Definitions of Bullying and Harassment

Source: ––bullying-and-abuse-prevention/educators/bullying-and-harassment-prevention/definitions-of-bullying-and-harassment

What is bullying?

Bullying is a form of aggression where there is a power imbalance; the person doing the bullying has power over the person being victimized.

The different types of bullying

  • Physical bullying: using physical force or aggression against another person (e.g., hitting)
  • Verbal bullying: using words to verbally attack someone (e.g., name-calling)
  • Social/relational bullying: trying to hurt someone through excluding them, spreading rumours or ignoring them (e.g., gossiping)
  • Cyberbullying: using electronic media to threaten, embarrass, intimidate, or exclude someone, or to damage their reputation (e.g., sending threatening text messages).

The difference between bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment are similar, yet different:

  • Harassment is similar to bullying because someone hurts another person through cruel, offensive and insulting behaviours
  • Harassment is different from bullying in that it is a form of discrimination.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is treating someone differently or poorly based on certain characteristics or differences. Bullying turns into harassment when the behaviour goes against Canada’s Human Rights Laws and focuses on treating people differently because of:

  • Age
  • Race (skin colour, facial features)
  • Ethnicity (culture, where they live, how they live, how they dress)
  • Religion (religious beliefs)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation (if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual)
  • Family status (if they are from a single parent family, adopted family, step family, foster family, non-biological gay or lesbian parent family)
  • Marital status (if they are single, legally married, common-law spouse, widowed, or divorced)
  • Physical and mental disability (if they have a mental illness, learning disability, use a wheelchair)

The Talent That Whispers



The scouts snickered. They looked at the time again. To this day the 5.28 second 40 yard dash time is one of the slowest for quarterbacks in the history of the NFL combine. His 24.5 inch vertical leap didn’t have them lining up at his door either. He had been a good, but not an outstanding college quarterback, and as far as statistics went, he was far from a sure thing. The New England Patriots used the 199th pick in the NFL draft to select him in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. The quarterback’s name was Tom Brady.

Five Super Bowl championships, four Super Bowl MVP awards, two NFL MVP’s, and numerous regular season and playoff records later, Brady is arguably the greatest football player of all time. So how did all the experts select 198 players ahead of him in the NFL draft?  And why are we writing about Tom Brady?

Because we are in such a hurry to turn our kid’s sporting experiences into adult ones, to select “talent” as soon as possible, and to focus on statistics instead of other characteristics that are harder to measure. Our system is setup to weed out kids who are late bloomers and have neither the time, the money, or the desire to go all in on a sport in elementary school.

Our system is setup to find the talent that shouts, but not the talent that whispers.

In our hyper-competitive youth sports world, we are racing to the bottom in a huge hurry to accelerate development. We are pushing single-sport specialization younger and younger. We are having tryouts, making cuts, and forming travel teams while children are still in elementary school. Parents are afraid that if they don’t hire a private trainer for their 8-year-old, she will be pushed out of the system. We are pouring the training volume of a fifteen-year-old into a nine-year-old, and then proclaiming “look how good he is” and splattering the video all over YouTube.

We are creating a youth sports environment that only works for those with the most money, the most time, and often, the well-intentioned parents with the greatest willingness to look the other way and ignore not only all the science and research, but that gut-feeling that says “I don’t think this is working for my kid, but I am going to do it anyway because I am scared if I don’t, my kid will miss out.

We are throwing dozens of eggs against a wall and hoping one or two won’t crack, and with little regard for those eggs that do break.

We are great at selecting the talent that shouts. These are the kids who are usually born within a few months of the arbitrary calendar cutoff, known as the relative age effect. Study after study has shown the bias toward older birth dates in sports (those born in the first half of the sporting calendar year.) Another study shows how the relative age bias is increasing. Programs select those who have specialized first. We grab the biggest, fastest and strongest, and select based on output, instead of looking at the input that created said output.

As author Rasmus Ankerson says in the video below, we are ignoring the talent that whispers.  We are cutting the late bloomer before she has a chance to grow. We are stifling the love of the game for the multi-sport child who is searching for a sport that he loves the most. We are so results driven that if a kid cannot help us win today, we don’t have time to wait for tomorrow.

Why? If NFL scouts cannot pick a Tom Brady at age 23, why do we deify Pop Warner football players, or let others rot on the bench?

If Lorenzo Cain can become an MLB playoff MVP and World Series champion by playing baseball for the first time as a high school sophomore, why are moms and dads led to believe that if their son wants to try baseball for the first time at age 9, it’s too late?

If NHL scouts and coaches still could not peg future Hall of Famer, MVP and scoring champ Martin St Louis at age 24, why are we so worried about who makes the PeeWee AAA team?

If swimmer Conor Dwyer can win gold medals in swimming at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and he was a college walk-on who did not start swimming full time until his senior year of high school, why are some youth swim programs telling kids to go all in by age 10 or it’s too late?

Sure, Dwyer, St. Louis, Brady and Cain are outliers, similar to the “talent that shouts” outlier examples of Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters in tennis. Yet the research is clear on one thing: if you want to have the best chance of identifying long-term potential, be patient. As world-renowned sport scientist and researcher Jean Cote states, “long-term prediction of talented athletes is unreliable, especially when detection of talent is attempted during the prepubertal or pubertal growth periods.

Every athlete has his or her own path. Some show aptitude from day one and others burst upon the scene later. Some are the first to grow, and dominate early on through sheer physical prowess, while others grow last and develop grit and resilience to go with a good sporting brain and skill set. If you are developing athletes simply to win the 12-year-old championship, then, by all means, force them to do as much as possible as soon as possible. They will likely win now, but not be prepared to win long term. But if you can put aside the fear, and take the long view, you have a much better chance of helping your own children, and any athletes you coach, find their greatness, regardless of whether their talent whispers or shouts.

It is time for parents, and coaches, to not only ask, but demand our sporting institutions do the following:

  • Train as many kids as possible, for as long as possible, in the best environment possible (see Johan Fallby interview here)
  • Develop all kids, not just the ones who seem the best right now
  • Recognize that some kids play simply for the sake of playing, with no long term focus on performance
  • Instill a love of the game, so that kids want to play more and get extra time on task
  • Create pathways for performance-focused and participation-focused children
  • Train all our coaches, even if this means fewer volunteers and more paid AND prepared men and women (a soon to be released study by Dr. Mark Robinson of University of Delaware demonstrates paid, trained coaches increase participation and retention).
  • Demand continuing education of our coaches and anyone working with kids, not just on Xs and Os, but on motivation and communication
  • Start treating coaches like valued educators and provide them the respect, trust, and necessary tools to do their job the right way

We also must start teaching and promoting other qualities in young athletes other than those easily measured by a stopwatch or tape measure, qualities that allow for a bigger upside as training volume increases:

  • Are they coachable/do they have a teachable spirit?
  • Do they work hard?
  • Do they have a growth mindset?
  • Are they focused on what they can give, rather than what they can get?
  • Do they work well with others?
  • Do they deal well with adversity?
  • Are they a good decision maker?
  • Are they accountable?

Parents and coaches, please let our kids play lots of sports until they find one that is a great fit.

Please understand the effects of Relative Age and whether that is advantaging or disadvantaging your young athletes.

Please be patient with development.

Please look beyond current output by gauging the level of current input, and observing qualities that will allow for additional input when it really matters.

Please remember Tom Brady, the less than impressive NFL combine performer who became the best of all time.

In other words, forget for a moment the talent that shouts. In every town, in every age, there is an athlete just waiting to be found if we give him or her the chance.

Look for the talent that whispers.


