Youth Sports Training Done REALLY wrong
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Here’s what I wrote to Scott –
I often refer to this as "Ignorant Child Abuse". Most parents and Coaches like this don’t truly understand the complexity of what they’re doing wrong. I don’t mean to excuse them or vilify them at all, but it’s a lack of understanding regarding neurological, mental and emotional development that has gotten us to where we are in youth sports.
From an "X’s & O’s" perspective, the teaching this golf pro is trying to do is both a moot point and entirely destructive from a future developmental perspective. At Matthew’s age, the key ingredient in athletic development is free play. Experience by doing. Learning via attempting.
This trial and error process of experimental movement is critical in creating what I call "Athletic Intelligence." Not unlike school, when we over-quantify what it is we want kids to do, we don’t allow their CNS to establish a frame of reference regarding understanding the pathology of why something works the way it does. That’s why elementary school is informal from a strict studying perspective. Teachers provide lessons and framework, but then allow students to experiment with finding results. That process is imperative in building a level of cognitive functioning that allows for future, more complex areas of study to be understood.
Supplant the above example with sporting skills and the facts remain the same.
There are a host of other issues both mentally and physically as well.
For example, saying things like "and that’s how your going to say your name to your fans" causes Matthew to respond favorably and with vigor which, to an uneducated eye, seems as though he is grasping the concept and "buying in" to the message. This is completely wrong.
He does not have the intellectual or emotional reasoning to fully understand what the Coach is trying to say. Matthew’s reaction is merely Pavlovian – he’s learned to link the two events. When he answers with vigor, he receives positive praise and reinforcement from his Coach. Watch the video. His Coach responds with a small hug and an affirmative voice. There is no depth in understanding here. The human condition is such that we seek pleasure. Via linking, Matthew has figured out how to get it.
Physically, watch the last ball Matthew hits. The Coach gives a cue asking Matthew to end up on his "back toe." That one coaching cue resulted in the worst of the three attempts. You could tell that Matthew was over-compensating to that one cue and didn’t truly understand how to make it happen. All the Coach accomplished there was providing Matthew’s nervous system with a "don’t do it this way" attempt. Kids need to be given general ideas of how to perform an athletic skill and then be left to figure it out. Athletic Intelligence is created that way. The human body is smarter than you….. With the right kind of stimulus, it will ALWAYS find the best and most economic way of accomplishing a task.
he video is EXACTLY what’s wrong with youth sports training.
Be sure to leave your thoughts below…
PS – Understanding youth development and Athletic Intelligence is crucial and, quite frankly, not enough Fitness Professionals truly get it.
That’s why youth fitness and youth sports training are the way they are.
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Free Play is the key good call Brian!
I have 5 year old twins that love to play “sports” because we approach it as a game. Right now we are playing T-Ball. What a blast!
My children were giving basic instruction and demonstration on how the game works and then I turned them loose. They were able to work through their stance, bat position, bringing their hands through, pivoting and both left and right sides. I give minimal instruction and simply let them play.
Over coaching always leads to set backs…They get better results when I demonstrate it and then let them do it while playing the game!
Sometimes the best thing a coach can do is stop over coaching or identify how much and what is needed.
As for the emotional and motivational components demonstrated in this video…I thought of my own childhood coaches…and all I can say is: Stop talking and lets play.
Game of T-Ball anyone?
A world-class example of a professional being able to do, but not necessarily able to teach. If Matthew continues with that sort of instruction, I give him about 3-5 years max before he decides he hates golf because it’s “Not fun.” Maybe then his coach there can correct the behavior by asserting “it IS fun! You’re having FUN right NOW! Isn’t this FUN!? Go practice signing some autographs.” Maybe he can finish off the lesson by assigning Matthew to do some push-ups for his insubordination in ruining what should be his dream.
The coach MEANS well. But he’s a coach and should KNOW Better. Right on with the cuing aspect Brian. With my ASD kids I use as FEW verbal prompts as possible and primarily rely on motor imitation and gradually faded physical prompts. Why? Because they obtain the skill faster and are able to master it sooner without distraction or frustration. When you tell someone “Not THAT way!” THAT WAY is what they concentrate on. Rant over.
