sports & recreation

Hockey equipment homework:
What to look for when buying kids new hockey equipment

While one size may fit all in the schoolyard these days, that is certainly not the case at the hockey rink, which is why hockey parents across Canada should do their homework when fitting kids for new equipment.

Buying properly sized equipment for kids requires some patience and understanding, especially considering the spiralling costs of not only equipment but also of ice time and registration fees for minor hockey leagues.

Parents often want to "buy big" when it comes to expensive equipment like skates and helmets, but they should not give in to that temptation, according to Scott Walker of Bauer Nike Hockey, the Eastern Regional Manager for Team Sales who outfits some NHL players.

"Kids don't enjoy the game wearing oversized equipment and there are also safety concerns. When it comes to helmets, safety is an even bigger issue," said Walker. "It's also important to know children will play better when wearing properly fitting hockey equipment."

A helmet should fit a player's head similar to the way a baseball cap would, snug with no movement front-to-back or side-to-side. Most helmets are adjustable and may provide more than one season of proper protection if they are treated well. When purchasing a helmet, have the sales attendant fit the helmet to the child's head and find out how to properly adjust it as the child grows.

When replacing other hockey equipment, parents should record sizes of the old equipment before heading to the store to help sales attendants easily find the proper fit. When wearing all their equipment, Walker says, kids' shoulder pads can overlap their elbow pads but no other equipment should overlap. If it does, the overlapping equipment is too big.

Since children's feet tend to grow about half a size on average during a season, a child's skates should be fit to allow for growth. Find the child's proper size with the help of a trained attendant -- the toe should just touch the end of the skate when standing straight -- then add half a size to allow for a season's worth of growing.

"Adding any more space than this will reduce support of the child's foot and ankle," said Walker. "This will certainly make it more difficult to skate and could even lead to an increased chance of injury."

By passing the test of properly fitting their children with new skates and other hockey equipment this fall, hockey parents can feel better knowing their children are comfortable and well protected on the ice. (with files from News Canada)


IAAF Congress finishes with plan to boost athletics' popularity

The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Congress, in its final session in Paris, decided to accept the World Anti-Doping code as the basis for the fight against doping and that existing IAAF rules will be adapted if necessary. It was also agreed that the IAAF Anti-doping Commission and the Medical Committee would be merged.

In the meantime, IAAF announced a nine-year plan to boost the sport's global popularity as it struggles to compete for attention and sponsorship outside Olympic years. The organization's president, Lamine Diack, said he hopes athletics will be in a position "to remain the No. 1 sport of individuals" in 2012, coinciding with the centenary of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Although athletics is the centrepiece of the Summer Olympics, it has a tough time retaining its appeal during the years between the games, especially considering the dictates of the big American TV networks.

One of the key points of the project is to change the international competition calendar to make sure athletics remains a more prominent feature throughout the year. Another challenge is to make sure the sport moves beyond its European power base and spreads throughout the world. All of the IAAF's elite Golden League meetings are currently held in Europe.

The Congress also approved a number of significant changes to organization's Technical Rules. It was agreed that official IAAF Road World Records would now be accepted, under the same conditions as current IAAF World Bests, in events such as 10km, 15km, 20km, Half Marathon, 25km, 30km, Marathon, 100km and Road Relay. IAAF world records will also now be accepted for the race walking events on the road, in men's 20km and 50km, and in women's 20km.



Palestine: A Land, A People
Athetes: Fighting, but not for war

By Eric Asomugha*

At a time when mention of Palestine in the media is linked solely to war, the words of Wusam Bakheit, spoken at the Egyptian Olympic Centre in the Cairo suburb of Ma'adi, ring refreshingly in the world's ears. "I hope to do my best as a Palestinian, more especially encouraging other female athletes at home."

Bakheit is part of a team from Palestine comprising seven females and six males training at the Olympic Centre. The camp -- part of an Egyptian government assistance programme to the Palestinians, under the supervision of Ministry of Sports and the Egypt Amateur Athletics Association -- was designed to prepare the athletes for the World Athletics Championship in France recently.

"This is our third time here," Semir Al-Nabahin, the women's team coach told Al-Ahram Weekly. "The first was in July 2002, and second was in March 2003. We came back in July for another training which ends in early September. Through this training camp, the Sports Ministry has been contributing a lot to the growth of our sports by giving us this great opportunity and exposing our athletes to the modern facilities we lack at home in Palestine," Al-Nabahin added.

The ministry's efforts are paying off.

"Our athletes are really happy here," says men's team coach Majed. "Back home, we have no training ground. We manage an open sandy area near the beach in Gaza and we still face a lot of difficulties."

Both coaches speak openly about the obstacles in their way. Politics, needless to say, is the number one barrier.

"Movement within Gaza is highly restricted by the occupying forces (of Israel)," Al-Nabahin says. "Most times, athletes are stranded within a particular location due to road blocks and checkpoints, which makes it extremely difficult for athletes to attend training regularly," he adds. "I call my athletes sometimes, only to discover that one or two are trapped at a checkpoints or road blocks."

Politics aside, the other inhibiting factor is financing. Like all tumultuous nations, sponsorship from local companies is absent, and sports is not seen as a priority.

"We are only doing a voluntary job as coaches," he shares. "We get no pay for our services and the athletes depend on their parents -- who are only just managing to survive the harsh conditions they are facing. Training gear is not available to us, and so we have to manage with the little we now have."

"Despite all the difficulties and the deploring conditions we face," he continues, "we are determined to do our best and make Palestinians proud."

That sense of unity and national pride is reflected in the women's team. All seven young women are from one family, and are accompanied by Amna Abu Bakheit -- their mother, and also wide of former Palestinian wrestler Abdul-Razak Abu Bakheit.

"I am happy to see my daughters and other family relatives represent their country as athletes. Palestinian women are just like others in Egypt, Jordan, Europe or elsewhere in the world. So it is my dream to see Palestinian women progress and this is why I encourage my girls," Abu Bakheit says.

"People often ask me why these girls are running whenever we are out there training in Gaza. They don't understand. But some families are now more accepting of the scene, and the idea of women's participation in sports is gradually gaining support from the people," she says, explaining her belief in the importance of women integrating themselves into the public sphere of society.

While young women in sports is a sizeable obstacle, Al-Nabahin willingly took over the coaching of the girls after they were discovered by a friend in 2002.

Since arriving in Cairo in July, the women's team has successfully participated in various Egyptian championships. They include 12-year-old Niveen Al- Abeid's victory in the 800m and 1000m race in Giza and Cairo respectively. She came second in the 1500m Cairo Under-20 meet. Nora, also 12, came second in 1000m race in Giza and Cairo. In Alexandria, 17-year- old Salma Al-Abeid won the 3000m walk, and Wusam Bakheit came second in the 1500 metres.

"Since I have no money to give them for their great performances, I invite them downtown for dinner and sightseeing to celebrate the success and add more smiles to their faces," Al-Nabahin says. "It is the only way I can say thank you."

*Source: Al Ahram English-Language Weekly, Egypt, 4 - 10 September 2003 )