Put Me in Coach: Parenting Resilient Kids with Jack Armstrong

Put Me in Coach: Parenting Resilient Kids with Jack Armstrong

by Chris Tompkins | May 18, 2023

Jack Armstrong — the TSN basketball analyst and the voice synonymous with the Toronto Raptors broadcasts — is a beloved public figure. But beyond his endearing on-air persona, he is a father, a speaker and a former NCAA Division I coach who uses the life lessons he has learned to help build resiliency in his own kids and in the young people he regularly addresses through speaking engagements.

Raising kids is like flying a kite

Jack explains that many things drew him into coaching, including the fact that he “wasn’t a good enough player to play in the NBA or high-level college.” But he loved the game.

“What then captivated me was the relationships,” Jack says on the Shaping Our World podcast. “I enjoy getting to know people and getting to figure out what makes them tick … I was always drawn to that and being able to connect in a way that inspired somebody.”

Jack says that coaching boys from ages 12-23 over the course of his coaching career put him in touch with age groups where there was a lot of opportunity to have an impact. He points to an analogy about flying a kite that a friend once used to sum up the process of raising children/coaching young people, saying, “you’ve got to let go of a little rope each and every day … As a young player gets a little older, as your child gets older, a student gets older, you let that much more of the rope go, and sooner or later, you let go of it completely and they fly on their own and they figure it out.”

Building good habits by staying in the fight

When asked if any of his coaching tactics crossed over into his parenting, Jack says that one of the things that he and his wife maintained was that a rock solid foundation is important. Kids need to hear the tough stuff even if they don’t agree with you, which, according to Jack, doesn’t happen enough these days. While it’s not easy, Jack prescribes to something his friend always says: “you’ve got to stay in the fight.”

“There are times where you’ve got to stand your ground as a teacher,” he says. “You’ve got to stand your ground as a coach. You’ve got to stand your ground as a parent, as a leader, as a mentor, and say, no, this is right.” Jack’s job — as both a coach and a parent — was to instil a strong foundation, and namely, good habits. No matter whether playing basketball or the game of life, Jack explains, “it’s a game of habits and repetition and fundamentals.”

On building resiliency and being significant

In speaking to the role that sports plays in the lives of young people, Jack says that when he meets someone who was/is an athlete, he knows they have learned how to fail and have built resiliency.

“Ten percent of life is what happens [to you], 90 percent is how you choose to deal with it,” Jack explains. “It’s all about attitude. It’s all about your approach. It’s all about resiliency.”

The conversation goes on to address resiliency as a product of the camaraderie and feeling of love and support you get when you’re part of a team. One issue that Jack thinks is currently working against kids’ resiliency is social media. He is a big proponent of setting limits on screen time and living life, and in doing so, feeling a connection to another human being and being significant.

“Significance is what it’s all about,” Jack says. “How you impact others and the love that you give them and the kindness and the smile and the caring and the encouragement, the tough love, that’s significant.”

Jack references something he heard Louis Holtz, the former football coach at Notre Dame, say about the dash on a tombstone.
“You go to a cemetery, you walk by a statue in a park, and there’s some famous person on a statue, whatever, and you look up and there’s the year of birth and there’s the year of death,” Jack says. “[But] it’s not the year of birth. It’s not the year of death. It’s the dash … The dash represents your life, the impact you’ve made, [and] the significance of what you’ve done for people in your life.”

To hear more of what Jack has to say about raising resilient kids who are significant in the lives of others, listen to the full episode at the top of this post.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript

[00:00:12.540] – Speaker 2
Well, hey, everyone. It’s Chris Tompkins, the host of the Shaping Our World podcast. In this podcast, my goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young people in your life. Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth today. And today we have a guest that many sports fans will recognize and be really interested to hear from right away. And he probably doesn’t need an introduction, particularly for Raptors fans. But let me give you his bio anyways. Today, we have Jack Armstrong on the show. Jack “The Coach” Armstrong is TSN’s beloved basketball analyst, delivering the call for all Toronto Raptor broadcasts on Canada’s sports leader alongside Matt Devlin. Throughout the NBA season, Jack is regularly featured in segments on SportsCenter. He’s also part of TSN’s in-studio panel throughout the network’s NCAA March Madness coverage. With a vast knowledge and passion for the game that is well known and respected throughout the basketball world, Armstrong is one of the country’s most celebrated sports broadcasters, having been honored with the Canadian Screen Award for best sports analyst three years in a row from 2017 to 2019.

