May 21, 2024

Panel Discussion on Sport Culture Issues - The Transition Game



Published June 12, 2023, 7:20 p.m. by Jerald Waisoki


Panel featuring Paul Carson (VP Hockey Development, Hockey Canada), Wayne McNeil (Co-Founder of the Respect Group), Dr. Laura Misener (Director, School of Kinesiology , Western University), and Scott McCain (CEO of St. John Sea Dogs, QMJHL)

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dear so I'm not person well okay let me

just start with that I have to decide

which had him work whether I'm heading

wearing the head of the CFL owner or a

business leader or a person involved in

the foundation or whatever because I

think it depends on what perspective

you're answering that question I think

winning like you can say what you want

winning in anything whether it be in

sport or in business or in politics

winning is very important I know in the

CHL we talked a lot about it having a

winning culture and I've had this

discussion with a few people here today

I think the goal has to be winning but

just as importantly is the process of

how you get there there's ways of

winning and there's ways to do it

properly we want a Memorial Cup and I

was telling somebody back in things

after the day after we'd won it I said

what the hell's this all about this is

it's all over now and so we'd won it and

I really realized it wasn't necessarily

about the winning the cup it was the

journey that we took to get there so I

guess the my message is is that winning

is important and just for parents it is

for coaches mm-hmm certainly not winning

at all cost but it depends on what level

you're at and where you're at so well

Paul it at Hockey Canada I mean you kind

of have to find that sweet spot between

the high performance and the

recreational so participant yeah the

sweet spots down the hall from me to the

the the high performance group that is

their focus at the OP end of our game

certainly the women's and the men's

national team programs that's that's a

critical piece of our success as a

national sport organization but we have

to we take that high-performance model

and we blend it into the development

model and allow for the principles of

being the best you can be at every

opportunity to be the guiding principles

of our programming so I agree with Scott

winning is important and results are

important but process is the critical

piece so we don't want to compromise

development through a model that focuses

on winning we want to focus on

development and know that it's a win win

in the end if we don't win the

championship in this case but we've done

everything to create what I call the

gold medal pathway then we've put our

athletes in a position to succeed if if

they don't step up to the top podium at

least we didn't fail them in their

efforts to improve as athletes when

maybe you want to tell me a little bit

about your organization and its view of

this winning verses development I was

just going to agree with Paul okay shout

out to Table seven we're very proud of

the discussions we've had a table so I

promise to bring them into this

conversation but so respect in sport I

know many of you know what it's all

about here in the room it happened quite

innocently with a guy with a name is

Sheldon Kennedy who would normally be

here right now but he's under serious

physiotherapy because he just won battle

the blades at the age of 50 normally

he'd be up on this chair and not me

but it it started with his story which

was a very unfortunate story back in

1996 we became best friends back then I

was involved in gymnastics you can tell

by my stature I'm not a hockey player

but the same things happen in every

sport right and it's not just the ugly

stuff that happens Sheldon Kennedy it's

it's the emotional maltreatment it's the

physical abuse that's happening I can go

into a lot of gymnasiums here in Canada

today and see ugly stuff going on that's

doing nothing to build self-esteem so

our original goal was to try and educate

every coach in the country using online

learning which back in 2004 was a very

foreign concept and people weren't

buying into it fast forward to today

we've educated 1.3 million people on

these issues and I'm pleased and proud

to say that half of those are parents

who would have thought 10 years ago that

we'd have a program to educate parents

our table talked about trying to do more

there's tons more that we can do but I

also think we're sitting in a room of

people that have put their lives into

something that's meaningful and we

shouldn't throw it all out I think it's

important to realize we've done some

great things I work at the international

level with the IOC and I can tell you

Canada is so far ahead in terms of

thinking about self-esteem mental health

etc right as much as we want to do

better

there's great opportunities but let's my

message would be let's leverage the

great stuff we've done throw the stuff

that's not working and and keep making

it better for our young people they're

involved it's work

Lauren you're nodding your head well I

was just thinking you know we're doing

some really great things in Canada for

sure from respected in sport perspective

well what I'm gonna comment on the

winning piece a little bit because

that's why I always bring academic and

always the last one on to talk on a

panel cuz we're gonna have the

opportunity pinion we don't seem to be

able to get her over the focus of

winning right and if we put winning

first in our discussions that we're

never gonna get to where we want to to

change the culture of what we're

supposed to be about which is about

building good human beings and so well

it's it's easy to say winning matters we

all know that success being successful

human beings actually matters more the

winning stuff comes after and until we

actually can change our own language and

our own thinking around what that means

to be successful and not always saying

well we need eyes what we're gonna be a

good people to get to that and if they

don't it's okay it's okay to it doesn't

work we actually need to stop focusing

