Athletic codes of conduct

Athletic codes of conduct


Organized by the Six Pillars of Character

The following provisions are drawn from various athletic codes of conduct. The Six Pillars of Character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship) provide an organizational framework. More: See Josephson Institute’s model codes of conduct.

General provisions

  • Sports can and should be a setting in which personal character including integrity, respect, responsibility, and fairness are built. (NAIA)
  • Sports can and should be a significant part of a sound educational program. (NAIA)
  • Sports can and should be a constructive force in the lives of millions of sports followers throughout our nation. (NAIA)
  • To assure that sports is a constructive social force, principles of sportsmanship and fair play ought to be held high above all other values to be gained through sports participation. (NAIA)
  • Proper ethics in sports implies a standard of character which affords confidence and trust. (NAIA)
  • The essential elements of ethics in sports are honesty and integrity. It is only through such conduct that sports can earn and maintain a rightful place in our educational program and make a positive contribution to society. (NAIA)
  • The administration of sports athletics should be carried out in such a manner that the educational aims of the institution will be fulfilled. (NAIA)
  • The administrator of sports is responsible for both the principles and practices of the sports program being consistent with the broad educational purposes of the institution and highest ethical and moral standards of sports. (NAIA)
  • Winning is a consideration, but not the only one, nor the most important one. Remember, players are involved in hockey for fun and enjoyment. (USA Hockey)
  • Coaches should enthusiastically support and practice the “Good Sportsmanship” and “Positive Coaching” philosophies of the league. (AYSO)

Trustworthiness (general)

Coaches should . . .

  • Ever keep before the students under their direction high ideals, honesty, sincerity, and integrity. (NAIA)
  • Not engage in, encourage, or ever tolerate any form of trickery or evasion of rules in order to gain an advantage over an opponent. (NAIA)
  • Use only fair and honest means of securing talent for athletic teams and never stoop to trickery or insincere promises in influencing students in the selection of their educational experience. (NAIA)
  • Be honest. (USA Hockey)
  • Take reasonable measures to honor all commitments to athletes. (USOC)
  • Promote integrity in coaching by being honest, fair, and respectful of others. (USOC)
  • Not sacrifice the values to be gained through a wholesome enjoyment of challenging sports activity for institutional pride or commercial ends. (NAIA)
  • Assure that the nature of their commitments to their institutions, teams, and athletes is specified in detail and in writing including fees (if any) and method of payment, the time commitment involved, and an indication of the expected outcome of coaching. (CSCA)
  • Not divulge confidential information relating to an athlete to any third party without the express approval of the individual concerned. (CSCA)
  • Ensure that any public comments they do make are made judiciously, reflective of the facts, supportable, and sensitive to the situation(s). (CSCA)
  • Not in any way misrepresent their qualifications, affiliations, or professional competence to any client or prospective client or in any publication, broadcast, lecture, or seminar. (CSCA)

Trustworthiness (public statements and advertising)

  • Refrain from false, misleading, or deceptive statements re: qualifications, fees, services, or products. (USOC)
  • Do not make any false, misleading, or deceptive public statement concerning any matter related to coaching activities or credentials including training and experience, academic degrees, affiliations, services, or the success of services and fees. (USOC)
  • Assure that all public statements relating to professional services, products, or publications including those made by others engaged to create or place such statements are accurate and not misleading. (USOC)
  • Make reasonable efforts to prevent others outside the coach’s control (such as employers, sponsors, and the media) from making deceptive statements concerning the coach. (USOC)
  • Make reasonable efforts to correct untrue, misleading, or deceptive statements made by others concerning the coach. (USOC)
  • Do not seek testimonials from current athletes or others who are vulnerable to undue influence. (USOC)
  • Do not compensate members of the communication media in return for publicity. (USOC)
  • Assure that paid advertisements for coaches’ services are clearly labeled. (USOC)

Respect (sportsmanship)

  • Instruct participants and spectators in proper sportsmanship responsibilities and demand that they make sportsmanship the No. 1 priority. (PIAA)
  • Display modesty in victory and graciousness in defeat in public and in meeting and talking with the media. (PIAA)
  • Strive to teach each student to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat, to be above bragging or using alibis, and to develop inner strength and poise. (NAIA)

Respect (for athletes)

  • Respect the integrity and personality of the individual athlete. (PIAA)
  • Treat each athlete as an individual. (NYSCA)
  • Respect fundamental rights, dignity, and worth of athletes and their family members, other coaches, officials, volunteers, administrators, and spectators. (USOC)
  • Do not exploit athletes or others over whom one has supervisory, evaluative, or other authority. (USOC)
  • Establish an appropriate process for providing feedback to athletes. (USOC)
  • Develop fair, unprejudiced relationships with all team members. (MHSAA)
  • Strongly discourage booing and other discourteous conduct. (NAIA)
  • Never criticize players publicly. (USH)
  • Never yell at or ridicule athletes for making mistakes or losing a game. (AYSO)
  • Never verbally abuse a player. (USA Hockey)
  • Never physically abuse a player. (USA Hockey)
  • Make reasonable efforts to avoid conduct that is personally demeaning to athletes or others. (USOC)

