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
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