on that winning piece and talk about

building successful human beings in

sport and there are lots of models in a

number of different sports and a number

of human cultures that we can draw upon

those things from but we have to be

ready to make that change this kind of

the next question really dovetails all

for that you know how do we prepare

educate and coaches clubs parents on

youth development to help them succeed

in developing young hockey players is it

I don't know from my perspective all

about education well why don't we get

back to the question of culture because

I think isn't that isn't that everything

this morning we're talking book and I

think you know whatever whether you're

in business or sport or you're in

academics where the culture is really

important and I would argue a winning

culture because if you have a losing

culture that's not a good start but just

the culture self and I and I would say

that culture starts from the top you

need really strong leadership from the

top of the organization in this case the

g8 o G th out and the second point I

would make is it it's gonna require a

lot of change and

you can't do things the way you've done

in the past to get the changes you need

to get this league back on the track

where you want it to be to develop

humans first particular I think in the

younger age is that what you're saying

is important I agree I would argue what

I'm going to wear my steel hat when I

walked the pedway and I walk around

saying oh no we've lost five in a row

and then look at me and they say well

first of all you're gonna fire the GM

because he's not from here he's in

paronto number two did you say we fired

the coach because he wasn't a head coach

and I've been left and I just say well

why don't we for the order we'll move

the team and solve everything

but at the end of the day you know

winning is important when you're at the

higher levels the elites when you're

talking to the league high performance

winning is very important it's because

but is it important at the youth club no

I think of the GTH I love it I think I

agree with your points in terms of you

have to foster an atmosphere of

inclusiveness a diversity which is a

huge thing for companies and for sport

today this whole diversity inclusion

thing is a real hot button for leaders

in business I can assure you and it

should be in sport so I think with the

inclusiveness the diversity that you can

create if you change things and

particularly at the lower level and it

might even start with kids in the age 3

to 6 which is my family foundation is

very active in in the early childhood

education starts there there's play base

development to get people active and

youth that's where it starts it's

interesting cuz I do a lot of work on

diversity and inclusion in sport

organizations and there's a lot of talk

right now about having diversity and

inclusive sport organizations but in

fact sport by its very nature in the way

we setup is exclusive right we we tear

people we we choose we select from the

start and until we get rid of the nature

of that we're actually not going to ever

create a really diverse inclusive

environment because we've already said

you have to have this business and you

don't sorry go elsewhere so we really

have to get into basics a base level of

what we mean about inclusive

environments are we do we really need

that and and I'd like to see if we

have a conversation if you're really

willing to interesting an interest in

making change if people are interested

in diverse and inclusive environments or

if that's just a framework to talk about

we want to increase some diversity we

want to have some more people playing

that's a different conversation Paul can

you imagine the reaction if you told you

know some of the leagues across Canada

okay either way we're not gonna have

single double triple a until after the

age of 12

some people would I think lose their

mind Frank what did I just say to you

what do we stop doing we stop tearing

and we stopped playing for trophies and

so at that level I mean like like let's

let's be honest Steve Norris and Tom

Fairy come up and they talk and people

listen and say wow they're fantastic

champions if we can get them into our

neck of the woods wouldn't that be a

great thing well they will support other

champions with the resources and the

information they're willing to provide

other champions to get into communities

and provide that same messaging I I was

in New Brunswick not too long ago

talking to a group of 300 people and I

said okay number one how do we measure

the success of a minor hockey coach

winning just came back is so hard and I

said well here's a test for you when you

have a youngster get in the car after an

atom hockey game you can ask them five

questions about the game you can't ask

whether they won or lost

you can't ask whether or not they scored

a goal or have an assist

now go do it and people are stumped and

you have to say well you ask things like

number one would did you have fun thanks

Frank number two did you enjoy being

with your friends number three are you

looking forward to going back to the

rink tomorrow you might even ask hey how

would you evaluate your coach tonight

like those things that are like we need

to champion the the cause of making

change and that means providing fueling

coaches and minor hockey associations

with the tools that will equip them to

deliver that information and we have

great by the way we have great support

partners I mean if you look at the

Declaration of Principles in the amount

of work that went in at a very top level

and then percolate it down and I know

we're gonna hear from Kim Davis so I

want to steal anybody's thunder but like

when you look at what the NHL has done

with their partners and how they

continue to support like Rob knez Erick

is here we've been working with the NHL

on the amalgamation of the first shift

and they learn to play programs like

there are things happening on a

partnership level that are critical the

respective sport partnership with sport

across Canada critical so as long as we

