When Brent Mann played hockey as a kid in the 1970s and ’80s, it wasn’t unusual for his coaches to direct a harsh word — or several — towards him and his teammates.
“There was… more of an old-time approach to hockey,” explained Mann, who now is a minor hockey league coach himself.
“There was a little more screaming and yelling, and quite honestly, a lot of kids left the game because of that exact treatment.”
Mann started coaching his son’s team six years ago, and he’s been working hard to make sure the game is what it should be for kids: fun.
At the same time, he’s helping change the culture of the sport by focusing on results of a different kind.
“Success, to me, is measured by how players respond to challenges within the game, within the practices, and how they treat each other and how they treat their parents, the referees, the opposition, and really the type of people they become over the season,” said Mann.
He said he cares more about the number of players who return to the game rather than what the final standings are.
Recent events unfolding at the professional level have cast the world of hockey, and how coaches conduct themselves, in a negative light — but bad coaches can be found in any sport.
“You’re not motivating those kids; you’re scaring them and you’re driving them out of sports,” said Bob Baker, Stryker Sports president and program director.
A former basketball and volleyball coach, Baker said wins should never be the measure of success for young athletes.
According to its website, Stryker Sports focuses on providing “an outstanding opportunity for young players to develop to their maximum potential as a basketball or volleyball player, athlete and person” but Baker said he encourages players to participate in other sports too.
Andrea Carey with Sports for Life Society — a group that trains organizations on how to create quality sports environments — agrees. She said hockey, as well as many other sports organizations, are taking the right steps to promote a culture of respect and inclusion.
“Many of the national sport organizations are doing really good and proactive work to try and figure out how they move inclusion both down the system all the way to the grassroots level, but also how they can be more strategic moving forward so these incidents don’t occur,” she said.
Carey said the best place for coaches, managers and parents to start is with respect for the players.
Mann believes that respect for the player will be carried on with him or her long after the game has ended.
“Hockey is a lifetime game but the rest of their lives — all the things that they learn on the ice, away from the ice are going to contribute to how they conduct themselves within society and how they treat other people,” Mann said.