3 Game-Changing Rules to Teach Our Young Athletes

After a youth basketball practice my then 5-year-old attended, I decided we needed to make some changes. My son was not coachable, couldn’t keep his hands to himself, and was a distraction to his teammates. While the coach was able to keep his behavior under control, it was not acceptable behavior to start with. My wife and I implemented a new habit which our children would practice prior to any athletic event. Ever since we initiated the 3 rules, our son’s behavior dramatically changed for the better. Not only did the coach appreciate the new “mindset” but our son said he had more fun at the athletic events.

When I take my children to their games or practices, we always talk about the “3 rules”.

  1. Practice Good Sportsmanship. I follow up with the question, what does that mean? He explains, if a teammate has a great play, we tell them, great job! I then follow-up with, what is an example of poor sportsmanship? I target whatever may be a problem with my child. For example, my 5-year-old was having issues keeping his hands to himself. His intensions were well intended however I explained that hitting a teammate is an example of poor sportsmanship.
  2. Be Coachable. What does that mean? They explain, listen to the coach. Follow the coach’s instruction. If the coach says that only one person goes after the baseball and you are on the other side of the field, let your teammate get the ball. If the ball comes in your direction, you can get it!
  3. Have Fun! When you follow Rule 1 and Rule 2, something amazing happens. You have fun! Fun is why we play youth sports. It’s when we don’t practice good sportsmanship and are not coachable that we don’t have as much fun if we did.


After my children explain the 3 rules, I review the material one last time in a positive spin. Let me step back and explain. I learned through the years that when advising someone, the last words you say are the words which will be remembered. For example, if a football coach tells his running back, “don’t fumble”, the running back will remember the word fumble. This is not what the coach wanted resonate in the head of his athlete. Instead, the coach should say, “protect the ball”.

I review my kids “practice good sportsmanship by complementing your teammates”, “be coachable by listening to your coach”, and then you will “have fun!”

What are you to do?

When driving your children to youth sports, take a few moments to discuss what the rules or expectations are. You will be amazed by how your child will get into the proper mindset for practice. Not only will your child practice good sportsmanship and be coachable, they will have more fun!


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified

Email: szahn@lifetimefitness.com