Challenges to Canadian Safe Sport Policy

Challenges to Canadian Safe Sport Policy

Challenges to Canadian Safe Sport Policy: A Summary of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Struggle for Child Protection in Canadian Sport




Canadian sport organizations have a responsibility to support their participants’ health and well-being and to keep them safe. The introduction of Safe Sport is a new overarching goal for Canadian sport organizations focusing on promoting the psychological and physical well-being of participants and preventing abuse, harassment, and other behaviours known as maltreatment (Kerr, Kidd & Donnelly, 2020). The renewed focus on Safe Sport appears to be a response to previous approaches to maintaining safety in sport, which followed a repetitive, reactive cycle of crisis, policy response, slow implementation of changes, resistance to change, and ultimately, little measurable or actionable outcomes (Kerr et al., 2020). One major challenge to moving forward in Safe Sport policy is the resistance from some leaders in sport towards independent oversight, maintaining that these challenges can be handled through self-regulation (Kerr et al., 2020). In light of the increasing awareness of the harms that can occur in sporting environments, it is truly shocking that sport is the only child-population institution in Canada that is entirely self-regulating and autonomous (Kerr et al., 2020). The article summarized below by Kerr, Kidd & Donnelly (2020) demonstrates the need for independent oversight, changes to funding structures/requirements, and prioritizing athletes’ voices in the fight against a climate of control in order to work towards a new, authentic culture of Safe Sport in Canada.


Background: The Role of Sport Canada


The role of Sport Canada is to support National Sport Organizations (NSOs) and Multi-Sport Organizations through financial support for elite athletes and to support sport organizations in hosting events where Canadian athletes can compete at national and international levels (Kerr et al., 2020). Sport Canada’s policies and programs operate under the Canadian Sport Policy Agreement between federal, provincial and territorial governments (Kerr et al., 2020). Similar levels and mechanisms of support for Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs) are provided by provincial and territorial governments (Kerr et al., 2020). 


In addition to their financial and organizational support, Sport Canada has also created or supported in the development of new organizations, including the Coaching Association of Canada, Canadian Women and Sport, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, and the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, to protect and strengthen key ethical values in Canadian sport (Kerr et al., 2020). An additional independent organization, AthletesCAN, is composed of national team athletes who focus on the goals of athlete advocacy and the creation of athlete-centred sports systems (Kerr et al., 2020). As mentioned above, there is a notable gap of an independent regulatory body to oversee the well-being of children and youth athletes; instead, sport organizations are self-regulating in this area (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Threats to Safe Sport: The Climate of Control


Two important themes related to promoting safe sport include understanding the gaps in protection that leave children vulnerable to maltreatment and understanding the shared characteristics of sport and other institutions where child maltreatment occurs (Kerr et al., 2020). First, sport is mainly self-regulated, meaning that when issues of maltreatment do occur, they are primarily handled internally (Kerr et al., 2020). This is problematic for all athletes, but particularly for children and youth, who are protected by specific laws and regulations that should be upheld by all child and youth-serving institutions, including sport (Kerr et al., 2020). In turn, this contributes to the second theme of sport as a ‘total institution’, where both explicit and implicit cultures of control exist (Kerr et al., 2020). This is especially evident in sport at elite and high-performance levels, where outcomes (ex. medals, wins vs. losses, etc.) and control are emphasized by sport leaders, and the ability of athletes to advocate for their rights and needs for participation is diminished (Kerr et al., 2020). This is supported by research that has found that in elite organized youth sports, nearly half of the articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are sometimes or often violated (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Research has shown that control has become a core principle for elite and high-performance sport,  contributing to a cultural context where physical and psychological harms can become a normalized, accepted part of sport culture (Kerr et al., 2020). Importantly, this is not to say that the culture of control in sport causes violence, but rather that specific forms of harm and maltreatment are used to maintain a culture of control; in turn, the culture of control creates a climate within sport where maltreatment is expected and/or accepted (Kerr et al., 2020). Similar cultures of control can be found in other institutions that exert total control, such as the military or prisons, to establish a hierarchy of power and authority (Kerr et al., 2020). This climate of control has contributed to many sports becoming highly regimented, with clear authority figures and athletes being motivated by both increasing levels of success as well as fear of punishment (ex. losing funding, not making the team, being benched, etc.) (Kerr et al., 2020). This, along with the competitive aspect of sport and the pool of talented athletes who can take one’s place, puts athletes in positions where they are highly vulnerable to manipulation and harm (Kerr et al., 2020). This can lead athletes to tolerate situations and behaviours that they wouldn’t in other circumstances (Kerr et al., 2020). For example, in education, students may work towards achieving high grades, but if a teacher motivated students towards this achievement through harmful methods, they would be punished professionally and often under the law. Further, many children and youth are hesitant to report violations of their rights, particularly because their main option is to report their concerns directly to their sport organization to be handled internally (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Funding Structures Promote a ‘Win-At All-Costs’ Mentality


An emphasis on performance outcomes, contributing to a climate of control, has been built into the funding structure of Canadian sport organizations and represents a significant barrier to addressing athlete maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). Canadian sport organizations are primarily funded through their athletes achieving results, including international medals, records, top-10 performances, etc. (Kerr et al., 2020). As such, funding is higher for sport organizations with high-performing and achieving athletes, and lower or even cut for organizations producing less wins, medals, or other achievements (Kerr et al., 2020). Significant funding for elite athletes comes from a Sport Canada-funded organization, Own the Podium, who identifies in their mandate a goal to help more Canadian athletes and coaches win more medals at Olympic and Paralympic games (Kerr et al., 2020). This focus on winning and achievement may lead to organizational and coaching practices that constitute maltreatment and violate athletes’ rights (Kerr et al., 2020). Further, an overwhelming body of research identifies the potential individual and organizational harms of a win-at-all costs-mentality (Kerr et al., 2020).


