TrueSport Resources

 Stronger Team Mindset

Stronger Team Mindset

How to get back in the game with a stronger team mindset

All teams face challenges and disappointments, and one of a coach’s most important roles is teaching young athletes how to deal with setbacks and come back stronger. According to Dr. Jim Afremow, PhD, sports psychologist and author of The Champion’s Comeback: How Great Athletes Recover, Reflect, and Reignite, successful comebacks begin with a team’s mindset.

Afremow has identified what he calls the “Seven L’s” for creating a successful comeback:
• Let go
• Look for support
• Love the Game
• Learn, Labor
• Learn optimism
• Lean on your mental game

While you can learn more about all seven in his books, three of particular interest to coaches are: Let Go, Learn Optimism, and Lean on Mental Game.

Let Go

“Ruminating about our mistakes and failures is like holding on to a brick,” says Afremow. Some young athletes benefit from a more literal demonstration, so he recommends bringing an actual brick to practice, discussing the importance of “releasing the brick” and being freed from the weight of past mistakes. Some teams adopt “release the brick” as a mantra and even pantomime dropping a brick as a physical cue following an error.

Coaches have to set a consistent example to reinforce the “let go” attitude, which means not dwelling on setbacks. “Getting over a tough loss or a poor performance is about moving forward,” says Afremow.

Encourage athletes to shake off mistakes and focus on the next play. After a loss, acknowledge what went wrong, but emphasize what went well and what can be improved.

Learn Optimism

“Optimists see success as personal, permanent, and pervasive, whereas failure is situational, short-lived, and specific,” says Afremow. “Optimists are more likely to sustain success and bounce back when knocked down.”

Humans have a natural inclination to be critical and learning to be consistently optimistic can require a great deal of positive reinforcement. Dr. Afremow recommends adhering to a 5 to 1 praise-to-criticism ratio when providing feedback to individuals and whole teams.

Expressing five positives for each negative may not always come easily, but the impact on young minds is worth the effort. It is a good idea for a coach to occasionally track comments (or have an assistant coach do so) to see how well they are actually balancing positive and negative feedback.

Lean on Mental Game

Developing an effective mental toolbox during childhood can help prepare athletes for success throughout their academic, personal, and professional lives. Dr. Afremow reminds coaches of three techniques they can teach to help young athletes develop:

• Mindfulness: “Mindfulness is paying attention to what’s happening in the moment,” says Afremow. Find moments during stretching, breaks, or practices for athletes to be quiet and mindful in the moment. Focus on fully experiencing what’s happening now instead of what just happened or is about to happen.
• Visualization: Visualization is doing mentally what you do physically. Effective visualization requires training and practice. Facilitate brief exercises with individual athletes and the team. Guide them through the process of “seeing” and “feeling” themselves executing particular skills and achieving success.
• Body Language: “Body language is nonverbal communication through postures, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements,” says Afremow. When athletes exhibit positivity they invite positivity, even following mistakes.

In all areas of life there will be wins and losses, triumphs and setbacks. Teaching young athletes to lose and come back stronger is as valuable as teaching them to win.

To read more about Dr. Afremow’s Seven L’s and his newest book, The Young Champion’s Mind, look up Gold Medal Mind.

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.

 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)


Bois JE, Lalanne J, Delforge C. The influence of parenting practices and parental presence on children’s and adolescents’ pre-competitive anxiety. J Sports Sci. 2009; 27(10):995-1005.

Brustad RJ. Affective outcomes in competitive youth sport: the influence of intrapersonal and socialization factors. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 1988; 10(3):307-321.

Brustad RJ. Who will go out and play? Parental and psychological influences on children’s attraction to physical activity. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 1993; 5(3):210-233.

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.

Davison KK, Earnest MB, Birch LL. Participation in aesthetic sports and girls’ weight concerns at ages 5 and 7 years. Int J Eat Disord. 2002; 31(3):312-317.

