When Sorry Won’t Do in Canada

(This is the blog post Richard mentioned in Episode 24. It is very worth a read. –Patrick)

Read it and weep. This long blog post from February details allegations, with supporting detail, about misconduct by coaches in the Vancouver Whitecaps girl’s academy back in 2008. It’s such a now-familiar story that it’s hard reading: girls are mistreated, nobody believes them, they escalate their complaints, the organization pretends to discipline the offenders, “bad publicity” is avoided, nobody responsible suffers, and ten (!) years later it is still happening. The problem is systemic, and the organization has little accountability or oversight or (apparently) concerns aside from its own revenue stream and image. And the girls are intimidated, by their lack of options and support, from pursuing matters with the police or courts.

Ciara McCormack

If this sounds familiar, perhaps you’re remembering US Gymnastics, or Penn State football, or Boy Scouts, or Magic Jack, or any of dozens of others.

The Vancouver Southsiders supporters group is protesting, including match walkouts, without much success to date. The Riveters and Timbers Army, via 107IST, is supporting their effort.

All of this makes me wonder about the Thorns academy program. We should not be so naive to think that “it couldn’t happen here”. The possibility is real and, for all I know, could have already happened. Do management at the Thorns academies take complaints seriously? Do they start from a position of belief? Do they have accounting systems, and supervision, and parental reporting, and enforced policy to prevent such incidents? Do they look for and react to warning signs? They well might – we simply don’t know. The Thorns’ academies are becoming known as a path to soccer success. We want that to continue, but not at the expense of girls’ well-being.

Richard Hamje
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