Obesity Panacea

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You read that correctly – last week the RCMP was called in to break up a game of road hockey in Enfield, a suburb of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  From the Halifax Chronicle Herald [emphasis mine]:

Ryan Jefferies and his buddies enjoyed playing road hockey almost every free minute in front of Ryan’s house here. But anonymous complaints recently put an end to that.

Ryan’s mom, Debbie Jefferies, said Monday she has no idea who complained or why, but the games came to an end last Thursday when an RCMP officer showed up at their door.

“He just said they had received two complaints, I believe, of the boys playing hockey . . . and he just said they had to stop playing,she said. “That was the end of it. It broke my heart.”

Jefferies, who wrote a letter to the editor of The Chronicle Herald about the issue, said she was thrilled that Ryan, 12, and eight or nine of his pals spent many an hour playing road hockey instead of vegging out in front of the TV or on the computer.

Const. Tamu Bracken, an RCMP spokeswoman, said police can move kids off the road under the section of the provincial Motor Vehicle Act that deals with pedestrians failing to yield.

Bracken said officers know that youngsters enjoy the activity, but police are concerned about safety and prefer they play elsewhere.

This story is part of a disheartening trend, which includes an Ottawa-area
school which recently banned balls from the playground
, and
numerous schools in both North America and the UK which have banned
bikes, skateboards, and scooters altogether due to safety concerns.  The good news, however, is that the issue seems to be sparking outrage among the citizenry, including Nova Scotia Transport Minister Bill Estabrooks:

“It’s a tradition in this country, and it should be allowed to continue,” Estabrooks said at Province House.

“Do you want them playing ball hockey out in public, or do you want them hanging around in the back of the store?”

Amen.  Just about everyone that I’ve spoken to agrees with Minister Estabrooks, and realizes that this was a
pretty
ridiculous thing to do, and an obvious waste of police resources, especially given the money that Nova Scotia is investing in promoting childhood physical activity.  Some could argue that the kids would be better off playing in a parking lot rather than the road, which is true.  But most kids don’t live near empty parking lots, and as is noted in the Chronicle Herald article, it’s not so easy to carry a hockey net, sticks, and goalie gear more than a few hundred meters, especially when you’re a 12-year old.  Believe me – like all stereotypical Canadian youth, I spent hours and hours (and
hours) playing road hockey with my buddies in a court at the bottom of
my street, and that gear is not meant for commuting.  And don’t even think about carrying a hockey net on your bike – again, trust me on this. 

And of course some could argue that the road is meant for cars, not kids.  In legal terms, this is obviously true.  But I’ve never seen anyone start up a road-hockey game on a busy thoroughfare; these games almost always take place suburban in courts and quiet side streets (as it appears was the case in Enfield).  Why?  Frankly, because kids aren’t stupid.  But just as important, it is because every time a car comes by you have to move the nets out of the way, and this can really slow down the action. To see exactly what I mean, check out this classic clip from Wayne’s World (the clip also nicely illustrates why you shouldn’t bike on the sidewalk, but that’s a topic for another post):

This issue obviously cuts a little deep for me personally, because I remember exactly how depressing it can be to have a grumpy neighbour ruin your dreams of road hockey supremacy.  And as someone who spends their days researching and advocating the importance of childhood physical activity, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to hear that someone has gone out of their way to prevent kids from being active.  As the Nova Scotia Ball Hockey Association (yes, that is a real organization) has noted:

[Ball hockey] is one of the cheapest sports to play; it provides
excellent exercise, a great way to meet new friends and it is a lot of
fun.

What more could you ask for? 

So, what to do?  Well, if you live in the Halifax area, I’d suggest you contact your city councillor or MLA and tell them what you think of the situation.  When the school here in Ottawa banned balls from the playground, the public outcry was enough to spur a reasonable resolution, and it is almost certainly capable of doing the same in Halifax.  Nova Scotia is usually among the most progressive provinces when it comes to initiatives related to physical activity, and it would be great to see them use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to promote childhood physical activity, even when it makes life slightly less convenient.  I think we can all agree that these kids should be able to yell “Game on!” without the police knocking on their doors.

Travis

Comments

  1. #1 red rabbit
    April 21, 2010

    Some neighbours are truly sad sacks, and clearly were born at the age of 45, with incipient grey hair and a middle age spread. Otherwise they would be able to recall how great street hockey really is, and they’d have the capability to slow down in residential areas.

