The 10 Commandments of Youth Sports for Parents (With Apologies to the Bible)
By Jim Bado
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1) You shall support and encourage your child, attend games and cheer for all the players, including the opposition.

2) You shall play the sport with your child outside practices if the child wants to, but not push your child into doing so. Pushing your child can cause resentment and burnout.

3) You shall practice good sportsmanship and avoid yelling at your child about the child’s performance during or after games, even when said child deserves it.

4) You shall realize youth sports are for kids, not adults, and not compare your child to another player nor sibling in either a positive or negative manner.

5) You shall avoid critiquing your child’s or any other player’s game performance on the car ride home. You will only discuss the game if the child wants to.

6) You shall bring your child to practices and games on time and contact the coaches if your child cannot attend or will be late for a practice or game.

7) You will endeavor to always be a positive role model for all children and avoid complaining about or yelling at referees, even when they make bad calls or screw up royally. When tempted to violate this commandment, you will remind yourself referees are often volunteers, teenagers or in training themselves.

8) You shall understand that while winning is fun, youth sports research clearly shows kids would rather play on a losing team, than sit the bench on a winning one. This understanding will include the fact that all kids need to play significant minutes – not just your kid or the best ones — and make mistakes during games to have fun and improve. Children mature and progress at different rates. Michael Jordan was cut from the Varsity as a high school sophomore and Bill Russell was only 5’9 as a sophomore in high school.

9) You shall not coach your child or any other players from the sidelines or stands. If you have a problem with the “official” coach, you will address it in private with said coach. If you would like to coach, you will volunteer to be one.

10) You shall always remember you are the adult and act like one. It is much more difficult for a child to deal with an out-of-control parent than for a parent (that is, you) to deal with an out-of-control child.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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peter says:
11/4/2019 at 8:54:41 AM

what a fantastic set of commandments. there were few time's when I would turn my back to the game, to address my under 12 girls parents.
RE, when my young girls were 15 --20 points up, I would call out the number 5, with my hand in the air of course, this instruction would bring about the following change for all team members on court.

(1) no fast breaks. Open on not.

(2) must hold the ball until the opposition had all players, back on defence.

(3) my players had to complete 5 good passers before they were allowed to take a shot.

In the back ground I could here some parents screaming go, go, go . Especially when there was no defence between them and the basket .
My parents quickly learnt that I was the coach not them,
Most parents, would say sorry, Then after the game, we all have a good laugh.
Could go on with other dumb rules I had when my team was way in front, But I think you get the idea , always let the other team play and have fun too.
I can say I made more friends than enemy's over the years. and still loving it.
Regards Peter


Bill says:
10/31/2019 at 8:27:43 PM

I agree and disagree. To me in order to be good at any sport you must play, but you can''''t just wait for tournaments to gain that experience. You must always find ways to compete which increases IQ and when to use moves, also learn from others, with less pressure on the athlete to figure it out. I run a travel basketball organization, going into our 3rd year, went from 6 to 30+ boys and my first year I had just 6 boys, all from rec 5th grade team, we went 3-23 that season. Those 3 wins came from adding 2 players, another boy and a girl to help in a tournament. Those 6 boys got so much playing time but at the end they lost hope, felt they couldn''''t win, and then started to give up. No matter what I said or the coaches said, losing has a factor. I know I''''m old school, but playing time is earned and not given, it''''s more appreciated by the player that puts in the hard work. When I was young my first coach told me in 4th grade it''''s your job to put one of your friends behind on the bench and make sure you keep them there, because that''''s why they are trying to do to you. When they are not working on their game and competing that''''s when u get better. Next year I was starting and I felt good about myself because I put the work in and earned it. They must learn how to compete! You can have get all the experience but if you are not working on your game, it means nothing, and that''''s why to this day from those 6, 2 still don''''t put the work in and still look like they did 2 years ago, but yet they got a lot of playing time.
I do take bench players from all 3 teams and put them in tournaments, playing down, so the parents get to see them play more and sometimes show my unrealistic parents just how good your child is.
Just like I tell my boys, the ones that complain about PT:
What are you doing outside of practice?
Your focused just on offense, what is your niche on defense, because if you can''''t score and have no niche(play no D) then you offer no way for us to compete?
Or if you are focused on D, yet your man is burning you and killing u on the post and you can''''t score what do u offer? I''''m going with the boys that can play both ends and have some type of niche whether offensively or defensively.
This is my opinion, not saying I''''m right or wrong, just that it differs in some way.
Joe you do a great job, you bring some special camps, I''''m always referring everyone to Don Kelbick camp (he''''s awesome, in 3 days, I''''ve seen magic happen out there), so keep the great work up!


