In my opinion, there are so many Americans specifically (I have little experience with international youth coaching trends, but I would love to hear other perspectives from around the world as well.) whose priorities and coaching ethics are skewed. Ultimate importance is placed on winning, and all other priorities take a secondary position. Many youth coaches and parents today lose complete sight of the real goals of youth sports.
Now don’t click away, I enjoy winning just as much as anyone does, and there are tremendously valuable life lessons to be gained by winning. Developing a competitive attitude, understanding how to accomplish goals, striving for success, and realizing rewards for hard work, are all positives that can be learned by winning. And I am not a big fan of no score keeping either. I mean what’s the point? If the kids don’t know what the score is, the parents are going to tell them anyway. And personally I think that is fine. It is ok to win, and it is ok to lose. In every competition there is going to be a winner, and a loser. Throughout life there are just as many positive lessons for our children to be learned by losing. How to accept disappointment and overcome adversity, the fact that life is not fair, and that there are winners and there are losers in sports and in life, and to lose does not make you a loser. Likewise to win does not make you a winner. In my opinion, winners are those who do their best and work hard at it. Losers are those who show poor sportsmanship and do not give their best effort regarldess of the outcome of the game. Winners are part of the team, losers play selfishly. Winners encourage each other, Losers critisize each other. Winners talk about how well others are doing, Losers talk about how well they are doing.
Coaches and parents place way too much emphasis on winning and have lost the meaning of coaching ethics. Instead of placing their emphasis on the really important things like, teamwork, good sportsmanship, not giving up, hard work, friendship, just doing their best whatever that may be, and discipline (no, discipline is not a dirty word, discipline is important)
Coaches, it is ok to have fun! Wait, what’s that? It is OK to have fun? Ladies and gentlemen, it should be about having fun. Being part of a team and participating in youth sports should be fun. Having good coaching ethics means that as a coach it is your responsibility as a coach to make sure THE KIDS HAVE FUN! Not at the sake of everything else positive, but how many kids have I seen quit a sport or all sports forever, because they don’t have any fun. Coaches and often even worse, parents are so crazy about winning that they lose all sense of why we are there. Parents get angry with their kids and with coaches when they don’t succeed. They expect so much starting at very young ages. Now please understand, I am not talking about competitive High school Varsity sports or ultra competitive traveling teams. There is a place for emphasizing winning and learning how to win. Recreational youth sports is not that place.
Coaches it is your obligation as a youth coach to maintain positive coaching ethics by making sure that all of the kids on your team are given an opportunity to play. And teach them to play different positions. And let them play positions that may lose you the game. You will be positively surprised at how fast kids improve when they are given a chance. All it takes is some good coaching and encouragement especially when they fail. If you win, celebrate! If you lose, celebrate! It’s ok! As long as you lose while doing your best that is all that we should be asking our kids to do. Their best, whatever that is. You didn’t lose anything that anyone will remember anyway. I mean we are not hiding in a hut somewhere wondering where are next meal is coming from or if we will live through the next mortar attack. We are just playing a game for crying out loud. And we are lucky to do so. We gave it our best, and we will get em next time.
That brings me to the subject of sportsmanship. I have little patience for kids, parents, or others who display poor sportsmanship. It is ok to shake hands with your opponent. It is ok to say nice shot, or great hit, or the rarest one these days, nothing at all to the other team. If you are the crazy dad, mom, uncle, or grandparent running up and down the sidelines screaming at the kids or the parents or the officials, please get a hold of yourself, please sit down, and please shut up! Support your coaches. Support your kids. Volunteer! But quit being an idiot. Ask yourself are you being a role model? I have been blessed to grow up in the San Diego area, and I have been able to witness two of the greatest men sports figures of my generation. Tony Gwynn, and Ladanian Thomlinson. I mean these guys are such tremendous role models in our community. And I feel honored to have witnessed not just their play which is phenomenal, but more importantly their examples as men! You don’t have to tell everyone how good you are. If you are good other people will do the telling. I have a rule that says if you don’t have something encouraging or constructive to say then don’t say anything. And I pass that message to my parents as well. I make them sign a contract at the start of the season. As the coach of these young men and women you are their example. Be a positive example that they will remember 20 years from now when they see you in the grocery store. They will tell you how much you meant to their lives. I can’t adequately explain to you how rewarding that is. The most rewarding year of my coaching career I was coaching a peewee Pop Warner football team. We had almost all first year kids because the corrupt program stacked all of the “good” kids on the same team so they could win more games. We didn’t win a single game. In fact we only scored 3 touchdowns all year. But to this day from time to time I see those kids who are all young adults now and invariably they tell me that was the most fun team they ever played on. Their parents too still thank me for that season. And they still remember it very well. Because as a staff we made the season count even though we had no chance to win. And that group of kids went on to have lots of success, because they were winners. All of them! And almost all of them continued to play. That is the value of youth sports. That is the goal of positive coaching ethics.
When the kids you coach see you in 20 years, what will they remember? What kind of impact will you have had on their lives? And what will they pass on to their kids? Be Tony Gwynn the man! Be Ladanian Thomlinson the man, and those players that you coach will pass that legacy on. Make sure that you and your kids benifit from good coaching ethics.
Feel free to contact me I would love to hear your feedback or help you where I can.
Remember have fun, good luck, and good coaching ethics
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