Respect In Sport

Saturday, September 20, 2014 | | 0 comments

I hope you’ll indulge me in a bit of a rant.

We noticed on the website for my son’s hockey league that the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) requires all parents to complete a Respect In Sport Certification program before their child can be added to a team. The cost to take the online program is $12, it takes about an hour to complete, and needs to be taken only once, by at least one parent or guardian.  The deadline is November 1, baffling since the season, at that point, would be one month old, but that is not the root of my concern. A quick calculation of $12 multiplied by the number of players registered with the OMHA also makes me wonder if this program won’t be a profit centre for the association but, again, this is not the reason for my rant.

And before I go any further, I want to be clear about something. We have a problem with the way too many parents behave at their children’s games, practices, and other events. I don’t know if a lack of “Respect” completely covers this enormous issue, but something does need to be done to curb or remove the inappropriate behavior that, for too many families, has ruined the game for our sons and daughters.

I just don’t know if this program, admittedly one I haven’t even looked at, will make a difference.

Here’s my problem. The overwhelming number of hockey parents, and I presume this is consistent across all other sports played in Ontario, already understand the reason we have our kids in sports. We already understand what is acceptable behavior (and what’s not) when we attend our children’s’ games. 

We understand that coaches are volunteers and, in almost all cases, are doing the best that they can to make the game fun and to teach the skills that our children need to improve. We know that referees are human beings, and they too are doing the best they can on any given night. If we’ve ever put on the striped shirt ourselves, we also know it’s a much tougher job than it appears to be from the stands. We know that our child might be great on the ice, they might be mediocre, they might really struggle, and we know that all of it is OK. We know that, for some of the kids, they enjoy their time on the ice just as much as they do throwing tape balls at each other in the dressing room. They enjoy backwards circles, carrying a puck, as much as chasing their coach around the ice, trying to squirt her with their water bottles. They get as much pleasure out of scoring a goal as they do getting the surprise birthday party invitation from the child they only know by a first name, and possibly their uniform number. We know that even after games that didn’t go how we wanted to, sometimes the only thing ours sons and daughters remember is sharing an order of fries with their mom or dad.   

We know that it’s never OK to scream at a child, or anyone else, and if our excitement gets the better of us, it should only be to tell them how much we enjoy watching them on the ice. We know that our child is doing the best that they can, on any given day and, for that reason, we have a reason to celebrate every single time they hit the ice.

Somehow I doubt that anything in this one-hour online program is going to teach me anything I don’t already know.  And here’s the worst part. The parents who don’t get it, the ones who ruin the game for everyone, there’s almost no chance that twelve bucks and one hour spent at their computer is ever going to change the way they behave.

And that’s a shame.