According to recent statistics, 47 percent of Canadian parents report having a child who is a victim of bullying. In sports, there can be a fine line between competitive play and bullying that is often mistaken. Coaches can play a vital role in bullying prevention through role modelling and setting behaviour expectations that value team support and respect over winning at all costs.
In this webinar, Lisa Dixon-Well, founder of Dare to Care, will help coaches to develop a common language around bullying behaviour, be better equipped in the early identification of players that are being targeted, and learn how to take a no-nonsense approach to deal with players or parents who are using bullying tactics.
See what Coach-2-Coach is all about!
Catherine Kerr – Deep River – Soccer
“From the first swim practice, the swimmers are told the expectations re their conduct and the coaches conduct. This is again shared at the parent’s meeting plus the expectation of parents. every problem is followed up immediately.”
Peter Menyasz – Nepean – Soccer
“I talk to my players about making respect for others, and doing no harm to the team (and teammates) as the basis for their behaviour. Going forward, though, I’ll specifically talk about bullying – what it means and how it will be addressed.”
Robert Devine – Windsor – Golf
“As a parent coach in one of the sports I coach, I have zero tolerance for in-person, and/or cyber bullying. It has led to suspensions, also removal from the team. I do this because it also affects the friendship that my daughter has with these kids, and some of these players come to my house on a daily basis.”
Kevin Stevens – Milton – Badminton
“Zero tolerance. A team’s identity should be one of the individuals supporting one another, on and off the field. Constructive criticisms and encouragement to do better or work harder will always be accepted, but not bullying or degrading language.”
Nadine Powell – Richmond Hill – Soccer
“Having players brainstorm to create their own document that reflects team rules/expectations. Then having all of them sign it….in addition to club code of conduct.”
Daniel Milkovich – Burlington – Rugby
“That we recognize our differences but never challenge or demean another person’s dignity or humanity.”
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Originally called “Female Athlete Triad”, Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) was termed to include all of the side effects of energy deficiency that can affect any athlete. RED-S can affect athletes of any age, sex and has detrimental effects on bone health, immune function, cardiovascular health and psychological health and ultimately impacts athletic performance.
RED-S is the result of an imbalance that occurs when athletes don’t eat enough to meet the energy demands of training and daily life. Coaches can play a significant role in preventing RED-S by creating a supportive environment for their athletes. You’ll leave this webinar able to identify the warning signs and implement team strategies to maximize athletic performance.
Missed the webinar? Become a CAO Community Member for access to recordings!
As a coach, how do you talk to your athletes about nutrition and healthy eating habits?
Share your tips and best practices!
Denise Bussiere – Gymnastics – Nepean
“We discuss snack options and we have info on our website from a Nutritionist.”
Justin Tung – Gymnastics – Toronto
“I find it helpful to emphasize nutrition close to competitions as part of their competition preparation (e.g. encourage carbs before competition and healthy snacks at competition). This is done in person and via electronic reminders.”
Lorraine Gouin – Figure Skating – Ottawa
“Workshops with nutritionists, encouraging healthy eating habits before, during and after practice (team snacks, etc) and eating together at competitions and events even if they are bringing their own food.”
Natasha Vidalin – Multi-Sport – Toronto
“Nutrition is important, it sustains your body, your health and your well-being. Even if you don’t want to have a big meal, at least have a granola bar to sustain you. The worst thing that could happen is that you fainted because you starved yourself, if that happened you would let the team down and your body down, so just don’t do it! Here is some granola bars and some berries (not anything acidic), some coconut water if need be and a few cashews (it is a healthy fat). Nuts an hour before a game everything else when they need it.”
Hossam Refaei – Mississauga
“As a teacher/coach, a lot of my athletes are also my students in the classroom. An entire unit on healthy eating is shared with them which includes the benefits of timing of eating, what you’re eating and calorie intake importance. This is added with talk before practices about what to pack on game days and practice days. We share each others’ ways and what they like to eat before practice time or game day and that could motivate others to eat the same healthy way or find news ways to still have a great meal to increase energy and perform to the best of their ability.”
Rejeanne MacLeod – Curling – Sault Ste Marie
“During competition, I emphasize that we have an early morning so make sure you have a good breakfast to help you fuel yourself for the game and day. Also grab an orange or apple for your break or after the game until we can have lunch. If I notice that an athlete is not eating properly, I will take my player to the side and explain how important it is for your body and mine to be fueled. Ask questions to see if money is an issue or if he/she is able to get to the proper food.”
Diana Clarke – Volleyball – Port Sydney
“As a rule I talk to my athletes about food as fuel to allow them to compete. At tournaments each family is responsible to bring food to share; potluck style. This food is assigned so that it is healthy. I think it is also important to role-model healthy eating, so I’m not eating a burger during a tournament when they are eating veggies and hummus.”
Susan Emond – Ringette – Ottawa
“We talk about staying hydrated in general. During a tournament, we bring healthy snacks and encourage eating for performance. Other than that, there isn’t a set pre/post focus during training. This is something I will be interested in implementing!”
Jason White – Ringette – Minesing
“In volleyball, make a list of foods that each family can sign up for. This way we can somewhat control the foods brought.”
Layth Jato – Soccer – Etobicoke
“My sport is Soccer which is a team sport. Through team meetings or Post-Training group meals we speak and encourage proper nutrition.”
Amanda Kesselring – Boxing – Cambridge
“Explain the importance of healthy eating, eating before and after a game, refuelling, and proper hydration before, during and after a game.”
Marguerite Gagnon – Gymnastics – Thunder Bay
“My athletes are young (ages 8 to 13), so I use a car analogue a lot! A car needs enough gas, oil, water, transmission fluid, etc. to work at it’s best, just like athletes need enough Carbs, protein, fat, water, vitamins and minerals to train and perform at their best.”
