Jeff Farris
As a parent, I agree to receive the Sports Esteem Email Newsletter and to read the book Building All-Star Kids. During the season, I will:

  1. Emphasize fun. I will create a positive and fun environment for my child to promote life skills and good health.

  2. Not pressure my child to participate. I will help my child develop internal motivation and love of the game. I will not pressure my child into participating.

  3. Encourage learning and development. I will work to educate myself and my child about the game so that my child can get the best exposure to the sport.

  4. Emphasize fair play by the rules. I will always insist that my child plays fairly and by the rules.
    Help the coach achieve team goals. I will work with the coaches to help my child develop a mastery of the skills and an appreciation for team contributions. I will work to help the coach achieve the goals and objectives that have been defined for the team.

  5. Let the coach control the game. I will not yell instructions to my child from the sidelines or give my child instructions counter to the those of the coach.

  6. Express only positive comments and attitude. I will be a positive role model for my child. I will show emotional maturity by controlling my anger and never using obscene language or gestures. I will show a positive attitude toward the game and all its participants. I will not argue or yell about a referee's call.

  7. Demonstrate good sportsmanship. I will treat everyone fairly and with respect. I will set high standards for my child to follow. I will respect the importance and contributions of volunteer coaches.

I have read and understand the above Code of Conduct and agree to follow its guidelines at all league activities. I understand that if I do not follow this Code of Conduct, I may be asked to leave the league activity (such as a game or practice) or I may be asked to withdraw my child from the league.

Player Name(s) (printed)
Parent Name (printed)
Parent Signature
Jeff Farris
As a player, I will conduct myself at all times in a way that demonstrates my commitment to the following:

  1. Players must create a positive and fun environment for their teammates.

  2. Players must work to educate themselves about the game and play fairly and by the rules.

  3. Players must listen to their coaches and work towards the goals that are set.

  4. Players must work with their coaches and teammates to develop team skills. They must emphasize team play over personal accomplishments.

  5. Players must be role models for their teammates. They should control their anger and never use unsuitable language or make inappropriate gestures.

  6. Players must arrive at practices and games on time.

  7. Players must treat everyone fairly and with respect.

  8. Players must respect the calls of the officials and never argue.

  9. Players must remember that sports can be dangerous and must play safely and in such ways to minimize the risks to other players.

  10. Players must respect their opponents and positively recognize their efforts.

I have read and understand the above Code of Conduct and agree to follow its guidelines at all league activities. I understand that if I do not follow this Code of Conduct, I may be asked to leave the league activity (such as a game or practice) or I may be asked to withdraw from the league.

Player Signature
Player Name (Printed)
Jeff Farris
The following attempts to answer some of the more common questions from parents.

  1. Q. Why didn't my child seem to get as much playing time as some of the other players?A. The team tries to balance out time so that all players get equal playing time. However, substitutions are done based on a game time situation and those situations don't happen at regular intervals. Therefore, over a single game, some players will get more game time than others. However, over a season, these playing variations should even out.

  2. Q. Why didn't the referee/official call the obvious penalty for my child (or team)? What should I do when I see a bad call?A. Game officials are people and make mistakes like everyone else. Officials have to see the infraction to call it and often they just aren't looking at the right place at the right time. Mistaken calls happen at every level of the sport and are just part of the game. Often, games at younger levels just aren't called as critically as those at older levels. If you feel strongly that the official was not acting in a professional manner, then you should write a letter to the league officials with all the details and let them handle the complaint. Do not discuss the matter directly with the referee or in the presence of your child.

  3. Q. What should I be doing to help my child reach a professional sports team?A. There are probably more things you can do to keep a child from reaching a professional team than there are ways to help. To reach the professional levels requires a tremendous amount of dedication on the part of a player. This dedication can only come from an absolute love of the game. This love of the game can only come from within and is based on positive and fun experiences. Therefore, the best thing a parent can do is make sure the child is enjoying the sport.

  4. Q. What else can my child do to improve playing skills?A. If a child wants to improve, there are many ways including workbooks, private lessons, backyard drills, exercising and just more experience. The most important thing is that the child wants to improve. Parents can't force a child to get better, but they can help by participating along with their child and by making the process of improving a positive and fun experience. This gives children the chance to share this experience with their parents.

