Team Management and Culture Resources

 Disability Etiquette: What You Need to Know

Disability Etiquette: What to Know

In youth sports 

We live in a diverse world of people. With over 60 million people with disabilities in the nation, there’s a good chance you have an athlete with a disability in your community. As sport continues to evolve to include more athletes with disabilities, it is becoming more and more imperative that we all learn disability etiquette. 

 TrueSport has partnered with Disabled Sports USA, the national leader in community-based adaptive sports, to help create a more positive and inclusive sport environment for all youth.  

This starts with the simple recommendations below from Disabled Sports USA on how to best interact with and support people with disabilities. 

General Best Practices: 

Use person-first language to put the athlete first. 

People-First Language 

Person/Athlete with a disability 

Person/Athlete who uses a wheelchair or scooter 

Person/Athlete with an intellectual or cognitive disability 

Person/Athlete with multiple sclerosis 

Person/Athlete with a mental health condition or diagnosis 

Blind or low vision 

Deaf or hard of hearing 

Language to Avoid 

Disabled or handicapped person 

Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound 

Special, mentally retarded, slow or simple person 

Afflicted by multiple sclerosis or “victim” 

Mentally ill or crazy 

Visually impaired 

Hearing impaired 

Don’t assume 

Ask how you can help instead of making assumptions about what an athlete can and cannot do. Avoid the urge to help simply to speed up processes. Instead, build in extra time for the athlete to get equipment set up or complete a skill progression. Some athletes may need more time to think or speak, so be patient when waiting for a response. 

Don’t Ignore 

Take the time to get to know your athlete and how their disability might affect their participation and make appropriate and reasonable modifications. 

Ask prior to moving or touching equipment 

Understand that an athlete’s adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair, walker, or cane, is part of their personal space. Only adjust the equipment if requested, as unexpected shifts could cause the athlete to become off balanced and cause injury. 

Communication Best Practices: 


Speak directly to the athlete using your regular speech patterns. Only speak louder or slower if requested to do so by the athlete. 

Face the athlete when speaking and try to avoid blocking the mouth or chewing anything so that those who are deaf or hard of hearing can clearly see your lip movements. 

Put yourself on the same level as the athlete when speaking to an athlete who uses a wheelchair or is short of stature for more than a minute or two. 

Provide extra time for athletes with cognitive or intellectual disabilities to formulate thoughts and complete sentences. Try not to interrupt or provide words for the athlete as this could further delay processing time. Instead, consider ways to ask questions that require only yes/no answers. 

Make sure to introduce yourself to an athlete who is blind or has low vision they know who is speaking. Prior to ending the conversation, let them know you will be leaving and who will be guiding them next or when they should expect your return. 


Be afraid to ask an athlete with a speech impairment to repeat themselves if you have difficulty hearing or understanding. 

Over-inflate the successes of an adaptive athlete. While PR times or other goal-related successes should be celebrated as with any other athlete, over-hyping achievements for adaptive athletes gives the impression that expectations were not high to start. 


Coaching Best Practices: 

Take the time to look around your facility and ensure that there are no physical barriers to participation. 

Is parking close to the venue? Are there enough handicapped parking spaces? 

Are areas accessible to all without having to navigate stairs, thick grass, etc.? 

Are hallways wide enough for wheelchairs? 

Is the facility tidy and clear of any obstacles? 

Are equipment areas or water stations set at a height that is accessible for all? 

Have the same expectations of all athletes as you would any other in your program. This means requiring them to show up on time, participate in the full lesson to the best of their ability, etc. While modifications can be made, the focus should be on independence and inclusion. 

Don’t be afraid to try out a variety of adaptations to find the one that works best for your individual athlete. Prior to the start of the activity, ask the athlete what they need and want, and keep up a dialogue with the athlete throughout the process. 

Schedule more breaks if stamina is an issue, consider quieter lesson areas or times of day if the athlete is easily over-stimulated, etc. 

Ensure proper adaptive equipment is available so they can be ready to start lessons at the appropriate time. 

Allow athletes to choose to challenge themselves by providing appropriate skill progressions to meet their goals. 

Consider using Universal Design coaching practices where suitable. 

Universal Design: Planning an activity to ensure everyone can participate by considering all needs and abilities ahead of time. You can find links to examples below. 

