A Swedish Half Marathon in memory of 9/11

Every year I challenge myself by running a half marathon in Stockholm, Sweden. It's fun and and never fails to lift my spirits even higher. This year, the race is on September 11, 2010.

Since my wife and I were in New York City on that tragic day (September 11, 2001), I came up with the idea to run a race in memory of the victims of 9/11. I have several people interested and hope they will stay committed. It will be exciting to have a group of friends and acquaintances running together for a worthy cause and to help ease the sometimes tedious aspects of running of 13 miles (21.1 kilometers).

All the participants who run with me can raise money on their own in order to collectively give a group donation to a cause related to 9/11. We will decide as a group which organization or person will receive the funds. In addition, my youth program, "The American Basketball Coach in Sweden" (http://www.gswede.blogspot.com/) will make one of the first donations.

If you missed my article about my experience in New York City on 9/11, a few paragraphs and the link to the story are below. I 'll never forget the wonderful giving I witnessed that day.

Ten strangers (myself included) put our collective brains together and realized that on this gorgeous sunny day many of these tired people would need water as it was a long walk over the bridge and even longer for those coming from upper Manhattan. A few of us went to the local store to get cups while others went for the water. The store was reluctant to give us free cups (capitalism at its best) until we basically forced them to be a little compassionate if only for one day. We weren't taking NO for an answer.

We spent the afternoon handing water to people walking over the bridge. Most were very thankful and some seemed like it was life saving as they were so badly out of shape. Not much was said between the strangers or the people on the receiving end as the toll of this day had been so extremely exhausting on everyone. It felt good to be doing something for others on a day none of us would forget.

Please join us as a runner or supporter for the Stockholm Half Marathon.  My goal is to complete the race in 2 hours. Some years have been better than 120 minutes while others have been longer although I have always finished the races including the 2006 Stockholm Marathon of 26 miles (42.2 Kilometers).

If you have become a winter couch potato or haven't lived up to your exercise potential, this is a good opportunity to rise up, challenge yourself and get back into the shape you desire. Remember, there is nothing more important than our health.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede at Lidingo Basketball Club - One of the locations for his 2009 and 2010 youth program, "The American Basketball Coach in Sweden" (http://www.gswede.blogspot.com/)

Our Actions - Is Any Form of Teaching More Important to Our Children?

Recently, one of my son's day-care teachers commented favorably on my article (link below) regarding the actions of parents while driving with children. It felt good to hear her words as she is a wonderful educator and one of the the finest examples of displaying proper behavior in the presence of toddlers or youth. In addition, my son began his day-care education with her at the tender age of 1 and the benefits to his development have been invaluable.


The aforementioned teacher also sent me a video (at the end of the article) to illustrate how children emulate the actions of their parents. Being a new parent (3 years), I've been aware of this although seeing it on video makes one think about their own behavior. Not only did the video make me reexamine some ways in which I could improve as a parent but it also inspired this article. I encourage you to view it as it's only a few minutes.
It's not uncommon for me to engage in a variety of discussions with parents, primarily due to the calm and positive nature they see when I am with one or both of my children. Often, they marvel at my ability to remain so calm (my normal state) despite the temperament of my children. I usually tell them that to get "stressed out" or "very angry" doesn't set a good example and would limit my effectiveness as the parent.

The ensuing conversation sometimes ventures into how I was raised. My mother is a positive and loving woman who was consistent in displaying a calm and firm nature in any interaction with me. Did she get mad at times? Of course but she never lost her cool and utilized any disagreement with me as a teaching moment. In addition, she gave me three of the most important values one can give a child - love, discipline and boundaries. My childhood was nothing less than blissful! I was fortunate for her wonderful parenting skills and have tried to carry those same values forward in my role as a parent.

