How to Create A Good Sports Community


by: Dr George Selleck

Successful communities think as much about tomorrow as they do about today. The expediency of quick fixes and easy answers is bypassed to consider systematic causes and permanent solutions. These communities think more about development and less about deficits; they think in terms of all, not the few; and they know without question that the issues and opportunities facing them are interrelated. . . . Critical to the actions of the next generation is a commitment to all children and all people.

This point is no better illustrated than by a greeting used by Masai warriors in Africa: “How are the children?” The traditional response is, “All the children are well.” Successful communities understand the power of this statement and take action to make it true.

- Suzanne W. Morse,
Five Building Blocks for Successful Communities

Community. What is it? And why is it so important? A community can be defined as a group of people who participate in common practices, depend upon each other, make shared decisions, and are committed to the well being of the group. Most sociologists agree that community is one of our basic human needs. Without some kind of community in our lives, we feel isolated and adrift from society. Without a sense of community, there is little reason for people to invest in the future.

That is why I believe it is so important for sports parents to see themselves not just as parents of athletes, but as members of a sports community. And not just a sports community, but a “good sports” community. A “good sports” community is one in which athletes, coaches and parents are deeply involved in what they are doing and closely connected to those with whom they are doing it in ways that bring out the best in everyone. It is a place where participants can stretch and grow by learning new skills and perspectives; define and pursue dreams; expand and
strengthen relationships; and celebrate personal and collective achievements.The cornerstones of this community are civility, respect, responsibility, and citizenship.

Some other elements of a good sports community include:

Strong individuals. In a good sports community, you don’t have to give up individualism to build community. People recognize that strong individuals create strong communities.

Strong roots. Last year when high winds toppled many of the pine trees in my neighborhood, I was amazed to see how short the roots of these trees were. Trees that were 60 feet high had roots that were less than a foot deep. No wonder they couldn’t withstand the tempest. What gives a community roots? I think it is the feeling of being connected to one another.

Across-the-board involvement. In a good sports community, everyone participates. Wherever possible, decisions are
collaborative. Members tend to be proactive, versus reactive. Instead of waiting until something bad happens before they get actively involved, members of a good sports community work from the beginning to create a positive, supportive environment.

A larger purpose: Because sport is seen as more than just a way to have fun and improve physical fitness, parents, kids, and coaches feel empowered by being part of something bigger than themselves.

As you think about the sports community that you and your children are a part of, ask yourself the following questions:

Who are the members of my sports community? Do I know their names? How well do I know the members of my sports community? How well do they know me? How would I rate my sports community’s impact on the well-being of its children? What are some specific actions I can take to increase the sense of community in my sports community? What actions can I encourage my children to take?

Remember, as you strive to instill the values and actions of sportsmanship in your children, it takes a community to truly create good sports. That’s because no matter how hard parents may work to makes their children’s sports experiences positive ones, if those children are surrounded by coaches, teammates and fans who do not support good sports it will be difficult for children to translate what they have been taught into action.

So take a look at your community and ask yourself what you can do to ensure, like the Masai warriors, that all the children of your community are well.

George A. Selleck, Ph.D. is a sports psychologist with advanced degrees from Stanford, University of Southern California and Princeton. He has played, coached and consulted for both amateur and professional athletes, and is author of several books including ‘Common Sense: Coaching to Make a Difference’ (2007, Coaches Choice).