Podcast #4: David Epstein, The Sports Gene, and the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Perfromance


This week on the Way of Champions Podcast, John O’Sullivan gets to chat with David Epstein, author of the internationally best-selling book The Sports Gene: The Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance and one of our FAVORITE all-time books. The book is a top 10 New York Times bestseller and was chosen as a best non-fiction book of 2013 by The Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly. Runner’s World chose The Sports Gene as its book of the year, and the book was a finalist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award, and the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award. It has been translated into sixteen languages.  In the conversation, John and David discuss:

  • How his book debunked the “10,000-hour rule” that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in Outliers
  • Is it nature, or nurture, or both when it comes to athletic development
  • How Tiger Woods’ path was not the same as Roger Federer, Steve Nash or Lorenzo Cain
  • How in some complex activities, practice actually pulls athletes apart rather than bringing them together, as those sensitive to learning improve faster
  • How coaches and parents can help young athletes find their “true calling” in sports by creating and encouraging multi-sport environments
  • Ways coaches can serve the individual needs of every athlete within a team environment
  • How he is more concerned with doing things the way research says instead of how we’ve always been doing it.

Our first four episodes are now available for download from iTunes. You can listen to, subscribe and download by clicking here:

Listen to the Way of Champions Podcast on iTunes.

How to Subscribe to a Podcast

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider subscribing. You can also help us by leaving a review as it will help us grow our reach, as our goal is to become a go-to resource for sports parents, coaches and anyone involved in youth, high school, college and professional sports.

You can buy the Sports Gene here: The Sports Gene on Amazon

You can find David on his website: The Sports Gene Website

Twitter: @DavidEpstein

Episode #1-3 of the Way of Champions Podcast with 36x NCAA Champion Dr. Jerry Lynch, EPL Sport Psych Dan Abrahams, and Coach Lisa Cole


Today marks a huge day in the evolution of the Changing the Game Project, as we launch the first three episodes of our brand new endeavor, the Way of Champions Podcast (click here to subscribe)! Our goal is to give parents, coaches, youth sports administrators, and athletes access to the top minds in coaching, talent development, athletic performance, and more. Every week we will be interviewing fascinating figures such as world champion athletes, Olympic and international level coaches, as well as top researchers and authors. Some may be household names, and others you may never have heard of, but you will be glad you do.

This podcast is a partnership between Changing the Game Project and the Founder of Way of Champions, Dr. Jerry Lynch. For those who have not heard of Jerry’s work, he has been in the leadership and team development business for decades and his teams have won 36 NCAA titles and world championships. He has worked with iconic coaches, and college programs from schools such as Stanford, The University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, Syracuse, and many others. Many of his twelve books are considered mandatory reading for coaches and professional athletes. We are so excited to be working with Jerry to give you access to many of the top minds in sport.

Our first three episodes are now available for download from iTunes, and every Friday we will post another episode. We will embed the audio in our Friday blog post. You can listen to, subscribe and download by clicking here:

Listen to the Way of Champions Podcast.

How to Subscribe to a Podcast

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider subscribing. You can also help us by leaving a review as it will help us grow our reach, as our goal is to become a go-to resource for sports parents, coaches and anyone involved in youth, high school, college and professional sports.

Over the next weeks, you will hear from guests such as 2x Olympic Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton, author of The Sports Gene David Epstein, World Cup soccer players Angela Hucles and Jay DeMerit, World and Olympic Champion coach Tony DiCicco, and many others.

Let’s get started. Here are our first three episodes:

WOC #1: 36x NCAA Champion Team Consultant Dr. Jerry Lynch

Dr. Lynch and John talk about meeting the great Dean Smith, the qualities of great teams, how to build and coach values based and purpose-driven teams, and so much more. He has worked as a Sports Psychologist for men’s and women’s Basketball, Lacrosse, Field Hockey and Soccer teams at the universities such as North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, California, UConn and Stanford and continues to work with several teams nationally. He has been involved with athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, helping them to overcome fears, blocks, and slumps, and to perform up to their potential. Several of his clients have participated in various summer and winter Olympic games. Aside from sports, Dr. Lynch has worked with performing artists and corporate executives and currently works closely with Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors. You can find Dr. Lynch at

WOC #2: EPL, PGA, and Olympic Sports Psychologist Dan Abrahams

Dan Abrahams and John discuss how he works with professional and Olympic athletes to remove interference and help them perform their very best. They also discuss how coaches and parents can best help, and not hinder their athletes progress on every level from youth to the pros. Dan is a former professional golfer and now a global sports psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organizations across the world in multiple sports. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sports psychology, as well as his talent for creating simple to use techniques and performance philosophies, and he is the author of several sport psychology books as well as the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy.

Find Dr. Abrahams on Twitter: @DanAbrahams77 or @AbrahamsGolf

Website: get 20% off the online Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy psychology program by emailing [email protected] and mentioning Way of Champions Podcast.

Books: Click here for Dan’s Amazon author page to find Soccer Tough, Golf Tough and others books

WOC #3: Professional Women’s soccer coach Lisa Cole, Head Coach of Papua New Guinea Women’s National Team

John O’Sullivan sits down with Lisa Cole to discuss her amazing coaching journey as a longtime college assistant and head coach, Head Coach of the Boston Breakers in the NWSL, and international coach with Papua New Guinea Women’s Soccer during the 2016 U20 Women’s World Cup. She discusses some of the qualities of the best athletes and coaches she has worked with and tells us about her experience the past 18 months working with PNG and their amazing ride through the World Cup. The story is an incredible example of the power and impact of sport and will give you goosebumps.

You can find Lisa on Twitter at @LCole22

Facts on Bullying and Harassment

source: redcross ––bullying-and-abuse-prevention/educators/bullying-and-harassment-prevention/facts-on-bullying-and-harassment

Bullying, cyberbullying and harassment jeopardize learning

  • Canadian teachers ranked cyberbullying as their issue of highest concern out of six listed options—89 per cent said bullying and violence are serious problems in our public schools.1
  • Victims of harassment report a loss of interest in school activities, more absenteeism, lower-quality schoolwork, lower grades, and more skipping/dropping classes, tardiness and truancy.2
  • Young people who report lower academic achievement levels or negative feelings about the school environment are more likely to be involved in bullying.3
  • 71 per cent of teachers say they usually intervene with bullying problems; but only 25 per cent of students say that teachers intervene.4
  • Over half of bullied children do not report being bullied to a teacher.5

Statistics on bullying and harassment

  • A 2010 research project studying 33 Toronto junior high and high schools reported that 49.5 per cent of students surveyed had been bullied online.6
  • Between 4–12 per cent of boys and girls in grades 6 through 10 report having been bullied once a week or more.7
  • For boys, bullying behaviour peaks in grade nine at 47 per cent, while it peaks for girls in grades six, eight and nine at 37 per cent.8
  • In a 2007 survey of 13–15-year-olds, over 70 per cent reported having been bullied online and 44% reported having bullied someone at least once.9
  • One in four students from grades seven to nine in an Alberta study reported experiencing cyberbullying.10
  • Over 80 per cent of the time, bullying happens with peers around 11—and 57 per cent of the time, bullying stops within 10 seconds when a bystander steps in. 12

Trends in bullying and harassment

  • Since 2002, fighting behaviour has increased, especially in grades six to eight. As many as 18 per cent of boys and 8 per cent of girls report having been in four or more fights in the past year.13
  • Boys are more likely to experience direct forms of bullying (physical aggression) while girls experience more indirect forms of bullying including cyberbullying.14
  • Sexual harassment is higher for boys in grades six and seven, but higher for girls in grades nine and ten.15

1 N.S.T.U. Cyberbullying Statistics, “National Issues in Education Poll,” Canadian Teachers’ Federation (2008).

2 Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2000). Making a difference in bullying (Report #60). Ontario: LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and Queen’s University.

4Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2000). Making a difference in bullying (Report #60). Ontario: LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and Queen’s University.

5 Fekkes, M. Pijpers, F. I. M., & Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2005). Bullying: who does what, when and where? Involvement of children, teachers and parents in bullying behavior. Health Education Research. 20(1):81–91. And Li, Q. (2007a). Bullying in the new playground: Research into cyberbullying and cyber victimization. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 23, 435–454.

6 Faye Mishna et al, “Cyber Bullying Behaviors Among Middle and High School Students,”  American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 80, no. 3 (2010):  362–374.

7 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

8 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

9 Lines, Elizabeth. (2007, April). Cyberbullying: Our Kids’ New Reality. Kids Help Phone.

10 Beran T & Li Q, 2005, Cyber-harassment: A study of a new method for an old behavior. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(3).

