Team Management and Culture Resources

 Accountable Sports Parents

Accountable Sports Parents

The importance of accountable sports parents

Youth sports parents play many different roles: former (or current) athlete, coach, fan, motivator, role model, critic, and maybe most importantly, influencer.

Studies have shown that family members may influence an athlete’s involvement and achievement in sport even more than coaches. Parents also are the first and most critical determiners in whether or not children reap the social benefits of playing sports.

This is why it is so crucial that sports parents are aware and accountable for their actions, and how those influence their young athletes.

Accounting for Your Attitude

Parental encouragement is significantly related to a child’s attraction to and competence in playing sports. Parents who provide positive encouragement instill a greater sense of enjoyment, ability, and motivation in their child.

Research done by Windee M. Weiss, Ph.D. of the University of Northern Iowa emphasizes the importance of parents staying accountable for and modeling good behavior, and helping their children interpret their sport experiences. Parents are critical in helping their child develop coping strategies to deal not only with competition, but also with losing. Children’s perceptions of their parents’ interest in their playing sport also predict their lasting involvement in sport.

Studies done by the University of Minnesota’s Diane Wiese-Bjornstal found that the way girls perceive their parents’ assessment of their abilities predict their likelihood of playing and staying in sport. That is, if their parents do not have confidence in their abilities, neither will they.

And dads, are you listening? Studies have found that fathers hold more influence – both positive and negative – over their daughter’s sport competence and values than mothers do. However, mothers are more likely to first enroll their daughters in sport and then continue encouragement by providing transportation, uniforms, moral support, and snacks.

Being Responsible for Their Readiness

There is some good news to report from yet another study on the topic. Researchers from Yale University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Michigan suggest that children participate in organized activities, such as sport, because they want to, not because their parents make them.

But parents still need to consider whether a child is mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically mature enough to participate in sport. Readiness for a sport is just as important as readiness for school. And, like schooling, younger children need more positive direction at first, until they begin to develop and master the sport.

Pros and Cons for Parents

Parents also benefit from their child’s participation in sport. Research from Wiersma and Fifer found that their positive experiences include watching their child learn new skills and having the opportunity to interact with other parents.

On the negative side, parents who lose accountability for their lofty expectations and put too many demands on their young athletes before, during, and after competition can create stress that can destroy their child’s enjoyment of sport. Research by Bois et al., Power and Woolger, and Van Yperen has shown that negative parental support and pressure can result in competitive anxiety, interpersonal difficulties among teammates, and even quitting. Conversely, lower parental pressure has been found to be associated with children enjoying their sport more.

An overemphasis on extrinsic goals (winning, trophies, status) by parents can negate focusing on intrinsic goals, through which the child gains enjoyment from playing, mastering skills, and improving their game. Coaches also report that children’s sport performance is affected by the presence of parents. Additionally, parents lacking self-awareness and accountability for their actions are most likely to create conflict for coaches during the critical time that their child is improving mastery and transferring their trust in authority from the parent to the coach.

LaVoi and Stellino research found that the children of parents who create anxiety about failing and emphasize winning are more likely to engage in poor sport behaviors than children whose parents encourage enjoyment and self-mastery. Another study from Guivernau and Duda showed how athletes’ perceptions of their parents’ approval regarding cheating and aggression shape their own views about appropriate sport behavior. When youth athletes feel that their parents are supportive, positive, and emphasize mastery and enjoyment, they are more likely to display concern for opponents and grace in losing. They also are less likely to trash talk or whine and complain about the coach or their playing time.

Accountability from parents for their actions and attitudes effects much more than just their athletes’ level of effort on the field. It also impacts their mindset, mood, and motivation to continue on playing sports at all, as well as their trust in their coach and authority in general.

Creating accountable youth athletes and young adults starts at home, with parents taking responsibility for their actions first before demanding that their athletes do the same.