Respect (for officials and opponents)

  • Demand that their players respect the opponent and the officials. (CIF)
  • Teach, by precept and example, respect for school authorities and contest officials. (MHSAA)
  • Refrain from arguments in front of players and spectators. (PIAA)
  • Refrain from gestures which indicate officials or opposing coaches do not know what they are doing or talking about. (PIAA)
  • Shake hands with the officials and the opposing coaches before and after the contest in full view of the public. (PIAA)
  • Encourage respect for the judgment of referees and opposing coaches. (AYSO)
  • Respect the integrity and judgment of contest officials. (PIAA)
  • Display respect for officials before, during, and after a game. (CIF)
  • Do not use or allow athletes to use profanity, obscene language, or offensive gestures during or after a sporting event. (PIAA)
  • Encourage respect for the ability of opponents. (AYSO)
  • Give full support to game officials. (NAIA)
  • Do not make or permit athletes to make critical remarks to or about an official during a contest. (NAIA)
  • Refrain from criticism of fellow coaches, athletes, parents, and/or officials particularly to and through the media. (NAIA)
  • Refrain from throwing any object in disgust. (PIAA)

Respect (tolerance and non-discrimination)

  • Respect the right of others to hold values, attitudes, and opinions you disagree with. (USOC)
  • Do not improperly discriminate against, harass, or demean any person based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, language, socioeconomic status, or any basis protected by law. (USOC)
  • Refrain from participation in or condoning unfair discriminatory practices and guard against the intrusion of any personal bias on coaching decisions. (USOC)
  • Do all in their power to instill in those under their direction a tolerance for all races and creeds, and stand against intolerance wherever it may occur. (NAIA)

Respect (sexual conduct)

  • Refrain from sexual solicitation, physical advances, and verbal or nonverbal conduct that is unwelcome, offensive, or creates a hostile environment or is sufficiently severe to be considered abusive to a reasonable person in the context. (USOC)
  • Treat sexual harassment complainants and respondents with dignity and respect. (USOC)
  • Do not engage in sexual/romantic relationships with any person over whom the coach has evaluative or direct or indirect authority. (USOC)
  • Do not engage in sexual intimacies with current athletes. (USOC)
  • Do not coach athletes with whom they have engaged in sexual intimacies. (USOC)
  • Do not engage in sexual intimacies with former athletes for at least two years after cessation of professional services. (USOC)
  • Do not engage in sexual intimacies with former athletes even after the two-year interval except in most unusual circumstances where coach can bear the burden of showing the relationship is not exploitative. (USOC)

Responsibility (general)

  • Conduct their sports programs in a manner that places major emphasis on building character, sound health, and broad educational aims rather than merely an economic program or publicity medium built on winning. (NAIA)
  • Always keep the best interests of each student-athlete as their aim and never be guilty of enhancing their professional progress by using a student’s skill for personal benefit. (NAIA)
  • Strive to instill in every youth great purposes and aims in living and use the desire to play not as an end, but as a training ground for the student’s highest development. (NAIA)
  • Use every means at their command to protect the moral, mental, and physical health of those under their guidance and never be party to the use of athletics for the financial or political gain of any office or group. (NAIA)
  • Encourage all athletes to avail themselves of the best experiences to be gained in a well-rounded education and to progress normally toward graduation. (NAIA)
  • Help each athlete under their guidance toward the development of honest habits of work and pride in work well done and shall not practice or allow evasion in any obligation surrounding the athletics program. (NAIA)
  • Shoulder total responsibility as a leader through athletics and not allow that responsibility to be transferred to any person or group outside the educational institution. (NAIA)
  • Shall make every effort to conduct the sports program in such a manner as to give full and active support to the educational aims of the institution. (NAIA)
  • Never encourage participation in athletics as an end in itself. (NAIA)
  • Place the emotional and physical well-being of their athletes ahead of a personal desire to win. (NYSCA)
  • Be concerned with the overall development of all their athletes. (USA Hockey)

Responsibility (safety)

  • Do their best to provide a safe playing situation for their athletes. (NYSCA)
  • Give the highest degree of attention to athletes’ physical well-being. (MHSAA)
  • Review and practice the basic first-aid principles needed to treat injuries of their athletes. (NYSCA)
  • Follow the advice of a physician when determining when an injured athlete is ready to play again. (AYSO)

Responsibility (personal development of athletes)

