Archive for June, 2016


The power of praise works! I am built on criticism and not praise. My expertise, if it is so lofty, is critiquing an event or person’s actions. Coaching sports, I was able to point out what a player was doing wrong and provide corrections. Most of us are critiquers, too. (I should say critics, but…) The polar to criticism, praise, can be very effective and maybe better.

As an aging graduate, my confidence entering graduate school wasn’t the highest. My attitude was, if I do poorly then I know and nothing lost other than tuition. If I do okay or better, I’ll play along until I fail. Get the idea of my confidence? My age and experience also allowed me to be pessimistic, since a graduate degree isn’t likely going to improve my station in life. The lackadaisical approach works well with my situation. As my classes became more numerous, a change happened with me. What was more interesting are the professors I encountered.

I have had seven or eight professors. Most I would say are knowledgeable. Okay, they all should be but that is another post – why you don’t have to be smart to have a PhD. My confidence and grades fluctuated with the professor I had. One would assume that the worse I did the harder and the undergraduate idea of meaner the professor was. That was not the case. Harder didn’t mean worse and easier/not as brilliant didn’t give a better grade. (NOTE: what I mean by brilliant is how the professor is able to catch short-cuts and such. Yes, you can get one past professors.) What I discovered was their response to me directly affected my grade and confidence.

My most difficult professor was my favorite. She inspired me and was critical of my work. I did get the worst score with her and the highest with her. In the subject where she was an expert, I received high praise for my work. What did she do? Well, she did point out my errors which were embarrassing for me, but the biggest thing was her praise of my work and the positive criticism she provided. When I was at my lowest, she took a moment to send me an email and give me the moral support I needed. What I did was try to excel to not only meet her expectations but to please her. I went the full mile to learn and achieve. Yes, she provided criticism, but it was not the primary interaction. I honestly try to emulate her methods of criticism and praise.

One professor was my worst. He isn’t a bad guy. He wasn’t positive with me and was rather insulting in an unintentional way. Indeed, the class he taught was one I was most knowledgeable in, and I was looking forward to this class. I ended up dreading and hating the topic. What happened? For starters, he was quite negative about my work. He would state that he quit recording certain errors because there were too many and went on to criticize something else. He was right. I made my typical errors, but he offered nothing else; no constructive criticism. It was coming to the point where I would think, why try? I easily predicted which fellow classmates would drop out. I never received praise and felt any positive image about myself from him. He drained the enthusiasm from me.

Other professors are somewhere in between. My current professor provides a positive impact with me by complimenting and pointing out the positives. Now there are the negative criticisms, but these are not emphasized and do not bring me down. He is succeeding with his students by his method of criticism through praise. He is inspiring us to look at our mistakes as well as the good parts of our work. This method makes you want to excel and succeed.

When we instruct our youth, we need to be mindful of how we criticize. Everyone makes mistakes. They know when the screw up. What they don’t know is how close they are to succeeding. A few kind, supportive, and helpful words may be enough for the youth to get up and succeed. Everybody will fail and everybody can succeed. Why don’t we place a positive spin on failure and help them along. Don’t worry, they’ll do the work to succeed.


Copycat in the NHL

During the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, a Flyers fan kept telling me that: 1. the Penguins would win the cup and 2. teams would copy the Penguins play. He wasn’t the only person to say this. Some journalist or something mentioned how teams now would copy the Penguins style of play. He was smart enough to recognized what I told my Flyers fan friend; it would be a bad idea. How would copying the team speed of the Penguins be a poor idea for a NHL team. I shall provide four reasons.

A hockey team consists of four lines of forwards and three lines of defence. Generally the first line is your scoring line with the second line being your second best scoring line. Your fourth line consist of marginal players who if they have talent enough play specialty roles like penalty killing or just kill a few minutes a game. I don’t see many teams effectively rolling four lines. Most teams first two lines are nowhere near that of the Penguins, and this is the difference.

Number one is the first line. The Sharks have a great first line and a good second line in my opinion. Even the Caps, Capitals for non-Caps fans, have two nice line for scoring. I think I could go on and name additional team with a good first line. For Pittsburgh, this first line is Sidney Crosby, and I will agree that he’s the top dog in the league. If you want to doubt, check his play in the playoffs. Hornquvist is a nice complement to Crosby, but it is Crosby that makes this line special. I don’t see any player with his capabilities and that is what truly makes this line great.

Number two is the second line with Malkin. It is at this point where some teams struggle to have an effective number two line. The Penguins have Malkin who is one of the top five forwards in the league right now. If you follow Malkin, you’ll notice that he was injured towards the end of the season and looked off in the playoffs. Now we know he had an elbow injury. His line could be the weakest and a number three, but like Crosby, Malkin can carry this line. There are second lines with more goal scorers but none of them can do what Malkin does. These first two lines of the Penguins give them the advantage.

