Honoring the Game
Positive Sport Parents want to do everything in their power to make sure their children’s youth sports experience is positive. Therefore, they conduct themselves by a code called “Honoring the Game.” To remember components of this code, use the acronym ROOTS, which stands for Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self.
Why ROOTS Matters
Unfortunately, youth sports today can sometimes be a sea of volatile emotions. Sadly some adults and athletes still have a win-at-all-cost mentality. And the heat of competition can sometimes bring out the worst in both adults and kids.
But members of the Play Positive community – parents and coaches – work hard to Honor The Game and teach the principles of ROOTS to our young athletes.
The Elements Of ROOTS
• Rules. Positive Sport Parents refuse to bend or break the rules, even if you think you can get away with it.
• Opponents. Recognize that a worthy opponent brings out our best and take a “fierce-yet-friendly” attitude into competition. Teach your children that when a whistle blows, help downed opponents to their feet. After games, win or lose, shake their hands, look them in the eye and congratulate them on a game well-played. And consider emulating the principle yourself by shaking the hands of the parents of the opposing players. Talk about setting a great example for your kids!
• Officials. Respect officials even when you disagree with them. It’s tempting to join the chorus of criticism for the officials, but stop and think: what good can really come from this. You may not realize it, but your kids have a special ear for your yelling in the stands and in some cases can find themselves humiliated or embarrassed by your yelling. And remind yourself: officials are people too, trying to do the best they can.
• Teammates. When you talk to your kids about ROOTS, teach them that they should never do anything to embarrass your team (on or off the field). Do what we can to lift teammates up and help them reach their potential. Being a good teammate means also being a good person.
• Self. Live up to your own standards of Honoring the Game, even when others don’t. If the opposing players, coaches or parents act out or somehow disrespect the game, remind your athlete that they still must not.
Tools for Honoring the Game
Work hard to serve as an example of Honoring The Game with your own behavior, and maybe even reminding other parents to Honor the Game. Here are some tools to help you.
• Self-Control Routine.
It helps to have — and actually practice or rehearse — a self-control routine. For example:
o take a deep breath
o remind yourself of the discipline required NOT to react
o engage in self-talk (“I need to be a role model. I can rise above this!”)
o turn away from the action
o count to 20 (or 50!)
o try to return to enjoying the game and cheering on your children and others.
Later, you can use the experience as a teachable moment with your children: “I was pretty upset with what happened, but I controlled myself so I wouldn’t do anything that would dishonor the game. And that’s an important lesson I want you to learn from sports — how to develop your own self-control so you will always Honor the Game no matter what.”
• Teachable Moments from Televised Sports.
You can use professional sports –positive or negative examples–as teachable moments. When an incident occurs, whether something covered in the media, or something you and your children experience during their own games, let your kids know what you think about it.
Better yet, ask them to talk about it even before offering your opinion. If our kids come to the conclusion that something is or isn’t Honoring the Game and put it into their own words, they are more likely to retain what they have learned.
Anything from a pro sports brawl to exemplary sportsmanship can serve to start a conversation. If you ignore negative incidents, your children may take it as an approval of the misbehavior. Make it clear: “I know you look up to that athlete, but fighting on the field is not acceptable under any circumstances. I expect you to never be involved in anything like that.
The following tips can help you and your child Honor The Game on game-day.
• Before the Game
o Tell your children you are proud of them regardless of how well they play.
o Tell them to play hard and have fun and remind them that being nervous is normal.
o Commit to Honoring the Game no matter what others do.
• During the Game
o Let the coach’s coach. Avoid instructing your child (or other players).
o Fill your child’s (and teammates’) Emotional Tanks.
o Cheer good plays and good efforts by both teams.
• After the Game
o Thank the officials for doing a difficult job.
o Thank the coaches for their effort.
o Remind your child that you are proud of him or her-especially if the game didn’t go well!
Finally, remember how important sports are to your children. Remember all of the valuable learning opportunities sports offer. Keep that in perspective, and there is very little that can happen during competition to upset you so much that you would mar your children’s experience. When you keep your eye on the Big Picture of all the good that can come from youth sports it is much easier to Honor the Game!
