I’ve been a basketball coach almost all of my adult life. I tried to do this with passion, commitment and, most importantly in my opinion, with kindness.
The revelations of I., which followed a few months after those of Saint-Laurent high school, brings me to a very sad observation. We are all partly responsible, as adults, as a sports community, for what happened in the student sports environment. The diffusion of responsibility caused us to close our eyes and think that success must go hand in hand with humiliation, violence and manipulation. We justified, rationalized and excused behaviors that should never have been. The women who have denounced this repetitive abuse have found the strength to finally break the circle.1
I believe there is a cure for this epidemic of toxic competition. Its ingredients are simple, but to establish them for good in the sports culture requires a lot of resources and willpower.
Train the coaches
Don’t train them to draw plays or come up with tactics. Train sensitive, self-aware and empathetic human beings first. Teach them to develop and nurture meaningful relationships, bridge sport and life, and value each individual under their care. These skills can be informed and developed, and they should be at the heart of the concerns of sports federations that govern the education of coaches.
The lack of consideration given to this work means that it can attract individuals whose main salary is the swelling of their ego. Establish a professional culture that will no longer allow this kind of abuse. Through working conditions and wages, of course, but also by recognizing the absolutely essential contribution of coaches in the socio-affective development of children and adolescents in search of bearings, identity and self-esteem. If you know a benevolent and respectful trainer, or if you have met one during your sports career, take the time to thank him.
The win column should no longer be everything. This does not mean that competition must disappear or that discipline and rigor can no longer be at the heart of sports programs. But while the ultimate goal is always victory, the “no matter what” mentality quickly emerges, and with it the justification for abusive and demeaning behavior.
I hope that institutions and governments will have the courage to initiate this shift, because school sport can change lives for the better and play a positive social role.
As a coach, but especially as a father, I participated in this change in sporting culture which will allow us to say, once and for all: never again.