HBK. For hockey fans, you know what this stands for. This is the most complete and well-oiled machine of the Penguins. Kessel likes to shoot, Hagelin has the speed, and Bonino does dirty work. These three are the definition of chemistry. In fact, some first lines have this chemistry and is the only reason why this unspecified team is successful. The Penguins have this line which is number three, thus showing the depth of this team. Kessel isn’t in the league of Crosby or Malkin, but he has the perfect fit for his line which allows Kessel to do what he does best – shoot.

The fourth reason is the Penguins fourth line. I would say it was one of the best fourth lines in the league. The Penguins had a very capable line that could play with the opponents. This is very rare in the NHL. I would guess four teams in the NHL that have a fourth line capable of actually competing. This fourth line provided the Penguins with the depth needed to win the Stanley Cup.

What makes the Penguins so dangerous are three scoring lines and a good fourth line. I know of no other team that can put that type of team together. Other teams have used speed and could not achieve what the Penguins did. The simple reason was they did not have three scoring lines and a good fourth line. This is where I think teams should re-think their strategy and keep the system they have. Fast teams without scoring are just teams that will likely not make the playoffs or lose at some point in the playoffs.

There aren’t team with sitting with two of the best players in the league with a third very good player sitting next to them. NHL teams need to construct three effective line where players can take over their shifts and dominate. I don’t see any other team with that type of depth, though it doesn’t mean that two or three teams couldn’t use this style of play. It just means that 90% of the teams should NOT copy the Penguins.


Quick Post About Education

My experience with other homeschool families has been educational to me. I see the front they put up while listening to the clues the provide about educating their children. In many respects they are no different than me, but there is a trend with many that I think is folly.

When it comes to education at home, reading tends to get overworked, and this is a good thing. You can never read too much. Sadly, this is a 50-50 deal with some families involved in cyber school or using a school based curriculum with history textbooks. These two groups generally do not read as much as other types. Being partial to reading, I believe they do not read enough.

History is one area where some families use outdated beliefs from older books whose information was based on the knowledge of the time. The facts of history may not change, but our interpretation and understanding of history does. Sometimes we need to update a little. Another aspect of history I have notice is how patchy the historical knowledge is. Often times European history is covered, and it is hit and miss at best. Even our own American history is flawed as we use outdated ideas and history that was concocted based on lies in order for one group to justify their actions. Yes, I’m talking about the Lost Cause’rs.

Finally, the one subject I stress the most but see little effort with most homeschool families I have associated with, and this is mathematics. It is seldom stressed or emphasized at home. The children are left to skirt the edges of mathematics and not develop the strong foundation required for engineering or the sciences. It is my belief that many of these parents are uncomfortable with this subject. In larger families, parents seldom have the time to immerse themselves in the subject in order to provide the necessary support for the youth. For others, it is a matter of confidence especially if they thought of themselves as having poor math skills. The solution is to start the math from the beginning with your child and re-learn it. It is not as difficult as one may think, and the parent will do their child justice. As much as I like Khan Academy or the many YouTube videos, they are better utilized as pieces to assist in the learning and not the main form of learning. A parent sitting next to the youth is more helpful than the online work.

My recommendation to parents is to put time into your child’s learning in the attempt to maximize your child’s learning. As they get older, it is understandable and helpful to begin to distance yourself, but remember the parent is still the safety net. When a child meets resistance to their learning, they will take the path of least resistance and learn nothing. It is difficult being a parent who homeschools, but we accepted the challenge and responsibilities when we made the decision to homeschool.

Greatest Hockey Players

The greatest hockey player is a topic I find boring for the most part. Normally, I ignore the idea because the same ten or so players are mentioned with Wayne Gretzky listed as one. It wasn’t until I made the mistake of listening to Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser discuss Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup. As I listened to Wilbon list as many hockey players as he could to crush any idea about Crosby being good, I noticed something that Kornheiser noticed. Wilbon was pushing Chicago Blackhawk players. Wilbon’s argument was weak at best. He acted like a chef throwing all known spices into a meal to make it great, thus creating garbage. Wilbon appeared to be solely basing greatness on cups, points, other writers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. I don’t think Wilbon has ever done any analysis of the players he stated and his argument was way off.

Who are the greatest hockey players? Unfortunately, I have seen many players playing and have only seen snippets of others like Orr. I hear how Howe was great but statistically speaking, it is not that impressive but better than Maurice Richard. Wayne Gretzky has the most points while Mario Lemieux has a better point per game if you remove his comeback years. Bobby Orr looks great, but was it really that good.