Conversation with Coaches
During a youth sports season, your children will spend more time with their coaches than with any other adults, except you, their parents. On some days, coaches’ time with your kids will even exceed your own. It’s important that you as a Positive Sport Parent have a completely open, honest, trusting relationship with your children’s coaches. Here are a few ways to help bring about a quality parent-coach partnership.
Prepare Your Children to Work Well With Coaches.
In addition to the basic manners and respect that makes for functional families and schoolrooms, remind your children that their coaches are in a unique position. Your conversation with your children might include explaining that their coaches have to work with a lot of different players and parents, and that means a lot of personality types.
Help your children understand that the best way for them to succeed as individuals and to contribute to team success is to cooperate with the coaches, pay careful attention and try their hardest at every practice and game. If your children make the coaches’ lives easier, you probably will enhance your own relationships with the coaches.
Stay Mindful of the Coaches’ Commitment.
Your children’s coaches have made a commitment that involves many hours of preparation beyond the time spent at practices and games. Quite likely in youth sports they are volunteers. Almost all are well-meaning.
It will be helpful to use those facts as a prism through which you view any issues that have you considering a corrective conversation with the coaches. Finally, if you do feel the need to approach coaches about an issue, try to imagine yourself in their place – as a volunteer – and that can help keep your communication with them respectful.
Make Early, Positive Contact with the Coach.
As soon as you know who will coach your children, contact those coaches to introduce yourself and offer any assistance you may provide. This outreach may be the single most important thing you do in establishing a true partnership, where you proactively shape a positive experience for your child and lay the foundation for respectful, productive conversations with coaches should a conflict arise later.
You may want to offer yourself as assistant coach if that is customary in the organizations where your children compete. At the same time, be prepared to accept “no” for an answer; some coaches already have assistants selected. Other roles for which you might volunteer include “team parent” (responsible for such things as coordinating carpools or snack assignments) or maintaining a team webpage and online scheduling and communications tools.
Fill the Coach’s Emotional Tank.
Too often, coaches hear only from parents who have complaints. Filling the coaches’ Emotional Tanks with specific, truthful praise positively reinforces them to continue doing the things you see as benefiting the youth athletes.
Key to this communication is “specific and truthful.” It’s common enough for parents and coaches to mill around after a game, and instead of the simple, “Great game, coach,” it can do a world of good for the coach, players and other parents to hear things like, “Coach, we were getting upset about some of the official’s calls, but when we saw how well you kept your composure, it helped us calm down, too.”
Don’t Put the Player in the Middle.
You wouldn’t complain to your children about how poorly their math teacher explains fractions, so hopefully you would avoid sharing your disapproval of a coach with your children. Doing so may force the child to take sides, and not necessarily your side!
If your child has an issue with the coach and can maturely articulate it, encourage your child to approach the coach and at the very least learn some life lessons in self-advocacy with an authority figure. Otherwise, if you disapprove of how the coach handles a situation, seek a private meeting to discuss the matter.
Ideally, such conversations would focus on big-picture concerns around your child’s ability to have an overall positive experience with the team. Playing time issues sometimes rise to that level, but in-game strategies and tactics rarely do.
If you have some expertise in the sport and think you can help your child’s coach, that’s the sort of thing you might mention in the “make-early-positive-contact” phase. But if the coach does not seem open to those sorts of suggestions, it’s best to respect that, because big-picture concerns about your child taking life lessons from sports do not hinge on the coach accepting your tactical advice.
Let Coaches Coach.
It can confuse players to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions. Also, your instructions may counter the coaches’ strategy and tactics, undermining team performance.
Fill Your Child’s Emotional Tank.
Competitive sports can be stressful to players. The last thing they need is your critiquing their performance…on top of what the coach may deliver and what they already are telling themselves. Let your children know you love and support them regardless of their performance.
Contribute to a Positive Environment.
Fill all the players’ Emotional Tanks when you see them doing something well. Honor the Game as a spectator, respecting ROOTS (Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self), and encourage others around you to Honor the Game.
We know this advice is not always easy to implement. There will be the occasional disagreeable official’s call or wishes for more playing time for your child. But drawing from these ideas can help you keep your child’s youth sports experience in perspective. In turn, that will help you maintain a positive parent-coach partnership, and that will help the Positive Coaches in your children’s lives serve their greatest purpose.
Courtesy ,Liberty Mutual Insurance, “They Care about Youth”.www.libertymutual.com