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What You Can Do to Stop the Cycle of Disrespect in Sports

By TrueSport, 11/12/19, 10:00AM CST


As a parent of an athlete, part of your job is to make sure that your child has learned to be respectful to his teammates, competitors, and coaches. You also are responsible for making sure that your child knows how to stand up for themselves when they are feeling disrespected within their sport.

Wade Gilbert, PhD, a professor at California State University in Fresno and a Team USA Coaching Consultant, shares his recommendations for parents on teaching respect to an athlete.


Focus on your behavior first

You may not even realize that your behavior at a game isn’t respectful, but be aware of how you act when you’re spectating.

“A lot of disrespectful behavior is learned from what a child sees from his or her parents,” warns Gilbert. “That means, post-game if you’re being disrespectful towards the other players on the team, the coach, the opposing team, or the referee, you’re teaching your child that it’s the correct reaction. Ask yourself what a good sport parent should look like during the game, and what they look like after the game.”


Pre-set boundaries and rules

If you can, Gilbert recommends asking your athlete’s coach to hold a pre-season meeting where the team sits down as a group and sets specific rules and boundaries for behavior, as well as consequences for breaking those rules. That way, there aren’t any surprises when an athlete is sent to the bench for yelling at a competitor during a game.

You can do this at home with your athlete before the season starts as well. Have a conversation about what your athlete will do if they see another player being disrespected, if they’re being bullied, and any other scenarios that might come up throughout the year.


Validate your athlete’s emotions

If your athlete is acting disrespectful (but not harmful), first seek to understand how they’re feeling. 


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TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.