Tag Archives: hockey

Poor Sportsmanship in MN High School Hockey

What lessons will be learned from young boys and girls, their parents and coaches, who hear about this incident?
What lessons will be learned from young boys and girls, and their parents and coaches, who hear about this incident?

There are many bizarre things that happen in sports, but this occurrence in a MN boys’ high school hockey game is a new one to me!

With minutes to go in the game, the senior goalie stopped the puck, purposefully put it in his own net, and then skated off the ice while flipping the bird to his own bench (assuming this was directed towards his coaches). You can get more details and watch the video here. Evidently, conflict over playing time and who would mind the nets had been ongoing over the course of the season.

Many opinions will abound if this poor sportsmanship or justified action. In my opinion, this is ultimately one of the worst displays of sportsmanship I’ve seen. Nearly every athlete that plays sport disagrees with a coach decision about playing time. What athletes (and their parents) think they are entitled to, deserve, and have earned is often very different from what the coach perceives and believes.

There are many lessons that can be learned through sport….life isn’t always fair, you will be disappointed, you won’t always get what you think you deserve, keep doing the best you can do regardless of the situation, once you commit to something-stick to it, learn from you mistakes, persevere in the face of failure, give full effort, let go of things you can’t control and focus your energy on the things you can, be a supportive and positive teammate regardless of your role…and the list goes on. Unfortunately this is an exemplar of how sport can build characters, not character.

I don’t know this young man, his parents, coaches, or the details about the situation, other than what I read on Deadspin. However based on research, the poor sportsmanship of athletes is predicted in part by what the athlete perceives his parents and coaches do (i.e., how they act), believe, and what they value. For example, if a is parent yelling at the referee and/or coach and acting poorly in the stands, the athlete is more likely to do the same on the ice.

Instead of finishing out his high school hockey career with integrity, this athlete not only let himself down, but his family, team, school, community and the sport of hockey altogether. In Minnesota we take great pride in being “The State of Hockey” and this is a teachable moment for everyone of what NOT to do when things get tough. For the adults reading this who are involved with youth and interscholastic sport…we are the ones responsible for fostering this type of egregious behavior in athletes. We should all take stock in how to be more effective in creating a climate– which despite disagreements and conflict–all athletes feel valued, have a positive experience, and develop skills and character while striving to win.

See my interview on WCCO TV discussing this incident.

 

 

Hazing By Coaches

This case is an exemplar of one of the many things wrong with the current structure of youth sport—win at all costs, early specialization at increasingly younger ages, intense parental involvement, no standard training for coaches, and uncritical acceptance of teaching boys to be men through a one-dimensional view of masculinity that is characterized as power-over others, emotional and physical toughness, and a disregard for the true meaning of competition (e.g., striving together, not against and treating opponents and each other with respect).

This case I am about to lay out gets to the heart of a key question: What is the purpose of youth sport? I like to use a triad approach from sport psychology colleague Robin Vealey. Within the The Inner Edge Model in equal parts athletes 1) strive to win and achieve optimal performance, 2) develop skills-psychological , physical, social, emotional and moral, and 3) enjoy and have fun playing sport.

This case is about hazing. Hazing of 10 year old boys by their coaches. At a year-end banquet youth hockey banquet in a unnamed city, it has been a ‘tradition’ to make the youngest boys sit on stage in front of the older peers and all their parents, and wear a diaper on their heads while sucking a pacifier. One boy, nervous and fearful of this impending ritual, asked his coach if he could sit out. The coach said no.The child was visibly upset and embarrassed on stage.

Given this private hockey club is community-based and not school-based, laws like Title XII and Title IX or state-based anti-hazing laws don’t apply. The coaches were asked by the parents to stop the ritual in the future. The coaches said no. When anti-hazing coach education was suggested by the governing body, the coaches said no thanks.