  5. Q. If the primary goal is not about winning, why publish wins, losses and other statistics?A. Parents, coaches and players are going to keep their own standings whether the league does or not. Although winning is not the primary goal, sports is about competition. During games, coaches want players to compete against their previous performances to raise their level of play and they want the same thing at a team level. Tracking wins and losses is one method of motivation to improve and measure performance. Parents shouldn't focus on wins to determine the success of a season.

  6. Q. Why do the kids always start practice with something that doesn't seem to emphasize or build new skills?A. Players can't just go straight into maximum effort. Their muscles need time to warm up and stretch before attempting more aggressive drills. They also must mentally switch from school or family issues to physical performance. Therefore, practices often start with drills that help the kids loosen up, both physically and mentally.

  7. Q. Am I a bad parent for wanting my child's team to win?A. Being competitive is perfectly normal. However, it is important to separate your desire for wins with your child's desire to have fun. Wins and losses are team accomplishments and a win or a loss shouldn't determine how or in what mood you talk with your child after a game. If you want to make sure you can continue watching sports activities in the future (because your child continues playing), you must keep wins and losses in perspective.

  8. Q. Why do coaches continue substituting players when the score is close and the game is almost over? Why not leave the best players in to give the team a chance to win the game?A. The team is committed to winning and losing as a team with every player given equal playing time. All players should experience the highly competitive end to a game in order to develop their understanding of these situations.

  9. Q. My child doesn't try his hardest at practices or games. What can I do to make him try harder?A. There is little you can do to make a child try harder. Children must do it for themselves. A lack of effort is typically due to a lack of fun. Work with your child to start the skills development cycle. Find something your child is doing right and praise the accomplishment. Provide other ways for your child to excel if his skills are not up to those of other players. For example, helping your child understand position play can make them one of the smarter players even if they are not one of the fastest.

Jeff Farris
Icebreaker #1 - Player Interviews

Separate players into groups of two or three. Try to match players with others they do not know. Each person in the group should interview one of the other group members and ask them the interview questions. After all interviews have taken place, the answers should be presented to the group by the interviewer. Groups of three are preferable for older players since they must work together to determine who interviews whom.

Sample Interview Questions
Change the interview questions to make them more relevant for age group and sport. Try to choose questions that might help players identify with other members of the team.


Age & Grade?


Favorite sports hero?

Favorite sport (other than the one now playing)?

Favorite television show?

Favorite musician/band?

Icebreaker #2 - Player Trivia Challenge

Separate players into groups of three or four and let each group work together to answer the following questions. Each group writes its answers on a piece of paper. After all questions are asked, answers are given and each group gets one point for a correct answer.

Sample Trivia Questions

Feel free to change the trivia questions as desired to make them more relevant for age group and sport. Try to choose questions that might have a couple of different answers to get kids more active in discussion.

1. Who is the all-time NBA total points leader?

A. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
B. Karl Malone
C. Michael Jordan

2. Who is the all-time NBA leader in points per game?

A. Wilt Chamberlain
B. Michael Jordan
C. Shaquille O'Neal

3. Who led the NFL in passing touchdowns for three consecutive years starting in 1995?

A. Kurt Warner
B. Steve Young
C. Brett Favre

4. Whose record did Emmitt Smith break to become the all time leading rusher in the NFL?

A. Barry Sanders
B. Walter Payton
C. Jim Brown

5. Who is the all-time MLB leader in home runs?

A. Barry Bonds
B. Hank Aaron
C. Babe Ruth

6. Who holds the record for pitching the most innings in MLB?

A. Nolan Ryan
B. Jim Galvin
C. Cy Young

7. After Wayne Gretzky, who holds the record for the most points in the NHL?

A. Mark Messier
B. Gordie Howe
C. Brett Hull

8. Who holds the record for the most games played in the NHL?

A. Wayne Gretzky
B. Gordie Howe
C. Ray Bourque


  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 38,387.  The leader order is the same as the answers.

  2. Michael Jordan with an average of 30.1.

  3. Brett Favre with 38, 39 and 35 respectively.

  4. Walter Payton

  5. Hank Aaron with 755 from 1954-1976.

  6. Cy Young with 7,356.

  7. Gordie Howe with 1,850.

  8. Gordie Howe with 1,767. Gretzy is #11 on the list with 1,487.

Jeff Farris

A Report to the President From the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education


