Tuesday, May 26, 2009

quick update

Counting some students that have turned in their paperwork and super discounted price ($10), registration is up to 50 and we anticipate about 60 athletes! Wow!

Shirts are ordered, swim caps are in... good times!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Posting elsewhere now...

In an effort to better compartmentalize my life, I'll now be posting exclusively on Facebook for personal posts and http://trithisfresno.blogspot.com for Tri Team stuff... I mix the two too much anyway but this way at least I can 'build a following' for the tri team and not distract them (and keep them!) from my personal life a bit. Thanks for your support of the new location and FOCUS!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Great Kids Camp and first triathlon next weekend!

By all accounts, it was a great three days at the first ever Kids Triathlon Camp in the central valley.

Pictures are here: http://www.kidstricamp.com

10 campers (two of them siblings of my students) participated in swimming, biking, and running. I personally learned that it wasn't that hard to put on a great camp chock-full of skills and fun because it's really just a combination of the past 7 years of my life... (I worked at a summer camp in 2002 and 2003 and have been teaching since 2005.)

My high school students were coaches for the week which was the best part. They did a great job disseminating knowledge and I really only did the main teaching for an hour or so a day - the rest of it was all my students teaching their cadre of kids! That's how it's supposed to work! Rock climbing in the afternoon was a lot of fun too and great to show the kids something different!

We are hoping to offer more camps (as a side profit thing for Tri-This!) this summer and next spring break for sure too. Possibly going to other locations throughout the state to help spur on development of more school-based programs.

This coming weekend is our first big triathlon - the Icebreaker Tri. Because I'm friends with Bill, the race director, he still has my picture from two years ago on there for the water portion. That was my first triathlon and I should have used a wetsuit! Won't make that same mistake next weekend... I'll be running tomorrow morning and probably the following week as well so I don't lose to my students this time around!

We'll also be volunteering at the local Millerton Triathlon on Saturday morning... should be a trip with about 7 kids (two relay teams and one individual) so fairly straightforward and more importantly, cheap... we're still waiting for the IRS to get back to us regarding 501c (3) so until then I'm keeping track of expenses and will get reimbursed!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Visalia Triathlon

I wasn't going to do any triathlons this year, but I couldn't resist the super sprint Visalia Tri this past weekend.

I was first out of the water, had some mechanical problems on the bike (my gear cables seemed to be malfunctioning and refused to... shift...) but still had fun and did ok, and the run was fine/i passed some people/got passed too.


the name is Brandon Dorman, age group 25-29.

Awesome race, some kids came along too and we handed out flyers for the Splash and Dash, Kids Tri Camp and Kids Triathlon too. good times.

The Kids Tri Camp is going great this week; I'll post a full review when it's done on wednesday!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

a poverty of expectations - countered

A friend made on facebook came by to watch our swim meet the other day. He's a really cool guy and also grew up with a fellow McLane teacher and friend of mine (rhea).

Sometimes it just takes someone observing from the outside to help spur positive thinking. He commented how he was amazed that our kids struggle to get a 2.0, aren't motivated to... win... and often miss practice for strange excuses, don't have the money to get proper equipment (goggles, swim suits...), and don't really even have a basic knowledge of sports nutrition (not drinking water the day of a swim meet).

One thing I reminded him (and me) is that I really am struggling against a huge cultural change. I come from and expect to be able to demand a culture that has high standards for school, for COMMITMENT, for sport. I think that sure, they won't want to work hard in practice - that's my job to make them - but that they won't quit when I do push them. I am so proud of the current swim team who for the most part responds to this and tries to work in practice... but still, at meets the drive for competition just isn't quite there - Yet. That, and swimming/water polo/triathlons aren't exactly popular culturally in the populations that we serve - another Yet. :-)

It would be an understatement to say a defeatist attitude pervades many of our students.

I've always tried to use sports as a way to undercut that attitude and show the kids there is something more. We do that by enforcing rules like you miss three practices, you don't Letter. Miss the day before a meet, don't swim/play polo, etc. But low-income doesn't really refer to money, it refers to mindset.

I don't want to be a complainer any more (in just a minute). I don't want to enable my kids and make excuses for them or for myself. I just want to get in there and treat them the way they need to.