[00:01:35.000] – Speaker 2
Armstrong began coaching high school basketball when he was 19 years old and quickly moved on to college ball as an assistant coach at Fordham University. He then became one of the youngest Division 1 coaches ever upon being appointed head coach at Niagara University at just 26 years of age. He coached Niagara for nine years before embarking on his broadcasting career. He has since spent his entire broadcasting career focusing on the Toronto Raptors. He’s a native of Brooklyn, New York, and Armstrong has a Masters in Communications from Fordham University. It’s an amazing opportunity we have to talk to one of the well known voices in at least Ontario and throughout the basketball world. And I think you’re really going to enjoy our conversation today where Jack shares so many of the things that he’s picked up from coaching and parenting and being around people and his expertise and wisdom and enthusiasm is pretty amazing. And I’m so thrilled that we got to have him and to hear what he has to say. So I’m going to invite you to listen in as we talk about young people and what it means to build resiliency and what it means to pick yourself up when you fall down and how to build a rock solid foundation.

[00:02:53.420] – Speaker 2
So let’s listen in to what Jack has to say about young people and the world they live in. Jack, it’s great to have you.

[00:03:11.460] – Speaker 1
Chris, my pleasure. Glad to be out with you.

[00:03:14.010] – Speaker 2
Yeah, it’s awesome. I know for most of our listeners, at least sports fans, your voice is going to be very familiar. We talked about it in the intro, but it’s going to be a little unique for me. I’m used to hearing you calling a game, and now we’re going to be talking about different stuff. So I’ll have to shake myself into that mode. But thanks so much for taking the time to join us after a long season. So appreciate that.

[00:03:37.250] – Speaker 1
I’m happy to be on and excited to chat with you.

[00:03:40.490] – Speaker 2
So as we talked about and is in our show title, our show is called Shaping Our World. And we asked you a couple of questions about what shaped your world and what is shaping it today. So when you were growing up, Jack, when you were a kid and a teenager, what shaped your world? What were some of the biggest influences for you?

[00:03:56.490] – Speaker 1
Well, obviously sports was a big influence. Played basketball my whole life and the life lessons that sports teaches you in terms of the sacrifice and the discipline and the camaraderie and the teamwork and all the things. With the online, it not only builds character, it reveals it. A lot of times when you fail, you have setbacks. You got to look in the mirror and challenge yourself and be honest with yourself because the mirror never lies. Sports was a big part of my life growing up. I would say more importantly than sports was my family, my three brothers. When I speak to kids all the time, they always say this, people ask, Who’s your hero? I have one hero in my life, and that’s my mother. Mother’s 96 years old. I call my mom every day. Before I did this show with you, Chris, I spoke to my mom already this morning. I call her every day. And she’s doing great. She lives on her own. And my parents are immigrants to the United States from Ireland. My dad died of a heart attack when I was seven. I’m the youngest of four boys. My mom was a school criteria worker at PS 238 in Brooklyn and raised four boys in a very modest and being kind lifestyle.

[00:05:23.140] – Speaker 1
We were in a small little apartment building in Brooklyn, and I slept on a pull out couch in the living room. I brought in Brendan, and I grew up very humble and I’m very grateful for everything that I have in my life. But my mom was that compass, that moral compass that by her example and by her leadership and her love and care, everything I have in my life and everything my three older brothers have in their life is because of the example and the guiding light that she was in our life. So when I think about what was central to my life as a kid, sports was a big part of it. Obviously, going to school and the lessons you learn in school. But the most important thing is the lessons you learn at home on a daily basis in terms of what’s right or wrong. I grew up in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn where a lot of people went down the wrong path. And my mom kept us going in the direction that we needed to go in to be successful. I think if you had any of my three brothers on, they would say the exact same thing.

[00:06:36.620] – Speaker 1
Yeah.

[00:06:37.340] – Speaker 2
And it’s so important, I think, just as a side note, we know this intuitively, and we hear it time and time again, just how important parents are in shaping the lives of their children. But when you’re a parent yourself, sometimes you’re like, Oh, man, are our kids even listening to me? They even look up to me at all. And so it’s nice to hear that continue time and time again about just how significant parents are. And we’re going to dive into that, exactly what you outlined there at the beginning, just about the importance of family.

[00:07:10.020] – Speaker 1
It’s like what John Wooden said, the little eyes upon you. I have three sons that are all in their 20s now, and they’ll mention things that when they were kids of something I said or did or something my wife said or did, and I’m like, Wow, I don’t even remember that. It’s the same thing when I’m around my former players now and different things that I said or whatever that you go, Wow. You don’t think they’re listening. You don’t think they’re paying attention, but they really are. And a lot of times you come at people in a different way. And it’s interesting how people absorb messages in their own style, in their own way. Some people are visual learners. Some people are very observant and sit back and reflect and watch, while others, it’s very direct. Everyone’s in a different way. But nonetheless, there’s an incredible impact that a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a teacher, a coach, a grandparent, a mentor can have on a young person. And every day that I go walk the face of this Earth and interact with people, the more I learn how when you come in contact, I’ve been with the Raptors now 25 years, and you come in contact with so many different people, and they mention a story about the first time they met you or interacted with you or something you said to them and whatever.

