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Kids' coach suspended for forcing pushups after defeat

The coach of an elite peewee team in Montreal was suspended for punitive training after a loss, something that goes against the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

The coach of an elite AAA peewee team in Montreal has been suspended by one of the most successful and prestigious hockey organizations in Quebec for allegedly forcing his 11- and 12-year-old players to do anywhere between 100 and 500 pushups in full equipment after a recent loss.

Louis Isabella, the coach of the Lac St-Louis AAA peewee team, is said to have responded to a 7-2 loss Sept. 18 by ordering his team to do more than 100 pushups in full gear immediately after the game. The original story, which appeared in La Presse and can be seen in French here:, said Isabella forced his players to do between 150 and 300 pushups after the loss, but there were reports that the number was as high as 500.

A spokesman for Hockey Quebec said that the Lac St-Louis organization has suspended the coach indefinitely, pending a disciplinary hearing which is believed to be scheduled for Tuesday night. Representatives of the Lac St-Louis Lions organization could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman for Hockey Quebec said it contacted the organization as soon as it heard of the incident from La Presse reported Gabriel Beland. Several meetings with parents and players indicated that the incident did indeed take place. One player reportedly could not take part in the team’s next practice two days later because his arms were still too sore.

Hockey Quebec said it is confident the situation will be handled properly by Lac St-Louis and, even though it does not have any set guidelines on punitive training practices, said it emphatically denounces any form of it.

“You basically rely on common sense,” said Patrick Marineau of Hockey Quebec. “The number of pushups isn’t important. Whether it was 100 or 300 or 500 doesn’t make a difference. We are completely against this kind of practice. It’s 2016 and people have to realize that.”

Punitive punishment does, however, violate the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport’s code for prohibited conduct in sport. Here is the code concerning physical punishment:

The CCES defines physical punishment of children and youth in sport as any activity or behaviour required as a consequence of poor sport performance or some other undesirable behaviour that causes an athlete physical pain, discomfort or humiliation and is:

  • disconnected from, or not logically related to, the sport performance or behaviour it is intended to change; or
  • disconnected from, or not logically related to, improving performance in the sport; and
  • not consented to by the athlete (and/or their parent or guardian) engaged in such activity or behaviour.

There is increasing evidence that physical punishment is emotionally and psychologically harmful. Although there have been no studies in a sport context, it follows that the use of physical punishment in sport might be similarly harmful.

The CCES does not support the use of physical punishment in sport and will work to educate the sport community on this issue and encourages further research in this area.

Prof. Gretchen Kerr of the University of Toronto is conducting extensive research into punitive training and said it has no positive effects, particularly on young athletes.

“The findings are pretty much the same and that is the effect of using punitive strategies leads to kids basically feeling worse about themselves,” Kerr said. “It leads to a lot of kids quitting. But what is puzzling about sport is that these measures – using punishment to discipline kids – were abandoned in the education field decades ago. The studies have shown that a lot of coaches don’t know the difference between punishment and discipline and they used them because they didn’t know of more constructive strategies.”

It’s hard to believe that doing hundreds of pushups was going to make an 11- or 12-year-old a better hockey player. Kerr said coaches need to see the reasons behind the losses and address those. If the opponent is more skilled, has a better strategy or is in better physical condition, hundreds of pushups is not going to help.

What was just as disturbing was that an executive with the Lac St-Louis organization said not one parent of the players came to the organization to register a complaint. The organization found out about it from Hockey Quebec, which learned of it from a reporter. That speaks volumes of the kind of power minor hockey coaches hold that parents feared reporting an incident such as this one for fear of further repercussions on their children.

The Lions are one of the most successful organizations in Quebec, with more than 40 players who have gone on to play pro, including current NHLers Anthony Duclair, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Killorn, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Mike Matheson.



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