ParentClick Santa Barbara

Sports Etiquette for Coaches


Sportsmanship… It’s what makes a good athlete great!

I have 3 kids in sports and I love watching their games and I admire their discipline and commitment to their teams. And as much as I love to see them win, what I truly respect is when I see them lose and show good sportsmanship. I know in ten years, their wins and losses will be a distant memory but the lessons they learn along the way will follow them into adulthood. Parents and coaches need to set the example from the sidelines.

When youth play sports, they are asked to respect their coaches and listen to everything they say. When they get to the Club/All Star level, they spend more hours with their coaches than they do with their parents. As a result, they are influenced by their coaches which can be both good and bad.

Players and parents are asked to sign a code of conduct but are coaches being held to the same standards? This was posted last year on Facebook by a local parent…

Nothing says sportsmanship in Club like 4 red cards, one fistfight on the field, an early called game, and the other teams’ angry coach who punched one of our parents in the face, a group fight that followed, and a police siren in the background after another parent called 911. When parents have to stand in a line to protect our players from an oncoming rush of fighters, something’s gone very wrong.

There are a lot of interesting articles about coaches behavior on and off the field and their influence on their youth athletes. There are also standards but after talking to parents in many sports, it does not appear all coaches are held accountable and often it becomes more about winning than about what is being modeled for the players.

Coaches Code of Ethics from the National Federation of State High School Associations…

The function of a coach is to educate students through participation in interscholastic competition. An interscholastic program should be designed to enhance academic achievement and should never interfere with opportunities for academic success. Each player​ ​should be treated with the utmost respect, and his or her welfare should be considered in decisions by the coach at all times. Accordingly, the following guidelines for coaches have been adopted by the NFHS Board of Directors…

The coach shall be aware that he or she has a tremendous influence, for either good or ill, on the education of the student and, thus, shall never place the value of winning above the value of instilling the highest ideals of character. The coach shall uphold the honor and dignity of the profession. In all personal contact with students, officials, athletic directors, school administrators, the state high school athletic association, the media, and the public, the coach shall strive to set an example of the highest ethical and moral conduct. The coach shall respect and support contest officials. The coach shall not indulge in conduct which would incite players or spectators against the officials. Public criticism of officials or players is unethical.

And from the National Youth Sports Coaches Association…
  • I will place the emotional and physical well being of my players ahead of a personal desire to win.
  • I will treat each player as an individual, remembering the large range of emotional and physical development for the same age group.
  • I will do my best to provide a safe playing situation for my players.
  • I promise to review and practice basic first aid principles needed to treat injuries of my players.
  • I will do my best to organize practices that are fun and challenging for all my players.
  • I will lead by example in demonstrating fair play and sportsmanship to all my players.
  • I will not cheat or engage in any form of unethical behavior that violates league rules.
  • I will provide a sports environment for my team that is free of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, and I will refrain from their use at all youth sports events.
  • I will be knowledgeable in the rules of each sport that I coach, and I will teach these rules to my players.
  • I will use those coaching techniques appropriate for all of the skills that I teach.
  • I will remember that I am a youth sports coach, and that the game is for children and not adults.

I was personally reassured last night when my daughter’s high school coach told the players, “you are student athletes which means student first, athlete second”. He made it clear that their academics needed to be their first priority.

Sports can have an incredible impact on children and for some be life changing. But coaches and parents have a responsibility to make sure that players are also taught to respect teammates, officials, the other team and that their behavior is just as important as winning the game. Winning can feel great in the moment but the sportsmanship they learn through playing will last them a lifetime.

When you see coaches modeling sportsmanship, remember to acknowledge the positive impact they are making on your child.


Is the WIN more important or is teaching your child SPORTSMANSHIP?

Share your priorities when it comes to sports and your children.


February 15, 2015

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  1. Claire Fackler says:

    Sportsmanship is essential and I agree with the author that wins and loses will soon fade away, but the life lessons you learn along the way and how you respond to them will last a lifetime!

  2. Norma says:

    Sportsmanship is top priority in any sport. Winning is fun but the character our children build by learning good sportsmanship in invaluable. I have three children who participate in multiple sports track, dance, football, swimming, basketball and tennis. We’ve witnessed first hand what good and bad sportsmanship is and we take every opportunity to teach our children how to behave on the field because it carries off the field as well. Yes, we love when our team wins but the fun our children have participating knowing that we are proud no matter whether they win or lose is what matters.