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There's a humiliation factor when we test children on what all of them may or may not be able to do. Climbing the ropes is a public event and when you can't, it can be humiliating. Some kids get what I call the Wednesday morning disease where they just don't want to go to gym class. I used to think they all had dental appointments. In reality, they were just scared.
An experiment was done at the Playing Field Middle School in the Midwest. They weren't getting enough funding for their fitness and sports program, so instead of dropping the whole thing, they decided to try a no-cut system. Everybody who came out for a team got on the team. They got all kinds of criticism saying these kids were not going to perform well. They were accused of sugar-coating the lives of these kids.
It turned out that overnight the interest in the sports doubled and tripled. Their swim team, which had 25 kids, went up to 75. The track team of 13 went up to 85 kids overnight. The interest had always been there but the kids didn't try for fear of being humiliated by not making the team.
They won more county and state championships and performed better that year than ever before. The critics came back and said, "Well how are these kids going to make it through life if nobody tells them hey, you've got to cut the mustard, otherwise you don't make it in life?"
Studies have shown that the relationship between criticisms from parents to kids and teachers to kids is phenomenal. Teachers dole out 17 criticisms to one compliment in school. Parents dole out 11 or 12 criticisms to every compliment. I think kids get their fair share of humiliation. If we can make it a little bit safer and give kids a way to enjoy being active in ways that suit them best, we will establish a motivating factor that will keep them involved and active, hopefully for the rest of their lives.
The basic concept is fun. Look at the runners in Kenya. Their basic principle in life is to run every day so you want to run the next day. It's fun, so they look forward to the next day of running. That's why they do so well. The Tarahamara Indians run 75 to 150 miles a day, and kick a little ball the whole way. It's a game. After running a 26-mile run, which was a piece of cake for them, they finished with blood pressures lower than when they started. Their breath rate was what we would consider normal at rest. They finished with a heart rate of about 130 beats per minute, very calm, effortless, and they were running an 8-minute-mile pace the whole way, at a high level altitude. Running is fun for these people. It is a way of life.
One hundred fifty miles in a day is a lot of activity but their experience internally is one of calm. That's what I call the eye of the hurricane and why a lot of athletes have peak experiences. They love it so much that they get to a place where peak performance just automatically flows. It's not stressful. It's not work anymore. It's total fun.