It's unfortunate that some parents didn't have a good childhood or haven't learned to utilize or control their actions/temperament as a parent. The words I have witnessed some parents saying (often derogatory) were difficult to listen to and some of the actions I have seen displayed (stressed or wildly angry) were tough to watch. What is so interesting is that some of these parents have a calmness about them when alone but "lose a screw" when it comes to their children behaving poorly.  Similarly, as parents we must be aware of how we treat our spouses or loved ones in front of the children. Remember, our children are watching or hearing many if not most of the interactions with our spouses so it behooves us to act responsibly or our children could grow up displaying those same misguided actions to his/her loved ones.

I understand that some people grew up with parents who weren't good role models in any sense of the word thus making it harder to not be the same way as a parent. Several of my friends have admitted that their parents were poor examples for them. For those in this category, it's imperative to focus on learning from parents and friends who you admire and might be able to provide valuable lessons to you before and/or after becoming a parent. I obtained a wealth of knowledge about parenting from individuals I respect before I had a child and they were very gracious in sharing their insight. I absorbed their information like a sponge (and still do) as parental learning is a lifetime goal for me.

Don't be afraid to use the counsel of people who can help. Even though I consider myself a good parent, I know that I have much to learn.  I'm always questioning parents and/or teachers about ways to improve or issues I might not be aware of. In addition, a spouse should be able to give constructive criticism when needed in regards to actions or words. My wife recently warned me about a negative sentence that I was saying to my son - a sentence I didn't even realize was coming out of my mouth. I am grateful for her caring criticism.

For those of us blessed with an ideal childhood, it should be easier to parent as long as we keep the behavior we witnessed and the values we were taught fresh in our mind. With the complex nature of raising children, we can sometimes lose or forget the knowledge of our positive upbringing.

In either situation (less positive or more positive upbringing), our actions speak volumes as we influence and teach our children. If your experience wasn't positive and you find yourself doing the same things that your parents did, I implore you to seek help in order NOT to repeat your parents mistakes. My mother's childhood was less than ideal BUT she was smart enough and cared enough to ensure that I had the best possible experience as a child. If your upbringing was positive, it's imperative to keep those lessons "close to the vest" so your children can gain similar childhood benefits.

Most of the teachers at my son's daycare have been a precious resource for me along with numerous friends/mentors who I feel are great parents. I thirst for knowledge and ways to become a stronger role model as I know that my children are watching even when I think they might not be. I'm hopeful that most parents desire the same knowledge because there are not many things more important in our role as a parent than the actions we display.

I'll end with two cliches I've always liked.

A simple yet profound one - "Monkey see, Monkey do"

A more concrete one that should put everything into perspective - "Actions speak louder than Words".

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The Beauty of Sunlight
Video - "Make Your Influence Positive"

Tiger and Phil - Champions On the Golf Course, Family Struggles Off

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been professional golf competitors in name only as the competition has been severely one-sided before Sunday with Tiger having 14 Major Golf Championships to Phil's 3. With Phil's Masters win and 4th Major Championship, he now presents a formidable threat to Wood's 14 year dominance on the golf course. More importantly, both men have serious family struggles that couldn't be more different. Tiger's scandal has been well publicized although Phil's struggles are less known yet no less important.

Two things impressed me about the weekend's coverage of the Masters Golf Championship:

1) Tiger played remarkably well for someone who has not played a tournament in five months and has had to deal with a worldwide barrage of negative media attention regarding his admitted adultery. I expected him to perform at a high level as did those who know the game of golf and he did not disappoint. It would have been a small miracle for him to win the tournament after such a long layoff although he had a chance.

2) Phil made a strong statement and stomped on the neck of every competitor including Tiger on route to his convincing Master's victory. For a man that should have 7 or 8 Major Championships, he is back on track and on his way to fulfilling the greatness that was expected of him. Phil is the only person who can mount a future challenge to Tiger's dominance and that is great for golf. His trademark boldness in attempting shots that could have been his demise at the Masters was nothing less than thrilling.

