Saturday, December 31, 2011

Coaching and Sport in Society

Thank you for your responses to the previous blog. As a result, I am in the process of creating support systems to better address abuses of power and childhood assaults. I will keep you posted on this progress.

Themes evolved from your emails and blog responses. Below please find some of these topics addressed.

1. Who's coaching your kids?

Many readers want to know how to identify a predator who may also be a coach, teacher, scout leader, or anyone in a position where he or she has regular access to children. There is no look or specific demeanor, but predators tend to violate respectful and standard interpersonal boundaries. They invade others' physical, emotional, and verbal space with inappropriate conduct often masked as concern, teasing, or playing. Predators put themselves in positions where they are surrounded by unattended children.

Predators tend to spend an inordinate amount of their free time with children and have limited interactions with people in their own peer groups. An older person who wants to take a child on trips, or spend individual, one on one, time with a child is demonstrating very suspect behavior. Predators also tend to shower gifts and trinkets on their victims and lean on their victims for emotional support. Always question the relationship, reason, and motive before you allow a child to spend unsupervised time with an older person.

There is a good article in this week's Sports Illustrated by a writer who also coaches youth basketball. He loves coaching young people, but is now afraid to offer rides and to express encouragement or support reflected in minor physical contact; a tap on the shoulder or arm for fear it will be misinterpreted, or his behaviors will be considered inappropriate. My physician, who also coaches youth soccer, expressed the same concerns. They fear, as a result of these highly publicized sexual abuse scandals, our society's treatment of youth will become more antiseptic.

Sincere and well intended adults like my physician and another friend who wrote, and who devotes his life to improving the well being of disadvantaged children, feel marginalized and undermined by the scandal. It makes them wonder how their good and honorable intentions and actions may be perceived. A volunteer coach blessed with a good and generous spirit may be compelled to withhold potential life changing moments with a child seeking direction for fear these actions may be misinterpreted.

A good way to confront this is for coaches to meet with their youth team members and their parents at the beginning of a season to clarify expectations for team goals, coaching and player roles, game and position processes and techniques, a process to stop / report / address / prevent abusive behaviors, appropriate conduct, behaviors boundaries, healthy relationships, and evidence of commitment. If these team structures are recorded, they can form a reference point for evaluating progress and success during the season.

2. What are good coaching behaviors?

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." (Plato, 427 - 347 BC)

Above please find a picture of one of my Brown line coaches, Bob Wylie, and Steve Wizniewski, who was an All-American guard at Penn State when I coached there. They now work together as coaches for the Oakland Raiders. They are considered good coaches.

Good coaches tend to set high conduct standards with their behaviors. So, probably the best way to assess a good coach is with his or her team members' conduct and behaviors. Good coaches are recognized by the growth and success of those they lead. Their influence is monitored by healthy peer and team friendships and relationships, fun experiences, respect, happiness, higher levels of well being and hygiene, improved social interactions and performance away from athletic venues, and increased consideration for self and others. Coaches who influence these behaviors in their players are good coaches. We tend to judge coaches by their competition wins and losses. These are important, as we all play to win, but these gauges are short term. The ultimate goal of sports is to improve its participants and observers appreciation for potential, and, in turn, to improve society.

3. What are good sports' parent / sports' observer behaviors?

Parents never attended athletic practices when I was participating in football, wrestling, and track while growing up in the NJ suburbs. Our teams were very successful. My teammates would be mortified if any parent approached a coach, or athletic director, to discuss his or her child's performance or playing time. The coaches would not tolerate this.

Coaches were trusted to do their best for the team and for the athletes. Parents demonstrated their support at competitions and via booster clubs, but refrained from interfering with athletic decisions. It was a boundary expected not to be crossed.

Any hostility at athletic events was directed toward referees and officials for missed or perceived bad calls. I never heard negative comments directed towards coaches or athletes from my, or the opposing, team. For the most part, we respected each other. We lived in a very competitive area.

Based on your blog comments and the news, negative and aggressive fan / parent language and behavior now dominates all levels of sporting events. High school and college athletic directors and coaches report receiving harassing phone calls at all hours of the night from irate parents expecting more playing time for their children.

In these situations, individual performance supersedes the team. The greatest distinction I noticed separating strong teams and healthy communities from sub par organizations is the sense of member admiration and commitment to a common purpose. Organizations struggle when everyone is pulling in separate, selfish, directions. Organizations succeed when constructive member beliefs and behaviors reflect shared common and respected core values.

There's a distinction between being encouraged and empowered to voice concern to improve a situation and running one's mouth. The former tends to help the team. The latter often reflects selfishness, an antithesis of team goodness.

Also, screaming parents can undermine a child's athletic performance. Screams and overly aggressive conduct increase the stress chemical response in a child's forming brain. If present and associated with athletic competition, these chemicals undermine blood flow and muscle reaction. They also interfere with memory, mental clarity, and reaction time. These heightened brain responses, fostered by overzealous fans and parents, can create in a child athletic performance barriers. They will jeopardize enjoyment. This can alienate young athletes from sport.

Sports can offer young people a great outlet to expend energy while gaining physical skills. Sports can also provide a nice opportunity to socialize, to become more self aware and empathetic. The ideal ancient Greek philosophy of sport states it propels the admiration of human capacity. This admiration appears to be lost in today's parents' fears and criticisms. Perhaps these parents are triggered by memories of their own childhood athletic shortcomings.

A former college teammate and a standout in two varsity D1 collegiate sports now coaches youth sports. He writes: "all of the dads in town are very successful. They are either alpha males or artists. As a result, the sense of entitlement is very high. The people who volunteer to coach and help youth sports in the town refer to the insane dads as “do it for me dads”. These dads are always critical and never helpful.

Most of the insane dads, as alpha males, played some low level sports in high school or below.

(My friend) thinks the extreme behaviors are rooted in the following beliefs.

1) Through sheer will and determination these dads became successful and alpha males.

2) These dads EXPECT success in their lives. They feel like they make success happen.

3) They expect their sons to be successful alpha males. If the sons aren’t as driven, these dads think they can make their sons driven through dad's sheer will and determination.

4). And so, these dads scream, thinking this will make it happen.