Our nations young people are, in large measure, inactive, unfit, and increasingly overweight. In the long run, this physical inactivity threatens to reverse the decades-long progress we have made in reducing death from cardiovascular diseases and to devastate our national health care budget. In the short run, physical inactivity has contributed to an unprecedented epidemic of childhood obesity that is currently plaguing the United States. The percentage of young people who are overweight has doubled since 1980.Physical activity has been identified as one of our nations leading health indicators in Healthy People 2010, the national health objectives for the decade. Enhancing efforts to promote participation in physical activity and sports among young people is a critical national priority. That is why, on June 23, 2000, President Clinton issued an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education to work together to identify and report within 90 days on strategies to promote better health for our nations youth through physical activity and fitness. The President concluded his directive: "By identifying effective new steps and strengthening public-private partnerships, we will advance our efforts to prepare the nations young people for lifelong physical fitness."To increase their levels of physical activity and fitness, young people can benefit from

  • Families who model and support participation in enjoyable physical activity.
  • School programs - including quality, daily physical education; health education; recess; and extracurricular activities that help students develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviors, and confidence to adopt and maintain physically active lifestyles, while providing opportunities for enjoyable physical activity.
  • After-school care programs that provide regular opportunities for active, physical play.
  • Youth sports and recreation programs that offer a range of developmentally appropriate activities that are accessible and attractive to all young people.
  • A community structural environment that makes it easy and safe for young people to walk, ride bicycles, and use close-to-home physical activity facilities.
  • Media campaigns that help motivate young people to be physically active.


The following strategies are all designed to promote lifelong participation in enjoyable and safe physical activity and sports.
  1. Include education for parents and guardians as part of youth physical activity promotion initiatives. Help all children, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, to receive quality, daily physical education.
  2. Help all schools to have certified physical education specialists; appropriate class sizes; and the facilities, equipment, and supplies needed to deliver quality, daily physical education.
  3. Publicize and disseminate tools to help schools improve their physical education and other physical activity programs.
  4. Enable state education and health departments to work together to help schools implement quality, daily physical education and other physical activity programs.
  5. Enable more after-school care programs to provide regular opportunities for active, physical play.
  6. Help provide access to community sports and recreation programs for all young people.
  7. Enable youth sports and recreation programs to provide coaches and recreation program staff with the training they need to offer developmentally appropriate, safe, and enjoyable physical activity experiences for young people.
  8. Enable communities to develop and promote the use of safe, well-maintained, and close-to-home sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle paths, trails, parks, recreation facilities, and community designs featuring mixed-use development and a connected grid of streets.
  9. Implement an ongoing media campaign to promote physical education as an important component of a quality education and long-term health.
  10. Monitor youth physical activity, physical fitness, and school and community physical activity programs in the nation and each state.
Full implementation of the strategies recommended in this report will require the commitment of resources, hard work, and creative thinking from many partners in federal, state, and local governments; non-governmental organizations; and the private sector. Only through extensive collaboration and coordination can resources be maximized, strategies integrated, and messages reinforced. Development or expansion of a broad, national coalition to promote better health through physical activity and sports is an important first step toward collaboration and coordination. A foundation to support the promotion of physical activity could complement the work of the coalition and play a critical role in obtaining the resources needed to help our young people become physically active and fit. The 10 strategies and the process for facilitating their implementation described in this report provide the framework for our children to rediscover the joys of physical activity and to incorporate physical activity as a fundamental building-block of their present and future lives.
Jeff Farris
Just as children bring home homework that is beyond what a parent can help with, so young athletes often progress beyond the abilities of a parent. If the problem is not addressed, young players' frustration at their own lack of progress may increase until the solution is to quit sports altogether. Fortunately, like in school, there are a variety of experts to help with almost every aspect of physical, skill and strategy development.

Teaching, whether in school or in sports, works best when parents respect the role of the educator but stay involved with monitoring progress and results. Though they may not be able to help directly, parents still have a large role to play in selecting and overseeing these experts. Whether a player is 5 or even 15 years old, parents should:

  1. Ask if their child wants help. Kids will apply themselves only if they are motivated to learn. Forcing instruction on a child with limited interest will have little benefit.

  2. Locate instructors who like instructing. Not all instructors have the same passion for teaching the same subject over and over. Only instructors who enjoy seeing another's progress can teach enthusiastically.

  3. Watch to determine if the instruction is organized. Spending time with a student is not the same as instructing. Parents should notice how the practice is organized and if the practice builds on previous lessons.

  4. Remain open to all areas of instruction. Sometimes, a problem is caused by a breakdown in a more fundamental area and won't improve until the fundamental issue is resolved.

