On Feb. 3, the National Post published an article about a Toronto girls hockey league whose coaches were told that there was to be no touching of any kind with their players.
The email sent out said no “putting hands on shoulders, slapping butts, tapping them on the helmet, NOTHING.” They actually fully capitalized the last word.
The explanation from Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association president Jennifer Smith almost seemed to be a form of satire. She recommends, “not tapping kids on the head, because (if) you tap a kid on the head, even when they’re wearing a helmet, you could conceivably give a kid a concussion.”
Who taps that hard?
There are many problems with the TLGHA’s new ruling. For one, it seems to be labeling all coaches as sex offenders and categorizes all touching as bad touching.
When did a pat on the back become negative? At what point in time did we determine that putting a hand on someone’s shoulder was overtly sexual?
Now, “slapping butts” is a whole other conversation. The league nailed it with banning that one. But if you’re still slapping kids’ butts nowadays, maybe coaching isn’t the right thing for you.
Hockey in Canada should be friendly and encouraging. Yes, of course there are boundaries that all coaches and volunteers should respect, but there’s a fine line between being downright inappropriate and making a kid feel comfortable in a possibly new environment.
If a coach isn’t allowed to reward a player with a simple tap on the helmet, I don’t want my kid playing in that league. Coaches need to be able to get down on a player’s level, put their hands on the kids’ shoulders and give them advice. It’s how you help a child develop in any sport.
Let coaches be interactive with their players. It’s the only way we can continue to grow girls’ hockey in Canada. Without that direct communication, how do you expect players to affectively learn from coaches?
In 2012, 13.9 per cent of youth hockey players in Canada were girls. That number might drop further if we don’t change the way we teach them the game.