11 Pepler, D. & Craig, W. (2000). Making a difference in bullying (Report #60). Ontario: LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution and Queen’s University.

12 Hawkins, D.L, Pepler, D.J., & Craig, W.M. (2001). Naturalistic Observations of Peer Interventions in Bullying. Social Development, 10(4), 512-527.

13 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

14 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

15 Craig, Wendy M. & McCuaig Edge, Heather. “Bullying and Fighting.” In Healthy Settings for Young People in Canada. W. Boyce, M. King, & J. Roche (Editors). Ottawa, Ontario: The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008.

It’s Time to End the Sideline Sportsanity

Source: Changing the game project –


As soon as I stepped out of my car in the parking lot, I could hear it. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon of travel soccer, but there it was. You know what I’m talking about: that sometimes beautiful, often times excruciating cacophony of sounds that we have come to know as “cheering for our kids” during a typical youth sporting event.

The scene plays out week after week, in gyms and soccer fields, on pool decks and ice rinks. Young children gear up and try their best to play difficult sports that take years to learn. Well-intentioned fans get ready to enthusiastically support these young athletes. Everyone smiles, exchanges pleasantries, and settles in for an idyllic afternoon.

Then, when the whistle blows and the game starts, millions of well-intentioned, loving fans are transformed into something entirely different. There is some kind of invisible force that turns rational, logical people into raving, yelling fanatics totally consumed by every call, and every play. What do they get?


Sportsanity is the temporary insanity brought on by attending youth sports events. It causes normal human beings to yell, coach, insult, and sometimes even fight other adults, all with the best of intentions and in the name of “supporting our kids.” While the exact cause is unknown, possible causes include Fear of Missing Out, Lack of Patience, and the Adultification of Youth Sports.

Of course I am joking. There is no AMA approved illness known as “sportsanity.” We have actually written an article before on what causes it (click here to read it). And of course even our imaginary illness only affects a portion of parents, most of whom are great people and are truly there for the right reasons. Yet at every game, especially involving schools, clubs and youth sports leagues that fail to hold parents and coaches accountable for appropriate sideline behavior, “Sportsanity” rears its ugly head.

There are four destructive manifestations of sportsanity. They are:

“The Official’s Worst Nightmare” – We all know that parent who questions every call, no matter how far away he or she is. The official can do no right in the eyes of this parent. Even the most mundane of calls is questioned openly and loudly. This parent will scream at the official the entire game as if he or she knows the rules better.

The constant screaming at the poor official has a few consequences for the rest of us:

  • You rarely win the argument. It’s a waste of breath, but it definitely has the ability to turn an official against you and your child’s team in a heartbeat.
  • “I love it when my dad yells at the ref” said no kid EVER! I have sat on the bench countless times listening to kids moan because their dad is screaming at the official again. There is nothing more embarrassing.
  • Even if you do reverse a call, to what end? Are we not using sports to teach life skills and important values? What life skill is learned from arguing with authority figures and what value is taught berating another human being? Teach them values by accepting the bad call as part of life and getting beyond the call.
  • Finally, and most importantly, most officials at younger players games are children themselves, just learning how to officiate. Screaming at the ref is akin to screaming at the kids. It’s just a game.

If you know the rules better, grab a whistle and an official’s uniform and join the ranks. Many youth sports organizations lose over 50% of their new officials in the first year because the environment is awful. Parents tell us they miss many of their kids sporting matches, but never miss a match they officiate, as they fear for their child’s safety!

The “UnOfficial” Head Coach – This parent grudgingly pays the person on the player side a nice chunk of change to work with their children, but as soon as the whistle blows, the gloves come off. They are coaching now.

Sure, the coach played college and a little pro, and she has an education degree, multiple licenses, and 15 years of experience coaching the sport at this level, but does she really know as much as the “UnOfficial Coach”? These parents have been watching the game for years!. They question every call the coach makes, scoff at every substitution, and hate it when the “weaker kids” get to play. The team would never lose if it was done their way.

Here are a few issues with this kind of sideline character:

  • It confuses kids, especially if they have a coach who is constantly yelling instructions too. Who are they expected to listen to now? Parents say “listen to your coach”, but now parents are yelling the opposite instructions. The kids stand on the field swiveling from one sideline to the other as if they are watching a tennis match.
  • It undermines the pedagogical process. Children need to learn from people other than their parents, and from the game. When we continually question the coach, we undermine a child’s ability to trust and learn from others. At some point in time, our children will need the wisdom of “the village” to grow up.
  • We steal our child’s independence. We tell them to be independent and think for themselves, but we yell all the answers from the sideline. How are they supposed to become problem-solvers if we won’t let them attempt to solve any problems.
  • We make it about us. It’s their game. It’s their chance to risk, to fall, to get up, and to celebrate when they finally succeed. If we coach from our sideline, we make it about us. Put down the joystick and let them have the game.

I have to repeat myself here. If you think you know better than the coach, or simply cannot control your urge to joystick coach, please feel free to volunteer at your club or take a licensing course and get involved. Once you have the full responsibility of everyone’s child, you tend to better understand the fine balance a coach endures to get it right for every kid on the team.

“The Sniper” – This parent is lethal in moments of high stress when focus and concentration are needed. Many times the parent says very little, except when a player has the opportunity to make the big play. This is when the parent will scream out with a booming voice that echoes across the entire county: “Shoot!” or “Pass!” or “Man On!”

Sounds harmless, right? Imagine being that 10 year old who has just slipped in front of goal and only has the keeper to beat. Her heart is pounding out of her chest, her mind is racing, and she is trying to remember everything she’s been taught.

She’s on the big stage, all eyes on her, and this is the moment of truth – score and be the hero or miss with all eyes on you. Now imagine “The Sniper” screaming “Shoot!” in this moment of high stress. Inevitably she will panic, shoot too early, startle, or simply freeze. The moment has passed before she had a chance to do what SHE wanted to do.

Let the kids make their own decisions. Sometimes they’ll be right, sometimes they’ll be wrong, but at least they are learning, growing, and deciding on their own without sniper shots from the sidelines.

“The Super Cheerleader” – These parents love watching their kids play. They love it so much they can’t help but express their joy. They run up and down the sideline screaming for their children the entire game. Everything they say is positive – like “Go, Go, Go” and “That’s my girl”. So why are they listed here?

I love the enthusiasm from these parents. They just want their child to have unbridled fun. Most of the time they could care less about outcomes. We love the passion, but maybe dial it back a notch? Here is why:

  • Overzealous cheering can easily lead to coaching, and it certainly can distract kids on the field. Sometimes the Super Cheerleader may get a bit too involved with outcomes. When this happens the children may think the only way they will get the cheering is if they score or win. They think their worth is tied to the outcomes that get the loudest cheers.
  • They don’t need you there, in spite of what you think. They know you love them. They work hard at practice. They play at recess, and you are not there. Let the game belong to them too.
  • When your team has a big lead and parents are still Super Cheerleaders it can be a tough pill to swallow for the opposing team. Just remember to put yourself in the shoes of the others and temper your joy just a tad for the sake of the competition.
  • You can get so caught up in the Super Cheerleader role that you don’t realize there is an injury until all eyes are on you.

Be your child’s biggest fan. But remember, our kids need fans, but not super fans.

What can we do? Try this:

“The Balanced Parent”– This group is a bit of an anomaly because they seem immune to sportsanity. They are relaxed. They are quiet observers of the game, there to watch their child have fun and learn without any desire to interfere in the process. They rarely yell, they barely seem emotional at all, and they supportively cheer their child’s effort. They are supportive, but not over the top pushy. They are present. They realize it is a game, not an emergency!

In my years of coaching, I have found that the parents who have played a sport at the highest level are usually the ones who are most relaxed at their kids game. The more they have accomplished, the less they live vicariously through their kids (see LaVar Ball for a prime example of what not to do).

