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Behaviour for sports teams and parents – PP18

The topic of the week is Behaviour for sports teams and parents – PP18.


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sports-handsWe were delighted to welcome Garth Smith to the podcast this week. He is a sports coach in Northern Ireland and had a great deal of fantastic information to share about how to manage the behaviour of sports teams – and their parents!

The relationship between coaches, players and parents is crucial. This is set by the coach and helps everyone to get the maximum out of sport – to understand what sport is all about. This is all based on the expectations which are set by the coach.

Coaches need to create an environment where children are empowered to take control of their sports sessions. Adults have a role but the maximum benefit for children is achieved where they can take responsibility themselves.

A safe environment to play is essential. Parents don’t feel it’s their role to organise and control their children’s play on an Xbox, so why do they feel this is their role in sports? The same is true for coaches as well. Just because coaches have been on a training course, this does not mean they should try and control the sports training session by stopping the activity constantly, talking a huge amount or being over-prescriptive. Paul draws some really helpful parallels with the classroom with this.

Behaviour is much better in sports sessions when players are immediately directed to activity – just like the meet and greet and initial activity in a classroom session.

Garth stresses again the importance of responsibility in managing behaviour – simple responsibilities such as giving out bibs, organising games, being a captain can all help enormously.

Give the players options over which they can have control – the challenges can be set by the players and then it’s the coach’s job to see how development work can be woven into this.

Paul reinforces this by point out that great teaching or coaching is counter-intuitive – freedom for the pupils or players to control the activity feels wrong but produces much better results.

Garth talks about the skill of the coach to differentiate activities for each player according to their needs and level of development – even within a mixed-ability group and in the same activity. Behaviour can be improved by everyone being active all the time – and appropriately challenged. Players who have appropriate, personal goals experience success much more often.

There are two sets of useful acronyms to keep in mind when running sports training sessions:

Try to steer clear of ‘The 3 Ls’

Lines – where players are expected to line up and perform the same task as the person in front (can lead to frustration, boredom and poor behaviour)

Laps – use of inappropriate sanctions

Lectures – use of too much talk


Try to incorporate ‘The 3 Rs’

Realistic – is the task appropriate for the individual?

Relevant – is the task leading towards better performance in the real game setting?

Repetitive – is the chance to master a particular skill facilitated?



Garth stresses the importance of a pre-season parental meeting at which clear expectations are set out. Garth is clear about his inclusive practice, how parents are expected to behave on the touchline and a great tip is to encourage parents to bring seats with them to the matches. If parents are sitting down to watch, their body language is calmer, they behave in a more relaxed way and, as a consequence, their children are less stressed and perform better.

Garth also makes sure that successes are highlighted and that parents are clear right from the outset that they are expected to celebrate the success of their children, based on achieving personal goals to do with skills, rather than simplistic and unachievable aspirations.

Garth is clear that where parents do not agree with his inclusive philosophy, they do not have to stay. He will not change his approach to fit in with players’ or parents’ desires.

Garth’s weblinks:

Scottish FA Positive Coaching

NSPCC My magic sports kit


New free iPad App! Be the first to download and use this amazing new app! Students love using the Pivotal Progess Sliders app on iPads to track their progress during lessons. You can also save progress and return to it in the next lesson.

Brand new 5 Minute Assessment for Learning Plan released in collaboration with TeacherToolkit


  • Magnificent Cultures of Teaching and Behaviour – deconstructing excellent practice – 12th March 2014 featuring Paul Dix and Phil Beadle and including an education debate at the end of the day
  • Early notification – Improving discipline, raising attendance and boosting achievement – a conference by Teachology – 7th February, 2014, London, UK

What would you like to hear covered in forthcoming episodes? Let us know by emailing or by leaving a comment below this post.

Get involved:

Appear on the podcast yourself by sending in a comment or question via either of the two answerphone hotlines:

Telephone Hotline Telephone Hotline – 0844 579 6949, Mailbox number 23161 Microphone Computer Hotline (SpeakPipe)

Creative Commons image by bibendum84

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