A positive sports environment will look different for all groups involved including the athlete, family, friends, and coach. Player participation, fun, and activity interest all increase when each group that provides influence on the athlete work in harmony.
A positive sports environment will have options for all levels of participants including beginners, advanced players, and everybody in-between. Placing the athlete within the appropriate level and team where they have an opportunity for success through hard work and dedication assists in growing the passion. Match up a quality coach who understands the environment that athletes thrive in and an opportunity for life-long learning through sport appears.
The formula is not complicated, but very often the support groups confuse what the children want with their own personal desires. It becomes coach and parent centered where achieving success is defined through winning and trophies. Athletes flourish in an environment where development, fun, and learning are the main reasons for participation. The group leaders cannot tout their beliefs about development, fun, and learning and then act in a manner not true with their beliefs in the heat of the contest. This would be a misrepresentation of how success is defined and the athletes would lose trust in their coaches. Losing trust leads to losing passion to participate.
If the environment spirals out of control and the group defines success as winning games, players will not be able to deal with the pressure of being in a must win situation at all times. In this environment, success does not happen unless the game is won. After watching thousands of games over a lifetime, it has become apparent that a team can win or lose the game and development, fun, and learning can happen. It depends upon what the coach places emphasis upon…development, fun, and learning or winning and losing. When leaders place emphasis on the processes of development, fun, and learning; the scoreboard results take care of themselves.
When the athletes purpose for participation is different than the coaches, parents, and other people that provide influence on the athlete; the outcome will be disastrous. This process leads to the athlete no longer participating in the activity. This happens over and over again as young athletes become teenagers. The blame should not be placed on the young participant but should be placed squarely on the unaligned value and belief system of the team and organization. Trust me when I write the former athlete will find an activity that matches their values and beliefs…I only hope it is for the positive…
The consistency and cooperation developed through shared values and beliefs from all influential factors around the athlete leads to the establishment of a positive sports environment. A positive sports environment is a byproduct of the leadership of the team, group, or organization intentionally determining that positive relationships and actions within athletic endeavors have an effect of creating an increased opportunity for lifetime success for the athlete. This process does not happen magically and is often overlooked by coaches and organizational leaders. Only through this intentional positive interaction can the environment be shaped to have such a dramatic impact on the participant.
From the athletes perspective, a positive environment is viewed like this:
- Has fun learning and developing skills and ability at chosen athletic endeavor.
- Enthusiastic about attending practice and does not want to leave.
- Arrives early and throughout practice is upbeat, laughing, and smiling.
- Enjoys training and often trains on own outside of established practice times.
- Appreciates spending time with other members of the team and their families on and off the field.
- Enjoys the flow of practice and learns through participatory opportunities.
- Gains confidence through positive feedback but understands receiving constructive criticism is an opportunity to learn.
- Defines success using goal setting to have a complete understanding of how to win for a day, week, month, season, and lifetime.
- Takes great pride in stating they are a member of the team or group in which they train and play.
These perspectives on a positive sports environment are only realized when the organizational or team leadership realizes that success is more than winning the game or winning the league championship. Success is understanding the process to win for a lifetime. The leadership must educate all groups to ensure an overall positive sports environment is created to develop success for each participant from age 5 to age 18.
Working to Create a Positive Sports Environment for All Athletes,