It’s ironic in soccer because most of the insane dads never played soccer. So not only is their screaming and ranting inappropriate; their coaching points are often flat out wrong.

The dads that played college sports or are artists tend to be very mellow and helpful on the sideline."

Whatever the reason, these egos and efforts to manipulate aggression devalue youth sports. The aggressive behaviors these dad's want demonstrated by their sons are not healthy or age appropriate and can lay the foundation for bullying, battery, assaults, and abuse. I'm pretty sure these are not outcomes insane dads want for their sons. However, sons are prone to demonstrate behaviors modeled by their dads.

When power, control, and ego are not addressed and corrected, abuses of power can proliferate. Corrupt predator coaches will exploit a parents' distorted aggressive athletic hopes for his child and isolate the child. Kids left unattended by their parents are more likely to be abused. The unhealthy ego and power needs for athletic victories make delusional parents deny, or blind to, corrupt and devious behaviors committed by bad coaches.

Agreeing on core league, team, and fan values and outlining the reflective behaviors expected by parents, fans, coaches, and athletes can set conduct standards. Defining behaviors opposed to core values, and the penalties for a person who demonstrates these behaviors, can also remove destructive behaviors from youth sporting events.

An assigned and strong person or committee, and not the coach except when dealing with his or her players, needs to be assigned to implement and monitor penalties incurred by parents, fans, opposing players and coaches.

4. Does God influence sporting outcomes?

There's a lot of media attention on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow generated by his energetic, unorthodox playing style, by the Broncos series of unfathomable comeback victories led by Tim, and for Tim's unwavering Christian Faith. It's implied the Broncos success since Tim took over as the team's quarterback, and its appearance in the NFL playoffs, is due to Tim's faith and God's Blessings.

Athletes use many different vehicles to reach their zone, or their highest capabilities. Many superior athletes have an innate love of their sport. It gives them a sense of identity, success, and control. This propels them to practice and to push themselves towards mastery. This allows them to excel. Some have tremendous drive and determination. Others share a passion to a common goal, teammates, and coaches. Their performance and success is a result of their commitment to shared values and mutual respect. Illegally, some athletes turn to artificial means and performance enhancing drugs to get an unnatural edge. Some athletes rely on superior physical and mental gifts to outshine competition. Some athletes, like Tim, use a belief system to reach their pinnacle. It offers them the focus and calm needed to function optimally under pressure; to give them a sense of clarity and purity and inner strength.

I'm guessing Tim's belief system allows him to distinguish his own performance, yet I'm pretty sure God has nothing to do with distinguishing Tim's or the Broncos' performance. The Bible states athletes should prepare and pummel their bodies, to put their best efforts forward. There is no evidence or scripture stating God is interested in athletic outcomes. It states He wants His followers to believe His teachings and to love one another.

Before every athletic event I participated in over an 18 year period, I was encouraged, and offered the opportunity, to pray. I'm not sure I was ever told what to pray about, but I sensed my young teammates and I were expected to be thankful for the opportunity to participate. I also asked for strength to demonstrate our best abilities, and for our competition to do the same, so we might bring out the best in each other. I prayed no one be injured or tempted to cheat, so the competition remained pure, like a battle amongst honorable animals or gladiators. I never prayed for victory. This cheapens prayer and belief systems. I'm pretty sure Tim doesn't pray for victory, but for the opportunity to glorify his God.

As long as the methods are legal, do not bring harm to oneself or others, and fall within acceptable league conduct boundaries, I have no objections with what Tim Tebow, or any other athlete, practices to reach his or her best level of performance.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Author's Note: Joe Paterno was fired as Penn State's football coach on Wednesday November 9, 2011.

Joe Paterno died Sunday January 22, 2012. He was eighty five years old and lived, for most of his life, like a king.

My mother received her early death sentence, melanoma in her lymph system, when she was 35. She died when she was 44. I was seventeen. Since then, I've respected the dead and their families, and focus on their contributions and accomplishments when they pass.

Thus, I off lined this blog when I learned Joe Paterno died. It's critical of him and his avoidance response when knowing his former prized assistant, Jerry Sandusky, was seen sodomizing a young boy in the Penn State Football Complex showers.

I worked with Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky as a graduate assistant football coach. I am also a survivor of early childhood assault outside of my home.

Multitudes of great football players like Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Jack Ham, Curt Warner, Shane Conlin, Blair Thomas, and John Cappalletti reinforced their very positive identities via their experience with Joe and Penn State.

I have the highest admiration for their skills and for Penn State University and I acknowledge the influence Joe had on his football team's performance and his players' graduation rates.

Joe deserves credit for influencing his players' athletic and academic achievements.

Joe must also be held accountable for having the counter opposite influence on the young boys he did not protect from Jerry's predatory behavior by not reporting Jerry to the state police as soon as Joe was aware.

When great or egregious acts are committed in an organization, they are a reflection on the person in charge.

Joe Paterno was in charge of Penn State Football long enough to accumulate the all times D1 wins record.

He was also in charge while Jerry's devious behavior destroyed young mens' souls spanning, at least, a fifteen year time period. "A fish stinks from its head".

As we praise Joe as a football coach, for funneling young male aggression on the field and in life, we must also accept the truth.

Joe's conduct also allowed appalling acts of sexual aggression against young and innocent children.

I pray for Joe's soul. I also pray for the souls of the young boys Jerry Sandusky traumatized.

Survivors have the choice to be strong and to stop the abuse cycle. They need constructive intervention, our support, and blessings. The following is written to help them overcome. - Matt, January 26, 2012.

As many of you know, I worked as a graduate assistant offensive line coach at PSU.

Many great young men played on our offensive line, including Steve Wisniewski who went on to an incredible NFL career and now coaches the Oakland Raiders' offensive line with my line coach when I played at Brown, Bob Wylie.

As most of you don't know, I also suffered through an abusive early childhood outside of my home. It is very difficult to share, but warranted given this unique opportunity to help survivors and to stop predators and those institutions and people who help perpetuate this evil.

My experience with these issues gives me a unique perspective to comment on the horrific situation unveiling itself in Happy Valley.

