Do you know your role?

All this can be yours, if…the sportsmanship is right!

In over three years and 500+ posts, I have often referred to the “Know Your Role” concept. Most negative issues in youth sports would be avoided if we would all learn and remain in our respective roles. Coaches coach. Athletes play. Refs keep order. Fans cheer. The idea of knowing your role is simple and seems easy to follow. On the other hand, simple concepts are seldom easy to execute. For example, to win the gold medal in the Olympic 100 meters, all you have to do is run faster than Usain Bolt. Pretty simple task, huh? Well, good luck with that.

There’s a similar difficulty in maintaining our roles in youth sports. As fans (parents especially), we can’t help but yell instructions to our kids at the same time the coaches are tyring to talk to them. We don’t see it as disrespecting the coach or embarrassing our kids. We’re just trying to help. Besides, we tell our kids what to do most of the time anyway. The coach should know how to deal with it. Balderdash! We relinquish control of our kids everyday to trusted adults. When you have an issue with your child’s teacher, you don’t walk into their classroom and yell, “Mr. Alexander doesn’t know what he’s doing! Here’s the correct way to write an equation in Slope-Intercept form.”

You arrange to meet with the teacher privately. The two of you may talk one-on-one or you may include the principal or other school administrator. You would never dream of undermining the teacher’s authority in front of the kids. So, why do we do it on the athletic field? If your kid isn’t on the school’s Honor Roll, do you storm into the Principal’s office and accuse him or her of favoritism? Nope, you go home and encourage your child to do better. Again, why not do that on the athletic field? Don’t worry. There is a path to knowing your role and improving the sports experience for your kids. Take the self-test below and see how you stack up.

Do you know your role?

  • I realize there are only four roles in sport – player, coach, official or fan – and I pick one and respect the others.
  • I understand that my child is the participant, not me, and my expectations are based on my child’s needs, not mine.
  • I avoid “coaching” from the stands and I also avoid criticizing officials, coaches and opposing players.
  • I seek to be a positive and encouraging fan – applauding good plays for both teams.
  • If I coach my child’s team, I seek to model appropriate behavior and sportsmanship.

This is a a self-assessment, but the real test will come at your child’s game. If all five statements describe you, then congratulations! You are contributing to a more enriching sports eperience for kids. Conversely, if some of these statements describe behaviors you need to aspire to, then you know what has to be done. The self-test appears in the booklet Through a Child’s Eyes…A Parents’ Guide to Improving Youth Sports. It’s available to your organization for free through the Sportsmanship Initiative’s Team Players Program. Just click here to sign up. Your kids, your league and your community will thank you for it. Until next time…

Be a Good Sport!



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