The Ontario Minor Hockey Association is expanding its existing Respect In Sport training program aimed at ensuring a safe and enjoyable atmosphere for all to enjoy Canada’s great sport of hockey. The association plans to make it mandatory for all coaches, on-ice volunteers, on-ice officials, and at least one parent from each registered player to take this course effective the 2014/2015 hockey season.
“Canada’s leading online bullying, abuse, harassment and negligence prevention program for parents, coaches and community leaders” takes about an hour, costs about $12 and is offered online… and will soon be mandatory if your child plans on playing hockey.
I know why Hockey Canada implemented this program and why OMHA is making this mandatory. I’ve been to hockey games where a few parents have gotten out of hand and yelled at the officials, yelled at the (child) players, yelled at each other. I’ve been to hockey games where the officials themselves seem bent on punishing one kid, or one team or one coach. I’ve seen coaches be issued a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (usually the stands are too far away to hear what that unsportsmanlike conduct is all about). I’m pretty sure what the association is doing is trying to deflect the current image the sport that hockey holds to some. In short, they no doubt hope to curb the behaviour of ‘hockey parents from hell’ and prevent videos like this one
from ever taking place and ever going viral.
But on the whole, it’s quite rare.
As a fourteen-year hockey mom veteran, I can say so. I can also say the only time I misbehave at hockey is when there’s no Tim Horton’s in a 2km radius of the arena (and, if you live in Canada, you know that would be a long shot). I can’t believe a sports association is making this a condition of my child’s participation. The wrong group is being asked to set the example for, and fund, the rehabilitation of the few bad apples. Plus, I’m really bad at tests. What is there’s a final and I fail? Who’ll take my kids to practice then? Hmmm, on second thought, maybe a ‘fail’ would be a ‘win’ after all!
The goal of hockey is to have fun. As if the cost of hockey hasn’t become prohibitive enough, this is just another potential barrier to getting kids into this national sport of ours. Hockey is not an elitist sport but to suggest that specialized training is required of the parents for their children to even participate, sets it above other sports.
Rather than collect $12 from the vast majority of hockey coaches, officials and parents who are there for the kids for all the right reasons, why not levy a fine on those relatively few hockey parents that are offside? Suspend them, fine them, and ban them if necessary. My parents taught me how to behave in public and I’m trying to do the same by my own.
If you have no respect in life, you will have no respect in sport, and no $12 training program will change that.
<steps down from soap box >