Joe was the reigning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and national championship coach when I worked for him. He was considered, and acted, like God and was beyond reproach in the locals' minds.

Based on what I know about predators, Jerry's deviance didn't start when it was observed and reported in the 1990's.

If he is a serial pedophile, as long as he's been around kids there's a probable chance he's been assaulting them. I never observed Jerry committing sexual misconduct.

My goal is to bring to light how deceptive, selfish, narcissistic people and organizations can cultivate environments where evil lurks. This is to help you better understand the horrific behavior Jerry Sandusky is accused of perpetrating and the just as egregious apparent cover up perpetrated by Joe Paterno and PSU's administration.

More important, I hope I can offer some comfort and peace to not only Jerry's purported survivors, but to the multitudes of powerless and disadvantaged kids who are abused by evil people and institutions disguising themselves as helpers. I want to offer some direction and hope to survivors.

Life gets better!

I was a low ranking graduate assistant offensive line coach at PSU in 1987 and 1988 on the heels of PSU's second, and last, national championship.

Prior to this, I played and coached at Brown and had a few NFL tryouts. I also had a very unique hs football experience where I co-captained the top ranked team in NJ, and was the sole three year starter for three undefeated state championship teams.

Many of my hs teammates received scholarships to DI programs including to Penn State and Michigan. My mother succumbed to her 8 year battle with melanoma during my senior hs season. I was recruited by all the Ivies, service academies, and I received several DI scholarship offers.

I am also a survivor of early childhood sexual abuse. I was fortunate. I grew young, stopped the predator, and got the help I needed. I have worked hard as an adult to overcome this and to remain whole, to receive peace and joy in life, and by privately helping others overcome their traumas and losses.

Survivors have the choice and free will to not repeat the cycle of sexual abuse.

I pursued coaching out of college to help kids like my high school coach, Ted Monica at Madison High School, and sports helped me overcome a traumatic childhood. I was awarded graduate assistant scholarships to coach at the two more coveted programs at the time; Penn State and at the University of Washington with admired coach Don James.

It's reprehensible if the coaches I worked with at Penn State thrust and or allowed comparable trauma on innocent kids. I believed sports, and good coaches, are intended to help people actualize their potential, to overcome adversity.

These folks demonstrated evil if these accusations are true.

My time in Happy Valley was great regarding my classes, but not as happy regarding the football program. The players were exceptional. I was a sincere graduate student, studying CAD in the engineering and architecture departments.

The coaches, including Paterno, projected a holier than thou academic image, but they demanded their players and coaches prioritize football 24/7.

I experienced Joe Paterno as a racist when he stated Pennsylvania was not ready for an African American quarterback while Randall Cunningham started for the Eagles. He was the consummate bully and control freak who motivated with fear and banished players and their potential careers when they did not buy into Joe's persona.

Joe's infamous "doghouse" was relegated to players, and maybe coaches, who shared the same transgressions as Joe's favorite players, and maybe coaches, but who did not fit Joe's perception as to who and what constituted Penn State football. Joe derailed careers and earnings when a player did not fit his narrow vision. He played God. If the allegations of Jerry's transgressions are true, he and Joe will be in God's doghouse; Matthew 18:5.

He appeared to be more critical and hostile towards African American players than to white players. I remember him attacking black players in front of others more frequently than him yelling at white players. Joe suspected a black defensive back was on drugs and gave the team a mandatory urine test.

This type of team self policing always made it to the press to further reinforce Joe's clean image and reputation. However, the public never knew the only player observed submitting a sample was the African American defensive back. This was discriminatory and racist. Other players were allowed to take their tests in their apartments and return them to the medical staff. We joked the players were drug free, but some were pregnant.

Another time the great Rosey Grier visited the staff meeting room while we were all meeting. He shook hands with everyone hands and shared pleasantries with Joe and the staff. The minute he left the room, Joe called him lazy and an athlete who played like a dog against inferior opponents. The statement seemed out of place and vindictive, but reinforced Joe's perceptions and left hand column, or true feelings.

Overall, I saw Joe as a master spin doctor whose image shed a far greater shadow than his actual character. I was reminded of these when, in the early 90's after a loss to Texas, he said he was going to "go home and beat my wife".

Often when stressed, like Joe after this loss, a person will blurt out the truth, or his true feelings. One's true feelings are termed the "left hand column" by Harvard Professor Chris Argyris. The "right hand column" represents the actual words someone states.

The dysfunction in an organization is directly proportional to the size of its members' left hand columns. When no one feels safe sharing the truth, or knows sharing it is not appropriate, issues will harbor until there is a huge blow up. Again, it appears the "right hand column" brand used to portray Penn State's image, and fostered by Joe Paterno, hid his program's considerable, ugly and truthful, "left hand column".

Perhaps the awkward statement Joe made after the loss to Texas, a statement making everyone who heard it cringe, revealed another ugly truth. Joe backed out of the assertion, but, if true, fits a bully's profile and a leader who would not address and terminate abuses of power, like child molestation, in his own organization.

The parallels between Joe's kingdom; the unquestioned power and control he wielded over his minions, the knowledge he gathered about every piece of his program, and the very lax and deceptive response he made in 2002 after being informed his former prized assistant Jerry Sandusky, who maintained approved access to the football and athletic facilities where internal documents filed years earlier outlined Jerry's similar inappropriate sexual conduct with a young boy, was seen sodomizing a child in the showers, and the Catholic Church's power, control, and deceit in covering up its massive sexual abuse scandal are striking, yet not surprising to me.

Joe and his coaching staff, like a Bishop and his Priests, received unquestioned devotion and loyalty from believers who thought the organization stood for something right. Joe, like a Bishop's miter and crux, wore special clothes (khakis, oxfords, ties, blazers, black football shoes, white sox) to distinguish himself from his staff and followers.

Clothes reflecting status played a significant role at Penn State for coaches and players under Joe Paterno. The bland, striking blue and white uniforms are similar to the plain, black and white priest robes. Only certain shirts, sweatshirts, polyester pants, and sox could be worn by assistant coaches. On my first day on the field, I was asked to switch sweatshirts as the first sweatshirt I wore contained too much cotton. The coloring was not right for Joe. Players had to wear sox, no sweatpants, and only shirts with collars when in class or on campus.

