My son plays in a Saturday soccer league for fun. It is not a club or travel league, it is really just to play the game. The arena has the players on a surface below and the stands for viewing are above the field. A few weeks ago, an adult was perched over a railing hurling insults at the referee. It was incessant and unwarranted. At one point the on-looker said, "Where's the whistle?" The ref didn't look up, just raised his whistle in his hand and said, "Right here." You would think the heckling would have stopped. It didn't.
A few days later on Facebook, I came across a picture taken of a sign that had instructions on behavior for the on-lookers at a hockey rink. The photo didn't have a location, but it does now. The Hoffman Estates Park District Ice Rink has the sign that has gone viral. The man behind the sign is Jeff Doschadis, General Manager of Ice Operations. Here is what the blue sign with white lettering says:
1. These are kids.
2. This is a game.
3. Parents should cheer for everyone.
4. The referees are human.
5. You and your child do not play for the Blackhawks.
If you don't understand this, please contact the ice dept. at (847) 781-3632. We would be happy to explain it to you.
Jeff doesn’t take credit for the origins of this sign, he saw it at another venue, but his sign has caught the attention across the United States and in other countries.
The Hoffman Estates Park District has an anti-bullying campaign and this is an extension of their policy. The sign was put up in September when there was a tournament with teams in the U.S.A. and Europe playing at the arena.
However, last month pictures and news about this sign spread. There wasn’t anything out of the “norm” happening in Hoffman Estates.
“As a Park District, we have seen our share of things happening involving kids, parents and referees, not just hockey, baseball, soccer any youth sports,” Jeff said. “It happens thoughout Chicagoland, the nation and worldwide.”
This sign must have resonated with other parents and leagues. They have contacted Doschadis throughout the US, Vancouver, Winnipeg, even London and New Zealand. Some want to copy the sign for their own use.
When I asked Jeff if this is a bit sad, that a sign has to point out the obvious in youth sports participation, he didn’t think so and added, “Anything that can bring pause, make someone think about is not a bad thing.”
Right now it is located at the two entrances to the ice rink. One line reminds everyone the kids are not the Blackhawks. In fact, the NHL has sent this information about the sign to all their teams, since they sponsor youth leagues. Jeff has received gratitude from officials of the Illinois Youth Hockey League, mainly for sticking up for the referees. Doschadis pointed out that most of the refs are just kids themselves, ranging from 14-16 years old. They have a lot to deal with officiating a game, let alone a belligerent parent or player.
It was compelling to me that Jeff would post the phone number, just in case someone doesn’t get it. You know people know it is wrong, but this was putting a contact number to almost challenge the reader. There has not been one negative response, everyone knows what they are supposed to do—they sign is an effective reminder. When spring arrives, Jeff will post signs at the other park districts sporting locations,
“Anything that would allow a parent, kid, official a moment of clarity at a youth (and high school) event and remember why they are there,” he said.