-Eric Chessen, Founder, Autism Fitness
Brian, with all due respect, I think you are over-analyzing a video that is meant to inform the veiwer you can teach a very young child to have fun playing golf (with a humorous element). Period. How can you actually analyze this video at all? There’s nothing there except the que to finish on the back toe, and the child was able to do that, early, and then to finish. Clearly, we never saw the actual instruction of any child in that video, it’s unfair to judge the pro in this instance and make the claims you do. I agree with most of what you say in the final couple of paragraphs, but you don’t actually know how that golf school operates and you don’t know what general stimulus training they give the kids. Or if you do… have you contacted the pros at this school and offered to help them get it right? If they rejected you I could understand the mean spirited critique.
I’d like to hear what Tiger Woods (or his late father) thinks of your comments, he started early like the child in that video, he seems to be very well balanced and doing well.
This dude is scarey. I not sure if he was joking or serious. Let the kid play, he’s jsut 5. I was a national punt pass and kick champion some 35 years ago and I had a dad whose intentions were great but hours of kicking and throwing my arm out made me resent him and not really want to be around him. With my kids I am the dad and we just play. Keep up the great work you do!! Steve Edling D.C.
Jean Côté’s Developmental Model of Sport Participation (DMSP)identifies three distinct stages for elite performance development: the sampling years (childhood; age 6-12), the specializing years (early adolescence; age 13-15), and the investment years (late adolescence; age 16+).
For the Sampling years, the suggested ratio of ‘Deliberate Play’ to ‘Deliberate Practice’ is 80:20. For the Specializing years it is 50:50, and for the Investment years it is 20:80.
Note that a 5 year old child has not even entered the Sampling years yet. The goal at this age should be to nurture an intrinsic motivation for sport.
I think his point is not to specifically attack this pro, his particular club or methods but rather to use this little video snipet to iluminate a problem that he believes to be widespread and contraindicated.
While you may be correct in that the original intent of the video is different than the one Brian is communicating, but that does not change the fact that much of his observations are correct. Also, we know full well that people take these videos and copy them to the letter most times, not thinknming through the information before applying it, and that can re-enforce the unintended and perhaps unconsious mistakes that are being made and spreading them like.
The meme of positive reinforcement based on external and often subjective criteria (like levels of enthusiasm or affect)is flawed because we know you can end up re-enforcing patterns that you don’t intend to.
I also dont think it is at all mean spirited (perhaps a bit overstated)as evidenced from the disclaimer at the begining: “I don’t mean to excuse them or vilify them at all”. Clear statment of intent.
“and that can re-enforce the unintended and perhaps unconsious mistakes that are being made and spreading them like.”-a disease.
The scary thing is that this is a PGA certified and trained professional who obviously does a lot of work with kids. Beyond the over-cueing and the ineffective approach to physical development, I struggle most with the overall attitude and demeanor that is displayed towards a 5 year old. This kind of mentality is prevalent amongst parents and youth coaches alike and, in my opinion, has a far greater impact on the youth athlete in terms of expectations, creating emotional and mental stresses related to performance and in general stripping some of the fun out of the activity.
When kids are young, they are naturally active and curious. All we really need to do is direct that the very smallest amount and give them appropriate outlets and their natural instincts will take over. If you have kids or have any experience working with them, you can relate to their reaction the second we start over-coaching an activity – they almost immediately resist and want to do it their own way and more often than not they lose interest in that activity altogether. This is partly because they are kids and they just like doing things in their own ways, but what I often see is that it is because what is being coached is well beyond their current capacity and they become self conscious and frustrated at their inability to perform the task as shown.
I could go on and on, but I certainly agree that this golf pro’s attitude comes from a complete lack of understanding of youth development – on all levels. And if this is a trained profession who works with youth on a regular basis – think about all the parents, volunteer coaches, and untrained coaches who work most with our youth! Scary thought.
Anyway, great post, Brian. This is the stuff we need to work at changing.
I agree that the cues are not the best and but as an organization we have bigger problems to deal with. Too much over thinking on this one. As a practicing golf pro for 8+ years I can tell you there were a few things I would do differently,( like tone it down to start), but this child is not being harmed in any way. Everything he learns at this age is going to be replaced and refined. Golf is the hardest to learn of any sport I have ever tried to play,(at least from a motor skill perspective). It took years and countless hours to become a scratch golfer. I do not think any irreversible damage is being done here. I agree the pro can benefit from more understanding of how children learn and would benefit greatly from the education offered via the IYCA. The scariest aspect of the whole thing no one has brought up- where they are filming. The pro and the student are in the “shank zone”. The pro is lucky the guy hitting balls in the back ground did not hossle one off his forehead. Please, when it comes to the little ones, SAFETY FIRST.
