“I am a survivor, and I know I’m not the only one”
Said Kyle Beach in a recent interview with TSN. Beach was a first-round draft pick in the NHL back in 2008 and had the potential to have a promising NHL career ahead of him. However, in 2010 Beach was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of, then, video coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, Brad Aldrich, during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup run. According to an independent report conducted by the law firm Jenner & Block, senior management of the team was made aware of the incidents and chose to ignore them and prioritized winning, above their players’ physical and mental well-being.
This report, and the NHL’s response to allegations, have drawn widespread attention in the media since Beach came forward and identified himself as “John Doe” from one of the lawsuits filed against the Blackhawks back in May of 2021.
“I wanted to come forward and to put my name on this because it’s already out there,” he said in the interview. “The details were pretty accurate in the report, and it’s been figured out, but more than that, I’ve been a survivor. I am a survivor, and I know I’m not the only one. I buried this for 11 years, and it’s destroyed me from the inside out, and I want everybody to know in the sports world and in the world that you’re not alone.”
Athletes are typically stereotyped and depicted as the epitome of toughness. They are taught to endure tough battles and to continuously keep fighting. These characteristics are not just for professional athletes, and the masculinity traits to cover up mental and physical abuse often protrude into youth sports, leading victims to hide and cover up their true issues afraid of the repercussions that may follow.
At the time of the assault, Beach was 20 years old and a professional hockey player in the NHL. This is not an isolated incident and similar abuse can and does happen in youth sports, unbeknownst to parents. The vast majority of coaches in our youth sports clubs are selfless volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to children who greatly benefit from their expertise. However, we must never take our child’s safety and well-being for granted simply because a coach has some endearing words. Predators become experts at manipulating parents to gain their trust and create a façade to cover up their true intentions.
At Millars Law, we would like to share a few tips to help protect all children, coaches, and clubs from the terror of dealing with sexual assault cases.
Clubs Must Have Clear Policies that Should Include Guidelines for Coaches that include:
- Coaches should never be alone with a child
- Club staff are forbidden from physical contact with children… including hugs
- Administrative staff must ensure criminal record checks are updated annually
- Club leadership must document and respond to the smallest of complaints so that there is a record of suspicious activity that could reveal a pattern
- Club leadership must not be scared to remove a coach if there is an issue. Good coaches don’t have multiple complaints…conclusive proof of problems often comes too late, and clubs will be in trouble if they fail to act.
Coaches Should Have their Own Policies and Share them with Parents and Kids:
- Share club rules/policies
- Protect yourself by having witnesses to one-on-one coaching sessions
- Never go into a child’s hotel room alone and be careful offering to give a ride to one kid alone
- Leave medical treatment to the professionals, no massages…ever
- Discuss child safety with the parents and their children together and create a safe environment for the reporting of issues to promote transparency
- Don’t flirt with parents at the risk of being on the receiving end of the other parents’ wrath (false accusations can come from anywhere)
- Even if your student becomes an adult, if you are having a relationship with them you will be open to risk as you are in a position of trust that was established at a younger age, avoid unnecessary risk and keep romance and your sport separate.
- Let your kids know it is always OK for them to tell you anything even if another adult says they will get in trouble; in fact, emphasize with them that if an adult ever tells them they will get in trouble for speaking that is when it is most important they tell you
- Be present; predators are less likely to target kids with attentive parents
- Do not take kindness as a pure sign of good intent; stay vigilant
- Single parents should be especially suspicious of men/women who offer to take a role in their child’s life; these are ideal conditions for grooming when a parent is overwhelmed and needs help. Predators are on the hunt for vulnerable targets of opportunity
The bottom line is child abuse happens in every sport as predators will always be drawn to places where vulnerable children can be found. Be positive but vigilant.
No one thinks it can happen to their child, but after the fact, it is too late to be angry.
It is often shocking to see how some parents can actually turn a blind eye to abuse allegations because their coach is too influential in their own kids’ sports success. We have seen this too many times.
If you have a question, concern, or even a suspicion of abuse, give us a call.
Millars Law represents victims of sexual assault across Canada. We have the experience to dig a little deeper and find answers hidden beneath the veneer of politeness.
Call MILLARS LAW today for a consultation at 519-657-1529.