Failure to Implement Policies from the 1990s


In response to the high-profile cases of abuse in Canadian sport in the 1990s, the Canadian government created new policies and compliance systems to address maltreatment in sport (Kerr et al., 2020). According to Kerr et al. (2020), starting in 1996, all NSOs (and later PSOs) who received public funding were required to fulfill the following obligations: 


  • Create and share a publicly-accessible harassment policy 
  • Identify two third-party trained Harassment Officers (one male and one female) to address complaints
  • And to report annually on their compliance with the above requirements to Sport Canada in order to maintain their funding 


Harassment policies at the time (and currently) were largely guided by a policy guide that assisted sport organizations in the development and implementation of harassment policies, created by Canadian Women and Sport (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Despite the progressive nature of the developments in 1996, a study conducted 20 years later to assess compliance of Canadian sport organizations showed cause for concern (Kerr et al., 2020). While 86% of NSOs and 71% of PSOs had harassment policies, less than half met the requirement for public accessibility (Kerr et al., 2020). In addition, these policies failed to adequately address psychological and physical maltreatment, focusing mainly on sexual maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). Only 27% of PSO and 39% of NSO policies identified a harassment officer, though many of these did not train both a male and a female officer (Kerr et al., 2020). Of particular concern, none of the PSOs or NSOs had a third party harassment officer; instead, the role was typically fulfilled by the CEO of another staff member within the sport organization (Kerr et al., 2020). Lastly, the researchers found that none of the NSOs and PSOs were denied funding, despite not meeting Sport Canada’s compliance requirements (Kerr et al., 2020). In response to this, sport organizations identified both a lack of capacity and will to fulfill their compliance requirements, leaving children, youth and adult athletes once again vulnerable to maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Recent High-Profile Cases Emphasize The Role of the Bystander


Recent high-profile cases of abuse in sport (from 2011-2020) in both the United States and Canada further emphasized a lack of organizational and bystander intervention when instances of child, youth, and athlete maltreatment have occurred (Kerr et al., 2020). In the cases of both Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky, multiple individuals with the sport organization knew that acts of sexual abuse had occurred, but did not report the abuse to the appropriate authorities, allowing the abuse to continue for years (Kerr et al., 2020). In the words of Mitch Garabedian, a lawyer representing some of the survivors of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in Boston, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one” (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Developments from 2018 and Beyond


Kirsty Duncan’s Mandates


In 2018, Kirsty Duncan, a former athlete, assumed the role of the federal Minister of Science and Sport (Kerr et al., 2018). In 2018, she took a firm stance against abuse in sport, mandating that all NSOs who did not disclose abuse or harassment occurring in their organizations would lose their federal funding (Kerr et al., 2020). Further, she required that in order to receive federal funding, all sporting organizations needed to establish an independent, third-party investigation process for all allegations of maltreatment and that mandatory prevention training was required to be in place by April 1, 2020 (Kerr et al., 2020). While on the surface this represented an important advancement in athlete protection, in actuality, this was a repetition of the compliance requirements from 1996 that had yet to be adequately met by Canadian sport organizations (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Policy Developments


The Red Deer Declaration for the Prevention of Harassment, Abuse, and Discrimination in Sport was endorsed in 2019 by the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Ministers of Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (Kerr et al., 2020). Within the Declaration, a specific commitment was made to prevent and respond to abuse, harassment, bullying, and discrimination in sport (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Minister Duncan also directed the development of a Universal Code of Conduct in sport, created to identify unacceptable behaviours for all members of the National Sport community (Kerr et al., 2020). The Code was created in part through a series of Safe Sport Summits held across Canada in 2019, led by the Coaching Association of Canada, where stakeholders contributed to defining prohibited behaviours and identifying sanctions for athlete maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). Unfortunately, the majority of these summits focused solely on sexual abuse in sport, neglecting to focus on the wider range of physical and psychological harms experienced by athletes on a broader scale (Kerr et al., 2020). However, the voices of athletes at the National Safe Sport Summit pushed for a broader focus of maltreatment, focusing on sexual, psychological, and physical forms (Kerr et al., 2020). In addition, the role of the bystander was further emphasized through clearly identifying adults in positions of authority over young people as ethically and legally accountable for reporting maltreatment, both witnessed and suspected, even if the level of maltreatment did not constitute a criminal offence (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Prioritizing the Voices and Experiences of Athletes


Research from a study assessing the prevalence of maltreatment amongst Canadian national team athletes identified the breadth of maltreatment and the need for third-party intervention (Kerr et al., 2020). 17% and 23% of current and retired athletes, respectively, reported experiencing psychological abuse; further, 15% of current athletes and 22% of retired athletes had experienced neglect (Kerr et al., 2020). Fewer than 15% of athletes formally reported their experiences, while less than half of current and retired athletes never disclosed what they had experienced (Kerr et al., 2020). Among their reasons for not reporting the maltreatment they experienced, athletes identified that they didn’t know who to report to; that they did not have a safe or confidential space to report their concerns without fear of negative consequences for their athletic careers; and that they did not trust their sport organization to address their concerns adequately or fairly (Kerr et al., 2020). In general, athletes view the self-regulation of sport organizations as inadequate to address maltreatment fairly and effectively (Kerr et al., 2020). 


At the National Safe Sport Summit in 2019, athletes clearly and strongly voiced the need for healthier sport environments and a stronger advocacy role in the decisions affecting them (Kerr et al., 2020). They called to address all forms of maltreatment; require mandatory education for all sport stakeholders; strengthen accountability measures for sport organizations; and for the implementation of an independent body to receive, investigate, and resolve allegations of maltreatment, and to apply sanctions in individual cases (Kerr et al., 2020). 


The Canadian Sport Helpline & The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada


The Canadian Sport Helpline was established in 2019 as a resource to help guide the next steps of any individual who is concerned about maltreatment in sport (Kerr et al., 2020). Operating as a triage service, individuals are either directed to the police, child protection services or back to their sport organization (Kerr et al., 2020). However, as most complaints do not meet a criminal threshold, the majority of instances of maltreatment are instead directed back to sport organizations to handle internally, which, as described in depth above, often results in complaints being handled unfairly and/or inadequately (Kerr et al., 2020). 


Also in 2019, the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada was contracted to provide independent investigations to support sport organizations in addressing instances of maltreatment (Kerr et al., 2020). However, some of the larger NSOs appointed their own ‘independent’ investigators, who were often existing employees of the organization in positions of power (Kerr et al., 2020). Even when complaints are handled externally, the responsibility for handing down and implementing sanctions still remains with the sport organization, creating a clear conflict of interest (Kerr et al., 2020). 


