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KU professor's 'The Youth Sports Handbook' offers lessons in leadership, teamwork

Tue, 09/21/2021

LAWRENCE — When Jordan Bass started a youth club baseball team, he wanted to give his players something to read on how to be a good teammate and leader and how to learn from athletic failure. To his surprise, he could find no books that directly covered those topics for young athletes. So, he decided to write the book himself.

Jordan Bass, KU professor of health, sport & exercise scienceBass, associate professor of health, sport & exercise science at the University of Kansas, was in a unique position to write “The Youth Sports Handbook: A Kid’s Guide to Being the Ultimate Leader, Competitor, and Teammate.” A teacher and researcher who works in sport management, amateur sport, organizational behavior, sport in higher education and related topics, he is also a youth sports coach, parent, middle school athletics director and former college tennis player. When he could only find recommendations like encouraging youth athletes to read titles like “The Little Engine That Could,” he decided to fill a literature gap to help youth, coaches and parents alike.

“I just started writing, and it pretty quickly came together,” Bass said of the handbook. “It combines a lot of what I tell my athletes, along with academic ideas like growth mindset, leadership and topics like that in a way that young people can assess and understand. It’s not meant to help you hit a fastball but learn how to be a better teammate, how to take feedback from coaches and really help young people who may struggle with some of the soft skills of sports.”

'The Youth Sports Handbook'The book is designed for youths in grade school through high school to prepare for an upcoming season, to give youth sport coaches ideas on how they can communicate certain concepts with their players or for parents to read to their youth sport-participating children. The lessons can be especially helpful in a time when youth sports have become increasingly structured, commercialized and competitive. In such an environment, young people can become frustrated or dejected if they make mistakes or become intimidated by competition, Bass said.

“The point of this book is there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a competitor, but here’s how we can do it the right way, learn, have fun and just enjoy youth sports while you do it,” he said.

Throughout the handbook’s chapters, Bass includes examples from well-known athletes on how they bounced back from tough losses, took suggestions from coaches on how to improve their game or set obtainable goals to improve at every practice. A coach, parent or grandparent can tell a young athlete to be a good teammate, leader or stress the importance of growth mindset, a concept that is popular in education these days. But it’s not always evident what those ideas even mean. To that end, the book aims to give youth and those working with them real-life examples of what the concepts mean and how they can be applied in athletics, Bass said.

The handbook also includes chapters on topics including learning to love to compete, embracing a role on the team, developing inner confidence and enjoying the journey, all complete with a combination of academic concepts and suggestions, coupled with real-life examples of highly accomplished athletes’ experiences with the ideas. The chapters are designed to stand alone if a reader is interested in a given topic, or be read in order.

“I think the concepts in the book and the stories are all relatable and that the lessons translate across populations and age groups,” Bass said. “It’s a book that can help young athletes and youth sport coaches enjoy them, no matter the age or competition level.”

Top image: Credit KU Marketing Communications.



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