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Good Sportsmanship in the Digital Age

By USAHockey.com, 08/05/15, 8:15AM MDT

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When we think about good sportsmanship, an image of kids shaking hands after a game oftentimes comes to mind.  Or we think about congratulating the winning coach despite a tough loss.  But few people stop to consider that conversations surrounding youth sports are also happening online and on social media outlets that affect the way athletes, coaches and parents communicate and interact with one another.  Bad sportsmanship can happen online. Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive® powered by Positive Coaching Alliance wants to help you ensure a positive youth sports environment for your child by helping you understand and avoid these pitfalls.

Bad Sportsmanship from The Stands Goes Viral

In recent years, parents have unfortunately posted negative comments about other children online.  The display of bad sportsmanship has included Twitter rants between parents, Facebook posts featuring photos and videos of both opposing players and of kids playing on their son’s or daughter’s own team.  And the comments have harmed, embarrassed, and threatened athletes, coaches and fellow parents.

One youth sports league in the Washington Township of New Jersey resorted to a social media policy that bans parents from games and practices if they post negative comments about other children online.  The policy specifically states that “using the internet, cell phone or other device to post or send text, video or an image with the intent or knowledge, or reckless disregard, that the text, video or image will harm or grossly embarrass, or threatens, a participant, parent or legal guardian of a coach or official” will be met with a ban from youth sporting events for up to a year.  As part of registration, parents and legal guardians now sign a code of conduct that includes this ban on social media.

To ensure your team is prepared for a situation like this, create and distribute a social media policy to all coaches, parents and athletes at the start of the season and ask each individual to sign the policy acknowledging their receipt and understanding.  Your policy should include not only what behavior is unacceptable, but also what the consequences and punishments will be for violating these policies.

Facebook Envy Ups the Ante

Skimming through your wall each day to see photos of everyone else’s kids scoring the winning goal, earning a spot on the elite team, or hoisting the championship trophy, while your kid seems ho-hum about sports, may make you feel stressed, burnt out, or wonder sometimes why you  run around from practices to games.  You want your kid to be that star you see on other people’s pages and unfortunately that feeling can lead  to putting extra pressure on your kids to ‘live up’ to this ‘perfection’ seen in social media.

Change your focus from the win-at-all-cost mentality of youth sports today and keep focused on mastery:  putting in 100% effort, continually learning, and bouncing back from mistakes.  Keep fun at the forefront of your child’s youth sports experience.  And, stay focused on what’s happening in front of you on the ice and not the version of reality that some are posting online.

To Friend or Not To Friend

Lastly, social media networks have created a dilemma for coaches: should I friend my players online?  Social media can be an indispensable tool for youth sports teams - sending weather updates via Twitter, sharing competition photos via Instagram, or spreading the word about rallying to earn a Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive Pledge grant via Facebook (the Fall Pledge season opens on August 15!).  But alongside all of the benefits comes important cautions, especially when it comes to appropriate contact between adults and kids.

Before you friend players online, make sure you have a clear social media policy for your team and your league and that you’ve shared those policies with your athletes and their parents.   Create clear separation between your personal social media activities and your professional social media activities as a coach or youth sports volunteer.  And always uphold rules associated with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)[2].

In this 24/7 youth sports culture, make sure that as coaches, parents, and athletes, we are all abiding by the sportsmanship principles, not just on the ice but online as well.

The Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive® program, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, promotes good sportsmanship in youth sports so that our kids can have the fun and positive experience they deserve.  We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support doing the right thing on and off the ice.

In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for the Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive® program, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.

©2015 Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.

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Changes to the Registration Process for the 2022-23 Season

By USA Hockey 07/15/2022, 1:00pm MDT

Q-and-A with USA Hockey’s Director of Officiating Education Program Matt Leaf

The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.

Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.

USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?

Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.

The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.

USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process

ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.

USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?

ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.

Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.

Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.

USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?

ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.

USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?

ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.

For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.

USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?

ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.

Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.

With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.

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