A low single digit percentage of kids across all youth sports are going to go on to play their sport at the collegiate level. If these are the statistics, then kids need to be in youth sports to get much more than a scholarship or a simple athletic experience. I've been arguing for several years now that youth sports is an ideal platform for creating thousands of teachable moments, but we need to be more deliberate about it. We're going to get so much more from youth sports if we deliberately mine the experience for life lessons than if we simply allow it to happen through serendipity. What Does Integrity - or Lack of Integrity - in Youth Sports Look Like?Positive ExamplescheckKevin, a high school player, commits a handball foul in the opponent's penalty box. The referee calls a foul on the other team (he didn't see the play well). Kevin admits to the referee that it was he who should draw the foul. checkA Club parent receives a uniform kit they hadn't paid for. They go out of their way to call the Club and arrange for payment to be made. checkMaking Commitments and Keeping ThemcheckStepping over a piece of trash on the field, then deciding to go back and pick it up because it's the right thing to do.checkShowing up on timeNegative ExamplesBlood DopingCheatingLyingDoing things behind the official's backbanIntentionally causing Injury to another because you can get away with itbanStopping at level 10 during beep test when you know you could go furtherbanSecretly (to everyone else but that one person) Not Shaking Hands After a MatchbanSaying one thing and doing anotherbanAlways being latebanMaking excusesbanPretending to be sick or injuredRewardsImmediate Verbal RecognitionTeam Bench ChatsEnd of Season Party AwardstrophyClub AcknolwegdmentstrophyClub Leaderboards for IntegritytrophyNewsletter ArticlestrophyPatches to Wear on Spirit-wear or Uniform ItemstrophyLetter or Email to ParentstrophyAbility to Wear a Captain's Arm BandtrophyOther Bling for Season Over-all Integrity award (like a custom ball, headband, or juggling training tool)How to be deliberate about Developing integrityClarify the PrincipleGetting clear about the specific behaviors you want to celebrate in the youth sports environment is a critical first step. Getting this in writing empowers your organization to get it into parent manuals and coach's training. Clarity around the subject of integrity will mature over time, but step 1 is to just get started. Look for OpportunityOnce the picture is clearly written down and baked into coach's training and parent guides, we need to be on the lookout for example behaviors. Identifying them and not taking them for granted is an important step. Once we recognize these behaviors in the youth sports environment, it's time to act. Reward BehaviorCoaches and parents should be empowered to take action to reward behaviors spelled out in step 1. This may be through immediate verbal rewards, patches, or even submitting email about the behavior so it can be recognized in newsletters and at end-of-season parties. The point is to reward the behaviors we want to see more of. Be ConsistentConsistency is the thing that gives a development program like this life and longevity. Consistency across coaches, between parents, and over time is needed or the program can devolve into a spaghetti mess of loose threads. Getting this in writing and reviewing it annually is a great way to ensure consistency. A Culture of Accountability - The Partner to IntegrityAs much as we sometimes don't like to admit it, human beings aren't the best at being honest or committing to a course of action. Take a look at gym membership numbers between the months of January and June for evidence of this. Millions of people make and break New Year's resolutions every year. We do pretty well, however, when we help one another out. Two or more people who commit to the same thing or to each other have a much better chance of sticking with their promises.
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