Had someone mentioned six months ago that the world would be casually speaking the terms "pandemic," "Covid-19", or even "quarantine," we all would have assumed it was about an upcoming Netflix sci-fi thriller.
Had someone mentioned six months ago that the world would be casually speaking the terms "pandemic," "Covid-19", or even "Quarantine," we all would have assumed it was about an upcoming Netflix sci-fi thriller.Well, here we are, and this drama is a reality. However, these times of chaos have produced some of the most fantastic forms of coping, entertaining, and informing.
Coach and children's book author, Dr. Robert DeFinis recently published children's book, How to Defeat the Icky, Filthy, Creepy, Slimy Corona Monster, is a shining jewel in this time of bleakness. It is the cutest tale to connect your child to an otherwise confusing truth in a way that they can understand completely.
TSW: Dr. Definis, I understand that you are a new author; however, your background lies in coaching. What type of coach are you exactly?
RD: I've coached soccer for over twenty years now. I currently coach the men's and women's team for Cecil College, Maryland. I enjoy all sports, to be honest. Working with athletes and coaches to improve their mental performance is something I'm genuinely passionate about and blessed that I get the opportunity to do this each day.
TSW: I can only imagine the rewards of coaching and the closeness of the profession. From personal experience of being involved in sports – ok, one, sport, and it was cheerleading, haha- it's not a stretch to say your coach is more than just your coach, sometimes a confidant and a friend.
RD: I have to say that coaching is a unique profession. The preparation component is the focal point of everyone. However, as you mentioned, there is so much more that goes into it. I have always felt that I'm a coach, mentor, teacher, and parental figure for my athletes. All these roles are demonstrated at one time or another. You have to be flexible to the situation that you are in and be there for these athletes as they need you. Sometimes, I have to teach them bigger picture lessons like commitment and responsibility. Other times, I have to guide them to make better decisions off the field as a parent would as far as focusing on academics. It's all about balance when you are coaching.
TSW: It sounds like your team is lucky to have you! Is there a possibility that some aspect of your coaching career inspired your desire to write?
RD: I've always enjoyed the reflective and creative side of writing. I can say for sure that one project due out next year is a four-part series directed toward children learning a new sport, and was indeed inspired by coaching and working with younger athletes. Hopefully, through this series, it will give children and parents the space to discuss the opportunities and challenges that go into playing a new sport, such as rules, teammates, coaching, setbacks, winning and losing, preparation, and so on.
TSW: So, obviously, we are living in somewhat of a 'new normal" or warped reality, whichever one sees as a better fit description, and during this time, things can be quite scary. There has been much encouragement for people to tend to their mental health. Something you mention that was quite intriguing is that a 'one-size-fit-all" approach to mental well being may not work. What exactly does that mean?
RD: I often say we cannot apply a "one-size-fits-all" approach to working with athletes. Sure there can be common threads that help us learn and support an athlete when they are struggling, but athletes experience situations differently. I could have one player that just isn't responding to a coaching point, but the rest of the team is. It's my job as a coach to identify the issue and figure out how to reach that athlete to produce and hit their goals. It's much like what a teacher does in the classroom.
TSW: Talk about effective coaching skills and observation, which translates easily into your most recent venture. Not only have you released a children's book to help with easing the anxieties in kids around the understanding of Covid-19, but you as well launched a new project- RDF Books, Tell me more!
RD: It's a project that means a great deal to me. These are my new children's books that focus on contemporary issues, sports, and team play. There are a few books in different development stages, but I'm finally at a place where they are moving forward and into the little hands of readers. Childhood literacy is one of my areas of passion but also a concern. RDF Books is about writing, distribution, and advocacy!
TSW: We can not express enough the importance of childhood literacy, and thank you greatly for putting it at the forefront. In your book, what inspired you to not only focus on childhood literacy but also on implementing the current times?
RD: One night, I was playing with my children, and my son and I were talking about the "Corona Monster" with my daughter. It spawned from there. After a few days, I decided to put some illustrations together and send them to family and friends. It sort of took off from there. As a parent, you want to help your children make sense of confusing and stressful situations. I think storytelling can be a great vehicle to explain, teach, and reduce fears. That was, and still is, the primary goal of the book.
TSW: Beautiful! There is so much that goes into shielding the little ones and as well enlightening them on this quite stressful situation. However, there is a lot during this time for us as adults to learn as well. Would you say you have learned anything or if adults, in general, could learn something new from your book?
RD: Interestingly, several adults have read it and found it to be light and entertaining. There's no target age group when we are talking about social responsibility. The book is about empowering children to take action and do their part during COVID-19. If it helps someone older to open their eyes to the possibility of being a good neighbor by washing your hands, covering your coughs, and practicing social distance, that's great too!
TSW: Social responsibility, yes! That's something we all as a whole should advocate. How to Defeat the Icky, Filthy, Creepy, Slimy Corona Monster may have been your first release, but it looks like you may have gotten quite the handle of tapping into your creative writing side.
RD: I learned a great deal! This was my first self-published book. There were a ton of moments where I was learning on the "fly." I will be better prepared in the future with technical, formatting, and marketing tactics.
TSW: I genuinely believe you will be just fine, but before we wrap this up, I love to do a fun fire round, so here we go!
TSW: Describe yourself as a teenager in three words:
RD: Compassionate, driven, loyal
TSW: Favorite tv show:
TSW: Stranded on an island with only two things, what are they?
RD: Toothbrush and toothpaste
TSW: Hey, that may be the first time we've gotten that answer! Good answer! Your story can benefit many tiny and adult readers, how can people connect with you?