Kennedy's performances on the ice were amazing, and he led
his teams to many victories, but his greatest victory will be
the one he will win off the ice, for victims of sexual abuse.
Kennedy's story has caused many (government, organizations,
parents, athletes, NHL, and CHL) to reconsider and refocus on
the role that sports play in the lives of today's athletes.
Dan Giesbrecht, vice-principal at Garden Valley Collegiate
and a former Level 5 hockey coach, worked with Sheldon Kennedy
in his earlier years.
"I was surprised when I found out about Sheldon. I have
seen many coach/player relationships, but never any evidence
of abuse," said Giesbrecht.
The role of the coach in an athlete's life is much like the
role of a father in a child's life. The coach holds much power
to build or destroy the athlete. Like a father, he can direct
his players in a positive way.
However, he may also use his power in a negative way, forcing
an athlete into submission. Athletes will respond. They love
their game, and the serious ones will do whatever is possible
to increase their level of play or to optimize their potential
for further play.
This can lead to the coach taking advantage of the athlete.
Kennedy has said that one's coach is everything when one is playing
the sport one loves.
Sheldon Kennedy has come through the abuse, with hard work,
with family counselling, and with help from his supportive wife.
He is now determined to open the eyes of society to the dark
side of sport and to bring hope for those who have been victims
of sexual abuse.
Kennedy took matters into his own hands, when he organized
a cross-country skate to raise awareness for sexual abuse and
money for Anaphe Ranch, a rehabilitation centre for abused children.
Public awareness through seminars with coaches and athletes
are also underway. These seminars focus on defining the role
of a coach in an athlete's life. It is important for the athlete
to realize what role the coach plays very clearly, and how to
stay away from potentially dangerous situations.
Meanwhile, coaches will be given specific guidelines as to
their responsibilities as a coach, and positions which they are
not to take regarding an athlete. This information should give
players the knowledge they need to recognize danger and react,
as well as give coaches a clear line to follow with their athletes.
Sheldon Kennedy's agonizing story, and the darkness he had
to hide, has become a light to the rest of athletics and a refuge
for many hurting athletes across the country. His courage has
brought hope to many.