Here is why I love the Balanced Parents:

  • The kids have a healthy, balanced perspective of sports. It’s not the most important thing in their lives, it is another activity that shapes them, creates memories, and draws their family closer. It’s just a game, after all.
  • The atmosphere reflects true competition. Competition means to “strive together”. When the parent sideline is emotionally balanced, the competition on the field is as well, and the players realized they are striving together to get better. Even the opponent is an ally in this development.
  • The coach’s job is easier! If I didn’t have to “address my parents for yelling” or worry about them contradicting what I had been teaching for the last 8 weeks, my life was great. We could focus on playing, learning, letting the kids own the game, and enjoying the experience.”Relaxed parents” allow coaches and players to focus on the experience itself.

These sideline characters are fluid and can change easily. Almost all of us have been a few of these parents at some point during our lives or even during a single season. Embrace the fact you really care about your kid’s sport experience. This is why you are so vocal and I applaud you. But if you can’t channel the “Balanced Parent” at every game, there are ways to help you create a better experience for your child and everyone else.

  • Wear headphones – I coached a player whose dad always wore headphones. He said he was a once high level athlete and a former coach, so the urge to intervene was off the charts. He wore headphones to keep from “sideline coaching”. They also served a second purpose, he said, “I don’t have to listen to all the other parents”.
  • Be the team photographer/videographer – You’ll be too busy finding the perfect shot of everyone’s kid to be yelling. You may even gain an appreciation for all the players on the team. If you film a game and hear your screams on the playback, you will probably never yell again.
  • Carry lollipops – Sounds funny, but effective. If you feel the urge to speak your mind, fill that gaping void with something to keep words from coming out of it. I’ve heard of sports teams assigning ‘lollipop parents’ whose jobs are to hand out lollipops to those who yell.
  • Sit in the corner – literally. The same dad who listened to music would also sit away from everyone in the corner of the field. He could watch the game but not get caught up by the emotions on the field and the even more intense emotions on the sidelines. I am convinced there is a direct correlation between how close you sit to the action and how much you need to intervene during games.
  • Have a yell jar – Pass a jar at games. When you yell, you pay. Use the money to buy all the kids ice cream. You could alter the amounts based on the infraction: yelling instructions is a buck, yelling at the coach is two bucks, berating the ref is a 5 spot, screaming at the kids is a sawbuck.
  • Offer to be the “keeper of the culture”.  My wife played this role very well. She once dealt with a pair of new parents to our club. They were Sniper Parents yelling shoot at every touch of the ball and when the child would mess up, they would bellow “What were you thinking”. She finally marched up to them and asked them if they liked having people yell at them. She said “we don’t yell at 11 year-olds at our club. This is not our culture”. That became a theme for us- keep the culture. We actually had players come to tryouts to join the club that policed its sidelines. If you have strong club values – offer to guard them.
  • Ask your kids what they want you to do, and really listen to what they say. Most kids, when we ask them what they want their parents to say at their games answer reflexively, and loudly: NOTHING!

Nobody’s perfect. We have all yelled. This isn’t about pointing fingers and embarrassing parents. This is more about making all of us realize that the people who suffer the most from our screaming are not just referees, coaches and opponents. They are our own kids!

Do your kids a favor and try one of the above suggestions to “bench” the yelling and put an end to sportsanity once and for all.

Is Your Child’s Youth Sports Experience Transactional or Transformational?

Source: Changing the game project –



Back in January 2017 I moderated a panel at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention on “Reimagining Youth Development in the United States.” An audience member asked us very interesting question. He spoke about how families were always jumping ship to the neighboring club that focused on winning and not development. The neighboring club promised high level tournaments, exposure to college coaches, and scholarships. He spoke about how his club focused on player development, but the better players still left.

“How can we build more loyalty to our club?” he asked.

That is a legitimate question, and one many youth sports organizations face. Many clubs feel like they are simply stepping stones for athletes, who jump ship as soon as the opportunity arises. As the expert panel answered him, a question popped into my mind:

“What are you giving your families to be loyal about?”

That is the million-dollar question most organizations fail to ask themselves.

I was recently reading this great blog by Seth Godin about transactional relationships. He was discussing how many sports teams treat loyal fans transactionally. You bought a ticket, thanks for sitting through all those losing seasons, but you got what you paid for. We owe you nothing more.

The article got me thinking about the panel discussion in Los Angeles. How many sports organizations treat their members in a transactional manner? You paid for two tournaments and that’s what you received. You paid us for coaching. You paid us for winning. You paid us to expose you to college scouts. You paid us for facilities. We owe you nothing more.

The club didn’t promise that your coach would treat your child with decency and respect. The association didn’t say anything about investing in your child the person, only your child the athlete. They certainly didn’t say anything about investing in you, the parents!  Sure it might say that on some obscure web page or code of conduct, but they don’t actually mean it. In their mind, they owe you nothing beyond the field.

This type of relationship is it is a transactional one: you pay and club’s deliver what you paid for. Organizations that focus heavily on player development have lost sight of an important fact: development is also transactional in nature when the only thing you are developing is the athlete. In other words, you are not giving members anything to be loyal about aside from producing better athletes. The coaches teach them how to skate, how to pass and shoot, how to dribble the ball or play a certain formation, but these are simply transactions.

Transactional relationships do not build loyalty.

You don’t like your favorite coffee shop because you paid for the coffee. You like the service. You like how they treat you. You love how it tastes and that it is consistently good. You like that they admit when they are wrong and give you a free coffee when they mess up your order. You like that the servers smile and are energetic. These things have nothing to do with the transaction of buying a coffee.

Whether a club is selling development or selling winning and scholarships, both are still transactional. Parents pay money, clubs deliver what they paid for. As a result, parents are deciding which transaction sounds like a better deal, and sadly, the transaction about development is not nearly as exciting to a parent as a transaction about winning or getting a scholarship. Think about how the following statements make you feel inside:

“We focus on developing young soccer players by teaching them the fundamentals of the game like passing, dribbling, and shooting. We let all the kids play a significant amount of time and learn different positions. We teach them to play the game the right way.”

That is a good developmental philosophy, but how does that make you feel? Does that excite you? Are you envisioning your future child with great fundamentals? This club is doing everything right from a technical sports perspective but I don’t feel anything. They certainly have not outlined anything that would make me feel loyal to them.

The winning-comes-first organizations in the youth sports world might say something like this:

“Over the past five years, we have won 19 state championships. Our teams go to tournaments with hundreds of college scouts lining the sidelines. Most of our players go on to play in college and get a scholarship to do so, and we have these kids come back and talk to your kids about what it is like. We provide the environment for the elite players who are serious about taking their game to the next level.”

I am not saying in any way that this organization is unethical, or is not developing players, or that winning is a bad thing. All I am trying to point out is this: Can you picture your future child playing in front of college scouts? Can you picture her playing in college or raising a state championship trophy?

In other words, both of these clubs are engaged in a transactional relationship. Doing the right thing in terms of development is not a very engaging transaction for many people. Hence they leave.

We can do much better. We can demand that our youth sports organizations become transformational in nature.

A transformational organization puts the needs of the child in sport above the needs of the business. It focuses on developing the person AND the athlete. It demands that its coaches are trained and held to a standard of excellence. Its coaches are trusted not only for their sport-specific ability, but their dependability and connection with athletes. They are evaluated and trained in motivation, communication, and being a positive role model. Individual athletes and teams come first, and the needs of the coach and club come second. It does these things because its leadership and membership demand it of the club.

Transformational programs do exist. My friend Mark Speigel is in my mind one of the most effective and passionate youth coaches in the US. He runs South Central Youth Soccer Academy for 10 and under children in Indianapolis, IN. They teach so much more than soccer. It is not just a program for kids, it is a program for families. The picture on the left is an example of that. In the picture, the coaches are serving coffee and donuts to the parents as they drop their kids off to thank them for entrusting their children to the program! Hello!

