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

ROOTS - Honor The Game

  • 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:
    • take a deep breath
    • remind yourself of the discipline required NOT to react
    • engage in self-talk ("I need to be a role model. I can rise above this!")
    • turn away from the action
    • count to 20 (or 50!)
    • 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
    • Tell your children you are proud of them regardless of how well they play.
    • Tell them to play hard and have fun and remind them that  being nervous is normal.
    • Commit to Honoring the Game no matter what others do.

  • During the Game
    • Let the coaches coach. Avoid instructing your child (or other players).
    • Fill your child's (and teammates') Emotional Tanks.
    • Cheer good plays and good efforts by both teams.

  • After the Game
    • Thank the officials for doing a difficult job.
    • Thank the coaches for their effort.
    • 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!


In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.

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