The Responsibility of the Parent in Youth Sports

A recent online poll conducted by Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine found that 64 percent of young athletes said they would rather play on a losing team for a coach whom they liked than to play for a winning team with a coach who they didn’t like. Most parents would never guess this about their kids. In fact, many would say, “Oh, he or she is just saying that – they don’t mean it.”

The truth is there are a number of things that parents do not realize when it comes to being a youth sports mom or dad. I highly recommend that youth sports coaches develop a code of conduct/ethics for your parents to sign prior to the season. Over-communicate your expectations and hold each parent or guardian accountable for their actions all season long.

Let me offer a few do’s and don’ts for your parents. First of all, a parent should not yell instruction, advice, or coaching tips to their child during the game. This will distract the child from the game or coach’s instruction, and honestly it is just embarrassing. Secondly, parents should be careful to avoid speaking negatively of another player on your team to anyone in the stands. You never know when the parents of the child you are talking about are within hearing distance and besides it it just plain tacky. In addition, they should never question your coaching strategies or decision-making in public. They should support you as coach and if you have a question or concern address it with you in private. Finally, a parent should never verbally abuse an umpire, referee, or other league volunteers or staff. Now for the do’s. Always be willing to cheer for a good play, no matter which team makes it. Always accept a win with humility and always accept a defeat with respect and sportsmanship.

When youth sports are done right the parents and young people follow the lead of a quality coach. That is why it is important at any level to have a parent meeting prior to the season to communicate your coaching philosophy, priorities, and most importantly your expectations for the parents. Be a leader that others are willing to follow. Focus on skills and character and remind the parents that character building is not solely your responsibility. Emphasize that you consider it a privilege to join them in helping their son or daughter develop skills essential to the sport and character lessons essential to life.


The Bill of Rights for Young Athletes
August 19, 2008, 3:43 pm
Filed under: children's sports, coaching, Coaching Youth Sports, parenting, youth sports

According to the Institute of Youth Sports at Michigan State, close to 75 percent of all kids who play organized sports stop playing sports entirely by the time they turn thirteen. In their fantastic book, How to Win at Sports Parenting, Jim and Janet Sundberg list the main reasons that young athletes give as their reasons for not continuing their sports journey. The list includes everything from loss of interest and too big of a time commitment to an experience with a bad coach or too much pressure from coach and family. The bottom line: It just was not fun anymore.

Youth Sports Parents are often guilty of living vicariously through their children or putting too much pressure on their children either from the bleachers or the sidelines. It is about time that young people had certain rights that guard their sports experience. What could keep a parent from deciding a child should specialize in one sport beginning in the 3rd grade? What rights should a young athlete have that parents and coaches need to consider as they seek to help their child to have a positive experience playing sports. That is why I am thankful that the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. They released the following statement that youth sports coaches and parents need to remember. They call it the Bill of Rights for Young Athletes. Check it out:

  • The right to participate in sports.
  • The right to participate at a level commensurate with each child’s developmental level.
  • The right to have qualified adult leadership.
  • The right to participate in safe and healthy environments.
  • The right of children to share in the leadership and decision-making of their sport participation.
  • The right to play as a child and not as an adult.
  • The right to proper preparation for participation in sports.
  • The right to an equal opportunity to strive for success.
  • The right to be treated with dignity.
  • The right to have fun in sports.
  • According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control, kids today are six times more likely to play a video game than engage in an outdoor activity/sport. This is not just an self esteem or emotional health issue – this is a physical health issue. Sports develop the mind, body, and soul. We cannot overlook the importance of youth sports in the lives of young people and we should not overlook the responsibility that parents and coaches have in this arena. If you are reading this blog post, accept the challenge to be a catalyst for change if you see any of these patterns in your child’s youth sports experience. It is all about the kids. It really is all about the kids.

    Sports Outreach: Reflecting Christ Through Sports

    One of the most read posts on the SportsPastor blog consistently has been my commentary on coach Tony Dungy.

