Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy urges need for fun, respect in sport

By Jesse Bonello   

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(University of the Fraser Valley) Former NHLer, Sheldon Kennedy, is also the co-founder of the Respect in Sport program.

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy says whether young Canadians make a career in sport or not, the main thing is to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Kennedy, a cofounder of the Respect in Sport program which is offered across Canada, says bad behaviour – mainly from parents – is causing many people to lose perspective about the importance of sport in communities.

“Having kids feeling welcomed at sporting events and being involved in community organizations is absolutely critical to their well being,” said Kennedy.

The Respect in Sport program is mandatory for parents that want to register their child for minor hockey.

The programs’ main goal is creating a respectful environment in hockey rinks, which has been a recurring problem in Ontario.

“Organizations across Canada were struggling with bad behavior incidents. To me, we had to get to the point where a poster on a rink wall just wasn’t cutting it,” said Kennedy. “Now, these are our standards for the way we need to behave, so we can all stand up together in the best interest of our children, game and community.”

The program emphasizes that parents shouldn’t be afraid to confront bad behavior.

Bad behavior from parents is highly influential, the program reported.

“In fact, one of the most common reasons coaches, managers, and officials, of all ages, cite for leaving sport is unacceptable parent behavior,” the program says on its website.

“Parents need to remember that these people are volunteers,” said Karen Kearns, a hockey mom in the GTA told Humber News.

“They’re human. They’re giving of their time to help your kids become the best hockey player they can be, which might not be the hockey player that you, as a parent, want them to be.”

While parents want the best for their children and high expectations are normal, the harsh reality in Ontario hockey is that the odds aren’t in anyones favor.

Less then one per cent of hockey playing boys in Ontario will make a career out of it, the Huffington Post reported.

The Respect in Sport program is focused on the 99 per cent of kids that don’t make a career out of hockey, and they just want to have fun and enjoy the game, said Kennedy.

“We need to make sure that when kids go to the rink we are doing everything possible to give them the best experience so that they show up the next day, and they want to achieve their hockey goals no matter how big or small,” he said.

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