The present blog, the second in a series of two, originates from the implementation of the Integration Protection Policy in Sports, launched on February 1, 2021. After more than one year of existence, the Sport’Aide team deemed it pertinent to discuss the reactions and behaviours of the various stakeholders in terms of the implementation of this tool made available to the Quebec sports community.
The following fictional story is based on actual witness testimonies.
I had been thinking about it for some time already. Weeks became months that I suffered and endured the behaviour of someone in my sports entourage. At first, I tried not to let the derogatory remarks affect me too much. The fact that my teammates didn’t react to these comments, other than a few uneasy laughs, confirmed to me that this was not the first time that this person make this type of inappropriate comment/joke.
Since I’m new in this environment, I told myself that I had to give myself a bit of time to understand the team culture, their way of doing things and fit in. However, weeks went by, and nothing changed. On the other hand, the more the season advanced, the more this person felt at ease and continued their pejorative and hurtful comments about me. I tried to talk to certain team members about it. Since they seemed to be used to our captain’s behaviour, even though individually speaking they didn’t approve of it, I had the impression that they preferred not to make too many waves, out of fear of becoming the next scapegoat. An easy solution, if there is one, when you’re not the one who is the primary target of these comments. However, other teammates encouraged me to be more assertive with him, since after all it is with him that I have a problem with.
I gathered up my courage and chose the right time to confront him… or at least I tried. I even succeeded in putting into words how he was making me feel by talking to him about psychological harassment and violence, which have no place on a sports team. However, his reaction was suggesting that I was exaggerating, his remarks were just jokes and I shouldn’t take everything literally. He finally advised me to not make a big deal out of it and let it go.
I quickly had the impression that he didn’t understand a thing or that he didn’t want to. He didn’t seem to grasp how hard it can be to be part of a team when one of the leaders is constantly bullying you and doesn’t seem to be aware of the impact of his comments have on the team climate. Nor did he understand to what extend his “jokes” hurt my confidence and led me for the first time in my life to consider abandoning the sport that I love so much, and which until recently was my reason to stay alive.
After this unsuccessful conversation, I had to face the fact that he didn’t understand the message and that nothing had changed. Yes, I was told to talk to the coach about it so that he could intervene, but I just don’t have the confidence to do so. Since the captain’s family is very close to my coach’s family, and because of this relationship I have the impression that my coach won’t go talk to the captain.
There is also the fact that the coach is more “old school”. How could he handle the situation? Also, since I don’t have much ice time, I’m afraid I’ll be benched even more if the coach sees me as a troublemaker who is jealous of the team’s top scorer. So even though I know I should talk to him, I just don’t have enough trust in him right now.
I thought about talking to my parents about it, but I changed my mind when I realized that they already had enough on their plate with concerns about my little brother and their work. And knowing them, they might show up at the coach’s office all riled up, which would make things even worse. I therefore confided in my oldest cousin, who is also a coach in another region. He told me about Sport’Aide and the new Integrity Protection Policy, since he had in fact just attended a presentation about this policy organized by his sport federation. Having the impression that I didn’t have much else to lose, I decided to call them. I was able to take all the time I needed to explain my problem and my situation. My discussion with the counsellor allowed me to validate that the hurtful and repetitive comments that I had been enduring for a long time were unacceptable and were considered to be bullying acts and psychological violence. This discussion made me realize that I had already tried various informal approaches to put a stop to the comments, but I was unsuccessful. The counsellor also respected the fact that I didn’t feel confident about sharing the problem with my coach. Without putting pressure on me to file an official complaint, he told me that it was a possibility, while explaining to me what would happen if I did decide to file a complaint with the Independent Complaints Officer, rather than with my coach or the team management. In short, he helped me to weight the advantages and disadvantages of the various options open to me with the ultimate goal of putting a stop to the psychological violence I was experiencing. It was by realizing that this all had to come to an end that I began to think about myself and my psychological well-being. After all, I have nothing left to lose by trying this approach, since I’m not fully ready to quit my sport and my path.
I was also reassured when I learn that I could receive support from the same counsellor throughout the weeks long period that the complaint process could last. I know now that I am not the only one experiencing a similar situation and that I no longer have to put up with this type of behaviour.
I am doing it for me and for everyone else who will have to work with our captain in the future, since he obviously doesn’t understand the harm that his words have on others. I am also doing it because I have more confidence in the integrity policy complaint process. Thanks to this process, I will have the opportunity to be heard by impartial people who will not be influenced because the other person is the team’s captain or the team’s favourite. I am doing it because according to my situation, my needs, and my expectations, I am officially ready to complain to make things change.
* Complaints Officer: Being completely independent from sports organizations, his/her role is to receive complaints of abuse, harassment, negligence, or violence under the integrity policy. He/she also provides support to the complainant and judges the receivability of the complaint.
* Integrity Committee: Made up of 3 independent people selected by the Complaints Officer, its role is to process the complaint via an independent and impartial hearing procedure and to provide its conclusions and recommendations on the situation.
About: Sport’Aide has an assistance and support role for people who are experiencing problematic situations in their sports environment and those who use the I file a complaint platform and mechanism. The complaints filed on this platform are not sent to or processed by Sport’Aide, this role belongs to the Complaints Officer, which is completely independent of Sport’Aide.