Useful Notes for Clubs, Coaches and Parents to Support Good Sport Culture

Useful Notes for Clubs, Coaches and Parents to Support Good Sport Culture


What is Good Sport Conduct?

Good sport conduct is the behaviours appropriate of a sport participant. Good Sports conduct occurs when all involved show respect and concern to opponents, teammates, coaches, and officials.

Coaches and administrators in clubs have an important role in instilling this respect in their players and spectators.

Examples of good sport conduct include:

  • shaking hands with opponents after a game
  • helping an opponent up who has fallen down
  • showing concern for injured teammates or opponents
  • accepting all decisions of the referees
  • encouraging less skilled teammates
  • congratulating an excellent effort by opponents
  • thank umpires and other volunteers who supported the game

Examples of poor sport conduct includes:

  • swearing
  • causing injury to an opponent on purpose
  • cheating
  • making fun or bullying regarding teammates’ effort, skill, race/ethnicity, gender or size
  • blaming losses on others
  • “in your face” winning celebrations around opponents

Coaches teach by example!

There are many ways that you can teach this respect to your players, but the most important way is for you to model good sport conduct.

Young players look to their coaches as role models and are likely to observe their coaches’ behaviours. It is unlikely that players will be able to control their behaviours, if their coaches are unable to control their own behaviour. Coaches who show respect to officials and opponents before, during, and after games can truly expect their players to do the same.
Examples of showing respect to officials

  • avoid calling the officials names
  • avoid criticising the umpires decision
  • politely ask for an explanation of an umpiring decision if not sure
  • be open to idea that the official is correct ‘fair enough”
  • put yourself in the official’s shoes
  • thank them after the game

Examples of showing respect to opponents

  • give your best coaching effort regardless of the score line
  • celebrate victory respectfully
  • engage in the pre- and post-game handshake
  • give credit to opponents

Examples of showing respect to players

  • maintain a calm approach - don’t yell
  • avoid criticising players in front of teammates
  • be careful not to blame players for losing
  • acknowledge improvement/good effort
  • acknowledge good behaviour
  • ensure your expectations on individuals or team are realistic and fair
  • treat all players fairly. Ensure they are aware of team policies (selection, training etc)

During practices and games, it is imperative that coaches remain under control during interactions with players, assistant coaches, officials, and opposing coaches. Parents observing the good attitude of their children’s coach will soon understand the responsibility they have to engage in good sport conduct as spectators.

How might a coach actively teach good sport conduct?

  • Set up a code of conduct at the beginning of the season. Make sure to include consequences for breaking the code. These rules and consequences must apply to all players, coaches, administrators and spectators in all situations. Involve the players in developing this to create ownership
  • Expect this standard of conduct during practice and competitions
  • Bring examples of the good or poor behaviour of professional or elite sportspeople to practice. Discuss the behaviour of these sportspeople with your team.
  • Encourage team members to reflect on their behaviours by asking them questions. One discussion format that could be used is as follows.
  • identify a problem
  • compare a negative ora positive action/behaviour
  • what is the outcome/response to each of the actions
  • choose best action
  • Reward members of your team who behave as good sports. Discipline those who behave as poor sports. By allowing poor sport conduct to happen on your team, you are teaching athletes that poor sport conduct is acceptable.
  • Teach athletes to be considerate of their teammates and their opponents when they win and lose.
  • Emphasise respecting opponents and officials whether they win or lose.
  • Stress the importance of good sport conduct at parent meetings.
  • Make sure your players know and follow the rules of the sport.

What are some ideas for developing an effective team culture?

  1. Have Clear Goals and Expectations.
  2. Involve representative from all stakeholders

Utilize different members of team in developing the team culture. Captains, assistant coaches, parents, etc. can work together to determine how the team will operate. For instance, if there are certain tasks that could be taken on by others then delegate to the appropriate member(s) of the team. Spreading the group work around will foster a sense of ownership in players and support staff. Having everyone understand their unique role is vital to overall success.. However, remember that ultimately you as the coach set the tone with expectations so make sure your entire group is working towards the same goals!

  1. Praise Your Culture. Make sure as a coach you focus on praising the “right kind” of culture. If you value hard work and maximum effort…when you see it praise it. If your team identity is based on working on individual goals…praise goal attainment in a team setting. Focusing on the “right kind” of team behaviour (based on goals and expectations) really sets a tone for what you expect and how the entire team can live out the team culture.
  2. Show Off Your Culture. It is important to find tangible ways to show off your culture. Items such as T-shirts with a special team saying or signs that show off a team uniqueness definitely provide a feeling of team that facilitates a sense of identity. These items do not need to be costly but do need to focus your team around those things that make your culture unique.

The only way to change a culture is to make people understand that they are responsible for empowering others.
But what really matters more than the definition is to ask, ‘Which way is your club heading in right now – are you creating a more positive culture or less positive culture?’


The DO’S

  • Allow your child to be interested and want to play whatever sport he or she chooses. Provide the opportunity of many choices and support his/her choice even if it is not yours. Support your child’s choice to play NO sport when he/she is the most comfortable with that option.
  • Teach your child to respect his/her coach. Do this primarily by showing respect to the coach yourself. It is vital to the child’s progress and performance that he or she listen to and trust the coach’s advice and instructions.
  • Be willing to let your child make his/her own mistakes and learn from them. When your child makes a mistake, ask what they think they could have done differently, what they learned from the experience, and if they would like any feedback (not criticism or blame) from you (such as what you saw, and what you think they might have done differently, and what you think they might have learned)….
  • Be interested and supportive, light and playful, understanding and open-hearted. Be accepting and tolerant of your child’s learning process and her/his physical abilities. Acknowledge and enjoy your child’s participation and successes….even the small ones.
  • Model flexibility of your own opinions. Be willing to be wrong and acknowledge your errors. Listen to the other side of the situation and let go of the need to be right or in control.

The DON’Ts

  • Don’t try to relive your youth through your child. Just because you wanted to be, or were, a hero on the football field or in gymnastics does not mean THAT sport will be your child’s choice. Accept that your child may not excel in that or any sport.
  • Don’t blame the equipment, coach, other players, referees or even the weather if your child or the team does not do well or win. Blaming others teaches non-accountability to kids. They do not learn to look at what they could have done differently, or learn from their mistakes if they learn to blame others.
  • Don’t push, push, push….Children who are pushed beyond their capabilities may lose their self-confidence, become resistant and resentful toward their parent, become unsure of themselves and their abilities, and may stop trying. They may also exhibit a disturbance in eating and/or sleeping habits.
  • Don’t expect perfection or tie your ego or image to your child’s performance. Perfectionism is a very hard expectation to live up to. Laying guilt on a child because “their performance made YOU look bad,” is highly destructive. Your child is NOT responsible for your ego or your reputation in the community.

Remembering this simple list may assist parents in remembering that youth sports are to be enjoyed by children as well as parents. Most children play sports because they have fun playing. When sports become work and drudgery, they lose interest and some of the joy in growing up. Remembering to be a little less serious about life helps all of us to enjoy sport competition.

Association for Applied Sport Psychology