Along with having educated players, coaches, and officials, Hockey NL believes it’s time to work on educating parents to help create a better hockey atmosphere for everybody.
To help achieve this goal, Murray Roberts, vice-president and risk manager for Hockey NL, said the provincial hockey board implemented a three-year Parent Education Program that started last year.
Completing the course was only an option last year, but not this year.
According to Roberts, a parent or guardian of a first-year minor hockey player will be required to complete the course this year. If they don’t, the first-year player won’t be allowed to lace up the skates and represent their respective minor hockey association.
“This course will be mandatory this year,” said Roberts. “In the first year, we asked people to volunteer to do it, and we had well over 100 people participate. The second year, which is this year, we made it mandatory for a parent of a first-time player (to take the course). Next year, we’re asking a parent of all minor-age players to take the course.
“The question always is, what if somebody don’t do it,” said Roberts. “Basically, we’re making this a part of their registration. Players are registered pending (a parent or guardian completes the course). It’s the same thing if you register as a coach for us. You’re a registered coach pending certification. As a player, you’re registered pending a parent’s or guardian’s completion of the course.”
The course is loaded with information all parents should know before they walk into a rink to watch their child play, including topics like safety and fan sportsmanship, as well as outlining the roles and responsibilities of the player, coach, official and fan.
Although the course is designed for parents, Roberts believes it’ll go a long way in Hockey NL’s goal of retaining officials and attracting more new players.
“They (Respect Group Inc.) believe people are not joining sports because of the environment within the sport. Should you or I have kids that shouldn’t join something because of the environment? They join to enjoy the sport. We’re trying to provide that platform. Maybe we’re taking a big thing on and trying to adjust the culture, but if that’s the case and if that’s what we have to do, then that’s what we’re going to do,” said Roberts. “Throughout Canada, we lose approximately 33 per cent of our young officials, and we lose most of them through something that’s deemed to be abuse of officials. I can guarantee you were are working hard to find ways to retain our officials, and if we’re going to do that, we have to do everything in our power to create a better environment to be in.”
“Maybe we’re taking a big thing on and trying to adjust the culture, but if that’s the case and if that’s what we have to do, then that’s what we’re going to do.” - Murray Roberts
The Parent Education Program, according to Roberts, is strictly an information-based program. There aren’t any yes or no or right or wrong answers, and the VP was confident saying if a person gets involved with the program, they’ll come out of it with valuable information to use when they enjoy a game.
How to spread the right message
According to Roberts, Hockey NL spends a lot of its time dealing with the issues of parents.
So, to try and alleviate some of that pressure, the governing hockey body in this province is hoping the majority of parents who attend games with the right attitude will be mentors to some of the overzealous parents.
“We find that we spend 99 per cent of our time dealing with one per cent of the people. Ninety-nine per cent of parents in all sports are good parents, and I like to call the other one per cent over enthusiastic. The best way to get to one per cent of those parents is through the other 99 per cent,” said Roberts. “What we felt we would do is, go with a three-year parent education rollout program, with last year being the first year. We asked people from our branch to volunteer to do this program, a parent of minor-aged players. Having said that, we had more than 100 people do it, so this year, we made it mandatory for a parent of a first-time player to complete the course. In really large associations, the most we’ll get is maybe 60, 70, or 100 people. In smaller associations, for the most part, that might only be 10 or 15 people.”
The course is available online, and can be found by visiting www.hockeynl.ca, and clicking the parent program register link on the right-hand side of the page.
There’s a small fee to take the program, but $1 of that fee goes back to Hockey NL.
“We’ve been doing this at the request of minor hockey associations from not only in this province, but also across the country,” said Roberts. We’re trying to create a more positive environment for sports to be played in through all of our participants, whether it’s the players, officials, or coaches. I really believe this program can be a mentoring tool for officials, young coaches, and many others associated with minor hockey. If we get through to people that need a little bit of assistance, then we’ll find that this program helps.”