This was originally published in True Sport: What We Stand to Lose in Our Obsession to Win (p. 58-60)


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Brustad RJ, Partridge JA. Parental and peer influence on children’s psychological development through sport. In: Smoll FL, Smith RE, eds. Children and Youth in Sport: A Biopsychosocial Approach. 2nd ed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing; 2002:187-210.

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Fredricks JA, Eccles, JS. Children’s competence and value beliefs from childhood through adolescence: growth trajectories in two male-sex-typed domains. Dev Psychol. 2002; 38:519-533.

Greendorfer SL, Lewko JH, Rosengren KS. Family influence in sport socialization: sociocultural perspectives. In: Smoll and Smith R, eds. Children and Youth in Sport. Dubuque, IA: Brown and Benchmark; 1996: 89-111.

Guivernau M, Duda JL. Moral atmosphere and athletic aggressive tendencies in young soccer players. J Moral Educ. 2002; 31(1):67-85.

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Lafferty ME, Dorrell K. Coping strategies and the influence of perceived parental support in junior national age swimmers. J Sports Sci. 2006; 24(3):253-259.

LaVoi NM, Stellino MB. The relation between perceived parent-created sport climate and competitive male youth hockey players’ good and poor sport behaviors. J Psychol. 2008; 142(5):471-495.

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Power TG, Woolger C. Parenting practices and age-group swimming: a correlational study. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1994; 65(1):59-66.

Van Yperen NW. Interpersonal stress, performance level, and parental support: a longitudinal study among highly skilled young soccer players. Sport Psychol. 1995; 9:225-241.

Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. The 2007 Tucker Center Research Report: Developing Physically Active Girls: An Evidence-Based Multidisciplinary Approach. Minneapolis, MN: Author; 2007.

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TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 Being a Good Teammate

Being a Good Teammate

Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer

Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discuss the benefits of being a good teammate for your teammates and yourself. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Cuddyer is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development blog, and is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.

 The Individuality of Coaching

The Individuality of Coaching

Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle

As someone who loves psychology and finds the intricacies of human interaction fascinating, it is easy to see why I would be drawn to the topic of the individuality of coaching. Most of us would agree that the psychology of each person is quite fascinating. We might also agree that understanding the unique psychology and communication needed in coaching someone would prove to be important in helping our athletes achieve their fullest potential.

Each of our personalities, along with life experiences and the environment in which we live and learn plays a huge part in how we socialize, communicate and interact with others. The ability to relate to others is a key topic in effective communication and coaching.

- How do effective coaches build relationships and trust with their athletes?

- What are some keys to effective communication?

- How does effective communication help us to teach sport skills and evaluate progress in performance?

3 Keys to Effective Communication
• Cues
• Feedback
• Personal Coaching style

In the world of athletics, one of the most important sport skills is the mental ability to focus one’s attention. Previous research in the field of sport psychology has shown that successful athletes have honed their ability to use visual, verbal and kinesthetic cues to intentionally focus their attention. When distracted or not focused on the task at hand, these athletes also use visual, verbal and kinesthetic cues to refocus their attention. Research conducted with Olympic Medals winners indicates that cue systems were most successful when the cues had been established and used by the coach and the athlete in the weeks and months leading up to the Olympic finals (McGuire, Shadle, Zuleger, & Low, 2014). Both coaches and athletes reported that this type of communication was one of the factors that significantly helped the coach-athlete duo to win an Olympic Medal.

As expected, the actual cues a coach uses with athletes depends on both the coach and athlete and their preferences. It is important to understand the individual’s learning style and tailor your cues to that style. Listed below are some of the benefits, of using cues systems, for athletes as well as for coaches.

Cues from the coach help the athletes to:
1. Focus their attention on specifically what the coach considers to be most important in that exact moment – i.e., cues connect the coach with the athlete and are able to provide immediate guidance and attention to the athlete. Cues tell the athlete what they need to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

2. Immediate feedback, learning, and direction - these cues are especially important during practice because they tell the athlete about their progress. Loaded with information, these cues enable the athlete to make decisions about where to focus their time and effort; e.g., on perfecting technique, or developing strength or how to improve footwork/stance.