continue to work together and create the

positive messaging that we heard from

Tom and Scot this morning we know that

we can get people equipped and into

rooms to talk about why that's important

we were you as shocked as me when when

Tom put up that slide saying that

winning was number 48 on the list

women 80 kids what was it pretty sick

okay I wasn't shocked at all yeah that's

the world we're in it really is and if

you really look at it it's about self

esteem it's a very fundamental thing if

a kid leaves today with a positive

self-esteem there's a good chance

they're gonna come back tomorrow wanting

to play again if they leave feeling they

sucked based on conversations with their

peers their coach their parents how they

not want to come back to that today

right so our fundamental is really let's

build self-esteem in the put the athlete

first it's easy for me to say because I

don't have to justify winning we're all

about education and providing people in

this room with the foundations to make

their athletes and their young people's

experience a positive one so I have to

deal too much with owain like tell me

about winning but I can tell you this

I've been around long enough to know

with my own son son's experience in

gymnastics

and with a very good friend of Mines

experience in gymnastics Kyle shufelt

Kyle supa won a gold medal for Canada

first male in the history of Canadian

sport in gymnastics to win a medal at

the Olympics and I know he had the most

self esteem focused coach that I've ever

met didn't tell Kyle to go out and win a

gold medal he told Kyle go out you've

hit that routine umpteen times in the

gym go have some fun and give her and he

did he did and I think Kyle was very

motivated to win a gold medal but a lot

of that comes inside from the athletes

themselves where they know it they're at

that level but we got to get him to that

level and then the coaching becomes

almost inconsequential in my opinion the

audience wanted to know a lot of the

questions were surrounding affordability

in hockey how much of an issue that is

what do we do anybody sure well we might

as well start with where we just

finished which is if we're creating a

system that's more inclusive that's more

convenient and accessible the price

comes down what a surprise now I'm not

driving across town we did a study in

Alberta and people were spending like

five thousand dollars a year on gas

alone to get ruin from their child

that's one child's hockey experiences

around the province so the the economic

model is driven by the competitive model

so change the competitive model change

the economic model anyone else have

thoughts about affordability issue I

think you're right yeah you've got if

you change the structure then you'll

deal with some of the economic issues

associated with it but I think the other

thing is you have to go beyond just the

structure of the hearing and thinking

about the things that we've been talking

about this morning around multi sports

and physical literacy because the

assumptions are I mean I put it out

there I'm not a hockey person my kids

don't play hockey and because I don't

want them in a year-round sport either

at this age I don't want them going on

the ice

thinking you have to do that this time

and because we're all there's the cycle

that's become such an important part of

what it's about you know what I'd really

like to see and I've been thinking about

this all morning trying to figure out

you know what where does the GT shall

make a real impact this organization has

such massive cultural capital and

probably one of the big things that you

all find is that the kids you cut to

come in have no physical literacy right

they're not getting physical education

in schools they're not active in general

so what about instead of focusing so

much on the hockey piece you actually

focus on the physical literacy piece and

be the champion to stay the education

system and everywhere else make sure our

kids are active and then they healthy

and then the chances are you going to

get good people into your organizations

and that's a reality you're not getting

the people you want in because they

can't move properly in the

starting-point so be the champion to

make that happen so I think I think

Laura sorry but you know I think

interesting thing is there's there is

this tug of war between multi-sport and

early sports specialization people will

say well you know if we specialize early

we give our chance our kids a better

chance to succeed in the sport so really

the system doesn't allow time for them

to be in a multi-sport environment well

that's the point get away from the early

sports specialization and create

opportunities for children to be in more

sport environments and be exposed to

more sport leaders and I think part of

that comes with partnerships if if you

look at and Tom Rennie will be here

tomorrow he's done one-on-ones with Dave

Dickenson from the Calgary Stampeders

with Jason DeVos from soccer Canada and

if you look at the messaging behind that

it's why is it important to be positive

sport partners with other major sports

in the country because we all care about

attracting kids to sport and I said

sport

I didn't say hockey and that's the

important piece from there that sport

sampling gives kids an opportunity to

build on physical literacy and to have

opportunities to be successful young

athletes before they're successful young

hockey players soccer players or

football players dave dickenson in his

interview said hey I didn't even think I

was gonna play football professionally

until I got a scholarship in great

he said I was definitely on the pathway

of basketball multi-sport athlete in a

high school setting on the question of

costate and I hear where you're coming

to travel travel is a big cost it is but

hockey the sport of hockey is a

structural impediments time ice time as

expensive as you know hockey gear you

know when you're playing soccer you need

a pair of cleats and hockey it's a full

meal deal you know it's a very expensive

sport to play and there's not a lot you

