Play. Inspire. Unite.
When it comes to doing what’s best for their athletes and families, the Durham Region Soccer Association (DRSA) is currently leading the way.
The DRSA recently certified over 7,000 parents in the Respect in Sport – Parent Program. Considering there are only 8,149 parents certified in the province, it’s clear that Durham is well out in front on this issue.
Patty Forbes, Executive Director with the DRSA, is proud of the work her district has done.
“Our premise was that our priority are the kids that play the sport and we need them to be safe and we need advocates for them at the field and that’s you, the parent,” Forbes said. “We aren’t asking you to advocate for your own child as a parent, because you will. We are asking you to advocate for other kids because that’s the gap. Not everyone has the luxury to go to the games with them so they are at risk by being by themselves. That’s how we kind of put it out there.”
The Respect in Sport Parent Program is a one-hour online module for parents and guardians, reinforcing their role in their child’s activities, encouraging positive sport behaviors, and providing insight into the various roles other individuals play, such as coaches and officials.
This program empowers parents to ensure the safety of their children, encourage positive and effective communication, and to enhance a child's overall enjoyment of soccer.
The online course costs $12 and is transferable to other sports involved in Respect in Sport.
Mark Allen, the Ontario Director for Respect in Sport, knows that this isn’t just about education that it is about building a better sport culture.
“The whole idea of Respect in Sport, whether it be the activity leader program, which is use by coaches and officials, or the parent program, is to just help to create a culture within the game so that all the adults are on the same page,” Allen said. “It’s the adults that make it happen for the kids, so if all the adults can be on the same page surrounding this kind of thing, keeping kids engaged and safe, then everyone benefits.
“Not only are kids leaving sport, but so are volunteers and coaches because they are just throwing up their hands. The whole premise of Respect for Sport is taking the culture of the sport and keep it positive and engaging for everyone involved.”
Allen praised the work DRSA is doing and their leadership.
“They’ve just been awesome to deal with. You know implementing this program is all about leadership. It takes people being willing to take a chance and Durham have shown outstanding leadership,” Allen said.
Forbes admits that despite their success, it has been challenging, at times, convincing parents that this is in their best interest and the best interest of their child.
“We do have some parents that just say, ‘yeah it's been a long time coming. And it's important that we do understand that kids are at risk.’ Then there's the ones who say ‘how dare you?’ and ‘we aren't talking about that.’” Forbes said. “We're just asking them to take care of the children. Then we have to be ready with our responses. That response is usually ‘you know this isn't about you, it's about the children’ and it gets the ball rolling again.”
Ontario Soccer is encouraging all districts, clubs and academies to take up the cause in their region.
“7,000 is a lot of people, but across Canada we’ve trained close to 400,000 parents to be certified in this program such in gymnastics, hockey etc. The program is growing very quickly and one of the things we are finding now, say for example in hockey, is that parents will be in hockey and their child will be involved in another sport and the parent program wont exist and then the parents go to the organizers and say ‘what’s going on here, why don’t you this program here?’” Allen said.