Frank D.’s comments regarding Tiger are exactly on point to what Brian is trying to impress upon the world. If only Tiger knew how detrimental all the hoopla about his early prowess (or insert any number of elite level athletes) has been on youth athletic training in general he’d burn all the old video.
Too many dads and coaches think they’ve got to start their little five year olds learning sport specific mechanics before their peers lest they lose their competitive edge. By age 13-15 the majority of very talented kids simply burn out.
Tiger is a great athlete and is the exception. He should not be used as an example of the “norm” to evolve a kid into a world class competitor.
Plus I take exception to the golf pro’s attempt at humor which was hackneyed and obviously well beyond the level of understanding of his student. Kids need to be talk to, not at!
Chad & Gary,
First thing I thought was what if somebody shanks one!
I agree with you on the attitude of the pro, too heavy, too adult oriented in the humor, there is no way the kid relates to most of what is said. The pro talks to us mostly not the child. Which makes me think that the video message is adult oriented and that hopefully their training is better than that. But… we don’t know. I do agree with you Gary, at 5 yrs of age I can’t imagine this child takes a lot with him as far as skill learned. The true shaping will come in a few years from now. Keep it fun, keep it safe, keep them coming back. Help them learn.
Forget about how he is teaching….These kids should be out running around playing a sport that emphasis physical fitness, they can play golf until they are 90 years old. Go play soccer at that age, every kid can run and kick a ball without a parent/coach telling them how to do it.
I just amazed he was able to keep a child that young focused for the length of the video. This is being way over analyzed.
I started lifting my son at the age of 10 and some critics say that is bad.
Well he just received a 200,000 dollar D1-football scholarship so I guess we did something right. I have to disagree with the negative criticism of the golf pro.
I’d like to observe the pro when he is focused on his kids and not talking to the adults watching the video to see if he does better. I saw limited effectiveness in this clip, and I don’t think I would pick that pro to teach my kids.
However, other than the safety issue of being in the shank zone (and that is significant!) I didn’t see any major damage being caused.
Still good points for consideration and reminders, because we can do better for our kids.
The one thing I don’t like about the video is the “How to raise a SuperStar”. Talk about sending the wrong message.
Kudos to you and what you wrote. But why are we calling this guy a pro he sounds more like an amateur in his approach. But lets not stop with children, personal trainers are approaching their clients the same way without first understanding and than working with the individual.
What do you think can be done about this…. is key!
I find it interesting the comments focused on tiger woods success and my kid just got a d-1 scholoarship. It had to be that he started lifting at a young age, yeah thats it. Also tigers success is in spite of his training and more to do with his genetics. How many tigers are there in the world? 99% of kids put through what he went through would have burned or crumbled, he is an anomoly. And to base a training concept on that would be irresponsible from a parenting and coaching perespective. Tiger is who he is because it was his dads dream. Stop living your dreams through your kids and let them live there own dreams out and have fun. This video isn’t as innocent as some of you might think, parents look to us coaches for expertise and hundereds will look at this from a laymens perspective and say I have to get my kid to this coach or someone like him, my kid will be a superstar.I see it everyday and see more kids coming to my facility with oversue injuries from such early sports specific specilization programs from coaches who train them as an adult. That’s right kids injured, spinal fractures, sports hernias and hamstring tears, why? because of these coaches and parents who want there kids to be the next tiger woods, labron james and venus williams sisters etc… But I guess if your kid got a D-1 scholarship then you are an expert who can now train kids to lift at 10, and promise parents of 10 year olds that you have the secret formula fo their kids success…
