Helping Your Athletes Make Better Decisions


In this article for coaches, youth coaching expert Steve Horan discusses the how coaches can help their athletes make better decisions.

We all want our athletes to make good decisions – especially when they are facing a challenge to take a negative risk.  We can and should help our athletes stay out of trouble by reminding them to do the right thing for the sake of themselves and their team.

In many cases a young athlete will make a bad decision based on momentary impulse.  These situations are especially tragic because the athlete might have avoided the bad situation if he or she had only considered the consequences for a moment.

We can help our athletes make better decisions by equipping them with a simple method designed to help them stop and think before making a decision, including decisions which could hurt themselves or someone else.  This simple five-step method is called ‘PROPS’.

Here is a brief script you can use to teach the PROPS approach to your athletes. If you have the time and inclination, you could also spend some time helping your athletes apply the PROPS approach to hypothetical decisions they might face.

We all know that you are faced with decisions which could end up hurting you or someone else.  As athletes on this team we need to be ready to face these decisions head-on and make the right choice.  I am going to give you a simple five-step decisions process called PROPS. If you remember this approach and use it to make good decisions, you will always be in control of the situation.

Step 1. Pause. Always pause and take a breath before you make a decision – especially if you have a feeling you might be doing something wrong.

Step 2. Reflect. Think before you act by reflecting on the situation before you decide.  Remember, no one can force you to do anything.

Step 3. Options. You always have options.  Think about all of those options before you decide.  Remember, there is always a way out of a bad situation.  You can find it if you think about it.

Step 4. Prioritize. Prioritize your options based on your values.  What do you value most?  Your health? Your family? Your team? Your future?  Are you really willing to sacrifice these values for a bad decision?

Step 5. Select. Select the option which is best for yourself, your family, your team, and your future.  Make the good decision and be confident of the outcome.

By teaching your athletes how to make decisions you are equipping them to think and say ‘no’ to the negative choices they will inevitably face in their lives. If you can equip even one athlete to avoid a harmful decision, isn’t it all worth it?

About Steve Horan
Steve Horan is a long-time youth sports coach, administrator, and parent.  He is also a researcher, trainer, and consultant in leadership and community health.  He is the CEO of Community Health Solutions, and holds a PhD in Education from the University of Virginia.  Steve is also the founder and editor of, a website dedicated to coaching for positive youth development.

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