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Initiatives around Safe Sport affirms Vikes culture of excellence

The Vikes are heading into 2021 having implemented several significant initiatives to provide a safe and supportive environment for student-athletes to pursue high standards of sports performance.

Together the initiatives provide new and additional resources, education and support for students and coaching staff in the Vikes Varsity Program. They also reaffirm Vikes’ commitment to a culture of excellence free from bullying, harassment, discrimination or abuse of any kind.

The initiatives include a new senior leadership position—Director of Varsity Performance Sport—to provide additional oversight and accountability of the varsity performance sport program, with a clear focus on safe sport and the specific needs of performance athletes.

Safe sport a national imperative

A leader in Canadian university sport, UVic has a rich history of athletic excellence which includes 80 national titles and numerous internationally accomplished alumni to its name. The Vikes athletics program takes pride in being one of the best in Canada.

Complaints about the coach of the women’s rowing program during the 2018/19 season heightened the need to strengthen the Vikes program with respect to the standards of safe sport expected in Canadian high-performance athletics. Independent investigations were conducted and completed in 2019 into the allegations against the rowing coach while existing programs and procedures were reviewed for improvement.

At the same time, efforts were under way nationally among sporting organizations to respond to the expectations of students, parents, staff, and academic administrators to deliver competitive, high-level programs for athletes in an environment that is free from maltreatment.

“Every student-athlete in the Vikes Varsity Program can be assured we are firmly committed to providing them with the highest quality athletic experience in a safe sport environment,” says Clint Hamilton, senior director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation.

Research, experts shape coaches code

One of the initiatives introduced this fall is a Professional Code of Conduct for coaches. The UVic code is the result of thorough research and consultation with external experts and with consideration of the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport completed in late 2019 for Canada’s sporting community and the Coaches Association of Canada Code of Conduct.

The work was also guided by an external working group established by UVic that includes current and former members of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, BC Games Society, and the Coaching Association of Canada. Together, they represent decades of coaching and athletics experience from academic, community and business backgrounds.

“It is exciting to celebrate UVic’s bold action to lead the way in aligning safe sport principles with university sport and other Canadian sport environments,” says Gail Donohue, a national leader in coaching education, former board member of the Coaching Association of Canada and member of the external advisory group.

With the introduction of the Vikes Professional Code for Coaches, UVic acknowledges the extremely important and vital role coaches play in a student athlete’s career and in promoting safe sport in Canada. UVic continues to be a leader in establishing quality environments for both athletes and coaches to excel in life and sport.
Gail Donohue

Code upholds safe sport

Developed for a university setting, the UVic code adds to existing resources for coaches about how to deliver their duties in a professional and ethical manner.

Standards of Behaviour include:

  • Health and Safety of Student-Athletes
  • Student-Athlete Development
  • Coaching Responsibly
  • Integrity in Relations with Others
  • Respect
  • Honour Sport
  • Discrimination and Harassment
  • Personal Behaviour
  • Doping and Drug Use
  • Student-Athlete Protection

The code aligns with other university policies and procedures in areas such as Human Resources, Equity and Human Rights, Student Affairs, and collective bargaining agreements where supports or resolution of concerns will continue to be used as appropriate.

It is important that students or employees know how and to whom to safely raise concerns about behaviour they believe is contrary to Vikes values and expectations, as articulated in the code, and the options for dealing with those concerns.

Outcomes for violations will depend on the circumstances and will involve other existing university policies and collective agreements as warranted.

We want all members of the Vikes community including student-athletes, coaches and staff to have a clear understanding of what needs to happen when a member of the community has a concern that needs our attention. We want to ensure that our student-athletes are heard and have a safe, respectful environment.
Clint Hamilton

Student resources, supports enhanced

The past year has also seen the development of new or improved resources for student athletes.

A new Vikes Student-Athlete Handbook provides a 35-page overview to being a Varsity athlete. The comprehensive range of topics include the culture, expectations and guidelines for behaviour, support and resouces for athletic and academic success, team selection, strength and conditioning, injury and illness protocols, financial awards and aid among many others.

An additional resource also provided to student-athletes clearly outlines how they can discuss or report concerns when they believe they have been discriminated against, treated unfairly or inappropriately whether by a fellow student, coach, team support staff member or others within or outside the Vikes organization.

The Reporting Options and Support Resources also includes information on how to access services such as counselling, health, multifaith, the Office of Student Life, personal safety and security.

Also, a new position was added in May to the Office Student Life specifically for Varsity athletes where they can get support and advice related to emotional, social, behavioral and other non-academic concerns while dealing with the demands as a student-athlete.

The other initiatives include creation of a Varsity Student-Athlete Leadership Council to provide ongoing advice and input; new onboarding manual for coaches, and ongoing professional development for coaches.

New key position

A new leadership position, Director of Varsity Performance Sport, provides oversight of the initiatives to support student-athletes and coaching staff.  Nick Clarke, who’s been in the position since Sept. 1, is an accomplished academic and applied performance sport leader, and former student athlete, who has extensive knowledge and experience in designing and delivering performance sport programs within a safe sport environment.

“My excitement in accepting the responsibilities as Director, Varsity Performance Sport lies within these important set of initiatives. This code for coaches and the initiatives plan demonstrate the unwavering commitment of Vikes and the university to support our student-athletes, coaches and all involved in our Varsity and sport clubs in creating a uniquely transformative and safe environment,” says Clarke.

It is a privilege to be entrusted with the further elevation of our Varsity environment and creation of this code helps to affirm and underpin our culture of excellence that allows all to reach their potential. Our Vikes home is a safe place where, together through competitive disciplines and sport, we will continue to develop exceptional people - athletes, coaches and leaders alike.
Nick Clarke

UVic’s 12 head coaches were involved in development of the code along with an external working group of top sports leaders. Peter Vizsolyi, UVic’s head swim coach, contributed his extensive experience in helping to develop a national code of conduct for Swim Canada.

“On behalf of the Vikes coaching staff we are happy to have worked together with both the Athletics Department and university in moving this Professional Code for Coaches forward. As with all codes, we believe that it will be strengthened over time by the accumulated experiences of the University, the coaches, the athletes and the annual review process,” said Vizsolyi.

Other initiatives recently implemented include enhanced onboarding and education for coaching staff, and establishment of a Vikes Varsity Leadership Council for the athletes to provide advice and recommendations to Vikes leadership on the student-athlete experience and overall culture and operations of the varsity athletics program.

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Keywords: student life, administrative

People: Clint Hamilton


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