Who’s coaching your children?

In the wake of the disturbing Penn State/Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, we find it more important than ever to ask: Who is coaching our children?


How much do you know about your child’s coach? The Center for Ethical Youth Coaching (CEYC) is dedicated to promoting standardized, ethical coaching principles in youth sports to create a fun, rewarding and safe environment for youth athletes.

She Knows asked CEYC Vice President Dr. John Mayer what parents should look for in youth coaches.

What credentials are required of youth coaches?

To require credentials for youth coaches is rare. Coaches employed by schools may be required to meet the standards set forth for teachers, but these standards aren’t specific to the demands of sports or athletes. Areas of the country vary widely on what they do not require of the adults who coach our children.

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What should youth coaches be required to know?

Coaches should know how to balance the demands of competition with developing critical life skills. Coaches who adopt an unethical “win at all costs” mentality do not promote the benefits of sports.

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What does a good youth coach promote…?

  • Ethics. Every human being should be treated ethically, respectfully, honestly, fairly, non-abusively and safely.
  • Safety. Sports always involve the potential of harm through the nature of the sport or through accidents. Small mishaps can lead to bigger physical maladies if coaches are not familiar with safety and first aid.
  • Good communication. Miscommunication can place a youth in danger and create emotional hardship. I was once called into a case in which a child made a serious suicide attempt because the coach didn’t say hello before practice.
  • Sportsmanship. Sports help build character, develop great social skills and promote citizenship. Good coaches encourage players to treat opponents the way they themselves would like to be treated.
  • Healthy lifestyle. Sports encourage young people to embrace lifelong physical activity, good diet and a substance-free lifestyle. When bad coaches make sports a turnoff, kids may instead turn to negative ways — such as drugs — to cope with life.
  • Discipline. The rules and structure of sports give young people a sense of internal and external discipline to self-motivated self-starters with a strong work ethic.

A good coach also knows how to handle special player situations, such as cultural differences, lack of discipline, bullying and teasing, child abuse, substance abuse and physical aggression. Unless a coach is equipped with appropriate tools to handle such situations, young people can be seriously harmed.

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How might standardized coaching certification help?

Ethical coaching standards may have prevented a youth football coach in Florida from attacking a referee after a bad call or a teacher in Illinois changing the grades of over 200 players so they could participate in the sport her husband coached. The standards may also stop these unethical practices:

  • The win-at-all-costs coach who plays an injured player without regard to the child’s future
  • Politics that result in kids not playing because the coach has favors to fulfill
  • Hazing/teasing/bullying of players
  • Overly aggressive techniques such as abusive language or physically harmful training

Youth coaches need guidance necessary to create a more positive ethical environment in youth sports that has a lasting impact for youth athletes both on and off the field.

More on youth sports

Girls need sports, too!
5 Tips for raising active kids
Video: How to decorate a sports-themed room


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