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Building Strong Community Foundations for Children & Youth

Developed by the South Fraser Valley Regional Child & Youth Committee in partnership with Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives Association

About the 40 Developmental Assets

Asset Building

Asset Building

The Fraser
Region Project



Coaches as Asset Builders

What you can do to make a difference in the lives of children and youth


Being the coach of a team is a great opportunity for many reasons. You have the opportunity to get to know students outside the classroom, you can be a mentor to them in something other than academics, you can create a great team experience for them, and most importantly, you can positively influence their personal growth as a person. The following are ways that, as a coach of a school team or even a community league team, you can provide positive experiences for children and youth with whom you interact.


Photo: Mary R. Vogt, Morguefile


Recognize that competition can be a main source of stress for young people. This stress may cause youth to engage in negative behaviours as a coping mechanism. Be sure to address these potential issues with students on your team. 

At the end of each practice, have a talk with the team about issues that may be of relevance to the team members during that time. Examples include stress or anxiety about upcoming exam times, grieving the loss of a student in the school, eating disorders or the use of diet pills/ steroids, etc.

Always remember the age of the students you are coaching. Your coaching style should vary depending on age. For younger players, they may not know or understand technical terminology, but for older players, they may be well aware of the terminology. Learn their level and adapt your teaching to that.

Example: For Grade 11 and 12 students you may wish to explain strategies and talk about why you run certain drills, but for younger students, such as. Grade 7 and 8, you may simply teach them the basics of the game without explaining all the strategies.


Encourage goals for the individual players, as well as for the group.


During practices, notice ways that each player can improve and work with them on an individual level to set goals. Also look at ways the team as a whole can improve, and work with them to set goals together.

Have two captains for the team and let the team vote on who the captains will be. Make the general rule that no one can be a captain for two years in a row so that other players in their age group have opportunities to take on the leadership role.


Find a way for the team volunteer as a group with an organization, such as a mini sports league for young children. This experience can empower players to teach others what they’ve learned in the sport as well as highlight the importance of being positive role models for others.

Example: Set up a time for your team to visit younger students in elementary schools and plays their sport with the young students.


Be clear, consistent and transparent about expectations and responsibilities of all players, parents, spectators, and yourself.

Have a poster made up by the team that lists all the expectations for spectators and have it displayed on the gym doors or near the game field at all games. Let the students decide what is appropriate behavior for the spectators. Examples may be "We ask that you do not throw things onto the field/court while we are playing”, or “Please keep away from the court/field while the game is in play.”

Encourage high priority and expectations for each athlete’s academic achievements.


Example: Have a minimum GPA requirement for players. Do not make it a standard that will be too difficult for students to maintain and which can create stress for them, but encourages students to maintain an average academic standing.

Constantly reinforce the importance for teammates to have respect for the other teammates as well as their opponents. Address disrespectful or hurtful behavior immediately.   


Promote healthy competition through high expectations of your team to show good sportsmanship with competing teams.

Example: Lead by example. Get to know the other coaches and be friendly towards them around your team. Let everyone see that you practice good sportsmanship.


Avoid scheduling practices that interfere with the dinner hour. This may be one of few times in a day when families have a chance to all be together.

Schedule practices to start half hour after school is finished, or have them run for an hour before school starts.

Be respectful of other priorities and activities that your team players may be involved with. Be respectful of these commitments as well as the need for time with their families.


Example: Never purposefully shame a player if they have a legitimate reason for not being able attend a practice or game. If they are eager to stay involved, offer to stay longer with them at the next practice so they can have some extra time to improve their skills.

Offer time at the end of each practice to have players provide positive feedback to other players and the team as a whole. Ensure that everyone is mentioned in this process.


Make certain that each player is treated equally with playing time and/or other ways that they can contribute to the team. Let this objective take priority over winning, so that students are not left out.



Constantly work at developing leadership skills in all the children and youth on your team by allowing them to share coaching responsibilities. Ensure that each player has this opportunity.

Let the team make up their own drills and run practices. Be there to maintain a structured practice, but let them decide what drills they do.

Remain aware of the players’ need to prioritize school work. Be understanding about players missing practice if they have to catch up on school work and provide ways to prevent players from falling behind in their school work.

Example: Offer assistance in setting up a personal schedule for all teammates that keeps them on track for school work and for scheduled practices and games.


Treat each player with respect and care; refrain from using too much sarcasm with young people as it may not  be well received. It is good to be humorous, but not too insulting or offensive. 


Incorporate life skills and positive values into practices.


Example: Talk with youth and children, and have them engage in activities that do not focus on the sport, but rather on skills such as leadership, self-determination, self-esteem, effective communication, respect for others, respect for self, etc.

During practices, provide your team with short history lessons on the sport you coach. Let them know the value of the sport so they will play it with integrity.


Give biographies of famous sports players that worked hard to reach their goals. Explain the importance of working hard to achieve your goals.


Example: Make reference to famous sports players who went above and beyond their role as a professional sports player. These are players who also contribute to their community, such Trevor Linden, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and others.

Invite well known sports players to run practices as inspiration to the players.



Be open to listening to and discussing the dreams, goals, or concerns of each student, related to sports or not.


Be open and willing to talk to your team about social issues which may include drug use, sexual activity, violent and aggressive behavior, abusive relationships (emotional, physical or sexual), eating disorders, or any variety of topics often problematic with children and youth.

Example: If you hear that one of your students is struggling in some way, try to bring it up with them to see how they are doing. If they are resistant in sharing information with you, just let them know that you are available to help if needed, and offer other resources.

Have absolutely no tolerance for negative comments from students about different races or cultures. If you do hear negative comments, talk with that student about where they learned to make such comments and correct them. Make sure they understand that such comments are inappropriate and will not be tolerated.


Be aware and respectful of all cultures and ethnicities. Accept that some players will have strict commitments to their culture, religion or spirituality that they will not be able to compromise for practices and games. Try to work around these commitments.


Example: At the beginning of the season have all players fill out calendars that show when they are consistently available/unavailable. To the best of your ability, schedule practices around the players' other commitments.


When correcting players’ techniques, ensure that you begin and end the conversation with positive feedback.

Use the “sandwich approach”—praise them, constructively criticize, and praise them again.

At the end of the season, have a wind-up party and take time to recognize each player's strengths. Enforce that they are all valuable in different ways. 



Learn and know all the names of the players and call them by name frequently.



Create and maintain a positive atmosphere during both practices and games. Assure your students that winning is not a priority, and that you want to make sure they are enjoying playing the sport.


• Plan fun games for every practice.

• Plan social events for the team so they can bond and get to know each other.

• Be positive, even when the team loses. Keep a positive outlook, highlight the good parts and talk about ways the team can improve. Never place blame or criticize one person in front of the other players.

Give immediate and positive feedback to players who you see doing things right.


Show interest in other parts of your students lives other than just the sport. This can create a level of comfort for them to talk to you about topics and issues that go beyond the sport itself.


Adapted from Pass It On! Ready To Use Handouts for Asset Builders, ©1999 by
The Search Institute