Enhance your understanding of common adolescent struggles, and the signs and symptoms of issues as they arise, both on and off the field. This workshop will help you recognize early warning signs of difficulties such as anxiety, depression, attention and learning issues, social difficulties and the therapeutic interventions that can help in managing these difficulties your athletes may be facing.
What support methods have you used to help athletes struggling with mental health?
Allan Singh – Soccer – Mississauga – 5 Years
“As part of our team’s official Player Development Strategy, we have worked with mental skills coaches to develop a customized Mental Strength Training Program for our team. This Program is tailored to the specific needs of our age group (Girls U13) and will be enhanced as the girls age. Examples and activities (to practice the skills being taught) are always related to real-life scenarios – both on and off the field. This did take quite a bit of work to do. But, we have have already developed the Program and all activities available on-line for the girls to review and reference at any time…..on demand, when they need it, wherever they need it.”
Connie Groom – Gymnastics – Ottawa – 40+ Years
“Be attentive, acknowledge, don’t try to solve the problem , just listen, then I ask “how can I help?”
Stephanie Sutton – Softball – Hamilton – 25 Years
“We host a Mental Health Awareness Game – this lets the athletes dedicate their game to someone who has suffered from mental health issues.”
Siu On Wong – Volleyball – Richmond Hill – 10 Years
“Have an open honest discussion with athletes and parents. The only way I can help as a coach is when the families are open and honest with the coaching staff.”
Babila Mohanarajan – Hockey – Toronto – 1 Year
“Talking to other health professionals who can deal with athletes struggling with mental health after they disclosed what they are dealing with to myself as they trusted me.”
Angele Caporicci – Biathlon – Timmons – 15+ Years
“I often do the mental check-in with athletes, stick to a routine, structure in training and practices, debriefs.”
Mike Stinson – Hockey – Chatham – 5 Years
“I think that presence and connection with your athletes is most important. Being there for them constantly, and keeping an open door and open dialogue helps to keep athletes on task.”
Martin Cavanagh – Curling – Hawkesbury – 20+ Years
“Positive bidirectional coaching presence & programing, I try to maintain a safe and nurturing environment and I refer to professionals.”
Tim Louks – Football – Waterdown – 40 Years
“Mental Health supports on campus (University), Psychiatrist by referral from Doctor, performance psychologist, etc.”
Jason Rice – Curling – Guelph – 15 Years
“Sport programs that I’ve been involved with have brought in sport psychology / mental training professionals to work with coaches, athletes and even parents of athletes.”
Lindsay Jackson – Ringette – Oshawa – 5 Years
“Using one on one interaction with players who display symptoms of anxiety, or of ADHD – giving personalized coaching for players who are displaying symptoms to help their confidence on and off the ice.”
Rick Collins – Curling – Nepean – 25 Years
“I personally have been treated for severe depression. I have been open with many people, helping them understand what is happening. I talk to the team, then have had athletes (or their parents) come talk to me quietly.”
Paul Youldon – Ringette – Nepean – 25 Years
“Refer to professionals; team meetings and open dialogue about social media bullying and sharing. Listening and being supportive.”
Gabriela Palomeque – Figure Skating – Greely – 2 Years
“Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, helping athletes to label their emotions and describing what is happening to them so they can find a solution to a problem.”
Andras Switzer – Swimming – Kingston – 5 Years
“I’m open about my own mental health struggles and share my experiences and what I’ve learned from them when they are appropriate for situations. I also tell all my athletes that I am available to talk if they need someone to talk to, and use active listening techniques to help them feel heard and supported.”
Joni McPhail – Figure Skting – Oakville – 33 Years
“As a resource person my team of coaches come to me for support or direction. I have built a team of resource people and sport psychologists that we use as preferred practitioners that we can reach out to for support. We have worked on a model of Best Practices and resources in several different areas.”
Mary Jo Fletcher – Athletics – Windsor – 5 Years
“Recognizing the emotional state and then discussing it directly with the athlete – validates their emotional state and gives them an outlet. Also, encouraging journaling about their experiences for two reasons: to keep track of workouts and then to keep track of emotional states. This allows them to take an objective assessment if a pattern develops.”
Kristina Anagnosti – Artistic Swimming – Burlington – 9 Years
“Offering them a safe space to be able to talk about issues with you. Relaying some of your experiences with mental health when you were an athlete.”
Holly Jones – Cross-Country Skiing – NWT – 11 Years
“Having regular “non-sport” practices, such as goal-setting or mindfulness workshops with the group have helped some athletes connect with and learn about their own mental health. Plus, they’re awesome team-building opportunities!”
Pam Lumb Collett – Gymnastics – Toronto – 40+ Years
“Initial Parent Meeting, being proactive and discussing if your child has issues (physical – local physio), (mental – come to us and we can refer sport experts from our federation) etc. make a list of resources and encourage parents to address issues and open dialogue with coaches to resolve and collaborate.”
The cancellation of playoffs, meets, tournaments and even whole seasons during these times have been a huge source of disappointment to coaches, athletes and parents.
Even as some businesses across Ontario start to reopen, it appears that it will still be some time before we’ll be back together in groups, which is almost always necessary for sports.
Below we’ve put together some talking points to help you and your athletes get through this season’s setbacks and start preparing for the next one.
Sports gives us the foundation to adapt and stay resilient during difficult times. By reminding your athletes that they already possess the tools necessary to cope with these setbacks, you will help them to adjust to the current situation more quickly, and continue to develop into even better athletes and people.
Free & discounted training, funding, and resources
View all currently scheduled Online PDCourses
The new “normal” of virtual coaching and online training sessions is something that may be new to a lot of coaches, athletes and parents during these times. These virtual meetings allows teams and athletes to continue to train and stay connected, which is great for maintaining positive mental and physical health. While it is something that may be new to many, there are some risks that could accompany the rise in these virtual environments.
We’ve put together these resources and guidelines so that sport organizations, coaches, parents/guardians and athletes can enjoy all the benefits and reduce the risk.