Physical and structural appearances have been very important at PSU football and in the Catholic Church. The stadium is like a cathedral. The devoted worship statues. Those in charge project humble devotion to stated principles. A Bishop's and his Priests' public adulation and admiration mirrored the unchecked adulation the public showered onto Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, and the football staff. This reinforced their power and control as players and fans strove for approval and belonging.

Joe's authority, like a Bishop's, was never questioned. Everyone wanted their approval and acceptance. Joe and Catholic Church leaders were able to use this perceived humility, masking a truer air of superiority, as a free pass to mask ruthless aggression and drive for power.

Joe's drive towards the all time D1 wins record was Machiavellian. He stepped over young boys' souls. He motivated his players to maim themselves for the sake of the team, but really for the sake of Joe's record. He recruited and started players with the fourth highest total of criminal offenses in NCAA DI football over the last ten years of Joe's career. These misjudgments hurt the long term well being of the PSU football program. Joe did not care. He put his own goal ahead of the well being of children, players, the program, and the university.

Joe and Jerry are like corrupt Bishops and Priests who covered up the church's massive sexual abuse scandal, who steal from the church, and who wear clothes intended to reflect virtue to mislead and deceive loyal followers.

In addition to the Catholic Church, the PSU scandal is somewhat analogous to NASA's tragic failures. Everyone in NASA's reporting structure trusted their quality assessment system would not allow a Shuttle design failure. They were also expected to comply rather than empowered to think independently. They were afraid to step up and take ownership to report and correct defects.

In both the NASA and PSU cases, this lack of empowerment led to tragedy. At NASA, political and financial pressures to launch the Shuttle on time outweighed the consideration to further test and evaluate the o rings and tiles. This led to astronaut deaths. At Penn State, the death of young souls took a back seat to Joe's pursuing his all time wins record, his and the football team's image, and the university's reputation.

The inability to recognize the truth, or facts and behaviors contradicting one's perception of an organization or culture is deemed by academics as "selective" or "subjective" perception. This concept suggests immature people in a group setting see only what they want to see, or are taught to see. They accept and acknowledge behaviors supporting their definition or the organization's culture; it's values as depicted by beliefs and behaviors.

Mature, rational, objective, and realistic people can distinguish facts from opinions. College campuses are loaded with young people who buy into perceptions. They do not have yet the maturity to distinguish distortions, according to this theory.

Deviant adults can manipulate this immaturity to fulfill their own selfish, twisted desires; to attempt to control and to influence the beliefs of the young people to support their misguided adults' views rather than the truth. It's what bad leaders or professors or coaches do and it appears to be what happened at PSU.

When a despot or highly competitive person rules, his goals supersede relationships. Any conflict is responded to in a competing manner, where the person in charge must get his way. Ultimately, good people leave, or work around the leader. Yes men stay. This is what happens in totalitarian governments, and it's what happened at the PSU football program.

The immediate response to the crisis in the shower was to avoid to buy time to respond and to compete to keep the system rolling towards Joe's record, to reinforce Joe's perceived greatness. It was a passive / aggressive response. There was no immediate consideration for the assaulted child.

Even though he did not respond immediately to protect the child, the graduate assistant did distinguish the truth from the mantra he'd been fed since he was a child growing up in State College and shared his observations. It is not easy to break even misguided cultural values. However, his adult supervisors sat on it. This delay led to more assaults.

Selective or subjective perception might also be a fancy term for lying, or narcissism, or selfishness, or manipulation.

Also, the Johari Window (please find this defined in the following blog entitled "The Black Box")shows what one knows about oneself compared to what others know. The PSU Football program hid much, and had severe blind spots. This reflects a total lack of institutional checks and transparency. At best, the delayed response suggests Joe Paterno did not have the moral capacity (a blind spot) to distinguish and report the inappropriate behaviors perpetrated by Sandusky. At worst, the delay indicates Joe's and Penn States intentional cover up (hidden secrets)of child rape.

An independent, credible, and reputable third party must investigate PSU with a very big mirror and magnifying glass to assess what fostered the hidden secrets and blindspots. In similar cases, these are based in in the leader's need for power, misleading metrics, and poor institutional controls.

I worked on the other side of the ball from Jerry, but found him very talented with kids, albeit a bit more grabby and touchy with the many young kids surrounding him during camps and those visiting from his not for profit program, The Second Mile. It appeared he had boundary issues. Memories of this now make my stomach queasy.

He reminded me of a former celebrated boy scout leader from my home town of Madison, NJ. Warren Wheeler displayed two classic grooming behaviors. He had favorites he took on long, overnight, motorcycle trips. He also picked on certain boys, like me, trying to isolate us to seek approval. He was evil and mean spirited, a true narcissist. The Morris, NJ Boy Scout Council allowed these behaviors, just as Joe allowed Sandusky's behaviors. I never bought into either prick's persona, or subjective perception. I learned later in life Warren preyed on many young men, many who I knew.

Joe was tough on me, but I accepted this as professional hazing. I was the youngest and newest coach on the staff; the lowest man on the totem pole. I left PSU a bit early to pursue my masters in architecture degree. Joe's behaviors and the disparity between PSU's image and reality soured me to major college coaching.

As a man who suffered internal torment thanks to similar evil, I can't accept the torture of young souls Joe failed to stop. Jerry's sick, and his behaviors were perpetuated by Joe's failure to take action; his failure to be a leader. Joe so carefully projected a leader's image in every other aspect of his life.

It's affirming to know I made my first scout leader and Joe uncomfortable. Had I known then, I only wish I'd done more to expose their ruses to protect future victims. The Scout Leader's magnanimous personality, like Jerry's good old boy charm, like Joe's academic dean public persona, apparently masked ruthless deviance for power and control.

Another bizarre tradition at PSU was the coaches showered together after practices and games. We never did this at Brown or at URI and my coaching friends never experienced this on their staffs. It was one of the many things at PSU that made me realize there was something very strange about the program and its staff.

