A Coachís Letter to Parents
By Darrell J. Burnett, Ph.D.
Here are some hints on how to make this a
fun season, with lots of positive memories
for your kids and your family.
1. Make sure your kids know that, win or
lose, you love them. Be the person in their
life they can always look to for support.
2. Try to be completely honest with yourself
about your kidsí athletic capability, their
competitive attitude, their sportsmanship,
and their level of skills.
3. Be helpful, but donít coach your kids on
the way to the game or at the breakfast
table. Think how tough it must be on them to
be continually inundated with advice, pep
talks, and criticism.
4. Teach your kids to enjoy the thrill of
competition, to be out there trying, to be
constantly working to improve their skills,
to take physical bumps and come back for
more. Donít tell them that winning doesnít
count because it does, and they know it.
Instead, help them develop a healthy
competitive attitude, a ďfeelĒ for
competing, for trying hard, for having a
5. Try not to live your life through your
kids. Youíve lost as well as won, youíve
been frightened, and youíve backed off at
times. Sure theyíre an extension of you, but
donít assume they feel the same way you did,
want the same things, or have the same
6. Donít push them in the direction that
gives you the most satisfaction. Donít
compete with your kidsí coaches. A coach may
become a hero to your kids for a while,
someone who can do no wrong, and you may
find that hard to take. Conversely, donít
automatically side with your kids against
their coaches. Try to help them understand
the necessity for discipline, rules, and
7. Donít compare your kids with other
players on their team Ė at least not within
their hearing Ė donít lie to them about
their capabilities as a player. If you are
overly protective, you will perpetuate the
8. Get to know your kidsí coaches. Make sure
you approve of each coachís attitude and
ethics. Coaches can be influential, and you
should know the values of each coach so that
you can decide whether or not you want them
passed on to your kids.
9. Remember that children tend to
exaggerate. Temper your reactions to stories
they bring home from practice or the game
about how they were praised or criticized.
Donít criticize them for exaggerating, but
donít overreact to the stories they tell
10. Teach your kids the meaning of courage.
Some of us can climb mountains, but are
frightened about getting into a fight. Some
of us can fight without fear, but turn to
jelly at the sight of a bee. Everyone is
frightened about something. Courage isnít
the absence of fear. Courage is learning to
perform in spite of fear. Courage isnít
getting rid of fear. Itís overcoming it.
11. Winning is an important goal. Winning at
all costs is stupidity.
12. Remember that officials are necessary.
Donít overreact to their calls. They have
rules and guidelines to follow representing
authority on the field. Teach your kids to
respect authority and to play by the rules.
13. Finally, remember, if the kids arenít
having fun, weíre missing the whole point of
(From Youth Sport Coach, newsletter of
National Youth Sports Coaches Association.)
Dr. Burnett is a clinical psychologist and
certified sports psychologist specializing
in youth sports. He has been in private
practice in southern California for 20+
years. Dr. Burnett is active on the lecture
circuit. His publications on youth sports,
including Itís Just A Game! (Youth,
Sports, & Self Esteem: A Guide for Parents),
are described at his website,
www.djburnett.com He can be reached at
his office: 30101 Town Center Drive
Laguna Niguel, CA
djburnet @ pacbell.net