can change I want to make a point on the

parenting because we've got some parents

here I think some of the biggest

challenges we have in the sport of

hockey today are just the parents mm-hmm

we don't talk enough a lot about that I

mean parents expectations of their kids

parents when they direct or they're

thinking behind widow most of the

coaching problems it's their parents

some of the biggest challenge we have in

Major Junior Hockey is dealing with

parents if you can believe it they put

so much pressure on these kids

it's almost crazy to the point where

we've had to tell parents you can't even

come into our building you can't believe

that that's how bad it is and I look I

see I shake my head because I know the

percentage of these kids are gonna make

a career in hockey is like nothing and

yet you are putting this much pressure

on your kids and and it's probably

starts right now when they were three or

four or five years old so it goes back

to my comments on the change three to

six you develop those social skills in

those early years your brain develops in

those early years that's where it's

important to develop this whole notion

to play social and interaction all of

these things going to develop earlier

and they can carry through and parents

play a big part of that how do you think

we bridge the gap another question

people had between traditional and

non-traditional hockey families how do

we get more non-traditional families in

in the hockey mix well we're passing on

this wedding

you just ate you I'm weird cuz we're

basically we're talking about culture

and changing the entire culture of a

sport that has such cultural

embeddedness

that I'm struggling with that question

because I don't see that hockey in and

of itself is like

to change that cultural embeddedness I

mean the fact that we just said too

expensive because we have all this

equipment and that's mandatory for it

which says to me not willing to go to

the point of saying maybe kids don't

actually need all that stuff what a pair

of skates on maybe there's other things

that we could do to build the physical

literacy at that age that they don't

need all that equipment but as a parent

you're there and you're you know you

let's say you want your kid to be in

double-a hockey you see all the other

parents and they're doing this decision

I got to do that too because otherwise

he'll miss the boat and it's very

difficult and as a parent of two young

kids there's other parents who are were

saying to me and I was telling someone

this earlier I'm not bad parent who

doesn't sit and watch my kid play or do

what they're doing what you don't want

you don't sit and watch the entire time

why would I sit and watch them they're

there they're doing their sport they're

doing their thing I'll go do my thing

I'll come back to pick them up the same

way as I do as I'm dropping off at

school they're at school they don't go

and sit and watch them in the classroom

are you getting your EAD you do well so

don't change this culture that we have

now that that it is and somebody said it

earlier about adult entertainment yeah

Laura I used the expression they don't

put plexiglass at the back of the

classroom because nobody comes to watch

exactly exactly you know and that's

that's that's one of the challenge that

sir I wrote down a few notes around you

know this goes back a few years ago Rob

knez Rick and I were meeting we were

talking about the Bauer research that

was done number years ago mostly Nova

Scotia in Ontario and the perception

from non-traditional hockey families was

it was too expensive it didn't look like

it was fun there was an element of

safety and concern for their children

and the convenience factor so what what

we need to do and this gets back to your

point about if we don't change the

tradition of hockey and we don't make

changes to the culture of how the game

is played then we're not going to see

changes occur so I use the example I

love rugby I love I love 15 on 15 hey

that's a great game to watch but you

know what I really love

seven-on-seven it's a running game a lot

less contact open field and I and I love

the fact that a sport makes a change

just like that and they build a new

sport and that's why extreme sports are

so popular with kids because they go out

and invent I mean where did snowboarding

come from it came from skateboarding why

because millions of kids were on

skateboards hey let's take him to a ski

hill hmm can I get my skateboard on the

ski hill like you think about the way

kids innovate and so I I agree with you

like if we look at breaking down those

models so if you go back to the NHL

learn to play model the first shift

model if you go back to the idea that

parents could have the same time same

place same day every week and you could

have equipment provided and you could

have instructors carrying more of them

making sure they had fun and we're

learning skills what a great entry level

now from there and Rob and I talk about

this all the time we don't want to then

thrust them across the Grand Canyon and

say okay you're ready for the minor

hockey system because no you're not the

minor hockey systems got to come to

their side of the canyon and say okay

what do we need to do to make those

adjustments so when I talked to

community programs that are offering

their programming in a set of three or

four buildings or maybe even one

building and making it more convenient

for parents it's this is not about kids

getting scholarships playing on the

women's national team or going on to a

pro career this is about kids leading

active healthy lives in sport one of the

comments I think I mean our time is

running low and I just like to say this

I think you know you're one of the part

of the challenges is you have to

recognize you have a problem I think

people in this room recognize it was a

problem I think but in the business

world we call it a burning platform and

I think you're at a burning platform

stage and unfortunately when you get

into these situations you have to change

how you do things to your point I think

