Will You Stand Up to a Fellow Parent?
By: NW Ontario Hockey Coach

Having coached IP1 and IP2 for the last 4 years, I am exposed every year to new players and new parents entering the game of hockey.  For the most part, things start quietly with everyone enjoying the kids in a new environment and learning new skills.  By the end of the first month, I usually know who my problem parents are going to be for the season.  I'm talking about the yellers

The league believes that putting these parents through a "Speak Out" will help, and I agree somewhat, but there are problems with that approach.  For one, our league requires that anyone coaching needs to take the Speak Out, but does not promote it at all for parents who do not enter onto the ice surface.  Secondly, our league offers one Speak-Out session per year only, and the timing historically has been such that many people cannot make it on the short notice that has been supplied.  I have parents who have wanted to take it for three years now and have not been able to.  Last year it was scheduled at the exact same time as the league photos were being taken - tough for parents with multiple kids in hockey to attend.

However, let's assume that I get my three problem parents from team X to take it this year.  My experience after only 4 years of coaching is that Speak Out will not help these folks.  If I had my way, I'd have someone secretly film them for the duration of a whole game, then sit them down with the whole team in the dressing room afterwards, play the video and listen to the words being spoken, and ask each young player to offer up their perspective on what they have heard.  That would be true street justice, but obviously it’s not going to happen.

I watch countless coaches and mature adults tolerate these parents at every game and wonder why?  Don’t you hear it?  Doesn’t it bother you?  Do you see it as someone else's problem?  I have confronted numerous such parents, some of whom I didn’t even know, over the last four years about their behavior in the stands.  Most of the time, they become very embarrassed, and their behavior is changed for a while.  But not for long.  Not long enough...

I once attended a game where a hometown parent was yelling at the ref throughout the game because he didn't agree with the calls being made.  It was obvious that the ref was getting aggravated and was soon likely to stop the game and eject him.  However, the coach of that parent's son beat him to it.  After a stoppage in play, the coach walked across the ice and up into the stands directly to that parent who was yelling relentlessly throughout the game.  In a voice audible enough that everyone within 30' could hear, he calmly and clearly said the following…"You are embarrassing me, our team, our community, yourself, and most importantly, you own son.  Your son is a valued member of our team, but if he comes with you as a package deal, consider him benched until you change your behavior".

The coach held true to his word and that parent's son never played a shift the rest of that game.  That parent never came to a game thereafter…and his son enjoyed the rest of the season immensely.  We need to stand toe-to-toe with these parents and let them know that their behavior is unacceptable …we all need to do that, not just the coaches.  As a side note to that story, the league itself was not overly happy with how the coach handled the situation.  I think he stepped up and did what 30 adults in the stands should have done earlier - have the courage to hold people accountable for their behavior in the rink.  If you turn a blind ear, you are part of the problem...

NW Ontario Hockey Coach

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