unfortunately those who feel the system is unfair are those who have failed an exam or the friends they shared their experience with. How many skating judges do you in fact like or dislike and what are the reasons behind it. The examiners or skating judges we don't like usually have judged us or our skaters poorly. I do believe though that the process and selection of examiners has gotten better as well as the quality of education. We both know though as long as your asking for an opinion, there will be issues, just like in our sport itself.
OK, now let me actually get to your points. True Boston does host seminars annually, usually because they offer to do so and there is a huge PSA following in Boston itself. We would love to come to Springfield or anywhere we are needed. We are always looking for hosts. Attendance at conference is another thing. Lets change the word "conference" to "State workshop". There are currently 299 members in the state of Connecticut. In 2005, 29 coaches attended the state workshop or 10% of the state membership. There was no workshop in 2006. All I want to know is why of the 299 members, know one in the state offered to organize a state workshop this year; or clubs or arenas for that matter? What about the E-learning we offer? Have you tried that? We give education credits to any ISI and US Figure Skating as well.
I hope I don't sound to much like an *%%, that is not my intention. My intention was to get every member to look at themselves in the mirror and be able to say "I'm doing everything I can to be the best coach for my skaters." I love this sport as it has given my life purpose, to make a difference in lives of those I touch.
In closing, I hope you won't judge me to harshly by my words but want you to know that I hear what you say and agree that for those who teach period, part-time or full, it is difficult and expensive to participate. Just remember that it is even more expensive for your skaters to participate and you owe them the best of yourself.
Jimmie Santee

Monday, August 14, 2006

I'm melting...

I had a great life...3 jobs that I loved, a nice house in a great community, 3 kids, a wife that tolerates me and my Harley...Not the bike but my wife's idea of humor... A Tibetan spaniel. Sounds good until I tell you that hitting the 40 hour mark on Wednesday evening wasn't all that its cracked up to be. Take away the punishing hours, I really loved what I did. I managed an ice rink, swimming pools, driving range, batting cages, members only dog park, all for a suburban Chicago community. I coached competitive figure skaters, short track speed skaters, Hockey/Power skating and in my spare time worked for the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League as their mascot "Skates". Each and every job was rewarding but as a whole it just beat me up. I had enough as the cost of living in Chicago just squeezed my bank account dry.

Recently I walked away from it all and I in my would like subsequent blogs to share my experiences to shed some light on numerous ice related topicsas well as the craziness surronding the recreation field. Some will be funny, some will be edgy, all will have good spelling and proper sentance structure.