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Discipline in minor hockey: Part 2 – Solutions


The common refrain: the one thing players understand is removal of ice time. That may be true – in pro, in junior, perhaps even in elite midget hockey. It is certainly not true in minor hockey as a whole.

If benching a kid is perceived to be the only way to communicate a message, a punitive one indeed, then we’re missing the point. Consider the example given last week of the association offering a one-shift and/or one-game suspension. Discipline is more complex than that. Benching is an all-or-nothing approach.

Even after proper consultation with parents and association members, it is a last resort and one that requires graduated levels of severity. For instance, one shift to one period, two periods to a game, a week and so on. And all of this after every possible effort has been made to deal with the issue.

But one of our problems in minor hockey is that the game is not overseen by professionals, either at the board or coaching levels. Everyone means well and has the kids’ best interests at heart. However that often doesn’t translate to being able to deal with complex player issues which may be rooted elsewhere, such as at home, school, or in the neighbourhood.

Yes, benching may work. I haven’t seen many situations though where it was a long-term solution. Moreover it is not the only thing kids understand. To assume that is to insult the intelligence and perception skills of our youth. They know and understand more than we give them credit for.

There are lots of things kids understand when it comes to discipline. They know when a coach is respectful, demanding or fair. They usually know when they’ve crossed the behaviour line. They know and understand codes of conduct and fair play. And if you ask them, you’d be surprised at the answers they’d give about punishment or what is just. Benching is just one small component. And then, what if benching doesn’t work?

Coaches, and to some degree their governing associations, haven’t done a very good job of creating a progressive discipline approach. I’ve only seen one document where steps were actually laid out for coaches to deal with problems. It no longer exists.

Benching is certainly an expeditious and convenient solution. Discussions with parents and the player, examining conflict resolutions, understanding how and why issues escalate, and offering age appropriate solutions require much more time and effort. This is why coaching can be challenging and having experienced individuals to mentor coaches to address such problems is so vital.

Don’t kids deserve more than a quick fix?

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