A New Way Forward


The information above clearly identifies the need for a new way forward to achieve Safe Sport in Canada. In order to truly make change, we need to imagine a new way forward that centres around the voices and lived experiences of athletes and the protection of children and youth. Approaches should be proactive versus reactive and focus on the creation of a culture of sport that prioritizes child, youth, and athlete well-being and enjoyment of sport over winning at all costs (Kerr et al., 2020). 


The calls of athletes for a fully independent organization to handle child, youth, and athlete protection must be heard, and athletes are critical voices in the development of this system (Kerr et al., 2020). Further, an independent investigative process must be employed whenever a complaint is identified as a violation of the Universal Code of Conduct (Kerr et al., 2020). Sanctions should also be handed down entirely independently, free of conflicts of interest (Kerr et al., 2020). These processes should be fair, transparent, and accessible to all stakeholders in sport to follow and understand (Kerr et al., 2020). In addition, anyone who has experienced maltreatment in sport should have timely access to appropriate supports and resources to support their short-term well-being and to prevent long-term negative impacts (Kerr et al., 2020). Lastly, funding structures should be reframed beyond athlete performance to include athlete well-being, development, and the promotion of the rights of children, youth, and athletes (Kerr et al., 2020). The leaders of today are in an important position to learn from the mistakes of the past and to create a new way forward where all children, youth, and athletes can participate in sport safely. 




Kerr, G., Kidd, B., & Donnelly, P. (2020). One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Struggle for Child Protection in Canadian Sport. Social Sciences, 9(5), 68.

Keeping Youth Engaged in Sport Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic

Keeping Youth Engaged in Sport Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic

Across Canada, young athletes, parents and coaches have had to adjust to the new normal of sport. While some sports have continued with new safety requirements, others have been postponed until next season or beyond. In spite of these changes, youth can continue to be involved in sport in new, creative ways. Below are some tips to support the young athletes in your life to continue to stay engaged in sport throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.


Staying Connected to the Team


Regular video calls with coaches and teammates to train together or just chat can help young athletes feel connected to their team (Graham, 2020). Staying connected with their teammates can help youth to maintain the sense of community gained from participating in sport. Coaches can continue to support their athletes from afar by helping to provide training tips, encouraging athletes to stay active and practice, and to provide social support and ongoing connection to sport. 


Continue to Practice


Youth should continue to practice from home regularly. Coaches can connect with young athletes to help them create regular practice routines that include a mix of technical drills and physical training (Graham, 2020). Some sport-specific examples of this can include:


  • Soccer: Foot speed and dribbling drills such as toe taps, side touches, rollovers and inside-out dribbling
  • Basketball: Dribbling and ball-handling skills such as straight-arm finger taps, wraps around head/ankles/waist/legs, crossover dribble and double ball dribbling
  • Dance: Stretching and maintaining skills such as pre-practice stretches, floor barre exercises, or watching online dance classes (Myrvik, 2020)
  • For more ideas, check out the Play From Home Resource Hub from Jumpstart Canada and ParticipACTION


As we move into the winter months, practice space may be limited to the indoors. If you have space in your home, get creative with your kids and create an indoor practice area (Pearlstein, 2020). If your indoor space is limited, try turning household chores into practice opportunities; for example, “How many lunges can you do while putting your toys away? How high can you jump when you’re dusting?” (Pearlstein, 2020). 


Find Creative Ideas Online


From skill-based challenges to virtual ‘passing’ of the ball, puck, etc. to team members, many creative ways to keep young athletes engaged in sport can be found online (Graham, 2020). Some ideas we found include:


  • Creating a family ‘grab jar’: write down exercises, such as 20 jumping jacks, 10 burpees, etc. (Pearlstein, 2020). Have each family member pick one exercise from the jar and complete the moves together. Consider creating jars tailored to different sport-specific exercises to mix up your family workouts!
  • Find kid-friendly workouts on YouTube, like this Parent and Kid Workout 


Encourage Your Kids to Take the Lead


Have your kids take the lead on connecting with teammates, planning practice or training routines, and creating practice spaces. Kids have had to cope with much less freedom and decision-making since the beginning of the pandemic (Graham, 2020). Not only will this help young athletes feel like their voices are being heard, but it may increase the likelihood that they will continue to practice and be active, making their routines into habits (Graham, 2020). 


Parents: Cut Yourselves Some Slack


Lastly and most importantly, parents should remember that everyone is doing the best they can given the circumstances. Cut yourselves and your kids some slack if they forget to practice or have a less active day. Focusing on doing what they can and having fun along the way is the best way to find balance and sustainability as we move into the winter months.




Graham, N. (2020, May 14). Three ways to keep kids connected to sports when they can’t play during COVID-19. Folio. Retrieved from


Myrvik, M. (2020, April 20). Keeping young athletes active and engaged during COVID-19. Children’s Wisconson. Retrieved from


Pearlstein, J. (2020, Oct 20). How to keep kids active as the weather cools and the pandemic rolls on. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Prevalence of Maltreatment Among Current and Former National Team Athletes

Prevalence of Maltreatment Among Current and Former National Team Athletes

While recognizing the numerous potential benefits that sport participation has to offer, it is also important to acknowledge that for some athletes, sport is a harmful experience, characterized by various forms of maltreatment. Maltreatment is an umbrella term that refers to: all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power (World Health Organization (2010). Maltreatment includes sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, various types of harassment, bullying and hazing. The current study sought to assess the prevalence of various forms of maltreatment experienced by current and retired National Team members.

The last prevalence study of Canadian athletes’ experiences was conducted over 20 years ago and since that time, the culture with respect to reporting sexual violence as well as child and youth protection has changed dramatically. Not only does this prevalence study provide a snapshot of athletes’ experiences but it serves as baseline data against which to assess the impact of future preventative and intervention initiatives. It also signals the importance of addressing the human rights and welfare of athletes in Canada.

In total, 1001 athletes participated in the study by completing an online survey; of this total, 764 were current athletes and 237 were retired athletes who had left their sport within the past ten years. The most frequently experienced form of maltreatment was psychological harm followed by neglect. Sexual and physical harm were reportedly experienced to a far lesser degree. Across all categories of harm and both current and retired athletes, females reported far more harmful behaviours. Similarly, retired athletes reported higher percentages than did current athletes across all categories. In the case of psychological harm, most behaviours were enacted by coaches, followed by peers and high-performance directors. Neglectful behaviours were experienced from coaches, high performance directors and sport administrators while physically harmful behaviours were enacted primarily by coaches. Finally, most sexually harmful behaviours are reportedly executed by coaches and peers.