Donohue B, Miller A, Crammer L, Cross C, Covassin T. A standardized method of assessing sport specific problems in the relationships of athletes with their coaches, teammates, family, and peers. J Sport Behav. 2007; 30(4):375-397.

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.

Holt NL, Tamminen KA, Black DE, Mandigo JL, Fox KR. Youth sport parenting styles and practices. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2009; 31(1):37-59. 157.

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.

Mahoney JL, Larson RW, Eccles JS, eds. Organized Activities as Contexts of Development: Extracurricular Activities, After-School and Community Programs. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; 2005.

McLean K. Dealing with parents: promoting dialogue. Sports Coach. 2007; 30(1):12-13.

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.

Weiss WM. Coaching your parents: support vs. pressure. Technique. 2008; 28(10):18-22.

Wiersma LD, Fifer AM. It’s our turn to speak: the joys, challenges, and recommendations of youth sport parents. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2007; (suppl 29):S213.

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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.

 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.

 Age-Based Guide to Goal Setting

Age-Based Guide to Goal Setting

TrueSport Ask the Expert with Roberta Kraus, Ph.D.

While it makes intuitive sense that effective goals for fourth graders differ from those made by juniors in high school, it’s important for parents and coaches to understand how to help youth athletes make and achieve appropriate goals. Dr. Roberta Kraus is a sports psychologist who works with athletes ranging from grade school to high school, and novices to Olympic athletes. As a TrueSport Expert, she provided her knowledge and guidance so we can all help make youth sports a positive experience for kids.

Where to Start

To help kids pursue the best goals, parents and coaches have to be on the same page in terms of the overall objective. According to Dr. Kraus, auditoriums of parents and coaches always know the “right” answer in terms of the reasons sports are beneficial for kids: character building, work ethic, integrity, teamwork, etc. But knowing the right answer doesn’t stop parents and coaches from applying too much pressure on kids to win, be a star player, and live up to the money spent on private trainers and traveling club teams. If we back up to a more fundamental goal, we can probably all agree we want to keep young athletes engaged in sport.

Staying engaged reinforces the values parents and coaches say they want from sports participation. Sports help engrain exercise and nutrition habits that lead to improved health outcomes throughout adulthood. The question is, how can we help kids set and achieve goals in a way that keeps them engaged in sports?

Goal Setting vs. Goal Getting

The amount of control, self-determination, and accountability athletes will change dramatically as they progress from elementary school through high school. To be an effective goal, a young person needs to have sufficient control over the factors necessary to achieve it. This is why Dr. Kraus encourages kids, parents, and coaches to focus on “Goal Getting” instead of “Goal Setting.” Goal Getting is based on what a young athlete can achieve through effort. Goal Setting is based on win/loss types of outcomes. This isn’t an “everybody is a winner, we’re all special” idea. These are real and measurable goals a child can either achieve or fail to achieve, but the achievement or failure is based on the only thing they can really control: their effort.

Consider the following examples:

Goal Setting:
• Win more than half the games this season.
• Win the Championship
• Make the varsity team

Goal Getting:
• Get off the starting blocks faster (skill acquisition)
• Improve vertical leap by four inches this season (power development)
• Encourage a teammate at every practice and game (leadership)

Focus on Competitive Maturity, Not Age

Despite the title of this article, Dr. Kraus encourages parents and coaches to prioritize an athlete’s competitive/training maturity over chronological age. Consider, for example, two 12-year-old baseball players. One has been playing competitive travel baseball for four years, the other just picked up the game this season. They are the same chronological age, but vastly different in terms of competitive maturity. From a goals perspective, the athlete with more experience can thrive with greater and different challenges compared to the more novice athlete.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

In addition to an athlete’s competitive or training maturity, Dr. Kraus encourages parents and coaches to consider the source of an athlete’s motivation when it comes to establishing appropriate goals. Athletes who are motivated by internal, personal achievement have high intrinsic motivation. Athletes motivated by external validation, like social status or prizes, have high extrinsic motivation. Both are important and valuable, but intrinsic motivation is a crucial component for long-term participation and achievement in sport.

