Player Code of Conduct

Player Code of Conduct

My daughters rarely received a formal Player Code of Conduct that they had to read over and sign for the sports teams that they played on. I like a formal players’ contract to put everyone on the same page at the start of a new season. Without a formal list of rules, the players have to figure out by what the coach’s rules of conduct are, and the unspoken rules of behavior can take longer to figure out (e.g. are we here to win or have fun?).

Player Code of Conduct

 Player Code of Conduct

Champions make those around them better.

At the start of the season, go over the player code of conduct and then have each player sign that they understand and commit to this. This is a great opportunity to set the tone of the team: teamwork, having fun, mutual respect.

  • Have fun!
  • Show courtesy and respect to all coaches, players, opponents, officials, parents, and fans.
  • Attend every practice and game that you can, and notify the coach if you can’t make it.
  • Be supportive of teammates.

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Building Team Chemistry

Building Team Chemistry

My oldest daughter played volleyball, and her team would huddle after every point, win or lose. It looked like a very positive thing, girls huddled up hugging each other. Sometimes it wasn’t though. A player in the huddle might assign blame for a lost point, demoralizing the group. Since the coach is not part of the team huddle, the team culture would reveal itself in these moments, good or bad. While the coach can’t control what happens in the huddle, it’s an extension of the team culture that was created during practices. It’s a little like baking bread; you get all the right ingredients at the right temperature. If you do all the right things and create the right environment, the bread rises on its own.

Building Team Chemistry

One my daughter’s teammates was invited to attend a national training camp. The coach told the players to kick the ball around in small groups before practice started. She approached a group and asked if she could join. A girl asked if she had been to this camp before.

“No, this is my first time,” she replied.

“This group is only for girls who have been to camp multiple times.” Continue reading “Building Team Chemistry”

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

I remember the first time my daughter got cut from the new club soccer team they started in our town when she was in fourth grade. All her friends made the team, but she made alternate, which meant she could practice with team, but wouldn’t play in games. That wasn’t going to work for her; she wouldn’t thrive on a team that made her feel inferior.

It was the first time I saw her heart break and it was hard for me as a parent. Her town coach was also the new club team coach, and when we declined the alternate spot to take a spot on different club soccer team, he called. He was upset to know that my daughter was heartbroken so he offered to talk to her. They talked and she said, “You don’t think I’m a good player.”

 Her brave statement would serve to motivate her in the future and also demonstrate that her self-worth wasn’t affected. She didn’t think she wasn’t good enough to make the team. She thought the coach made a mistake in not picking her.

Growth mindset is exactly that: it’s not genetics that makes a good player, it’s hard work. And she this setback motivated her to put in the work over the next few years to improve. She went on to practice seven days a week until she finally made the top team of her club team.  

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

Teaching Growth Mindset Through Sports

Growth Mindset in sports focuses on development rather than outcomes.

Fixed Mindset versus Growth Mindset

Research on Growth Mindset found that the kind of feedback teachers give results in kids either seeking out challenges or taking the easy way out. Feedback telling kids that they are smart encourages a Fixed Mindset, whereas praising hard work and effort fosters a Growth Mindset. When kids have a Growth Mindset, they take on challenges. This in turn, increases their abilities and achievement.

Applying Growth Mindset is simple; don’t praise ability or talent, praise hard work and effort. This mindset can be easily applied in sports and supports a development philosophy versus one focused on winning. For example, in a post-game meeting, it’s easy to recognize the girl who scored the winning goal. But if this was a lazy goal, praise instead the players who worked hard at practice to move the ball from the back, and demonstrated this skill during the game, thus creating the opportunity for the goal.

It’s easier said than done. As a coach, the mentality has to move from Winning to Development, both at practices and during games. It means that the focus is not on outcomes like game results, but on effort during practice.

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Player Feedback and Evaluations

Not all coaches give player evaluations I’ve noticed. My middle daughter received formal player evaluations when she played soccer, starting when she was in middle school. Both her town team coach and her club team coach gave written reviews, but with different frequencies. Her town team coach gave weekly performance evaluations after every game. Not her teammates liked getting graded weekly, but I thought it was great. Her club team coach gave written evaluations twice a year at the end of each season, but also did a face-to-face meeting to go over the form. I’ve saved all these forms and it’s fun to look back on them to see what she was working on, and her progress that year. In any format (written or verbal), feedback is helpful for player development. The delivery of the feedback is critical though. Even though my daughter got mostly positive feedback, she worried about her face-to-face assessment. After each evaluation meeting though, she would have a giant smile on her face!

