It is with most certainty that in the year 2013 the majority of us have, at one time or another searched our own name online. But when my nine year old daughter searches the name of her current Minor Hockey Team the results are disturbing and truly unthinkable. Minor Hockey Chat Forums filled with the most reprehensible comments and criticisms about female hockey players as young as six and seven, all left by parents and almost all of them Anonymous.
Everything seems to be fair game from Cities, Associations, and Coaching to Parents and most disturbingly Child Players. Seemingly random comments are left criticizing players’ ability and body type to Coaches’ morality and ethics. Each comment more destructive than the previous, and all of it undermining the true spirit of girls and women in sport.
It is increasingly easy to set up sites like this, and most times it is done with the purest of intentions, but the overall effect this can have on the fragile developing mind of an adolescent female is discouraging at the very least. Policing them is very difficult as we well know due to the volume of questionable and inappropriate content scattered on sites from all over the world. Yet human decency and moral integrity seem to have long passed the parents who willingly choose to participate.
One would assume that the majority, if not all, of the people posting to these sites have children and players of their own and would more than likely be outraged if the conversation was about them and theirs. So how do we curb and even abolish such destructive avenues of expression and discussion?
The most challenging part to deal with is also the first place to start when trying to dissuade people from speaking with impunity, and that is to remove the ability to remain Anonymous. The written word is such a powerful tool that has both created and torn apart Nations, but when you knowingly remove your name from them you increase the probability of malicious intent. It is not unlike using a disguise to commit a crime.
In reality these types of intolerable comments are very much a form of Cyber bullying, its impact can be, and very much are an injustice to the heartfelt dedication that these small athletes have towards the Game that they play. Volunteers spend countless hours teaching and moulding the young minds that only wish to be part of something. What right does someone have to criticize those who give their time and effort to the future of our children?
If the same time and effort was used by these ignorant parents to encourage their children, to develop their children, or even just to appreciate their desire, the world would be a much more tolerant place. But that is not the case and the degradation of the venomous filth continues to be spewed forth by the moving fingers of hidden authors.
Being part of girl’s hockey for the last five years has given me such a deep appreciation not only for what they can accomplish, but also for the trials and tribulations that female athletes must overcome just for the ability to play. Yes there are conversations that need to take place, they need to be open and honest but the speakers need to be visible in order to make it relevant. Female athletes need to work longer and harder for less respect than their male counterparts, but they are driven to do so and will succeed on heart alone.
If there is something of true value you wish to reveal, then stand up and let us hear you and see you, don’t cower behind an Anonymous moniker. I strongly believe in putting my name on every thought I type, every carefully constructed sentence. I have spent so much time and effort into helping build young girls into mentally strong and physically fit, creative and thoughtful members of our society. They will grow up to be leaders, and valuable members of our global society despite the hate you try to shower them with. If you do not understand the full power of hate literature or impact of derogatory statements please unplug your computer, and stay away from the rink.
The next time you are at a youth event and you see a girl who struggles to skate, and you feel like she doesn’t belong, just remember those who can, Coach and those who can’t, Criticize. But just in case you fail to comprehend human civility, there will be more like me who will not stop working to give every young athlete the opportunity to become who they are, and what they are is already better than you.