Honor and Respect.
These are the principles we all strive to live by.
If we want to be recognized as Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sport Parents, our aim is to put these principles at the heart, soul and center of everything we do – before, during and after the course of competition.
This month at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program, we’re going to take a closer look at how coaches and parents can ensure that they and their athletes alike honor the game by respecting the respective sport’s ROOTS.
Honoring The Game: The Responsible Coach’s Code
Responsible Coaches conduct themselves by a code, which the experts at Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) call "Honoring the Game".
To remember the components of this code, remind yourself and your players that Honoring the Game means respecting the sport’s ROOTS – where ROOTS is an acronym for Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and Self.
Lead By Example
This highly powerful and practical aspect of Responsible Coaching lets you lead by example. For instance, when your athletes and their parents see you keep your temper in check when an official misses a call, they’re much more likely to check their own emotions.
It’s hugely important for Responsible Coaches to have – and practice – a self-control routine during competition. An example of such a routine could include:
2. Remind yourself of the discipline required NOT to react.
3. Engage in positive self-talk (i.e. "I need to be a role model. I can rise above this!").
4. Turn away from the action.
5. Count to 20 (or 50, if needed…whatever works).
6. Quickly refocus on the next play.
Later on, you can use the experience as a teachable moment with your kids. Tell them something along the lines of, "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."
Honorable Interaction with Officials
There are several ways you can approach an official after what you view as a bad call. Depending on your sport, you may be able to ask officials, "Can you let me know what you saw on that last play?" Angrily screaming at the official, or asking a sarcastic, cutting question such as, "What are you, blind?" is certainly a less positive, respectful – and almost always less effective – method of communicating your issue with a questionable call.
By staying calm, keeping your voice low, giving the official plenty of space and asking a legitimate question about what they saw (rather than questioning the accuracy of their call), you’ll have the best chance of enjoying a constructive interaction with the official.
Because today’s youth sports environment can be so volatile, at times even violent, it’s important to prevent any outraged coach, player or parent from boiling over. The most distressing part of the youth sports environment today is that too many young athletes, coaches and parents emulate volatile and/or violent behavior.
Introducing "Honoring the Game" to Your Team
Now you know all about "Honoring the Game", respecting its ROOTS, and leading by example, especially when it comes to controlling your emotions and interacting respectfully with officials. But how do you communicate these concepts with your young athletes, who are more prone to erratic emotions and scattered minds?
It’s easy, really. Before your season officially kicks off, let your players know you want to coach a team that always does its best to honor the game. Communicate this approach repeatedly, and consider going over it in detail during a practice or several practices. Remind your kids that honoring the game means that everyone on your team will have respect for the ROOTS of the game.
1. Rules: We refuse to bend and/or break the rules to win.
2. Opponents: We value and recognize that a worthy opponent brings out our best, and we take a "fierce yet friendly" attitude into competition.
3. Officials: We respect officials, even when we disagree with them.
4. Teammates: We never do anything to embarrass our team (on or off the field).
5. Self: We live up to our standards of Honoring the Game – even when others don’t.
Honoring the Game Tools
Just like anything else in sports – or life – practice and repetition are key when it comes to learning to always honor the game and respecting its ROOTS. Here are some ideas to help you implement the ROOTS philosophy – with the assistance of both your kids and their Responsible Sports Parents:
1. 1. Parent Meeting Agenda: A preseason parent meeting is always a wise investment. People tend to live up to expectations if they know what they are. A meeting can help mold the behavior of your athletes’ parents. Follow this general outline for success:
a. Welcome & Introductions
b. Your Coaching Philosophy
c. Goals For The Season (present yours and ask for theirs)
d. Season Evaluation Introduction
e. Logistics (practice/games schedules, phone/email lists, etc.)
f. Asking For Parent Volunteers
g. Time For Parent Questions
2. 2. Seize Teachable Moments: Capitalize on the many instances during your practices and games when lessons about Honoring the Game can be highlighted. These can be either positive or negative moments, such as someone losing graciously (positive) or an athlete taunting an opponent (negative). Engage your players in a discussion about whether the behavior in question honors the game.
3. 3. Drill During Practice: Just as we develop drills for improving physical skills, we must create situations in practice where players learn how to honor the game. For example, during a practice match, make a bad call on purpose and see how your players react. If they react in a way that’s consistent with Honoring the Game, praise them. If they don’t, use that moment to discuss how you want them to respond in a game situation (i.e., not letting the questionable call throw them out of their rhythm). You might also consider having your players officiate during practice games to appreciate the difficulty of being an official.
You all are welcome to join us on our dedicated and interactive Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports Facebook page at Facebook.com/ResponsibleSports, and share the lessons and insights you’ve learned from being a Responsible Coach or Responsible Sports Parent:
Good luck this season from your friends at Liberty Mutual Insurance and Responsible Sports!