But before I get all happy, my top 5 things that bug me in students:

1) Drug use
2) the F word/sexual stuff
3) babies having babies
4) lack of motivation to do anything
5) sneakiness (Gabe^4)

when kids are cussing a bunch my heart just kinda sinks. plus i never cussed really ever until becoming a teacher and now something'll slip out every so often. just disappointing not so much because i'm actually cussing but because it means the negative slipped through my defenses. This swim season (and night school being done!) has been really great for me especially as I've been able to get back in the pool on my own and even getting back in shape.

This Friday night (the 27th) I took 11 kids out to the local park to go riding and running! Those that rode (we switched off bikes and running) did about 14 miles including some nice hills and they really enjoyed it. For all but 4 it was their first time running or riding with me. I wouldn't call them all triathletes but some of them were just kids in my class who surprised me by saying they wanted to come with us. So they drove themselves and ran. (note: COMBINED GPA of those three kids is about 2.0 right now... so getting them involved in anything is great!). Good times. Today and tomorrow I'll be frying myself in the sun as I hopefully complete lifeguard instructor training...

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Taught bike fundamentals (hand signals, wear a helmet, don't wear baggy/'regular' pants) and how to fix a flat, align and adjust brakes, seats, and put chains back on/take tires off. very productive day. started with five non-working bikes, ended with five working and pumped up bikes! Also went on a little ride in a park which required a bit of a drive to get to but was fun.

I'm too tired to write more, as i also took the bikes out to Valley Teen Ranch today, a local group home i used to work at and the kids there LOVED the bikes. i took one kid out twice and he would have gone again but his parents came to visit for the afternoon.

it's great to see new kids and awesome attitudes coming together with great volunteers and solid, life-changing principles of academics and athleticism. This, is Tri Season!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

cool thought

a quote from a recent Masters swimming newsletter states that:

"We love sports, both as participants and spectators, often because, for an instant, they strip away the noise of life and put us face to face with ourselves. "

And I thought about how true this is for myself. I shun wetsuits because I feel like I'm removing my body's natural ability and supplanting it with something else. If I could do triathlons in just bike shorts (and shoes), i would. I guess nothing except modesty is stopping me. and getting sun burnt.

Tomorrow I am going to swim somehow, some way. And running in the afternoon with some kids!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Swimming and Tri Training!

The swim team expanded last year 10 kids (winter sports ended and we got a few new kids.) to 25. In our six lane but only 4- lane-line pool (vandalism last year broke a lane line a week or so, until the cable itself snapped and thus we are missing it still with the budget freeze's.).

So with 4-5 kids to a lane that's doable, but considering all of our newbies it was getting pretty hectic and collisions were often. So the head Coach and I decided to (this week) create two practice times:

I'll coach the second part so I can do triathlon training from 3:45-5pm instead of the early morning stuff. For one, I hope to be able to maintain energy to go Masters Swimming in the mornings (I've been able to get up earlier and quicker now that I'm downgrading my daily caffeine intake!), and for another, on Friday I showed up at 6am and only one other kid did... not worth my time!

So next saturday is 'bike day' at the school from 10am-2pm with bike fitting, fixing and RIDING going on! I will be calling the IRS this week to check the status of our 501c(3) application. I am kinda tired of being in the hole $500 as I am currently from our activities and government fees. We need grant money!

It should be a great week!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

swim season!

Swim Season is once again upon us in Fresno Unified. This year the McLane team has about 15 dedicated kids and another 15 who are trying things out. A bit smaller than last year (and water polo) but they are already showing some significant results and training much better than in years past. It's SO great to watch kids that I (sometimes literally) taught how to swim/play water polo now going and teaching others how to do it... hearing one's own words come out of the mouth of another is one of those shining moments as a coach.

A kid I am trying to really help (it worked during water polo...) who currently has a 0.0 GPA and almost as many suspensions this school year alone as he is years old (14 years old... 13 days total of suspension this school year.) came out to the pool today and I'm taking him and his friend to the pool tomorrow at 5:45 am for 6am morning practice. As previously mentioned we had 7 kids there on Wednesday - the extra practice is what will make us a REAL swim team. Tonight at the gym I was able to get some strength training in as well as swimming; tomorrow morning I plan to swim some too.

Hopefully a bike ride this weekend with the girlfriend and... no... kids... !

http://www.kidstricamp.com is our kids triathlon camp website

http://www.splashdashfresno.com is our big RACE website (entry forms are coming in!)

http://www.tri-this.org is Tri-This's website!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another successful camping trip

This weekend saw 7 students and three adults going up to Folsom Lake to volunteer once again with Total Body Fitness. (http://www.tbfracing.com) Awesome company, awesome people.

