Guest Column - March 2006
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Remember, It’s Only a Game

Industry Viewpoint

By Jeff Rubin

It seems as though that you can't pick up a newspaper, watch the evening news or find an article on the Internet about some sort of rage-related incident that had recently occurred—whether it be in an ice rink; football, baseball or soccer field; basketball or tennis courts; highway or even in a school or private home.

These incidents are involving everyone from professional athletes all the way down to parents and even children. It crosses all ethnic lines and economic situations. Obviously the incidents range in severity, but they still are occurring. I have my theories on why they happen, but that isn't the intention of this article. I believe a book can be written on that topic alone.

From a sports perspective, there has been extensive work done by many organizations to get the word out about zero-tolerance and the guidelines for less-than-desirable behavior. There are posters you can place around your facility. Youth organizations hold meetings with parents and make them sign agreements of "good behavior."

This is great, but it isn't enough. I am discouraged with the process of how the message is sent out and who is in the middle when an incident should occur. The ice industry is unique in the respect that there is always a worker in the facility while games and even practices are going on. It seems the rink worker is often the one trying to restore order, or while trying to restore order, ends up as the other half of the disturbance. Where are those people who OK'd the posters to be printed and distributed when you need them?

I would love to see a representative from the organization conducting the practice or game at every event for all sports, from football and tennis to hockey and swimming, from individual practices and scrimmage games to scheduled games and tournaments. I don't live in a closet, so I know this is next to impossible.

So how do we help the situation, you ask? I'm not exactly sure. I run a skating facility—I'm no sports psychologist or a Dr. Phil. I don't have the desire to make you think I know all the answers, either. But I do know that whenever there is an important message to be delivered, it gets mass marketing. I am referring to campaigns such as "Don't Drink and Drive" or "Click it or Ticket." We see it on a daily basis for products like Coke and Pepsi. Why not for appropriate behavior?

Different campaigns may have different messages, but all have a common thread running through them: mass marketing. I like to think of it as "in-your-face" marketing.

In my facility, part of my in-your-face campaign was to post a parents' and spectators' code of conduct in a prominent spot in the facility as they enter. For the players, I posted a players' code of conduct in each locker room and an officials' code of conduct in the officials' room.

Does it work? I don't know. If it makes people talk about it, then maybe they will think about their own actions more and maybe think twice about acting out. Do they look at it once and never look at it again? If they don't ever look at it again, I don't care. Why? Because they have read it once out of curiosity and will remember they have seen it. They may say to another parent, "Hey, did you see that sign in the rink?" Or they may tell their friends or relatives about the sign. Whether they like the idea or not, they have read it and are talking about it. It's been in their faces.