We all know how important sport is to our athletes, our communities and society. It is equally important that we all play a role in ensuring that sport continues to stay safe both on and off the field of play.
Video calling, group messaging, online training etc., allow us to stay more connected than ever before. These tips for online safety will helps us all reduce risks associated with online communication, and instead enjoy the benefits of these virtual environments, so that we can all get through this difficult time together.
Open 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week, this national toll-free confidential helpline for harassment, abuse and discrimination provides a safe place for victims and witnesses to report their concerns.
Call or text 1-888-83-SPORT (77678)
Contact by email at email@example.com
The Canadian Sport Helpline exists to provide advice, guidance, and resources on how to proceed/intervene appropriately in the circumstances.
As a resource you can provide your athletes and participants, Kids Help Phone operates Canada’s only 24/7, professional counselling, referral and information service for young people.
Text CONNECT to 686868 or call 1-800-668-6868
Live Chat online or through the app at kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat
Young athletes can chat confidentially with a trained, volunteer Crisis Responder for support with any issue – big or small.
This rule serves to protect minor athletes in potentially vulnerable situations by ensuring that more than one adult is present at all times. Download the Rule of Two guidelines to understand how you can support the Rule of Two in your organization.
Rule of Two
If you have received advice from legal counsel or your insurance providers, the advice of your lawyers or insurance providers supersedes the information contained in this article.
References: USA Centre for Safe Sport, Coaching Association of Canada
Some thoughts from Sport for Life
The Benefits of Equal Playing Time for the Youth Athlete:
The Benefits of Equal Playing.Time for the Coach (in addition to those listed above):
Do you integrate equal playing time with you team? If so, how do you do it?
Does it alter during big games or championship weekends?
Joe Benedetti – Softball – Hamilton – 30+ Year
“I see this issue as supporting the value/principal of “equal opportunity” Many studies have shown inconsistencies among coaches in their ability to do accurate skill-based assessments. Coaches often even disagree about what constitutes a skilled athlete So maybe the best strategy is to “just throw them out there” and see what they can do. A softball tournament that we used to host had a continuous batting order for the first 3 or 4 games. I have heard of basketball games where “bonus points” were added at the end of the game and the final score adjusted if 5 or 8 or 10 different players scored at least one point…”
Fawn Mulholland – Soccer – Ottawa – 4 Years
“Absolutely, with grassroots players. Giving equal playing time to the players also gives reasoning to trying players in different positions, which they may otherwise be reluctant to do. I use an app called SubTime which allows you to drag and drop players, it tracks their minutes on the pitch and off it.”
Marty – Hockey – North York
“…my 7 year old son was devastated when in his house league soccer game the coach shortened the bench. My husband and I could never get him to play soccer again after that. It was a lesson for me as a coach to know the negative impact unequal playing time can have on a child’s self esteem. As a hockey coach of 11 year old rep players, I make it as equal as possible. Expectations are made clear at the beginning of the season regarding ice time. Poor attendance at mandatory practices will affect playing time.
Players need to show their commitment and dedication. We also discussed as a team when in playoffs, championship game, what they think is fair in terms of playing time. All players agreed they want everyone to play, no matter the situation. We created an environment of inclusion and support.”
Lee Reath – Volleyball – Ottawa – 20 Years
“I would contest the last bullet point Equal playing time does not equal Fair playing time. It breaks the Effort Vs Reward connection. Disparities in effort always leads to strife amongst teammates. In volleyball the fair play rules have kids that didn’t play the first set must play the second set an cannot be subbed out. That has a couple of terrible impacts:- Less kids get to play. A lot of coaches now carry less than 12 athletes in order to retain ability to make substitutions at some tactical level…”
Terry Olaskey – Baseball & Basketball – Georgian Bay Athletic Association – 48 Years
“In many of our leagues, whether baseball or basketball, winning league games was crucial to either seeding or indeed, making the playoff round. Equal playing time doesn’t mean “equal” in every game… as player development, player self-concept and player safety are key factors in deciding the line-up in each game. My best technique was to prepare a seasonal plan which included a number of exhibition games or “friendly scrimmages”.
Strategically placed between league games or qualifying tournaments, playing time was given to those players who had recently sat for a game or who needed playing time in a non-stressful situation. In many cases, our coaching colleagues are “in the same boat” as us and gladly participate in these competitions by benching their best 5 or 6 players to give either the rookies or less-skilled players the opportunity to start and finish a game! I kept careful records of the number of innings or quarters each player played and tried to make it “equal” by the end of the season.”
Dave Hill – Water Polo – Kingston – 42 Years
Equal is not a goal but fair is. When an outcome is not based on a score, but on a shared experience, then dividing time equally is justifiable. This would be based on the effort and input at training also being equal. If you coach elite athletes andselect a team based on proven skill sets then equal time can be a goal to ensure maximal performances if each.
In all other cases the objective should be to give athletes equal opportunity to thrive and demonstrate their skill developed in training. That would rarely be equal and equality would interfere with the objective. Very few sports are set up with multiple participants having exact roles ie football punter vs quarterback or baseball relief pitcher vs shortstop. How can equal time be a factor? If a soccer team has 8 midfield players they will all have different strengths applied in different games. Equal does not factor into it.
The main issue for coaches should be communication, making parents aware of philosophy and process (in youth setting with fee payments etc). Then, making sure athletes have roles and expectations so they judge their participation based on those instead of “minutes”.
Louise – Volleyball – Ottawa – 20 Years
“I agree with equal playing time, definitely for the points mentioned above. The only draw back to equal playing time is that all athletes know they will be getting playing time so they may not put the effort in that they should.
I know when choosing your team you look for drive and focus, but it is tryouts and everyone is showing their best. It is hard in the short time you have to review players during tryouts to know if that drive will be sustained throughout the year. I do want to mention that there is a big difference between competitive players and high performance players. High performance learn from an early age that they are fighting for a position on the court where as competitive players are focusing on development and in most cases the type of development that will put them on a high performance team.”
