The following is an open letter to all family members and fans with any connection to Huntsville Minor Hockey teams and players.
Please help us provide a great year for the hundreds of kids signed up for hockey this year with HMHA.
Please don't let your behaviour contribute to the loss of any of our valued volunteers.
At this early point in the season, I feel compelled to pen this letter in light of my awareness of many examples of less than respectful interactions some of our volunteers within this organization have experienced already. Every year these types of things happen and we all just kind of write them off as the unpleasant side of volunteering. I think this might be part of the problem as there really is no excuse for anyone to be treated without respect, no matter how much you may disagree with their perspective - maybe our acceptance of this type of behaviour just "being one of those things" is actually enabling some people to feel being disrespectful is a right, when it absolutely is NOT.
Volunteers have always been hard to come by, simply because all families are busy and often times people feel they do not have time to give. Over the last few years, our volunteer pool has been increasingly decreasing, such that we have gone several years in a row where some board positions don't get filled or members cover more than one position. Additionally, the number of people putting their name forward to be a coach, trainer, manager, or convenor decreases every year. On top of that, our pool of On-Ice Officials continues to dwindle, such that last season some games had to actually be cancelled due to lack of officials, with this being a very real possibility this season as well. Whenever we may try to recruit people for any of these positions or ask them why they either quit mid-season or make the decision to not return, the answer is often pretty much the same. They say they don't want to take the abuse they receive. Many often say they love the sport and want to be involved for the kids, but they just aren't interested in being attacked by the adults. This is a very sad state we find ourselves in. This season HMHA found ourselves very stretched to secure enough volunteers to fill the positions needed to make the programs run for all our players.
I am here to tell you, if this continues, we will be in danger of having to look at cancelling programs in the future if we don't have the volunteers to fill the positions necessary to make the programs run. Heaven forbid, if volunteers cannot handle the pressure they are under mid season and feel their only option is to quit and a replacement can't be found, we will be in a critical situation. WE DO NOT WANT TO FIND OURSELVES IN A CRITICAL SITUATION. Please do your part to make sure this does not happen. If issues or problems arise, you have two choices - you can either choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem (only you can make that choice and you can only control what you do, not someone else, please choose wisely).
Please remember that we are a BB hockey centre that usually provides programs for approximately 360-400+ children every season. Every position from executive members through bench staff and support staff are volunteer positions. Numerous people give countless hours of their own time to try and provide these programs. All these volunteers have just as busy lives as the rest of you - we have both parent and non-parent volunteers, who have jobs, families, and all the same strains and stresses that everyone else has in the busy world we all live in. These people volunteer because of the love of the kids and the game.
If you can find a way to support these volunteers and not make their lives difficult, the kids are always the winners. This is not to say that there is never a disagreement, misunderstanding or concern of what you see happening or think might be happening. These are still not reasons to be abusive or harassing. Please follow proper channels. If you are upset, please take 24 hours (or more if you need it to allow yourself to be calm and respectful). After the emotion has been removed and you have calmed down, assess whether it really was as big of a deal as you initially thought and if it warrants being taken farther. If it does, follow appropriate channels - if it is at a team level, reach out to the manager or convenor; if it needs to go further, they can reach out to the appropriate board member and if it is not a team matter, reach out to the appropriate board member yourself (all the email contacts for all board members are on our website under "About Us", 12 months of the year). Please note that no parent, bench staff, convenor, manager or board member is to reach out to either the MPS Executive or our OMHA Regional Director as they represent all the teams in our MPS League and to be efficient, only the OMHA/Centre Contact from each Association corresponds with these individuals (I am that contact for HMHA). If there is ever a time where there is an urgent matter regarding a child, we want to hear about it ASAP. If it is more of the nature of i.e. you think the drill your coach is running may not be productive, please consider if this truly requires attention. For information purposes, HMHA does have an Ethics and Discipline Committee that is used when appropriate. This committee is comprised of board representation as well as representation outside of our organization. Depending on the circumstances, this can be used for any member of HMHA, including players, parents and volunteers.
While hockey skills development is a big part of why we enroll our kids in hockey, there is much more that goes along with the sport. We want our kids to have fun; develop friendships; be active; learn respect, commitment; the values of being a team player; and to represent our organization and town both as a host and a visitor. Please consider whether your actions help to foster some of these skills in your child. Will they learn to be respectful and committed to the team if you tell them the coaching staff doesn't know what they are doing or you don't speak respectfully to or about the coaching staff? Will they treat opponents and officials with respect if they hear you screaming in the stands? Please help model the behaviour we are trying to foster in the players.
Please remember that it is not conducive or appropriate to try to discredit a volunteer by attempting to gain a posse to turn against the individual, whether this behaviour happens in the lobby/stands, through email or social media. If you have a legitimate issue or concern, please address through the appropriate channels. If you have an issue with someone and they have not heard about it, neither should anyone else. Additionally, HMHA and OMHA both have Social Media Policies for all members. It is not appropriate, nor is it acceptable to attempt to discredit someone, turn people against them or ask leading questions or post rants about a situation that those reading it only have a small piece of the details. People who act like keyboard warriors in this manner, never help to improve the situation. Be honest with yourself and your intentions. Don't hide behind statements like: "I was just asking a question" or "Just stating some facts or concerns" etc, when you know if you are honest you are posting things to try and ramp people up or worse, to be libelous towards someone. Kids are being encouraged all the time to be careful with what they post online and to be aware of what can be considered Cyber Bullying. Please set a good example for the kids and don't be a Keyboard Warrior. If you have a true concern or question, address it appropriately.