  • Stress good health habits and clean living. (USA Hockey)
  • Help all athletes gain confidence and develop self-esteem. (USA Hockey)
  • Give all players the opportunity to improve their skills. (USA Hockey)
  • Encourage all athletes to be team players. (USA Hockey)
  • Be reasonable in demands on athletes’ time, energy, enthusiasm, and performance on the field. (AYSO)
  • Allow athletes time to develop skills and interests in other athletic and non-athletic activities provided by the school and community groups. (MHSAA)
  • Organize practices that are fun and challenging for your players. (USA Hockey)
  • Ensure that their athletes’ sports experience is one of fun and enjoyment (winning is only part of it). (AYSO)

Responsibility (knowledge and competency)

  • Have a thorough knowledge of the academic rules and standards of the institution and give active evidence of full support. (NAIA)
  • Develop an up-to-date knowledge of the rules, strategies, safety precautions, and skills of the sport and communicate them to players and parents. (MHSAA)
  • Develop expertise in the rules, techniques, and strategies of the sports they coach. (USA Hockey)
  • Engage in ongoing education to assure knowledge of relevant scientific, professional, technical, and administrative information and resources. (USOC)
  • Confine coaching services to areas of competence and employ new techniques only after education, training, or consultation from persons competent in those techniques. (USOC)
  • Maintain expertise by continuous efforts to stay up with current scientific and professional information. (USOC)
  • Assure that anyone who is delegated responsibility has the competence and training to fulfill those responsibilities competently, responsibly, and ethically. (USOC)
  • Attend required meetings, keep abreast of league policies regarding the sport, and be familiar with eligibility and contest regulations. (MHSAA)
  • Use those coaching techniques appropriate for each of the skills that they teach. (NYSCA)
  • Maintain high standards of excellence. (USOC)
  • Recognize and stay within boundaries of competency and expertise. (USOC)

Responsibility (leading by example, role modeling, protection of reputation and image)

  • Be sensitive to their position as a role model for athletes even in personal behavior and private activities. (USOC)
  • Exemplify the highest moral character, behavior, and leadership, adhering to strong ethical and integrity standards. (PIAA)
  • Set a good example for players and spectators to follow. (PIAA)
  • Lead by example in demonstrating fair play and sportsmanship. (NYSCA)
  • Present a clean and professional image in terms of personal appearance and provide a positive role model in terms of personal habits, language, and conduct. (MHSAA)
  • Model policies for athletes’ conduct and language in the locker room, at practice, during travel, during competition, and at other appropriate times. (MHSAA)
  • Adhere at all times to standards of personal and professional behavior which reflect credit on the sports and teams they coach, their institutions, themselves, and the whole process and practice of coaching. (CSCA)
  • Avoid private activities that can influence the coaching environment if perceived as immoral or illegal. (USOC)
  • Avoid improper and potentially harmful relationships. (USOC)
  • Refrain from private conduct that may compromise professional responsibility or reduce the public’s trust in the coaching profession.
  • Do not commit a crime or other improper act that reflects adversely on the sport, the coaching profession, or the coach’s institution. (CSCA)
  • Discourage gambling in conjunction with athletic events, at playing sites, and during road trips. (USA Hockey)
  • Discourage use of pornographic material, refrain from the use of pornography while coaching, and make every effort to avoid pornography while in the presence of athletes. (USA Hockey)

Responsibility (personal problems and conflicts)

  • Refrain from undertaking any activity when one knows or should know that personal problems may interfere with effectiveness or otherwise harm athletes or other participants. (USOC)
  • Be alert to signs of and obtain assistance at an early stage for personal problems that could significantly impair coaching performance. (USOC)
  • Take reasonable steps to avoid harming athletes or other participants and determine whether personal problems are sufficiently serious to require the limitation, suspension, or termination of coaching-related duties. (USOC)

Responsibility (communication)

  • Maintain open lines of communication with the parents of their athletes. (USA Hockey)
  • Communicate to parents information about team rules, strategies, and safety precautions. (MHSAA)
  • Maintain a positive relationship with the media and the general public and furnish accurate and reliable news of public concern to members of the media at all times. (NAIA)

Responsibility (establishing and enforcing rules, reporting violations)

  • Control their players. (CIF)
  • Develop and communicate policies for athletes’ conduct and language in the locker room, at practice, during travel, during competition, and at other appropriate times. (MHSAA)
  • Present privately, through proper school authorities, evidence of rule violations by opponents and counteract rumors and unproven allegations of questionable practices by opponents. (MHSAA)
  • Be familiar with the Ethics Code. (USOC)
  • First try to resolve ethical violations informally. (USOC)
  • If informal resolution is not appropriate, coaches take further action appropriate to the situation which may include referral to the NGB or USOC committee on professional ethics. (USOC)

Responsibility (alcohol, drugs, and tobacco)

