Let's talk about hazing. As we consider the wildly inaccurate word that is hazing, we started to think about what we used to call it - because it wasn't always called hazing. So, naturally, we googled it. The word we were searching for did not turn up. Instead, this is what we found.Baiting, hassling, heckling, needling, riding, taunting, and teasing.
Wildly inaccurate. A trend has been adopted within our culture of using words to downplay what is actually occurring. Youth abuse is referred to as bullying; gendered abuse as domestic violence; rape as sexual assault; and the list goes on and on. The same has occurred in sport. The reality is hazing is abuse in sport. The hazing behaviours that have been brought to light are tremendously disturbing. Athletes have been subjected to unimaginable pain. Abuse in sport has been going on for far too long.
Now to talk about Abuse in sport.
A culture of abuse has existed within sport. An acceptance of giving the new kid a hard time, initiating them onto the team - no big deal, everyone goes through it. Coaches have been permitted to curse, ridicule, yell at our kids because, well, that serves to motivate. Rumours have swirled about this man or that woman who had an unnatural interest in our kids - they just love sports.
A blind eye has been turned while a culture of abuse has existed.
What has been allowed to happen to our athletes?
Athletes have a unique challenge in that they are vying for very few spots in their chosen career. With this, they become exposed and unprotected. Athletes are keenly aware of the importance of keeping quiet—not rocking the boat, of “accepting” what is happening in order to pursue their dreams.
They are incredibly vulnerable.
There have been many ‘movements’ in recent years that have brought to light the massive injustice in power imbalance.
One is happening in sport.
Athletes are often viewed as existing in a world of privilege and perhaps that has contributed to ignorance. Well, ignorance is no longer an excuse. Athletes are not going to let the abuse that they have been subjected to be ignored any longer. We are incredibly grateful for that.
It is more than time to change what is happening. There is no choice but to take a look at the culture that has been ingrained in sport related to abuse. Another day cannot go by without prioritizing the mental health of athletes. The investment in our athletes needs to be whole. Wellness needs to be at the forefront of sport.
So, how does this happen?
Abusive behaviour flourishes in silence and a code of silence matures disproportionately through observation, messaging and allowance.
The opportunity exists to demonstrate that there is no room for abusive behaviour in the sporting environment.
By creating a culture where mistreatment and abuse result in consequences has the power to change the environment.
- See it and acknowledge.
- Silence is destroying our athletes and the wholesomeness of sport.
- A winning coach is not worth the abuse of athletes.
- Set the trend of honouring the wellness of your athletes.
- Zero tolerance – zero. No type of mistreatment will be tolerated on your team.
- Make it clear that abuse will not be ignored.
- Build the kind of relationships with your athletes where they know they can come to you.
- Praise positive behaviour, strong relationships, healthy brotherhood or sisterhood.
- Model the type of behaviour you accept.
- Abuse in sport has spiralled through no fault of your own however you will have to be part of the solution.
- There is safety and strength in numbers – you are not the only one who does not want to participate.
- Your mental health is more important than your career.
- This may seem untrue but trust those who have gone before you - they are telling you it is.
- One person…you only need one person whom you trust to be able to talk to when you see things that are not okay.
Everyone Connected to Sport:
- “Boys will be boys” contributes to a culture of acceptance around abuse.
- “That’s just how are girls are” contributes to a culture of acceptance around abuse.
- “Why didn’t they say/do something?” lacks support for those who are now sharing.
- “I wouldn’t let that happen to me” lacks support for those who are now sharing.
If you have witnessed or experienced harassment, abuse or discrimination in sport please reach out to Canadian Sport Helpline - 1-888-83SPORT (77678).
We are here to support you
We at HONE, are here to support you whether you are trying to learn how to shift the culture, support your organizations, coaches and athletes or simply want some individual support.