Principles of Positive Coaching

As an athletic department, we are committed to the principles of positive coaching, and against a "win-at-all cost" mentality. Our athletic staff aims to be Double-Goal Coaches, who strive to win, while also pursuing the more-important goal of teaching life lessons through sports. In 2015 - 2016 Wooster School will enter into partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance. PCA is a nationally recognized non-profit organization, whose mission is to support education and develop best practices within the school community. You will find a few introductory principles that we have asked our coaches and players to adopt. We ask that you as parents consider modeling the principles below as an effort to support our overall program and our student athletes.

Three principles of the Positive Coaching Alliance:

  1. The ELM Tree of Mastery
  2. Filling Emotional Tanks
  3. Honoring the Game

Here are some details on these principles.

The ELM Tree of Mastery

While winning is important and learning to compete is one of the major life lessons available through sports, not everyone can win every game. Still, student athletes are winners, regardless of what the scoreboard says, when they pursue mastery of their sports. As a way to remember key elements of mastery, PCA uses the acronym ELM for Effort, Learning and Mistakes are OK. Student athletes who keep these things in mind develop habits that will serve them well throughout their lives. As an added benefit, athletes who are coached toward Mastery tend to have reduced anxiety and increased self-confidence, because they focus on things they can control. Therefore, they are more likely to have fun and perform better. Here’s how you can help:

  • Tell your children it’s OK to make a mistake.
  • Tell them you appreciate their best effort even if they fall short of the desired result.
  • Recognize that Mastery is hard work and an ongoing process over time that can fuel great conversations with your children about sports and life.

Filling Emotional Tanks

An “Emotional Tank” is like the gas tank in a car. When it’s empty, we go nowhere, but when it’s full, we can go most anywhere. The best fuel for an Emotional Tank is an average of five specific, truthful praises for each specific, constructive criticism. Here’s how you can help:

  • Encourage your children with specific tank-fillers regardless of scoreboard results. Be honest, but remember the value of that 5:1 ratio.
  • Avoid an immediate and critical debrief right after the game.

Honoring the Game

To help remember the ideals of sportsmanship, which PCA calls “Honoring the Game,” we talk about respecting ROOTS, an acronym for Rules, Officials, Opponents, Teammates and Self. Here’s how you can help:

  • Review ROOTS with your child (you can learn more about the meaning of each letter by visiting PCA’s website at
  • Model Honoring the Game yourself as you watch your children compete and even as you watch sports on TV together.
  • Encourage other spectators to Honor the Game.

For more Resources, visit:

For more information on Positive Coaching Alliance, visit:

© 2014 Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved.

What separates our program from most is our proven ability to not only combine, but sustain, both a competitive edge and a focus on sportsmanship.

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