I have to say I wasn't really ready for this trip in a few ways. I was feeling pretty drained from an exhausting week (have I mentioned how I'm ready for night school to end? 4:45-8:30pm twice a week is getting to me now that I'm coaching swimming too...) and ... dealt with more cancellations than normal because I didn't think it was a big enough of a deal to enforce the $5 a week before the trip policy. Thankfully I have a pretty large reservoir of kids to pick from as backups, so we found the kids to fill the spots no problem. I literally wrote kids names down on pieces of paper this time, and it ended up being 3 of the same kids that go on every single trip... kinda crazy. (Aaron, Albert, Billy).

Newcomers Rogelio, Michael B, and Jr. came along for the ride and volunteering too. Rogelio and Jr had only expressed an interest in triathlon stuff before, mostly water polo (rogelio did a great job his first year of water polo last year) and Jr. (I'm trying to get him to do swim team still.) Mike has expressed interest for sure but his mom hadn't let him do tri stuff before. He is on the Dive/swim team this year and played water polo last year (would have been MVP for JV but his attendance was spotty.) They did great.

Saturday probably because I was tired things weren't the best behavior-wise. I'm not used to having to really enforce things on triathlon trips - with the veterans I tend to have zero problems because they know what to expect and also what consequences will happen. So instead of me doling out pushups or other tasks I just kinda got frustrated. And took it out on meagan (girlfriend who came with me!). Whups. I recovered by nightfall and when I did walk over to their tent and told them no more talking... there was ... no more talking :-) Oh, I forgot to buy buns for the hotdogs and forks for cup-o-noodles that were donated for the trip... but i mean, it's a camping trip so I thought that just added to the camping trip charm.

And they got up and did a great job this morning cleaning up before we left. Kids and myself did everything from directing traffic to cooking to organizing and cleaning.

Afterwards we went to the obligatory Round Table pizza in old down sacramento that is cool because of two things - 1) To get in you walk down underneath the sidewalk and 2) $7 all you can eat pizza and salad bar buffett!

Some good conversations were definitely had this trip and it all worked out in the end. When I got home I took a SHOWER my first in two days after running around like crazy last night playing tag and then sleeping in the rain basically and volunteering in the rain all day... aka my suburban smells like wet dog, but it's more like teenage boy smell too which isn't a good thing. Poor Meagan!

I've typed too much; just waiting for my laundry to be done so I have something to wear tomorrow!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

salsa dancing

Back for another post this morning.

Last night (the day before valentines day) I went salsa dancing with Meagan and some friends. It was some instructional thing-before-dancing, and it was kinda fun. Moreso for the people and the activity than the actual dancing (I still suck) but it's all good and it was indeed for valentines day! Then we went to a place afterwards for beer and food. always a good time and this week was pretty rough school-wise, so it was good to just... be 25 :-)

I'm itching for night school to be over in two week so I can begin seriously training for swimming. Although for the first time in several months I made it to a pool and swam hard three times this week, which was very encouraging. My shoulder was starting to have some pains on Friday so I've been stretching it this morning in preparation for a mixed weights/swimming sesson in a bit here.

For weights, I work mainly on a rowing machine, lats, abs, and some legs too since I'm doing less running now. Obviously it's more about the duration of the set than pure weights... 4 sets of 10 or 15 with less weight, etc. I love that feeling of swimming after some weights when the arms and legs feel so heavy! Lets me know I've done my workout job correctly :-)

Oh, and federal tax exemption was mailed off and received by the IRS this week, I made myself a Tri-This! shirt to wear around town that says coach dorman on the front, and the Kids Tri Camp is really shaping together nicely. Also the Splash and Dash's (http://www.splashdashfresno.com) active.com registration is good to go and we've been receiving entry forms!

Monday, February 9, 2009

just an update

Things have been really busy around here lately... to sum it up, we're finally really almost ready to send off the papers for non profit status... registration and online registration is up and running for the Splash and Dash event, sponsors are happening and the Kids Tri Camp is almost ready to be unveiled to the public as well... etc.

and the new way of teaching math is going 50/50, with two classes doing AWESOME with it and 2 of them not as much. but it still gives me thrills when one of my students who in all reality is a gang member states something like,

"so after we do the rational root theorem, we use synthetic division to find the other roots?"

- priceless!

peace and love. off to go swimming! (the marathon attempt last weekend at hungtington made it 18 miles but i didn't want to push it after that because I knew I wasn't ready... but it was a lot of fun! Now i'm training strictly for swimming and cycling for a while... just to see how fast i can get swimming-wise!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a new approach?

