By now just about everyone in hockey who doesn't live under a puck has heard about the girls’ hockey association in Toronto that recently adopted a zero tolerance policy against coaches touching female players. Of course, every parent wants to ensure no one inappropriately touches her child, but in my opinion, this “zero tolerance” policy is way offside. I am pretty sure that teaching young players what is appropriate contact by eliminating all contact entirely is not the way to go in a team sport.
By definition, when an organization or group adopts a zero tolerance policy or practice, it means the association refuses to accept a particular behaviour by strict and uncompromising application of the consequence or punishment. There would be no extenuating circumstances, no explanations allowed, neither sides of the each story being heard, no warnings and no reminders—just a swift and immediate reprimand of the action.
I’ve not been able to track down the actual policy statement but let’s assume when a male coach is reprimanded under this zero tolerance policy, he is going to be suspended. A respected and dedicated volunteer coach who taps his player on the shoulder and says, “Great shift—way to hustle out there!” is made to vacate his spot behind the bench as a result of this physical contact—an entirely appropriate physical and verbal message in the game of hockey, in my opinion.
A consequence this severe will make it increasingly difficult to recruit new hockey coaches and could in fact do irreparable harm to an individual’s personal and professional life. I would worry that it will morph into some policy that girls’ hockey will require an all-female bench staff.
Oh Astra, surely you’re exaggerating! It’s not all that severe a policy and will certainly prevent uncomfortable situations between coach and player.
To which I say, if your child signed up for hockey, did he or she not anticipate some physical contact?
On a more basic level, think back to your daughter’s first few years in hockey. A zero tolerance policy on touching would likely make your daughter’s hockey coach think twice before,
Tying your daughter’s skates – or retying them on the bench after they’ve come undone,
Helping your daughter up off the ice when she’s fallen down (because when they’re four and five they just don’t need that help, now do they?)
Adjusting your daughter’s chin strap, or goalie straps, or any straps or strings period (better just get her teammate to do it).
Assess a minor bruise or other injury after a tumble or following inadvertent body contact.
And he’ll probably not a good idea to sit beside her on the bench to console her after a particularly rough shift, either, for fear their knee caps might touch.
If this spreads, we will soon see legions of parents standing behind the bench (instead of cheering of their kids from the stands) because they’ll need to be close by in case their daughter needs some equipment adjustments.
Hockey Canada oversees all provincial hockey branches, and states as its Mission to "Lead, Develop, and Promote Positive Hockey Experiences." I just don’t see how some degree of appropriate physical contact between coach and player can or should be made prohibited in this hockey experience or any team experience.
I would urge other girls’ hockey associations to think long and hard before adopting such a drastic policy. I shudder to think what would happen if this type of restriction gets blown out or proportion and soon gets extended to other volunteers—like Den Moms who supervise the dressing room. It’ll be near impossible to get anyone to volunteer for the team for fear of reprisal.
Hopefully calmer heads will prevail and so will a more tolerant view of personal contact between coach and player
Three cheers for the home team (… and maybe a pat on the back too!)!
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