My six year old son experienced an important right of passage for any Canadian child this fall: he started playing organized hockey. Despite his questionable skating skills, we dressed him up in his brand new (very expensive…oh so expensive) equipment and sent him out onto the ice with a stick in hand. During the fifty minute practice, he spent about 47 of those minutes on his back or stomach. But that was four weeks ago. Today, he was flying around the rink looking for a chance to score. It’s incredible how fast children can learn new skills.
While it’s fun to watch him grow and excel, being a hockey parent is no joke. It’s early morning practices, both Saturday and Sunday mornings, it’s a lot of money (did I mention how expensive it is?), and there’s a ton of housekeeping that goes on to keep things running smoothly. One of the most important to-do items was completing the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s Respect in Sport course, which one parent of each child playing hockey needs to complete. It took about one and a half hours and is mandatory. If you don’t complete it, your child doesn’t play. Simple as that.
The whole idea is to teach parents how not to be jerks at their kid’s sporting events. You know, things like “how not to scream at your child because you see it as a personal failure when they miss that important shot” or “how not to guilt your child into playing a sport they don’t want to play because it was your dream and you didn’t succeed” – a slight exaggeration maybe, but not far off. Seriously, do parents actually do this?
Apparently they do. I have yet to witness it (and goodness help me if I ever do) but I’ve heard of many incidents of parents getting into fights with referees over bad calls, assaulting other parents, or harassing coaches about not playing their child. I find it hard to believe that adults would not only embarrass themselves in this manner, but in front of their children.
But that’s what this course is all about – telling parents what’s expected of them, how abusive behaviour can affect their children, and how to be respectful at their children’s sports events. It was all common sense to me, but apparently not for everyone. Want to know how to be respectful in sport? Don’t be a jerk. Simple as that.