Strong leadership required to eliminate abuse in sport
By Angela Kryhul
Last month, Ottawa announced stronger measures to address harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport. Everyone has a role to play, but strong leadership is required to eliminate abuse at every level in sport organizations—from athletes all the way to the boardroom, according to Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, CEO, Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS).
One of the key takeaways from the federal announcement is that funding to sport organizations will be contingent upon having anti-abuse policies and procedures in place. Ottawa will also require sport organizations to immediately disclose any incident of harassment, abuse or discrimination; bring in an independent third party to handle complaints; and to provide mandatory training to their members by April 1, 2020.
The initiative is a step in the right direction for everyone involved in sport, Sandmeyer-Graves says: “It really validates that this as an issue that needs to be addressed in the system. It helps to set the tone for expectations going forward and that [abuse] will not be given a free pass anymore.”
Sandmeyer-Graves, who also sits on a new federal advisory group on gender equity in sport, offers some key advice for taking action now:
Discuss. Have a conversation within your organization or your teams. Identify what the group’s commitment will be on the topic of harassment, abuse and discrimination. And write it down.
Policy. Update your policies and codes of conduct. There are many Canadian experts and resources available (see resources, below) to help put policies and systems in place to help prevent inappropriate behaviour and to respond to complaints appropriately.
Training. It’s important that everyone be trained on the subject—from board members, managers and those in positions of power and influence, to front-line folks who interact with the public or with minors, Sandmeyer-Graves says. “Training is not a one-and-done thing. Make it part of your recurring professional development or mandated training so that there’s no slow erosion of the impact of the training overtime.”
Gender Equity. There is a strong movement towards ensuring better representation of women and other underrepresented groups on boards and in senior leadership and decision-making roles. “CAAWS offers some great resources to help organizations take steps towards diversifying their boards of directors, and we have guidance to offer in respect to leadership,” Sandmeyer-Graves says.