    “There is just something different about him.” “He has different priorities than other people of his profession.” “You just sense a certain presence about him when you are around him.” What do all of these statements have in common? They are all statements made by sports writers in an attempt to describe what they perceive as positive character traits of Tony Dungy, head coach of the World Champion Indianapolis Colts. Tony Kornheiser, Billy Packer and others have recently made the comments above. They can almost put their finger on the fact that Tony Dungy is different because he is a sold out believer in Jesus Christ. It is obvious that the Spirit of God is in him. What a tremendous witness! In the last two seasons he has gone through the most horrific experience of losing his son to suicide and the most exciting moment in sports as victors of the Super Bowl. His response to trials and triumphs should be an example to us all that Christ can be seen in our highs and in our lows. I pray that all of us would have an opportunity for people to say of our witness, “There is just something different about them.”

    Over a year later I write this post with tears in my eyes. It actually happened to me. A humbling experience. An honor that in some small way I was able to represent and reflect Christ with my life. Here is how it happened:

    I coach a 4th grade basketball team out of my love for Christ, children, and sports. I normally coach in Christian leagues, but this year I had the opportunity to coach in a select city league. My two-fold goal is to help the kids build skills and character. I look at every moment as a teaching moment. I have learned how to strike a fine balance between fun and fundamentals in practice. I also strive for them to do their best at every game, even if that looks different on any given Saturday.

    Now that the season is over I can only glance at the trophy that represents an undefeated championship season and great memories for every child and their families. But I have a memory from this season that I will never forget. It was relayed to me by my friend and fellow coach that the alcoholic, unchurched father of our star player had pulled him aside after the championship game and said, “I sure like Derrek. He gives everything he has to make sure that the team is safe and successful, but there is something more… There is just something different about him. What is it?”, he asked. My friend and fellow coach replied, “He loves Jesus and it shows.”

    George Barna has said in many of his books on the unchurched that, “Many people remain unchurched because they have looked us (Christians) and do not especially like what they see.”

    Barna continues – “When God becomes the true priority in our lives, and when we imitate the heart of Christ and live in the power of the indwelling Spirit, what we represent will be irresistible.”

    Share the Gospel Using Sports Illustrations

    Stonebriar Community Church’s Baseball/Softball Camp was this week and I knew today was the day that the gospel would be presented. I could not wait for the Sports Outreach Director to give me a call. I was the first person he called to tell me all about the exciting events of the day.

    First of all, he began the camp day focused on explaining to the campers the concept of sacrifice. As a captivating illustration he told the story of the college softball player who hit a home run recently and tore her ACL while running the bases. The only way for her to get credit for the first home run of her career was for the players on the other team to sacrifice what ended up being their postseason hopes to help the other team score runs by carrying the injured player around the bases lowering her just enough to touch the base until they all reached home.

    As Coach C was telling the story two coaches carried a college student around the bases allowing him to touch each base for what was a creative and amazing way to communicate sacrifice. Coach C knew that he would later in the day refer back to that illustration when he spoke of the gospel, the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    When it was time to communicate the gospel to the campers, Coach C continued Continue reading

    Church DNA Essential # 2 — LIVE

    The rock band, NeedtoBreathe, in the their song “Signature of Divine” have crafted a poetic lyric that has captured my heart and my iPod for the past few days:

    “Cathedrals have tried in vain to show the image of your face. We are by your design, signature of divine…”

    We are created in the image of God. We are witnesses. We are representatives of the risen Lord. Simply check out the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

    The second DNA element that I believe is essential to the church is the charge to not only share the Good News, but to LIVE a life that reflects the nature of our God and character of our Savior.

    Sports are a relational means for ministry to occur. The ministry is not only in the hands of the coaches as they work with the children. Ministry happens in the bleachers, as well. The lives of Christians and Non-Christians naturally intersect on the sidelines of a youth sports game or practice. What a tremendous opportunity to build relationships with families that need to see Jesus in you. You are a “signature of divine” to each person you meet. Shine your light! LIVE the Gospel and pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and/or invite people to church. Do what many relevant churches are calling invest and invite. Invest in the lives of the people in your “sports life” sphere of influence and invite them to your church.

