A few years back, Hockey Canada released some of the best PSA's ever. Here is one that I particularly enjoy and fits today's topic.
What would you do if you were this kids parent? I can only imagine that you would want to put your foot somewhere in his posterior region, find a creative use for duct tape, or wish you could crawl into a hole somewhere and not come out until you felt it was safe. Unfortunately for many kids at the rink this is a reality in their hockey experiences, and for any adult who has to deal with someone like this, it can be downright embarrassing and difficult to address. Have you ever tried to deal with someone like this as a coach? It is darn near impossible to deal with an opposing coach like this or a fan from the other team, without it looking self-serving or whiny. However, if you are proactive in your approach to coaching and dealing with parents on your team, you can nip this problem in the bud even before it begins.
Let's face it, on-ice officials have the hardest job in the game. They are held to an incredibly high, sometimes impossible standard and god forbid if they make a mistake. They are called upon to ensure that all the players are safe and that the game is carried out in a fair manner. It baffles the mind why anyone would want to be an official when it gives about as much satisfaction as Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill. In minor hockey, most of the officials you see will probably only be a few years older than the kids playing the game and often they do it because they love hockey, they want to become a good official, and it gives them a little bit of spending money that comes from doing something they love rather than flipping burgers. Those are but a few reasons why kids officiate, but I can guarantee you that they don't officiate because they hate you or your kid, or that they want the glory for themselves. Keep that in mind next time you decide as an adult to berate a 14 year old referee for a bad call or intimidate them into making sure your team gets all the calls. It is also a good reminder to treat the officials the same way you should treat your players: with respect.
Here's a great exercise to use for your first parent meeting of the year. You will need a boombox (forgive me, an Ipod docking station), a stopwatch, and some assistant coaches willing to act like lunatics. Tell your parents that you are going to give them a rules quiz and that if they don't pass, their kid will be cut and released to a lower level team. They have one minute to complete the quiz, and there are only five questions ( a good question is; in the course of play a puck splits in two and one half goes in the net. Is it a goal?) . Tell them they can can turn their papers over and start on the word, "go". Once you have said go, turn on some loud annoying music that you would hear in a rink, and as the parents try to fill out the quiz, have your assistants help you in walking around the room and yelling at the parents to "hurry up", "this is easy", Why are you looking at me, the quiz is down there", etc Bang on the table in front of those who ignore you, and just generally try to be a distraction. Once they are done, read the play then the explanation of the rule. You will find as I have, that no one will pass your quiz. For some parents, this will come as a shock to them, because we all know knowledge of the rules comes merely by osmosis or a genetic coding that is activated the first time your child steps on the ice.
What this so brilliantly illustrates to most parents is that officiating is a hard job and that most officials will make mistakes, much like each player and every coach out there. Officials are called on to make decisions in the blink of an eye and those decisions come rapidly at a rate of more than five decisions in one minute. There is also the element of having to make a decision when physical and mental fatigue has set in (officials don't take shifts and they can't change on the fly), unlike your parents taking the quiz sitting at a table.
The main point of this exercise, is to place the parents in a game situation and see if they can perform the tasks asked of officials. If they couldn't do it successfully, why do they expect perfection out of the kids officiating on the ice?
Keep smiling and keep your stick on the ice.