The findings revealed significant and positive relationships between all forms of harm (psychological, physical, sexual and neglect) and the negative health outcomes of engaging in self-harming behaviours, disordered eating behaviours/eating disorders, and having suicidal thoughts. The findings also highlight the notion that negative health outcomes are experienced by athletes long after the National Team athletic career has ended. Of those current and retired athletes who experienced abuse, bullying or discrimination, only 15% reported their experiences. The open-ended questions on the survey enabled athletes to contribute additional comments and recommendations to advance Safe Sport. The themes that emerged from PAGE 5 these comments included athletes’ perspectives that numerous harmful behaviours are normalized in sport and as a result, other adults in positions of trust and authority who witnessed harmful behaviours have been complicit in failing to intervene.

Athletes also commented on the ways in which they are silenced through threats of negative repercussions in response to raising concerns, and not having a safe and confidential place to disclose or to report concerns. Recommendations for advancing Safe Sport included: (i) establish a mechanism to receive, investigate and adjudicate complaints independent of the National Sport Organizations; (ii) attend to all forms of maltreatment; (ii) enhance the focus on athletes’ holistic well-being; (iii) implement mandatory education for all sport stakeholders; (iv) strengthen accountability measures; (v) ensure supports and resources are available for victims of maltreatment; (vi) prohibit sexual relationships and forced intimacy between athletes and those in positions of power; and (vii) conduct a climate survey of athletes’ experiences on a regular basis.

Click here to read the research.



The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a series of articles by Jeff Hamilton entitled ’A Stain on Our Game’ an investigation into convicted serial sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James. This series explores the lasting impact of his years of abuse on the Canadian hockey community and more importantly, on those who were victimized by him. Hamilton’s research shed a light on the factors that allowed the widespread abuse to occur, the lifelong impacts on the survivors of James’ abuse, and what sport organizations across Canada have done and must continue to do to prevent maltreatment and abuse from occurring in sport moving forward. Accompanying the article series are reflections from Sheldon Kennedy and Respect Group’s summary of the key messages and takeaways. All of these articles can be found here.

Promoting Psychological Safety & Well-Being in Changing Learning Environments

Promoting Psychological Safety & Well-Being in Changing Learning Environments

Promoting Psychological Safety & Well-Being in Changing Learning Environments: Advice for Educators


September 2020 was anything but a normal return to school for educators, students, and parents. From switching to virtual environments, making changes to classrooms, and adapting both curriculums and learning expectations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to new challenges for all. As we navigate these changes, positive school leadership is more important now than ever. The checklist below, adapted from one of the handouts from the Respect in School program, can help educators recognize the tangible actions they can take to build positive school leadership in their new learning environments.


Positive School Leadership Checklist:


  • All students are treated with respect
  • Students are praised for participating, and new ways of participation (ex. virtual, in small groups, etc.) are recognized and encouraged 
  • Educators give both themselves and their students time to adjust to changing learning environments and new expectations 
  • Educators seek to identify positives and recognize them among their students 
  • Educators remind students not to set unrealistic expectations or put excessive pressure on themselves, particularly in the face of new challenges and adversity 
  • Educators encourage laughter and a sense of humour 
  • Educators stay calm when students make mistakes 
  • Educators quietly and privately correct students’ mistakes 
  • Educators are role models of good leadership, particularly by following public health guidelines and supporting students in doing the same
  • Educators encourage students to treat classmates and other school leaders with respect, fairness, compassion and understanding, leading by example 
  • Educators encourage students to support one another, through both achievements and challenges 


More tips and information on how to support educators and children’s mental health and psychological safety during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found below, through the resources from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Anxiety Canada: 


Respect Group receives a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +81

Respect Group receives a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +81

Respect Group is proud to be recognized as a leader in client satisfaction in an independent Canadian customer experience survey, receiving a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +81.

Net Promoter Scores are calculated by measuring client satisfaction based on the likelihood of a client recommending a business to a friend or family member. We surveyed 1598 client contacts, and while external surveys average a response rate of 10-15%, we received responses from 18.4% of clients surveyed. Scores above 50 are considered excellent, and above 70 are deemed exceptional

Client satisfaction and customer service is an essential part of our work at Respect Group, and we aim to ensure that all our clients and users of our programs benefit from the Respect Experience. Whether you are an organization of 8 or 800, all of our clients are supported in their goal of creating positive, lasting culture change through our programs’ engaging content, market-leading instructional design, and live Helpdesk support. Join over 1.5 million Canadians who are Respect Certified in sport, schools, and the workplace today!

Our Tips For Working From Home

Our Tips For Working From Home

Working from home: 6 tips for employees

1.Take control of the flexibility

Embrace the opportunities of an unstructured day but make sure to stick to a schedule that will keep you accountable and successful. 

2. Schedule your breaks and make them count 

If you are taking a break make sure it gives you the refresh that you need. Get outside, connect with someone or find whatever it is that gets you re-energized! 

3. Create a dedicated workspace

Make a clear transition from home life to work time to help reduce distractions and create boundaries. 

4. Turn your computer on & off at the same time every day

It’s very easy to work outside of a normal 8 hour day when working from home. Make sure to sign in and out at the same time each day to help build work/life balance. If you are logged into your work email on your phone, set a ‘do not disturb’ cycle to limit notifications outside of work hours.

5. Avoid the 24-hour news cycle

Constant news updates can be overwhelming and stressful, and make it hard to focus on the work in front of you. If you like working with background noise, replace the news channels with music or podcasts instead.

6. Create a bright workspace

If you are able to, try and work near a window or another natural light source. Other options include investing in new office lighting, a light therapy lamp, or adding candles or plants to your space. This is especially important as we move into the winter months and can help you stay focused on and engaged in your work.

*Don’t forget to be easy on yourself, this transition takes time!


Working from home: 6 tips for employers

1. TRUST each other 

As an employer, it helps if you have trust and that works both ways.

2. Share positive occurrences

Establish an internal communication network where positive occurrences can be shared across the team.

3. Encourage interaction and collaboration

Find what works best for your team to make communication easy and consistent. There are endless options out there (Skype, HangOuts, Go To Meetings, email, phone calls, etc…) and using more than one can be helpful.