    As a church leader, make sure your flock understand that the Christian Life is not a Sunday routine, rather a 24/7 calling. We must LIVE as “Signature of (the) Divine”.

    2007 Summer Basketball Camp

    The tag line for our ministry is: “Building Skills. Building Character.” I can say without a doubt that the 125 boys and girls that attended our 2007 Summer Basketball Camp learned skills specific to the sport and character lessons essential to life. Our character lessons for the Monday – Friday camp were on teamwork, excellence, discipline, sacrifice, and of course, character. The fundamental skills of passing, dribbling, shooting, defense, rebounding, and free-throws were taught by our coaches on Monday-Thursday and Friday was competition day. Every day the campers had the opportunity to participate in scrimmages and chalk talks.

    There were special events that highlighted each camp day. On Monday, we had a basketball trivia contest where kids had the opportunity to win prizes. On Tuesday, we had the former Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, and Dallas Burn professional sports teams work with the campers. On Wednesday, the coaches played a full court game representing the Texas Longhorns and the Texas Aggies. Believe it or not, the Aggies won! And on Friday, Mavs Man, the high-flying mascot of the Dallas Mavericks closed the camp with a slam-dunk show.

    What about Thursday? Well, it was the highlight of the entire week. Coach C presented the Gospel to the campers and 20 boys and girls responded to the message by trusting Christ as their Lord and Savior. Of the 20 young people, only 5 were from our church. This is a testament to the effeciveness of sports outreach ministry as a means of reaching your community for Christ. Cast the vision of outreach and evangelism and you will have no problem motivating people to join you in ministry. We were blessed with a wonderful camp director, rotation director, coaching staff, and group leaders. Without the help of these 23 volunteers and the volunteers that worked behind the scenes, a camp of this magnitude would not have been possible. Thank you to everyone for making the 2007 Basketball Summer Camp one of the best camps ever!

    2007 Summer Football Camp

    “I love the principles that you are teaching the children in addition to just football skills. My son comes home every night repeating exactly what the coaches are teaching.”
    –Football Camp, Unchurched Dad

    Week in Review:
    Wednesday – Rain kept us inside at the local community college gymnasium, but we made the most of the first day and did more instruction and agility work than a normal camp day. Parents appreciated the fact that we had created a weather hotline that we gave the parents the number to call and we updated it each morning at 6am with the camp location based upon the weather. Fortunately, Wednesday would be our only day inside.

    Thursday – Dallas Cowboy greats, Darren Woodson and Roy Williams, made a special guest appearance to talk to the campers about football and character. Each athlete shared his testimony and commitment to living out his faith even though so many NFL players choose not to do so. The kids asked some great questions. My favorite being: When did you start playing football? Roy Williams answered that he was 5 years old and found a life preserver and used it as shoulder pads and begin to tackle everything in his path, including furniture and family.

    Friday – My favorite day because we had an opportunity to speak to the group about what it means to be a Christian Athlete. We presented the Good News that God loves them so much that he sent His only Son to die on the cross so that they may be forgiven if they believe in Jesus Christ. Eleven boys, ages 8-13, responded to the message and trusted Christ for their salvation. Praise the Lord!

    Saturday – All of the parents were invited to watch their child compete and scrimmage on this final day. We had volunteers from our church ready to hand our frozen lemonade to the families and provide for them a warm welcome. Over half of these families are not from our church. What a tremendous opportunity we have had to impact our commmunity for Christ, through sports. We were blessed with good weather despite uncertain forecasts. We were blessed to have access to the nicest fields in town. And finally, we were blessed with a coaching staff, camp director, and camp volunteers that love the Lord, love the game of football, and loved having the opportunity to encourage and teach the children how to build skills and build character!