Specific to Physical Education 

Not Physical Education-Specific 

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 A Coach's Choice: To Critique...Or to Coach

A Coach's Choice: To Critique...Or to Coach

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Growing up down the Jersey Shore and still calling the Garden State home comes with some incredible benefits. Our people are as passionate as they come.  Our nature is no-filter, Instagram worthy. Our Italian delis are to die for; our bagels, unmatched. And don’t even get me started on our pizza. But one of the greatest parts about living in such close proximity to New York City actually has nothing to do with food: our sports talk radio is second to none. 

Whether it be heading into work and listening to Boomer Esiason, sitting in traffic on the way home listening to one of the two Mikes (Francessa or Kay) screaming out of your speakers, or any of the countless on-air personalities in between, it is clear that the Tri-State area is home to more Monday Morning Quarterbacks per capita than anywhere else in the world.  Who knew there were so many out of work NFL offensive coordinators and Major League managers in one region of the country?

But for as entertained as I am when hearing these self-proclaimed experts dissect every move by every coach and every player in every sport, there is a very related element of coaching that takes on a similar sound. 

Our ability to coach begins with our ability to evaluate. But evaluating without coaching is simply critiquing. And we’ve all done it. We are coaches, not critics. 

I watch far more baseball than I’d like to admit… it’s a problem. 

If Spring Training is my personal equivalent to the ball dropping in Times Square, then the MLB Postseason is my Christmas. There is no better baseball than October baseball. For the entire month, I am routinely glued to my couch, watching every game possible with the eyes of both fan and coach. And if the Red Sox happen to be playing, you can add screaming at my television to the norm in the Fenster house. I would be lying if there weren’t times where I’ve said either aloud or to myself, “what the heck is he THINKING?!”

Even with watching as often as I do, I am still amazed how entire seasons and championship runs can be made- or broken- with a single pitch. But by seeing year after year the power of one play , I have learned as a coach that there isn’t anything that should ever be taken for granted on the field and work hard to emphasize the minute, intellectual details of the game as much as I coach the game’s fundamental skills in the players that I work with. Still to this day, the game continues to teach me.

A title may be won in part because an outfielder throws the ball to the correct base to keep a double play in order.  The winning run may score because of the anticipation of a below average runner who goes from first to third.  A rally may be thwarted because of a heady pitch sequence that records a key strikeout. These thinking plays, when done over and over, become winning plays. 

Without question, players who truly know the game and constantly think the game are players who will help win games. But over the past few years I’ve noticed a very disappointing trend: those players are few and far between.  And you know what I did when I first noticed it? I became a critic.

“He doesn’t think.”

“No game sense whatsoever.”

“Reckless player.”

With every one of my comments lacked any actionable solution. For a short time, in addition to those many moments on my couch, I had become that perfect caller for sports radio with all the answers. I had become great at pointing out everything that they DIDN’T do well. That approach to coaching can become toxic really quickly.

Today’s generation is as talented a collective group of baseball players as the sport has ever seen. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever. Hitters understand their swings more at 18 than I did at 28. Our industry’s focus on training has taken our players’ talent to levels we have never seen before, and they only continue to get better. 

But for as good as they are, they still need us.  They need to be coached, not critiqued.

In these moments when I initially saw the direction the game was going in, I had a choice. I could let the frustration get the best of me and criticize all that these players weren’t doing (like we all have done at some point) or I could do my job, and coach them to help them get better.  

To the hitter who didn’t think in the box, the solution was to teach the value of an approach and how that approach could be developed simply by watching the game from the dugout.  For the outfielder who had no idea where to throw the ball relative to the situation of the game, the solution was to help them understand in simple terms which runner is the most important and why.  And for the baserunner who essentially liked to run until somebody tagged him out, the solution was to show the risk versus reward in decision-making on the bases.

When you focus on the problem, the problem endures.  When you focus on the solution, the problem goes away.

Even for coaches at the highest level of the game, no players are perfect; they all make mistakes.  And for anyone with a competitive bone in their body, those mistakes can often bring upon a physical reaction that angers and irritates us.  Problems don’t go away when we complain about them; they dissipate when we intentionally work to fix them with a solution. We get to choose exactly what course of action to take. Choose to live up to your title. Choose to coach.

Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.

