Steps Toward Reducing Harassment in Sport

The Canadian Minister of Science and Sport, Kristy Duncan, recently announced the federal government’s plan to invest upwards of $200K in an effort to develop a national code of conduct surrounding abuse and harassment in sport. This effort is based on a recent investigation revealing that at least 222 coaches have been convicted of sex offences in the last 20 years, with over 600 victims under the age of 18. This money is to be used to establish a Safe Sport Summit Series and a Gender Equity Secretariat.

Coaches inherently have an authoritarian relationship with their supervised athletes, creating an environment subject to abuse. There is speculation that this problem is underestimated, and that coaches underestimate the effect of their behaviour. It is important that athletes feel safe in their sport. Abuse is a real issue in sports and can originate from not only coaches, but also doctors and other staff members. A prime example of this is the story of the U.S.A. Gymnastics team resulting in countless lawsuits surrounding the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of the team doctor.

It is intended that the developed code of conduct will be put to use nationwide in all levels of sport. Another hope of this initiative is to include more women in coaching positions. That being said, there is no gender differences in sexual abuse experienced by athletes. This indicates that no matter the gender or sexual orientation of a coach, they should be engaged in formal training to ensure they are providing a safe and inclusive space for the athletes they coach.

In 2020, all sport organizations that access federal funding will have to provide training and policies to address abuse. Though this aspect of the initiative focuses on more elite-level athletes, hopefully this will create a trend of addressing abuse among the athletic world of all levels. This funding and initiative is a good step in efforts to decrease the prolonged abuse of power shown by coaches across sport.

Featured Image: Minister of Science and Sport, Kristy Duncan, announcing federal funding of more than $200K in efforts to reduce abuse in sport. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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