Let me be clear—making young boys wear diapers on their heads is HAZING. Hazing is any action that intentionally causes embarrassment, and risks emotional and/or physical safety, regardless of willingness to participate or not. Hazing is done to a person or group of people in order to gain entrance or acceptance into a club, organization, or team. One key question on HazingPrevention.org that characterizes hazing: Is it causing emotional distress or stress of any kind to myself or others? If the answer is yes, it is hazing.

Do we want youth sport coaches to haze young athletes in front of their peers and parents? Is that what we want youth sport to be about? Is that how coaches should inspire a team to optimal performance? Does it help those boys become better hockey players? Does it enhance the boys’ fun and enjoyment of their hockey experience? Does it build admiration for and trust in the coach?  I say no.

Commentary on Gender Equity: A Case Study of High School Hockey

Based on my previous blog about hockey injuries, checking, and unequal media coverage of two Minnesota hockey players who were recently severely injured, I was asked to write a commentary for Minnesota Public Radio (@MPR)

You can read the commentary on the MPR website, “Tale of two hockey players offers a sharp look at gender equity in sports”

Ban Checking in Male Hockey

It is time to ban checking in boy’s and men’s hockey, not just raise the checking age, but get rid of it altogether.

I know this won’t be a popular idea. Raising the checking age in boys’ hockey hasn’t been popular either, but it is the right thing to do. Adversaries argue checking is fundamental to the game (read: the game, meaning men’s hockey which is the real hockey anyway). Big hits are exciting. Hockey isn’t hockey without checking. Taking checking out of hockey or raising the checking age makes it”wimpy”–code for: it will resemble women’s hockey, and feminizes males. (Read the USA Hockey column titled “Changing The Checking Age Does Not Soften Our Sport.” ). Males won’t want to play. It will put the USA at a competitive disadvantage. Nobody will pay for or watch hockey without checking… the counterarguments are many.

I play hockey. I am a hockey player in the largest women’s hockey league in the world (WHAM). I live in the State of Hockey (that is Minnesota for those who don’t know what I’m talking about). I am a hockey fan. I give hockey coach and sport parent workshops. I have researched psychosocial variables in hockey. I spent a good part of 2011 being part of discussions about concussions, and making a documentary on sport-related concussions. I get and understand the game of hockey.

If you know hockey, you know that checking is not allowed in women’s hockey. I favor that rule, even though I know many women want to have the opportunity to check, and at elite levels checking, er…I mean heavy body contact, does occur so why not make it legal. I have long thought checking should not be a part of any level or hockey, regardless of gender. If you make the argument that females shouldn’t check because it is dangerous, then why do we allow it in male hockey? Rather than argue that not letting females check is an outdated paternalistic rule, I’d rather argue another point. ( I will add however, that getting rid of checking for males, eliminates the idea that women’s hockey is “less than” or “not real hockey” because there is no checking, which could be a different blog).

KEY POINT: Are we less concerned with the health and well being of males? Do we feel it is OK to have males increase the likelihood of injury for our entertainment? Is putting males at increased risk for injury part of what it means to “be a man”?

I decided to write this blog because within a one week span here in Minnesota, two high school athletes have been severely injured as a result of checking. St. Croix Lutheran senior Jenna Privette suffered a serious spinal cord injury when she was checked from behind after taking shot and crashed into the boards. Jack Jablonski of Benilde-St. Margaret’s was paralyzed after he was legally checked into the boards. Would either of these injuries be prevented with a no checking rule or a much stronger stance on illegal checking from behind? I don’t know. What I do know is that FAR FEWER injuries would occur if checking were eliminated from male hockey, and through widespread educational efforts checking would be strongly discouraged and penalized in female hockey, and hockey in general.

Having the discussion is a worthy endeavor, regardless of if you agree with my premise or not.

The Irony of a Woman’s Professional Uniform in Sport

This blog is about the irony of what is deemed appropriate workplace attire for women in the context of sport.