[00:08:58.070] – Speaker 1
And I’m like, Wow, it’s pretty amazing stuff.

[00:09:02.300] – Speaker 2
Yeah, it is. And you talked about how you see players later on and see the influence you had. I think for me, and I think, again, we all know this and chuckle about it, but it really comes home when all of a sudden, Jack is a parent, I’ve got a daughter too, you all of a sudden hear your dad or your mom’s voice coming out of your mouth that when you were a kid, you’d be like, Why are they saying this? This is ridiculous. Then all of a sudden I would never do that as a parent. And then you’re like, I’m saying the same things, right? I can hear the voice. It’s sunk in. And so it does shape us. So, Jack, I want to jump right into that. As you open the door, those people who are tracking know what you do today. But before you became the Raptor’s beloved commentator, coaching has been a huge part of your story. The nine years you were a head coach at Niagara University’s Purple Eagles. But even before that, you’ve been involved in coaching all through the spectrum, people younger than you. Jack, what is it about coaching that drew you in?

[00:10:09.820] – Speaker 2
I know probably you love sports and basketball, but there’s got to be a sense of responsibility and something else beyond the game. What is it that you got out of coaching that you enjoyed working with the younger generation?

[00:10:24.740] – Speaker 1
Yeah, well, I coached grade school in Brooklyn. I coached high school in Brooklyn. I was a college assistant at Fordham University in New York. I was obviously an assistant at Niagara, and then I was the head coach at Niagara. So I had the opportunity to be involved at every level, grade school, high school, college. Obviously, I coach boys basketball, but to coach boys from ages 12 to 23, there’s a lot going on in those age groups that you can have an impact on. But what drew me into it? Well, probably because I wasn’t a good enough player to play in the NBA or high level college. But I loved the game. I was always that guy on the team that was in the middle of the huddle and giving guys orders. And I was like just a student of the games. Sometimes your best coaches are the ones that weren’t necessarily the greatest players because you got to think your way through it rather than actually stand on your own two feet with your athletic talent, which I have little of. But what then captivated me was the relationships. I think, to me, if I had to evaluate myself, I think I’m very organized.

[00:11:46.330] – Speaker 1
I’m a big believer in the five P’s: proper planning prevents poor performance. Plan your work, work your plan. So I feel like I’m good at being able to articulate and to get a vision, what’s vision, seeing the end product before you start the journey, and being able to get a group of people or one person to see the light in terms of what we’re trying to get accomplished. And then, secondly, I think that I’m an extrovert, I’m a people person. I enjoy getting to know people and getting to figure out what makes them tick, trying to find a common ground. I was always drawn to that and being able to connect in a way that inspired somebody and got them to look internally and look at themselves and say, Okay, I could be better than what I am, and show belief in them, give them tough love sometimes when they needed it. I had a high school teacher, and he said something really cool, and I love music, and the band, The Eagles, have a song, “Already Gone.” And one of the lines in the song is, sometimes you can see the stars, but you can’t see the light.

[00:13:05.560] – Speaker 1
His point for us when I was in ninth grade and a bunch of knucklehead 14 year old boys sitting in a Catholic high school social studies class was, Hey guys, you guys can see the stars, but you can’t see the light. My job is to show you the light. It’s the proverbial, You could see the tree, but can you see the forest? I think the great challenge in coaching and teaching and parenthood is that our job is to help young people see the light and give them a different perspective on it. And an overwhelming seemingly, we’re trying to encourage them to see that. Sometimes we have to pull them along. Sometimes we got to push them along. Sometimes there’s conflict that’s necessary. But somehow, some way, in any way possible, we’ve got to help them see the light. And little by little, on their own, I’ll never forget, someone said to me, It’s like flying a kite. You got to let go of the little rope each and every day. And then as we go forward, as a young player gets a little older, as your child gets older, a student gets older, you let go that much more of the rope, and then sooner or later, you let go of it totally and they fly on their own and they figure it out.

[00:14:33.830] – Speaker 1
So to me, that’s the incredible great thing about coaching and teaching and mentoring is helping people see the light.

