Rule Number One: It should be fun.
That was the underlying sentiment behind a newly developed Parent/Guardian and Spectator Code of Conduct recently approved by trustees of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. The document outlines expectations for spectators and parents of student-athletes regarding appropriate behaviours and conduct at school sporting events. The document is one of two codes developed by the board’s Sports Steering Committee to renew the Catholic spirit of sports among student-athletes, parents and spectators.
"Our philosophy has always been that athletics should be guided by the highest standards of good sportsmanship and fair play," says Chairperson Patrick J. Daly.
"This document ensures that all parents and spectators are aware of the real purpose of athletics in our Catholic schools."
Foremost on the list is that student-athletes participate to have fun and equally as important, that school sports are for youth, not adults.
"Sport has changed over the years and now parents need to be informed of the expectations placed on them," says Jos Nederveen, who co-chairs the Sports Steering Committee. "The focus of school sports is not them, it’s their kids."
The Parent and Spectator Code of Conduct outlines some of the behaviours that spectators and parents of student-athletes are expected to exhibit, demonstrate and model, he explains, such as showing respect for coaches and officials.
To ensure their compliance, parent-guardians are required to sign the document before their children can participate in a sports program. Similarly, student-athletes must sign a Student-Athlete Code of Conduct before they can join a team.
"By signing, it will help them to understand their individual responsibilities," says Nederveen, adding that the code is a huge step in reinforcing Catholic values in sport.
"Catholic school athletics have sustained a notable tradition of excellence and have consistently strived to maintain positive Catholic learning environments," says Superintendent of Education Mary Cipolla. She suggests that the Parent and Spectator Code of Conduct will encourage positive behaviours in adults that can only enhance the student-athlete’s sporting experience.
"Athletics should be seen as an extension of the classroom, meaning that behaviours by players, parents and spectators must support this atmosphere."
Earlier this year, the board organized a professional development session for its 700 teacher-coaches which looked at the culture of sports in Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic schools. A committee of coaches has since been struck to develop a guide outlining expectations of coaches that support the board’s "Extension of the Classroom" philosophy. The Sports Steering Committee is also developing a Student-Athlete and Parent/Guardian Code of Conduct for use in elementary schools. Other projects involved the posting of "Respectful Play Facility" signs in all school gymnasiums.
"There’s great interest in making sure everyone is onboard and on the same page," notes Nederveen.
Says Chairperson Daly, "This initiative comes at an important time and calls upon all of us to reflect very seriously on the value of sport and the huge impact sport and teacher-coaches can make to the Catholic school environment."
"Coaches," he adds, "are the most crucial people in this renewal process."