Andy Maroudas – Soccer – Niagra – 27 Years
“In the sport of soccer, the debate about playing time is always an issue. From early house league days to the beginning of travel and through to the highest level of competitive youth soccer, this becomes a place of contention. The way I approach it is not simple but rather based in an understanding that all youth soccer, with the exception of MLS academies, should focus on development first. Time on the ball, time in the match is directly related to atheletic and technical development and cannot be separated.
That doesn’t mean 100 % equal playing time at all times however. From early beginnings applying equal time is paramount and as players rise through various levels of competitive play these their playing time can be revised based on ability. The real trick is providing adequate time to maintain steady development and keep players engaged, happy and relevant. I advocate a guaranteed minimum playing time and number of match starts for all levels of youth soccer regardless of the level. If a coach feels that they cannot give adequate time due to ability then that player should not be rostered on that team but rather on a team that would best suit the player’s ability.
A 30% rule is in my opinion a very feasible option that ticks all the boxes. Players are provided with 30% of the total play time, start 30% of the matches , continue to develop and more importantly stay engaged and in the game. As for championship games, at this point if the 30% rule is followed then the team chemistry and dynamic will be able to shoulder a little insufficient time here-or-there.”
Darren Lowe – Soccer – Surrey – 9 Years
This year I coached the U14 silver soccer team. Some parents believed that players should be competing for playing time, and for positions on the field. I read that 13 years old is a common age for youth to quit sport. Therefore, I kept track of who started on the bench each week. Players on the bench one week, started the next. At the beginning of the season I asked players where they preferred to play. I started with this, but moved players around. Every 1/8 of the game (9 minutes) I would put all of the subs in.
Some people believe that only 2 players should be subbed at a time. Even in playoffs I continued to give everyone playing time. When it was time to register for spring, of the 18 players in the fall program, 16 wanted to return. When Division 1 had 12 players for spring, we gave them 5 players, and then we selected 5 players from the house program who had been training with us once a week. We did not make it to the District Cup Playoff game or the League Cup Playoff game. Maybe we could have if we only played the 11 strongest players during playoffs. But what would that give us. Would we have 16 players returning for spring. Would the players become coaches as adults, and tell the boys about how they sat on the bench and never played?”
Some thoughts from the Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport:
Mental health is necessary to sustain optimal performance in sport.
Mental health is necessary to sustain optimal performance in sport. It influences athletes’ and coaches’ daily functioning, including their ability to effectively manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to successfully execute tasks, meet performance goals, maintain healthy relationships, and meaningfully contribute to their sport community.
Mental health affects everyone, including athletes and coaches.
Mental health affects everyone, and athletes and coaches are not immune to this. In Canada, 1 in 5 people experience a major mental illness each year, which costs the Canadian health care system $50 billion annually. With 7.2 million Canadians regularly engaging in sport, there could be as many as 1.4 million athletes and coaches struggling with mental health challenges each year. We can no longer turn a blind eye to mental health issues in sport.
Athletes and coaches may face more mental health challenges than the general population.
Competitive athletes and coaches may be more vulnerable to mental health challenges than the normal population due to the complex demands, high expectations, limited support, early specialization, and year-round training/coaching they often face. Other factors such as excessive pressure to succeed, debilitative coaching styles, lack of funding, overtraining, injury, and difficult transitions in, through, and out of sport can precipitate existing mental health challenges or trigger the development of new ones.
How do you support your athlete’s mental health?
Jenny B – Cycling – Niagara – 20 Years
“We use the Training Peaks online for athlete training schedules which is a great communication tool however, three important elements need to agreed upon.
1) Athletes agree to share motivation level and stress level for each training week.2) A trust and open dialogue is part of the system3) The bare minimum face to face contact per month is 1x/month which is fundamental to see how athletes are feeling, looking and communicating their training to coach.”
Scott Morton – Curling – Calgary – 25+ Years
“Listen and talk to your athletes, don’t just coach! Get to know who your athlete’s are and what kind of interests, problems, and concerns that affect them outside your sport. Keep notes on things they say and do that are a bit out of the ordinary. This will help you to determine when you need extra help coaching. But when there are other problem get help from other resources. You can’t do it all and the end result weather good or bad needs to be addressed and talked about.”
Jackie Davies – Volleyball – Toronto – 3 Years
“Something that my coach staff and I have incorporated into practices is meditation/breathing exercises. We do a quick 5-10min session at the beginning at practice and have our athletes focus on controlling their breathing, clearing their minds and getting mentally prepared/focused for the practice ahead.
We try to check in with our athletes and ask them how their day was, how school is going and how their family is doing. We are a pretty close team where lots of the girls go to the same school, so we try to keep the channels of communication fluid so players are comfortable to come to us with any issues.
What’s nice about this team is that we’ve been together for the past three seasons, so we know the players and families quite well, which makes is a bit easier to notice when someone is having an off day and to tackle the problem as soon as possible. However, not everything is so easy to identify. But, with the parents being a great support system for the girls as well as the coaching staff, both parties are pretty comfortable to discuss any issues or concerns about their children that involve their mental health or anything related to the team.”
Barry Grubman – Table Tennis – Etobicoke – 12 Years
“I think it’s important to remember that while coaches have a role play in supporting their athletes mental health, they are (usually) not professionals. When I notice something with an athlete, as a coach I try to decide if this is something minor which can be handled with the team & parents, or if it’s something I should hand off to a professional. Building a relationship with each athlete in advance helps a lot in noticing mental health issues when they arise.”
You’re checking your email when suddenly, a Facebook friend request from an athlete pops up in your inbox. On one hand, you’ve friended a few other athletes to make it easier to coordinate travel to the competition. On the other hand, however, this athlete is a minor. Do you friend the athlete or leave him or her in your friend’s queue and make up some excuse about how you don’t go on Facebook anymore? Or maybe you throw your computer out the window and never look back?
