Isn't it great that girls play hockey? Isn't it great to have clear rules about what constitutes inappropriate contact? Except when everything is deemed inappropriate.
An email from exec VP of the Leaside Hockey Association, John Reynolds, has set out firm rules against touching in any shape or form in the Toronto league. Following a complaint, coaches are now forbidden from touching a player's shoulder or backside. They may not even tap a player's helmet.
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The email also stipulated more reasonable limitations, such as prohibiting access to change rooms and contact between coaches and players via social media.
While I agree that the butt pat—though standard practice in guys' leagues—may cross a line, touching a kid's shoulder or helmet? That's the kind of asinine call that makes a parent want to smash their heads against the boards.
"I think it's ridiculous," said our own blogger, Jennifer Sherwood Hicks, whose daughter plays in the named league. "These coaches volunteer incredible hours, energy, and enthusiasm to the league, and I think Leaside is disrespecting them by enforcing these restrictions."
As sports psychologist Kate Hays rightly points out, kids need an element of physical contact. A tap on the helmet or shoulder pad is a vital gesture that validates and encourages kids.
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"[That touch] says, 'I'm paying attention to you, you've done a good job, I know you are really engaged, you are important to me, you are important to the team,'" said Hays. "The idea of learning about non-sexualized, non-aggressive touch is something that indicates a positive connection among human beings."
I fail to see how either the shoulder or helmet gesture could be construed as inappropriate. Such touch is an integral part of team sports. I fear as a society we are moving to a sad, paranoid extreme that robs our kids of the kind of healthy touch that boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel valued.
You tell me: Are the new rules excessive or entirely necessary?