Youth sports are a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy and be involved in. It gives the children a chance to play and be like their favorite sports hero, and it gives their parents and siblings a chance to cheer them on from the sidelines.
I know when I was a kid I always wanted to be on the Reds so I could be like my hero Johnny Bench (even though I played right field instead of catcher). Today’s boys are more likely to want to be like David Ortiz or Bryce Harper.
In any case, the point is that children’s sports leagues are for the benefit of the children, not the adults who are running the league, the coaches or the spectators.
As such, it’s a good thing to keep in mind a basic code of conduct to help govern our behavior while we are at the ball field.
1. Coach's Code of Conduct
The coach is in a unique position; it is he (or she) who commands the attention of the boys and girls who it is their privilege to coach.
Children need an example to emulate and as a coach, it is up to you to decide whether that is going to be a good example or a bad one.
Most of these rules are just second nature to most people who genuinely care about young people, but it’s good to have them to refer to.
- Set a good example – Children need a coach that they can respect and learn from. A coach who sets a bad example by berating his players or arguing with the refs, for example, ends up teaching his players that that kind of behavior is acceptable and could lead to those children having problems relating to others as they grow older.
- Have fun – Take measures to ensure that your players' baseball experience is one of fun and enjoyment. Players should never be ridiculed or yelled at for making mistakes or losing a game.
- Be generous with your praise – Sometimes it’s hard, especially after a tough loss, not to find fault with something your players did, or failed to do. It’s important, however, to find something positive to say about your players after every game.
- Be reasonable – A young player’s time, energy, enthusiasm, and performance both in practice and game situations is limited by his maturity level. Be mindful of that.
- Play fair – Impress on your players the need to abide by the rules of the game at all times.
- Develop respect – That goes for the opponents, the opposing coaches, and the umpires.
- Stay informed – Learn as much as you can about sound coaching principles and the growth and development of young children.
- Use the Parents – Enlist the support of your team's parents in your efforts to instill the proper attitudes and values in the players.
2. Parents’ Code of Conduct
The behavior of parents and spectators at games toward their own child, the opposing team, the officials, and coaches go a long way towards influencing the child's values and behavior in the game. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the game and the thrill of competition, but too often that translates into poor sportsmanship, and occasionally violence. I have been present on more than one occasion where police have actually had to step in to break up a dispute that has gotten out-of-hand. Things should never get that far. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Exercise proper respect – As true for spectators as it is for coaches, disrespect and criticism of coaches, officials and opponents undermine the purpose of sport and puts undue stress on the competitors. Coaches and league officials are volunteers giving of personal time and often money to provide a recreational activity for your child. They provide a valuable community service, often without reward other than the personal satisfaction of having served the community.
- Keep it fun - Attempt to relieve the pressure of competition, not increase it. A child is more prone to be negatively affected by outside influences.
- Be a good sport – The opposition are friends, not enemies. Without them your child could not participate.
- Be a good fan – Applaud good play by your team and by the opposing team; never ridicule or criticize the play of any player on the field. Parents and spectators should encourage the child to accept the results of each game and to be gracious and humble in victory, and proud in defeat, working towards further personal improvement to experience the fun and satisfaction in developing personal skill and ability.
- Avoid conflict – Unfortunately, you will occasionally run across other spectators, and occasionally coaches, who are looking for a confrontation. If that happens to you, the best course of action is to simply walk away and refuse to engage the other person. If the person continues to pursue you and/or becomes aggressive, seek out a league official or law enforcement personnel to ensure that the situation does not escalate.
Always keep in mind that the purpose of youth athletic programs is to create a safe and structured environment for healthy activity, provide an outlet for youthful pent up energy and teach children important lessons that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Your own attitude and conduct will greatly influence the quality of that experience. Anything that fall outside of those goals, or runs counter to them, has no place in youth leagues.
How About You?
Are there any code of conduct rules that I have forgotten to add? Have you ever been confronted by spectator or coach and how did you handle it?