Most pedophiles were abused, but only a small portion of sexual abuse survivors choose to repeat the cycle. The behavior is deviant and not natural. Thus, it must be learned. However, as with psychopaths, some folks may be born with this deviance.

Once a person chooses to repeat or to perpetuate the cycle of sexual abuse, the behavior appears to become a compulsion and there is no way to stop it.

The key is to identify victims and to intervene with constructive counseling and positive role models before their trauma plays out destructively against themselves or others.

Also, my goal is to see laws change so pedophiles are incarcerated for life. They are not diseased and there is no cure. Their actions are premeditated.

Pedophilia is not sex. Sex is an act between two consenting adults, involving people in the same peer group. Pedophilia is an act of power and control perpetrated by a person with more physical, financial, emotional, psychological, or status power and who controls and dominates a victim with sexual acts.

The victim is a person in a subservient role or place in his or her life. The acts may offer some confusing comfort to the victim, but there is no love or concern or compassion involved. The acts are perpetrated to fulfill the deviant needs of the perpetrator.

All guilt / shame / dishonor / disgust / fault belong with the perpetrator, and with those who perpetuated the acts by keeping them in the dark, like in lonely athletic complexes and basement bedrooms.

Often, sexual abuse survivors become frozen, or compartmentalized, by the extreme sexual assaults they experienced as children. If the victim does not receive treatment within thirty days of the initial assault, the trauma can change brain chemistry leading the victim to experience post traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Some of the PTSD symptoms victims may experience include intrusive thoughts, difficulty in distinguishing truth from fiction, hyper vigilance, increased levels of anxiety, fear, and panic, short and long term memory deficits, sleep disruption, and dissociative symptoms. These symptoms keep victims from moving on and living a fulfilling life. Tragically, without constructive intervention, many victims end their lives early.

The general steps survivors use to integrate their past traumas, to shift from victims to survivors to thrivers, include:

1. Revealing secrets and fragments of one's person with licensed, trained and highly regarded / trusted professionals. Trust is a huge, if not the biggest, issue with survivors. Trust happens when one person knows he or she is safe with someone, or a group. They won't hurt the person when he or she is vulnerable. Predators exploit this trust and use feigned interest and phony gestures to confuse their victims. The goal in recovery is to combine all of one's parts to live as one whole, functional, person with the process to this outcome being assisted by trustworthy and competent counseling professionals.

2. Identify cognitive distortions - fears and criticisms cultivated by the perpetrator and the experience can undermine one's ability to live an autonomous and empowered life. Victims often inaccurately believe they are subservient and dependent on someone more powerful. Healthy survivors separate facts from opinions and live in the current moment, feeling empowered and in control of their destinies.

3. Identify deleterious behavior patterns (submissive or aggressive) fostered by these distortions and choose more positive actions and outcomes with better plans in the present moment. It is important for survivors to recognize the source of their actions, so they can consciously choose better actions. The better outcomes foster better actions and the constructive behavior cycle grows stronger.

4. Integrate one's healthy sense of self with other healthier people to maintain an integrated, whole, functional, mature perspective.

When needed, a combination of talk therapy and prescription medicines can return survivors to stabilized brain chemical levels, rational thoughts, and a sense of well being.

The reactions to childhood sexual abuse are learned as coping tools when the victim is a child. They are often ineffective and may seem hard to break. They may also alter normal brain chemistry and distort the capacity for rational thought. These coping reactions can be relearned and corrected, leading survivors to happy and fulfilling lives.

Next steps for PSU:

It's key to identify the critical obstacles allowing institutional secrets and blindspots. It's also important to create and evaluate success measurements, in addition to graduation rates and wins, where behaviors reflecting shared institutional values, character, and integrity, are recognized and rewarded. What's measured is what gets done.

Misdirected metrics fostered tragedy with Dominoes Pizza a few years ago. Dominoes guaranteed a free pizza if it was not delivered in 30 minutes or less. Part of the late pizza was paid for by the deliverer. People were killed across the country by speeding Dominoes pizza deliverers who did not want to pay for a late pizza. The flawed success metric was creating undesirable outcomes. It was changed.

Winning football games and high player graduation rate metrics appear to be good targets, but they were flawed because they hid or allowed devious behaviors. Perhaps part of the reason the horrific behaviors performed by Jerry at the PSU facilities and at the 2nd mile were not addressed earlier is because the football program's stated critical metrics were being met and piles of money were being dumped into State College and into the University thanks to the team's success and clean image.

Everyone involved bought into this perceived success without taking a closer look at Jerry's inappropriate conduct and connection with young boys, or they ignored and avoided this ugliness intentionally so long as the team had a winning / bowl game season and a majority of the players received their degrees. Again, this is an example of "selective" or "subjective" perception.

The steps organizations use to overcome similar tragedies include:

1. Identifying and removing the people and systems who were obstacles to protecting innocent children and obstacles to the truth. This probably includes the football staff, athletic administration, and many in the school's and state's administration. A reputable and credible outside source must conduct the fact finds and investigation.

2. Establishing metrics driving behaviors assuring transparency and adherence to core values in addition to wins and graduation rates and placing strong people and institutional control in place to assure these metrics, assessing integrity and behaviors reflecting core PSU values, like safety, are being met.

3. Selecting and developing leaders who respond to and seek to address situations with honest and independent thought, and with consideration for truth, collaboration, accommodation, and compromise. Leaders who compete and must only have things their way create silos, yes people, and lock step loyalty, conformity, and compliance. Blind obedience keeps the people in an organization from honest self criticism and selfless behavior. This narcissism can allow evil to propagate.

4. Cultivating many leaders, including low level GA's, who seek the truth and can think independently when addressed with crisis. People must feel encouraged to think and to correct defects and abhorrent behavior on the spot.

After my time at Penn State, I pursued a Masters in Architecture and then got married, coached football and received my MBA at the University of Rhode Island. During an internship I offered team building retreats and this led to my current organizational and leadership development practice.

I help organizations identify strong leaders from technical and scientific worker pools. I work primarily with corporations, yet also help not for profit organizations with my long term programs. I also offer short term talks / seminars / retreats to educate and inspire and to initiate the mentioned long term organizational development programs.