Following my review of Gran Torino last week (and also posted with some edits on Facebook) some people agreed and some didn't, but it's all good. Still a great movie in my opinion. I hope you all liked it if you saw it, even if it didn't live up to my hype!

This semester out at Fresno State again for Turning Points Academy, I'm going to try something new. Due to lots of schedule changes and various other events this past week and a half, I've only taught two days! But starting again tomorrow, here's what I'm doing:

A normal instructional week looks like this for me:
Days 1-4:
10-15 minutes: Warm up, review homework
30 minutes: instructional time
10 minute: wrap up/practice

Day 5
Quiz (usually part homework-quiz where kids have to copy their work from the weeks' homework, as well as original problems to solve.)

But what I'm proposing is this:
Days, 1, 3:
Two lessons worth of material presented in one fell swoop. Homework the first night is simply to copy all of the homework down so that they can work on it in class the next day. Highly encouraged to try especially some of the later problems to know WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK in class the next day.

Days 2,4: Questions from copying the homework down are asked, and students given rest of the period to ask questions of each other, ask me questions, etc. Homework is to finish whatever didn't get done in class.

Day 5: Individual quiz after some review of the previous day's homework.

Because the days will cover more territory and hopefully be able to be all deep stuff, I should be able to cover the same amount of material. Last week it seemed to work exceptionally well.

For example, tomorrow and the day after I would be going over both polynomial division and synthetic division. Pretty similar topics, each better suited to cetain situations than others. By doing it this way, students can see the relationship between both topics and also the differences. Highlighting similarities and differences - and thus giving students the chance to choose for themselves - has been shown to be one of the most effective methods of teaching for retention;. Morover, giving more time in class for discussion and practice should be a great way to increase homework completion and thus comprehension. Also, the "every other day" approach is more like a college class, since we are on a college campus and everything...

- Cheating. While it should be easier to catch cheaters as their homework will be done in class, that's also where the chance for cheating happens... Hopefully the threat of a quiz will keep them accountable and their grades will suffer if they don't do the work. If they aren't working on anything in class (ie, they didn't do the first night's homework) it will be obvious.

- Crammed material: the trick will be to think of how not to cram too much lecture into the opening days. The goal overall is BETTER UNDERSTANDING, after all...

I'll try it for a month; giving myself time to adapt and the students to adjust as well. Then if I have to go back to how I was doing it I will have time to do so.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Gran Torino

Gran Torino is a car, but also a movie that came out (today?) with Clint Eastwood. Costarring Bee Vang and Ahney Her, it packed quite a wallop for me.

"The movie is basically about an old dude who gets fed up with the gangs in his neighborhood - and a strange group of people he calls the "Ha-mong" - (hmong is pronounced mong). Through getting to know them including facing a tragedy with them, he finds himself and rights a wrong - dying in the end as a type of savior."

That's what a review of the movie will tell you. And they just don't get it.

Fresno is home to a lot of Hmong people - my school included. You can wikipedia "Hmong" if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about - if you don't live in Fresno, you probably don't. Let's put it this way - I have an actual student named Bee Vang right now...

What struck me most about this movie were a few things:

- the portrayal of gangs: So much of the press is about how much they suck. And pulling no punches - they do. I've seen gangs chew kids up and spit them out - perhaps in a body bag. At one point the hmong gang protects the protagonist hmong boy Thao from a mexican gang ('appropriately' in a low rider... with the asian gang in a souped up small car aka 'rice rocket'). They then expect him to join the gang... which makes a lotta sense. Thao is smart and pretty weak - definitly takes direction from his womanly overseers - at one point he overhears his grandma telling his sister "he'll never be a man of the house."

Acceptance, protection, leadership. Hmm, not like that's anything teenage boys need or anything... oh and Thao's father is dead before we meet him.

The different slant on gangs was appreciated - as was how later they show the ugly side - a drive by where people get hurt... one girl in a deeply personal way.

Gangs are not a mexican, black, asian or white problem - they're a Fatherless problem.

the mentoring relationship: You aren't gonna see this movie trotted out as "how to change the world" ala "Stand and Deliver" any time soon. There are a lot of things Clint Eastwood's character subjects poor Thao too that are just kinda strange and he insists on calling him Toad until almost the very end - as well as a few other choice racial slurs. But it's all in love so it's understood. He does indeed teach him how to be a man.

the culture: It's totally ok if you don't know what Hmong are. But if I hear one more time that "hmong are good at math/school/science" I'm gonna punch someone. Some of them are - but because they work hard at it! Because the Hmong in the movie are actual hmong (many of them from fresno actually), I loved seeing a culture I know pretty well on the big screen.

