Integrating values into youth sport (Part 2)

In my previous article, I discussed why I think coaches are responsible for challenging poor discipline in their athletes. I also highlighted the negative effects that failing to do so can have on:

  1. The individual
  2. The team
  3. The club
  4. The sport

In part 2, my aim is to communicate some useful tools and strategies to help foster a better discipline in your athletes, as well as a better attitude overall.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Positive Coaching Alliance or “PCA”. You can find them here:

They are an organisation based in the USA, focussing on developing the character and integrity of athletes. I really like the PCA and what they are trying to achieve. They endorse the idea of a “Double goal coach”, which is a coach who two aims:

  1. Winning
  • By learning to compete effectively
  • Wanting to win, not at all costs but through concerted effort


2.Teaching young people vital, character-building life skills through sport, that will equip them for the future

  • Leadership
  • Handling adversity
  • Teamwork
  • Persistence
  • Compassion

In order to achieve this aims, they consider that a coach needs to address 3 components:


  1. Honour our sport (ROOTS).

The PCA is aware of issues that blight youth sport such as coaches that want to win at all costs, pushy parents, abuse of officials and touchline violence. They believe it is crucial that that young people are taught how to respect and honour the sport. ROOTS is how they communicate this. The acronym stands for respecting:


  1. Redefine “Winner”

They believe that to help young people become successful in all walks of life, then it is important to realise the winning a match or tournament is a short-term way of thinking and may actually stunt long-term development. To prevent this, they encourage a shift from a “scoreboard” culture (results drive, comparison with peers, intolerance of mistakes) to a “mastery” culture (focus on effort, learning and recognising mistakes happen). You may see some similarities here to the Growth Mindset developed by Dr Carol Dweck. You would be absolutely correct…



They reinforce that a “winner” as someone who gives their best at all times, continues to learn/improve and does not allow mistakes or fear of mistakes to stop them trying new things. Sounds like a pretty good athlete to me. Someone with that attitude can only continue to make the most of their abilities be it athletic, academic or life skills.

To help teach this, they utilise the acronym “ELM”:


  1. Fill the Emotional Tank

It’s important that young athletes have the confidence and self-esteem to enjoy new experience and make new relationships. To help build this confidence, it’s important that coaches give consistent encouragement and correct praise. For some confidence is fragile and can often centre around performance. Negative comments from peers, parents or coaches can often lead to discouragement and anxiety. The PCA introduces the idea of an “emotional tank” that can be filled or drained accordingly and how we as coaches have a part to play in that:

There are many other facets to the PCA programme that help to uphold these values. The idea of “culture keepers”, developing self-control and mistake rituals, teachable moments and nipping problems in the bud. I would encourage to read further on their method using some of the resources below, or via their site. They also have numerous resources including books and online courses for athletes, parents and coaches. I’ll leave you with a video of PCA founder Jim Thompson presenting a TED Talk about youth sport as a development zone:




 A huge thank you to Rob Anderson from Fortius Training

Check them out:




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