This is a guest post by Coach Rick Harriman of VBA. Make sure to check out his website on

I had this idea of starting a non-profit that would enable youth to play sports without so much intense focus on winning. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me – as a coach and a player, I dislike losing as much as anyone but the win at all cost mentality that is sweeping youth sports is manic and destructive. I myself have been caught up in it so I know all too well the pitfalls of having WIN as a singular goal. Too many youth are being turned off by athletics before they have a chance to truly experience them at a competitive level.

From this mindset, the idea for Values Based Athletics (VBA) was born.

Values Based Athletics is targeted towards anyone that participates in sports with a goal to do more than win. While winning is a goal, we feel that there is more to the sports experience and that participants should be enabled with the tools, experiences and events to demonstrate this tenet. Right now we are in the very early start-up phase, seeking partners, funding, licenses, the whole nine yards but it is not slowing down our effort to evangelize this opportunity.
I personally have had this idea for a few years but I am now in a position to get it off the ground. Many programs talk about a ‘value-based approach’ but I have yet to find any documentation to back up these claims. So what are values based athletics? The core of this philosophy starts with values; values that should orient toward something that has relative worth, merit and importance. VBA starts with recognizing and understanding priorities and uses them in athletics to guide behavior and goals.​

Too much of an emphasis on winning has been placed on youth athletics. Teams should be competitive, and this means that winning and losing are a part of the equation but athletics should teach more life lessons than simply winning or losing a game.​ VBA is a Western Massachusetts organization that works with athletes, parents and coaches of youth sports to find a deeper meaning to sports than simply the pursuit of winning. We place a focus on the values of athletics that lead to success in other areas of life. VBA starts with recognizing and understanding priorities and uses them in athletics to guide behavior and goals.

At the core of a values based approach to sports are the following values that drive character behaviors that are desirable:

· Faith – The belief in God and following religious tenets is an outstanding framework for building a solid foundation for guiding youth in all activities.

· Family – Behind God, family is the highest priority

· Fun – Fun should be the reason for doing anything on personal time, especially as a youth. Keep the FUN in fundamentals.

· Honesty – At the root of honesty is honor, and honor commands respect for oneself and others – keeping commitments and executing on actions.

· Integrity – Everything of value stems from integrity and without it, a person is lost.

· Teamwork – Coaches and players should be more interested in the success of their teams than with personal success.

· Humility – The ability to have pride for the team and the individual without boasting; being a humble athlete that is a part of the game, not above it.

· Pursuit of wisdom (versus knowledge) – The accumulation of knowledge without wisdom is pointless.

· Discipline – Focus and toughness (physical, spiritual and mental) to take and follow direction is key to enabling team success.

· Education – Strive to learn more in a chosen discipline than anyone else and to never stop learning

· Passion – Pure enjoyment for the activity, a drive to live the sport within a priority structure and to instill this passion into others.

· Enthusiasm – The ability to share positive experiences with others; the ability to create a buzz from your activities can be an indescribable thrill. This is a favorite tenet (and a cornerstone) from Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

· Community – Making the time to give time to a community without want for return is a precious thing.

· Professionalism – The phrase ‘act like you’ve been there before’ is key to this tenet; the combination of each of these values, taking care of business and helping others with theirs where it makes sense. Simple things like arriving early, being prepared, focus, maintaining the body (rest, fuel, hydration, strength, training).

The VBA vision statement for involvement with youth sports is to encourage youths to be the best they can be in both sports and life and that the healthy pursuit of athletics should be fun and available to everyone. Our mission is to enable youths, coaches, parents and spectators with the tools and information to have fun with athletics while at the same time allowing for optimal performance.

​We would love to expand and are looking to build partnerships with like-minded organizations. Details about VBA and how to reach us can be found at