Brock Centre for Sport Capacity hosting safe sport forum

Brock University’s Centre for Sport Capacity (CSC) is hosting a virtual forum later this spring focused on dealing with abuse and harassment in Canadian sport.

Athletes First: The Promotion of Safe Sport in Canada, is a virtual, athlete-centred national forum taking place from June 16 to 18. It is being supported by Brock’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.

The harassment and abuse of athletes by coaches, and the lack of administrative action in these instances, has been highlighted in recent cases in the media and the courts. In response, Canadian academics and sport stakeholders have been working to develop policy that addresses maltreatment broadly and comprehensively.

“The long-term negative ramifications of maltreatment in sport is a significant issue for athletes and leaders that needs further discussion, discourse and action at all levels,” says CSC and Associate Professor of Sport Management Julie Stevens.­ “That’s where we come in.”

The CSC is a Brock research centre that facilitates research, student engagement, community outreach and practical support to sport organizations.

“We are looking forward to hosting an event that will ensure athlete voices and experiences flow throughout the entire forum,” says Stevens. “We hope to bring together athletes, coaches, sport professionals, volunteers and academics from the Niagara region and across Canada for productive dialogue.”

The three-day event will include panels and breakout sessions hosted by researchers from Brock and the University of Toronto, as well as collaborators from AthletesCAN and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. Four main themes will be explored including:

  • athlete advocacy
  • governance and policy development
  • legal ramifications
  • coaching education.

One of the hot topics to be covered is the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS). The adoption and integration of the UCCMS into organizational policies and procedures will become a condition of all federally funded, national-level sport organizations on Thursday, April 1.

“The fact that the UCCMS addresses maltreatment broadly and comprehensively is so important,” say Assistant Professor of Sport Management Michele Donnelly. “This means we are not only going to be operating with the legal thresholds for harassment and abuse, but are able to recognize and address all of the behaviours and actions that are so problematic in sport.”

The UCCMS further defines ‘all types of conduct that inflict physical or psychological harm by a person against another person, within the sport community.’ Donnelly interprets this as the “recognition of the potential for maltreatment in all relationships within sport organizations, not only that of coach-athlete.”

“Some facets of sport have a long history of trying to normalize questionable or racist behaviours towards athletes as ‘accepted training practices’ or as a part of ‘sport culture or legacy,’” says Donnelly. “What remains to be seen is if there are going to be challenges with the consistent implementation and enforcement of the Code nationally and then provincially/territorially and locally.”

This, along with forum discussions on athlete advocacy and leadership development, research on harassment and abuse policy in Canadian sport and legal implications of Safe Sport will emphasize that the promotion of safe sport is a matter of urgency.

Sport Law expert and retired Associate Professor of Sport Management, Hilary Findlay will lead the panel on legal issues. She is known for playing a significant role in system-wide sport initiatives, including the initial investigation into the creation of a dispute resolution centre for Canadian sport.

“I’m looking forward to facilitating in-depth discussion on issues of equity and fairness, safety and risk management, contractual rights and obligations, regulatory use and misuse,” says Findlay. “These aforementioned elements are all part of the fabric of a strong and healthy sport system or one of risk and weakness. From this perspective, sport is a reflection of the broader society as a whole reflecting back onto us our values and challenges.”

Rounding out the comprehensive forum, Assistant Professor of Sport Management and Co-Chair of the Athletes First Forum, Michael Van Bussel will share his research on Relational Risk Management as part the coach education and development breakout session.

“Ultimately, Relational Risk Management provides sport management practitioners with a framework to build constructive relationships between athletes, coaches and administrators,” says Van Bussel. “I have developed several tools to help protect athletes, foster communication, and implement policy and I’m happy to be able to share them in the context of promoting safe sport in Canada.”

Registration for the Athletes First: The Promotion of Safe Sport in Canada forum is now open. For more information, schedule details and announcements on panelists, visit the Centre for Sport Capacity website.

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