  • Provide a sports environment that is free of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. (NYSCA)
  • Refrain from using drugs, tobacco, and alcohol at all youth sports events. (NYSCA)
  • Refrain from using tobacco within sight of players and spectators. (MHSAA)
  • Refrain from using alcohol on the day of and before an event or game they are coaching. (MHSAA)
  • Refrain from tobacco and alcohol use while coaching and make every effort to avoid use in the presence of athletes. (USOC)
  • Do not tolerate the use of performance-enhancing drugs and support athlete’s efforts to be drug-free. (USOC)
  • Discourage the use of alcohol and tobacco in conjunction with athletic events or victory celebrations at playing sites. (USOC)
  • Forbid use of alcohol by minors. (USOC)

Responsibility (conflicts of interest)

  • Guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political interests that might conflict with duties to an athlete or lead to misuse of influence. (USOC)
  • Avoid promises, relationships, and transactions with others that might harm or exploit the other party or reasonably might impair objectivity or interfere with the effective performance of coaching functions. (USOC)
  • Seek to resolve conflicts of interest that do arise in a way that puts the best interests of the affected person above self-interest. (USOC)

Responsibility (professional relationships)

  • Do not exploit those who receive or pay for coaching services as to fees and assure that a clear agreement is reached as to compensation and billing as early as is feasible. (USOC)
  • Carefully consider athlete’s welfare in considering whether to coach one already receiving coaching. (USOC)
  • Do not, directly or indirectly, engage in uninvited in-person solicitation of athletes or other participants who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence. (USOC)
  • Discuss as early as feasible nature and anticipated course of training, fees, and confidentiality, who will supervise the athlete, and whether the coach is uncertified. (USOC)
  • Provide for orderly and appropriate steps with paramount consideration given to the welfare of the athlete so that training may be continued if coaching services are to be interrupted for any reason including expiration or termination of a contractual agreement, illness, relocation, or financial limitations. (USOC)
  • Voluntarily terminate coaching service when it becomes reasonably clear that the athlete no longer needs the service, is not benefiting, or is being harmed by continued service. (USOC)
  • Clarify the nature of relationship between parents and children including the role of the coach. (USOC)
  • Clarify, adjust, or withdraw from roles as appropriate if conflicting roles arise. (USOC)

Fairness (general)

  • Be consistent, fair, and just. (USA Hockey)
  • Insist upon adherence to both the letter and the spirit of high sportsmanship and playing rules. (NAIA)
  • Never evade or violate playing rules to gain an advantage. (NAIA)
  • Use only fair and honest means in their desire for personal achievement and count the goodwill of their peers far above any achievement unfairly gained. (NAIA)
  • Do not deny an athlete a right to participate based on the athlete’s having made sexual-harassment charges. (USOC)
  • Allow athletes to prove themselves anew each season and do not base team selections on previous seasons or out-of-season activities. (MHSAA)
  • Evaluate athletes on the basis of actual performance on relevant and established program requirements. (USOC)
  • Perform evaluations or team selections within the context of a defined professional relationship. (USOC)
  • Assessments, recommendations, reports, and evaluative statements used to select team members must be based on information and techniques sufficient to provide appropriate substantiation for findings. (USOC)
  • Confine scouting of competitors to regularly scheduled games and never seek to intrude upon practice sessions. (NAIA)
  • Seek to trade game films in lieu of personal scouting whenever practicable. (NAIA)
  • Enthusiastically support and practice the “Everyone Plays” philosophy of the league. (AYSO)

Caring (general)

  • Be good listeners and adjust to the problems and needs of players. (USA Hockey)
  • Care more about the development and overall well-being of athletes than winning. (USA Hockey)
  • Be generous with praise when it is deserved. (USA Hockey)

Citizenship (general)

  • Work with the admissions office of the institution and should be permitted to recommend qualified athletes for admission, but should in no way permit the records or transcripts of prospective student-athletes to pass through their office or ever attempt to bring pressure upon the admissions officer or committee to admit an applicant merely because he/she possesses exceptional athletic ability. (NAIA)
  • Cooperate fully in support of the faculty on eligibility requirements and insist that all athletes fulfill the same academic requirements as all other students at the institution. (NAIA)
  • Abide by the rules of the game in letter and in spirit. (PIAA)
  • Teach the rules of the game in letter and in spirit. (PIAA)
  • Make available knowledge to contribute to human welfare. (USOC)
  • Comply with the law. (USOC)
  • Encourage the development of law and policy that serve the interest of sport. (USOC)
  • Contribute time for public interest. (USOC)

Codes referenced

  • AYSO – American Youth Soccer Organization
  • CIF – California Interscholastic Federation
  • CSCA – Canadian Swimming
  • MHSAA – Michigan High School Athletic Association
  • NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • NYSCA – National Youth Soccer Coaches Association
  • PIAA – Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association
  • USOC – United States Olympic Committee