RYL strives not only to develop solid lacrosse skills, but also positive character values that our players will carry with them on and off the field. To achieve this objective, RYL has adopted the US Lacrosse-Positive Coaching Alliance's ROOTS of Positive Play.
Many people talk about "sportsmanship," or what it means to be a "good sport." What does it mean to you to be a good sport? Answers to this question vary widely. Sadly, PCA has even heard stories of coaches telling their teams that if they win the Sportsmanship Award at a tournament, they will spend the entire following week conditioning! Why might a coach say this? Unfortunately, many coaches equate being a good sport with being soft or weak.
PCA believes the time has come to unite behind a powerful new term, "Honoring the Game." Coaches, parents, and athletes need to realize that an Honoring the Game perspective needs to replace the common win-at-all-cost perspective. If a coach and his or her team have to dishonor the game to win it, what is this victory really worth, and what sort of message is this sending young athletes?
If Honoring the Game is to become the youth sports standard, it needs a clear definition. At PCA we say that Honoring the Game goes to the "ROOTS" of positive play. Each letter in ROOTS stands for an important part of the game that we must respect. The R stands for Rules. The first O is for Opponents. The next O is for Officials. T is for Teammates, and the S is for Self.
R is for Rules
Rules allow us to keep the game fair. If we win by ignoring or violating the rules, what is the value of our victory? PCA believes that honoring the letter AND the spirit of the rule is important.
O is for Opponents
Without an opponent, there would be no competition. Rather than demeaning a strong opponent, we need to honor strong opponents because they challenge us to do our best. Athletes can be both fierce and friendly during the same competition (in one moment giving everything to get to a loose ball, and in the next moment helping an opponent up). Coaches showing respect for opposing coaches and players sets the tone for the rest of the team.
O is for Officials
Respecting officials, even when we disagree with their calls, may be the toughest part of Honoring the Game. We must remember that officials are not perfect (just like coaches, athletes and parents!). Take time to think about how to best approach an official when you want to discuss a call. What strategies do you have to keep yourself in control when you start to get upset with officials' calls? We must remember that the loss of officials (and finding enough in the first place) is a major problem in most youth sports organizations, and we can confront this problem by consistently respecting officials.
T is for Teammates
It"s easy for young athletes to think solely about their own performance, but we want athletes to realize that being part of a team requires thinking about and respecting one"s teammates. This respect needs to carry beyond the field/gym/track/pool into the classroom and social settings. Athletes need to be reminded that their conduct away from practices and games will reflect back on their teammates and the league, club, or school.
S is for Self
Athletes should be encouraged to live up to their own highest personal standard of Honoring the Game, even when their opponents are not. Athletes" respect for themselves and their own standards must come first.
Having this definition of Honoring the Game (HTG) is a start. To make Honoring the Game the youth sports standard, coaches, leaders, and parents need to discuss HTG with their athletes. Coaches need to practice it with their athletes (i.e. have players officiate at practice). And perhaps most importantly, all adults in the youth sports setting (coaches, leaders, parents, officials, and fans) need to model it. If these adults Honor the Game, the athletes will too.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
The key to preventing adult misbehavior in youth sports is a youth sports culture in which all involved "Honor the Game." Honoring the Game gets to the ROOTS of the matter and involves respect for the Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates and one's Self. You don't bend the rules to win. You understand that a worthy opponent is a gift that forces you to play to your highest potential. You show respect for officials even when you disagree. You refuse to do anything that embarrasses your team. You live up to your own standards even if others don't. Here are ways that parents can create a positive youth sports culture so that children will have fun and learn positive character traits to last a lifetime.
Before the Game:
Make a commitment to Honor the Game in action and language no matter what others may do.
Tell your child before each game that you are proud of him or her regardless of how well he or she plays.
During the Game:
Fill your children's "Emotional Tank" through praise and positive recognition so they can play their very best.
Don't give instructions to your child during the game. Let the coach correct player mistakes.
Cheer good plays by both teams (this is advanced behavior!)
Mention good calls by the official to other parents.
If an official makes a "bad" call against your team? Honor the Game—BE SILENT!
If another parent on your team yells at an official? Gently remind him or her to Honor the Game.
Don't do anything in the heat of the moment that you will regret after the game. Ask yourself, "Will this embarrass my child or the team?"
Remember to have fun! Enjoy the game.
After the Game:
Thank the officials for doing a difficult job for little or no pay.
Thank the coaches for their commitment and effort.
Don't give advice. Instead ask your child what he or she thought about the game and then LISTEN. Listening fills Emotional Tanks.
Tell your child again that you are proud of him or her, whether the team won or lost.