Setting boundaries with your athletes on social media can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. To avoid hurt feelings, it’s important to address the issue head-on long before that first friend request reaches your inbox. The decision of whether to interact with your athletes on social media is a personal one, but is contingent upon the following factors:
You have four options when it comes to interacting with athletes online:
A graphic of four options when it comes to interacting with
Of the four options, the least-used one is creating distinct
social media profiles for your professional career. Doing so, however, is often
an elegant solution, since it allows you to extend your coaching persona to the
virtual space and creates a strong distinction between your private and
personal life. Which option you choose is entirely a personal choice.
As long as you are consistent and communicate your choice in
advance to your athletes, you will avoid hurt feelings or accusations to
Do you integrate Social Media into your coaching?
What Social Media boundaries have you established with your teams and athletes?
Rachelle – Athletics – Guelph – 6 Years
“At the start of the new training year, our athletes create our code of ethics. I ask how they feel about the impact of their social media posts about other athletes and this starts the conversation about what would be appropriate. They are quite adept at identifying what and what isn’t appropriate for posting. Their ethics drive supportive and positive postings. If there are questions about coaching or training I have asked that they speak with me directly. Meeting once per year and doing check-ins works well for team cohesiveness and individual support.
Our captain has a chat group that, if needed, I can get a message out quickly ie cancelled training. I do not participate in the chat group. I do post videos and pictures of group training on Instagram. I am not a “friend” with any of my athletes on Instagram, Facebook other platforms.
I have made it quite clear, from a coach/parent/athlete
perspective, my expectations about how we (coaches & athletes) interact
with each other, parents, other athletes, officials…”
Pierre – Gymnastics – Kingston – 30+ Years
“I limit my social media contact with other coaches and club officials. If I did have some time in the future that I would need to use social media, I liken to the idea of creating a distinct profile for myself as a coach, separate from my personal profile. I do agree that no coach should communicate with a minor on social media, even if that minor is a CIT, or fully certified as a coach, but under age 18. This can be difficult if a minor is a 16-year-old coach looking for me to cover a class or coaching session for them. In our club, we use email for sub-requests sent out to an email list of staff.
If I want to cover a sub request, I do a” reply all”, this way so that my communication is viewable by all of our coaching staff and club administrator. Email may be old school, but is still effective and can better be tracked and audited than Facebook or Twitter. Another space you can create a professional coaching profile is on LinkedIn. It is similar in features to Facebook but tends to be more professional and career-oriented. Even there, close attention to ethics is important in your communications.”
Rebecca Tolen – Basketball/Soccer – Rainy River – 17 years
“I am not “Friends” with my athletes and let’s be honest Facebook is not their media of choice. I do set up a Facebook group with my athletes, however. I post videos, schedules, any changes, etc. They can and usually do add their parents. They can ask questions, leave a comment and post interesting items of their own. This keeps the lines clear. Living in a small town where lines are already a little blurry, (some athletes play on my women’s baseball team, I have been friends with their parents since grade school, etc), it keeps makes things easier.”
Paul Bullock – Badminton/Basketball/Volleyball – Collingwood – 44 Years
“I am an older coach and feel that good old email is as far
as I want to engage with players/parents.
I will not allow phones onto the training grounds as I find that they
are a source of distraction and stop the team members communicating and
interacting with each other. I’m not
saying that these devices don’t have a place in society but people need to take
a break before life passes by. Here a
novel idea: You want a team chat, have a team meeting…. yes you all meet in
Sarah MacDonald – Swimming – Sault St. Marie – 16 years
“As a rule, I do not add athletes or their parents/another family on my social media accounts. I want to maintain very clear boundaries between my personal and professional lives for my sake as well as for theirs. To my athletes, I strive to be very approachable, but they can connect with me before/after practice in a face-to-face capacity.
That said, I also manage our team’s social media accounts,
and I make a point of curating content that is interesting and engaging. For
example, I recently solicited song suggestions for a team playlist that we
could play during our training sessions, and it got a lot of responses! They
like to feel like they have an active role in creating their sport environment,
so I try to do things like that fairly often. I always have at least two
coaches who have access to the accounts, so if athletes try to contact me
through direct messaging, there are two sets of adult eyes on the conversation
(which I believe covers Safe Sport regulations).
It’s a balancing act, but it’s not impossible. Social media
is an incredible tool for engagement if you set clear boundaries and use it
appropriately and in ways that relate to the age group you’re coaching.
Jared Goad – Gymnastics – Halifax NS – 11 Years
“Personally, I do not contact or follow my athletes on social media accounts, with the exception of adult athletes. I have a group text message with all of the athletes that I coach, along with another coach from our club. If requested, I will allow retired athletes to follow my social media accounts once they have reached the age of 18, but still do not follow them on social media accounts. I think it is important to create a professional boundary between coaches and athletes to ensure safety and respect for all.”
Last month we ran our first FREE Webinar for Coaches in
Ontario about Coaching Generation Z. Participants were asked to complete a
short questionnaire after the webinar, asking what unique challenges they have
encountered while coaching this new generation of kids, and how they have
We want to thank everyone who participated and took the time
to answer the October Coach 2 Coach discussion question. Stay tuned for more
upcoming PD opportunities!
What unique challenges have you come across coaching this new generation of athletes and participants?
Jennifer Tinneberg – 15 years
“…Athletes arriving to practice staring at their phones & not engaging with each other until practice time starts. This lead to a lack of connection between teammates. I now all my athletes leave their phones in their lockers. As soon as they are on deck, they are “on” for practice…”
Mark Severn – 25 years
“…What was said about attention and commitment is very true.
