The 10 Commandments of Youth Sports for Parents (with apologies to the Bible)

By Joe Haefner

Here is a great article from Jim Bado on 10 great guidelines that all adults should follow pertaining to youth sports.

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.


  1. Matt — February 4, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

    Very nice reminder to just enjoy your children’s activities. It is hard, I can relate to several of these, but life is too short to try and re-live your sports days through your kids and put any added pressure on them. Even though they are children, they are putting enough pressure on themselves to be the best that they can be- starters or second-stringers, competitive or rec league.
    Thanks for the gentle reminder and posting this!

  2. Coach Jon — February 5, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    These are great guidelines. I inform the team parents at the beginning of the year but at game time they often forget. I will post this in an email to the parents as a reminder.

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  4. Terry — February 9, 2011 @ 5:18 am

    I really appreciate this. It is so difficult to bite my tongue sometimes, and every blue moon I let things slip. My 7th grade daughter and 4th grade son, really love playing basketball and both want to take the game seriously, and I don’t want to ruin it for them. I am going to print this out, and post it on my refrigerator, and my locker at work as a reminder. Thank you so much.

  5. Kelly — February 9, 2011 @ 8:06 am

    This is great advice. I especially like the one about referees. The car ride home is the biggest challenge for me. My husband reminds me about this rule often. As a coach, is it often very hard not to discuss the game afterward. I have to remember that I am a parent on the ride home. I will also print this out and put it up to remind myself. Maybe I will even stick it on the dash in the car. :) I think I might even see if they will put it up at the gyms we frequently play in. Everyone needs a good reminder sometimes.

  6. Ron — February 9, 2011 @ 10:01 am

    My eighth grade nephew is a very good basketball player. He has played year round since 4th grade. His coach for the last 2 years has been all about winning and put a lot of pressure of the boys. Now my nephew is burned out and no longer wants to play basketball. This is a real shame because my brother and I both received basketball scholarships to play in college and my other nephew (the 8th grader older brother) was second team all-state and received many offers to play in college, but decided to be a student at large at a large university. So my nephew may have a shot at receiving a scholarship. Parents and Coaches – the game is for the kids not you.

  7. Joe — February 9, 2011 @ 10:01 am

    “…youth sports research clearly shows kids would rather play on a losing team, than sit the bench on a winning one.”

    I believe this to be true but am interested in specific articles that I can cite to demonstrate this to my league. Does anyone know of one or more that they can point me too?

  8. Joe Haefner — February 9, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    Joe, Michigan State has done plenty of studies on youth sports. Here is their website:

    Here is a specific research paper on youth sports:

  9. Joe — February 9, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    Thanks Joe! The paper has a rich bibliography that can keep me busy for months!

  10. Michael Wallace — February 9, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    Back when I was coaching the kids, each season began with a parent meeting and I reminded the parents of this: Everyone has their role: players play, coaches coach, refs ref and parents cheer for both teams.
    Only had a couple problems over many many seasons.

    The list provided is very good and believe me, I could have done better.

  11. Amanda — February 10, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    This is fabulous! I’m giving it to all of my parents at the beginning of every season! Not just basketball!

  12. Bill — February 10, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    I find it odd that we don’t want to push our kids into practicing sports because we fear “resentment and burnout” (Commandment #2). However, we DO push our kids to do Math, Science, Reading…etc. Don’t we fear burnout in those subjects also?

    Sports should be treated like any other subject in school. Homework should be assigned and kids should be expected to put in the effort to be the best they can be. I guarantee you there are hundreds of professional athletes that were pushed by their parents. They may have resented it at the time…but now…

  13. Yehudi E. S. John — February 15, 2011 @ 7:07 pm


    Coaches should put 3 7 and 8 in their commandments too……….
    Am just coming from a football festival and although one team was dominant all the players did not play. That also happened along the spectrum of teams to the one which lost all the games…..
    I was the coordinator of the competion and was rather disturbed by it….

  14. Darren — February 18, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

    Those are some great guidelines for youth league parents. They may not be realistic of “ALL” parents, but they set a good standard for most. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Damon — February 13, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

    Did Bill (comment #12 above) really compare basketball to reading? A minute % of kids will play sports for a living, but EVERY person needs to know how to read in life. Math? Same thing….need to be able to balance a checkbook, keep track of finances, pay bills, and do taxes. Great article, Joe…sports are recreational fun. Core subjects in school are what will get us through life.

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