I’m a proud Hockey Mom. I love the game of hockey and more importantly watching our son and his friends play it. I was hoping to share with you leadership lessons I learned from building backyard hockey rinks (future post). Instead, I’m writing about my recent disappointment about being a Hockey Mom because it relates directly to the work we do. Why are some parents banned from watching their own kids play…and what we can do about it?
Like all hockey parents in Edmonton, last week I received an email outlining how several individuals (parents) have been banned from attending their own children’s games for the rest of the season. This note was the result of recent serious incidents at local arenas, one particularly alarming incident where parents became “so emotionally engaged in the game that referees were afraid for their safety.” There have been other situations where police have been called to the arena.
Having conducted Workplace Respect workshops for nearly a decade, I thought about where our responsibilities lie and thought about what we can we all do (in sport and at work) to support and foster a more respectful environment.
HOCKEY: At the beginning of the season, parents, coaches, officials and players are asked to sign a “For the Good of the Game” pledge form. This document outlines acceptable behaviours and forms a pledge about promoting fair play and respect. It outlines the values of fun, respect and positive development in the game of hockey for our children.
WORK: We offer the same advice to employers. Create a Workplace Respect policy that outlines acceptable behaviour. This includes not only your organizations policies against violence and harassment, but what behaviours might be considered unprofessional and not in line with the company’s Values, Mission and Vision.
HOCKEY: Early in a player’s career, hockey parents participate in on-line respect training. This process highlights potential situations where disrespectful behaviour could take place and outlines the importance of respectful behaviours with coaches, officials and other parents.
WORK: Awareness sessions and conversations around respectful and disrespectful behaviours help clarify every employee’s role and responsibility around creating and fostering respectful workplaces. For our clients, these conversations are often accompanied by workshops offering insight into different personality styles which highlight how people approach situations from different perspectives.
Recommendation: Revisit this topic on a regular basis. One on-line program or awareness session simply isn’t enough. Consider an annual refresher session to discuss how the laws have changed or use it as an opportunity to review different examples or case studies. This encourages not only a comfort level with the topic, but more of a willingness on the part of employees (and parents) to address situations before they become too serious.
HOCKEY: The note sent to parents came from Hockey Edmonton president, Mark Doram. The reality is leaders (these include coaches, managers and officials) are held to a higher standard and are expected to role model behaviours.
WORK: The same is true for leaders in companies. We strongly recommend all leaders attend awareness sessions and led conversations around respectful behaviours in a proactive manner (rather than “after the incident” has occurred).
Last year, we had a situation at one of our sons games where parents from the other team were making disparaging comments to the officials and even to some of our parents. I turned to our parents, somewhat in jest and said “we do not engage” in such condescending comments and behaviours, reminding the parents we are role models. At the next game, one of the younger siblings brought a home made, rainbow coloured sign that said “we do not engage” and it became a lighthearted way of reminding parents to “keep it classy.” Even if they don’t say anything, actions and behaviours are noticed. They are watching, they are listening.
We’re all human. Like many parents, I too get emotional at games. They can be both exciting and sometimes frustrating. The important piece is to know where the line is and be aware of your behaviours before crossing that line. The challenge: the topic isn’t black and white and so it warrants conversation and regular review with employees (and parents). When you see something you think could be considered disrespectful; speak up.
Personal side note:
Based on our 9 years of hockey parent experiences, these parents do NOT represent all (or even most) hockey parents. I am truly disappointed that the actions of some reflect poorly on all hockey parents. Those of us who appreciate and enjoy the experience of our kids in sport need to SPEAK UP against these behaviours in the stands (and in the locker rooms). We represent the brand of our associations and the sport, but more importantly we are role models for these children/kids. Let’s show the effects of positive peer pressure and help demonstrate the greatness of sport.