I have written quite a bit about the Lingerie Football League and my disdain for the league and their claims it promotes women’s sport (to read all my posts on the LFL, click here). Evidently I am not alone in feeling the LFL marginalizes female athletes, and women who  play real professional football. Two players from the KC Tribe team, Katie and Liz Sowers, put together an entertaining and informative video expressing how many women in the Women’s Football Alliance feel about the LFL.  This video is worth watching and sharing! One of their main points is that female athletes seem to only get recognized when they take off, or have very little clothing on (i.e., when they are portrayed is sexy ways…another topic I have written extensively about). If you want to see the most recent example of this, click here to see a calendar made by a Vancouver women’s hockey team.

Relatedly, on the other end of the spectrum….this week the MLB came out with a dress code for media personnel. If you read the new code, it won’t take you long to surmise this code is targeted towards females. For example it reads: Visible undergarments, sheer clothing, one-shouldered and strapless shirts or clothing exposing bare midriffs will be banned. Skirts, dresses or shorts cut more than three or four inches above the knee will be deemed to be in violation. I’m not in many MLB press boxes but I’m guessing there aren’t many, if any men, who are in this attire, so the rule must be aimed at females.

Phyllis Merhige, an MLB senior vice president stated, “There’s no one who expects reporters to wear a suit and tie (My commentary: i.e. suit and tie are typically associated with a white-collar, White male dress code). But with the advent of different media, there are now individuals who are not part of a bigger organization that may have a dress code.”  If you read this statement critically, the “norm” in press boxes refers to traditionally trained, older male sport journalists, and “different” means anyone is who falls outside that norm (i.e., women, and Millennial bloggers both male and female).

Data supports that females are the minority in press boxes and this fact is problematic as I wrote in a previous blog: “According to a 2008 report commissioned by the AP Sport Editors, females comprise less than 10% all sport reporters. Given that female sport journalists are statistical tokens (< 15% of a population) they are under constant scrutiny, have to perform above and beyond their male peers to be deemed competent, and are subjected to overt and covert forms of discrimination.”

The dress code policy for MLB reminds me of the Jets-Sainz incident of 2010 where Ines Sainz was harassed in the Jets locker room, and criticized for not dressing professionally. Despite what one is wearing, attire does not give permission for males to harass or act boorishly. Speaking of boorish, if you doubted that harassment, discrimination and sexism are not part of the reality for female sport journalists, look no further than sports columnist Rick Bacon’s recent DeadSpin post.

In his blog, he wrote: “that the rules are really there to take on the princess female reporters, like ESPN’s Erin Andrews and Suzy Kolber, ladies so caked in makeup that Papa Bacon would have slapped me twice had I brought them home. Notably, the rules mention ripped jeans and midriff-revealing shirts, things you won’t find in my closet or my nieces. And good for Major League Baseball. These gals might be lookers, but they distract the whole team’s attention. It’s awkward enough having them in the clubhouse to begin with. Some of us came here to ask questions, not to flirt. We came here to do the reporter’s job. When reporters talk about “inches,” we’re not talking about the hem of a skirt or the height of a heel. We’re talking professional copy…It’s good that the locker-room peekaboo act will have to cover up. Fans deserve better coverage too..”

Bacon certainly lives up to the origin represented by the animal associated with his last name. Bacon’s generalized, gendered, dichotomous assertions do not make for a collegial work environment. The MLB is trying to head off or prevent workplace harassment, but educating everyone on professional behavior might be a bigger step forward in changing the culture.

In summary, ironically what is considered an appropriate and desired work place “professional” uniform in the LFL, is now ruled an inappropriate uniform for professional sport media spaces.

Reasons for Bad Sportsmanship in Adult Recreational Leagues?

I have been a competitive athlete my entire life. I have seen my fair share of bad sportsmanship in all the sports I’ve played and coached. I am hoping that you, the readers, can help explain why adult women playing in recreational leagues demonstrate some of the worst sportsmanship I have encountered (I’m sure it happens in men’s leagues as well, but I can’t speak to that).

