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 How to Raise Upstanders, Instead of Bystanders

How to Raise Upstanders, Instead of Bystanders

Five strategies to help your athletes become upstanders instead of bystanders

As young athletes navigate through adolescence, they may run into situations that challenge their moral compass. Whether your athlete is faced with an ethical dilemma in school, in sport, or in the community, doing the right thing is important – no matter who is watching.

In a study about young children and the bystander effect, results showed that although children are typically extremely helpful to others in need, they are more inclined to assist others only when the responsibility is clearly attributed to them. Children were less likely to help when there were other potential helpers around because there was a diffusion of responsibility. Here are five strategies to help your athletes become upstanders instead of bystanders in those complex times when their sense of responsibility and decision-making skills are tested.

Reinforce positive behaviors
Kids can learn about caring, fairness, and how to lead an ethical life from the people around them, so it’s up to adults to lead by example when it comes to intervening in a situation where someone needs help.

“One of the simplest ways to help kids learn new behaviors is to reinforce them as they happen,” explains Michelle Borba, PhD, an internationally recognized character education expert, educational psychologist, and award-winning author of 22 parenting books.

“Purposely catch your child acting morally and acknowledge their good behavior by describing what they did right and why you appreciate it.”

Teach them to become active bystanders
According to the Safety Net Coalition at Loyola University in Chicago, an active bystander is someone who not only witnesses a situation, but takes action to keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.

When kids decide to speak up on another person’s behalf, it takes courage. Sitting in silence when you recognize someone is being hurt can also be devastating and fill your child with guilt after the incident.

Teach your athlete how to become action-oriented and assertive when it comes to situations that are unjust in their eyes. For example, if your athlete sees a teammate taunting an athlete on an opposing team, encourage them to be an upstander and leader by taking action to stop the bullying, whether it’s by helping the target walk away, telling an adult, or another method.

Expand your child’s circle of concern
Another way to raise upstanders is to expand their circle of concern. By teaching your young athlete to show care and concern to a wider network of people, you’re teaching them that their decisions have an impact on others in their community.

Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Care Common Project encourages parents to “cultivate children’s concern for others because it’s fundamentally the right thing to do, and also because when children can empathize with and take responsibility for others, they’re likely to be happier and more successful.”

So, the next time your child is debating whether they should invite one of their teammates or classmates to their birthday party, for example, ask them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and how they would feel if they didn’t get an invite to a party that everyone else was invited to.

Practice kindness and empathy
Empathy creates compassion for other people’s perspectives.

In her book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, Borba shares, “Empathy can be instilled, and it is composed of teachable habits that can be developed, practiced, and lived. Empathy is what lays the foundation for helping children live one essential truth: We are all humans who share the same fears and concerns and deserve to be treated with dignity.”

When your athlete is regularly exposed to kindness and empathy, they grow both socially and emotionally. So, whether your athlete is having a tough time with a teammate’s attitude or they’re struggling with the coach’s decision to bench them for a game, acknowledge what they’re feeling and continue to encourage them to look at the situation from another perspective.

Create a positive, caring family motto
Borba also recommends that parents develop a family mantra. “Ask your child, ‘What do I stand for in this house? What really makes the difference in this house? What do you think is important to me in this house?’”

Borba adds that “You’ll begin to hear the kinds of values that your child thinks are important. Then, you can come up with some fun, memorable motto.”

As your athlete lives out your new motto, they will begin to internalize that positivity, which will soon be reflected in school, on the field, and in situations when it matters most.

Most parents hope to raise kids who play by the rules, are brave enough to stand up for what is right, and who make sure that everyone is treated fairly, equally, and honestly.

These strategies will encourage your athlete to help others as they foster their sense of personal responsibility.

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.

 Catch Greatness by Chasing the Right Things

Catch Greatness by Chasing the Right Things

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

It’s easy to fall into the trap. We’ve all done it, myself included, many times. Societal norms can pull us in the wrong direction and leave us chasing the wrong things. We chase the things that the world tells us to, that will give us a better outside appearance when the reality is that we should be chasing the things that transform us on the inside.






It’s common to chase all of these things at various points in life, I’ve been guilty of this many times, but happiness doesn’t always follow even after these things you think you want are attained. When you chase the right things, personal fulfillment is often what follows, and that’s far more valuable than dollars or fame.

The same premise holds true on the diamond. Over the past fifteen-plus years, from working as a college assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Rutgers, to becoming a Minor League hitting instructor turned manager turned coordinator, there have been far too many instances of people going after the wrong things in the wrong ways. This includes Minor Leaguers chasing the Big Leagues, the high school kid chasing the scholarship, college coaches chasing their next job, hitters chasing hits, or pitchers chasing punchouts. Whether you are a player or a coach, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “are YOU chasing the right things?”

Chase PASSION: truly enjoying what you do makes you want to do it more and inspires others in the process to do the same. Coaches’ love for the game gets ingrained into the players they get to work with. Players’ love for the game energizes their coaches to work even harder to make them better. It is a two-way street, and it happens all the time.

Chase PEOPLE: those who will make you better from the inside, out. A few years ago, I had the chance to leave the Red Sox for a higher profile job and a bigger salary. Had I been presented with this opportunity ten years prior, I would have signed on the dotted line before the offer was made because money and status were my compasses. Luckily, my new compass points to people. I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave the people with the Red Sox, who gave me a second life in the game. Turning that “better” job down was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Chase PROCESS: when you work with the belief and the effort that you never arrive, one day, you will. Every Minor Leaguer wants to have a long Major League career, while every hitter wants to get a hit whenever they step foot in the box, and every pitcher dreams of throwing an immaculate inning, striking out the side on nine straight pitches. It’s easy to chase those results. But when people learn what exactly goes into those results and focus on controlling the things that they can control, the results they want often take care of themselves.

Chase AUTHENTICITY: surrounding yourself with real people helps you learn that you don’t have to be fake. Throughout life, we all go through insecurities. That same self-doubt is all over the place on baseball fields everywhere. “Am I good enough?” “Why can’t I break the lineup.” I don’t throw hard enough.” We all have our own unique gifts, both on and off the field. When we truly appreciate and embrace what those gifts are and stop yearning for what are don’t, we are in a far better position to find success by simply being who we are and doing what we do, both on and off the field.

Chase GROWTH: the smartest guy in the room is the one who doesn’t know a thing. When I first started coaching in 2006, I was the dumbest guy in the room because I knew it all. Once I began to understand what I, in fact, did not understand, I was able to transform myself as a coach and continue to chase knowledge every day, in some way, shape, or form. A player who chases growth welcomes their small wins but quickly moves on to their next challenge. What does that player’s progress look like after a week, a month, a season, or a career? They are the epitome of the compound effect of simply trying to get one percent better every day.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be great. In fact, this world is in desperate need of people with great aspirations. Greatness won’t come overnight, and it surely won’t come from running in the wrong direction. But once you understand exactly what to chase, you can’t help but reach that greatness, no matter what it may look like.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was 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.

 OCD Injuries

OCD Injuries

Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard

Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses osteochondritis dessicans injuries, or OCD injuries. To have your questions answered by Dr. Richard, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Marc Richard, MD, 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.


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