Interview with Peter Donnelly – Athletes First: The Promotion of Safe Sport in Canada

We sat down (virtually) with Dr. Peter Donnelly, from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto, to chat about his participation in the forum, “Athletes First: The Promotion of Safe Sport in Canada,” that will be held on June 16, 17, and 18 on Microsoft Teams. Dr. Donnelly will be speaking on the Governance panel on the second day of the event.

In our interview, we had a chance to speak with Dr. Donnelly about what safe sport means to him, as well as what attendees will gain from attending the virtual forum.

What does Safe Sport mean to you?

Safe Sport is increasingly coming to be used as the collective term used to refer to sport where athletes are not subject to physical, psychological or sexual abuse, and where they are not bullied or neglected. To me, it means bringing humanity back into sport — building a sport culture where athletes and sport leaders are fellow human beings, respecting each other’s human rights, and where adults in charge of children’s sport acknowledge and take seriously their duty of care for those children.

How are you involved in Safe Sport?

A colleague at Queen’s University, Hart Cantelon, used the term “child labour in sport” in 1981 and it stuck with me. I began to hear more and more stories about children as athletic labourers and about child abuse in sport. In about 1987 I began to study this seriously, interviewing retired high performance athletes about their past experiences as child and adolescent athletes. I called the study, “the good, the bad, and the ugly” so you can imagine the kind of things that I was hearing in the interviews. Since that time, I have been seeking various ways to try to improve the experiences of children in sport.

Why should someone attend this forum?

Anyone interested in helping to change sport, especially high performance sport, from a culture of abuse to a culture of respect, might be interested in this forum.

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