Below is an excellent article written by Keith Andresen, Senior Director of Hockey Programs for the Dallas Stars Youth Program. While the article is intended for a hockey specific audience, it is clearly applicable to all audiences.
“Green” has become the catchword for any cause that helps our environment. Everyday people examine ways we can “green” our environment by conserving our natural resources and eliminating pollution through the use of “green” products such as hybrid cars. The hockey environment could use some “greening” as well. Our environment is the rink and I have noticed that our game is being polluted by poor attitudes and foul language at an alarming rate and it’s time we all take a step back to see what we can do to make our Hockey Environment “GREEN”.
Anyone who comes to the rink is part of the environment and that includes, players, coaches, officials, and fans. Each person brings an attitude to the rink, and that attitude will create his or her contribution to the environment. When that attitude is a combination of respect and tolerance the hockey environment is healthy and “green”. However when there’s a lack of tolerance and respect, the environment suffers.
Let’s start with the officials. There are good officials and bad officials and fortunately the vast majority are good. No official is perfect and, here’s a flash for you, they do make mistakes; however, I have never met an official that intentionally tries to make mistakes. That being said I have found that there are officials who feel it necessary to leave their imprint on each game they work. They come out onto the ice with a chip on their shoulder and they find it necessary to let everyone know that they are in charge without much regard for the game that is going on in front of them. I’m not sure what these guys are thinking but I suggest they take time out to smile and remember that they are not the game people came to see. These are the guys who refuse to talk to a coach or player, even when approached politely, to answer questions or discuss a call. These are the officials who need to figure out that they will call fewer penalties and receive far less criticism if they just lighten up and keep a polite and open attitude.
Some of you coaches need to look in the mirror as well. While officials make mistakes now and then, every call that goes against your team is not a reason to climb up on the bench and start yelling at the officials like they just cost you a chance for the Stanley Cup. I have seen mite squirt and peewee coaches this year yelling and screaming at teenage officials to the point where the officials were almost in tears. Players need to learn at a young age that life isn’t always fair and that sometimes, even when you do everything right, the breaks go against you. A coach who can deal with adversity and teach that lesson to his players is a coach that will have a team that can play through almost anything. If you have to talk to an official do it with respect. Don’t stand up on the bench or boards but down in the bench so you can look him in the eye. Call the official over quietly and you’ll find that he will be far more willing to listen to what you have to say. You may not change his mind but you will have shown the official that you’re a decent guy and you will probably get the benefit of the doubt on future calls.
Players can make a difference in the environment as well. While the game is fast and physical, every penalty against you is not a bad call. In fact I would say that 95% of all calls are pretty obvious. The players who understand this are the ones who skate to the penalty box without saying a word. They understand that when a penalty is called on them, good or bad, arguing will not change the call and only make the official less sympathetic when making decisions on future calls. You may not want to hear this but officials are human and while they are supposed to be impartial, players who constantly whine about calls are rarely given the benefit of the doubt. If you’re a player and you're penalized go to the box and focus on how you’re going to help your team when you get out. You can’t do anything about what’s already happened so don’t dwell on it.
For me the most annoying part of our environment is the fan that just can’t watch the game without being an idiot. Again these fans are in the minority, but it only takes one or two of these “yahoos” to ruin the fun for everyone else. This is youth hockey people -- you need to get a grip. If you want to be part of the action then get your coaching or officiating certification and get out there. Better yet, join an adult league and discover just how difficult it is to play a game on ice with 1/8-inch wide blades on your feet. You’ll quickly realize that it’s a different game “inside the glass” and that tolerance by the fans toward the players, coaches and officials will make you enjoy the game more. It will also make you more fun to be around and it will certainly make those folks around you happy.
If you see yourself in my article please take a moment to reflect on what’s important when working with kids. Whether you’re a player, coach, fan or official try to remember that everyone involved came to the rink that day to have fun. Winning is important but not at the expense of mutual respect for all people involved in the game. We all can make a difference and together we can make our environment “GREEN”.
Just a thought: As you prepare for the home stretch of the season don’t forget the FUN. At this point teams are now either contenders or pretenders but everyone needs to mix in an equal dose of FUN with HARD WORK, RESPECT and DISCIPLINE. When these “ingredients of success” are mixed together the final result will always be a great season regardless of the standings.
Senior Director, Hockey Programs