One thing I didn't like was the way the coverage promoted Phil as the anti-Tiger; someone who embraces being a family man. I understand why the angle was presented that way as it is good TV - Family Man Phil versus Non-Family Man Tiger. In my opinion, it's always dangerous to anoint anyone (in this case Phil) as a model of monogamy or a family man as we don't know anything about Phil's private life other than what we see on TV or read. Just as many (not me) assumed that Tiger was the perfect family man previously, the same is being said about Phil now.

Phil does appear to have all the qualities of a good man but only he and his family know the truth. By promoting these values, the media may be inviting the sleazy tabloids to investigate Phil's past life as they are in the business of finding the dirt on celebrities. Personally, I prefer when the focus is on the brilliant golf that Tiger and Phil play, not the private life that should remain their business. I found this writer's article very interesting - her quote is below:

Phil Mickelson should be very nervous about the mantle hung around him Sunday in Augusta, Ga. It was the cape of a superhero, embroidered with misguided phrases such as "the perfect family man" and "good karma." It clashed with his green jacket and all but begged TMZ to invade his life.

Even though they are # 1 and # 2 in the world of golf, their family lives are worlds apart.

Tiger has admitted that his behaviour with other women was irresponsible and has vowed to become a better man. Here's what what I wrote a few months ago:

Let's hope that a new and improved Tiger has begun the elevation toward good man status while wholeheartedly embracing a life of unwavering integrity. With his mega-platform to educate, inspire and empower, it would be a shame if that was not the case.

In addition, let's not forget the impact that his father Earl's death in 2006 has had on him. According to Tiger, they were very close and the loss was probably more devastating than many of us realize. Tiger has a healthy portion of family struggles on his plate.

Phil has dealt with a family life that has been ravaged by difficult moments and disease. Not many people know that his wife Amy almost died from complications after the birth of their son. Also, both his wife and mother have been fighting a battle with breast cancer. Many of us can relate to loved ones struggling or dying from cancer so we know the stress that Phil is experiencing.

His tears at the 18th hole Sunday told the story as to how special this win was for him.

“This is a very special day and a very special week,’’ he said. “To have my wife and kids here to share this is something I can’t put into words. It just feels incredible, especially given what we’ve been through the past year.’’

He was not certain his wife would even make it to the course. “I didn’t know she was there until I saw her when I was on the 18th green,’’ he said. “Not sure if it was before or after I putted.’’

“I’ve been trying to stay at home and rest,’’ she said. “I just wanted Phil to focus on winning the Masters, not worrying about whether I was sick.’’

Similarly, Tiger's tearful quote after he won the 2005 Masters in stunning fashion is below.

"This one's for you, Pop," the 29-year-old said, turning his streaming eyes to Camera Four after his epic first extra-hole win over Chris DiMarco. "I just want to dedicate this to my Dad. He's having a hard time. He's here in Augusta but wasn't healthy enough to come to the course. Whenever I've won before, Dad's been here, but today he wasn't here. All I want to do now is go back and give him a huge bear hug."

The big positive is now the spotlight is back on golf where it should be - not the scandalous affair of the world's best golfer. One can only hope that the media can find a good story related to golf when covering the top two players and give them some space in their private life.

Being an absolute lover of golf, I am looking forward to the future Tiger and Phil battles particularly in the four major championships every year.

Tiger's status is already legendary with the awards (14 Majors) he has won. Phil will never reach those heights as time is not on his side at the age of 40. What he can do is become one of golf's all-time greats and the 2nd best player of his generation - in the same way Arnold Palmer (7 Majors) was a great #2 to the dominance of the best ever, Jack Nicholas (18 Majors).

As long as Tiger and Phil's family issues don't roar and become overwhelming, it will be a joy to watch them compete. If fortune doesn't smile on their private life, golf will have to take a back seat to what should be life's most important treasure - THE FAMILY.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede in front of Stadion - the location of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden

A Religious and Non-Religious Perspective on my Irresponsibility Article

My article called "The High End of Irresponsibility" touched a nerve with quite a few people. Here's the link and a paragraph from the story about an American Football player's sad and sordid behavior:
I was shocked by the behavior I read about last week in the sports world and it's difficult to shock me. I've read about athletes displaying similar behavior in the past yet never thought I would see this type of irresponsibility occurring in 2010.

