The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Respect in Sport program improving hockey parent behaviour: organizers

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CALGARY - The organizers of an online course that preaches better behaviour to minor hockey parents say the number of violent spectacles at games is down since the program was made mandatory in Calgary.

Kevin Kobelka, the executive director of Hockey Calgary, said Tuesday that while there are typically about 25 disciplinary hearings involving parents in a year, that number has dropped by 10 to 15 per cent since the Respect in Sport program was implemented three years ago.

The hour-long web-based class is now mandatory in many parts of the country, including all of Alberta. Some jurisdictions demand parents pay an extra fee to receive the certificate, which is required to enrol a child in hockey.

"We're all going to be passionate and there are going to be issues like that. But if we can have that parent step over and calmly talk to the other parent and say 'You've made your point and now it's time for you to relax'..." Kobelka said. "Those are the kind of things we're looking for."

Organizers said a Mount Royal University survey of the nearly 15,000 people who took the course over the last three years shows that nearly one in three thought the program was effective and want to see it made mandatory every year. Only eight per cent of those who filled out the survey opposed the program.

"We have heard from numerous parents about how the program has increased the awareness of respect in hockey, and how they wish to have more integration and accountability to move the respect issue forward," said Julie Booke, associate professor in Physical Education and Recreation at Mount Royal University.

Kobelka says the program will be expanded to ensure that players in Calgary go through similar training.

"We'll talk about concussions and hydration and how to respect your teammates and respect your coaches and officials," said Kobelka. "So there will be some of the similar elements. We were leaders in the parent program and we want to be leaders as far as bringing this forward to the young athletes as well."

Respect in Sport was founded in 2004 by partners Wayne McNeil and former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy.

Kennedy said there have been positive results in many communities.

""I think within their own organizations they've seen a reduction of disciplinary hearings amongst parents," he said. "I think a lot of them are nipped in the bud before they even get to them, so that's the reality."

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