Windsor

'Sport organizations are dinosaurs' and need change to end abuse, says retired sports prof

Angered by findings of a CBC News investigation, retired professor Margery Holman said sport organizations at the local level need to "step up to the plate" when it comes to addressing abuse among young athletes in sport.

Hundreds of coaches involved in amateur sports in Canada convicted of sexual offences in past 20 years

Margery Holman is a retired kinetics associate professor at the University of Windsor and co-author of a book on hazing in sport. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Angered by findings of a CBC News investigation, retired professor Margery Holman said sport organizations at the local level need to "step up to the plate" when it comes to addressing abuse among young athletes in sport.

"What don't people get here? The structure of sport has to change," said Holman, retired human kinetics associate professor at the University of Windsor and co-author of a book on hazing.

"This is a bigger issue than just sexual abuse in sport. The structure allows the sexual abuse to continue."

By structure, Holman said she's referring to the fact that it's male-dominated. Even in female sports, Holman said it's mostly men who coach, judge, referee or run the organizations or association.

Hundreds of underage victims

A joint investigation by CBC News and Sports reveals that at least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years, involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18.

Stories of coaches and other sports staff abusing athletes have been front and centre in recent years. 

One example is Dr. Larry Nassar's abuse of young gymnasts entrusted to his care. He has been sentenced to federal prison for child pornography and first-degree sexual misconduct charges.

Back home in Canada, local sports clubs and associations across Canada are largely left on their own to develop and implement policies to root out problem coaches and protect athletes.

In some cases, local clubs and leagues may have different rules and policies that vary across the country, with little guidance from their national sports bodies.

'What do we do'

In Windsor-Essex, the Windsor Minor Hockey Association has a director of abuse and harassment to deal with some of the issues young athletes face.

At Riverside Minor Hockey, they are governed by policies set out by the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), like many others.

However, Riverside Minor president Anne Marie Schofield said they "are not necessarily trained" on how to identify signs of abuse and what to do after an allegation is made.

"We look to our governing body, like the OMHA, for assistance and support," said Schofield.

"I think support is the best word to use there. What do we do, how do we do it? Let's find somebody smarter than us to help us see our way through."

Ultimately, Holman believes there should be some regulation across the board that all sport groups must follow, instead of giving them the autonomy to implement and execute their own policies.

"Sport organizations are dinosaurs as institutions in our culture and it's time, it's long overdue for change," said Holman.​

With files from Jamie Strashin, Lori Ward and Jason Viau

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