Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by Zebra, May 17, 2019.
As depressing as it is, I'd rather find the problems and fix them than pretend they don't exist. If only there was a way to do this without people being hurt..
Now the Abashidze/Glon/Korfanty mess is one example, but the ongoing problem of coaches being abusive towards referees shows another side of this broad problem. At one of the big regional tournaments I worked earlier this season, one of the sabre events turned into a real [snow]storm, with a level of abuse and craziness I wouldn't tolerate in a hockey game, and in general, we let a lot more go there. Thankfully, I wasn't refereeing that event, and the refs who were were some of the best in the cadre.
What I think happened was that there were a lot of very prominent coaches with fencers in that event, and the coaches are just as competitive as the fencers. Sure they're going to try and work the refs to try and get more favorable calls for their fencer, but it was worse than that, with coaches interrupting and getting up in the ref's face during a bout. When one coach does this and doesn't get carded (even a yellow), the others think they have to do it to keep up.
Then beyond that (and this is the really important part), I think there's a dynamic where those coaches want to believe they're so intimidating that no ref is willing to card them, and so important that even if they are carded, they can get BC to rescind the card (at another tournament I saw that happen with a prominent coach). Being above the rules is a sign of power and privilege, so the coaches vie to get that status, and once they feel they have it, they keep being abusive as a way of showing that power.
"Zei a Mensch."
Not depressed by this thread. I'm depressed by how long it took us to discuss these issues.
Now, to answer Mihail's question--what do we have to do to end these problems? Or at least significantly reduce them? It has to start with a declaration that no coach, no athlete, and no official is too important to be above the law, regardless of how many athletes they've coached to the Olympics, their stature within FIE, or whatever other measure of importance you want to use.
That's got to come from the top, but not just as a rote statement from Colorado. There's got to be buy-in from the decision-makers, and that buy-in has to be visible. Right now, lower-level coaches, referees, and athletes who want to do the right thing when they witness a case of abusive behavior worry that to blow the whistle on it is going to threaten their coaching \ refereeing \ athletic career, and make them a pariah within the fencing community. They see high-level refs being abused by high-level coaches and not showing the card, so they think that if they do show the card, they're going to get a reputation that will kill their career. They see the Abashidze case and hear the accuser being described as "the woman who brought down Korfanty," and wonder if she'll ever get to coach an NCAA team or a national team.
Until you see important people standing with the ones who stand up to the abusers instead of shying away for fear of hurting their relationships with other important people; athletes, coaches, and referees who want to have a long-term career in fencing are going to think they have to look the other way when something bad happens, and let someone else bear the burden of reporting it.
Firing a national coach is a start, but Colorado ought not hide behind an ambiguous statement. Instead, the message ought to be: "he lost his trip to the Olympics because he tried to sweep an abuse case under the rug."
Well said! everyone must report. This is important! I would also confront the abuser at the moment the abuse is happening. I would bring attention to it and tell the person to STOP IT, be loud and make it public. Shaming that person and having witnesses make these cases much stronger and set examples. Then, must report it to USFA, to the college or club the person represent and tell them it is serious and needs to be dealt with. People need the let go of the status quo and stand up. No matter the title or perceived power they have.
Not sure that at this point they can make that statement clearly. The newspaper reports of Korfanty's behavior are not the same as a full investigation of fact. I don't have inside knowledge, but I'm guessing that his own statements to the newspaper are actually what got him fired. Even if he had not been involved in contacting Wes, those statements would be enough to get him canned.
Yeah...USAFencing is part of the problem. They've spent years perfecting the "helpless shrug" when it comes to disciplining top level coaches who go off the rails.
This needs to push from both sides, from the grass root athletes and parents upward as well as from the top down. There have been too many stories of abuse from too many different sports in which other parents in the club ridicule and blame the person who came forward for "ruining" the club and their athlete's "chances" with the accusations.
I had my own run-ins with different folks while a young college age fencer. One referee attempted to kiss me on the mouth in a public place (I shoved him off) and two Russian coaches invited me up to their room to "try on clothes." I was pretty naive about such things and didn't even think about reporting it because no one talked about such things back then. Just discussing it openly and letting people (of any age, but young people especially) know that they will be supported is a start. Parents and fencers both need to not be naive about young people being in this environment, because the glamour of being friends with powerful, high ranking people is a real thing, and someone can be so star-struck that their guard goes down.
Internally, clubs should have their own reporting policies and avoid situations where adults are alone with minors. There needs to be a victim advocate identified at each club, that can be a point of contact to anyone who has a problem. Just naming the issue can send a signal that certain behavior isn't ok. That won't fix everything but it's a start.
And SafeSport in its present incarnation is pretty weak sauce at handling anything other than minor abuse. It is inadequately funded, doesn't have enough qualified investigators and its relationships with the USOC and NGBs are questionable. It's a start but clearly not good enough.
Annual? Why not make it centennial if the forum is so beneath your standards.
FWIW: Her attorney confirms that Jen's NC students were summarily "disinvited" from coming back to the upcoming OFA training camp, following the public hubbub and Ed's resignation.
Whistleblower retaliation at OFA? I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
Maybe PSU has a training camp. Maybe Jen could apply for the soon-to-be open head coach position.
Let me get a couple of things out of the way so people don't explode in outrage:
1) George Abashidze's was outrageous and clearly merits disciplinary action.
2) Like it or not, we are under the iron umbrella of SafeSport, and this isn't likely to change.
That said, a look at the SafeSport guidelines should make us uncomfortable.
It seems that we are required to report every possible offense we see or even hear about at second or third, hand or read on f.net, .... , to SafeSport.
We are not to ask ourselves whether a report is true, or even probable. Just report and don't ask questions.
And "we" means all USFA members, and employees, and referees, etc., etc. I
If you hear a whisper, don't go to the head coach, or the school or college. Go to the (almost) government.
This all seems late-30s Soviet.
A side issue. I've taken the SafeSport training two times (once to help a reading-disabled friend.) I don't think any of the correct answers involved contacting SafeSport. (What?)
I have more faith in the government handling a complaint than schools or colleges or coaches.
Even with the current disastrous state of the government.
So do I. It's just that the obligation to report without investigation or discussion turns what might often be a borderline or complex situation into a judicial proceeding.
If one of your adult students kissed another adult student and they seemed uncomfortable with it, would you report to Washington?
Suppose someone told you that had happened? Suppose that someone heard it from another?
Ridiculous, you say. That can never happen.
I might ask if he/she was actually uncomfortable.
And then? Maybe reporting it is the right move.
Nope. you don't get to ask if they were uncomfortable, especially if they're a minor. That kind of questioning is leading the witness and can create confusion in an otherwise authentic response. Use your best judgement... if YOU feel uncomfortable witnessing something, then YOU report what YOU saw and how YOU felt about the situation.
I hope that safesport employs investigators who are trained in handling sensitive situations and knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them. Let those people do all of the questioning.
Separate names with a comma.