4. Schedule in morning ‘commute time’

Avoid planning any meetings for the first hour of a workday to give employees the chance to get settled in and take care of any pressing tasks.

5. Check in with employees individually to see how they are doing

Have supervisors and managers check in with employees individually to see how they are coping with the impacts of the pandemic and adjusting to their new normal. This can also be an opportunity to explore what employees may need to continue to work efficiently and effectively.

6. Encourage employees to use a VPN

A virtual private network, or a VPN, is a safety measure that extends a private network across a public network to help improve the safety and security of data being shared. If your organization does not have a VPN set up, there are several free or paid options online to explore. 

Working from home during the winter months can mean a lot of time inside. This Mini-Guide to Help Employees’ Mental Health Throughout the Winter from the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Workplace Mental Health Program can help employers provide their employees with tools and resources specific to the winter months.

To know better is to do better

To know better is to do better

By: Sheldon Kennedy

After reading “A Stain on our Game” by Jeff Hamilton, I felt that I needed and wanted to share my views on the six-part article. I feel strongly that this story has critical teachings in it from which we all can learn.

What really hit close to home for me, again, was Jay Macaulay. I saw myself and so many others who have suffered significant trauma in their lives in Jay. I was there, and I was there for a long time, and it’s brutal. The important part, which I know now, is that there is a way out, and the opportunity to get your power and your life back.

Jay, you are not alone with your feelings; with hard work and continued commitment, recovery is possible for all of us.

Piecing this story together was so important, as it allows us to really understand the magnitude of how one pedophile can destroy the lives of so many victims. It also reveals how many knew and said nothing, and how there were countless missed opportunities to have stopped it. (And for clarification, throughout the series interviewees refer to Graham James as being “gay.” That is not accurate; he is a sexual predator, and the two terms should not be confused.)

The impact on our youth is undeniable. The research tells us that, and unfortunately, I have come to know this all too well:

  • kids who are abused are 26 times more likely to experience youth homelessness
  • kids who are abused have a 30 per cent higher high school drop-out rate
  • 70 to 80 per cent of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug and alcohol use
  • children who have been abused are 59 per cent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile
  • people who have suffered abuse are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 70 per cent of all mental health issues are linked to early childhood trauma


I didn’t come away with the feeling that these articles were written to finger-point or blame; to me, this series presents yet another opportunity to reflect, learn and improve. It’s also crystal clear that this is not just a hockey issue but a community issue, and we all have a personal responsibility to be better.

Graham James took advantage of our collective ignorance and indifference, plain and simple. That’s why education is the best defence to empower the bystander. I remember the common responses when my story broke: “This is an isolated case… and it’s a hockey issue.” Neither is true.

All this said, upon reflection, I do know that sport organizations have taken some bold steps forward over the last 20-plus years. It should be acknowledged that Hockey Canada was the first organization in this country, and perhaps the world, to introduce mandatory training for all coaches specific to the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.

Sport Manitoba was the first provincial sport organization to mandate education for all coaches in the province in all sports. Through my involvement with these initiatives, I realize just how bold those decisions were in the face of denial.

It also very apparent to me that because of hockey’s position and stature in our country, we need it to set an even greater example for others to follow. That is a very influential leadership position to be in.

At this point, I’d like to thank all the investigators who took on these cases and believed in us and fought for the truth. In my case, Det. Brian Bell — you saved my life.

I also want to acknowledge all the survivors in this story and beyond — your courage and honesty further inspires me. And to my family and friends: I know that the impact on you has been significant.

I want to thank Darren McLean and Rick Girard, two young players who, showing courage and maturity beyond their years, fought to remove Graham James as a coach to protect current and future players. Thanks also to Dr. Gretchen Kerr and Dr. Sandra Kirby for their continued research that validates that these issues are real and widespread.

Thank you for every voice in this story. It was very important, and I heard every one, whether I wanted to or not. It further drove home the need to put our focus on the 98 per cent of people who  are good, and give them tools and confidence to be better.

Stories like these take courage and great diligence. I am grateful for the commitment shown by Jeff Hamilton, the Winnipeg Free Press and all those involved. Reading this has helped me greatly, and I thank you for that.

There are, however, still two questions I would like answered: is Ed Chynoweth a suitable member of the Hockey Hall of Fame? And is it appropriate to have his name attached to the WHL Championship?

To know better is to do better.

Our co-founder, Sheldon Kennedy, has spent the last 24 years advocating for child protection and has influenced social change in a profound way. He has received extensive recognition for this work, including the Alberta Order of Excellence, the Order of Sport Award, the Order of Manitoba and the Order of Canada.

‘A Stain on Our Game’ Summary

‘A Stain on Our Game’ Summary

The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a series of articles by Jeff Hamilton entitled ‘A Stain on Our Game’, an investigation into convicted serial sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James. This series explores the lasting impact of his years of abuse on the Canadian hockey community and more importantly, on those who were victimized by him. Hamilton’s research shed a light on the factors that allowed the widespread abuse to occur, the lifelong impacts on the survivors of James’ abuse, and what sport organizations across Canada have done and must continue to do to prevent maltreatment and abuse from occurring in sport moving forward.

Lessons Learned:

Understanding and Defining Abuse & Maltreatment

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport’s Universal Code of Conduct (2019) defines maltreatment as, “Volitional acts that result in harm or the potential for physical or psychological harm”. When maltreatment occurs repeatedly over time, a pattern of abuse is formed. Abuse can be psychological, physical, or sexual, but psychological abuse is the most widespread and at the root of any and all other types of abuse (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Any type of maltreatment or abuse is rooted in an imbalance of power.

As Hamilton clearly detailed, Graham James groomed young players, who often came from vulnerable or challenging family circumstances, and wielded power over them by isolating them from their peers, using the hypermasculine culture of hockey to disempower them to speak out, and using his influence to control the future of their hockey careers. Further, a win-at-all-costs mentality and the success of James’ teams meant that those who wanted to speak out feared they would not be believed or that they would face backlash. When Darren McLean, Rick Girard, and other veteran players spoke to team management about the abuse their teammates were experiencing, McLean was instead the one punished and asked to leave the team, while James was allowed to continue coaching and abusing his players (Hamilton, 2020).

