Guidelines for athletes, coaches, parents

Monday is the first official practice day for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s fall sports teams.

Because so many schools have intense summer conditioning programs and summer league programs, the date is more symbolic than anything else.

As football, cross country, volleyball and swimming teams prepare for seasons a few weeks away, here are some “unofficial” guidelines to heed.

For athletes

Be prepared. It is your responsibility to have your school work done and your gear packed/ready for practice. Don’t expect your parents to do it. As a high school athlete, you are accountable.

Respect your coaches and teammates. There’s nothing wrong with being competitive and wanting to be the best you can be. Coaches are there to help you achieve those goals. Teammates have those goals and deserve respect.

Drink plenty of fluids and eat a balanced diet. Drink water and/or a sports drinks before, during and after practices and games. Louisiana’s heat and humidity provides practice and game conditions like no other. Avoid junk food.

Sportsmanship must be first. Do not talk trash or taunt an opponent. Never disrespect or make physical contact with a game or meet official. Never push or take a swing at an opponent. If an opponent does any of these things to you, do not retaliate. Report it to your coach and contest officials.

For coaches

Be a leader, not a dictator. Think before you speak. Remember, your athletes come from a wide range of backgrounds and ages. They don’t all learn at the same rate.

Safety comes first. Make sure your team gets multiple hydration breaks. For individual sports such as swimming, make sure water bottles/fluids are available. Watch for signs of heat-related issues. Cutting a drill a few reps short may be best on some days.

Try something new. Reward hard work by providing a fun activity such as ice cream or a motivational speaker.

Sportsmanship must come first. If you use profanity and/or disrespect game officials or opponents, don’t expect your team to act differently. So model proper behavior. Set up penalties for athletes who display unsportsmanlike conduct.

For parents

Be a supporter, not a “helicopter parent.” Helicopter parent refers to someone who hovers over their child constantly. There’s nothing wrong with watching practices. You should provide transportation and moral support. High school athletes are old enough to act independently.

Help, don’t hinder, your school and coach. Your school and coaches also need your help. Don’t be afraid to work in the concession stand, sell tickets or keep statistics.

Above all else, be there. It is hard for working parents to make every game or practice. Send an encouraging text to your child before the game if you can’t be there. Put a note in his/her equipment bag. Send a thank you note to the coaches.

Details, details. Monitor your child’s health/eating habits. Have healthy snacks/fluids available. Make sure your child has an up-to-date physical exam and complete all necessary LHSAA forms.

Sportsmanship must come first. Be a fan, not a fanatic. Paid admission does not give a parent or fan the right to taunt other athletes, coaches or players. If you yell something you wouldn’t say to your spouse or your child, you’ve crossed the line.