skip navigation

How to Raise Upstanders (Instead of Bystanders)

By TrueSport, 11/19/19, 10:00AM CST


As young athletes navigate through adolescence, they may run into situations that challenge their moral compass. Whether your athlete is faced with an ethical dilemma in school, in sport, or in the community, doing the right thing is important – no matter who is watching.

In a study about young children and the bystander effect, results showed that although children are typically extremely helpful to others in need, they are more inclined to assist others only when the responsibility is clearly attributed to them. Children were less likely to help when there were other potential helpers around because there was a diffusion of responsibility.

Here are five strategies to help your athletes become upstanders instead of bystanders in those complex times when their sense of responsibility and decision-making skills are tested.


Reinforce positive behaviors

Kids can learn about caring, fairness, and how to lead an ethical life from the people around them, so it’s up to adults to lead by example when it comes to intervening in a situation where someone needs help.

“One of the simplest ways to help kids learn new behaviors is to reinforce them as they happen,” explains Michelle Borba, PhD, an internationally recognized character education expert, educational psychologist, and award-winning author of 22 parenting books.

“Purposely catch your child acting morally and acknowledge their good behavior by describing what they did right and why you appreciate it.”


Teach them to become active bystanders

According to the Safety Net Coalition at Loyola University in Chicago, an active bystander is someone who not only witnesses a situation, but takes action to keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.

TrueSport logo

About TrueSport

TrueSport® is a grassroots movement born and powered by the experience and values of USADA–the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The TrueSport® mission is simple and bold: to change the culture of youth sport by providing powerful educational tools to equip young athletes with the resources to build the life skills and core values for lasting success on and off the field.

Other Articles by TrueSport