[00:14:45.180] – Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s great. And so I love that. That was really insightful and inspiring. I think that’s exactly the way so many of us see working with the next generation and young people. You spent a lot of time coaching, and obviously that’s a broad perspective. You drilled down on a few of these things, but as you look at working with young people in that coaching world, what were some of the coaching tactics you took, some perspectives, disciplines, things that you would bring into that world to move kids along that journey, and then connected back? You mentioned you have three sons who you and your wife adopted. Did you ever find yourself employing some of those coaching tactics when it came to your own kids? And what are some things that worked really well as you transitioned from coaching to parenting? Can you shed some light on that for us?

[00:15:43.660] – Speaker 1
Well, my wife is a four year old, and formant Division 1 head coach as well. She also had a very successful career as a Vice President and Treasurer of her family company. So she has a lot of leadership background. And I don’t know if it was Aristotle or Socratic said, excellence is a habit, not an act. We don’t want actors. We want people with habits. I don’t want someone who’s conning me and giving me abracadabra nonsense. I want someone with a core that can stand on their own two feet. It’s like putting a foundation in on a house. When you build a house, what do you do? What’s the foundation? It’s rock solid. And I think habits are rock solid, the good ones, obviously. I look at great players. I look at a young man like Steph Curry. He’s got incredible habits. He is fundamentally sound, the way he plays the game, the way he sees the game, the way he feels the game, the way he reacts to the game. It’s a game of habit. And the only way you lose in the game is beat yourself and try to figure out how habitually you can grow and get better.

[00:17:07.280] – Speaker 1
So I think as a coach, you try to beat dot I’s cross T’s, beat discipline, yet allow creative thought and creative expression when a certain player has certain talents. You try to tap into those and teach them and coach them based upon that. And then other times, you try to reel someone in when they’re a mile wide and an inch thick, they’re all over the map and they understand that maybe sometimes you’re better off concentrating on doing a few things and do them well. But I think ultimately, whether it be as a coach or now in the last 25 years as a parent and being a role model to other parents’ kids, it ain’t easy. It’s hard work. And there are going to be moments of conflict. Let’s get right down to it. There’s going to be times where a young person is going to see it a certain way, and you’re going to see it differently based upon your years of experience. And you need to tell them what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. And I think a big problem today is people dance around it and walk on eggshells.

[00:18:34.330] – Speaker 1
I think young people, they admire honesty and they see through nonsense. And they know when you’re phoning. They also know when you’re real. I have a friend that says all the time, stay in the fight. And that ain’t easy. And there are times where you got to stand your ground as a teacher. You got to stand your ground as a coach. You got to stand your ground as a parent, as a leader, as a mentor, and say, no, this is right. And if you follow this path, you could go ahead and deviate and go your own way for a while. But ultimately, I guarantee as sooner or later, you’re going to meet me three months later, six months later, six years later, 12 years later, you’re going to go, Yeah, it took me a while. It was a long and winding road, but now I get what you’re saying. And everybody takes the message, and some people never get it. Most do, and most get it right away. And then there are others that don’t get it right away. But I think it’s all about habits. I think it’s all about being able to get into a routine.

[00:19:51.530] – Speaker 1
I always joke about this, but when you’re around a coach’s daughter or a coach’s son and they grow up at the rink, they grow up at the field, they grow up in the gym, they have a whole different perspective growing up around it than the average athlete. They’re hearing all the lessons that the parent is teaching as a coach. More importantly, they’re around the athletes that are playing for their parent. And sooner or later, it all comes back down to the fact that it really is. It’s a game of habits and repetition and fundamentals. And whether that be in the game that you’re playing, more importantly, the game of life, it’s habits.

[00:20:44.180] – Speaker 2
I think that’s a love when you’re talking about that good habits. I wonder, as we’re thinking about parenting, and you spelled out a few of these things, you grew up in sports, and I’m just thinking about parents whose kids are involved in sports, how does playing sports impact kids, build into them? Why is that a significant part of growing up from your perspective as a coach and a parent?

[00:21:11.290] – Speaker 1
Chris, it’s great because they fail. Ford teaches you that in life, nothing’s easy. You got to work your tail off to get what you get. And there are many, many times you’re going to fall flat on your face. And you got two choices. You can lay there and feel sorry for yourself, or you can get yourself back up and get back in the fight.

[00:21:36.000] – Speaker 2
And.

