By: A Frustrated Parent
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sadly, in this case, it’s not the sincerest and it isn’t flattery. When I think of flattery, it has a positive connotation and when I think of sincerity, I think of someone actually caring about what’s going on. As an employee for a hockey program, I receive piles of Hockey Game Sheets on a weekly basis and they’re littered with aggressive penalties, game misconducts and suspensions. In my employment position, I also watch various parts of games from all age groups, that take place in the rink I’m employed at and I find myself asking, ‘how did we get here?’
Last Saturday, I pulled into the arena parking lot with my 6 year old Mite in the backseat and witnessed scores of U8 parents, kids, and relatives piling into the rink. There were big smiles, tons of excited energy and high levels of enthusiasm from people of all ages entering the arena. The rink isn’t just jammed because there are 2 cross ice games going on and 4 total teams competing. It’s full because parents love watching this age group and relatives enjoy taking time out of their weekends to have some family time in the rink.
Jump ahead approximately 7 or 8 quick hockey seasons and the parking lot has plenty of spaces. The stands have a very small handful of spectators and the glass includes a few parents who watch, sometimes in dismay.
Roughing, cross checks, fighting, checks or hits from behind, game misconducts and players and coaches being ejected litter the U16 and U18 game sheets I receive. Worst of all, refs being threatened and having to be escorted to their vehicles by police who were summoned to the arena. It goes without saying, but this is egregious behavior. I understand that hormones and puberty play a role in this, but there is a larger issue.
Plain and simple, coaches and parents need to take more control and understand the accountability lesson their players are missing out on. Our players behave in certain ways because they either see a parent doing it from the stands, a coach doing it from the bench or both. It is time to change the culture of hockey as it relates to these matters. As a coach or parent, you’re not doing your player any favors by screaming at refs or yelling at opponent parents or anything else that falls in line with this type of behavior. By doing this, you make it okay for these players to think that 1 day they can scream at a boss or co-worker who isn’t giving them what they want. By doing this, you make it okay for these players to think that the only way to resolve things is through aggressive behavior.
There are few things in life that are black & white, so I don’t dismiss that occasionally the players are the ones to blame as ultimately they had a choice in the matter. However, at some point, a person who they looked up to, performed an act that shouldn’t have happened in youth sports.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a large percentage of these kids will not make the NHL or a D1 College Program. Let the sport of hockey be a source of education and life lessons. Let these players learn from adversity. Let these players begin to understand that they can only control the things they can control. Let these players develop respect for one another by playing the game under the rules that are provided.
I’m optimistic that we have enough coaches and parents to alter the course hockey has taken. I hope the game sheets begin to reflect that. I hope the stands fill up because the game becomes more enjoyable to watch. I hope hockey becomes the youth sport that all other sports look to in terms of fostering the coach, player & parent triangular relationship.