Bertram Scott says:
10/31/2019 at 10:49:49 AM

I've been coaching 7- 8th grade school ball for 19 years...I often ask players the following..." would you rather play on a 1-10 team that plays everyone...or a 10-1 team that subs selectively to win games?"....the answers I've received almost always choose the 10-1 team. I'm interested in your contrary findings...I'm not arguing the point but wondering if my players answers have been catered to me as the coach.
I definitely feel the emphasis on playing time as the criteria for a successful season has drowned out the reality of what makes team sports so rewarding. If kids can recognize and value the contribution they make to their teams success, regardless of playing time...every player can have a great season. That starts with the coach's message to those players. Every season there are multiple times where I acknowledge that our success is in no small part due to the effort and hard work of the "white team"...whoever may have been on the white team that week sits up straighter and accepts the acknowledgement of his teammates....that's team sports.

  2 replies  

Ken Jackson says:
10/31/2019 at 11:57:09 AM

Coach, the way you phrased the question isn't the same as what is stated in the article. Every kid there thinks they are contributors to the 10-1 team. Ask this question next time:

"Would you rather play a lot, but the team be 1-10 or would you rather almost never play and be 10-1?"

Everyone wants to be on the winning team if they think they're playing a lot. Ask the star player on a mediocre team if he'd be OK being the 12th man on a championship team. I bet most players, if they're being honest, would rather be the star on a mediocre team.

If you can't win playing all of your kids, then you're not coaching for the kids, you're coaching for yourself. Development is a key part of the job of a 7-8th grade coach and a key part of development occurs in games. If you exit a season and members of your team haven't played significant minutes, you've failed those players as a coach.

This would be like saying that I teach math to only the top students, and the other students make sure that they have paper and erasers around to contribute to the best students learning. Sure the best students and their parents may love you, but you've failed the other students.


Joe Haefner says:
10/31/2019 at 1:45:25 PM

You bring up some good points, Bertram. Personally, I believe HS varsity is when you start determining playing time to focus on the win.

At the 7th/8th grade level, I think there is a happy medium. I'm not perfect by any means when it comes to this, but I try my best.

I try to approach it with this philosophy... Coaches coach to develop players for the long run. Players play to win.

With this age group, it's impossible to tell who will be the best players. So you need to make sure everybody is getting significant playing time.

Kids at this age have a 6 year difference in biological maturity. That means a 13 year old might be physically as mature as a 16 year old. Another 13 year old might be physically as mature as a 10 year old.

Early in my coaching career, I once coached a player who was 6'2 in the 9th grade and grew to 6'10 by the time he was in the 12th grade. I should have played him more than I did as tall, late developers tend to blossom at a much later age.

Now, are there games where a less talented player might only play 1/3 of the game? Yes.

But I try to balance that out throughout the season. If we have a less talented opponent, my best players might only play for 1/3 of the game.

So while not perfect, by the end of the season, we get fairly equal playing time.

With younger ages, I tend to do almost equal every game.

Also, there are some other issues that will get a player a seat on the bench no matter the talent level. This includes having a poor attitude, poor work ethic, not being coachable, and not being a good teammate.

However, this is always met with multiple warnings. I also explain what happened, why that's not acceptable, and what my expectations are. Then if it still continues to be a problem, they sit on the bench for a lot of the game to send home a message.

I rarely have an issue with this because I am crystal clear with my expectations from the first day and immediately address it in practice.


John HaggertyIs says:
10/31/2019 at 10:19:31 AM

Is there one of these for coaches? My kids 8th grade was spent on the bench along with his other 6'1 buddy. "Pay to play" kids got all game time, with no standout gifted athletes on the team. Do you ever work with schools on philosophy? Kid is starting to play freshman hoops and experience is night and day. He was going to quit after last couple years at his middle school. He will be in good hands now playing did keep my mouth shut towards the coaching staff.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
10/31/2019 at 1:24:35 PM

Sorry to hear that, John. We don't work directly with schools. However, we try to reach the masses via our website and newsletter.

We try to share a lot of material on these topics in our newsletter and on the website:


Graham Lettner says:
10/31/2019 at 9:16:14 AM

Thank you for writing this. I enjoy Breakthrough Basketball immensely, but even more so when you speak to the truth of how basketball is just part of the immensely bigger endeavour of life.

The reference to research showing that kids would rather play for a losing team than be benched for a winning team is interesting. If you have the source, I'd be interested to read further on the subject.

Maybe the ten commandments for coaches of youth? That might put the lens squarely on your readership and make us squirm a bit.

Best wishes—

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
10/31/2019 at 1:21:08 PM

Thank you for the kind words, Graham! Originally, it was found on Character Counts and the Josephson Institute. However, the links are now broken.

I know that Michigan St also has some research on the topic as well.


Steve says:
10/31/2019 at 9:08:48 AM

Great stuff! I think I am a pretty good parent with respect to youth sports but see a few things I need to focus on. I really wish more coaches would adhere by the one about kids being on the bench. Kids play sports to PLAY!


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