Below is the beginning of an article (and the link) about a 25 year old athlete caught in a tangled web of women and children:

After fathering seven children by six women in five states, you'd think Antonio Cromartie would have trouble finding a new partner.

The New York Jets not only have a crush on Cromartie, they'll pay to help his bygones be bygones.

The responses were plentiful, diverse and poignant including two I will share with you.

The first comes from a believer in Christ - a man who has faced tremendous obstacles in his life yet has endured to become a good man and trusted mentor. Not only does he "talk the talk" in regards to the biblical teachings but he "walks the walk". His words are interesting and insightful whether you believe or not.

The second person is not religious and his view is heartfelt along with being very informative about life in the fast lane of sports. He's one of the most passionate and interesting people I know and a good friend. I enjoy most of the commentary he writes.

Both men are sports fans and have good knowledge about irresponsible behavior in and outside of the sports world. In addition, their responses had me reexamine my own insights about my article and look at some issues in a different light -something I embrace as it doesn't happen that frequently.

Enjoy their opinions below.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
A Religious View

Interesting read on Chromartie. Money doesn't change the character makeup of a person. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that in many instances money can take an individual who is devoid of character and ultimately metastasize their behavior issues. I often chuckle with laughter when I hear many who question the actions of those who have financially overachieved, and specifically athletes. Money does not equate to self responsibility, building moral character, and changing one's behavior positively. This is nothing more than wishful thinking and a false sense of reality.

What defines who we are as individuals is shaped and molded, nurtured and influenced early in our lives. Sure, we are all capable, and there are many examples of those who were able to radically change for the good. As a believer in Christ, my faith is predicated on the actions of a risen Savior who carried my sin with Him to the cross. Only God can change a depraved heart. There is no righteousness in us to do it alone. The flesh is inherently opposed to the spirit, and the spirit is in direct conflict with our fleshly desires. Change comes through accepting who we are and who we are not, and having the willingness to die of self to serve the One who is greater than us.

Sure, it is painfully sad to see young brothers like Chromartie deceived into making reckless decisions. Pilfering away tremendous blessings of personal and financial gain in the process. Yet, none of this should come as a surprise or shock. I actually expect stories like his to be common as society moves further away from placing God at the center of our lives. Hopefully, the humility of Chromartie's actions/behavior will be the catalyst for him to make fundamental changes in his life. The same can literally be said for Tiger as well. Nothing revealed about his infidelity took me by surprise. I've been there and lived that life in the past. I can only imagine how out of control my own behavior may have been if I had access to the financial resources that Tiger, Chromartie, and many of these athletes have? Thus, my words here are not meant to persecute and condemn, but to bring to light what the real issue is, and that's irresponsibly not having God at the center of their lives.
A Non Religious View

I appreciate the value behind writing such an opinion but I beg to differ about why the Jets would sign such a player. If the Bulls were afraid of Rodman's off the court antics, MJ may not have won his 6 rings (Maybe 4 but not 6). Rodman was all business on the court and whatever he does off the court is, quite frankly, none of our business. We pay to see a player play his game at his best. We don't pay to see him exhibit any of the qualities we bestow upon our youth.

If you want a good role model for your kids to follow, brag about their teacher, doctor, police officer, or Fireman. An athlete is paid big bucks to perform at a level most of us could never achieve no matter how hard we try. And many come from poor upbringings in the hope for a better life. They do need counseling before they get paid that whopping check but they don't owe the public one inch of any kind of moral fiber. If you don't like his lifestyle, then don't buy the ticket or switch the channel to figure skating. :-)

Southern Sweden - Easter Holidays by the Sea.