Living a voluntary life – Peaceful parenting applied through sports coaching!

As part of our ‘Living a Voluntary Life‘ theme for Freecoast Festival 2017, I would like to highlight an area of applied voluntarism that may be less familiar to most of our readers, but one that I hope will expand your view of the variety of applications that this principle may have in our everyday lives.

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of peaceful parenting and the application of the Non-agression Principle (NAP) in the parent-child relationship, and perhaps have taken steps to implement this concept with your own children. I have not yet had the great pleasure of having my own kids, but I have taken on the challenge of implementing these principles in my career as a basketball coach. I began as a volunteer coach, then moved through several public and private school positions before finding my favorite niche of basketball coaching in player development with Integrity Hoops here on the Freecoast of NH.

As you may be aware from your own childhood athletic participation or witnessing your child’s sporting endeavors, there is much to be desired in the coaching world with regards to coach-athlete relationships and peaceful, voluntary interactions. Public school sports are fraught with all of the issues that permeate the rest of the government school systems, but in some ways are far worse than the classroom. Coaches have nearly unilateral power over their athletes, deriving authority from the school system hierarchy, from parents who defer to the coach’s opinion over their child’s, and from the child’s pride in making their school team that cannot be abandoned without severe embarrassment.

This toxic combination enables coaches to dole out mild-to-severe verbal and psychological abuse on a daily basis, without recompense.

Players who balk, perform badly, or (heaven-forbid!) miss a practice are threatened with everything from physical exercise consequences (not conducive to the stated purpose of school athletics: life-long active lifestyle), to loss of playing time in games (the one consolation players have that makes participation worthwhile).

Knowing that an athlete loves their sport, the school system also uses that knowledge as a weapon against any student that does not conform by taking away their sport privilege through forcing missed games, or even suspension from the team. This means that even in the best-case scenario in which a player enjoys the sport and has a reasonable coach, any teacher that has a problem with the student’s attitude, behavior, or academic performance can put the student’s favorite activity in jeopardy. This gives even greater power to teachers, allowing them to wield the threat of missed athletic activity over the heads of mis-behaving students – students that probably need exercise more than anything else to increase focus in an academic setting! (Read about the Texas school system that tripled recess time)

The solution to this, like so many other problems that seem insurmountable when viewed from the government-is-the-only-way perspective, is to simply make every step of sport participation voluntary.

Keep all of the positive aspects of sports that are based on competition, performance-based merit, and voluntary decisions that  draw so many millions of recreational athletes to continue participating long into their geriatric years. Then add one change of perspective…….

The Athlete, not the school, is the coach’s customer.

This places the responsibility of performance-based merit squarely on the coaches’ shoulders – making him or her responsible for   designing practices that are valuable to the players, evaluated only by their willingness to attend. (What if the school treated all students as customers that could leave if unsatisfied!).

I think the culture of youth sports is being poisoned by the public school system environment, where coach after coach that grew up playing their sport in the public school setting continues to propagate the authoritarian mindset into all areas of sports. Those that enter private schools often fight to re-create the public school environment, and those that choose the AAU or private league while adding some aspects of voluntarism due to lack of control, still retain many of the negative characteristics learned from their childhood coaches. Many of these voluntary program coaches have success due to player and parent expectations that are based solely on their public school system experience.

Compared to public school, even a terrible coach that you have to pay for, but has no control over the rest of you life is a big improvement!

I hope to see sports completely separated from school systems, eventually following the European club sport model and removing government control from the joy of athletics completely. This combined with more homeschooling/ unschooling families will do a lot to make the world of youth sports a better place!

An organization such as Integrity Hoops that has a mission of helping athletes develop the physical, mental, and emotional skills necessary to enjoy their favorite sport at a competitive level, and offers this value as an optional, voluntary transaction is the goal. Athletes and parents should have the opportunity to evaluate the value being received at any time, quit anytime, and have an expectation of every interaction with the coaching staff being initiated from a desire for the athlete to reach their objectives.  This is the greatest passion of mine, and the best integration I have found for living my principles, helping kids, creating a career, and living a voluntary life!


I hope you will join us for the 4th annual Freecoast Festival and Cruise taking place September 8-10th…. Tickets are going fast, and if you sign up before June 1st, you can get a free official Freecoast T-shirt!

Highlights of the festival will include a speakers Hanna Braime of “Becoming Who You Are“, Jake Desyllas of “The Voluntary Life“, Entrepreneur Day, and of course the catered cruise on Portsmouth harbor!


Comments 1

  1. I feel “Freecoast” and Seacoast of NH is an oxymoron. I hope you will consider a more appropriate name for your organization in the future.

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