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Taking the Lead on Safe Sport

July 5, 2019
By: 
Dr. Jennifer Walinga

I’m calling on Canada to take the lead on Good, Safe, Clean and True sport. Canada is best positioned, as a world moral leader (albeit shaky of late), to take the lead on good sport. Winning can only come with integrity. It’s the Canadian Way. As a professor and research in communication, I believe that leadership is communication and communication is crucial to leading change in the area of safe and good sport. It is one thing to say we believe in integrity in sport, it is another to communicate those beliefs through or behaviours, policies, actions, laws, systems, structures, and education.

Recently I participated in an interview on the recent but enduring case of the Whitecaps soccer organization who finally responded to complaints from 13 women from the 2008 team against the sexual harassment and abuse they had experienced from their then coach, Coach Billy. I’m tired of hearing the same old story:

  1. Women complain because women are important.
  2. Women are not believed, listened to, heard or taken seriously. Because money, men, sexual needs, winning, fans, sponsorship, position, and politics are more important than women.
  3. More women complain.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Women go to the media or the police. because fans, followers, and public money are more important than young women.
  6. Organization takes reluctant steps. because fans, followers, and public money are more important than young women.
  7. Organizational leaders conduct an investigation. because the law and sponsors are more important than young women.
  8. Training is recommended. because winning is more important than young women.
  9. Coach re-offends. because his sexual needs are more important than young women.
  10. Coach is quietly fired. because sponsors and fans are more important than young women.
  11. Sport organization puts policies or statements on their website because public image is more important than young women.
  12. Coach continues to coach elsewhere… because winning is more important than young women.
  13. 10 years later women speak louder because women are important.
  14. Someone listens… because money is more important than young women https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/2019/04/18/former-coach-abuse-protest-fans-walkout-game-whitecaps-vancouver/
  15. More policies and websites and hotlines and lipservice are put in place because politics are more important than young women.
  16. Young men learn to be abusive and violent and that women are not important.
  17. RepeatRepeatRepeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Young women are important. I call upon sport leaders within sport organizations to take the lead in communicating this fact. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. treat young people equally – equal playing time, field time, fan time, funding, opportunities
  2. understand that a true win includes integrity and that winning is actually enhanced by leadership
  3. expect respect – define expectations, demand professional development, review protocol and policy with all coaches, players, parents, leaders, fans, officials
  4. treat sport as an education – part of coaching is teaching players to be responsible, respectful, ethical leaders
  5. remember that without the athletes there is no sport – care for their well being and the athletes will ensure sport thrives well into the future.
  6. remember that athletes can make great leaders – develop them as leaders and athletes will do great things in their community and for the world – Tricia SmithChandra CrawfordBecky ScottCassie Campbell to name a few