My topics revolve around building healthy and trusting leadership and relationships to improve positive thoughts, actions, and results. I have been married to the same woman, who was with me at Penn State, for over 20 years and we have three great kids. I live in a tiny MA town on Buzzard's Bay.

My goal in sharing this is to:

1. Help survivors gain more control and fulfillment in their lives

2. Stop the abuse cycle.

3. Expose Joe Paterno for his true colors.

4. Foster good (honest, selfless, self critical) behaviors vs. evil (selfish, lying, narcissistic) organizational and leadership behaviors.

Joe Paterno knew and knows everything about what's happening in his program and in State College. He was / is the ultimate control freak. If Jerry committed these crimes it is impossible for me to think Joe was not aware and complicit.

As a Penn State assistant under Rip Engle, Joe's nickname amongst players was Joe the rat. He knew about everything on the team and tattled on players' to the head coach. Joe went to Rip instead of addressing the player face to face. He used power and leverage to exert authority instead of true leadership and influence. Joe was Rip's protected favorite, like a mama's boy. I imagine he felt he could do anything to others and get away with it.

Thus, decades later, when a powerless boy needed a man of real character and integrity to protect him, Joe showed his true colors. He protected himself and let the little boy disappear. Author M. Scott Peck, in his book; "People of the Lie", characterizes evil people as selfish, lying, and narcissistic. It appears Joe's old nickname still holds. Except now, I think it should be Evil Rat.

I am sure Penn State's Trustees would trade all of the violations in the history of the NCAA for the atrocity Joe and Jerry left in their laps. The total number of sanctions placed on football programs in the history of the NCAA do not add up to the destruction of one young boy's soul.

Joe, for all his years of projecting a saintly image while allowing the destruction of young souls, will now be remembered as the head coach who, on his watch and under his nose, did not stop the most vile and destructive scandal in the history of sport. His blind abuse of power made capable Jerry's abuse of children. Joe must be held accountable for this role.

I am tired of perpetrators and their protectors riding off into the sunset with bodies in their wakes.

My efforts are directed at helping survivors.

If you are a survivor, or know a survivor, I hope this article offers some comfort, direction, and hope. Counseling and faith work wonders.

If you know or suspect someone is a predator, please do everything in your power to stop this and to report him or her.

If you know or suspect a child is being abused, please report this to legal authorities, unlike Joe Pa, as soon as you know.

I am not comfortable speaking about my abuse one on one, so I appreciate your recognizing my privacy the next time we meet. However, I am willing to share my story publicly to shed light on the issue and to help other survivors.

Thank you.

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

- Pastor Martin Niemöller

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Black Box - Untapped Potential

Have you ever discovered a new talent by accident?

Yesterday I heard eight high potential technical employees who are being groomed for management positions present their educational and work histories in preparation for speaking to high school students.

A common theme connected their stories. Most had no mentor to guide them early in life. They made uninformed decisions leading to unfulfilled jobs before finding an employer who directed, and celebrated, their talents and drive.

When given the opportunity, the speakers excelled. They learned they could solve technical problems. They learned they had high personal standards for achievement. They learned they had the capacity to influence others in very positive ways. Others recognized these talent and these speakers were chosen for very selective management development programs.

Recent Gallop research states everyone is born with a talent he or she can demonstrate with more proficiency than at least 10,000 people. A good education, or employer, helps people unveil and utilize their gift, like these speakers.

People who remain stuck in unsatisfying careers don't seem to know themselves, or haven't stumbled into their talent.

Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham created the Johari Window. It's a four panel grid showing what a person knows and doesn't know about oneself with what others know and don't know about a person. The resulting boxes include: public skills, private traits, blind spots, and untapped potential.

Two years ago a Rhode Island high school track athlete was trying different events when his coach suggested he try the long jump and measure his jumping distance. When the student returned with the measuring tape, the coach asked how far he'd jumped.

The student responded: "21 feet". In disbelief, the coach asked him to jump again. The student jumped again. This time, closer to 22 feet. He also jumped six feet, four inches in his first attempt, ever, in the high jump.

This past year, Innocent Jacob led the U.S. indoor jumpers for much of the season with a distance of 24'-01" at Rhode Island Classic. This came a day after his 6'-11" high jump PR ranked him second in the U.S. He has has broken R.I. state long jump record 3 times.

Had not his coach suggested he try the long jump, would Innocent Jacob every known he had the talent?

And this leads to a personal discovery. Last year I sang in our Church's Christmas Cantata. One of the basses in the regular chorus was hiking the Appalachian Trail and I was asked to fill in during his absence. I was then asked to tryout for a local a Capella group, The Harpoon Harmonizers. This past weekend, we won our division in a regional / national competition including 80 groups. I have a long way to go, but I really enjoy it.

Everyone has a special gift and it's a pleasure to witness people who display their strengths. I hope you're inspired to help others find theirs, and to find your own.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Happy Fourth of July 2011!

Independence Day this year made me reflect on the freedom, and value, of friendship.

"Make new friends, but keep the old; one's silver and the others are gold."

These are the words to a song learned at Central Avenue Elementary school in 1971, the year my thirty five year old mom received her early death sentence; melanoma in her lymph system. I was in 3rd grade.

My mom encouraged me to build lasting friendships. She had a very loving heart and I sensed the compassion she had for my young friends. It made it natural for me to like them.

Perhaps she encouraged me to make friends because she anticipated our family might, like others who experience the death of a young parent, implode after her death, leaving me and my siblings and our family on separate islands. Friends can't replace family, but good friends can fill the lost family void.

"A person someone is fond of and knows well", according to Webster's Dictionary, is a friend.

In the past two months, I had the unique fortune of spending separate time with three friends who are in my earliest photos with people other than family; Fred, Nayan, and Ross. The photos date from preschool to early elementary school.

Here's my infant brother Judson and my buddy Fred and me in 1967 at his family's beach house. Fred and I were five. In May Fred treated me to lunch near his Manhattan office where he's a Tax Attorney. I was scheduled to moderate a panel of New Media experts a few blocks from his office that evening.

During one of my college summers working at Lazard Frères’, Fred had a job with a Manhattan law firm, and we split my step mother's apartment on 97th street. Fred and I would occasionally connect for meals, movie premiers, and other NYC summer spectacles like concerts in the park and on the pier.

