Safe Sport 

12/03/2021

Meet the team advancing Safe Sport initiatives in Nova Scotia

 

Back in January 2020, Sport Nova Scotia created a new position to help prevent maltreatment in sport. Elana Liberman was hired as their Safe Sport lead, one of the first positions of its kind in Canada. Safe sport is based on an ethos that supports the physical, social, and emotional welfare of everyone involved in sport. “But ‘safe’ is much more than just the absence of harm,” Liberman explains.

Over the past year, Liberman has been working closely with athletes, coaches, and sports organizations like CSCA to further Safe Sport initiatives in the province. There have been education sessions, an athlete summit, a working group, a new website launched — even the creation of an official Safe Sport month in October — all in the goal to foster an inclusive space free from maltreatment that can cause physical and mental harm.

“We've noticed with Safe Sport policies worldwide, the athlete voice hasn't always been as dominant or involved as it should be,” says Jeremy Bartholomeusz, Athlete Representative of the Safe Sport Working Group, and chair of the Athlete Advisory Committee. “It’s quite tough to create sport policies without acknowledging or considering the athletes’ perspectives and how the policies might affect their performance.”

In May, a summit gathered more than 20 athletes from across the province, from a variety of sports and backgrounds. “What came from that was that half of them had never heard of the term Safe Sport,” says Kirsti Mason, CSCA’s Community Coaching Lead. She has been working closely with Safe Sport Nova Scotia to engage athletes and move Safe Sport forward in the province. With this hurdle identified, the team directed their efforts to educate athletes, coaches, parents, and other stakeholders. They also knew it was integral that the athletes themselves were heard.

With the athletes’ voice front and center, themes of inclusivity, diversity, accessibility and equality were brought up. Athletes also mentioned the value of older athletes acting as ambassadors and role models. Lucky for them, the team created the Nova Scotia True Sport Athlete Ambassador Program (NSTSAAP), which is one of the first in the country.

Liberman is dedicated to making sport more safe in the province, but she says that the absence of harm is not all that ‘safe’ encompasses. “Safe is feelings of belonging, feelings of inclusion, safe is diversity, safe is welcoming,” she says. Next on the docket for the Safe Sport team is a social media campaign with infographics and education pieces that will raise awareness and spark conversations. 

“The eradication and prevention of maltreatment in sport is a huge piece, but we can go beyond that,” Liberman says. “We need to create environments that are positive, memorable, and great.” Ultimately, the goal is for Nova Scotian kids to look back on their sporting and recreation days with fondness. “I look at it almost as a legacy for their future, and we can only do that if we have Safe Sport.”