Over the weekend I played in the Stick It To Cancer hockey tournament up at the National Sports Center Center in Blaine, MN. I have played in this tournament for a number of years as it is for a good cause and you get to play some fun, relaxed hockey. This weekend however, two of the three teams we played has such bad sportsmanship that it took all the fun out of it. It was so bad I wanted to just skate the bench and not play the rest of the game for fear of being injured. Examples of what I saw and heard:

1. multiple cross checking penalties (which in my opinion are the worst, because you can really get injured)

2. hits after the whistle

3. trash talking such as “Get up you wimp” after a player had been clipped from behind and landed awkwardly on her shoulder

4. hits in open ice away from the puck

Why do people behave this way in a recreational tournament that is FOR CHARITY? We weren’t playing in league play. We weren’t trying out for the Olympics. We were playing for anything but a place in a charity tournament. In fact the WORST behavior I witnessed was in the game my team played for who would be 7th and 8th place out of 8 teams (yes, the toilet bowl game….we lost BTW).  We played hard, but no one really cared if we won or lost. IT WAS FOR FUN. Well that is what I thought anyway.

Possible reasons why this type of behavior persists:

  • people take themselves too seriously
  • the person is just obnoxious on a everyday basis, on and off the ice
  • the person enjoys trying to injure others on purpose
  • the person wants to win at the expense of acting like a gracious and sportsmanlike human being
  • the person’s identity is tied up with the sport, and therefore winning and losing is perceived to be a reflection of themselves
  • Immaturity

Do you have other explanations for this type of behavior? Has this been your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What everyone should be striving for is more of the attitude of Team Orange, an idea created by a woman I got to play with this weekend Lora Wilkinson. As she writes on the team website, Team Orange is a state of mind. It’s as simple as that. It’s about being a good team player, having a good attitude, supporting others whether they are “on your team” or not. Assuming the best out of folks, being encouraging, positive and constructive. Being benevolent. It is a good intention. It is kindness. Human kindness. Being human, being kind. It’s a life motto.”

Some of the women we played AGAINST this weekend, could learn a lot from the philosophy behind Team Orange. Anyone can be on Team Orange….just adopt the state of mind.

Summary on Ice Hockey Concussion Summit: What You Need to Know!

Last week I attended the first-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion. The program was impressive and invited speakers in included NHL referee and players, coaches, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, brain physiologists, sport scientists, coach educators, helmet engineers and manufacturers, biomechanists, researchers, clinical psychologists, athletic trainers, sports medicine and family practice doctors, and representatives from the International Ice Hockey Federation, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada.

The New York Times wrote two pieces on the summit which are informative (click here and here).

Here are a few of the important messages that everyone should know about concussions.

  • A concussion is a traumatic brain injury and should be treated and taken seriously. The CDC has a host of wonderful and free materials about concussions that can be accessed here, including specific information about sports concussions.
  • Mouth guards do NOT protect athletes from concussions. Helmets protect from linear focal point hits, but don’t protect from concussions (which primarily are sustained from rotational and linear forces) as well as we think they do.
  • All sport stakeholders should be educated about the signs and symptoms associated with concussions. Concussions in children and youth is a serious issue because the brain is still developing and therefore more vulnerable to lasting concussive side effects (15% of children do not fully recover from concussions).
  • If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he/she should NOT Return To Play (RTP) in that game or that day. Period. “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out!
  • The decision for Return To Play  should only be given by a trained medical professional, not by coaches, parents or placed in the hands of the athlete. RTP is a medical decision. Both physical and cognitive rest are needed following a concussion. Even when an athlete is asymptomatic, the brain is still recovering. Returning to play too early places the athlete at greater risk for another concussion, potentially long lasting side effects, and increases the likelihood of a full recovery.
  • A concussed brain is a metabolic crisis which creates a “chemical soup” that bathes the brain. Metabolic recovery of the brain Lags behind 30-45 days symptomatic resolution. What this means is that even when an athlete shows no signs of concussion and is physically recovered, the brain is still healing.
  • Multiple brain injuries, like repetitive concussions, places the individual at greater risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)–an emerging disorder that was frightening to hear about. For more about CTE and the work of Dr. Ann McKee and colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine click here,
  • A cultural and behavioral shift needs to occur in hockey to help reduce the incidence of concussions and protect athletes. The belief  that brutal hits and fights are entertaining, especially in professional hockey, creates an environment in which illegal should-to- head hits are tolerated, not penalized, and fights are allowed to continue (18% of concussions happen during fights). This belief in turn trickles down to the youth level, where such behaviors are learned, valued, and taught. Evidence that behavior around illegal and dangerous behaviors can be changed as the Hockey Education Program in Minnesota has shown with the implementation of the Fair Play Point system.