3. Feel supported psychologically - cues can give the athlete energy, reassurances, inspiration and have a calming effect.

Cues help the coaches to:
1. Direct the athlete’s focus and attention. By using a cue system coaches can provide specific feedback to athletes during practice as well as during competition in a very efficient and precise manner (Keep cue language short and to the point. Can you say it in 3 words vs. 10?) When a coach needs to communicate with an athlete and time is limited, such as in the heat of competition, a cues system can be especially valuable.

2. Immediate feedback, learning, and direction- these cues are especially important during practice because they enable coaches to teach athletes exactly what to do “next” or when they find themselves in a specific situation. Thus, cues help coaches process the information through their eyes, digest it and then teach athletes what to do next.

3. Provide psychological support to athletes and to maintain own emotional balance and mental fortitude - cues help the coach manage their own energy and composure while also helping to support the energy and composure of their athlete(s).

Effective ways to establish and use cues:
Use results from the individual communication style and preferences inventory to create a mutually acceptable plan for improving the efficacy of communication between the coach and the athletes.

How to give cues:
Cue from the ground up: verb body part direction
(Example: Lift your elbow up).

We know for an athlete to learn a skill, the skill must first be performed and programmed into their body’s motor learning. Skill is defined as, “the capability to bring about some desired end result with maximum certainty and minimum time and energy,” (Schmidt and Lee, 2014). A few of the different components involved in the process of learning and performing a skill are the perceptual or sensory processes, along with decision making, and finally the movement. Taking the time to explain why you are doing something and connecting it to the end goal for the athlete helps to strengthen not only trust with the athlete but also understanding the learning that is occurring.

When giving feedback, it might feel like you are saying the same thing over and over. This is part of the learning process. When you teach, you often repeat the same thing, but it helps to vary how you say the same thing until the athlete gets it. This is when you know a cue works. A cue that works for one athlete might not make sense to another and vice versa. The great John Wooden has a book entitled, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices. This is a great book to further dive in and learn more about the individuality of coaching individuals as well as a team.

How much feedback is too much?
It has been found with a group of elite Olympic athletes that one correction was enough for the athlete when learning a new skill. Coaches must prioritize, from their own coaching style, what is most important. This will help guide which corrections are most important and need to be made first. Some athletes can handle two corrections but for most one correction was enough when learning a new skill. Once the athlete has mastered and made the first correction, you can move on to another.

The issue we often see is that coaches give too much information with their feedback which can often overwhelm the athlete (it is also too much information for the brain to process-thus why the athlete feels overwhelmed). It is best to take it slow when coaching/teaching new skills or correcting/breaking bad habits. Some athletes will adapt and learn quicker, others are less flexible and thus take more time to learn new skills. This is where the psychology of the individual comes into play and understanding how your athlete learns and the style in which they best absorb the information being communicated.

One final note: I would caution learning a new skill or changing the way an athlete does something too close to championship competitions. We want the athlete to feel confident going into major competitions. If this is a new skill you are working on and it is early in the season, I would say go ahead and work at that new skill. Be sure to communicate that information and the learning process to your athlete. For example, “I know we are working on this new batting stance. I want you to stick with this during the next game.”

Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.

 Should Kids Set New Year's Resolutions?

Should Kids Set New Year's Resolutions?

Learn how to be a resolution role model

Many adults associate New Year’s resolutions with abandoned aspirations instead of positive changes.

For those who struggle to stick with New Year’s resolutions, it can seem illogical to promote the habit to children. However, many experts in child development recommend parents set goals with their children every New Year. Not only does it help teach the power of creating goals and following through, but it can also help us stay accountable to our own resolutions as part of being a good parent role model.

The Case for Youth Resolutions

The American Academy of Pediatrics is just one big proponent of setting resolutions with kids. Their own list of recommended resolutions is age specific, making suggestions such as washing hands before eating for preschoolers and reducing soda intake and standing up to bullying for high schoolers.

