TrueSport 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.

 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.

 Role Modeling for Young Athletes: What Not to Do

Role Modeling for Young Athletes: What Not to Do 

In youth sports

As a parent, raising a happy and healthy child is probably one of your top goals. Throughout this journey, you’ll not only be cultivating a positive, caring environment for your young athlete to thrive in, you will also be acting as a role model of the behaviors and values you want to instill. 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) defines a role model as “a person who serves as an example by influencing others. For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers.” 

Leading by example and embracing the fact that you are your child’s key role model will help them develop the kind of behavior you want them to adopt and practice throughout life. The AACAP explains that “children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions.” 

It’s imperative for parents to take a look at the way they are living their own lives and reflect on what they want their children to mirror, especially since “negative role models may also influence children,” according to the AACAP. Here are five practices that parents should avoid in order to position themselves as the positive role model their young athlete needs to build character and confidence in sport and in life.  

Don’t Silence Your Goals 

According to Michele Borba, PhD, an internationally recognized character development education expert and educational psychologist, “To help children feel comfortable talking about goals, we parents need to share our own aspirations.” 

Borba adds, “The secret is to purposefully model goal-setting when your kids can watch or listen. In fact, modeling is such a simple way to learn the skill. All you need to remember is the formula for goal-setting: I will + what + when and then teach it to your kids.” 

Practice writing out a few goals with your athletes with the formula above. For example, you can suggest, “I will improve on passing the ball more accurately by the end of the soccer season.”  

Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations 

While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, be aware of your athlete’s true capabilities and work with them to set realistic expectations for themselves. 

“Be careful of setting too high a standard. Putting your kid in situations that are too difficult puts them at the risk of failing and lowering feelings of competence. Aim for ‘one step more.’ Effective expectations encourage kids to be their best, so that they can develop a solid belief in themselves,” says Borba. 

For instance, if your child is learning a new sport skill, like shooting the basketball with their less-dominant side, you cannot expect them to perfect that skill in a season. Instead, help them set an expectation that they’ll be attempting to score 1/3 of their shots with that less-dominant arm by the end of the season.  

Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture 

At times, it can be easy to lose sight of the big-picture benefits sport participation can bring to your young athlete’s life. Some sport parents get so bogged down in wins or loses that they forget how sport enriches the lives of young athletes by teaching them values and life skills, such as honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, and teamwork. 

Frank Smoll, PhD, a sport psychologist and professor at the University of Washington, suggests, “Parents should never shout criticism or instruction at their children – even to teammates and opponents. If parents wish to shout encouragement or praise, codes of sportsmanship dictate that recognition be given to other athletes as well.” 

He emphasizes that “there’s no reason why a great play or great effort made by the opposition shouldn’t also be appreciated.”  

Don’t Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You 

In recent times, we’ve seen how a bad call can push some parents over the edge and create tension on the sidelines. But that behavior will only teach your child that it’s okay to erupt in violence when things do not go their way. 

“When parents yell at or criticize athletes, coaches, or officials, they set an incredibly poor example. It’s not surprising to find that parents who exhibit poor self-control in their own lives often have children who are prone to emotional outbursts and poor self-discipline,” says Smoll. 

He adds, “If parents are to expect sportsmanship and self-control from their children, they need to exhibit the same qualities.”  

Don’t Forget to Show Empathy 

According to Borba, “Empathy is the ability to identify with and feel for another person. It’s the powerful quality that halts violent and cruel behavior and urges us to treat others kindly.” 

When parents can display empathy on a daily basis, they encourage their young athlete to show the same grace to their teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials. 

Borba confirms that “the more aware that kids are of what empathy sounds like, the more likely they are to use those behaviors in their daily lives. Let’s not assume our children know how to show others they care. For instance [phrases to share are]: ‘You look upset.’ ‘I understand how you feel.’ ‘It makes me feel sad that you’re hurt.’ ‘I bet that hurts a lot. It happened to me, too.’”  


Your influence as a parent is something that should not be taken for granted. Remember, young people are always observing your actions and attitudes. At the end of the day, the way you behave can easily impact your child’s development in a positive or negative way. 

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.

 How to Welcome New Teammates

How to Welcome New Teammates 

In youth sports 

Being the new athlete on a team can be one of the scariest experiences for a young athlete, and as a coach, you have the power to improve – or worsen – the situation. While you’re likely busy running practices and preparing for competition, taking time to help new athletes assimilate onto your team can shape an athlete’s entire sporting experience. Dr. Tasha Belix, a registered psychologist, shares best practices on how coaches can prepare themselves and their team for new members.
Prepare for a New Athlete

Whether it’s before the season starts or before the first practice, start a conversation with your new athlete by asking a few questions to get to know them better. That preparation can help you determine the best way to make sure the ‘new kid’ is seamlessly integrated onto the team.

If an athlete is shy and would prefer not to be put on the spot at the first practice, try assigning them one or two ‘buddies’ to help show them the ropes. For more outgoing athletes, encourage them to lead one of the simpler drills and do a more traditional ‘getting-to-know-you’ introduction.

Belix suggests that there’s no right way to introduce every athlete, and the more tailored you can make that first meeting, the better the athlete will feel afterwards.

Make a Team Plan

“Let your team know a new person is coming before they show up, if possible,” says Belix. “Don’t always rely on the same person to step up and help the new athlete through the first practice.”