on all fronts how you approached kids

coming in what level are at whether they

started at 12 in terms like that's all

part of the change and I would urge you

in the GTA shell

because I'm too old for that now but at

the end of the day there's there's gonna

be some casualties and that there's

gonna be people who just can't change

it's just the way it is I mean in the

business world you know it's like we're

changing the buses are going down the

track and if you're not gonna prepare to

changing it off the boat and we talked

we talked about that all the time

you have to have people in your

organization that are willing to accept

and deal with change and if you don't

have those people there then they're not

the right place they should move on

it's one of the best books of business

is good - great getting the right people

on the bus and the wrong people off the

bus and I say that only because there's

so many embedded thinks things in the

GHL that have past practices it you just

don't want to do differently I'm sorry

but it won't work long-term unless you

unless you take that approach at least

in the world I live in cycle head

did I mention Table seven earlier yes

you did Table seven we had a really good

discussion about alternatives to ice

hockey and equipment and that is getting

the sport of hockey ball hockey floor

hockey into the school system I heard

that that was challenging that saddens

me greatly because that should be a

phenomenal sport in the school system

and maybe it takes a little bit of

lobbying leveraging whatever it is to

expand the sport kind of like your point

Paul with snowboarding right think

outside of the box let's expose the

greatness of that sport inside where

it's cheap how many extra gyms and empty

gyms are there as we sit here right now

in Toronto where kids are planned so to

me that's enough that's an opportunity

is the education system of a tough

system to work with absolutely but I

think there's enough parents involved in

the education system that value physical

activity there might be some avenues and

that's just one example but we had that

chatted eight seven radical changes like

you're talking about I would imagine

it's gonna be a tough sell as you

mentioned the mountain communities right

some aspects parents maybe other

organizations is it kind of like global

warming okay we're doing our bit here in

Canada but what about the rest of the

world so we're not really making impact

this is the largest hockey league in

Canada but you know with it's still only

this area and then you know if everyone

else doesn't make the same changes how

does that affect us and our players and

it's complicated you know if you if you

look at once again first speaker said

I'm also a big believer in looking at

what's best practice and if the best

practice first youth sport engagement

whatever is in Norway then let's get a

bunch of people over to Norway and

figure it out if it's in Germany if you

look in the in the in the World Juniors

for example what's your film well look

at the teams that are coming up through

the Swiss the Swiss are moving lengths

they're moving at light speed what are

they doing that's so good develop talent

and and norway's been talked about but

there's other piece of people around the

world that are doing well why would just

take best practice and see how you could

use it in the GTL final thoughts line

I mean I think it's it's a time that

needs to happen there's things that need

to happen and you need to figure out

whether there actually is an appetite

and a readiness for this change and not

be scared to be that first mover in this

space I mean what an amazing thing to be

able to say 10 years from now did you

cheat y'all did this and is the leader

globally in developing kids who also

play hockey and that would be such an

amazing thing so you know you're gonna

have to do some weeding out and thinking

about those people who don't want to

make those changes and move that agenda

forward and it's gonna be difficult but

good luck waiting pong final thoughts

well I think hockey is really it is our

identity right in this country so I

think it's up to hockey to try and

figure this out on behalf of all sport I

haven't seen this type of room and

enthusiasm and leadership from other

sports so I think you're on the right

path and I think you know hockey could

very well be the best practice if we do

it right for the rest of the country

because we it's about keeping our kids

involved in sport period the options to

that are not good they're not healthy so

if we continue to be leaders through

hockey then then I think

that's a very exciting commentary and

this room is kind of the beginning of

that yeah I see myself as a sport

advocate so I I think it's important to

them applaud all sports knowing that

they all recognize the need to draw

youngsters into sports so those

partnerships are valuable to to me

they're valuable to hockey so I think

it's it's always important to recognize

that I think you create those

relationships and partnerships and

sometimes even come up with innovative

strategies to have you know hockey and

soccer working together or hockey and

baseball or hockey and golf or golf and

baseball it doesn't matter sport needs

to work together collectively the second

thing is I mentioned earlier about

creating champions we're spending a lot

of time on player pathways and people

know all about player pathways because

we had the cross ice issue we have the

hot ice issue so as we introduce what is

right for children at their age based on

great information from Steve this

morning recognize that we need champions

of those player pathways because there's

more to come

what should we be doing at the Adam age

level what should we be doing at the pH

level banham and to keep kids in

sport and to make sure that they have a

meaningful experience Oh Wayne Scott

Laura thank you very much we really

appreciate you coming here and enjoy

turning the bottle stirring the pot a

little bit more thank you

[Applause]

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