The First-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion

October 19-20 The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN will be hosting the first-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion.

The prevalence and consequences of concussion at all levels of ice hockey are concerning. Reduction of concussion risk, as well as improved concussion diagnosis and management require a collaborative effort from medicine, psychology, sport science, coaching, engineering, officiating, manufacturing, and community partners. This quality scientific program focuses on education and generates an evidence-based action plan designed to make a difference. For the rationale on why this summit is important and needed click here.

For more information, to register, or to view the brochure which contains the full line-up of top experts on concussions from multiple disciplines, or visit the website.

This conference comes none to soon as the growing concern over concussions in the NFL and college football mount. A recent story about a former University of Pennsylvania football player, highlights the need for this conference and other educational efforts. In the story it was reported that, “A study of the brain tissue of Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football captain who committed suicide in April, reportedly revealed the beginning stages of a degenerative disease that is believed to be caused by repeated head trauma.

To read a previous blog post on the NFL and concussions which contains many excellent links to data-based information, click here.

A Tipping Point in Changing the Culture of Youth Sport?

In the last month I’ve been thinking and reading about the idea of equal playing time in youth sports (click here and here). Based on the evidence, I’m convinced that equal playing time should be mandatory up until the age of 12. Following, all youth sport organizations and associations should adopt this policy at ALL levels of play–in house, recreational, travel, and competitive. Regardless of the level of play, kids are still kids who should all have the opportunity to develop, grow, and experience all the joys and benefits sports has the opportunity to impart. I’ve come to believe in the last month that short of having a strong equal playing time policy, parents and coaches will structure youth sport to meet the needs of their own goals, needs, and desires rather than what is best for all kids.

I applaud USA Hockey for leading the way constructing a better model for youth sports. The USA Hockey Youth Council just voted to eliminate their national championship for the Peewees–the 12 & Under level. USA Hockey has recently rolled out the American Development Model (ADM)– “a tool  that will ensure every kid will have the same chance to succeed.” The mission and purpose of ADM is clearly focused on countering (and hopefully reversing) the detrimental forces of the performance/win at all costs focus and professionalization of youth sport. The philosophy and ABC’s of ADM is evidence-based, and the “E” of the ABC’s is….equal playing time! Finally at least one youth sport organization appears to taking some cues from sport science scholars!

On a similar note, the Boston Globe ran an interesting piece titled “What happened to losing?” which outlines how youth sport has lost the true meaning of competition (which is “to strive or strive with, not against”). When I worked at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendelson Center for Sport and Character, the co-director and my colleague David Light Shields, was working on a book about “True Competition”. He has since finished and I recommend you read it as it is accessible and instructive for why and how to change the culture of youth sports-True Competition: A Guide to Pursuing Excellence in Sport and Society. Check out the accompanying website TrueCompetition.org and sign up for the newsletter.

I hope these and other efforts by those who care about the health and well being of all youth athletes provide a start of a Gladwell-esque Tipping Point in changing the culture of youth sport to a primary focus on fun and development, rather than winning and performance.

One Boy's Perspective About Youth Sports

A colleague sent me this video of a young Canadian hockey player describing his “magic hockey helmet”. I thought I’d pass it along…enjoy!

Speaking of helmets…. stay tuned to this blog for upcoming information on the first-ever Mayo Clinic Ice Hockey Concussion Summit, to be held October 19-20, 2010 in Rochester, MN. I’m on the planning committee and I can tell you the program is excellent!