Behavior Checklist (Part 3 of 3)

By Dr. Darrell Burnett

I maintain a “Fun is #1” attitude, with lots of laughter and a sense of humor.

Fun is the major motivator for kids in sports. In survey after survey, whenever youngsters are asked why they play sports, the number one reason is always the same – to have fun. Winning is on the list but it is last on the list. Kids like to compete, but it’s the fun of competing, the excitement of competing, not just the winning.

Research shows that kids learn better when they’re having fun. The effective coach is the coach who learns what fun is for the kids by getting into their shoes and seeing the world from their point of view, the world of fun. The effective coach knows that fun; laughter and humour are second nature to kids.

I emphasize teamwork and help kids think “we” instead of “me.”

One of the major cornerstones of self-esteem is developing a sense of belonging. We’re social animals and we need to feel as though we belong to a group. Youth sports offer an automatic sense of belonging (team name, team uniforms, team photos, team picnics, etc.) However, a coach plays a central role in making the “team” concept become a reality. The coach makes sure that all kids on the team get recognized, not just the “stars.” The coach does not allow teammates to criticize each other. The coach encourages parents to notice and compliment all the players on the team, not just their own kids, and not just the “stars.”

I am a role model of good sportsmanship.

In an age where sportsmanship is struggling to survive in professional, college and often in high school sports, the youth sports coach is the key role model of good sportsmanship. Youngsters are looking to the coach to show them the way in the three areas of sportsmanship; 1) winning without gloating, 2) losing without complaining and 3) treating opponents and officials with fairness, generosity and courtesy.

The task of the positive coach is to teach youngsters to be in control of their emotions throughout the competitive contest and afterward in their interactions with opponents and officials.

A final note.
As coaches we are human beings, not robots. In spite of the best intentions we may all have our bad days. Hopefully, using the items on the behavior checklist as guidelines, we will stay on task throughout the season, working toward our goal of offering positive coach support, doing our part to make each season a success where youngsters decide to come back next year and to stay involved in youth sports during their formative years.

Full Checklist (Print and save):

  • I praise kids just for participating.
  • I look for positives, and make a big deal out of them.
  • I stay calm when my kids make mistakes, helping them learn from their mistakes.
  • I have reasonable and realistic expectation.
  • I treat my kids with respect, avoiding put-downs, sarcasm, and ridicule.
  • I remind my kids not to get down on themselves.
  • I remember not to take myself too seriously during the game.
  • I maintain a Fun is #1 attitude, with lots of laughter and sense of humour.
  • I emphasize teamwork, and help my kids think “we” instead of “me.”
  • I am a role model of good sportsmanship:

(a) Winning without gloating

(b) Losing without complaining

(c)Treating opponents and officials with fairness, generosity, & courtesy.

Dr. Darrell Burnett is a clinical psychologist and a certified sports psychologist specializing in youth sports. He has been in private practice for 25+ years in Laguna Niguel, California. His book, IT’S JUST A GAME! (Youth, Sports, & Self Esteem: A Guide for Parents), is described at his website,, along with his other books, booklets and CDs on youth sports and family life.

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