Tommorrow, I am letting all your comments go without any thoughts or opinions from me. Until then though, I just wanted to say that I agree with everything Tim Rudd just said. Isolating the exceptions in sport is the continual plague we live in. We often look at the 1, 10 or even 1,000 examples of ‘our side’ but in the process overlook that thousands of examples that represent the other side. That being said, I was also interviewed extensively for a book ESPN produced on youth sports training in America. Tiger is the exception, but his upbringing in free play, sport and fun is something most don’t know anything about. In terms of over-analysis of this video, without a voice of reason and pragmatism, unchallenged videos like this (however ‘spoof-oriented you feel it was… I for the record don’t) will be considered ‘the way’ by countless parents and youth coaches worldwide. I hope I haven’t disagreed too much with those who don’t see eye-to-eye with me on this. I do value your thoughts and learn from them a great deal. Truly. My opinion stands 100% on this however. Thank you all for your thoughts and contributions. BG
I agree with both sides of the arguement to a degree. That golf pro was way over the top. His manerisms were not only unsuitable for the boy but if you look at matthew, he is shutting down. His head is down, he is embarrassed and only responds when pushed by the coach. This child is not a match for this coach at all and obviously, the coach can’t read and adjust his coaching style to meet the needs of the athlete standing before him. All that aside, I would like to test the waters of the Tiger Woods debate. If all parents, including Tiger’s dad and Wayne Gretzky’s dad and Sydney Crosby’s dad listened to the ideas expressed here about not training your child like the superstars before them, would they be who they are today…probably not. There is not a parent out there that doesn’t want the best for their child. The problems with these types of intense sport specific training methods begin with the failure of the parent and coach to recognize that the child does not want to be there or does not enjoy the training. There is nothing wrong with wanting your child to be a superstar but you must be ready and willing to accept that your child or the child you are coaching does not share the same dream as you. At this point you must back off, change your perspective and goals. Maybe you don’t have a superstar on your hands? Maybe you have a good athlete that will enjoy a lifetime of fitness and competition or maybe just maybe you have a late bloomer? You will never know about the late bloomer possibility if you don’t find the right fit for the child. Keep your eyes open and learn fro the child what it is they wish to accomplish.
There were many great points commented that pretty much covered some, if not most of what I had wanted to input.
I had the opportunity to be involved with a local high school during their school year as the designated strength conditioning coach. What I had witnessed as far as performance programs for the respective sports was horrifying.
Thank you everyone for your comments and bringing “attention” to youth sports and development. Though I may or may not agree with all of the comments, I respect them all for allowing me to understand where you are coming from and forcing me to analyze myself and the impact I have on my young athletes. Belton
I think it’s impossible to tell what this professional is all about from a 2 minute clip. I got the impression that it was more of a joke than anything else. There is no way anyone can assume this or that from this video. What about the kid, is he autistic, or just camera shy. We don’t know anything and to make judgements without any facts is being led by the nose and not true thinking. The tone I picked up on was one of sarcasm from the pro and maybe that was the real point.
Hey Brian. You are totally right.
First off, the coach means well by his actions and words. He is trying to keep the mood fun and encouraging Matthew as best he can. He is also concentrating on portraying the fun and freedom aspect to development throughout the video. I think he is correct in what he is trying to do but unfortunatley his application is terrible. Ultimately, this is were my issue would be: the fact that adults who are trying there best to help kids are so ignorant to their actions and there implications on the childs life. It is the adults responsibility to educate themselves to perform this task correctly. I would also like to point out that ”correctly” is meant in a broad sense as in make sure what you are doing is correct and appropiate to the child no matter how insignificant the application is to you. Simple terms, the adult needs to be completley aware of all there actions as the child will pick up on everything. Thank you Brian for making such appropiate information available and continuing to educate.
Apologies if I havent made much sense in what I have wrote. Its been a long day! Im glad I wrote something though.