[00:21:36.820] – Speaker 1
A word that jumps to mind to your question is resiliency. When I get to know people and I find out that they were a swimmer, or they were a wrestler, or they ran track, or they played tennis, or golf, or they were on a basketball team, or hockey, or whatever it may be, I look and I go, Okay, they know how to fail. They’re striving to succeed. Nonetheless, they also understand. And life is full of twists and turns and ups and downs. And you’re constantly getting punched in the proverbial mouth. 10 % in life is what happens here, 90 % is how you choose to deal with it. It’s all about attitude. It’s all about your approach. It’s all about resiliency. It’s all about your ability to handle setbacks. And to me, that is that anytime I speak to elite athletes, I say to them, Hey, look, I honestly don’t care how good you are. I’m not even here. Whether you’re the greatest player in this room or you’re the least talent in this room, you’re all getting something from this that you don’t even realize you’re getting. And that is you’re getting the tools to help you succeed in life because you’re going to have setbacks personally, professionally, and you’re going to have successes.

[00:23:02.300] – Speaker 1
And a friend of mine, a hall of fame coach, his name is Luke Honaseca. He’s in his late 90s now. He’s a great coach at St. John’s University College professionally as well. And Lou has a great line. He says, Peacock today, have the dust of tomorrow. Always stay humble. Every time you think you’re this and you’re that, you’re really cool and you’re really good, there’s always someone eventually that you cross paths with that’s better than you are. It’s the same in life and it’s the same in business. Someone makes more money than you. Someone drives a nicer car, someone has a better job, someone goes to a nicer place on vacation, whatever it may be. Or on the other side of it, someone doesn’t make as much money as you. Someone doesn’t have this, doesn’t have that. But the ability to stay grounded and stay humble and be able to not take yourself too seriously and yet take things very seriously. I think sports is a great creative way of building that within people.

[00:24:13.040] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I think you’re bang on. Just from my own experience, I grew up playing a lot of sports, and I actually think sports, particularly team sports, I think more than others, they also help you learn how to work with other people that are different from you, maybe have different goals, different skill levels. They don’t always show up with the same attitude that you have either way. You could be having a good day, and you have to come together to do something as a team and be successful. It learns you to think about others, to be less self focused, prioritize the good of the whole versus our own individual stuff. I think with where the world is today, Jack, it’s so easy for kids to withdraw and to be isolated and not step into things that may be a little challenging and getting to know people and learn how to work with people that are different from you. I know that’s one of the things that sports has really taught me. I play basketball and volleyball more particularly is just how to learn how to work with and think about the betterment of the whole.

[00:25:31.910] – Speaker 1
Chris, you nailed it, and you’re 100 % right. I think it’s the aspect of the camaraderie and the brotherhood, the sisterhood that creates in a sports environment, a thing that is going to teach you a lesson later in life when you work for a company. With your line, I don’t care. We all have to pull the rope. We all hang together, we’ll all hang separately, but one way or the other. We all have to understand what sacrifice is and teamwork and respect and being able to deal with people that have a better talent than us, lesser talent than us, more intellect, less intellect, whatever it may be. And it teaches you great life lessons and playing different sports and playing with different teammates and coaches. And you learn so many amazing things about yourself. And it’s an incredible journey of self discovery. And so to me, I think it’s a great thing. And the fact that my kids all played sports. My older two guys loved it. My younger guy liked it. I wouldn’t say loved it. He’s more of an artistic type. But nonetheless, they all look back on different things when they participate in sports and they have their lifetime friendships in a lot of ways come from being on those teams and the life lessons and the journey and the different things that each of them went through and things that they can sit around now and laugh about.

[00:27:21.230] – Speaker 2
We know from research right now that young people, particularly, are feeling more and more isolated. And there’s so many studies just about how community and relationships are such significant. It’s, yes, for sure, how to learn how to work with people in your career down the road, but also just for the mental and emotional and even physical wellbeing is connected to really positive relationships. I loved what you were saying about staying in the fight and sports teaches you nothing’s easy and get back in the fight. And I know for me, just making that connection that friendships and relationships in our lives are one of the key factors that contribute to our ability to be resilient, to get up when we’ve faltered or things haven’t gone our way or our plans seem to just disintegrate. And I know I’m not going to presume anything on your own life, but you were coaching for a long time, you lost your job. You’ve probably had other setbacks in your own life. What are some things like, if the message is, Let’s keep getting the fight, 90 % is how you respond, what are some key factors that parents can think about to encourage with kids that help them get back in the fight?

[00:28:48.270] – Speaker 2
What are some factors for resilience?

[00:28:51.520] – Speaker 1
Well, I think the factor is that every generation blames the one before.

[00:29:00.340] – Speaker 2
And.