I exclude Orr for the simple reason that his greatness existed for only six years and the other years were average. He isn’t the greatest nor should be considered to be. He may have been the greatest scoring defenseman who revolutionized the position. His six years are simply amazing! He is eleventh in all-time scoring for defense but the highest in the points per game with 1.393 with Paul Coffey as the only other D-man averaging one or more points per game, 1.087. Coffey’s defensive abilities were a little lacking. What I can’t find out is his defensive capabilities. Simply put, Orr isn’t close.

Now I hear about Jaromir Jagr but his cup wins were because of Lemieux. Jagr, like many others people think of, has not done more than put up points. His longevity will likely place him at number two in scoring but not in the greatest players of all-time. As I look at additional players like Mark Messier, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau, and Mike Bossy; there are good reasons to not consider them as great players worthy of a top ten list without a full analysis.

What about Sidney Crosby? Is he as good as some think or as bad as Wilbon insinuates? Well for starters, Crosby has won two Stanley Cups. I am certain Lafleur, Béliveau, and Bossy exceed him there. Hmm, what about scoring awards? Well I think that is only a partial, and Sidney isn’t going to beat Gretzky. Could saving a franchise count? I think so. Mario did it twice (bought the team the second time) and Sidney brought the team back with his play. Still, this isn’t enough. His 2016 playoffs work was phenomenal, and I don’t recall Gretzky ever doing that. Mario actually did backcheck in the playoffs, but the problem is you need to do it consistently.

If there was an overall best player, I would lean towards Mario. Sadly, I never saw Gordie play, but he could be number one as well. What about Wayne? For all of the points he scored, Wayne is at number three for me. He was no Mr. Hockey and Mario was a better passer and shot as well as played better defense when he had to. Who else can miss a significant amount of games and still come back and pass Pat Lafontaine to win the scoring title in the 1992-93 season.  And if for no other reason, does the name Warren Young mean anything? No, Wayne must happily be perched at third.

I list Mario at one with the knowledge that a good argument could place Gordie at one. Wayne will remain number three. Sidney Crosby at this current time isn’t close, but that is due to the fact his career isn’t done. He is above Marcel Dionne, Peter Stastny, Peter Forsberg, Phil Esposito, and I believe Lafleur. For me, Crosby may crack the list at ten, but without more analysis, it can only be speculative for me.

This doesn’t provide any concrete solution, and there are people sure to argue with who I would place at number one. Does it really matter? Can you compare Howe and his era with Wayne’s or Mario’s? What about the team they played on? That affects the play of these players. Wayne didn’t play alongside Warren. In the end, it just doesn’t matter.

Retrospect of homeschooling

Our family is nearing the end of our homeschooling journey as we begin the last two years of homeschooling, unless a miracle happens. No miracles are expected. The journey has been tiring as well as educational. Robert Frost’s poem, Road Not Taken, comes to mind. I am left with a reminder of the second line of the first stanza, “And sorry I could not travel both.”

Homeschooling for our family disconnected us from the community we lived in. Living in the country didn’t help keep us connected to the community, either. Without immediate family, there was no one capable of understanding our educational situation. Even the several homeschool groups we belonged to did not alleviate the loneliness of homeschooling. Religious groups can be callous to others in their blindness to adhere to their version of Christianity. Sort of contradicting to their beliefs. Even local homeschoolers may not bond with your family because of homeschooling beliefs or other types of beliefs. I have a neighbor who homeschools, but we are not close or connected because of the age differences. Other local homeschoolers had different viewpoints about life, which kept us from uniting. Some alienated us because of religious beliefs while others may have opposed our parenting. Honestly, this isn’t that different from non-homeschooling families.

Where we found other homeschoolers to be extreme in many cases, non-homeschooling families were distrustful of us. Most could not understand why we were homeschooling and based their relationship on this point alone. If the public school was good enough for their children then why isn’t it good enough for my children? We were pushed aside simply for the fact they didn’t understand why we homeschooled. Many thought it was for religious reasons and would make poorly designed statements about creationism and evolution. Had they actually used their brain and listened or observed my family, they would have found my family to be mixed with that belief. Part of the family are evolutionists and another section creationists. We still have these fun philosophical debates in the family. Unless I were to outwardly state that we are homeschooling for another reason than religious, these people maintained the belief that my family was a religious extremist group. Barrack Obama even hurt us with the clinging to religion and guns comment. Thanks Barrack for the callous and insulting remark – neither of which my family outwardly expressed, but were attached to his statement nonetheless.

