SmartTeams™ Talk: Rosalind Wiseman Offers Parents and Coaches Ways To Use Sports To Teach Important Life Lessons

Best-selling author and parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman provides concrete advice to youth sports parents and coaches on how they can help nourish and maintain the relationship youth athletes have with adults.

For parents, Wiseman advises them to:

  1. make "values declarations" and speak truth to power when they hear kids bully or tell racist or homophobic jokes;
  2. resist the urge, when alone with a child in their car after a game (especially a loss), to talk, but to let them just sit and be quiet instead;
  3. manage themselves, and not being a "mama bear" or "papa bear" by screaming at the coach, because it reinforces the belief in their child not to come to them with their problems because they can't be trusted to handle the situation as a mature adult; and
  4. not to be silent when other parents act out, but discretely notify a coach or game official about the parent's misbehavior, or by talking quietly with the parent.

Wiseman's advice to coaches is to:

  1. hold their players accountable to them and to each other by having a zero tolerance for racist, homophobic, or rape jokes, and urging players to tell a teammate who makes such a joke that it is not acceptable, or, for repeat offenders, notifying the coach; 
  2. holding themselves accountable when they cross the line by making an inappropriate comment or joke by admitting their mistake to their players; and 
  3. hold other coaches accountable if they engage in unacceptable behavior by letting the coach know.

In the final analysis, says Wiseman, the "biggest hangup" to sports being what we want it to be is adults acting like adults and being willing to confront each other when they don't.