Respecting the Game
There was an article (with video) published on February 23, 2015 in the Ottawa Citizen written by Paula McCooey titled Former hockey player speaks out against trash talk. In it, Zoé Domitrović, a former competitive hockey player in the Ottawa area talks about her experiences and feelings towards trash talking or, as my 14 year old players this year would call “chirping”. I encourage you to read the article and watch the interview at http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/former-hockey-player-speaks-out-against-trash-talk. It has stuck with me over the past few weeks and has spurred me to write this post - the third of three regarding appropriate behavior and healthy relationships around the rink.
So, just to frame this post, I coached our town’s Bantam BB rep team this past season. It was a very difficult season for many reasons but maybe one of the toughest issues I had to deal with all year was the “chirping” that never seemed to stop. Chirping at the other team. Chirping at the referees. Chirping at the other team’s coach. Chirping at each other. It never ended and it created more upset than you can truly imagine. And then there is all the chirping that was directed at our team - from players, coaches and even parents. I will tell you, 14 year olds boys are incapable of dealing with all this chatter in a mature way. They cannot just shrug it off and they feel it is truly a “personal affront to their manhood”. I regularly had players coming to the bench very upset because of something that a player on the other team said or even something that a teammate said on the ice. It was never ending.
In the Ottawa Citizen article, Zoé articulates the effects chirping has on female athletes. Having coached and taught both boys and girls, I know how difficult it is for female athletes to maintain a positive and healthy outlook on their play and their role on the team without being verbally abused and harassed by those at the rink.
I spoke about this issue with a long time PHE teacher here at our school who has two boys playing competitive minor hockey. She passed on an interesting paragraph from the Ontario Ministry of Education Health and Physical Education Curriculum Document. It is copied below as I think the message is excellent. I am going to substitute player for the word student, coaches for teachers and hockey community for school or school community. The hockey community includes players, coaches, parents, opposing players, coaches and parents, referees and volunteers.
"Healthy Relationships and Health and Physical Education
A player is entitled to learn in a safe, caring environment, free from violence and harassment. Research has shown that players learn and achieve better in such environments. A safe and supportive social environment in a hockey community is founded on relationships - the relationships between players, between players and adults, and between adults. Healthy relationships are based on respect, caring, empathy, trust and dignity, and thrive in an environment in which diversity is honoured and accepted. Healthy relationships do not tolerate abusive, controlling, violent, bullying/harassing, or other inappropriate behaviours. To experience themselves as valued and connected members of an inclusive social environment, players need to be involved in healthy relationships with their peers, coaches, and other members of the hockey community."
I don’t understand why the hockey community feels it is ok to throw these values out the window as soon as we enter the arena doors.
To my mind, it comes down to a lack of respect for the game itself. We are all at the rink for one thing: for our players to enjoy themselves and play the game that we all have grown up to love. How in any way does chirping at each other contribute to anyone enjoying the game more?
As a coach, I have a responsibility to make sure that my players grow throughout the season. They need to become better players from teaching skill development, individual and team tactics, and systems. It is also my responsibility that my players grow as young people, and part of that growth is to learn how to respect those around them, respect their teammates, respect their coaches, respect the officials and respect their opponents. Much of that is me being a good role model for them as well. I don’t see how chirping fits into any part of what we as coaches want to accomplish during the season.
After you read the Ottawa Citizen article, I encourage you to read the comments that have been posted below. There are a couple that have a “tough it up” message. As coaches, if we have a choice of two messages to our players, I would much prefer “no chirping allowed” to “suck it up and deal with it”.