Summers with Fred were common as our grandparents had homes in adjoining Jersey Shore towns. His town had a beach with sand bars and no crowds, so wave riding was exceptional. We spent hours, sometimes days, riding waves on floats and body surfing.

Following 8th grade, we even rode our bikes to these towns, about 70 miles from Madison, to stay with our grandparents for the week when Bruno Sammartino was scheduled to wrestle Superstar Billy Graham at the Asbury Park Arena. We lampooned the pro wrestlers and bought tickets to attend. However, Hurricane Belle hit the Jersey Coast canceling the match. We saw Bruce Springsteen walking the pier when we redeemed our tickets.

Starting when we were real little, every summer we'd visit Fred's family's shore cottage in Beach Haven, NJ twice; first to help prep it for summer renters and then to close it over labor day weekend. Nightly excursions to Hartman's Amusement Park, wave riding, eating ice cream, crabbing, husking corn for a nickel an ear, and house improvement projects stay in my Beach Haven memory. The Campbell family also offered this spot for a memorable high school retreat.

Being around Fred and his easy disposition taps these great memories and their associated good feelings. Fred also asked me to deliver the Newark Star Ledger to his neighborhood accounts when he was away. It was a beautiful neighborhood, probably the most affluent in Madison.

Here's a recent shot of Fred.

I also carried Nayan's "Grit" Newspaper route when he was away. His route was mostly around our neighborhood, but also went to one of the more economically challenged streets in Madison. One time I delivered Fred's and Nayan's routes in the same week. Comparing those two streets was like looking at two different worlds, yet they were about 1 mile apart.

Nayan warned me about a young boy at one of his stops. Jamie watched cartoons all day while rocking on his hands. He did not like to be disturbed. Nayan told me to avoid eye contact, or Jamie might come after me like an angry dog. This got my attention. I stared at Jamie's floor the whole time.

Jamie grew into an excellent football player and wrestler. He was my teammate, but remained troubled. Chris Jilleba, a star running back, connected with him more than others. Recently I learned our wrestling coach asked me to practice with Jamie, despite my outweighing Jamie by about 50 pounds, to check a new kid's mental models.

The new kid refused to wrestle Jamie because, he claimed, Jamie was crazy. He said he was afraid of being hurt. I learned later coach felt the real reason the new kid refused was because he did not want to wrestle a black kid, like Jamie. I was proud coach chose me to prove Jamie's skin tone had no affect on me, and he was safe, at least in practice. In life, his demons never left.

Jamie died in prison. He was a convicted rapist.

And here's Nayan and me, circa 1966. We're both 4 years old.

In early June I attended Nayan's father's funeral. His father was a physician, a patriarch, and the coolest dad in our neighborhood. He hailed from one of Morris County's most esteemed black families. His brother James was a dentist.

Nayan's father graduated a year ahead of my parents from Madison High where he was a four time class president and a star tennis and basketball player, and captain. He graduated from Hobart as an undergrad and was a two time All American in lacrosse. He attended Medical School in Philadelphia.

Despite being embraced by Madison High in the early 1950's, George and other black students were refused service at a Madison eatery due to their skin tone. While protesting, the owner spat in his face. George was also forced to sit in the back row of the balcony at the Madison Movie Theater and his wife, a native of India, was refused an Ivy League Master's Degree because she was married to a black man.

Later, Nayan's Grandpa was refused the right to buy an office building bordering Madison and Morristown intended to house his sons' professional dentist and doctor practices to serve families from both communities.

These stories were shared at his eulogy. It was the first I'd heard them. Character kept our parents from spoiling our young perspectives. Our friendship was color blind until we were old enough to realize others were not as fortunate as us.

In the 1950's and '60's discriminatory acts were commonplace. Thanks to people like our parents, most of us did not experience the level of overt discrimination they experienced, and we have the freedom to choose our friends, and careers.

I did experience one overt incident worth mentioning. I was coaching at Penn State in 1987. During a staff meeting it was suggested a gifted black NJ All State player named Darren be given a chance at quarterback. Coach Paterno stated "Pennsylvania is not ready for a black quarterback".

At the time, Randall Cunningham was a starting black quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. One assistant coach was outraged by the comment, and challenged the legend. Joe blew him off. Since then, Penn State has started many accomplished black quarterbacks, but the comment reflects the public and private dichotomies inherent in racism.

Dr. George was quiet around me, but always fun and pleasant. He was a great observer. I sensed he trusted me and my parents. Thus, he allowed Nayan and me to be first friends. Every day, I'd visit their compound where Nayan's grandparents and his step great grandmother lived in another house.

They all treated me like family. His grandfather called me Mathis. His great grandmother taught me how to play piano. She also founded the Community House, intended to help children like Jamie, living in neglect and abject poverty, to experience positive life options.

Dr. George was also forgiving and perceptive. The eatery owner who spit in his face became his patient and Dr. George treated him until his death bed when, in tears, the man begged for forgiveness.

In 1966 Dr. George served the Navy as a physician in Long Beach, California. After he and the family moved, I remember sitting in my backyard, staring at their house, hoping for Nayan's return.

We were inseparable as preschoolers and I was very happy when he returned two years later. From 1968 until my family moved in 1977 every day with Nayan was filled with sports, building forts, music, and laughter. When we visit today, there's a natural bond and connective ease.

Dr. George was also an accomplished artist and passed this creativity to his children. Nayan is a successful music producer and owns a recording Studio in NJ where I plan to produce some of my audio programs.

Here's a recent shot of Nayan.

And here's Ross, with his brother Malcolm and Judson on the chair, and me camping with our families at Cape Cod circa 1968.

Camping on Cape Cod with the Ross's family was another highlight. From 1964 until 1971 we'd make the annual pilgrimage to Truro's North of Highlands Campground. It was kid and dog heaven; a walkable distance to incredible surf and beach action, balsa wood airplane challenges, visits to Army Navy and loaded candy stores, lobsters, beach bond fires, and laughter. My parents relaxed at Cape Cod and the normal tensions eased. It was also nice having a friend available in the adjoining campsite.

