My daughter plays hockey and has for several years now. Since I played growing up, a few years ago I was asked to help coach the team. I figured I was going to be at the rink anyway, so I didn’t mind volunteering my time and knowledge.
The first year everything was fine. Since I was now working with children, I had to get a police check. This normally costs $30, but since I was volunteering, I only had to $10, which felt fair.
On top of that, I had to take a 2.5 hour online course called Respect in Sport, which further drives home the fact that I was now in a position of authority and I should not abuse that power.
Year two, I was asked to help again. Unfortunately, the governing body now decided that all coaching staff members must attend a Hockey Canada approved coaching clinic.
Let get one thing straight: Experience counts for nothing, and there are no allowances for individual situations. Hockey Canada doesn’t care that I played at a high level for a number of years, or the fact that my daughter’s team was only 9 and 10 and were not competing at the highest level. In their eyes, every child athlete should be competing on the world stage and the only thing holding them back is coaching.
Anyway, off I go to a clinic an hour away to sit in a room with 30 other people. We were told that kids learn at different speeds and in different ways, so we need to be mindful of this and try and accommodate every member of the team.
After losing a Saturday for this common sense reminder, I had to pay $110, which the association I am volunteering for only reimbursed me half (never mind my gas and lunch).
The third year was better. I said I didn’t want to coach again, but nobody else was willing to step up. Thankfully, I didn’t have to invest any extra time or money to volunteer with my child’s already very consuming past-time.
We are now two months into her fourth season of organized hockey. Despite my firm declarations throughout the summer that I was finished coaching, I was asked to help again.
To start, I had to get a new police check because they expire after three years - so there’s another $10. Then, the governing body decided that since the girls are a little older, I now need to attend a two-day course to donate my time.
After two more days of common sense training and hearing about how the quality of hockey in Canada is declining, I had to pay $185 and again only get reimbursed for half.
I was now “trained” on how to work with child athletes. If I ever wanted to be a Head Coach, I would need to get “certified.” This requires me to fill out a 58 page workbook, including case studies and essay questions, mail it to Hockey Canada for grading, and then subject myself to further judgement by having an examiner watch me run a few practices.
While I’m only “trained,” I don’t have to renew, but if I were to get “certified” it would only be valid for 5 years. To retain “certified” status, one needs to earn 20 Professional Development points - assuming they don’t change their minds again.
Since, I have a younger son who also plays and nobody knows what the future holds - I never planned on ever coaching - I looked into how I could earn these points.
The Coaching Association of Canada website makes it sound so easy:
“PD points can be earned through a multitude of activities that coaches already participate in, including: national and provincial sport organization conferences and workshops, coach mentorship programs, and active coaching.”
But, on further investigation, I’m not convinced I will ever get 20 PD points.
A quick calculation: assuming I continue to coach for the next 5 years, I will still need 15 PD points. That means I need to attend a combination of full-day workshops and/or online modules. They don’t note how many PD points each is worth, but since you only earn 1 point for coaching a full season, it’s likely that each online session is only worth 1 point. The cheapest online course I found was $85.
That means to get the required 15 PD points, I would be out-of-pocket at least another $600. And, that still doesn’t factor in the time required on top of the hundreds of hours coaching already demands that you be at the rink.
At the end of the day, all these barriers make me not want to volunteer. I can’t be the only one either. If I feel this way, I’m sure others better than me are not sharing their expertise because of these costs.
Instead of preaching to the volunteers at a mandatory 2-day course that their end product is no longer consistently the best in the world, Hockey Canada needs to ease their demands and make the support and applicable education free.
It should be up to each individual association to put the right people in the right positions. The associations should set realistic goals, draw a firmer line between competitive and recreational teams, and then let results be the measure of success.
Bringing people together to openly share ideas, knowledge, and skills would improve our future athletes more than penalizing those who are willing to help and volunteer. If things don't change, I can't afford to volunteer anymore.