If you happen to feel you know more or could do a better job than the volunteer board member or bench staff, please, by all means, step up and volunteer your time and expertise - we are always in need of more volunteers. The OMHA website has all the information and clinics listed for certifications needed to be on a bench. Additionally, we have a Development Director position on our board, who is a resource for player and coach/trainer/manager development and certification requirements. If you feel you do not have the skill set to be a board member, bench staff or convenor, there are many ways you can support your child's hockey experience by volunteering at the team level. At the very least, please don't make the people who are volunteering (and trying to provide programming for your child) live's miserable. Please let them know you appreciate them. Please model the behaviour we wish to see our children display.
Please remember that hockey is a team sport. One of the most important skills the kids learn is how to be a team player (these are different skills than are learned in more individual activities). Because of the team nature, please remember that every little detail cannot be individually perfect for everyone. There are approximately 18 kids on a team and upwards of 400 kids in the organization. Efforts are made to make decisions that are as fair as possible across the board (this does not always mean that every player or parent will always get to have their "say" or choice in every situation). We all do our best to make decisions, policies, procedures and recommendations that are as fair as possible and considers the best response for the group. If people look at things egocentrically, this often does not work because we aren't dealing with individuals, but groups. We do our best to set our policies and recommendations to cover as many situations as possible. Sometimes there are exceptions and extenuating circumstances and we are willing to look at these when appropriate. We do not set policies or rules in an attempt to be difficult, but simply to try and keep the playing field as equitable for all as we can. There are times when no policy can cover every detail and when that is the case, we determine if there is a valid exception in that case.
If you want to be informed, please be proactive. If someone takes the time to send you an email or post information on our website, please take the time to read it - it takes much less time for you to read what is sent or posted than it took the author to pull the information together to try and help you be informed. If you know someone maybe missed the correspondence, please share it. Attend meetings at the team or organization level. Sign up for alerts on the HMHA website - I recommend that you sign up for at least the alerts from the main organization page and the ones pertinent to the team you are attached to. You can do this on the bottom left corner of the website and choose to receive either a text or email alert that gives you the beginning part of the article where you can see if it pertains to you or not. Our website is the main source of information we provide as it is accessible to everyone. If you aren't familiar with it, take some time to see what is there and read it. If you think you may have missed an article off the front page, you can find all articles in the News Archive. Important dates, information (including Registration information), Development Options, AGM Date, Team Successes (i.e. if your team wins a tournament or has playoff success, you can submit a photo and/or article to me and I can post it on the website so we can all celebrate the success of that team), etc. can be found on the website. We are asked sometimes why we don't post information in the newspaper. We used to do this more frequently when people were more apt to all read the one local paper. Now, people get their news from multiple sources including printed newspapers, multiple online reporting groups, social media etc and it is very difficult to reach the majority of people in one venue. Advertising is very expensive and these funds come out of our registration fees we collect from families. We no longer can send information home for free with kids through the local schools either - there is a cost involved to send information via the online system now in place. We try hard to make sure we are spending money appropriately and attempt to be as frugal as we can, because the money we spend effects our registration rates - we attempt to keep registration as low as we can so as to keep our rates as affordable as we can. We are required to keep a website, which also has costs associated with it that we must pay for. We use this as our tool to get information out. Please take the time to read it if you wish to be informed. Additionally, if you are aware there are new people interested in joining HMHA please help to spread the word that information and contacts for questions can be found on our website. If you choose to just get your information from what someone told you that may not have the details correct, you run the risk of being misinformed - if you want to be properly informed, make sure you seek out the appropriate sources.
One way you can help us with our planning and programming is to register early. Every year registration information gets posted on our website around the beginning of June. We try to reward people who register early by giving them discounted registration fees. If you sign up for the hockey season and sign up for tryouts if your player intends to go out for a rep/ae team when it is first posted, this helps us greatly with our planning. It helps us to know how many teams we might have and how many may be at each level of Rep/AE/LL (so we know how many coaches and bench staff members we will need), we know how many jerseys/water bottles/equipment etc. we need, how much ice we need to speak for with the town. It is not a secret when registration happens - we start posting in June and give updates throughout the summer. All this information can be found on our website and if you have signed up for the main organization alerts, you won't miss it.
Please help us provide the best programming we can for all the kids enrolled in HMHA.
Please support our volunteers and don't be part of the reason we lose them.
Please volunteer your time at some level and help us keep these programs running.
Please model the behaviour we hope to encourage in our players both on and off the ice.
Please choose to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Come to the rink and enjoy watching your kids play the best sport on earth!
I am excited about the upcoming season. I hope that every player and team has a great experience and wants to come back next year!
See you at the rink!
Kelly Farnsworth - Huntsville Minor Hockey Association President/OMHA Contact
GO OTTERS GO!!