Emotional Maltreatment is Equally Harmful and More Prevalent Than Other Forms

While many survivors detailed the grooming and sexual abuse they experienced, weaved throughout their and others’ accounts was a clear pattern of emotional maltreatment and abuse. Emotional maltreatment and psychological abuse is the most common type of maltreatment experienced by young athletes, and can have equally devastating impacts as other forms of abuse (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Psychological abuse, in comparison to physical or sexual abuse, is most strongly associated with athletes experiencing post-traumatic and dissociative symptoms (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Further, psychologically abusive coaching practices can both hide and lead to grooming behaviours and sexual abuse (Mountjoy et al., 2016).

Hazing is a Longstanding Problem in Hockey with Serious, Lasting Impacts

Hazing in hockey is a longstanding problem and is currently an issue before the courts, with several former Canadian Hockey League players leading a class-action lawsuit against the CHL and its three member organizations, the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL (Hamilton, 2020). At the core of this lawsuit is the claim that the organizations have perpetuated a ‘toxic environment’ in which widespread abuse and maltreatment, from both adults and peers, is widespread and accepted (Hamilton, 2020).

Hazing is defined as any harmful interaction that involves some component of psychological, sexual, and/or physical abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). The willingness of the victim to participate has no bearing on whether an activity can be considered hazing or not; if there is any component of harm for the victim, the activity can be considered hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities have the potential to lead to extremely dangerous physical and psychological outcomes, including death (Jeckell et al., 2018). Though hazing is often viewed as ‘harmless’ and ‘team-building’, it instead has the opposite effect, reinforcing existing power structures and hierarchy amongst team members, creating more division and a lack of unity (Jeckell et al., 2018).

The Effects of Trauma are Widespread and Long-Term

Many survivors of abuse can and do go on to experience positive mental health and well-being, return to sport, and resume their regular lives and activities (Mountjoy et al., 2016). However, as Hamilton (2020) clearly showed through his interviews, the short- and long-term impacts of abuse in sport can be extremely damaging to athletes, extending beyond sport and the athletes themselves to affect their families, friends, and other areas of their lives, long after the athlete has left the sport (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Athletes suffer many opportunity costs within sport, including the loss of sponsorship, poor performance, reduced chances to win at high levels, willingness to engage in doping or cheating, or leaving sport altogether (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Outside of sport, the impacts include (but are not limited to) psychosomatic illnesses, disordered eating, low self-esteem, poor body image, anxiety, depression, substance misuse, self-harm, and suicide (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Further, the risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts or attempts, or completed suicide is increased with each type of abuse that a young person experiences (Mountjoy et al., 2016).

Parents Are Essential Stakeholders in Keeping Young Athletes Safe & Sport Organizations Accountable

Parents are their children’s first and most important advocates and are powerful stakeholders in sport culture. Parents are in an important position as bystanders to call attention to inappropriate behaviour and to step in when maltreatment occurs. Parents, as much as other adults involved in sport organizations, should also receive the education and tools to recognize and address bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination, or BAHD behaviours. Further, parents are an important stakeholder within sport organizations to call for culture change, moving away from a focus on developing the few elite-level athletes and towards developing all young athletes as both better players and humans (Hamilton, 2020).

Education is Crucial for Empowering Bystanders to Address Incidents of Maltreatment

Organizational and cultural change starts with leadership. The first step in the process of systemic culture change is to be aware of and understand that maltreatment and abuse occurs everywhere, including in sporting organizations, and that the consequences are serious and long-lasting (Mountjoy et al., 2016). A key building block in this process is education at all levels of sport organizations (Mountjoy et al., 2016). According to Mountjoy et al. (2016), “Prevention begins with awareness-raising about non-accidental violence through the dissemination of evidence-based education and training programs.”

Bystanders are in a crucial position to disrupt patterns of maltreatment and abuse in sport environments. Further, if they do not intervene, they become part of the problem; when bystanders who witness or are aware of the abusive behaviour do nothing, either through acceptance of the behaviour, non-intervention, denial or silence, athletes believe that the behaviour is acceptable and that they would be powerless if they chose to speak out (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Bystanders can be anyone involved in a sport organization, including athletes. In fact, educating youth involved in sports from a young age on the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviours can help them to recognize when maltreatment is occurring and empower them to stand up for themselves and their peers.



More information about supporting individuals who are experiencing or have experienced abuse can be found below:

Sport-Specific Resources:


Mental Health & Maltreatment Resources:

  • A full list of resources available in each province and territory for survivors of abuse can be found on the Ending Violence Association of Canada’s website
  • Free mental health support is currently available across Canada through the Wellness Together Canada website
  • For immediate crisis support, adults can text WELLNESS to 741741 and youth can text WELLNESS to 686868
  • The Canadian Centre for Victims of Crime has a helpful list of resources for individuals who have experienced maltreatment and are in need of support


Prevention Resources

The first step towards prevention is education. Learn more about our online programs here:

The Respect in Sport Parent Program provides parents with the tools to create and maintain Safe Sport environments.

The Respect in Sport Activity Leader educates youth leaders, coaches, officials and participants (14-years and up) to recognize, understand and respond to issues of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD).

  • Educating our youth: Stay in the Game program

The Stay in the Game program is designed to educate youth 10 -14 years old on three key themes; finding your voice, staying safe and having fun.

Tools, tips and research summaries to discover:



Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. (2019). Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address
Maltreatment in Sport. Retrieved from

Hamilton, J. (2020, December). A stain on our game: The life and destructive legacy of Graham James. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from

Jeckell, A. S., Copenhaver, E. A., & Diamond, A. B. (2018). The spectrum of hazing and peer sexual abuse in sports: A current perspective. Sports health, 10(6), 558-564.

Mountjoy, M., Brackenridge, C., Arrington, M., Blauwet, C., Carska-Sheppard, A., Fasting, K., … & Starr, K. (2016). International Olympic Committee consensus statement: harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(17), 1019-1029.


