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Guidelines for Healthy Coach / Player Relationships

Submitted by on December 18, 2011 – 1:23 pm2 Comments

By Max R. Trenerry, Ph.D.

The recent events surrounding the Penn State coaching staff has likely made many North Texas parents think about how to avoid a similar situation with their own children. It’s certainly made coaches evaluate how they can keep themselves safe and out of a potentially bad situation.

Girls and boys by the hundreds sign up for sports teams across North Texas. Whether it’s hockey, baseball, basketball or soccer – or even dance, cheer or figure skate, coaches and athletes should keep their relationships on an appropriate level. For example, a coach and a child should never be alone together – ever, even if it’s five minutes before or after practice. It’s beneficial to both parties.

By no means do I want to keep parents from participating in athletics because they’re scared something may happen. Keeping kids fit and healthy as obesity sky rockets is paramount. Parents simply need to be involved and know the warning signs and actions to look for that could lead to an inappropriate situation or relationship.

Here are some simple tips for parents with children involved in athletics:

1)    Make sure that adults are two-deep for player contact. This means making sure the adult coach or volunteer isn’t alone with the youth athlete and that there is another adult present – for the sake of the athlete and the coach.

2)    Confirm that background checks are completed on coaching and volunteer staff.

3)    Maintain appropriate coach-athlete boundaries. For example, it might be reasonable for a coach and parent chaperones to take a team to a college or professional match, but again, an adult is not left alone with youth. Youth athletes never visit a coach’s home alone for sleepovers or similar situations. If there are team meetings at a coach’s residence, then there should be other coaching staff or parents in attendance. Coaches also don’t provide athletes with gifts or favors, and especially don’t do so in exchange for favors.

Max R. Trenerry, Ph.D. specializes in psychology and sports psychology at Mayo Clinic. Outside of his role at Mayo Clinic, he is also a sport psychology consultant for the Region II Olympic Development Program, U.S. Youth Soccer, and a coach for the Rochester Youth Soccer Association as well as holding numerous sports coaching certifications.



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