Ok I received an automated email for Brian asking us to take a look and write a comment, as many have been, about a golf clip. I watched the video and first thought ok here is guy trying to be funny and hamming it up with a kid (Mathew) swinging a golf club. Second thought this kid has a better swing then me. Third thing was what could anybody have to say about this, I had not read Brian’s or any one’s view point yet. So I did, read all 24 including Brian’s. I was like did I miss something? I watched the clip again looking for what some of you saw in this. The main concerns from some of you are the abuse factor, the language, the queuing and technique correction. First there is no abuse here, sorry Brian, but you are way off base by trying to coin a phase like “Ignorant Child Abuse” to promote and prop up your blog and business. I find that more offencive than the clip. No one should use that term loosely as it has a very serious definition. Every other thing is an opinion on what an instructor should or should not do or say based on a short clip. Every parent I know believes their kid is special and will help them throw a ball or skate and encourage them to do something. This is not abuse or even wrong. Mathew may be shy but he seemed happy to participate, not autistic sorry Ed. I have no idea if Mathew is allowed to play and have fun and just let lose based on this clip, for all we know he is doing so right now. Brian I think you can stand behind your opinions and views and even admire you for that but I will caution you on your language and tone of messaging as you are accusing many people of a very serious thing. I have worked with children that have been the victims of abuse so please do not even try and justify this as abuse. Poor coaching or not a safe position for Mathew during the shoot ok you can argue those other then that I am reading a ton of over reaction to a small short snap shot of a persons life and skill as a golf pro. We are really starting to live in a 3min world when something as innocent as this clip, meant to show people how to choose a correct size of club for a small child, can drawing so much ire and accusations from other professionals. It is a sad state of the direction we are heading and I really hope we do better and can change this type of over reaction in the future or all of the children are the ones that suffer as the professionals and adults debate each other on what is or is not the best way to coach, train and teach them. Each child is different and their needs, wants and way they learn will differ so be adaptive as a person that works with them and not judgemental and stuck in a one way to do things mentality.
First off Brian I hope you read this. I was the trainer on Shaq’s Big Challenge and when you invoked the show as an example of people jumping on the bandwagon for youth fitness I had to sit up and laugh and say “Did this guy just bag on the show I was on?” But it didn’t stop me from getting the cert Level 1 and it won’t stop me from getting cert level 2. We can get into why there was no follow thru later. The teacher is obviously pimping that kid for his own business. Telling the child to pivot his back toe when he looks more like he wants to run around and play is going to make that child feel more insecure. Your on point with the childs reaction is purely Pavlovian.
Thanks for posting all. Tarik, I read every post… Always. Thank you for leaving your comments and I would enjoy a conversation with you. To know me is to know that I speak my mind always. Sometimes people like what I have to say and sometimes they don’t. But I never censor myself – I say what I feel. That being true, I have never been afraid to say I was wrong, apologize or be ‘put in my place’ if I realize that I was in fact incorrect. The state of youth fitness and sport is in complete shambles worldwide and requires a revolution to right the ship. All revolutions are sparked by a someone who is unafraid to voice opinion and opposition to oppressive or popular culture. But my earlier point stands…. I will ALWAYS listen to and digest the opinions of others. The IYCA is FAR from a one-man-show and I won’t ever claim to have all the answers. Contact me via the ‘contact us’ icon on http://www.iyca.org – I would absolutely love to chat with you. Best! BG
I get tired of people using Tiger Woods as an example of how to raise a young athlete. I’m not saying Mr. & Mrs. Woods did anything wrong. What they did was right for Tiger but is not the way we should approach the overwhelming majority of our youth. Tiger Woods is one in a billion and not representative of how the general population should approach their kids and sports. Keep up the good work Brian.
You were not too critical. I thought your response was measured and very professional. Your critique was as it should be, based on fact not emotion. I thought the video was pathetic. IYCA is a great organization and you are doing a tremendous job in your efforts to educate.
I just want to say that this is somewhat of a joke! I do think that this guy is a golf coach but, he can’t be serious. I think we need to ask Lance why he would allow just anything to be put up on his website (livestrong)! This does no good for anyone anywhere! This kid is not the next “Tiger” by any stretch of the imagination, you never know but, I don’t think you can see it here. It is not fair that that little guy even has to be subject to this discussion at all. Brian, I feel you brother but, this man is not in it for the kids obviously, he wants fame and fortune. You let him know what’s up and you need to do it being who you are, represent! Find out who that little boys parents are and let them have it too! I wonder if that guy is his father or grandfather maybe.
Brian, (First Great Post.. this is exactly what blogging should be about creating debate, questions and opinions!)