[00:29:00.960] – Speaker 1
I think today’s kid has the ability to be just as resilient and just as successful and just as amazing as the generation before, the generation before that, and the generation before that. I think today’s young people are amazing. They have great talent, they have great gifts, and what’s going on to them now is not their fault. What’s going on in a lot of ways, in my opinion, is that adults aren’t doing their job. And therefore, we’re allowing e have lowered our standards. We are not setting the bar high enough. We are not challenging and demanding that a higher standard is set. So I think resiliency, to me, is about attitude. It’s about that camaraderie and the togetherness that comes from having support and feeling loved and appreciated and connected. And I think the thing that stands out to me when you talk about kids feel isolated and all that, well, what’s the difference in this generation that didn’t exist in the previous generation? It’s one thing and one thing only. It’s the cell phone. It’s social media. You will see two young people sitting in a Starbucks having a coffee together, and they’re not even one of them are looking at each other and having a conversation.

[00:30:43.630] – Speaker 1
They both have their heads buried in their phone. What’s standing in the way now is that I spoke at a high school in Toronto back in January, and I said to the kids, and actually it was a middle school high school, so kids from age 12 to 18. I said, Hey, look, social media ain’t real. It ain’t real. One of your friends will send a picture of themselves, Oh, I’m on vacation in Mexican Cate Coast. Or, Hey, look at me. I’m at this Justin Bieber concert. Or, Hey, look at me. I’m out to dinner at this great restaurant. Or, Look at me. I’m doing this or I’m doing that. And I’m like, Don’t you understand that people only put the best version of themselves out there?

[00:31:35.530] – Speaker 2
And.

[00:31:35.930] – Speaker 1
That’s not real. We’re all flawed. We’re all perfectly imperfect. We all got challenges. Life ain’t easy. Life ain’t fair. Life is tough. And social media, in a lot of ways, creates distance, almost like a gated community mentality or like a moat in front of the castle, where that person who’s my friend, they’re living this life that I can’t possibly attain. So woe is me? I’m going to feel sorry for myself, and I’m going to isolate myself because my life is a mess. My life is a failure, and they’re doing all these great things and I’m not. My response to that is that that’s utter nonsense. That’s total nonsense. But young people think that’s reality. I feel for these kids. I feel for them right now. But when you get an opportunity to chat with young people and they don’t have a phone nearby and you’re just chatting with them and it’s eyeball to eyeball, and they’re able to feel your personality and your soul, and you’re able to feel the same way in return, then and only then you feel that connection as a fellow human being. And I think the pandemic should have taught us all something that weren’t we all fed up being on Zoom calls and all those things and being separated and isolated?

[00:33:11.190] – Speaker 1
Now that we can all interact and be together again, why would we spend our lives buried with our head in a f all?

[00:33:20.740] – Speaker 2
Get.

[00:33:21.460] – Speaker 1
Out and live. So advice for parents. Forget about parents. Advice for adults. Put your phone away and enjoy the actual company of another human being and get to know people. And the more you have that, the more you have that connection, a human interaction where you have that form of friendship that now when you go through tough times, guess what? You’ve got a whole community of people that are there for you and you never feel isolated. I think the phone and email and all those things are methods that put a wall up. And we don’t even know we’re doing it, but we’re isolating ourselves by that. And I think if you talk to any person that limits their time on social media, limits their time on electronic communication, and actually spends more time in person with people and talks on the phone or goes for a walk or goes for a walk, or goes for a cup of coffee or goes for a beer, goes for dinner, whatever, those people are a lot happier. So it’s a very simple solution that unfortunately, people haven’t figured out yet.

[00:34:43.650] – Speaker 2
Yeah, it’s so true. And, you know, Jack, we saw this at summer camp coming out of the pandemic. Just some memories for me were kids just sitting in the field, like no activities even, just laughing and being together. And you could just see because we were closed in 2020 and not able to run camp. And again, I’m not sure what was in New York, but I know you’re familiar enough with Toronto and Ontario to know how isolated kids literally were because of the pandemic. And when we could open again in the summer of 2021. And for many kids, that was the first time they had really been in that group setting just the schools online and everything. And, Jackie, you could just see them interacting and laughing. That is one of the beauties of doing what we do at Summer Camp is taking kids away from their normal environment and distractions. And we have ways that we navigate phone usage and they can’t use them during certain times and just be outside with other kids and laughing and playing and having fun and being in nature and away from the typical distractions and what it does to the soul and to relationships and vitality and health and all that stuff.

