Parents of young hockey players are questioning rules laid down by a Toronto league that prohibits coaches from touching team members in any way — not even a congratulatory pat on the helmet.
The rules were listed in a recent email from John Reynolds, the executive vice-president of the Leaside Hockey Association, which was directed at the coaches of girls' teams of various ages.
'You can touch someone on the shoulder without having any negative intent.' — Dinesh Wijesinha, hockey dad
The Feb. 1 email says there should be no contact under any circumstances between coaches and players, and specifically refers to putting hands on shoulders, slapping butts and taps on helmets.
"This can make some of the girls uncomfortable and you won’t know which ones, so no contact period," reads the email.
Coaches were also reminded not to communicate with players via social media and of the rules regarding adults in the change rooms.
Rules follow complaint against coach
The email was sent out in response to a complaint against one of the volunteer coaches in the organization.
But some parents say the rules are too strict.
"It's all about intent," said Dinesh Wijesinha, whose daughter plays in the Leaside league. "You can touch someone on the shoulder without having any negative intent."
Sports psychologist Kate Hays said appropriate physical touching in hockey can be beneficial for children.
"It says, 'I'm paying attention to you, you've done a good job, I know you are really engaged, you are important to me, you are important to the team,'" Hays said.
Hays also said it's important to teach children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.
"The idea of learning about non-sexualized, non-aggressive touch is something that indicates a positive connection among human beings," she said.