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Advocating about development?

2010

Hi All!
 
I wanted to see if anyone had any suggestions for me in terms of being as effective as I can be at something that I don’t necessarily want to start getting involved in but something I think that has to be brought up. It has to do with a community Minor Hockey program. I would be addressing the Association’s executive at their annual general meeting. I will briefly try and explain.
 
My motivation for wanting to communicate with the executive at this time is specifically about - kids sitting on the player’s bench and not playing a lot in the game *for the sake of winning the game* - and what that does to a child. Luckily I’ve been able to counterbalance the majority of the negative effects imposed on my son but it’s mostly the other kids I am concerned about; that in addition to the fact that this particular coach is not following the rules.  
 
There are a lot of people that say – But its competitive hockey – OK yes it is but should one be doing it at the expense of a child’s emotional development? There are other things to be considered one which I will rely on which is the Association’s Code of Conduct – it says (among another 10 key points) “Fair ice time for all players” that specifically addresses this (and basically says not to do it as part of their “Positives of Fair Play” points). The kids I am referring to are aged 9, 10 & 11 years old.
 
I guess my main question is – I want to approach the subject but do it in a matter where I will be heard. As you may notice from this e-mail I can be “long winded” and my biggest concern is not how to communicate in a highly professional manner but communicate so I am heard (I did a draft that my husband says is way above people’s head’s, too much like an academic paper he said).
 
Here’s my scenario - How would I communicate to a bunch of men sitting in a room
at the end of the day anyways - effectively? What do you think? A flow chart? Brief points (but how do I not lose sight of the main messages)? I am anticipating that no one is really going to care what I am saying and this is what I am up against, this is not me being a pessimist it is me being aware of the politics of the hockey program in our town and being realistic.

That is why I want to be prepared and am asking for your help!
 
If people could provide advice maybe on how to tailor my specific topic to this type of audience I would really appreciate it. I am a 3rd year BA CYC mature distance student from the UVIC program and advocacy work is definitely an area of interest for me.
 
Any thoughts, comments etc. would be appreciated! I value your opinion as well as your confidentiality…this is such a delicate thing to do so I am not “talking down” to people who I know and have known me for many years…
 
Warm and thankful regards,
Julie Clarke  
Ontario
...

Hi Julie, 
If you are asking how to talk so they will hear you, I suggest you get a neutral party who will be honest with you and practice on them first. They can give you feedback on how you are coming across to them. You could get a bunch of men who love their hockey.
 
As for content, I suggest you address their interests, as well, perhaps suggesting that winning the game now pales in comparison with developing each child to their capacity so that Canada or your region breeds better players all around.  There are many stories of late bloomers who if not given a chance to get involved when they stunk as players, would not have turned into professional caliber.  Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan of the NBA come to mind.
 
Alfonso Ramirez, Jr.
Tumbleweed-Devereux Collaborative
...
 
Hi Julie,
Well I think you need to focus on the code of conduct but be more specific with your audience. I suggest you speak to the children and get their views on what you would like to do. Get them on board with what you want to do even getting a few of them to say it on tape and play it for the audience.

Let them express their desire to want to be part of the team not only at practice sessions but actually on the field, and in that way they will feel as part of the team. As I look at it they are only there as emergency players and are not valued at all and their skills are not being perfected on the field because that is how they learn to deal with life as we know it as adults, otherwise how else can we teach them what we know now? Playing sport is more than just playing but actually teaching the child life skills so that he can be fully functional as an adult. Look more closely to the advantages of any sport and draw information from it for your speech. Let them reflect back to when they were younger and not given any chances to prove themselves to their parents and other significant people in their lives and how it made them feel.
 
Hope this will help. Let me know if it makes any sense to you.
 
Good luck
Joan
...
 
Hi Julie,
 
What if you started with an ice-breaker/activity that involved teams and purposely ignored/avoided including certain participants over and over again in the course of the game/activity? This might illustrate more effectively how children feel when they are not permitted to play with the rest of their team than a flow chart or list of study results etc.
 
Kim Nicolaou
...

If you want to get a rigid application of the rules about "fair ice time" you are on a non-starter, Julie.  It's just not the way hockey is.  In Vancouver this week you will see some teams with a pretty steady four line rotation from start to finish but that is rare at the top level.  Every team in the NHL has guys who sit most of a game on the bench.  Your group of coaches might be right if they were to say that kids need to get used to it. 
 
I would suggest a completely different approach. 
 
No team can survive without their bottom line players.  On many levels they need these kids.  One or two might even turn out to go far in the game.  If you can communicate some understanding of how it feels to sit on the bench that would be a start.  Then try to present something about how to nurture these kids so that they will be there when someone gets hurt, or runs out of stamina, or takes a game penalty or whatever.  These kids need a sense of purpose if they are to keep coming back, waiting their turn.  A good coach will identify that and give necessary support.  A good coach will have empathy for all of the players on the team.  A good coach will know the role in the game plan of every player on the bench and will value each player for that role, giving positive feedback or creative criticism as appropriate.  A bad coach will have players on the bench without even knowing what they are doing there.
 
For much of my playing career (since 1973) I have rarely got above the no 3 or no 4 line but I knew my job and did it as best I could.  I knew when it was time to sit and let someone else on to do a different job.  My bottom line experience did not stop me as coach from sitting two lines of kids for a third period during an important game against a very fit and skilful team.  The other kids that turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win knew they could not have skated three periods at the intensity they needed to win - they needed the other two lines.  The kids on the bench knew they had done what it took to let the skaters save enough stamina to pull it off.  Together they were a team and every one knew they had done their bit to earn the medal, no more, no less.  They would never be equal in skills (that was obvious to them all) but they all had equal value.  They heard it from me in quiet reassurance and in public affirmation.  All the players were taught to embrace that spirit. 
 
"Fair ice time"?  Equality can be measured on the clock but "fair" and "equal" may not be the same thing.
 
I hope this helps - best of luck
 
Ni Holmes #41
Scotland
...

You have an amazing outlook..."coach", you are a player's dream!

Marsha Orien
...
 
Ni,
 
Thank you to you as well as the others who have responded with your perspectives and thoughts on my query. It's given me a lot to think about.
 
Ni, interestingly your notion about communicating an understanding of how it feels to sit on the bench was my first (and second) approach with the specific coach I have dealt with this season. This only worked for about 1-2 weeks and It would appear that the coach I am referring to is not seeing the bigger picture as you've indicated below. He is blatantly favouring the better more developed players and ignoring the others. This is where and why I take issue (these kids are between 9-11 years old).
 
When I posted my question in here I felt as though I was losing sight of how to get my point across appropriately. The seeking out and applying the code of conduct was my desperate attempt to high-light something somebody was doing wrong and that just wasn't a comfortable place for me.
 
I love your statement about the bottom line players needing a sense of purpose and equal skills => no but equal value => yes! I will take this together with my partner's hockey expertise and apply it sensibly.
 
Thank you, I knew I could find the help I needed here!!! I knew my approach wasn't the right direction and I appreciate your insight into a more realistic outlook on the whole situation.
 
Good luck #41!
 
Julie Clarke
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