 The Risks of Sports Specialization

The Risks of Sports Specialization 

Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard

Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses the risks involved in specializing in only one sport as a youth athlete, including psychological burnout and overuse injuries. 

Marc Richard, MD, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University, specializing in elbow, wrist and hand injuries. Dr. Richard’s research evaluates the clinical outcomes of fractures of the upper extremity, with a particular interest in wrist and elbow fractures and improving ways to treat elbow arthritis in young patients. He also has a clinical and research interest in adolescent elbow throwing injuries.

 Why It's Important to Avoid Tension on the Sidelines

Why It's Important to Avoid Tension On The Sidelines

In youth sports

"I joke that when my daughter was playing tennis, I was just a chauffeur taking her to practice. And sometimes, that’s all kids really need you to be,” says Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist at Peak Performance Sports. He’s only partially joking…most parents could benefit from decreasing their tension and taking a more passive role when it comes to youth sports. 

"We tell parents that their only goal is to make sure that their kids are having fun. Your job is to support kids when it's appropriate,” Cohn adds. With that in mind, here’s why and how to avoid being tense and distracting on the sidelines.

Sideline Coaching

Your goal as a parent may be to see your child having fun, but research has shown that sideline behavior rarely reflects that goal. "Shouting instructions from the sidelines is a major no-no,” says Cohn. Not just because it’s irritating for the other parents, but because it can actually hurt your child’s performance.” 

“Remember, the coach is there to coach the kids, and having another person shouting can also make them lose focus, get embarrassed, or feel pressure to perform perfectly for the parents shouting instructions all the time,” Cohn adds.

Your ‘Cheering’ Style

Showing up with your face painted in team colors while the other parents are in business casual? Try not to stand out too much. 

"Pay attention to the cues from the other parents. Parents should be cheerleaders, reinforcing when they’re playing well but not overdoing it,” says Cohn. "Depending on the sport, there are different rules of behavior. Golf has quiet clapping, hockey has more yelling.” 

“If you know you have trouble controlling your temper and what you do on the sidelines, I recommend you watch the game from afar where your athlete can’t see you. Watch up on a balcony, or even behind a tree…if you truly want your athlete to have more fun and be more focused, take yourself out of the equation if you know you’re a distraction." 

Handling a Bad Call

Your anger with a bad call in a child’s game may be the same rage you feel on the road, which research had shown is tied to ego defensiveness and a control-oriented mindset. Angry reactions on the sideline often happen because parents make the game about them and take events personally. Even if you think you’re being subtle when you disagree with a ‘bad call,’ your child likely is picking up on it. 

“Your tension is extremely obvious to young athletes, and to yell at people around you is actually disrespectful to your kids,” Cohn says. Instead, let bad calls be a learning opportunity for them. If the umpire makes a call you don’t agree with, that’s OK. 

You won’t agree with every call, and the umpire might even be in the wrong. But if you complain every time you disagree, you’re teaching your child that that behavior is acceptable in life. Keep in mind that your child will have to deal with a teacher or boss who isn’t always fair and can’t always rely on you to ‘fix’ everything.  

Non-Verbal Behaviors

"Kids are easily distracted during games. If you’re arguing on the sidelines with another parent, they’re likely going to notice, be embarrassed, and even alter their performance,” says Cohn. "If I roll my eyes, my daughter can see from 50 yards away.”

“I try to teach athletes to stay focused on the field or court, but that’s hard. Kids pick up on parents’ non-verbal cues. I’ve heard parents tell me that they got up to use the restroom, but their athlete assumed they had gotten up because they were upset with the child’s performance. If a kid is feeling your tension, they tend to start playing safer and more tentatively, in fear of making mistakes." 

Dr. Cohn concludes, "From a long-term perspective, the athlete won’t have as much fun in the sport [if they’re worried about their parents on the sidelines], because they’re so tuned into what they think their parent is feeling during their game, which can lead to them leaving the sport altogether." 

Bottomline: Knowing how to best support your athlete is key in creating a positive sport experience for not only your athlete, but also for their team and the rest of the parents on the sidelines supporting their athletes.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 The Opportunity to Put On a Uniform

The Opportunity to Put On a Uniform 

Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer

Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses why it is important to take pride in putting on a jersey, and the special opportunity to play the game you love. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Cuddyer is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development blog, and is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.