Pam Shriver revelations trigger coach education plan to prevent ‘inappropriate’ relationships
Tennis chiefs are preparing to introduce compulsory education courses covering ‘inappropriate’ relationships between players before allowing coaches to work with professional players.
The announcement, which came the day after Pam Shriver revealed her own damaging relationship with a much older coach, was made by WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon.
Shriver was just 17 at the start of her five-year relationship with Don Candy, a trainer who was a 42-year-old former Grand Slam winner when she first met him aged nine for a tennis lesson in Baltimore.
Shriver wrote that she still believed that “abusive relationships with coaches are extremely common in sport as a whole”, a sentiment that immediately rang with many other high profile sports figures.
Anne Keothavong, Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, warned it was ‘an issue that hasn’t gone away and won’t go away’ and which she discussed with the British players in Prague over the weekend -last end when a team led by Emma Raducanu were beaten 3-2 by the Czech Republic.
Simon now plans to make training programs for coaches and player support team members mandatory, ideally from early 2022.
“Depending on what they come into the environment as…there will be different forms of education that they will have to go through, to make them aware of the issues and concerns in that space, before they can be accredited,” he told the Tennis Podcast. “So it’s a program that we’re working on. It’s not finished yet, but we hope it will be implemented, hopefully as soon as the beginning of next year.
Sports coaching should generally also include more women, according to former sports minister Tracey Crouch.
“While grooming and abuse is not exclusive to girls, many of the teams and environments these young players are surrounded by are comprised of middle-aged men,” she said. “Is this okay? We need to make sure there are more women involved in tennis coaching to help end this culture described by Pam Shriver. I hope Pam Shriver’s story helps to end the culture of silence on this issue and will see tennis authorities consider it a priority to be resolved.
“Young girls tend to be coached only by men”
Naomi Cavaday, a former top British player, also highlighted how coaching is so male-dominated and the precarious nature of player-coach relationships.
“This insecurity increases the risk of coaches overstepping professional boundaries,” she said. “If the coach creates an emotional bond or attachment with the player, then that player will find it much harder to fire him. You can end up with close personal relationships, often involving a much older man.
“It is a very complex and confusing position for both parties. Some coaches will be tempted to consciously exploit the situation. Others may not intend things to develop, emotionally, but it happens anyway.
“These young girls tend to be coached only by men. A lot of coaches would also benefit from being trained, understanding some of these issues, because they don’t always intend to find themselves in these situations not more.
Another MP, Sarah Champion, also warned that Shriver’s experience would not be isolated. Shriver stressed that she had not been sexually abused – “obviously he [Candy] was not a predator” – but that she feels there was emotional abuse. Shriver, now 59, said the relationship ended in 1984, when she was 22 just once and we can’t continue to be shocked every time another survivor bravely comes out,” Champion said. “Abuse can happen anywhere there’s a power struggle. true of the relationship between a child and their coach Pam’s story highlights that even when the athlete is no longer a child, this type of relationship with a coach is inappropriate and harmful.
Judy Murray, the former Billie Jean King Cup captain, stressed the importance of a “reliable and secure means of reporting”, backed by “an assurance that it will be followed up and not ignored”. She added: “More and more female athletes are finding the confidence to use their voices and share their experiences in an effort to make the sports environment a safer place for women and girls.”