[00:36:06.180] – Speaker 1
Chris, it goes back to what I said. These kids are just as special, just as amazing, have just as much talent, just as much potential as any generation that comes before them. And the difference is, as adults in our society today, we’re not doing a good enough job saying, Hey, you are special. You are amazing. We have to go set a higher standard and say, You know what? We know as adults that phone isn’t good for you. We know that screen time that you’re spending isn’t good. So we got to take a firmer stand and say, you know what? I always say this, the best talks I’ve had with my kids in a lot of ways, because as a former coach, I deal with it. I used to be a big guy on firm handshake, eye contact. You know what? A lot of times with young boys, young men, they feel pinned down. They feel like they’re under the spotlight when they got to look you in the eye. But a lot of times, the best conversations you have with young people is when it’s shoulder to shoulder. And to me, some of the best conversations I had with my own kids were, hey, radio’s off or radio’s playing really, really soft when I’m driving and they’re not allowed to be on their phone and they’re sitting in the front seat of the car.

[00:37:35.860] – Speaker 1
And what happens? We’re both looking out at the road ahead of us and we start to talk. We talk more and we talk more and we talk more. And you’d be amazed at what they say to you. And it’s the same thing when you walk with somebody side by side. Hey, look at heads of state when they are at a meeting and they’re walking around the garden or walking around and they’re shoulder to shoulder and they’re just walking. But they’re having conversations about world events and world crisis. But it’s in a way that’s a more comfortable, relaxed, and it’s not animosity involved. So to me, I just think somehow, some way, we got to get back to what the soul of people is and who they are and what makes them tick and what makes you tick. And what makes you tick? I can’t define that based upon what’s on your Instagram page. All that is is just pictures. I think everything we can do to help kids through that is important. I love what.

[00:38:43.800] – Speaker 2
You said about driving, Jack. My daughter is 16. We only have one child. In a year and a half, she’s going to be out in the world and she’s got her driver’s permit. She can’t drive by herself. So I’ve made it a goal that every time… And even before this, she says, Dad, can we go for a drive? The answer is always yes. It’s always yes. Because like you said, those rich times of being side by side, going for a drive, letting the conversation evolve, and just building relationships. I love that you say that. That’s something that’s pretty important to me as a dad. That’s fantastic. The last question for me, just maybe to give you a chance to speak to parents and we’ll maybe do it this way. You’ve become a transnational celebrity. Canada’s adopted sports uncle. Recently, you marshalled the Toronto Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. You’ve hosted a carol singalong for charity at Massey Hall. You’re a beloved member of the basketball community, part of the fabric of the city of Toronto, even as someone from the south. How have you navigated the way to being a role model and particularly for young people and use that to maybe offer some final advice around what it means to be a significant role model in the lives of young people, even our own kids.

[00:40:16.870] – Speaker 2
What some advice and encouragement you could speak into that? Well, you.

[00:40:21.940] – Speaker 1
Just nailed the word. You didn’t even know you said it. And the word is significant. And when I speak and I do a lot of public speaking, and it’s interesting, a lot of times when I speak, people don’t realize the side of me that exists, like on a call today with you, Chris.

[00:40:43.120] – Speaker 2
People.

[00:40:44.050] – Speaker 1
See the fun, happy guy, get that garbage out of here. And this guy’s the other thing, having a good time, call on a basketball game. And then when they see the other side of me, they’re like, Whoa, my goodness. I didn’t know that this guy had a very intense side, very serious side, very philosophical side. And when they see that, they go, Wow, there’s a lot more to him than I even knew. But the word significant is a big thing. And one of the things I always speak about, when I was a young coach, I had a player in high school in Brooklyn, was involved in a serious car accident. So I would go visit him at the hospital. Then when he got home, I would drop by the house and see him and drop in. And he’s doing now, the young man, he’s in his 40s, doing great, married, four kids, yada yada yada, bank executive, and I stay in touch with him. But his father was a young worker for the New York City Subway system and didn’t have a college degree and all that. And you would say significant, successful. But his dad, I’ll never forget, I still have it.

[00:41:57.740] – Speaker 1
I’m at home today in the top drawer of my desk. I have a pen and pencil set. It was a gift from his father Christmas. And basically he sent me it. But it’s not the pen and pencil that matter, it’s the note that’s inside the box. And his dad sent me a note and he said, I really appreciate you being so kind and supportive of my son. But he said, you know what, Jack, because you’re a very young guy. And he goes, always remember this, a man can achieve great wealth, stature, and position in society, yet fail as a person. And his thing was, there is a big difference between being successful and being significant. Significance is what matters. His point to me was, he goes, You’ve been significant to my son. You’ve been significant to my family. He goes, That’s what life’s all about.

[00:42:58.570] – Speaker 2
And he.

[00:42:59.180] – Speaker 1
Goes, Keep being that person that values that. And I’ll never forget when I was a young coach, I heard Louis Holtz, the former football coach at Notre Dame, and he spoke about the dash. He goes, You go to a cemetery, you walk by a statue in a park, and there’s some famous person on a statue, whatever, and you look up and there’s the year of birth and there’s the year of death.

