Frisbee-throwing champion Rob McLeod and his canine teammate have been spending the winter showing children their new book and encouraging healthier living away from electronics.
McLeod stopped by the L.P. Fisher Library and Meduxnekeag Consolidated School on Wednesday with Davy Whippet – Guinness World Record holding dog and star of the book The Davy Rule – to read to children and show videos of Davy’s catches.
McLeod said it has been interesting doing book readings at schools and libraries in the province while he has been home for the winter, especially “learning what the kids are into, how to talk to them and how to connect with them.” He said Davy Whippet draws plenty of attention. “A lot of them love the dog, so just giving them a chance to meet him is a big deal,” said McLeod. “I’m really glad I brought him with me. I don’t know if I will have him back in the Maritimes again. It’s a great trip and I’m hoping I can do more of this, but it is a lot of driving.”
McLeod said a nice aspect of the book based on a real dog is a connection made between children and Davy Whippet. “I think it means more to the kids and that to me is what matters,” he said. “I’d rather have more of an impact with less kids than less of an impact with more kids. It allows me the opportunity to do that.”
Speaking about the book’s reception, McLeod said kids love the colours and have been asking great questions at book readings. He said he has been learning how to use the book as a tool. “Instead of just reading the book it is telling a story and that has been the biggest thing,” said McLeod. “How to tell a story to the kids and having them learn something from it and having them take something from it.”
He added that he has learned how to teach kids from the book, such as that it is okay to be different.
The Davy Rule was funded on Kickstarter and was written by McLeod’s friend Olyn Ozbick, with illustrations by Shannon Darch. Sales have been picking up for the book, which went on sale last month, said McLeod, although he noted he would sell more if he had copies with him at readings. Unfortunately they sold out of copies quickly and are now waiting for more to be printed. Luckily they can still order books and have them shipped in about two weeks.
McLeod’s message while visiting schools has been to get kids away from screens and to be physically active instead.
He said while visiting MCS on Wednesday he showed a picture of Minecraft and Halo, and “the kids just lose their minds because they love those games so much.”
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He said he wants teachers to see the reaction from kids and realize how much kids are involved with technology.
“When I talk about not playing those (games) they can’t even imagine their world without it,” said McLeod. “It’s trying to get them to realize if you go a whole day without playing a game, the world is going to be okay. Just teaching them you can go without it.”
Habit formation is what it is all about, said McLeod, adding that going one week without electronics might teach a person they can go a week without it, but it is not sustainable. Still, he doesn’t want to get kids away from video games 100 per cent.
“It’s okay to do it once in awhile but it is in moderation,” he said. “These video games encourage them to play every day because you get more points. If we want to get kids away from apps and video games we have to take this approach and say ‘if you spend a day away or two days away we will give something in return.’”
McLeod does this by sending kids certificates that say they are amazing for taking on the challenge. He says this is a simple way to encourage them, while also providing self awareness.
“If we are trying to get kids away from a video game that rewards them constantly by not rewarding them it is not going to work,” he said. “Because they want to go for that reward.”
McLeod also spent time visiting the Ayr Motor Centre over the winter, teaching kids how to throw a Frisbee. He said he has been going right after school.
“It’s nice to be able to see them again and really deepen that connection with them,” said McLeod. “I think it means more to them as well when you are more consistent instead of just showing up once.”
He said he plans to order Frisbees for the Ayr Motor Centre to give to the kids who were keen on the sport.
With his tour in New Brunswick at an end, McLeod is now preparing once again for competitions. He said the plan is to leave for the United States this weekend. First he will compete in a distance throwing event near Las Vegas from Saturday, March 26 to Monday, March 28 that will have four men attempting to break the world record by throwing a Frisbee over 900 feet, which has never been done. McLeod said a week later he will be competing with Davy at a competition in Houston, Texas, and then two weeks after that going to Virginia for another competition.
“Basically my competitions are starting now,” he said, noting it has been over a year since he and Davy competed. “Winter is over.”
You can order a copy of The Davy Rule online at https://www.thedavyrule.com. Books are $20/each.
Written by Doug Dickinson for the Bugle Observer