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The Role of the “Culture Keeper”



One of the most important roles in a Responsible Sports environment is the “Culture Keeper.” At Positive Coaching Alliance, we define culture as simply "the way we do things here."

Your league’s leaders may decide, “The way we do things here (in our league or at our fields) is to have team captains shake hands with officials before the game.” Or, “The way we do things here, teams high five each other after games.”

But your organizational leaders or coaches cannot simply proclaim a culture. Establishing and maintaining that culture requires a “culture keeper.” The culture keeper usually is a player’s parent from within the organization, whose role is to remind others, often during games, about the importance of Responsible Sports Parenting.

The culture keeper - maybe more than one, depending on the size of your organization - looks for Responsible Sports acts to praise and encourage. They also watch for less desirable fan behavior that calls for correction. The praise part of that equation is important, because if culture keepers can positively reinforce desired behavior, especially within earshot of others, then that behavior more likely will become the cultural norm.

It is important to select culture keepers wisely, enlisting parents who are respected and trusted by the others, and who are emotionally committed to Responsible Sports as a hallmark of your organization.
Culture keeper is not an easy job, especially if your organization is transitioning away from a “win-at-all-cost” approach to youth sports and the old guard presents obstacles to establishing and maintaining a Responsible Sports culture. Culture keepers will have to deal with that situation courageously and diplomatically.

Usually, the culture keeper just gently reminds spectators that they are there for the players’ benefit. Just seeing the person who is known as the culture keeper sometimes reminds fans to maintain decorum. Therefore, culture keepers may want to wear league apparel that makes them recognizable.
It will help the culture keeper to have signs, cards, or stickers to hand out to spectators, reminding them to “Honor the Game.” Even when everyone knows what is expected of them, emotions can get out of control, and intervention becomes necessary.

Here is how culture keepers can proceed.

• Handouts. Hand the offending party a card or sticker as a low-key reminder of “the way we do things here.”

• Questioning. If the handout doesn't do the job, sometimes a statement, such as "You seem pretty upset," can get an upset spectator talking to the culture keeper rather than screaming at an official.

• Assertive Statement. If necessary, explicitly say something like, "That's not the way we do things in this organization!" (You may want to stand back to avoid invading the fan’s personal space and ensure the matter does not escalate, but if it does, then back away and contact league officials for help.

In the event that physical removal becomes warranted, ask the objectionable fan to leave. Even if an escort becomes necessary, make sure the fan leaves. People watch to see how organizations deal with misbehavior and will improve their own behavior when they see that the organization means business.

These steps will help your culture keepers keep the Responsible Sports culture you want!

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 Responsible Sports ProgramTM powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.

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