If an athlete exhibits high intrinsic motivation early on by prioritizing personal achievement and what success feels like rather than what it looks like, then coaches and parents can help the athlete progress by encouraging the pursuit of extrinsic goals (winning). In contrast, if an athlete exhibits high extrinsic motivation early on by prioritizing winning and elevated status that results from success, then coaches and parents should help the athlete develop intrinsic motivation before reinforcing the athlete’s extrinsic motivation.

Use Language Deliberately

The words parents and coaches use can have a dramatic impact on a young athlete. According to Dr. Kraus, adults tend to be specific with criticism and nebulous with praise. Think about the car ride home after a game. Do you point out specific instances where your young athlete didn’t get to the ball fast enough or a specific time your young athlete wasn’t in the right position on the field? Do you follow that up with nebulous praise for “being aggressive” or “working hard”?

The very specific criticisms paint mental pictures of what went wrong, but nebulous praise doesn’t enable kids to similarly visualize success. It’s important for coaches and parents to be as specific with praise as with criticism. Instead of “you were aggressive,” recall a specific example: “It was great to see you charge for that loose ball and get there first.”

It’s not that you shouldn’t point out areas that need improvement, but rather, that adults need to consider how quickly and specifically we can identify and describe failures, but how important it is to similarly identify and describe achievements.

Apply Consequences and Rewards

In her experience, Dr. Kraus says young athletes tend to impose harsher consequences on themselves for perceived failures compared to the consequences parents and coaches would normally deem reasonable. On the other end of the spectrum, neither young athletes nor their parents and coaches tend to praise effort or achievement to the same extent. In essence, as young athletes, parents, and coaches, we have a bias toward criticism and negative consequences.

To counter the bias toward criticism, coaches and parents should encourage young athletes to establish concrete consequences and rewards related to the effort (not outcomes).

Ask the question: How do you help your team by giving your best effort? This is the basis for the athlete’s reward. If giving your best effort means you are hustling on and off the field the whole game, that’s what gets rewarded with ice cream or more screen time.

Ask the question: How do you hurt your team when you don’t give your best effort? This is the basis for the athlete’s consequence. If giving up early rather than chasing a loose ball, or chastising a teammate for committing a foul, is the example of you not giving your best effort, that’s what you pay a consequence for. That consequence could be not playing video games for a period of time, or waking up early on the weekend to do yard work.

The athlete, peers, and teammates should be the first judges of whether an athlete earned his or her reward or should suffer his or her consequence. Team captains should provide input next. And coaches and parents should be the last people to weigh in. For Roberta Kraus, reducing the pressures to specialize and succeed are the most important and impactful things parents and coaches can do to support young athletes. When you foster a young athlete’s sources of motivation and help them value effort over the outcome, you establish a pathway to personal achievements that don’t depend on a case full of trophies.

Roberta holds two master’s degrees, one in Higher Education from the University of Northern Colorado and one in Sports Psychology from the University of Arizona. Her Ph.D. from the University of Denver is in Communications, specializing in its application to individual and team effectiveness. She played competitive tennis and basketball at Montclair State College earning her a spot as an alternate to the Women’s Olympic Basketball team.

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.

 Teaching Respect for Officials

Teaching Respect for Officials

7 Steps to teaching youth athletes to respect umpires and officials

Most people recognize being an umpire, official, or referee is a difficult (and often thankless) job. Yet ironically, many youth sport parents, coaches, and athletes insist on making this job even harder by shouting ridicule and criticism the referee’s way. While fans empathize with an athlete who makes a mistake, referees (who are sometimes not much older than the athletes) are more likely to be condemned, demeaned, and chastised. Teaching respect for referees doesn’t necessarily mean encouraging blind obedience, but rather, how to self-advocate, take responsibility for your own actions, and overcome adversity.