 Player Feedback and Evaluations Player Feedback and Evaluations

For volunteer parent coaches, the first thing to consider when thinking about individual player goals and evaluations is how much time you have to spend on it, and therefore the frequency that you can realistically commit to. It’s not necessary as a parent volunteer coach to do formal written evaluations. The important thing is to have players feel good about themselves.

Positive Verbal Feedback versus Written Evaluation

It’s time consuming, but girls need feedback. Constant positive verbal feedback during practices is sufficient for girls younger than middle school, but if you have the time, a face-to-face evaluation at the end of each season can be a powerful way to let each player know how much you appreciate their efforts. You can also use this time to help them set development goals for next season.

It’s not necessary as a parent volunteer coach to do formal written evaluations. The important thing is to have players feel good about themselves.

Age Appropriateness of Player Evaluations

There’s a few factors to consider when deciding if you want to do written player evaluations:

  • Age of player
  • Your time availability
  • Level of commitment for improving

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How To Be a Good Teammate Game

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

I love how this game combines teaches kids in a concrete and physical way how to be a good teammate but also is really fun. It’s essentially a version of freeze tag, and can be modified for any sport, and changed up to make it a technical drill. An added bonus is that it teaches kids to look up and really see the field. By identifying who is in trouble, this game is a defensive drill to teach doubling down. Use it as a fun way to end practice!

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

How To Be a Good Teammate Game

This game builds teamwork and is hilariously fun. Note that this game is not about winning, and there’s no score!

Count off by 10’s and put the evens on one side and the odds on the other. You want approximately 10 players per side, but it’s easy to modify for a larger or smaller number.

With 10 players per side, you will need three pinnies and 3 balls. You can use any kind of ball. The primary way to play this game is to throw and catch the ball, therefore a nerf ball would work such as a nerf football. You can also use the ball of the sport the athletes play such as a soccer ball, basketball, or lacrosse ball. You can also use a different ball from the sport the team plays as well like a tennis ball.

Give three pinnies to the even number side, and three balls to the odd number side. If you have a ball, you are “safe.” To tag a player which makes them unable to move, touch her with a pinnie that the player holds in her hand. To “unfreeze” a player, throw her a ball. When she catches the ball, she is “unfrozen.” Now, she has the ball and can look around the field to spot a player on her team in trouble (i.e. being chased by an opponent with a pinnie), and throw that player the ball to give her immunity.

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Parent Code of Conduct

Parent Code of Conduct

70% of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. As parents, what we say during the game and especially on the ride home heavily influences how our kids feel about their experience. Are we focusing on having fun versus winning? Are we coaching from the sidelines when we are not actually the coach? Do our kids feel like mistakes are learning opportunities?

I think we’ve all been on the sidelines and witnessed parents yelling at referees or worse. The only way to curb bad behavior is to have the coach set clear expectations of parent expectations. And to enforce this code of conduct? My daughter’s soccer coach would call a mandatory meeting for all parents after a practice every time there was an infraction. This was extremely inconvenient for the parents of kids in carpools. After one such meeting, parents would remind other parents on the team of the rules during games because no one wanted to attend more meetings about the Parent Code of Conduct.

Parent Code of Conduct

Parent Code of Conduct

Setting clear parent expectations at the start of the season goes a long way into creating a positive team atmosphere. As part of your Team Orientation Packet, include a Parent/Athlete Code of Conduct and have both the parents and athlete sign an agreement. This is an opportunity to set clear expectations and goals for the team, both athletes and parents. You might want to start with overall goals such as:

  • Having fun.
  • 100% of kids on the team singing up to play this sport again next season.

I think it’s important for parents to know that girls drop out of sports six times the rate than boys according to the Center for Disease Control, and thus the goal of having fun and continued participation are actually quite ambitious goals. But how do kids define “fun” with regard to sports?

In a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they play sports. Out of 81 reasons kids said sports were fun, “winning” ranked as 48. Young girls gave “winning” the lowest ratings.

In the 2014 George Washington University Study, the top six things that kids find the most fun in sports are:

  1. Trying your best.
  2. When the coach treats the player with respect.
  3. Getting playing time.
  4. Playing well together as a team.
  5. Getting along with your teammates.
  6. Exercising and being active.

“Winning” ranked 48th out of 81 factors defining fun in sports by kids. In young girls, “winning” ranked even lower. It’s clear that “having fun” is not related to “winning” in the eyes of the athletes. Parents need to understand that pressure to perform creates a negative environment and is a high contribution factor towards kids quitting sports before high school.

That’s where a Parent Code of Conduct can set expectations and even educate parents on what’s important to you, as the coach.

For more, please get How to Coach Girls book out March 2018.

p.s. To learn more about How To Coach Girls, check out Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It’s available for purchase here.

How To Coach Girls Alison Foley Mia Wenjen coaching book for girls