I guess that's it. Today I spent most of my day with Meagan, and with a bunch of my students from school on a snow trip. We went last year and it was a hit. Today was no different. Good times, a new experience for several of them (as in, they live less than an hour away from the mountains but had never seen snow before.). It feels good to introduce students to something they wouldn't have seen unless the triathlon team existed...

So I guess because I see so many of my students in this movie, it was actually pretty emotional for me to see. How thin the line between not only them and gangs, but ... me and them? I mean - Clint Eastwoods character interacted/interceded even on these people's behalf, and it ended up causing a lot of harm. Sure at the end it was "made right" but I can't help but think of some of the students in whose lives I've gotten very involved. About how perhaps sometimes I do more unintentional harm than good. Interacting with cultures far different than my own has been one of the best things about being a teacher.

Last weekend after a run the group of us were invited back to the kid's house we used as 'base' for an awesome meal of Carne Asada, rice and beans, and mexican salad.

I've been invited to a Hmong barbecue before by a student. I was the only white guy and it was an awesome experience for me - although I learned I can't eat papaya salad too fast... it's very hot! (and made my forehead sweat much to my embarrassment)

That's not to say I don't think I've helped some of them or think I'm not making a difference. Quite the contrary - I was very inspired by this movie. A GREAT way to start the weekend before going back to school.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Volunteers make the multisport community go 'round!

I had a volunteer meeting tonight for Tri-this! and it went fairly well. Because we're just starting and I've done a LOT of behind the scenes work (like make contacts for different events, insurance information, etc.) there was a lot of me talking and them listening, but it was cool. The deeper I get into this, the more I see the essential work volunteers do to shoulder the actual workload of the dozens of events that take place in just the Fresno area alone, and it's hard to find people that are interested in multisport and want to volunteer too!

We are hoping to volunteer at some events this year in order to get our name out there (not being the Fresno PAL team anymore, etc.) and give back to the Tri community which has given back to us so much over the past two years.

Volunteering is what makes events happen and I'm looking forward to introducing my students to what I have found to be the greatest gift I can give as a regular human being - giving someone my help for free.

We also are still one board member short of being able to officially file for non-profit status. Gotta get that going...

hello 2009! - catching up

It's been almost a month since my last blog post. craziness. this year i'll be retooling the blog as i've long been talking about to make it more focused on teaching and coaching triathlons. especially as we start a new company and all that jazz... http://www.tri-this.org

The first week of our glorious three week break was spent with family and traveling. I love my family and I love meagan, but i gotta say i really just needed a day alone after it all was over. highlights included seeing my twin bro Daryll and his lovely wife Trish when meagan and i were down in L.A. and Meagan and I's One year anniversary on the 26th. Almost everything went according to plan which was awesome; including the sunset!

Then last week (week 2) was spent setting up meetings for this week and doing more relaxing. Oh, and lots of running. But nothing with kids or with math. However I did happen to see quite a few students around town which was strange. Also got to hang out with meagan and friends quite a bit which was fantastic.

This week started back to school activities. Saturday saw a run with a handful of kids then biking with Meagan and mike fast in the RAIN afterwards. Cold, wet. Sunday running then some awesome carne asada and home-made tortillas with a student athlete, which no many times it happens is always something special. I mean here are these parents of a kid whose life the triathlon team has really transformed. They hardly speak english and I barely speak spanish, but we respect each other and they genuinely care about me. It is at once a humbling and gratifying experience.

This week did some research on different things for the triathlon team. Specifically insurance, background checks for volunteers, sponsorships, a planned kids tri camp, and more! It is fun but almost never-ending! A meeting for tentative board of directors people tonight went great, although I need one more person before I can turn in the paperwork to properly incorporate. I'm excited though.

Tomorrow will begin some school prep stuff(talking with some students today I realized how much I sucked at teaching this semester. quote: "yeah, first period said you were always kinda just waking up and didn't really have a plan yet..." True i was just waking up, untrue I did actually have a plan, but yeah was usually hindered by the fact that i just woke up :-( ) and more triathlon team stuff mixed with relaxing.

i need to finish the 'series' on the journey of the triathlon team. maybe tomorrow.