Strengthening pathway to protect young athletes from maltreatment –

The Manitoba Government invests $250,000 towards the development of expanding training requirements for coaches and staff who work within the school system.

On June 28, the Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Andrew Smith and Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko sent out a news release indicating that coaching training will be progressed and reinforced.

“Our government recognizes that mistreated athletes, as well as their families and friends, experience significant emotional, psychological and physical health impacts,” said Smith. “We are committed to building on existing safe sports resources, policies and practices to further enhance the safety of Manitoba athletes.”

A Pathway to Safer Sports is the development of additional resources and initiatives from provincial sports agencies and the education system to limit or prevent the mistreatment, abuse and harassment of youth in the sports setting across Manitoba.

The release says that Sport Manitoba will consult with northern and rural communities to supply them with tools and resources that are specific to their needs. Along with purchasing a subscription to the Sports Culture Index, which is an “innovative online tool that will help leaders measure and monitor the wellness and effectiveness of their organization’s culture.”

“Thank you to the Manitoba government for committing to preventing, addressing and acting on all forms of misconduct or maltreatment in sport,” said Janet McMahon, president and CEO of Sport Manitoba. “With this critical financial support, we can create positive changes in our province’s sports culture. Thank you also to Sport Law and our partners in sports who are working together to protect our kids and our community.”

Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning is furthering this initiative by requiring coaches within the education system and school staff to complete an online training course from Respect Sport. Online training has been mandated for all coaches outside of the school system since 2007.

“Sport Manitoba was the first organization in Canada to mandate the Respect in Sport program for community coaches over 15 years ago,” said Sheldon Kennedy, co-founder of Respect Group. “I applaud the Manitoba government for their proactive approach to further expand child protection education for all school coaches and school-based personnel across the province. We know that those interacting with students each day are trusted adults in a child/student’s life and they need the tools to know how to listen and to step up and step in when required.”

Some, if not all provincial sports programs require coaches to go through a criminal record check.

“We require all of our coaches, head coaches, assistant coaches, those that manage clubs to be screened. So, you are required to have a criminal record check complete and you’re required to have a child abuse registry check complete. We do have all of that in place and there are certain elements within NCCP National Coaching Certification program training that also addresses these types of ethical training educations, such as making ethical decisions,” says Executive Director of Volleyball Manitoba, John Blacher, when asked how the volleyball program will make adjustments to it’s coaching training.

Blacher also notes that future steps include making the public aware of the resources available to them and what constitutes as abuse and harassment in a sports setting.

“Athletes and parents see what’s going on a lot more than the provincial sports bodies. How can we empower those people to speak up or to make a phone call if they see something inappropriate happening or something that might be a little concerning in terms of behaviour? It could involve bullying, it could involve hazing, and it could involve inappropriate action that they believe the coach is doing. It’s not just regarding coaches, but there are lots of different elements of maltreatment and abuse in sport.”

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