Leveling the Playing Field: Combating Non-sense words in Youth Sports

flaxenink
3 min readOct 21, 2023
A background with different sports balls and a medal in the middle

In the world of youth sports, combating can arise, leaving young athletes feeling excluded and discouraged. As parents and coaches, it’s our responsibility to address this behavior and teach empathy. How can we instill these values and end such acts? It's our duty to nip cruelty in the bud - a seed that can grow into adult behavior.

It’s not acceptable for any youth-athlete to tell another that they don’t belong.

Every player has a place on the field, regardless of their skill level. As a parent, this may not be our child, but having been a coach in the past, it’s a situation that still stirs the frustration. So, what guidance can we offer to future coaches and parents? Sometimes, coaches inadvertently contribute by favoring star players and benching the rest. While we understand the dilemma, it’s essential to strike a balance — opportunities should be earned, but every player deserves a chance to grow.

I, too, was one of those players. I wasn’t among the top six, but I held the crucial seventh position, often sent in to change the momentum of the game. I understood my role well. I showed up for practice, putting in that extra effort. Some coaches noticed, while others didn’t — that’s just the way life goes. But I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s those experiences that shaped me into who I am today.

My hope is that when I coach youth sports, I can inspire our young athletes to create lasting memories and build their confidence. I want them to carry that confidence into the real world. What I can’t support is parents or other coaches instilling habits that won’t guide these young athletes in the right direction. I believe young athletes should discover what they love and where their skills shine. At the core of it all, they need to learn to be kind to each other.

The essence of the game is to remind young athletes to be themselves and perform at their best while playing. It’s easy to forget that they should also respect the game itself. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who made a particular play or how many points were scored.

What truly matters is whether they are in tune with their own behavior.

Are they supporting their team, offering high-fives, and embodying good sportsmanship?

Sports is a profoundly mental game, and athletes need to be fully present, “in the game,” focusing on their own actions and how they conduct themselves. Their personal behavior and attitude can significantly impact their performance and the overall experience.

This principle extends to the entire team, not just during the game, but also when they represent themselves in public. When you’re out there, you’re in the spotlight, and all eyes are on you. It’s disheartening to hear stories of young athletes being pleasant when parents are around, but exhibiting different behavior when no authority figure is present.

After reading this article, what really hits home is how crucial it is to boost the self-confidence of young athletes. Even though we all agree that being negative is a no-go, having a strong sense of self-worth can help shield these young ones from it. Understanding what negativity is and how to beat it becomes a big part of their journey. This mindset doesn’t just help in sports but also sets them up for life as grown-ups.

Respect should be the name of the game in how we treat each other nowadays. You never know, that kid you put down might just be the one who gives you a hand when you need it. People remember these things, and I certainly do.

For parents and coaches, remember that these kids are, well, just kids. They’re still learning and growing, not just as athletes, but as people. So, they deserve more than a simple “good job” or a “what’s wrong with you.” They need encouragement and some solid guidance to help them develop, both in mind and body.

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