Amateur sport coaches should help mould athletes positively, not negatively affect their lives forever.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case for over 600 minors who were victims of sexual offences by their amateur coaches in Canada over the last 20 years, according to a CBC investigation.
Over the past two decades, 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences. Currently cases of another 34 accused coaches are before the courts.
Growing up, sports was my escape from all my worries. It was a place I felt safe and comfortable to be myself. I trusted my coaches and they all played a positive role in my development as a person.
Playing sports taught me leadership, how to win and lose, and how to interact with others. My coaches taught me not only valuable skills in the game, but how to be a teammate and how to have fun above all else.
To think that for all those victims that trust was broken and taken advantage of is extremely worrisome and points to severe issues in amateur sport in this country.
The issue is not exclusive to just a few sports; cases of sexual assault appeared in 36 sports ranging from hockey to biathlon. Since 1998 in amateur hockey alone, 86 people were charged and 59 were convicted, with eight still facing trials.
No sport is immune from this issue.
It shows a clear widespread change is needed in amateur sport in this country.
The overwhelming majority of those convicted, 213, were men while nine of those convicted were women.
Ontario had the most cases, with over 80 cases being brought forward. Quebec has the second highest amount with over 60 cases brought forward.
According to a study by Institut National du Sport du Québec, sexual abuse of young people in sport is perpetrated mostly by men and usually by coaches. Statistics show that most of the victims are young female athletes, However, many young boys are also victimized.
So what can be done to change this deep-rooted issue that has been affecting sport for at least 20 years? It simply comes down to transparency.
The organizations must be able to provide thorough information on coaches to parents, whether that be a previous accusation, suspension or conviction. Organized sports should go as far as
providing parents with background information before those parents enrol their child.
However, the organizations also need to police these issues — whether it’s having counsellors speak to players on occasion, or having someone monitor the coaches until there is a decrease in the numbers. This needs to be policed heavily and extraordinary measures need to be taken.
Sports should be something parents are encouraged to put their children into. It should not be something that causes them fear or worry over what could happen to their child.
This country needs to do its best to ensure sports are safe and that cases of sexual assault are not a continuing trend.