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Five Ways to Prevent Entitlement in Youth Sports

Coaches, mentors, teachers have the undivided attention of a team more than anyone else in the athletes' lives so take advantage of that. 

Entitlement is unfortunately becoming more prevalent in youth sports today, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

What exactly is Entitlement? Easily put it’s the feeling of having the right to something. In the world of sports it is often used in the context of athletes feeling as if they “deserve” certain consideration regardless of preparation or effort. 

Examples of Entitlement:

  • This athlete that would rather blame others than pull the team together.

  • Your team is losing by many points or the opponent goes on a 10 point run, and this athlete is the only one not coming into the middle of the court to connect with teammates.

  • This athlete often feels that he/she deserves more playing time than others regardless of talent level or effort.

If you are supporting any of the above behaviors you are part of the problem.

Many athletes truly believe they deserve an outcome that they haven’t earned, and many times it’s a delivered message. Parents, coaches, mentors, grandparents, leaders of young people are all influencers on youth athletes and can deliver the powerful message of working hard to earn an opportunity or outcome.

Here are 5 Ways to Prevent Entitlement in Youth Sports

  1. Honesty: Be honest with athletes, as well as parents. It’s difficult at times to coach (and parent) with honesty and unfortunately it sometimes has an effect on membership, but you have to do it. Stop coddling your athlete, they don’t need that, and truth be told they don’t want it. They need the truth, they need reality.

  2.  Discipline: Reprimand in private. Nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of teammates or friends. Schedule a meeting with the family to address behavioral signs of entitlement.

  3. Consistency: Treat everyone fairly and with the same expectations. The most gifted athlete should not be coddled or pampered. It is an even playing field and every athlete should be held to the same standards.

  4. Inspiration: Inspired is the antithesis of entitled. Want to motivate athletes to excel and reach the next level? Inspire them to do so! Inspired athletes show no sign of entitlement.

  5. Set a Standard: Coaches, mentors, teachers have the undivided attention of a team more than anyone else in the athletes' lives so take advantage of that. Immediately communicate all of your standards and expectations, including the unacceptable behaviors and be firm and fair enforcing them. 

Athletes will one day have the enormous responsibility of being productive members of society on their own, and it is going to be more difficult than most think. Sports is a great way for us to prepare youth athletes for life. The lessons inside of competition are irreplaceable. Create a winning culture of un-entitlement on your team. Firmly encourage parents to buy-in and work together to develop youth athletes who are inspired and un-entitled.

For related reading for coaches click HERE. To access the JVA webinar "Create a Winning Culture of Un-Entitlement From the Club Level to College and into Life" click HERE.

Kevin is presenting "Beyond the Ball" for athletes, parents and coaches at the upcoming JVA SummerFest presented by Mizuno USA in Columbus, Ohio. “Beyond the Ball” is a collective approach to creating the most conducive learning environment for everyone involved in organized sports. Addressing athletes, parents, and coaches together helps all of us understand the roles and responsibilities that make the best clubs in the country function more efficiently while producing America's finest, on and off of the paying field.

Republished with permission of the Junior Volleyball Association.  Original publish date: April, 25th 2019

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