This path we selected produced one amazing effect. Our family has developed a close bond that is missing in many families. We are united as one in many respects. We defend, help, and protect each other. We have experienced America together, enjoying each other’s amazing discoveries. We understand our weaknesses and look to shore up these flaws. We are a connected family that sacrifices for each other. We express sympathy, empathy, and an outward hand towards those outside of our family. This is what homeschooling has given to us other than a well-rounded education.

We tried to travel both paths as my family included homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers in our associations. My sons were encouraged to play sports and participate in dances even at the high school. We were never opposed to my sons getting to together with other youths whether homeschooled or not. Our goal to educate and make a better man of our sons is not yet finished, but we believe the choices we have made has made a difference in them. They are as thoughtful and accepting, and that alone is worth our decisions. As we near the end, we could only take one road. Looking back on our beginning, our family took the road less traveled, “and that has made all the difference.”

The Modern Ice Hockey Physicality Myth

1989 Stanley Cup playoffs was the last time fans saw teams play back to back games with a day’s break only happening when the series switched to the opponent’s arena. This meant four grueling games in the first five days. Physicality could be an effective means of dealing with a more talented team as you would punish them with your forechecking and backchecking. The more you hit your opponent the more bruising it became and the body began to wear out. That was the idea of playing a hard, physical game. Today we continue to hear how you can wear out a team by playing physical. This isn’t the case anymore. Wearing out a team through physical play doesn’t happen as is suggested.

Today’s series give teams a day between games and at least two days between the switching of arenas. The body gains an extra day or two of rest thus reducing or eliminating any effect a physical game has on a team. Physicality still can play a role but not a large one. Going back to 1989, a seven game series would take ten days to complete. Using the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks series as an example, the first game was April 5 and the seventh was April 15. Contrast that with 2016 series between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues which began on April 29 and ended on May 11. Playing your first four games in five days is terribly draining while playing four in seven days provides time for the body to rest.

The teams that make it to the Stanley Cup finals have it far easier than Calgary and Montreal where six games were played in eleven days in 1989. If the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks make it to six games, it will have taken fourteen days. Playing four rounds of hockey is now far easier than 1989 or earlier. This extra time gives the body time, though short, to rest. So what does wear out a hockey team if playing physical isn’t it?

Physicality is a component of wearing out a team. Taking punishing checks game after game still batters the body. The physical side of this argument must switch to the mental side of the game for the effect of wearing out a team to be seen. A player can become less effective during a game as they are physically battered, but this doesn’t necessarily carry into the next game when you have a day or two off. How willing is a player to take hard checks and how willing are they to give everything they have to win relies on their mental makeup.

The mental side of the game does far more to defeat a team than the actual physicality of the game. Physical play helps to wear down the willingness of a player to play. When a team is beaten, not physically, in a game, the mental side of a player takes a hit especially if they are dominated by their opponent. Doubts begin to set in, and their desire to continue, even though they want to, wanes. At some point, a player becomes less willing to endure a hard check and thus allows the other team the momentum through their mistakes from not enduring the check in order to make a play. If the results from taking the hit doesn’t produce a positive effect, then the player is more likely to avoid the check and thus create errors and give the opposing team opportunities.

The mental factor is what drives teams to win or lose. If a team has an ounce of doubt then this doubt begins to expand for each negative event during a game. Their actions and words betray what they would normally desire. Complaints of cheating or poor refereeing, slowing mobility, and sloppy play express what the mental state of the player is. They want to win but do not have the mental ability to play through the pain and stress of the game. These players and teams need an injection of mental adrenaline to give them the energy to play on and evaporate this exhaustion.

The current Stanley Cup finals shows how Pittsburgh is willing to endure punishment because of their position in the series. Mentally, they are not exhausted and remain positive. The Sharks on the other hand appear slow and defeated with blips of brief energy when the score a goal. The sharks have out hit the Penguins in the last three games while tying the Penguins with 36 hits in game 1. Penguins continue to remain the faster team and hold a 3-1 series lead with game 3 being a game that got away from the Penguins. The Shark are tired.

Does this mean the Sharks are doomed and will lose the series? Odds are, yes. There is a but with this statement. Unlike being physically beaten where the body just can’t go at the speeds it did earlier or move like it once did, mental exhaustion can evaporate when the spirit of the team rises beyond the exhaustion it has. As they play game five tonight, will the Sharks look slow and old? What fight do they have in them? My guess is an early goal will boost their confidence and energy, but it may not be enough. As I watched the series unfold, the Sharks look more and more tired as if their mind is saying enough is enough. Outhitting Pittsburgh hasn’t worn the Penguins down, but the struggles the Shark are having is wearing out the Sharks. The Sharks desperately need a huge shot of mental adrenaline or else the Penguins hoist the Cup for a fourth time.