Shotfromthepoint’s Blog

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Speak Out!

Posted by Astra on October 19, 2009

hockey canada

With nothing better to do on Friday evening, I participated in Hockey Canada’s Speak Out! clinic, a 4-hour workshop aimed at promoting positive hockey experiences.  Any volunteer who has any contact with minor hockey players (coaches, trainers, managers, den moms, other volunteers, etc) must take this workshop.  I had some misgivings about having to take this workshop, giving 4 hours of my Friday evening, but in the end found it extremely worthwhile.  Seriously, I had nothing better to do on a Friday evening.

Over ten years ago, Hockey Canada developed the Speak Out! program, in response to the Sheldon Kennedy sexual abuse scandal.  The program aims to educate and prevent bullying, harassment and abuse in hockey programs all across Canada.  While we all know that bullying, harassment and abuse is not exclusive to hockey, Hockey Canada is credited for developing and delivering the most comprehensive training, education and awareness programs in sports today.

I’m an ordinary hockey volunteer – why did I have to go?

The first statistic proved revealing:  Too many kids will not disclose abuse at all, but 96% of youth who have been bullied, harassed or abused will disclose this information to two people:  either their teacher or their sports coach.  When you think that 578,000 kids play minor hockey in Canada this year, it’s essential that all the volunteers have a good understanding of identifying and responding to bullying, harassment and abuse.

I have an immediate flashback to a couple of weeks ago when, during a mandatory association Team Managers meeting I attended, one team manager of Midget-aged girls (15 and 16-year olds) expressed concern that she could not find a single parent volunteer for the role of Den Mom (this girls’ association’s rule that there always have to be two adult females in the dressing room whenever players are present – the Two Deep rule).  Evidently girls can be loud, rude and disrespectful to grown-ups at this age and the moms want no part of it.  The President went on to explain that the Den Moms play the most significant role at that age in preventing bullying, inappropriate photo taking (and potentially transmitted via texting) and drug abuse.  After consoling and reassuring the Team Managers of Novice  aged girls (7 and 8-year olds), he went on to suggest that a meeting take place between parents and players – as games could be forfeited and teams folded if this rule could not be adhered.

Yikes. 

Back to the workshop.  Most of the discussion was common sense but common sense often gets distorted in a competitive environment and close knit social group where lots of individuals are put in a position of power of another.  After teaching us about the differences between bullying, harassment and abuse we went through hundreds of examples of how this behaviour can manifest itself in a team sport environment.  The videos were extremely sensitive, occasionally distressing and one was entirely disturbing. 

I came away with a new found respect for the role coaches play in minor sports (in fact for all sports volunteers) and a renewed awareness for the dangers in this type of environment.  Having exchanged a Friday evening for it, I am now a proud, card-carrying certified Speak Out! participant.  Kudos, Hockey Canada.

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