Ross and I enjoyed airplanes and laughing. Amazingly, despite living over 3,000 miles apart, our professional pursuits are aligned.

In late June, I facilitated a program for a client in Tacoma and had some time on the last day to visit Seattle. I'd recruited the northwest for Brown football players as a coach and at the time was offered a job coaching linebackers with Don James, then legendary coach at the University of Washington. The area holds fond memories for me.

So, I tracked Ross down at Microsoft where he's gained a national reputation as an innovative director; able to maintain unheard of high retention levels amongst gifted technical employees while exceeding performance expectations.

Despite not seeing each other for over 30 years, our conversation was easy and we talked for two straight hours about how he practices tools I teach, apply, and measure with clients. We are collaborating on an article.

And here's Ross's current self portrait.

When I travel, I search the travel area for old friends and contact them. It's like opening a present and seeing how the games and bonds we shared as children evolved into careers and common interests.

It also gives me a chance to place unique experiences in perspective, to appreciate and learn from exposure to great people and great times, and to realize some appearances can be misleading.

In the process, I imagine the goal is to integrate our stories, so we can make sense of our childhoods so they can help us grow into our potential as adults.

Good luck on your journey in opening your friendship presents.

Please keep me posted on your progress.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Transcending Moments

Easter celebrates Christ's transcendence from death to life. Transcendence, in the form of redemption, forgiveness, talents, resolve, healing, miracles, charity, hope, and faith forms the cornerstone of Christian belief.

Regardless of one's faith, the world offers unexpected events. Major media tends to focus on disasters, but nature offers daily reminders of hope and transcendence. Looking out the window and seeing the green return after this ice filled winter is one.

An amazing moment caught on film involved an Alaskan lead sled dog. It was chained and eating when a polar bear approached. The dog's owner's heart sank as he anticipated his favorite dog's demise.

Instead, he saw both animals strike a play pose and grabbed his camera.

After 20 minutes, the bear hugged his new friend and lumbered off.

Granted, if the bear was hungry, the result may have differed.

Bear Arms!

Bear Muzzle!

Bear Nuzzle!

Bear Hug!

Bear Down!

Transcending, unexpected, events like this offer hope similar moments can fill our lives, like when we connect with an old friend or see a sunrise, or notice a blooming bud.

Happy Easter!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who's Your Pick?

"The Character is Higher than the Intellect." - Vince Lombardi

The Vince Lombardi Trophy will be awarded to tomorrow's Superbowl victor. He is the sport's greatest coach.

In his early life, he contemplated being a priest and then an attorney. His football writings, actions, and talks are sprinkled with indirect references to Christianity as when he tells his team they "will pursue, with every ounce of effort in their bodies, pure perfection, knowing full well perfection is not achievable in this life, but in the afterlife. But, we will pursued it with dogged determination."

Players responded to his goodness. On the field he was beyond driven, but did nothing out of malice or deceit. His passion was to improve his players, and to build or expose their character. They trusted him and responded.

Fourteen Green Bay players he inherited from his predecessor became either All Pro or Hall of Fame caliber. The year before Vince arrived, the Packers recorded one win and eleven losses. In his first season, the Pac won seven and proceeded to win five NFL championships included the first two Superbowls.

The president of one of my international clients gave me a Lombardi book. It includes a DVD with a famous speech he delivered at the Waldorf Astoria. In the speech, Lombardi states, regarding personal, organizational, and social success: "the character is higher than the intellect." Vince was referring to sacrifice, courage, collaboration, and goodness; being honest, selfless, and self critical.

Tomorrow's Super Bowl will test this supposition. By most accounts, Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers' star quarterback, is a bully. He reportedly demeans hotel staff and support people. He settled two recent aggravated sexual assault cases against women out of court.

I am tired of bullies, people in powerful positions who use their status for selfish ends, getting the last laugh. We've seen it with the recent banking crisis, where heads of banks and their boards played roulette with their investments, were on the brink of failure, and walked away with bonuses underwritten by us, the taxpayers. They lie, are selfish, and narcissistic; behaviors opposite to those celebrated with Lombardi.

2010 was a wonderful football year for me. I attended two NFL games; the Jets vs. the Packers at the new Jets / Giants stadium and the Jets at the Pats on a Monday night. During our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to NYC, I saw a play on Lombardi. While watching actor Dan Lauria's excellent depiction of Coach Lombardi, I thought of my hall of fame high school coach, Ted Monica.

Coach is a Lombardi disciple and a Korean War Purple Heart. In fact, he knew and worked with Vince Lombardi and administered the Packers' draft efforts for over twenty years. He, like coach Lombardi, had an uncanny ability to muster courage, sacrifice, and a collaborative, or team, effort to raise performance to unexpected heights. We proved it.

The picture above shows us, the 1980 senior class members, commemorating receiving the 1979 Star Ledger Trophy, recognizing NJ's top high school football team. We are the only Group II sized school to ever earn this distinction. This picture shows the recognition celebration during a home football game halftime this past September.

Our class of seniors never experienced a loss and finished our varsity careers with a perfect, 33-0-0, record. We'd gathered for our 30th high school graduation reunion. Our famed coach joined us. In addition, I spent time with the Monicas before and after this celebration and experienced the warmth usually present only with beloved family members. Vince Lombardi was also the first coach to state the critical element in team success is spirit, or charity, or brotherly love connecting teammates.

From my lineman's dream touchdown, to defeating a team loaded with superstars the day after I buried my mom, to starting on three consecutive undefeated championships and never losing a high school game, to reconnecting a friend with his 1977 Madison Championship ring thirty years after he earned it, Coach Monica's Character and Charity have been a beacon in elevating and sustaining me and my hope leaders beat bullies as goodness beats evil.

So, it will be interesting to see if Vince's postulate on character plays true. The Steelers are loaded with gifted football players, including Roethlisberger. Being a champion, based on Lombardi's teachings, requires more than talent. Will the force of Vince Lombardi's considerable aura allow the Lombardi Trophy to be handed to someone whose behaviors essentially mock its namesake?

Stay tuned, Sunday, 6:29 PM. Enjoy the game.