This is not a one-off thing for South Central’s youth academy. Here are some of the other things Mark and his coaches have done to make this experience a transformational one for everyone involved:

  • Mark started a program, now a nationally recognized event called Make Your Own Ball Day. The kids learn about other children around the world who play with only tied and taped together plastic bags, and then they make their own soccer ball with similar materials. The best balls are selected, and the kids play a barefoot soccer tournament with their newly made balls. In exchange for the materials to make a ball, children donate an old ball, which is sent to other kids in disadvantaged areas.
  • “Love the Academy,” a service day in which the players break into small groups of mixed ages and genders with a coach, and decide upon a service project. They then take 3 hours on an open weekend to complete the project, reconvene after to talk about the work they did with the other groups, and have a soccer game and celebratory meal
  • The coaches are instructed to arrive early and invite every child onto the field by name
  • If a player gets a haircut and the coach does not notice, the coach owes him/her a Gatorade at the end of the week
  • Weekly coaches meetings and educational sessions that ensure its coaches are trained and held to a standard of excellence
  • “Parents, Players, and Pancakes,” where coaches serve the food and then all in attendance play pickup games, adults and kids together
  • Academy coaches attend each child’s games in another sport to support them not just as soccer players, but as multi-sport athletes
  • The Academy runs free 3v3 tournaments and invites neighboring academies to participate
  • Players and coaches attend local high school games as ball boys and girls
  • Halloween dress up nights, nerf gun wars, movie nights, even the Neon Rave

I have had the opportunity to watch Mark and his coaches work, and it does not take very long to see that they are there to serve the kids. They get down on their level. They coach, lead and play with passion. They smile and enjoy themselves. They are clearly great friends on and off the field. Many of them have actually travelled to Nicaragua together to build sports fields in underserved communities. The kids – and parents – feed off their energy. It is all about connection, service, and valuing people. This is a transformational youth sports program.

Is it any wonder why South Central Youth Academy has doubled in numbers?

Why don’t more of our youth sports organizations do the same? Why don’t we demand it of them? Why do we settle for shelling out thousands of dollars for a transactional relationship when sport could be so much more? Here are a few things we should demand from our coaches and youth sports organizations:

If you are part of a youth sports organization that cannot understand why parents take their kids and leave, instead of looking to blame, why not start asking the right questions. Yes, some folks will still leave, but as we have said before in this article, so what, we will miss you! Instead, serve those who stay by asking what more can we do? Are we transactional or transformational? You will never compete with the big, “winning” clubs on development alone!

And for those clubs already at the top, why not do more? Why not give your athletes a transformational, life-changing experience? Why not teach leadership and focus on developing high-character individuals? Why not mandate service work in your community and beyond? Why not create more brand loyalty that exists not simply because we won, but because we were deeply invested in children who happened to play a sport, and the families who loved them?

It’s time we stopped telling parents and players “you got what you paid for, we owe you nothing.” We must realize that we owe them, and their kids, everything! Let’s start doing more.

Let’s be transformational.
(If you are interested in having a Board or leadership Skype consultation with one of our team members on how to make these types of changes, or want to attend our Way of Champions Transformational Coaching Conference June 2-4, we would love to work with you. Please email [email protected] to learn more)

Should My Child Play Up? The Do’s and Don’ts of Moving Kids to Older Age Groups

Source: Changing the game project –



Manchester United’s Carrington Training Center is not only one of the finest youth soccer academies in the world. On every field, the future of the club is evident, as aspiring young players dodge, weave, pass and move the United way. At the same time, everywhere you turn you stare at history. Images of Ryan Giggs, George Best, Bobby Charlton, and David Beckham adorn the walls, and words of wisdom from United legends of the past are plastered on most flat surfaces. One such quote has always stood out to me and I snapped a picture of it on my last visit:

“If they’re good enough, they’re old enough. If you don’t put them in, you can’t know what you’ve got” proclaimed Sir Matt Busby many years ago. “The Busby Babes” as his 1955-56 team was affectionately known, won the English title that season with an 11-point cushion, and an average age of 22. He is credited with creating a tradition at Manchester United of developing and promoting youth into the first team, one famously continued by Sir Alex Ferguson and his famous Class of 1992 that included long time first team stalwarts Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, and brothers Phil and Gary Neville.  Since 1937, Manchester United has had a youth academy product in every single matchday squad.

It takes a special kind of 16-19 year old to have the skill, game understanding, and mental strength to play in front of 80,000 fans in the English Premier league. Christian Pulisic, the rising 18-year-old star of the US Men’s National team and Borussia Dortmund, is another example of a youth player who has jumped straight to the top. But what about youth players, especially very young ones? Should the most talented ones play up an age or two? Should girls train and play with boys? When does this additional challenge help a player’s development, and when does it hinder? These are all questions that are well worth exploring so that parents, coaches and clubs can make the right decisions for the young athletes in their care.  But let’s start with this:

Any decision regarding a child playing up an age should be based on what is best for the child.

You don’t coach a sport, you coach a person, and thus every decision is an individual one. It always bothers me when I see organizations with blanket policies disallowing playing up. It equally bothers me when organizations have no policies at all and athletes are scattered across multiple ages for no rhyme or reason. Every youth sports organization should have well-thought out policies in place that allow for athletes to compete not simply against players their chronological age, but their developmental age.This merits some further explanation.

Chronological age is self-explanatory. Most sports separate athletes based on their birth year, or some other arbitrary calendar cutoff such as school year. As we know from the “relative age effect,” this gives a large advantage to those children born closest to that cutoff, especially at very young ages where a January birthday 8-year-old is 11% older than a December-born child. The earlier we make talent selections, the more important this calendar difference becomes. In fact, in a recent conversation with a youth coach from Barcelona’s famed La Masia Academy, I was told that 92% of their Academy kids are born between January and June, with only 8% coming from the latter half of the year!

Developmental age is the age at which children function emotionally, physically, cognitively and socially. We also know that children grow at different ages. Have you ever coached a 12-year-old boys game in any sport? Did you notice that some look like 10-year-olds and others look like young men? A 12-year-old boy can have a 5 year developmental age swing, as the picture on the left from my friend Nick Levett shows. Those are two 12-year-old boys born a few weeks apart. One certainly has some physical advantages over the other, wouldn’t you say?

Before we discuss playing up specifically, there is one more piece of background needed: Long Term Athletic Development. LTAD models have been developed in most every sporting nation (in the US we call them our ADM, the Athlete Development Model) and outline the various ages and stages of development Our ADM gives us a research-based approach to the physical, social and psychological development of athletes at various stages of their lives. The Canadian LTAD model is best known and is the basis for many others (click here to see it). You can see the US lacrosse ADM here.

Notice how there are age ranges for each stage? That allows for the differences in developmental age for each child. US Lacrosse’s Foundations stage ends around age 12, while the Emerging Competition begins at 11. Basically, that overlap allows for children who start puberty earlier than others (for example, girls usually hit their growth spurt sooner). The importance of these models is they provide a great guide for children playing up vs. those who are held back.

In education, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development is the typical model to use regarding where a child’s developmental sweet spot is. In layman’s terms, some children are reading at a 5th grade level in 1st grade and others may be reading right on grade level. The educator is to place the children in these zones where they find the most chance at development – the Zone of Proximal Development. They are challenged, but not overwhelmed. They are also not bored to death. This is really what most organizations dance around but do not understand. Each child should be placed in his own ZPD.

We are often asked about children playing up in age. We have met many parents suffering from FOMO – the fear of missing out –  who were worried that if their child did not play up an age, they would be overlooked for high school sports, and have no chance to play in college. They’ve seen other kids who did play up and think that their child should as well. They’ve rarely considered exactly what would make it beneficial for their child, or why it might hinder his or her development. They basically said, “others are doing it, so my kid should too.”

What are some reasons that a child should play up in age? Here are a few factors a coach, a parent, and a sports club should look for in considering whether it is beneficial for a child, and some things to look out for to see if he should remain playing up:

  • A child is developmentally (physically) ahead of his or her peers, and tends to rely on physicality rather than technique or thought to have success. This player should be challenged by teammates and opponents who are physical equals. Caution: This child may be socially and cognitively behind, and thus exposed to situations that he/she should not be maturity wise. Some kids struggle with tactical development and understanding the movement and interaction of players. Some are not physically ready to perform certain tasks even though they are big.
  • A child is technically and tactically so far ahead of his or her peer group that there is no challenge. This child should be given the opportunity to play against players with the same technical ability and guile so that he/she is challenged to perform at a higher speed of thought and action. Caution: If the physical differences are such that a technically gifted child stops playing the game the right way (i.e. is afraid to dribble or shoot, stops playing confidently) the situation should be re-evaluated. Many players struggle with the physical disadvantage and can develop bad habits.
  • When a child starts playing up, they should be eased into the situation. The speed of play at an older age can significantly ramp up the training and playing load on an athlete. Even if they practice and play the same amount of minutes, overuse injuries can happen if you are not careful.