[00:43:25.940] – Speaker 2
He goes, It’s.

[00:43:27.430] – Speaker 1
Not the year of birth. It’s the year of not the year of death. It’s the dash. And what does the dash represent? The dash represents your life, the impact you’ve made, the significance of what you’ve done for people in your life. So the things that you mentioned about my career are just that. That’s career, success, or lack thereof, if you look at my coaching record, that’s just success or failure. That doesn’t define me because success and failure are imposter’s. It’s like what I said earlier, Peacock today, feather dust tomorrow. What defines us is significance. And that is I had one of my son’s best friends, I was shat one of them one time, and he said to me, he goes, Mr. Rompshaw, what’s your mission statement? He goes, I’m crafting a mission statement for myself, and I’m just curious what your life’s mission statement is. And I’m like, man, I’ve never done that. I said, but you know what? I said, I’m going to do that. I said, Give me the next 24 to 48 hours and I’m going to do it. And I sat down, I said, What would be my mission statement in my life?

[00:44:55.190] – Speaker 1
And I just sat down and I said, You know what? Am I a good husband, my good husband? Am I a good father? Am I a good son? Am I a good brother? Am I a good uncle? Am I a good colleague? Am I a good friend? Am I a good mentor? Most importantly, am I a good person? And by challenging myself to that mission statement because that’s significant. None of those things matter in terms of how much money you make or what your title is. I’ve had a title before this job as a NCA Division 1 coach. Guess what? You get fired and you know what happens? A lot of people don’t return your calls because you don’t have the title next to your name anymore. But I’m no different a person, but I’m different to some people because I don’t have the title. Significance is what it’s all about and how you impact others and the love that you give them and the kindness and the smile and the caring and the encouragement, the tough love, that’s significant. And that you just never know the impact that you could have on somebody, a kind gesture, a kind word, an encouraging comment, a challenge sometimes when you say, You got to get your head out of you know what?

[00:46:21.470] – Speaker 1
Let’s go pick it up. That significance, to me, that’s what it’s about. Finding ways in our lives to have that impact on others is the most important thing because that’s what matters. And all the other stuff is just all stuff that really is nice. It’s nice to drive a nice car or live in a nice house or go on a nice trip or whatever. They’re all nice things. But at the end of the day, if you’re a person that people don’t like or don’t trust or don’t respect, then what’s it worth it? Yeah, it’s.

[00:47:02.420] – Speaker 2
So good. I love thinking as we’re wrapping up about that dash being about significance, not success. I think that’s such an encouraging way to wrap up an incredible conversation, Jack. I was scrambling so many amazing things were coming out, and I was trying to keep up the Peacock feather to feather duster and not being an actor, rock solid, staying in the fight, 90 % on how you respond to things. I think there have been so many insightful and encouraging things you’ve shared with us today. I do want to say, too, if your thing is about making sure we’re not being an actor and it’s not what we see out there and rock solid down at the core and who we are, I can tell from this conversation you’ve taken the time out of a busy schedule out of busy season to talk to some of our parents that you’re a pretty rock solid guy yourself, Jack. So really appreciate you taking the time and thank you for what you do, how you inspire young people, and just for all the incredible things you’ve shared with us today. We really appreciate you, Jack. Thank you. Chris, my pleasure.

[00:48:20.190] – Speaker 1
I always say if I say one thing that’s helpful, I’ve done my job. If I say more than one thing that’s helpful, we witness the miracle. Well, then.

[00:48:31.990] – Speaker 2
Our listeners have all witnessed the miracle today. I don’t.

[00:48:35.980] – Speaker 1
Know about that. I’m not sure about that. But Chris, thank you so much and congratulations on all the wonderful things that you’re doing and the folks that Ms. C oka Woods is doing to help young people. I think it’s tremendous. A gain, it’s been an honor and a privilege for you to ask me to come on today. I always appreciate being asked to do things like this because it’s our way of giving back. What do they say? Pay it forward. There’s so many people in my life that have made a difference in my life, and I can’t be any more appreciative and grateful for all those people that have made that difference in my life. So it’s just a small way to pay it forward.

[00:49:22.970] – Speaker 2
Yeah. Well, thank you. And I’m dating when we’re recording this, but it’s just wrapped up a busy season and you’re off to put your feet up for a bit. So blessings on you as you relax and thank you again for the time that you spent with us today. You got it, Chris.

[00:49:39.840] – Speaker 1
My pleasure.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins is the CEO of Muskoka Woods. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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