Question: My son’s travel team coach wants the team to wear their jerseys to school. Is this appropriate?
Discussion: Not really, and here’s why: A healthy youth sports experience is based on participation and enjoyment, not the need for recognition. Playing on a team should be reward enough. We have to be careful to not promote a look-at-me, I’m-better-than-you attitude. THe coach may be trying to foster team allegiance or boost team pride (he also may be using your kids as walking billboards to advertise his elite program to other parents). But the bottom line is that wearing one’s uniform at nonteam events can risk promoting a sense of entitlement among team members. It can also alienate kids who did not make the team. Whether it’s a club team or an elementary or high school squad, cliques and bullying are a major modern day concern. It’s best to avoid them.
Solution: If a coach feels that wearing uniforms outside of games and practices is important to achieving team unity (and let’s face it, kids love receiving and wearing their team duds), you can suggest a more effective team-uniform-wearing bonding strategy. Arrange for the team to don its jerseys while engaging in a community service project: The team can clean up a park, help conduct a practice for younger kids, or volunteer at a charity road race. That way, the team is not setting itself apart from others but blending in and developing a sense of community. ♦
From Kim John Payne, Luis Fernando Llosa, & Scott Lancaster. Beyond Winnning: Smart Parenting in a Toxic Sports Environment (Lyons Press, Connecticut, 2013)