As more girls are earning spots on squirt and pee wee teams the issue of locker room protocols is starting to rise to the surface. USA Hockey has recommended protocols, Minnesota Hockey has a slightly different take on the issue and one District Director in Minnesota has issued a different approach. The major sticking points are the definition of "undress" and when both genders can be in the locker room together.
Under ideal conditions every arena would have a supervised locker room designated for girls only so that they could get geared up before the coach addresses the team prior to games or practices. Unfortunately most arenas do not have enough locker rooms to accommodate this changing situation and often time’s girls are sent to bathrooms to dress. Besides normally not being very clean, the bathrooms are not secure for the kids like the locker rooms are supposed to be.
Segregating the girls to dress for games is also placing a stigma on them and sends a message that you are different from the rest of the team. This is hardly a positive in terms of team cohesion. I am also told of situations where coaches start their pre-ice discussions in the locker room often times while the girls are changing in another room.
Understanding the challenges around this dynamic are critical to a safe environment for all players involved and to make sure all players have a good experience in youth hockey.
The solution to what is now a common situation can be easily found in common sense approaches rather than looking to USA Hockey or Minnesota Hockey for answers.
The issue of what determines a state of "undress" is the major topic of contention. Some parents and coaches use this excuse to deny girls access to the locker room. The solution is that all players should be required to arrive at the rink wearing their hockey undergarments under their street clothes. Then everybody is the same. There is no issue. Most players have opposite sex siblings anyway so what is the big deal? Heck, they have far less clothes on at the swimming pool and nobody complains.
The USA Hockey SafeSport "Responsible Adult" that is required in every youth team locker room is there to insure compliance with proper behaviors and also with this team requirement regarding players arriving in hockey undergarments. Coaches need to modify their locker room routines to make sure all team members have equal opportunity to be part of the team.
Sending girls to an unsupervised public bath room to dress is inconsistent with the requirement that players have supervision while in the arena with their teams. This should never occur.