Coaching at its core is all about trust

ALISON KORN

, Last Updated: 3:21 AM ET

This has been a ghastly week for coaches in the news.

From the lurid courtroom stories of former hockey coach David Frost, accused of sexually exploiting his players, to disgraced Quebec cyclist Genevieve Jeanson's revelation that her coach preyed on her sexually throughout her career, coaching at its core is all about trust. In these cases, a trust betrayed.

"It's sickening that coaches are abusing their power and influence and taking advantage of younger people," said John Bales, CEO of the Coaching Association of Canada, which leads coach training and certification.

"There's absolutely a need to do more to try to ensure that sport is a safe place to practise, and so we're trying to provide some of those tools to increase the awareness."

Tools such as a coaching code of ethics. Coaches of Canada, a group that represents Canadian coaches, has a section in its Coaching Code of Ethics on sexual relationships.

It advises coaches to: "Be acutely aware of power in coaching relationships and, therefore, avoid sexual intimacy with athletes, both during coaching and during that period following coaching during when imbalance in power could jeopardize effective decision-making."

Because even if the intimacy is consensual, or believed to be, the power imbalance suggests it probably isn't.

It was impossible to pick up a newspaper this week and avoid reading about Frost, the ex-coach of the Junior A Quinte Hawks, who has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual exploitation relating to two of his former players.

At the same time, Quebec is buzzing over another revelation from disgraced cyclist Genevieve Jeanson, who admitted to journalist Andre Gravel a year ago that she used banned drugs. After more questioning by Gravel for a book (due out Nov. 6) Jeanson described being beaten, sexually abused and blackmailed by her former coach, Andre Aubut, starting when she was 16 and continuing for almost 10 years.

Aubut's hold on Jeanson was: "Such that she felt obliged to satisfy his every desire, even sexual," writes Gravel.

During a training session in 2004, when Aubut was dissatisfied with Jeanson's effort, he punched her in the face and left her in the middle of the desert, she said. Jeanson shared a photo of herself from that time with a black eye.

Sick as these stories are, they compel us to read and reflect. The vast majority of coaches are awesome. But the professionalization of coaching is still lacking. Unlike in medicine, engineering or teaching, one can coach without belonging to a professional body. And so its code of ethics has no teeth. Yet.

"It has no teeth unless the national sport organizations adopt it, which is our next step," said Wayne Parro, executive director of Coaches of Canada.

Talk about timing. This week Parro has been meeting with sport organizations to get them to buy in to an expanded "baseline code" his group has created. The Canadian Olympic Committee is expected to approve it at its congress this weekend in Quebec City. Parro wants Sport Canada to require that all sport organizations sign on in exchange for funding.

Parro said most sports already have addressed coaching ethics to some degree, of course, but this new code goes beyond coaches to include administrators, volunteers, spectators and officials.

"Our concern as coaches was that we didn't paint coaches as bad people because of a few bad apples," he said. "We're pretty confident going forward that this will be a positive step."


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