This autumn, one 9-year-old skater came to practice wearing a shirt with pretty cabbagey roses bordering lettering that read, “I love you but fuck the government.”
No word of a lie, I didn’t notice what it read until we were a good 30 minutes into the practice when we were on knees in a circle to discuss the next drill. Some of the skaters were whispering to each other but one actually pointed to the skater in question.
My back was up. My first thought was the 9-year-old, who is a beginner skater, was being mocked or something.
Then I saw it.
I finished what I wanted to say, had the secondary coach take over while, and then discretely took the child aside and explained that her shirt has a word on it that some people would find offensive and we’d have to get some duct tape to it.
“Oh, yeah. My mum laid this shirt out for me to wear.”
“Er, really? Okay, then do me a favour and leave this tape on the shirt until your mum sees it. If she wants, tell her to contact me please.”
Dress codes are something juniors live with at school. We don’t really have a hard and fast rule on what not to wear because the girls figure out quickly what kind of clothes works for them in practices. Spaghetti straps? We see them a lot. Bra straps showing? Support garments are great. Short skirts, tight pants and shorts? That’s athletic wear and, hey, being itchy with sweat-laden clothes sucks. Heck, we still have a couple of old school juniors who wear patterned opaque nylons. And they love the face paint during bouts.
About four years ago, we were in a Canada Day parade and a 10-year-old came to the start wearing full-out makeup (blush, eyeliner, lipstick – the works). She also wore a bikini top, and fishnets with the underwear on top. On the bum, the underwear read, “Dirty.”
The junior had seen adults wear something like this. I never batted an eye when I saw a teammate dress this way back then. Live and let live. But seeing it on a child, then and there, my opinion changed. Anyone can be watching. Everyone is watching. Is dressing provocatively a good thing overall for this sport?
I’m not sure what went on at home (the child arrived without her guardian) but we just weren’t comfortable with that. So we happened to have a large t-shirt which we insisted she put on (she did).
Tricky situation, sometimes, how to juggle what is acceptable at home versus what you may want for your junior organization. I’m curious about how other junior leagues handle this.