Encourage your entire team to take on a leadership role and take the opportunity to ‘buddy’ up with their new teammate. It will help your team get to know the new player on their own and relieve the stress on the newcomer to initiate every conversation.
Keep an Eye on the New Kid

While you should let the new athlete integrate into the team naturally, you should also be on the lookout for bad behavior from your players.

“If you see the new athlete being treated poorly, of course you need to act on that,” says Belix. This means acting as early as possible versus waiting for a situation to become more dire – bullying can be subtle. “Trust your gut. You may need to have a chat with athletes and hold them accountable.”
Check-in After Practice

Try to make time for a quick one-on-one with the new athlete after practice, without singling him out. “Have a quick conversation about how the practice went, if they are feeling comfortable, if they need anything, or if they have any questions or concerns,” Belix says.
Often, after the initial introduction, a coach assumes that a new athlete is integrating fine, but this check-in process can help an athlete feel heard. Belix adds that if the new athlete is chatting with their teammates, postpone talking with them versus interrupting.
As a coach, it can be hard to step back and let the new athlete on the team integrate on their own terms, but it’s necessary. Remember that “some kids are less social than others and that’s fine,” says Belix.

“Don’t necessarily assume that an athlete isn’t fitting in if they’re not immediately making friends. Pushing a new athlete will likely just make them feel uncomfortable – give those athletes space if they seem to be happy otherwise.”

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.

 5 Practical Self-Care Tips for Youth Athletes

5 Practical Self-Care Tips for Youth Athletes 

In youth sports

From dealing with pressure on social media, to balancing academics, sports, and extracurricular activities, teenagers are under more stress than ever.

Amy Saltzman, MD, author of A Still Quiet Place for Athletes, believes that athletes who practice mindfulness develop a more balanced approach to self-care, which ultimately helps them achieve peak performance in sport and in life.

According to Saltzman, “Being mindful means simply being aware of what is happening here and now with kindness and curiosity, so that we can choose our behaviors.” She adds that young athletes who “bring kind and curious attention to all aspects of their health and well-being have an advantage in learning what works best for them during training, competition, and in life.”

Saltzman, a long-time athlete herself, explains that “in the long run, it’s up to young athletes to learn from coaches, parents, nutritionists, athletic trainers, sport-specific articles and books, and most importantly their own bodies, and develop and refine the self-care routines that create the opportunity to perform at their best.”

With that in mind, Saltzman shares five scientifically proven self-care habits athletes can practice to improve their physical health and maximize their ability to compete at their best. 

Prioritize Rest

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, getting extra sleep over an extended period of time improves athletic performance, mood, and alertness.

Saltzman says, “Oftentimes in sports, young athletes are encouraged to push beyond their perceived limits to progress, but pushing too hard and too often can result in injury and physical, mental, and emotional burnout.”

Overtraining doesn’t help anyone. Creating and actively implementing a proper rest and recovery schedule can prevent young athletes from reaching the brink of burnout and injury. By avoiding unhealthy extremes and prioritizing rest, you can help your athlete improve their physical and mental capacity. 

Make Healthier Food Choices

It’s essential to the development of young athletes to fuel their bodies with well-balanced meals of nutrient-rich foods instead of processed foods. In addition to preventing major health issues like osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease, healthier, whole foods develop their brain function.

Saltzman encourages young athletes to “bring their kind and curious attention to what they eat, how they eat, and how their body feels after they eat.” Over time they can take note of which foods complement their physical exercise and build a meal plan around the foods that help their body function at its best.

In general, Saltzman notes that athletes’ “bodies will function best if they eat natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, milk, cheese, and eggs.”

Drink More Water

Saltzman reports that “research shows that exercise performance is impaired when an athlete is dehydrated by as little as 2 percent of body weight. When the athlete loses an excess of 5 percent of body weight, their performance capacity is decreased by about 30 percent.”
Encouraging your young athletes to properly hydrate is essential to their athletic performance and, more importantly, to their overall health and well-being.
Saltzman adds, “It’s especially important for athletes to be aware and properly hydrate when they’re traveling, competing in hot or humid climates, or at altitude.” 

Focus On Conditioning

Youth sports offer athletes a place to improve their bodies’ overall performance and physical capacity. Not all conditioning has to be sport-specific.
Saltzman explains, “Young athletes can benefit by adding age-appropriate, developmentally-paced strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and core strength to their exercise routines. And if young athletes do these activities mindfully (being present and discerningly aware of how their bodies feel, rather than just going through the motions), they will increase their physical, mental, and emotional strength, endurance, and flexibility.”

This self-awareness gives athletes a keen sense of when their bodies need to rest and recover, or hone in on where they need to dig deeper. 
Develop game day routines

For young athletes, game day often requires the parent shuttle or a school bus ride to the game. According to Saltzman, “It is wise for young athletes to develop a game day travel routine that allows them to arrive physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to compete at their best.”
Saltzman recommends athletes create routines that will help them be prepared for game day by:

Creating a detailed game day packing list
Having healthy snacks and plenty of water on hand for travel
Developing a mental preparation habit, such as listening to music, practicing mindfulness, or visualizing their ideal performance during the game
Saltzman concludes, “Athletes who are actively paying attention to their health and preparation are less likely to suffer from burnout, overuse injuries, overtraining, adrenal insufficiency, and chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Help your young athletes develop a stronger mindset to deal with the stresses of sport and daily life by introducing self-care strategies and encouraging them to practice them daily. 

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.