One of the things I have found to really be the base of everything is “Playing
time.” Issues come out of playing time in terms of trust, caring, positive
relationships etc. All of my mistakes as a coach have come from playing time. I
think its’s sometimes hard in the moment for what Glen calls old school coaches
to see the value in playing everyone and especially in different situations. I
know I constantly write down who has played and do my best to make sure things
are fair and as even as I can make it. Like Glen said it’s usually parents that
really want to win, the players just want to play…”
Jenna – 1 year
“…THE RULE OF TWO is so so crucial in this political
climate- it serves to protect athletes AND coaches. This rule allows for the
mitigation of so many problems related to power dynamics (adult-youth,
coach-athlete, older-younger, male-female)…”
Renee Matte – 14 years
“…The biggest challenge is that the athletes I coach span
more than just one generation, so balancing the different preferences and needs
of these groups can be tough. So, I go into practices and coaching seasons
reminding myself to coach each person and always spend more time creating that
connection at the beginning of the season rather than just relying on general
information I’ve gathered about their demographic characteristics (age, gender,
experience, etc.) and what the preferences “should be”…”
Scott Morton – 20 years
“…All kids want is to be led and to learn. I Coach curling
and all kids seem to be the same. Give them direction, let them learn and make
sure you as a coach listen and make it FUN…”
Colleen Merlin – 5 years
“…Attention span. Still working on it. But I have many
stations and they rotate through drills…”
Dawn Izzard – 30 years
“…Social Media: use it in training…”
Erin Shaw – 4 years
“…We have begun utilizing social media (Instagram) for team
chats and sharing of plays, game strategy etc…”
Matthew Melo – 4 years
“…I have found some individuals that I have coach within this new generation find it hard to focus on the task at hand and not use deliberate practice time as social time. I allow the kids to have breaks during the rest intervals to talk in between sets in order to make sure during practice they have a short time frame to focus on the task the last hand…”
Miranda Tomenson – 15 years
“…Their poor attention span is something that I’ve found hard to deal with. Frequently changing up drills and making them a bit more fun helped…”
From PCA DevZone: Working with Assistant Coaches
Our society’s mythology glorifies the individual leader, but
great organizations are usually led by leadership teams. Sports teams are no
different. Forge your assistant coaches into a cohesive leadership team, and
you will accomplish much more. And you will address a huge problem with youth
sports practices – too many kids standing around.
The trade-off is control versus reach. If you do all the
coaching, you can do it to your standards. However, integrating assistants into
your leadership team will extend your impact on your players. But that requires
delegating, something many coaches either aren’t willing or don’t know how to
Here are some thoughts about how to do this well
Here are three ways to delegate to assistant coaches:
Create a strong leadership team and you also prepare your
assistants as Double-Goal Coaches who will go on to positively impact many
youth as head coaches in the future
How has working with other coaches, parents or assistant coaches, helped you make your teams and athletes better?
What challenges have you had to overcome in building your coaching team or mentoring other coaches?
Darren Lowe– Soccer – Surrey – 9 years
“…At the younger ages when you have 10 to 12 players on the
team it is easy for a coach to run a session with all players, and the
assistant coach helps with setting up cones, chasing after balls that are going
into other practices, holding the flag during games. But now that I’m coaching
U14 with 18 players, having an assistant coach to run half the team, while I
have the other half, has made practices more engaging.”
Malcolm Sutherland – Ice Hockey – Thunder Bay – 30 years
“…As a teacher/instructor/coach of coaches, I have found my reach broadening. This has been personally inspiring! But, I have also recognized and heard the struggles of coaches to effectively relinquish “control” and to become less authoritarian and autocratic leaders. When coaches do “let go” paradoxically they gain positional authority, not because of established rules or imposed demands but because of gained trust.”
Sean Ferguson ChPC – Swimming – Region of Waterloo – 20+ years
Originally published in the Globe and Mail, “Ontario minor hockey players to get talks on gender diversity, expression” © Gabriele Roy, Associated Press, AUGUST 24, 2018
Before they polish their power plays and develop their
defensive strategies, minor hockey players in Ontario will be getting a
pre-season chat about gender identity and gender expression next month.
The Ontario Hockey Federation, which oversees the majority
of minor hockey in the province, said it has made it mandatory for its coaches
to discuss the issues with players in an effort to make everyone feel welcome.
“This is about inclusiveness and respect,” said Phil McKee,
executive director of the OHF.
While hockey coaches in Canada already receive training on
respect and gender inclusivity, the OHF said coaches in Ontario will now have
to discuss issues such as preferred pronoun use and the importance of
respecting an individual’s confidentiality with their players as the season
begins in mid-September.
“We simply want to make sure that everyone feels included in
hockey and can participate in the game in a safe and comfortable environment,”
The move comes after the settlement of a case brought before
the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in 2013 by Jesse Thompson, a transgender
player who was 17 at the time.
He told the tribunal that he was outed when asked to use the
dressing room that aligned with his birth gender – female – instead of the
gender he identifies with. The settlement has led to new directives in the
years since, with the pre-season chat being the latest.
As part of the new directive, the OHF said coaches have been
provided with a checklist, prepared by LGBTQ advocacy group Egale Canada, of
matters to discuss with their players and suggestions on how to best approach
Larry Pattison, a father to three children who used to play
hockey and a former coach himself, said he welcomes the new OHF directive.
“I think it is fantastic, especially considering that this
may not be taught in school for a little while under this government,” he said,
referring to the Progressive Conservative government’s move to repeal the
province’s modernized sex-ed curriculum while it conducts consultations on a
“As a father, I want my kids to come out of any education or
any time on a team sport being inclusive and kind and understanding of everyone
in the community,” said Pattison, who also a trustee on the Hamilton-Wentworth
District School Board.
“Some people like to be called a different name when you are
talking about gender pronouns … We need to be accepting of that and open to
The North Toronto Hockey Association said it was looking
forward to implementing the pre-season chats.
“This falls within our mandate as a minor hockey association
to teach players not only hockey skills, but also respect,” said association
president Claudio Tarulli.