  5. Expect results over time. One lesson is not going to make a major impact on a child's performance. If a child wants and enjoys the instruction and the instructor is enthusiastic and organized, then lessons will help over time though it may be weeks or months before results can be observed.

It is never too early or too late to consider expert help. Especially with younger children, lessons can improve a child's confidence and dramatically increase the enjoyment and love of the sport. Lessons give younger kids the opportunity to develop proper technique and good habits that allow them to develop faster than other kids who must unlearn self-taught approaches. Finding instructors who can teach fundamental skills in a fun way allows parents to increase the odds of their child playing longer in organized sports.

With older children, private instruction becomes essential for developing the specialization required to compete. Parents need to seek out instructors who have specific expertise in teaching a particular skill. It is not unusual for older athletes to have multiple instructors who focus on both sport specific and general athletic issues, such as strength or stamina.

Private instruction is not inexpensive and parents should be careful not to look at the associated costs as something that will have a payback in the sporting world. As with all youth sporting costs, parents should expect their investments to be repaid not in sports performance but in the life lessons that can be learned through sports activities. The time and costs of youth sports are ultimately investments in better kids, not in better athletes.
Jeff Farris
When parents hear their child compared to professional athletes, they hope to hear that their child has the moves of Wayne Gretzky or the arm of Brett Favre. Parents don't really want to learn that their child has the manners of Dennis Rodman or the easygoing nature of John McEnroe. Not all comparisons to professional athletes are intended as compliments. 

It is easy for kids to admire professional athletes who stand out in their sport. This admiration often takes the form of "hero worship" and gives kids someone to mimic in their path to adulthood. Just like their heroes, most kids can easily see themselves making the winning score or receiving the praise and lifestyle that comes with success. Many parents encourage this behavior through buying jerseys and seeking autographs. 

Professional sports are a form of entertainment just like television programs. Like actors and actresses, professional athletes become celebrities and gain additional exposure for the things they do away from the game - blurring the line between performance and lifestyle. Parents can't always control what kids know about their favorite players. As personal celebrity becomes intermixed with professional accomplishment, kids can begin to mimic an athlete's personal actions and mannerisms as well as an athlete's professional skill. Kids can become confused about what it is they are trying to imitate. 

However, as recent news accounts only reconfirm, professional athletes do not always make the best role models. A professional player's conduct away from the game is often unknown. Most fans do not really know a player's morals, ethics, work habits and respect for teammates or for fans. Thus, most parents do not really know if they want their child to grow up mimicking the life choices of a specific professional athlete. 

For kids who want heroes and parents who want role models, there can be conflict. One way around this conflict is for parents to begin distinguishing between admiration for a player's abilities and admiration for a player. For example, saying that a professional player is a great athlete is different than saying a professional player is a great person. Parents can help focus their children's attention on players whose community actions are admirable even if the player's game actions are not at the superstar level. Helping kids understand the difference between a player as a person and a player as an athlete is the key to providing the right role models to children.
Jeff Farris
Everyone wants to play on winning teams. Yet on any given day, half of all teams will lose or at best play to a tie. For parents of young athletes, dealing successfully with losses is a key factor that determines whether kids will continue playing sports past the current season. Before thinking about how to deal with losses, parents should consider the following questions to determine the differences between winning and losing teams.
  1. A team wins a game and afterwards a coach stands up and congratulates players on their hard work and accomplishments. When a team loses, what should a coach do?
  2. A team wins a game and afterwards parents congratulate their children on their efforts. When a team loses, what should parents do?
  3. A team wins a game and afterwards parents brag to family members about the play of their child. When a team loses, what should parents do?
  4. A team wins a game and afterwards parents thank the coach for his or her hard work and time. When a team loses, what should parents say?
  5. A team wins a game and afterwards parents encourage their children to try to better their performance. When a team loses, what should parents encourage?
  6. A team wins a game and everyone goes out afterwards and celebrates player accomplishments. When a team loses, what should everyone do?
  7. A team wins and the next practice is devoted to improving player skills. When a team loses, what should practices focus on?
  8. A team has a winning season and afterwards the entire team gets together to remember memorable moments. When a team has a losing season, what should the team do?
  9. A team has a winning season and afterwards players sign up to play again next year. When a team has a losing season, what should players do?
The correct answer to all of the above is "the same thing." Every game has a "scoring" outcome that is often determined by one player, one moment or one mistake. Every game also has a "fun" outcome. As parents on winning teams often know, these two things are not related. The coaches and players may control the "scoring" outcome, but parents do control the "fun" outcome. If games and the events that surround them are fun, players will want to play again. If these events are not fun, players will quit whether their team is winning or losing. Youth sports are not professional sports. Youth coaches seldom get fired midseason for poor records and players are rarely traded. This lets everyone focus on building better kids both during the game and in life. Though wins are important for statisticians, they only become critical to young athletes if parents forget why it is important for kids to play sports.
Jeff Farris

"Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."