    Who needs traffic calming, really? Speed bumps would be unnecessary on residential roads if more kids played street hockey.

    Drivers think the roads are theirs, but bzzp wrong, guess again. The roads belong to the community, including drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, kids playing street hockey, or drawing with chalk, or playing hopscotch or war or whatever.

    Obviously not the main throughways, but the side streets and cul-de-sacs. It’s this attitude of get-out-of-my-way that’s becoming more and more prevalent that makes it so hard to live in some places.

  2. #2 ERV
    April 21, 2010

    This isnt just irritating to Canadians– I grew up playing wiffleball (baseball without worrying the ball will break something), kickball, catch in the street. On slow side roads.

    What jerk neighbors those kids have!

  3. #3 catgirl
    April 21, 2010

    There are always kids skateboarding in the parking lot of the shopping center right next to my apartment complex. I love to see them having so much fun, but I know that some people don’t like it. I just don’t understand why it would bother anyone in the first place; those kids have just as much a right to be there as anyone else and they don’t get in the way. I hope that skateboarding never gets banned there.

  4. #4 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 21, 2010

    Massive corporations make money when cars drive around unimpeded and kids are driven indoors to watch scientifically designed commercials that make them want to buy worthless shit. They don’t make money when kids play street hockey.

  5. #5 KH
    April 21, 2010

    Do you remember when JP Depres spoke at Queen’s a couple yrs ago, just back from a trip out East, and told of an elementary school there which had sent a letter home to parents asking them to not allow their kids to bike to school, as the volume of bicycles in front of the school was hindering the cars/minivans dropping off/picking up children??

    A friend of mine – can’t remember who at the moment, so not sure where, but in Ontario – recently had someone show up at their door asking them to sign a petition to get street hockey banned on their street (friend refused to sign).

    Also, some cities actually have bylaws banning hockey/any sport from being played in the streets. E.g. Kingston, ON until 2008 – residents lobbied to have it changed
    (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/streethockeykingston/)
    and bylaw now allows street hockey 8am-9pm
    (http://www.cityofkingston.ca/residents/recreation/streethockey/index.asp).

  6. #6 Travis
    April 21, 2010

    @ KH,

    I remember JP’s talk, but not that anecdote specifically. I wish I did – it’s a terrific example of the way things have gone awry in some communities.

    Thanks for the Kingston links, the bylaw allowing road hockey is awesome!

    Travis

  7. #7 Andreas Johansson
    April 23, 2010

    They don’t make money when kids play street hockey.

    Presumably someone makes money selling street hockey gear?

  8. #8 stripey_cat
    April 25, 2010

    I can remember as a kid, the craze was for rollerskating. We used to go to whichever of the cul-de-sacs on the base had been resurfaced most recently and play for hours. (We did have to avoid one street after some ****y colonel’s wife complained about the noise the skate-wheels made – we weren’t shouting or anything, it was just the rumbling noise she minded.) We also used to run round in the woods and cycle between each other’s houses, and kick a football around on any flat area of grass. Now my mother complains that my neighbours’ kids are allowed to run around in their own back garden unsupervised and noisy. As for a group of teenagers kicking a ball around in the village-hall carpark next to her garden! I don’t think she’s called the police on them, but she’s stood on the bank and yelled at them until they went home. Some people have very plastic memories.

  9. #9 Rugosa
    April 28, 2010

    So sad! I grew up on a side street where kids played in the street all the time, and remember the warning yell of “Car!” Occasionally some neighbors would call the police to stop the games. I remember my older brother mimicking/mocking the neighbors: “Officer, there are children playing in the street. Get them out of the city!”

  10. #10 Jessica S
    April 3, 2011

    The road are for cars and bikes. Period. I wish parents would teach These kids to be respectful of other peoples property. It’s not their right to damage other peoples property intentionally or not. You as parents are liable for damages and I hope all you dumb parents with brats playing on the street get sued. Oh wait let me guess what the excuse is? It was an accident? Well you still have to pay for damages for the actions of your kids. Do your Job as parents or don’t have kids.

    Whether it is a busy street or a quiet cul de sac. Nobody likes flying balls damaging their vehicles or houses. Keep your kids in check. I’m so sick of the lack luster parenting now adays. With all the scientific research on how to raise kids why are they Turing out so bad? Time to bring back “the belt”.

  11. #11 EN
    April 24, 2011

    Kids playing hockey on the street might yield to cars but they will NOT yield to bicycles. I know this from experience. I collided with one last week. Both the kid and I got hurt.