Some, however, questioned whether volunteer coaches were the
best people to conduct such discussions with players.
“(Gender diversity) is something that has to be addressed to
a certain extent, but the difficulty is in asking our volunteers to do it,”
said Dan Bailey Jr., president of Canadian Tire Hanover Falcons, a hockey
organization in Ontario.
Bailey Jr. said he worried that the new discussions could
discourage some from volunteering to coach.
“Maybe if they had a go-to person in the federation that addressed the situation it would be better, he said. ”But to have the coaches do this on an individual basis, I think they may not get the results that they are hoping for.”
What techniques do you use to broach sensitive topics with your athletes during pre-season chats?
Craig Freedle – Soccer – Toronto – 12 years
“…I say right from the beginning, everyone here is an equal. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, or what you believe. That is your right, and when we are on the field together we are all a team supporting each other as a family. I also make the effort every day to get to know my athletes a little bit more and letting them know my door is always open for them to chat about anything. We also do a comment dropbox that athletes can leave a note about how they are feeling and leave an anonymous note about what they would like to see more out of me as the coach.”
Kyle Campbell – Hockey – Guelph – 10+ years
“…While this is 100% supported by myself and my staff it
truly is not fair to ask these coaches to do this. We simply took an online
course to better understand things ourselves. This by no means makes us
capable, prepared, or knowledgeable enough to teach this conversation to our
young kids. They all need to know that we’re here as coaches for them. To
believe in them and for them to trust us while they figure out who they are.
However, after taking this online course – I don’t feel as though I can answer
their questions properly. To give them the right answers. This needs to be done
by people with some training and understanding of what these kids are going
through. I’ve never been in their shoes. I don’t understand as much as I want
to – so let’s get them the right people to talk to. Not just me because I took
an online course for an hour or so.”
Sean Ferguson ChPC, RGP – Swimming – Region of Waterloo
“…Well the comment I would like to leave is regarding doing on-going chats, and not just doing a ‘one and done’ type of chat with your athletes; that ‘one and done’ approach is part of the problem (reminds me of years ago in health class, when the teacher would quickly go over the sensitive topics, and then never return to them in the course of a semester). So I hope that there are ongoing chats: before, during and after a season – with, of course, appropriate language & exercises, to address sensitive topics in sport. This education also needs to go beyond the scope of just coaches and athletes, as board members and parents need to go through some kind of ongoing educational exercise as well so that the environment and culture of your sports club reflect this new initiative.”
Joe Benedetti – Semi-retired Softball Coach – Hamilton – 20+ years
“…It is always an important and difficult decision when an authority decides to make something mandatory – as hockey has done on this issue. Of course, the vast majority of coaches are volunteers and volunteers ALWAYS have a choice, – yes a tough one, – but they could resign if they feel strongly about the mandatory policy. I understand the arguments for being pro-active on this topic and many others, but at the same time, I think the topic is best dealt with when a coach is asked by one or more of their players, parents, or any stakeholder specifically about a topic. This then gives the coach the ability to use their own words to express their feelings and beliefs in a more meaningful and respectful way. Players know when a coach is “reading” someone else’s words.”
With Safe Sport top-of-mind for us all these days, there is
a lot to consider when it comes to the health and safety of the children we
coach. One of the most popular and effective rules we can follow as coaches to
ensure that we are never placing them or ourselves at risk is The Rule of Two.
The Rule of Two states that there should be at least two
adults and two children present at all times, in every situation, including:
The Gold Standard calls for “two screened and NCCP trained or certified coaches” to be present, however, the most important thing is that there are at least two adults present and ideally, at least two athletes/participants, to protect minor athletes in potentially vulnerable situations.
As coaches, we know that it’s not always easy or convenient
to follow this Rule, yet it is critical to ensuring athlete and participant
safety in sport.
Soccer Nova Scotia has produced a short video explaining the Rule of Two. Please click on the image below to watch:
How has your Club or Organization successfully implemented the Rule of Two? Can you share any challenges that were overcome in the process?
Can you share a situation where you had to be creative or problem-solve to follow the Rule of Two?
Adam Ziegler, Ontario Football Alliance – Football – Cambridge – 39 years
“…The Ontario Football Alliance (PSO) fully supports the Rule of Two. Coaches are encouraged that when speaking with athletes in closed-door meetings, watching tape, travelling or during training sessions, two coaches should always be present when speaking to an athlete(s). That athlete should also have a teammate present to offer support and to protect the vulnerability of our athletes. In football we are fortunate to have an abundance of coaches, a manager, an athletic therapist or parents to assist us in fulfilling this mandate.
Parents leave their children in our care and much like the relationship of teachers and students this rule of two should always be followed to preserve athletes’ and coaches’ own protection. Documenting these conversations is always a good idea but policies such as requiring a police check offer another layer of protection. Coaches, parents and volunteers should be screened through police checks, and preferably a vulnerability sector search.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible. In a past scenario, a team regularly had to
use coaches to transport players to games. Usually four or five players in a
vehicle with a coach with a parent picking up the child after a game.
A female athlete was to be picked up by a parent after a
game. The parent never showed and everyone else had left in a rush. Being about
an hour from home and in a rural area this became problematic.
The two male coaches and a female athlete found themselves
in an ethical and moral dilemma regarding the Rule of Two. The parents were
called and the parents informed the coaches their only car broke down. Each
coach had their own car at this away game.
The solution was decided that the athlete would drive in one
car in the back seat of a coach’s car. The other coach followed the first coach
until the athlete was dropped off to provide corroboration of the route and
time to transport the athlete. The female athlete was asked to call one of her
parents as she was being driven and to talk to her mother during the entire
drive. Both coaches dropped the child off at her home with no issues or
complaints. The parents and coach talked about the dilemma and how to prevent
it in the future.
