Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Ending The Brutality

The Calgary Dinos women's hockey team haven't made a lot of news in the last few years as they've finished near the bottom of the standings and missed the playoffs. They're still a competitive team and have an outstanding netminder in Kelsey Roberts, but the Dinos absolutely deserve some kudos for today's news. The Dinos women's hockey team was the first of Dinos Athletics to participate in a formal training program addressing sexual violence in sport that covers complex topics that discuss hazing, sexual violence, gender socialization, and consent.

After everything that happened at the University of Lethbridge and at other Canadian institutions, this is awesome to read and I, despite never going to the University of Calgary, am proud of the athletes for participating in this month-long training program. Hazing and sexual violence is one of those things that still happens behind closed doors in this country, and this kind of program needs to be implemented everywhere across Canada.

Carla Bertsch, the university’s sexual violence support advocate, facilitated the clinic for the women, and she feels this will benefit the players as leaders in the community, at the school, and in their chosen athletic endeavours.

"As an athlete myself, I know sports culture can be problematic at times. Athletes have social capital and are often expected to fulfill leadership roles whether they have proper training and support or not,” says Bertsch. "I'm excited to work with the athletics department and support our young leaders — they have a lot of potential to be part of the change that will help create a safer and more inclusive campus."

While the topics presented by Bertsch are generally not the easiest things to talk about, the players struggled with the statistics of sexual violence that Bertsch presented to them.

"Talking about consent and statistics probably hit the hardest with our team," Paige Michalenko, fifth-year sociology student and captain of the Dinos women's hockey team, stated. "Hearing that one in three women experience sexual violence was shocking — it's hard to wrap your head around and as a team of women, it really opened up our eyes to the seriousness of the issue and the importance of having open conversations about consent and sexuality. Knowing we have done this work together gives us the confidence to be able to support one another."

While Canada is a pretty tolerant country, issues such as homophobia, racism, sexism, and hazing are still present in today's culture. We've seen some of these topics show their ugly faces when it comes to women's professional hockey, the ongoing Women's World Cup, and in other corners of today's society when it was thought we were far more advanced than societies of yesteryear. In discussing these issues and bringing them out into the open, Dinos women's hockey head coach, former Canadian national team member, and Hockey Hall of Famer Danielle Goyette believes the program run by Bertsch was a valuable investment that will set her team up for success both on and off the ice.

"It can be hard for players to open up with coaches — they don’t want their personal lives to affect their ice time," Goyette said. "Racism, homophobia, gender and sexual violence are sensitive topics that have received a lot of attention in the media lately. Society often looks to sport for leadership and by bringing an expert like Carla in to educate our players, we're giving them the tools they need to be leaders among university athletes and peer groups."

It's the first part of Goyette's statement that hits closest to home after hearing what happened in Lethbridge with the Pronghorns women's hockey team and their former head coach Michelle Janus. Players stated that they placed their trust in the coach when disclosing personal matters to Miss Janus, and she used those disclosures to bully players into less ice time, not playing at all, or forcing them to play when they needed time away from the game. Some may call this bullying a form of hazing, but it's wrong no matter what it's categorized as and Miss Bertsch is making it clear with her efforts in this program that it has no place in sports, in life, and at the University of Calgary.

If post-secondary education institutions are deemed "higher learning," this should include the teachings and understanding of being better people within society. Carla Bertsch's program should be rolled out across Canada into all universities and colleges. We, as a society, condemn the acts that Miss Bertsch is talking about - hazing, sexual violence, gender socialization, and non-consent in sex - but we leave it up to others to really talk about, teach, and enforce these important human traits. Carla Bertsch deserves a ton of credit for getting Dinos Athletics onboard with this, and I hope her teachings spread like wildfire throughout Canadian university sports and beyond.

Kudos to the Calgary Dinos women's hockey team for stepping up and getting this information. University just isn't about sports - it's about becoming better, smarter, and more worldly people. The members of the Dinos women's hockey team can claim those traits today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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