Sportsmanlike conduct

Hockey game raises questions about parent, player behavior

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Posters about sportsmanship are everywhere in Loudy-Simpson ice arena. The posters' messages are about parent and player behavior. Also on display and highlighted are codes of conduct for parents and players.

"Hockey is an intense sport that can escalate on the ice and in the stands," Craig Youth Hockey Association President Mike Boatright said. "Our sport recognizes the intensity that can happen, and we try to be as proactive as possible."

In November, the sportsmanship of the association's Bantam (middle school age) team was questioned. The Cougars were called for multiple penalties in a game against Vail in the Turkey Bowl Tournament.

The Vail team withdrew from a second game against Craig because, in the words of Vail parent Marty Lich, "it became apparent injury was the real game out there." Lich wrote a letter to the Craig Daily Press after the game.

Boatright was at the game, and he has since watched film of the game.

"I've read the letters, and I believe they were blown out of proportion," he said. "The officiating in that game was one of the most lopsided games I've seen. It takes a good hockey player not to retaliate, and neither side handled things well at the end of the match."

The Cougar players had a team meeting about the game the next week.

"We let things get to us, and we started to get mad at each other, at our coach and at the refs," Corey Wojtkiewicz said. "Our tempers got the best of us."

The player's code of conduct reads "Respect your coach, your teammates, your parents, opponents and officials."

Wojtkiewicz and Cole DuBois agreed that they didn't follow that conduct that day.

"We had bad attitudes, and it made the refs not like us," DuBois said.

Word about the team's conduct spread through the Western Slope hockey ranks. The bantams have since played Kremmling and Oak Creek.

"Both teams have asked us to take it easy on them," DuBois said.

Boatright was a referee during the Oak Creek games.

"Those were two of the cleanest games I've ever officiated," he said.

The bantam players said that, as a team, they've made a specific effort to not let another Turkey Bowl experience happen.

"It's a lot about respect, and it's a lot about controlling our temper," Wojtkiewicz said. "We're not a team to fear because we're going to beat our opponents up."

Boatright said his association makes many steps toward encouraging sportsmanship.

"A lot of it starts with the parents," he said. "You can see on the tape of the Vail game that parents on both sides weren't handling it well. We have our parents sign a code of conduct form."

The Colorado Amateur Hoc--k------ey Association requires at least one parent from a family with a youth hockey player to register on the (CAHAcares.com) Web site. A registered parent receives monthly e-mails on sportsmanship.

"Parents and players who do a good job adjust with the ways a game is called," Boatright said. "The Craig Youth Hockey Association does not harbor bad sportsmanship."

Problematic parents

Craig Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike had received so many calls and witnessed enough unsportsmanlike conduct from the sidelines of the city-run youth basketball league that he decided to try something different one Saturday.

"I had heard of several cities having days called 'Silent Saturday,'" he said. "It's where the only ones who can make noise are the players."

The concept didn't go over well.

"Parents didn't like that at all," he said. "We sent out surveys and a small percentage wanted to see it again."

Pike said that 90 percent of the problem he deals with in the Parks and Recreation leagues is poor sportsmanship.

"Sixty to 70 percent of that is from parents, 25 percent from coaches and 5 percent from the kids," he said. "And if it comes from kids, most of the time, they learned it from the sidelines."

In some of the leagues for the youngest athletes, Parks and Recreation officials encourage parents and coaches to not keep score.

"When they're first starting out, we try not to encourage a focus on winning and losing," Pike said. "But you know, you see parents on the sideline with a piece of paper and a pen."

Starting in 2006, parents will be required to sign a code of conduct when enrolling a child in a Parks and Recreation program.

"We have to have a way to hold parents accountable," he said. "I know it's easy to get caught up in a game, but it gets out of hand."

Pike said his coaches go through a seminar about sportsmanship before the season starts. He said he encourages coaches to respect officials, opponents and parents.

"Most of our referees are high school kids," he said. "When older people are yelling at the younger officials, they get flustered and that's when they really start to miss calls."

Pike encouraged parents who have a problem with the officiating to become one themselves.

"Most of the disrespect I see comes against the younger refs," he said. "I'm an official, and I still get yelled at, but adults respect adults on the field more than high school kids."

Everyone's responsibility

Moffat County High School Athletic Director Jim Loughran oversees the athletes and their parents after the Parks and Recreation years.

"Everybody has a responsibility for proper conduct," he said. "I've had to ask both parents and students to leave, but I think across the board, it's good here."

The rival games between Craig and Steamboat can become the most heated. In the fall, Loughran asked the student section to leave the stands during a football game and go to the track because they were blocking the view of parents.

He quickly realized that was a bad idea.

"The Steamboat kids left the stands, as well, and we had a bunch of kids on the track staring at each other," he said. "That was my fault."

Before the games between the two Yampa Valley rivals, school officials have had leaders from each school meet and talk.

"It's worked before because the kids realize they're not really that different from each other," he said.

At most games, Loughran, Principal Jane Krogman and Assistant Principal Thom Schnellinger patrol the sidelines.

"Jane encourages us to be there," Loughran said. "Our students are very receptive to us, and rarely do we have a problem after we first say something."

Loughran said he encourage his students to cheer only for the Bulldogs.

"If one of our students is talking specifically to the other team, that's when we step in," he said. "Our students pick up a lot of the stuff they do from the colleges on television. Most of what we see is good, healthy fun."

Loughran said that he thinks sportsmanship at the high school level starts with the coaches.

"Parents and players look to the coaches as examples," he said. "Moffat County has an exemplary set of coaches."

Although Loughran didn't see too many problems, he said it has been harder to keep officials around.

"Numbers of referees are going down, and I think some of that is because they are tired of putting up with the criticism," he said. "Officials don't like the way they're treated."

Every high school activities association monitors the sportsmanship across its state.

Last year, the Utah High School Activities Association handed out financial fines to schools for improper conduct.

"Utah might do it right," Loughran said. "Colorado may look into fining schools. I don't think we'll have to worry about it."

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