I think that you were a little harsh because the golf pro is doing what most sports teaching pros do. They try to apply teaching tools that they use with older players and adults to young kids. But he is still guilty! Its kinda like the law.. just because you dont know about it, it doesnt justify your actions..ignorance is not an excuse… but you kinda feel sorry for the guy… But most coaches education is focussed on the skills and not on the needs of the player.. at ay age so its also testiment to the way in which he was trained to teach… and by the look of him he has been teaching for some time and probably started before 4 year olds were picking up golf clubs in their droves…
The real sad thing is that parents are watching and thinking he is an expert.. at golf, I guess (I am not a golfer so wouldnt know) .. at kids … no where close…!
But at least he was advocating the correct sized equipment!! In the tennis industry we have trouble even getting parents to pay attention to that…
Is it conscious or exploitive … well we just don’t know… so some of the posts are right that its not entirely fair to blame the pro.. (although we can blame him for his sense of humour which i think is where most of the problems with this clip lie :-))…but also it is also not fair for coaches to really think that they can stand up and talk about kids when they clearly do not have much of a clue about them… but maybe the other pros were too busy having a good time with the kids to worry about being on camera!
I work in coach education.. working soley in training coaches to work with the under 10 age group…
In working with Tennis Coaches all around the world I try to get them to understand that there are 3 pillars to effectively teaching a child… you need to understand the skill (which most pros do!), the child, physically, mentally, emotionally (which most coaches dont) and the environment (which most coaches just ignore).. if you want to help children learn (actually most learning is incidental and not as a result of direct teaching, so I prefer the term “helping children learn” rather than “teaching children”)then you have to understand all three pillars.. without it most coaches just spend most of their time “wasting time” with kids…try to teach inappropriately…but then most sports are fixated on the skill forgetting the key role that environment plays…
Perhaps a good debate to have that links to this is what is FUN? The problem with the word Fun is that it means very different things to different people and so when it is mentioned people just access ther definition of Fun and try to transpose it only others… I spend a lot of time getting coaches to understand what Fun is and how it is different things to different ages and personalities… clearly your golf pro thinks that he is making it fun maybe because adults often relate fun to competence or improvement.. but of course the child is sure that being in front of camera does not equal fun.. that said i have seen parents playing with their kids at this age at golf and tennis and both a laughing the entire time so i dont think we should be saying that golf is not fun.. in fact at this age the environment provides more fun than the sport itself.. so we are back to your original comments…
Thanks for the post
I watched the video. I thought it would be alot worse. I do not think the pro is serious. Listen to his comments.
I think the debate rages on. Do we, as parents, allow the “fun factor” and if so, then for how long? At what age should a young aspiring athlete begin the “serious” training?
If kids are allowed to have fun, then I believe they may get left behind by their competitors. It seems to me that more and more kids are becoming specialists at a very young age. Here’s another question I have, so we let kids play and have fun, how does this affect their technical ability. At what age do we as parents and coaches introduce technque? 10, 15 20?
I felt uncomfortable just watching the video clip…can’t imagine having my son out there like this young guy was. Plus how does this video fit in with the Livestrong.com theme? Kind of odd???
We did a Live coaches clinic with Tom Brands. The U of Iowa head wrestling coach. One thing he said is “You are not training these kids to win at this age. You are teaching them life long lessons”.
The best wrestlers in the world are from Russia they do not start wrestling until age 12. At this point are 70% of our kids do not even compete in sports any more. Can you believe this stat?
These kids are the future of our the USA. The parents need to start being the role model and not the Professional Athletes. Step up and you be the role model.
In this video of Tom Wilson the Dowling High School Head Coach talks about how parents should react to a few things. I usually don’t plug my own blog but there is some things that really tie together here.
While I agree with others that your analysis of the teacher is a bit harsh, based on his one correction (we don’t know how technical his overall lessons are), you are dead on that golf (and tennis) instructors aren’t taught how to teach people – only strokes. At least in the U.S.
Especially young kids, who aren’t ready to learn specific motor skills prior to age 6 or so. They should be learning general sports skills, like throwing and catching and striking. Sure, we can use golf and baseball and tennis to help them learn general sport skills, but we shouldn’t be focusing on correct grips and swing techniques when they’re tots.
I believe PGA professionals are taught only biomechanics and physics, not motor learning or pedagogy. Same with tennis pros. The American teaching organizations CLAIM to embrace games-based teaching, but there is no motor learning or pedagogy taught or tested during their certification process (which is a 10-hour, weekend course, believe it or not).
Too bad the certifiying bodies are so irresponsible.
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