"If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?"

"Losing only teaches you how to lose."

"Americans play to win at all times. I wouldn't give a hoot for a man who lost and laughed."

America prides itself on all forms of competition and tracking wins and losses is an ingrained part of the nation's character. This winning attitude should be carried over into youth sports. However, without understanding what it is we are trying to win, we run the risk of losing and losing big.

Tracking wins and losses is easy when there are countable things like game outcomes. It becomes much harder when it comes to things such as fun, passion and skills progression. This sometimes leads parents and coaches to believe that winning in youth sports concerns game outcomes rather than life experiences.

The old adage that losing only teaches someone how to lose doesn't apply only to games. It applies to all areas of life such as learning, sportsmanship, friendship, teamwork and self-discipline, to name a few. If kids lose in these areas but win in games, then kids won't have much to show for their youth sports experience. However, if kids win in these areas but lose games, then their experiences will last a lifetime.

Professional sports, used as a role model for youth sports, can often produce disastrous results for a kid's long-term success. Youth sports are not a farm system for high school, college or professional sports. Youth sports are a farm team for business, politics, education, communities and families. Viewed in this manner, success and winning are all about building the best kids possible.

The chances of any child's playing college or professional sports are extremely slim. So, if winning is determined by this standard, most kids will end up as losers. If winning is determined by positive life lessons, then there is an opportunity for every kid to be a winner. And, there is an opportunity for every coach and parent to make a difference.

The popular saying that "Losing makes you a loser" may be true. But, its misuse in youth sports threatens to leave parents with kids who value the appearance of winning over true personal success. Parents have a huge role to play in helping their kids learn the right lessons from youth sports and use their youth experiences to become better business, community and family leaders. Winning is an important part of youth sports. But, parents must always keep focused on what their kids are trying to win. Keeping this perspective makes it much easier to see game outcomes as interesting but irrelevant.
Jeff Farris

Sooner or later, every parent will have to face the perceived shame and humiliation caused by a child who didn't "hustle" during a game. Most of the other parents will be polite and say things like "Is you child feeling okay?" or "Hope everything is okay at home." Some parents will suggest private lessons or maybe even other teams to play on, but most will be quiet and avoid direct eye contact. When this happens, parents can either put on a brave face and laugh off the comments, or just pretend to be on their cell phone while quickly walking their five year old to the car. When confronted with too much shame and humiliation, parents quit youth sports and never return.

WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!  Parents aren't quitting youth sports in record numbers, kids are. The last count was more than 70% by age 13. Shame and humiliation may have their place in a corporate financial scandal but they have no place in youth sports. Kids are not always going to play a good game and parents may want to talk with them about their "hustle". But, before getting into that discussion, parents need to remember that a lack of hustle may actually be things that they cause or influence. For example:

  • Were there external distractions such as problems at school or with friends or siblings?
  • Were there physical influences such as an illness, lack of proper nutrition or insufficient rest?
  • Is there a diminished lack of interest in the sport caused by burnout or a lack of time for other activities?
  • Is physical conditioning in areas such as stamina or strength adequate for playing an entire game?
  • Does a lack of fundamental skills hinder more advanced play?
  • Is there a good understanding of strategy and positioning so that a young player knows how to react in specific situations?
  • Is the child playing at the right level of competition? Playing with kids who are much more or much less talented can be demoralizing and slow improvement.

These issues are also why it can be so harmful to yell "hustle" from the sidelines. Children can instantly understand if their parents are upset, but may not think through whether they were adequately prepared with things like rest, proper nutrition and instruction. Kids may even come to believe they are not "hustlers" and may slow down in other areas of their life due to lowered self-esteem. Yelling "hustle" is a simple response to something that has many causes. If it is not clear what the problem is, parents should have a positive conversation with their child or with the coach to better identify the problem and the corrective actions necessary. Most of all, parents must be patient. Sports is a learned activity and requires time to master. The age of the player and the length of time between events give parents plenty of opportunity to get to the heart of a hustle problem.