Here are a few reasons that some parents have given me over the years that ARE NOT sufficient to allow playing up to happen, especially as children advance to more competitive environments:

  • The kids on that team are part of our carpool (I get it, but hopefully you can form a new carpool. If the carpool is that important, ask permission to go to a practice once in awhile, but don’t play up full time)
  • Her best friend is on the team (I am sure they will get plenty of time to play together)
  • That team is coached by his favorite coach (it is good to be exposed to many coaches)
  • He plays up in other sports (Should an advanced reader should be taking advanced math?)
  • Her older siblings were allowed to play up (every child is evaluated as an individual, and perhaps her siblings were older, bigger, stronger, or in an age group where kids were not as good).
  • He is in the same grade as those kids on the older team (great, they will get to play together in high school, and perhaps you can guest play once in awhile but in the meantime, we can give the spot to a kid who is the correct age and develop him too)
  • Our team has been together for 3 years (often heard when kids transition from recreational to travel programs. Please be patient, and it’s likely that you can make some new friends, and be faced with new challenges instead of being comfortable).
  • Parents are generous financial donors (hit like if you feel like you just bit into a lemon!)

I am sure there are many more excuses to play up, but you can get the gist. When it comes to athletic development, the only sufficient reasons for allowing children to play up an age full-time are based on technical, tactical and developmental criterion, and what puts a child in his or her ZPD, not on the whims or dreams of the child’s parents. Every case should be decided on an individual basis, and yes, there are exceptions to every rule (ie. the team at the younger age disbanded). In the end, though, youth sports organizations must be consistent and make these decisions for the benefit of the athlete.

One final caveat is this. If you have a talented athlete playing up a year, or a female who competes with boys, don’t be afraid to slide them down once in awhile and let them remember what it is like to compete against their chronological peers. We tend to only evaluate ourselves against our current peers (i.e struggling Harvard math majors don’t look at themselves as 1%’s, they see themselves as the dumbest kid in the class), so sometimes talented youngsters can lose confidence when always playing against older kids. An age-appropriate game they can dominate from time to time, or allowing talented girls to play against other girls their age, is not a bad thing at all. Again, it must be monitored on an individual basis with parents and coaches working together!

I will leave you with this story. At one of my former clubs, we had a talented, late maturing U15 boy. Not only did he not play up, but we held him back on the club B team that year so he could continue to play the game the right way. He could be a leader, he could take free-kicks, and he could play his preferred position. We let him guest play from time to time, but he was a full-time B team player. He was not happy, nor were his parents initially, but we worked hard to help everyone understand how this benefited the athlete.

One year later he grew and made the top team. Two years he started on a team that won the US Developmental Academy National Championship. Three years on he was the starting center midfielder at an ACC soccer powerhouse. Everyone has their own path. Do not panic when your child’s journey is not the same as another’s. 

I realize that “playing up” is a touchy issue for many parents and youth sports organizations, and I hope that we have touched on a few of the issues here. I am sure we have not hit them all, so please, if you have any ideas to share please do so below. Let’s get a great conversation going so when the next talented young player comes along, we can make the decision that best serves his or her needs.

Yes this happened!

source: CMSA


I have been refereeing since 1993 and have officiated over 4000 games. I have also coached over 850 games since 1992. Since joining CMSA in 2010, I have become aware of truly unfortunate situations that occur within the game of soccer in Calgary. Most games are fun and entertaining for everyone involved. The fans cheer at the top of their lungs, coaches convey tactical messages to their team and players enthusiastically respond by playing with speed, finesse and skill. Then, there are the other games – where players try to live up to parents’ unrealistic expectations and coaches exhibit disappointment with their team through negative and discouraging comments that destroy their player’s self-confidence. To make matters worse in these situations, both coaches and parents display a dismal lack of respect for youth referees, to say the least. I will be posting these stories and events to let you know what goes on in front of your child’s eyes in the hope that you may give some serious consideration as to  whether or not we want to see this kind of behavior in the game of soccer. The short stories posted below are actual accounts of soccer games that have taken place in Calgary – with the identities of players, teams and clubs undisclosed. Stories will be posted periodically. The two teams involved will be named a white team and a black team.
Brian Wilkens
Referee Mentor, Coordinator and Discipline
Calgary Minor Soccer Association


July 25
CMSA meetings promoting respect for referees
I am writing as a concerned parent regarding the display of poor sportsmanship of the two opposing coaches, one adult female and one adult male. The first concern is that both of the coaches consistently barraged the referee of the game with questions and challenges regarding the game and calls. The yelling and questioning of the referee set a very poor tone to the game. Had the referee been younger or less experienced individual, these actions and questions could have had a very negative impact on their willingness to continue refereeing. I recall from past CMSA meetings that the preservation of referees is an important aspect of the CMSA’s work and the behaviour of these two adults was clearly contrary to the CMSA objective of promoting respect for referees.
Also of concern was that at least one of the adults in question, at points in the game were also mocking the opponents keeper in response to her giving direction to her players. For example when the keeper yelled to her team to spread out, one of the adults yelled out that they can’t spread out because the field is too small. No doubt this was related to their dissatisfaction with the size of the field which was also expressed during other times of the game. However, to express this in a mocking way to a younger player exhibiting teamwork and leadership is completely unacceptable and was unsettling to the keeper and teammates.
One of the points of contention from the female coach (inappropriately vocalized at different times throughout the game) was that the length of play should be 35 minutes for U12 but it clearly states that it is 30 minutes per half for U12.

There is a line drawn in the sand for coaches, parents and referees. When coaches’ coach and referees ref, the game can be quite fun. When coaches and parents cross the line and start refereeing, this is where controversy and unpleasantries ruin the game for the kids.

May 10
Two sides of a referee
Side one
Teams from all over the area gathered there to play local youth matches, some bringing a small crowd of supporters who line the field. Close to kick-off time for one particular match, a small figure strode out towards the center circle, blowing his whistle to get the attention of the players. Impatient with their apathetic response to his imperious blast, he blew it again, adding some shouts to various players to get over to where he stood. Finally a couple of players strolled over, one in green and the other in blue. “What’s up, ref ?  You need a couple of AR’s ?” ” Yes I do. Get them over here so I can instruct them. And call your players so I can inspect their boots.” “Sure ref, hey lads, come over here, The bloke wants a word.” “Alright gentlemen, please be quiet and listen. I am the referee today. I only want the captains to talk to me. Is that understood? Now here is what I expect of you. You must retire 10 yards on free kicks or I will book who doesn’t get back. Anyone who questions me will also get booked, is that clear? I’m not paid to take alot of rubbish from players.”
Side two
On the same weeekend, two U18 teams warmed up for their first match. A few minutes before kick off, the referee and his two young AR’s walked out to the middle of the field where they stood for a few minutes chatting. A few players noticed them and called for the captains. The captain from both teams came over and the referee held out his hand. “Hi, I’m Fred and these are my two AR’s. It’s nice to see you again. Didn’t you guys play each other a few weeks ago? 3 – 3, wasn’t it and I heard it was a great game? When I got this game I hope it’s going to be a great game again. It’s a beautiful day so enjoy yourselves. If you want something explained, just ask, OK? As the players changed ends, he was looking at the boots of all the players noting all the brand names they were wearing. Because the ground was hard, they were all wearing molded soles with multi studs. Then he notcied one player with a small cast on his arm and stroled over to him to ask how he broke it. “I broke a bone in my wrist falling off a trampoline.” “I said better stick to soccer.” “Thanks ref, a couple of weeks and it’ll be out of a cast.” I checked the cast and told him, “You’d better be carefull and no backflips if you score.” “Oh sure ref.”
As the AR’s were checking the nets, the ref walked over to the coaches and said,”theres a bit of a bother with substitutions lately so the league wants me to clean it up. Can you help me with that? Make the subs wait until the player is off before the sub comes in. Great, have a good game.”

