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Shame on U8 hockey parents for their behavior at tournament

Last weekend (March 1-2) was a great time for U8 girl's hockey in Fargo. Girls from all over North Dakota and Minnesota were here to play a tournament to cap off the end of a season for most of these young players. It was impressive to see so man...

Last weekend (March 1-2) was a great time for U8 girl's hockey in Fargo. Girls from all over North Dakota and Minnesota were here to play a tournament to cap off the end of a season for most of these young players. It was impressive to see so many young girls taking a chance on such a great sport. Parents were excited and encouraged their young children.

On March 2, the U8 Grand Forks, N.D., team was playing for the championship. I was particularly pleased to have my young eighth-grade daughter as one of the referees for that game. She is only in her first year of officiating, and this was the biggest game she has worked. My daughter has been playing girls hockey for more than six years and we have only seen one or two female referees that whole time. I thought this was a great opportunity for the young U8 players to see an older girl in a role traditionally held by males. I was terribly disappointed by the events that took place.

I was coaching a Mite team on the adjacent sheet of ice for a consolation championship game when a scheduling mix-up resulted in no referees showing up for our game. The rink manager asked one of the referees from the U8 game to help out our game, leaving one referee per side. Not an optimal situation, but these games were for second- and third-grade kids; we could all make do for the good of the sport.

Being the only referee, inexperienced and a young person, my daughter was hesitant to blow the whistle or call a penalty at the game. That is when the ugly side of the parents came out. Several of the Grand Forks parents were abusive, yelling and screaming at my daughter's lack of officiating skills. The rink could hear it, the teams certainly heard it, coaches heard it and trust me, parents, my young 13-year-old daughter heard it. She didn't tell me about what happened, teenagers won't do that, but several people have told me how aggressive and abusive several of the parents were. I was taken aback when I heard this.

I lived in Grand Forks, love the town and know many people there. I have coached both girls and boys hockey for several years and know how things can get. But at the younger levels, things are typically calmer than with the traveling older-age teams. I expected better, especially after the parents of the Grand Forks team felt their kids were treated poorly by another team on the ice the day before and complained about it.

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Yes, she does need to get better and learn how to officiate, but those skills take time. Here was a girl acting as a role model for other young hockey players, but what lesson(s) did the parents teach their daughters? Don't become a referee? Don't make a mistake? Girls shouldn't do these kinds of jobs? My parents are out of control? Are they learning that it is OK to yell at superiors? Lots of lessons, none of them good.

I am not asking for apologies, but instead, please think about what you are doing to the young people who we need to play games. I've had to learn this lesson as a coach and a parent. Driving young officials out of the game is not a good thing. Let them learn, just like the young players do. Teach your children respect even if you aren't happy with how things go. We want these young girls to love the sport and stay in it.

By the way, the Grand Forks team won.

Provost lives in Fargo.

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