While setting goals with young kids might seem a little excessive (if not overambitious) in this age of overscheduling, some argue that childhood is the best time to teach how to form new habits.

“[Kids ages 7-12] are still young enough that their habits are not firm,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. “They’re old enough to think about what a New Year’s resolution is and to make their own, yet parents can still help guide them.”

Young kids also aren’t likely to set resolutions of profound importance, meaning the focus should be on the goal-setting process rather than the success or failure of achieving the desired result.

Do It Together

Most kids probably won’t sit down and make their own resolutions, let alone follow through on them, without some guidance. Setting goals as a family is a great way to demonstrate that goals are much easier to achieve when you have the support of people who care about you. Clinical health psychologist Indira Abraham-Pratt, Ph.D., ABPP, says, “Resolutions that involve the entire family foster teamwork and support; families come together and encourage one another, which also inspires healthier habits for the whole family.”

This is also an opportunity to show kids what good goals look like, how to write them, and what to actually do with them. Chances are they’ll propose something lofty, such as winning every game they play this season. After admiring their ambition, suggest ways they could re-write their goal to make sure it’s something they can control. Once you’re all done, take their goals, along with the rest of the family’s, and put them someplace where they’ll be seen frequently, such as on the fridge or on a bulletin board.

Set regular check-in times once or twice a month to ask how your child’s goal is going and discuss challenges they might be having, as well as ways to overcome them. Be sure to share progress, successes, and struggles with your own resolutions. And perhaps most importantly, be open and honest about the possibility of failure.

“One of the reasons people break resolutions is that they don’t anticipate the moments when sticking with the resolution is going to be especially difficult,” says Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed. “Talking those over in advance as a family will be helpful — and it will help if the family can come up with strategies to get through those tough moments, so they can celebrate their overall success at the end of the year.”

Do Not Set Resolutions This Way

While most agree resolutions can be beneficial to children if they are well thought out, setting resolutions without their input is a surefire way to get low buy-in and a high chance that they’ll never want to set resolutions again. This is especially true if the proposed resolution is something you’ve been harping on anyway, such as a household chore.

Similarly, first-time resolutions (or even ones for adults) shouldn’t be too-far-reaching or without some easily clearable benchmarks to help build momentum and acknowledge progress.

Carter recommends keeping lists short and breaking resolutions down into actionable steps, such as having a child focus on putting their shoes away when they arrive home as part of a larger ‘be tidier’ resolution, and only giving verbal praise as a reward. “You can’t bribe kids into doing this,” he comments. “Once you make it external with rewards, you lose them.”

Resolutions also need to have a positive frame around them, not one of deprivation.

“Instead of a resolution like ‘No desserts this year,’ a family might choose something more attainable like ‘Eat healthier this year,’” says Tough.

Be A Resolution Role Model

Achieving the greatest buy-in from goal-setting kids comes down to two things:
1. Is following through on this goal enjoyable?
2. Do the people I look up to show me it’s possible to achieve my goals by following through on their own goals?

If those two conditions can’t be met, then it might be best to skip setting goals with children until we can accomplish what Katie Hurley, author of The Happy Kid Handbook, recommends is a much more important resolution for parents:

“Help your children explore their passions. Encourage them to follow their dreams. Dial back the intense worry about college acceptances and high paying jobs and help them understand the importance of happiness. Happy kids are more successful in the classroom. Happy kids are more likely to follow through with their goals and reach a little bit higher. Happy kids are confident enough to enter the world without worry. That is the greatest gift you can give your child this year.”

If you do decide the time is right to set resolutions with your child, the most powerful way to show the importance of setting goals will always be to follow through on your own. This added accountability is a powerful tool to create change for both you and your child and to ensure the next generation continues turning over new leaves with great success.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 Off-Season Recommendations

Off-Season Recommendations

Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer

Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses ways to train and grow as an athlete during the off-season. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Cuddyer is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development blog, and is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.