An Overview of ‘The Spectrum of Hazing & Peer Sexual Abuse in Sports: A Current Perspective’

An Overview of ‘The Spectrum of Hazing & Peer Sexual Abuse in Sports: A Current Perspective’

Introduction & Definition

A common rite of passage among many team sports is the initiation of new team members through, at best, bonding activities, and at worst, through a variety of activities that are considered hazing. Hazing can be defined as, “Any act against someone joining or maintaining membership to any organization that is humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning and endangers the health and/or safety of those involved” (Jeckell, Copenhaver, & Diamond, 2018). In other words, hazing is any harmful interaction that involves some component of psychological, sexual, and/or physical abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). The willingness of the victim to participate has no bearing on whether an activity can be considered hazing or not; if there is any component of harm for the victim, the activity can be considered hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities have the potential to lead to extremely dangerous physical and psychological outcomes, including death (Jeckell et al., 2018).

It is important to differentiate bullying from hazing; bullying has a goal of alienation, while hazing has a goal of initiation (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, hazing has historically been considered a ‘team-building’ activity, so it is important to define hazing separately from team building. As defined by the National College Athletics Association (NCAA), team building activities are shared positive events that promote the values of respect, dignity, equality, and teamwork amongst teammates (Jeckell et al., 2018). The aim of team building activities is to build cohesion amongst new and existing team members, and power is evenly distributed amongst all involved (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities are characterized by negative events and an imbalance of power; existing team members hold power over new team members, who must prove themselves worthy of their place on the team and, in turn, earn the respect and dignity of their teammates (Jeckell et al., 2018). To access the graphic, click here.

Hazing is an Issue of Power

Hazing serves to reinforce a power structure where existing members of the team are able to grant or reject team membership to new members based on their ability to endure humiliating, degrading, or otherwise harmful activities (Jeckell et al., 2018). This is typically achieved through some sort of transformative hazing activity defined by a ‘destruction/creation’ cycle, where the athlete’s former identity is ‘destroyed’ and re-created to fit a new mold that is defined and accepted by the team (Jeckell et al., 2018). These destructive activities are ultimately a test of new team members to demonstrate how far they will go to be accepted as members of the team (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities all involve some level of dominance on the part of the hazer, forcing victims to experience pain, humiliation, and/or danger while demonstrating obedience and willingness to comply (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Many athletes report that they do not truly feel like members of the team until some sort of initiation activity has occurred (Jeckell et al., 2018). As such, many athletes participate in hazing in order to prove their dedication to the team, with an aim to achieve acceptance and respect (Jeckell et al., 2018). However, rather than building team cohesion, this reinforces the existing power structure and hierarchy amongst team members, creating more division and a lack of unity (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing always enforces an imbalanced power structure, with hazers at the top and hazees on the bottom (Jeckell et al., 2018). This ultimately keeps members divided by their various statuses (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Hazing & Sexual Misconduct by the Numbers

Jeckell et al. (2018) report that in the United States, the following groups experienced hazing:

  • 47% of high schools student-athletes
  • 25% report experiencing their first incident of hazing before age 13
  • 34% of students performing in the arts or band
  • 20% of students in other student groups
  • 55% of college students who participated in clubs, teams, or other organizations (ex. fraternities or sororities)
  • 80% of NCAA athletes
  • 42% experienced hazing in high school

While estimates vary, between 2-48% of athletes experience some kind of sexual maltreatment/misconduct in sport (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Sensitive/Vulnerable Periods for Athletes

Aside from hazing and peer sexual abuse, athletes who participate in individual sports are particularly vulnerable to experience abuse during the period of ‘imminent achievement’, when they are on the cup of elite status (Jeckell et al., 2018). This period of time is typically characterized by both heightened levels of stress and dependence on coaching/training staff, which can leave athletes vulnerable to abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). With their focus on achieving elite status, pre-elite athletes may be more likely to tolerate abusive behaviours in order to achieve elite status (note: this is not to say they accept or condone the behaviour) (Jeckell et al., 2018). Other athletes who are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse are those who specialize at a younger age, especially around puberty (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Risk Factors for Hazing

Individuals who are at risk of experiencing hazing include elite athletes, children, LGBTQ+ athletes, athletes with disabilities, and athletes with a lower grade point average (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Teams who are at a higher risk of experiencing/initiating hazing typically have athletes who deny or fail to recognize the authority of the coaching staff, have unsupervised team areas or locker rooms, and have a balance of power shifted towards masculine authority (Jeckell et al., 2018). However, there is no known risk for hazing associated with any one sport or sport-specific factors, including the levels of physical contact involved or uniform coverage (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Hazing is most harmful when the intent is to marginalize individuals; for example, when hazing occurs at an inter-team level, where elite athletes (ex. Junior hockey players) haze pre-elite athletes (ex. Midget hockey players) (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Sexualized Hazing

Hazing can be considered sexualized when the harmful incident includes a verbal, non-verbal and/or physically sexualized component (Jeckell et al., 2018). Sexual abuse goes beyond hazing and involves a sexualized act that exploits or entraps the victim, occurring without their consent (Jeckell et al., 2018). When sexual abuse is perpetrated by multiple people at once (i.e. gang rape/sexual assault), abusers aim to manifest status, hostility, control, and dominance (Jeckell et al., 2018). This, in part, is why sexualized hazing and peer sexual abuse occurs in cycles, where victims then become the abusers (Jeckell et al., 2018). The victim or other participants (passive or active) may view enacting the same abuses they endured onto others as the only way to demonstrate or re-establish their own status (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Peer Sexual Abuse & Hyper/Toxic Masculinity

Peer sexual abuse, along with other forms of abuse, often stems from a need to demonstrate power and rank, in part stemming from the stereotypical expectations of athletes in Western culture to demonstrate masculinity (Jeckell et al., 2018). This is shown through many depictions of athletes in the media and popular culture, where the most masculine athletes (of any gender) are viewed as the most powerful (Jeckell et al, 2018). When peer sexual abuse and sexualized hazing occurs, the intent is to demasculinize the victim and hyper-masculinize the perpetrator (Jeckell et al., 2018).

It is important to note that hazing can occur across all genders, and sexualized hazing can also occur amongst teams of female athletes. The toxic, hypermasculine ideologies involving a need for power and dominance that exist in society are often amplified in sport and can be held by athletes of any gender, in part due to the expectations and stereotypes of athletes as strong and powerful.

Impact of Hazing & Peer Sexual Abuse

Psychological Impacts

While a study of collegiate hazing found that students who participated experienced positive benefits, including feeling like part of the team, accomplished, and stronger, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the negative short- and long-term psychological effects of hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). Multiple studies have found that victims of hazing are more likely to develop mental illnesses and symptoms, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders (Jeckell et al., 2018).