A Crisis of Disrespect

It’s probably no coincidence that as society’s win-at-all-costs attitude has increased, youth sports organizations are facing a severe referee shortage.

While incidences of violence against referees were extremely rare, they are now occurring more frequently: in 2013, a Utah youth soccer referee died after being punched in the head by a player upset about being called for a foul. A few years later, two high school football players in Texas received national attention when they blindsided a referee during a game. While those tragic incidences represent the extreme, young athletes can see professional athletes and coaches verbally confronting officials on television almost every night.

Even at the youth sports level, it isn’t difficult to find instances of players, coaches, and parents verbally abusing officials. If we’re being honest, most parents have probably – even unintentionally – let a “You’ve got to be kidding me, Blue” come out of their mouths. The ease with which these comments emerge makes it more important to increase awareness about how parents, coaches, and athletes treat officials.

The 7 Lessons for Umpire Respect

Like with sportsmanship and teamwork, umpire respect is an important value that needs to be specifically taught to athletes, parents, and coaches. However, even though there are officials at every game, there is virtually never a direct conversation about the expectations for respecting officials.

Teaching respect for umpires doesn’t have to be hard, hokey, or time-consuming, as long as you can remember the seven lessons for umpire respect:


No matter how experienced or knowledgeable an athlete or parent is, it’s important to remember officials have specific training in the rules of the game, how to observe the game, and how to make difficult calls. They are also often in a better position to see the play, especially compared to parents on the sidelines or in the stands. If you’re still convinced you can do a better job, leagues are always hiring.


There are many aspects of sports that are unpredictable and out of a player’s control. However, there are some things an athlete can control. Players, spectators, and coaches can’t control officiating, but if players are overly focused on how the officials are calling the game, they are likely less focused on playing the game to the best of their abilities. Similarly, coaches should advocate for their team, but focus more on instructing and guiding players than haranguing umpires. For parents in the stands, you could spend your time focused on the umpire, or spend that time focused on watching and encouraging your young athletes to do their best with the one thing they can control: their own performance.


One of the ways coaches can model respect for officials is to make an effort to personally greet officials before the game, just as you would the coach of the opposing team. And while it may not be practical for every player to greet the officials, encourage captains at the pre-game meeting or coin flip to introduce themselves to the officials. These efforts help turn nameless, faceless referees into people, particularly people to be respected, in the eyes of young players.


Officials do their best to call games objectively, but they are still human. On a tough call that could go either way, an umpire may be more likely to rule in favor of a team whose players (and coaches) have been respectful and focused on fair play throughout the game. It’s a natural bias to reward favorable behavior and the people who have treated them respectfully.


For parents and coaches, it’s important to think about what yelling at officials teaches young athletes. Youth sport advocacy organization, Play by the Rules, has outlined several different ways yelling at umpires hurts kids by communicating to them that:
Mistakes are not acceptable.
There’s no need to take accountability for your own performance when you can blame others.
It’s acceptable to disrespect an authority figure whenever you disagree with their decision.
Even though it’s rude, disruptive, and distracting to others, yelling is acceptable behavior.


Having athletes and parents try officiating during scrimmages at practices is a great way of illustrating the difficulties umpires face. It’s the old “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” lesson, but it’s effective for helping parents and athletes be more empathetic toward officials.


No missed call during a youth sports game is going to make or break an athlete’s career. Youth sports are an environment for learning about and falling in love with sports, not heaping pressure on athletes, coaches, and officials. And in the off-chance a player, coach, or parent makes a mistake and is disrespectful to an official during the game, make an effort to resolve the conflict after the game with a face-to-face conversation with the umpire. This helps illustrate to young athletes that after a conflict with another person it is important to take responsibility for your actions and make amends with the other person.

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.