All hockey parents, coaches, officials and players have heard it; seen it; experienced it. In many cases, they’ve been embarrassed by it because it was done by someone associated with their own team or their child’s team.
Now, they’re going to have to take an hour out of their lives and $12 out of their pockets as part of a Canada-wide effort to make sure such situations become less and less frequent.
Uncalled-for outbursts have long been a scourge of minor sporting events, on very rare occasions escalating into something so outrageous that they make the national news. And it’s with this in mind that a national organization governing a large proportion of minor hockey associations across Canada has launched an initiative called “Respect in Sport.”
The initiative has been years in the making, but now its effects are being felt in community associations that are members of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA). Effective this September, no player will be allowed on the roster of an OMHA team unless at least one parent/guardian from the household has completed the Respect in Sport course.
Mark Kittmer, this year’s president of the St. Marys Minor Hockey Association (SMMHA), contacted the Journal Argus earlier this month in an effort to let as many parents as possible know about the Aug. 31 deadline.
“(Hockey Canada) is allowing us to go ahead with try-outs,” Kittmer explained, adding participating in a try-out doesn’t necessarily mean the athlete will be rostered to an SMMHA team. “But St. Marys Minor Hockey prefers that it be done before they even hit the ice.”
Kittmer and SMMHA vice-president/coaches committee chair Pete Frehner attended a session about Respect in Sport in May, as part of the OMHA’s annual convention in Richmond Hill.
“It was definitely worth it,” the association president said. “It’s talking about things that we all should know what it’s teaching us. We should know it anyway . . . But it does remind you that we’re all volunteers.”
“The screaming back and forth, and things like that,” Kittmer commented, “it’s kind of telling you that we need to tone that down, and let the kids have fun. Because it IS all about the kids.”
To meet the requirements for Respect in Sport, a parent/guardian must complete an online course. A link to the Respect in Sport site can be found on either the SMMHA website or the OMHA website. Payment of $12 is either by credit card online, or through the online PayPal service.
“It’s just a hair over an hour long,” advised Kittmer, who completed the online course. “It’s a lot of repetitive stuff that anyone should truly know . . . You’ll read through a section, and they’ll put in a couple questions that you need to answer.
“And nobody is going to fail it. If you get the answer wrong, the website flips you back to the section where it says what the answer is, and you get it right the second time.”
Kittmer concedes, however, that he has heard significant negative feedback about the initiative. “It’s not our mandate, and it’s not a money grab from us,” he stressed.
He adds, however, that “it’s going to be a one-time thing. You do it once and you’re done (for the entire time your child is in minor hockey).”
The OMHA is a member of Hockey Canada, but the association with which the girls’ hockey program at SMMHA is affiliated does not have a full membership in Hockey Canada. Therefore, parents of most girls playing in SMMHA will not need to complete the Respect in Sport course.
The exceptions are those girls who expect to be “affiliated players” on SMMHA boys’ teams. “They won’t be able to go on the ice with the boys’ teams if they don’t complete the course,” Kittmer noted.
“After Aug. 31, if you don’t do it, your kid doesn’t get on the ice.”