I think Side two is what teams and coaches prefer so keep this in mind.

January 06
Two coaches vs youth referee.

In the first half, the black team’s parents were criticizing the calls and so were the black team’s coaches. One call, which easily could have gone either way, was called as a charge on the black team, which had the two coaches raising their voices toward the referee, which was the only questionable call in the first half. The first half was all the black team, score was 4-1. Around 5 minutes in to the second half, there was a 2 on 1 going down towards the black teams net, and the defender made a play on the ball, and in doing so was injured, and went down. Seeing as he went down around the top corner of the box and white team had the ball, the ref let the play continue. Nearly right after that, the white team scored, which brought both black teams coaches out of the box (without being signaled to come on) and paid little attention to the boy on the ground, and got up and in the face of the referee, loudly criticizing his calls, saying “it’s complete ******** “open your &%$# eyes ref!” “Oh ref you’ve got to be &%$# kidding me!” And so on, right in the middle of the pitch while the team is still on the field. The white teams coach offered the black teams coach ice for the injured player, to which the black teams coach declined. After the first black teams coach declined, the second coach came over to the side of the bench and said “What’s he saying? No, we don’t want your &%$# ice” to which the white teams coach replied “you are an ignorant turd” which did manage to get a mumble about shoving something, I could really hear it. For the rest of the game, the black teams coaches would remark that “I’ve never seen something like this”, “this is the worst ref I’ve ever seen” and so on. The final score was 6-4 for black team. When both coaches came to get their cards and game sheets, they had an argument about what the right call was, with the black teams coach being very angry at the ref, who was signing game sheets at the time. In the middle of the yelling, he was interrupted by the white teams field marshal came on and interrupted the coach, saying “this is ridiculous, you have to calm down. That was insane what you did, it was the right call and you cannot harass the referee like that” to which got another unimportant and blatantly rude response, “I’m sure you would have reacted the same if it was your s****y son!” And then was pushed away by the other black teams coach.

Kids should never hear words like this from adults, coaches, Dad’s, Mom’s and strangers.

Novemberber 28
A referee’s first game experience.

Our daughter refereed her first 2 games tonight and had a great experience.  When she took her refereeing course, Brian Wilkens spoke to her about the opportunity to have a mentor present at her first game.  She emailed Brian last week and he assured her that someone would be there for her.  When she arrived for her game tonight, Brian himself was there to help get her started.  He set her up with an ear piece and introduced her to John, who was her mentor for the game. We just wanted you to know how impressed we are with the course she took, the support she’s been given up to and including her first games, and how appreciative we are of all the time and effort Brian & John have put in to making her first games such a positive experience.                        Thank you
NOTE:   As part of the CMSA mentoring program, a walkie talkie / earpiece set was purchased. This gives the mentor the opportunity to talk to the referee immediately as the game is in progress. The young referee builds confidence knowing they have back up in case they need the help on the field in tough situations.
Novemberber 6
Here is a referee’s account of a GU18 game.

Two players, one from each team were involved in a tackle near midfield. I stopped play for the foul committed during the tackle as both players fell to the ground. I indicated that the restart would be for the black team as it was the white team’s player that committed the foul. As I signaled direction for the foul, the two players were still tangled together on the ground. When they were separating from each other, the black team’s player was making her way up first, looked at the opponent and kicked her in the head with her cleats in a stomping motion. The white team’s player started crying as a result. I ejected the black team’s player for violent conduct and she left with no further incident. The injured player was able to make her way back to the bench.
Punishment : The ejected player received a 4 game suspension for “Kicking with intent to injure”, violent conduct.

September 18
Here is a referee’s account of a BU12 game. The referee is 16 years old

I blew the whistle for a dangerous high kick in the penalty box and awarded a penalty shot for the white team with a few minutes left in the first half. The black team’s coaches disputed my call and I went over and gave him a warning and that if he continued, he would be dismissed.  I continued to proceed with the penalty shot and the white team scored from this. The coach of the black team continued to dissent my decision for the penalty shot and said “That call was b******t” out loud. This promoted me to dismiss him but he would not leave. He said there was nothing I could do to make him leave and proceeded to make fun of my speech impediment. I asked him one more time to leave and then blew the half time whistle. I was very offended by his remark about me personally and had to recover over half time. This coach was still at the side of the field at the start of the second half. The two boy’s teams were ready to play but I had to wait 2 minutes for this coach to leave the area.

Foul called by the referee: Law 12 “Playing in a dangerous manner” An indirect free kick is called if in the opinion of the referee, a dangerous kick is observed. If the kick makes contact with the opponent, the call is changed to kicking, and now is a direct free kick which is what the referee did.
Punishment : The coach received a 4 game suspension for OIAL (Offensive, Insulting, Abusive Language) towards a game official. A 2 game suspension for being dismissed by a minor official (12 to 18 yrs old) and a 1 game suspension for failure to leave the field after being dismissed.

September 4
Team Manager comments U10 boys
I am the Team Manager for the BU10 white team. Tonight, we played the black team. Our referee was a young girl maybe 14 years old. She was extremely organized and did a great job on the field – not afraid to blow the whistle, vocal with the kids so they knew what the call was, probably one of the best refs we have this past indoor and so far in outdoor.

The other parents from the black team were awful to her, including their field marshal. It got really bad in the second half. They were all standing over on the player’s bench side (parents and players and coaches) and a number of the adults proceeded to yell at and ridicule the referee, saying stuff like “what was that” and “are you even watching the game” and more at this poor girl. As a result, she was extremely flustered and you could just see it in her face. I was approached by at least 5 parents from our team, who also overheard the comments and were concerned for the ref as well. I did go over – I talked to their team manager first since I knew who he was from handing in game sheets and asked him if he could remind his field marshal about what his job was. He said no. So I went over to their field marshal and basically reminded him that as field marshal, he needed to stop his parents from yelling at the ref, that she is 14 and this is the whole reason for the field marshal program. He looked at me like I was crazy. But I think either enough parents overheard or he did say something, because it pretty much stopped for the last bit of the game. After the game, we got our sheet from the ref. She was ready to cry. I told her that we thought she did a great job and to please hear that and just let the other stuff go in one ear and out the other. Not sure that she will be able to do that though.

I hope that you will be able to follow up with her, as this was not an easy game for her tonight. I have no idea what kind of reminder or follow up can happen with the parents of the black team, but my biggest concern is the ref and how she is feeling.
August 23
White team coach comments regarding black teams coach.
In the first game, the coach from the black team was continually very loud and aggressive towards the referee, calling for fouls or offside to be called at any perceived infraction.  He was especially critical when one of our players fouled one of his players, who was painfully injured.  That player could not continue the game.  The referee did give a yellow card to our player and the game continued, with increased criticism from the coach.  We feel that the young referee handled the situation calmly and with maturity.
The next time we met, the black team’s coach, from the start of the game, continually very loud and aggressive towards the referee, calling for fouls or off sides to be called at any perceived infraction. The match was a hotly contested affair with physical play from both teams.  Late in the game, his player was fouled by one of our players and went down in pain. The coach ran on to the field towards the referee and confronted him in a very loud manner at very close quarters. The referee, who had red carded our player who had committed the foul, immediately red carded the black team’s coach and ordered him off the field.  The coach then proceeded to call his players off the field to the bench area. The coach left the field area proceeding immediately behind our bench area complaining loudly about the way our coaches trained our players and headed to his car. His players stayed on the field and the game continued with out him.
CMSA should not allow team officials that behave in this manner towards game officials to be part of a coaching staff.  They drive referees from the soccer system and set a poor example for the young players they coach. I feel very strongly that we need to support our referees, the up and coming as well as the ones with experience. The referees are usually refereeing alone and when cases like this happen you can see how very unprotected they are on the soccer field.