 Physical Impacts

Hazing has resulted in numerous injuries, deaths and suicides (Jeckell et al., 2018). Sexualized hazing and peer sexual abuse also put victims at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted illnesses, suffering from lifelong injuries that can result in health complications, and even death (Jeckell et al., 2018)

Impacts on the Team

Research from college athletes shows that experiencing hazing led to lower levels of task cohesiveness, attraction and integration; simplified, experiencing hazing leads to lower levels of teamwork and ability to focus and build on tasks (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, hazing was unrelated to social attraction and team cohesiveness, aside from cohesiveness around the ‘code of silence’ that plagues hazing and other abuses in sport (Jeckell et al., 2018). To access the table, click here.

What Prevents Disclosure?

Research has found that many athletes who have experienced activities that constitute hazing are unlikely or unwilling to identify these events as hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). A survey of NCAA athletes found that while 80% of athletes reported experiencing events that are considered hazing, only 12% report being hazed (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, between 60-90% of athletes who experienced hazing explicitly stated that they would not consider reporting the event (Jeckell et al., 2018). This also shows that hazing may be normalized as a regular part of sport culture, where these harmful activities are viewed as good for the team (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Common reasons for not reporting hazing included loyalty to teammates, being unsure of who to trust (ex. coaching staff or other authority figures) with disclosure, hazing behaviour being viewed as normal, or the perception that they willingly chose to participate in being hazed (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, many college athletes hold positive views of hazing, are unable to recognize that it has taken place, or fear retaliation from teammates for speaking out (Jeckell et al., 2018). All of these reasons exist within and stem from a sporting culture that has created a ‘code of silence’ around abuse and harassment (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Institutions Protect Abusers & Their Own Reputations/Chances for Sporting Success

There is a trend in sports-related hazing for institutions to protect the abuser(s), often going to great lengths to cover up incidents and reports of hazing and abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). There are many factors that contribute to this. Abusers are often senior, elite athletes who have demonstrated their ability to bring the institution success through sport, bringing the school positive attention in the general public and the media (Jeckell et al., 2018). The institution often protects the perpetrator to avoid negative media/public attention, or to ensure the immediate success or long-term future of the team (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, for a coach, administrator, or another member of the institution to accept that hazing or abuse has occurred amongst athletes for whom they are responsible, they themselves must accept some level of responsibility (Jeckell et al., 2018). In order to protect their reputations and avoid accepting liability publicly, many institutions will deny that hazing or abuse has occurred and encourage victims to move forward without any sort of resolution or deal with the issue behind closed doors (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Victims are Blamed, Within & Outside of Sport

Widespread societal myths around sexual assault and abuse are also applied to sexualized hazing and peer sexual abuse in sport (Jeckell et al., 2018). Many mistakenly believe that ‘real rape’ only occurs outside at night, when a stranger overpowers a victim with physical force (Jeckell et al., 2018). When sexual assault or rape does occur in the context of sport (for example, in private homes, team areas, or the locker room) many view this as consensual, innocent, or occurring without harmful intent (Jeckell et al., 2018). This myth is not only inaccurate but incredibly dangerous when it comes to victims being believed when they disclose and can disrupt their efforts to seek support and justice (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Victims are also blamed depending on the level of closeness they have with their abuser, another harmful myth that creates an expectation for victims to act or behave in a certain way towards those who have harmed them (Jeckell et al., 2018). Research has shown that the closer the victim and the abuser are, the less likely other individuals, including authority figures, are to blame the abuser (Jeckell et al., 2018). It can also lead these individuals to believe the abuse/hazing was less harmful to the victim (Jeckell et al., 2018). This is especially dangerous in team sports, where athletes spend a lot of time together and develop close relationships (Jeckell et al., 2018).

The normalization of hazing in sport culture may also lead to authority figures viewing victims who report instances of hazing to be going against the team and ‘making trouble’ (Jeckell et al., 2018). Further, authority figures who view hazing as normal or even beneficial for the team may also believe the victim willingly participated in the hazing and should be punished along with the perpetrators, ignoring the imbalance of power wielded by hazers and a lack of true consent to participate from hazees (Jeckell et al., 2018).

What to Do When Hazing Occurs

The Initial Conversation/Disclosure

If an athlete discloses that they have experienced hazing or peer sexual abuse, open dialogue should be encouraged; this means using active, empathetic listening and avoiding suggestive, directing, or leading questions (Jeckell et al., 2018). The conversation should ideally occur in a confidential environment where the athlete feels safe and free to openly discuss what they have experienced (Jeckell et al., 2018). The person receiving the disclosure should not express negative feelings towards the abuser/hazer; instead, a neutral tone should be maintained and the focus should be on the victim/hazee (Jeckell et al., 2018). Most importantly, letting the victim know that you believe them, emphasizing that what they experienced is not their fault and not acceptable, and commending their courage to come forward can have a long-lasting positive impact (Jeckell et al., 2018). Each situation should be treated individually and emotional and psychological support, as well as medical services, should be offered to the victim depending on their needs (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Mandatory Reporting

Any individual with an athlete in their care or who is involved with the team in any way who is aware that abuse has occurred is obligated to report this to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible (Jeckell et al., 2018). Delayed reporting and attempts to solely handle the disclosure internally can not only amount to negligence and a breach of mandatory reporting, but may also empower the perpetrators and increase the distress and harm for the victim (Jeckell et al., 2018).

Prevention Through Education & Policy

The first step to preventing hazing is a clear, zero-tolerance policy adhered to by the governing sport organization, all team staff, coaches, and the athletes themselves (Jeckell et al., 2018). This policy should clearly define the difference between team building and hazing activities, and team staff should be trained to recognize the physical and emotional warning signs that may be associated with hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). A clear, reliable reporting system should be recognized and understood by all athletes, team staff and the organization (Jeckell et al., 2018). Consistent and proportionate disciplinary action should be taken against hazers, both to encourage future disclosures and to help prevent repeat offenders (Jeckell et al., 2018).


Jeckell, A. S., Copenhaver, E. A., & Diamond, A. B. (2018). The spectrum of hazing and peer sexual abuse in sports: A current perspective. Sports health, 10(6), 558-564.




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