Calgary hockey parents will need ongoing training

CALGARY — Minor hockey parents in Calgary will soon have to take a refresher every four years of an online course designed to limit bad behaviour at the rink.

Hockey Calgary was the first minor sports organization in Canada to introduce the mandatory Respect in Sport course for hockey parents and coaches in 2010. It requires at least one parent from each hockey household to obtain course certification.

Several other minor hockey associations across the country have followed Calgary’s lead.

As of May 1, Calgary hockey parents will require recertification every four years.

“This is about polishing the good apples in the basket,” former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, a co-founder of Respect Group, said Thursday. ”This is about making good parents better.”

Kevin Kobelka, Hockey Calgary’s executive director, said the $12 course not only prepares parents to stand up to others who are misbehaving, but also provides information on concussions and long-term hockey development.

“It has evolved to be much more than just a program about influencing behaviour within the arena,” Kobelka said.

“This program was never designed to be one and done, and we believe our role as leaders in hockey is to educate our members and promote positive behaviours in the hockey environment.”

A three-year study of the program released in 2014 found an overwhelming success rate in preparing parents.

“Study participants stated they had the confidence to speak up if they witnessed maltreatment,” said Julie Booke, an associate professor at Mount Royal University. ”The parents had more knowledge where to bring their concerns to and they were more likely to speak up if they witnessed maltreatment.”

Booke said only eight per cent of 1,000 parents interviewed said the program should never have been implemented.

Kennedy, who was the first person to detail his sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach Graham James, is the lead director of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

He said 300,000 hockey parents across Canada have taken the certification course and it appears to be working.

“Here in Calgary the first year they went from three disciplinary hearings a week down to three a month,” Kennedy said.

“We know that in Ontario their disciplinary hearings dropped by 96 per cent in that year. When you first take the program, it’s working, and the longer we don’t recertify the worse it gets.

“There’s great people out there and what we’re trying to do is give them the basic tools to give them confidence if their gut tells them something ain’t right.”

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