After this situation, the team was told that in the future that if the parent was late showing up, the child would be sent with another player preventing two coaches from being left alone with a player. Even though families have busy schedules, players and families were asked to buy into the new procedure to eliminate events like the one described. The procedure of following the car was used in policing when transporting a female prisoner by a sole officer in a cruiser.
Having had this discussion with parents, another event like
the one described never occurred again.
In hindsight, these coaches were placed in a situation that should have
In closing, we would encourage all coaches and organizations to embrace the ‘Power of Two’ to safeguard our most precious resource, our children and ensure the NCCP philosophy of Do No Harm is safeguarded by having two coaches/parent/volunteer when speaking with an athlete and allow the athlete to have a friend present to serve as a witness and offer support. As NSO work towards Sport Canada’s direction of NSO and PSO developing policies to keep Athlete’s Safe, The Power OF Two should be embraced by all organizations and coaches.
As a PSO, we would strongly encourage our Football Coaches
not to be transporting their players.”
Benjamin Li – Basketball, Baseball, Multi-Sport Camps – Mississauga – 3 years
“…Working for the City of Mississauga for programs or summer camp, it’s tough to have 2 Coaches/Leaders available at times, the ratio being 15 kids to 1 coach. We are trained to have children go to the washroom in a buddy system (minimum 2 kids) with at least one camp leader outside the washroom doors and optionally 1 supervisor as well. In these situations, the best way to keep the children safe is to check the bathroom premises first of any community members or individuals occupying the washroom and if cleared, allow the children to enter the washroom. The leaders are then to provide a time limit. In other situations where there are a small # of participants in the program, combining programs or camps is a good solution to ensure at least 2 leaders present and bigger groups are created. Though not exactly The Rule of Two, these are some of my experiences on how to provide children with a healthy and safe space to play sports.”
Mike Miller – Soccer – Milton – 25+ years
“For many of the years that I have coached, I have rarely
had an assistant coach. (I coach recreational players, even though I am the
Club Head Coach.) This sometimes creates a challenge for the Rule of 2. During
games, the player responsible for the half-time snack also brings their mother
and she is the designated “Team Mom” for the game. If the player’s parents were
separated and the dad had custody, I would ask one of the other moms if they
would like to be team mom for that game if the scheduled player’s mom was
unable to make it to the game. On occasion, match officials have mistaken the
team mom as a spectator and have asked them to go to the other side of the
field where the spectators are. I have had to clarify the situation to them.
All but one “got it” right away and as for the one that didn’t, I asked them if
they wanted to explain to their Club Head Referee why they didn’t want me to
follow a best practice recommended by our Provincial Sport Organization.
Apparently, that would have been more trouble than it was worth and the team
mom stayed put.
When travelling to other communities, if a player was in
need of a ride, I would always insist that a parent came along. My child would
be in the back and we would pick up the parent and player needing a ride next.
Any others would be picked up after the parent was onboard. On the return trip,
we would drop off the player with their parent last before heading home.
One time, a game was called seven minutes after the start on
account of lightning. I noticed that the youth official was standing out in the
storm waiting for their ride. I also had two players on my team that were
without parental accompaniment. I put all of them in the first two rows of my
van with my daughter (my van has three rows of seats.) I opened up the rear of
my van, and sat on the bumper under the door in plain sight and waited for the
parents to arrive as there was no second adult to help me.”
Coach Ann – Athletics – South Western Ontario – Very Many
“In my sport, there is a blend of adult and younger athletes so we are lucky to have more adults available. However, I do not believe it should the role of an adult athlete to be a monitor of the coach for behaviour, that is an unfair responsibility when they need to focus on their development. That said, any athlete should feel ok talking about and telling others about anything that makes them uncomfortable. The mentorship of older athletes travelling and competing together helps with that a lot. The younger athlete learns more about what to expect from interactions with older, experienced athletes.
My strategy is to have a parent with me as my second. Again,
here I am lucky because I have several parents who are engaged in the coaching
process and want to learn about the sport and how to support their athlete
specifically and all athletes as well. Having a second adult helps support athletes
of all ages to be their best. Having a sounding board and someone to go to when
the coach is busy is very important. I do believe the second person should be
an adult, there are so many benefits to having the back-up. They are not a
manager and the only duty is to be there and be available.
There is seldom a second coach in my discipline but I do
have coaches from other events that I can rely on as well and we always work
together, especially when travelling and at big meets. Any club coach is available
to any club athlete.
It takes a village….”
Ron Yeung – Basketball – Toronto – 19 years
“The Rule of Two was introduced to my youth program 6 months ago and has been a consistent guideline throughout the season. We introduced it first in our pre-season coach’s meeting and then brought it up at our start-of-season parent meeting as well. The introduction of this rule was well supported by both the coaches and parents, with the understanding that the safety of our young athletes is first and foremost.
With the horrible weather conditions in Toronto this winter, there have been a few instances where my coaches called in sick or notify me that they are stuck on the road and can’t get across town. Sometimes that leaves me in a tough predicament to deal with 12-15 young athletes by myself. In instances like this, I would usually ask a few parents to stay for the session to either assist me on the court or at the very least be an extra pair of eyes from the sideline (should they not be comfortable being on the court and being active). This allows me to keep a good athletes-to-coaches ratio while also ensures that there are multiple adults there should there be any potentially vulnerable situations.”
Pierre Laframboise – Gymnastics – Kingston – 45 years
“We have found supervision in the change rooms challenging at times. Simply trying to ensure that all gymnasts are out of the change room before a coach is not the most ideal situation. We always try to ensure two coaches are in a change room, or one coach and another adult. Also once everyone is out of the change room doors are left open. Another improvement I have suggested is to have coaches and athletes lockers in separate areas so as to reduce the chances of an athlete or coach accessing their locker in the same room or area at the same time without the presence of another gymnast, adult, or coach. This can be a challenge in terms of space and cost for separate lockers and areas or change rooms, but it is well work the investment to reduce risk and the perception of potential risk.”