3 Myths that are Destroying the Youth Sports Experience for our Kids

Source: Changing the game project –



Every year, I travel throughout the US, Canada, Asia and Europe, and give well over 100 presentations to parents and coaches. I speak to tens of thousands of people about youth sports, coaching, and athlete development. Every time I do a live event, I get asked the following question:

“If you are presenting all this science based evidence about how to raise happy, healthy and high-performing athletes, why don’t most coaches, clubs, schools and parents follow these protocols? Why do I see the exact opposite happening”

What a great question!

So many parents I meet are extremely frustrated these days, because youth sports has changed so much since their childhood. There are no longer seasons, just year-long commitments for kids. The costs and travel distances have gone through the roof. And the pressure on parents to keep up with the Jones’s has become astronomical.

Many parents are simply trying to sort out the myths and facts of athlete development. They are told what to do by other parents and coaches if they want their children to have success in sports. Yet the path that so many children are following, and in many cases are forced to follow, is not the best path to develop as an athlete, nor as a human being.

In fact, their chosen path does just the opposite.

It leads to high rates of injuries and burnout (70% of kids quit youth sports by the age of 13).

It leads to a variety of psychological issues by attaching ones identity to sport success.

It robs children of their childhood.

It turns youth sports into big business that ties advancement to financial means (the haves vs. the have not’s) instead of ability (the can do’s vs. the can’t do’s).

It professionalizes and adultifies youth sports by taking the emphasis off of enjoyment, development and play.

Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation out there. There is a lot of ignorance of the facts. In my opinion, this is driven by three pervasive youth sports myths.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic,” said John F. Kennedy. These three myths are incredibly persistent, very persuasive, and most troubling, they are damaging the very people they are intended to develop, our young athletes.

Myth #1, “The Tiger Woods/10,000 Hour Myth:” Your child must specialize as early as possible if he or she wants to play college or pro sports

We have all heard misinformation from a coach or parent telling your child he/she needs 10,000 hours of deliberate practice as soon as possible. I have written about specialization many times on this blog, and in this book, and yet every time I present these statistics people are skeptical, because this myth is so pervasive and convincing.

The problem with this myth is that it ignores many components of athletic development beyond practice that determine athletic performance, namely genetics, coaching, enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation.

Outside of female gymnastics, figure skating, and diving, there are no definitive studies that directly tie early specialization to greater chance of long-term, high-level success. The number of pro athletes, Olympians and top coaches that tie high-level success to an early, multi-sport background, however, is very high. This does not mean top players did not play a lot of hockey, or soccer, or basketball, just that they did other things as well, and started putting in their dedicated training hours in their middle teenage years.

There are a lot of studies tying early specialization to higher injury rates (see this article and Dr. James Andrews book Any Given Monday), higher burnout and drop out rates, as well as psychological and identity issues. High-level sport performance experts such as Tony Strudwick from Manchester United FC, football coaches such as Urban Meyer, and others stress the importance of multi-sport backgrounds to develop overall athleticism, decrease injury rates, and increase internal motivation.

Talent development programs in professional and college sports are no longer looking at simply what level an athlete plays at, but what got him or her there. They don’t want a finished product, and oftentimes early specialists are at their peak of development, while multi-sport athletes have a bigger upside. Given the choice, they want upside over current performance.

In other words, instead of Tiger Woods, raise a Steve Nash or a Jordan Spieth.

Myth #2 “The 9 Year Old National Champion Myth:” We need to win as soon as possible, as often as possible, travel as far as we need to get games, and only pick and play the kids who help us do that.

Winning is not bad; it’s not some evil thing to be avoided at all costs. Quite the contrary. Kids like winning. They understand they need to try and score, and prevent the other team from scoring. They understand they need to try their best.

What they do not understand is how winning could be more important than simply being out there playing. What they don’t understand how winning could be more important than following the rules.

And what they will never understand, especially prior to high school age, is that the result of this game is more important than getting the opportunity to play.

In my travels, every time I bring this up the naysayers jump on me and say, “he is the non-competition guy.” Wrong! I love competitive sports, and I hate participation trophies. I have coached competitive athletes my whole life, many of whom went on the become college and pro players. This myth does not produce better, more competitive athletes. It turns youth sports to an outcome focused enterprise, and puts way too much pressure to not make mistakes and try new things on young athletes trying to learn a sport. It produces bitter athletes who quit, and excludes far too many potentially top performers because of birth month and developmental age.

The downward creep of select teams is pervasive, and again, quite convincing at first glance. It’s not hard to find communities that make cuts, pick A and B teams, and start travelling long distances to find “competition” at ages as young as 6 and 7 years old. If I get the best players, exclude others, coach them and only play them in outcome focused events against other top players they will develop faster, right? How could this be bad?

Its wrong because if you are all about winning and cuts prior to puberty, you are selecting the kids who are very likely born within 3-4 months of your calendar cutoff for your age group, and are physically advanced compared to their peers. You are potentially cutting the top player at age 18 because he is young, and has not yet physically matured. You are selecting early maturing kids, not identifying talent. You are focusing on outcomes, not the process of getting better.

The things that often allow kids to win at young ages (height, speed, strength) won’t serve them in later years unless they also develop technique, tactics, and the ability to think for themselves, three things that often go out the window in win at all costs youth sports.

Prior to age 12 is a time for kid to sample many sports, not be forced into choosing one. It is a time to develop as many players as possible, not a select few. It’s a time to make mistakes in a learning environment, not only focus on winning in an outcome environment. Kids must learn to love with the game, play for fun, own the experience, and develop the intrinsic motivation to improve. That is the path to long term success.

When winning is the priority prior to high school, then you are choosing short term success over long term development. This is not to say that you cannot properly develop players and win at the same time, but if given the choice, if you are truly concerned about your athlete’s long term sporting future, then choose development.


Myth #3, “Youth Sports is an Investment in a Scholarship:” If my kid specializes, gets on the winning team as early as possible, and I invest in long distance travel, private lessons, and the best gear, I will recoup this investment when college rolls around.

Youth sports is an investment in many things, such as character development, athletic improvement, and becoming a healthy, well rounded human being. It is not, however, an investment in a future scholarship.

This myth has been perpetuated by sporting goods companies, beverage makers, and some professional coaches looking to make a few extra bucks. A look at the numbers demonstrates that scholarships and pro contracts are reserved for an elite few athletes whose time, effort, and dedication, combined with their talent and a good dose of luck, led them to the higher ground. Less than 3% of all high school athletes play their sport in college. Only 1 in 10,000 high school athletes gets a partial athletic scholarship. The average award is $11,000 per year. Yet a huge number of parents THINK their kid is going to get a sports scholarship.

For the majority of athletes, there is not a scholarship to be had, at least on the playing field. Academic scholarship dollars far outweigh sports aid. Sports is not a financial investment. I am not saying that your child should not aspire to get one, or to play at the next level, but having a goal of excellence in sport is far better than having a goal of “get a scholarship.” And finally, if your child is only playing for a scholarship, and not love of the sport, it will be very hard for them to make it through the grind of college athletics!

These three myths are very convincing at first glance, very persuasive to many parents who want only the best for their kids, and very unrealistic. Sadly, in far too many communities they have become the status quo. It is very difficult to convince people that this path is less likely to help your child become a better athlete, and far less likely to help him or her develop as a human being. These three myths are killing youth sports, damaging our kids, and making athletics a toxic environment for far too many children.

The best way to help your child succeed is not only to recognize the common mythology surrounding youth sports, but to overcome it by sharing this message with others who think like you do. This article is filled with links to other articles and research pieces, so even the skeptics can go straight to the source.

Find the parents who love their kids and want to help them get ahead, and share this article via email, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. Find other parents struggling to fight through these myths, those who are made to think “Am I a good enough parent if I don’t have my kid specialize, or hire a private coach, or pay for travel sports when my kid is in 2nd grade?” Share this with them!

Let’s overcome these myths!

Let’s put the play back in playing youth sports.

Let’s change the game, and make it a far better one. That is within our reach. You can do your part simply by sharing this right now!