We need to be the change we want to see
It’s not enough to just be shocked by the uncovering of abuse in Netflix docu-series Cheer, we need to ask how we can take meaningful action in our gyms AND THEN ACT to create a paradigm shift in the culture of the sport.
The new season of Netflix has understandably been met with mixed reviews. While some feel strongly the series should never have aired, or at a minimum, edited out footage of Jerry Harris, others see Episode 5, (titled “Jerry”, and given over to his arrest and interviews with his victims) as a watershed moment for the sport - bringing cheerleading’s issues with sexual abuse firmly into the mainstream spotlight.
Sarah Klein, Civil Attorney to the victims of Harris featured in the show says:
“Coming forward as a survivor of sexual abuse is one of the most difficult, vulnerable, traumatizing things a person will ever do...What these boys have done is simply heroic, and they have saved lives of children they are never going to meet.”
It is indeed true that athletes watching the show and hearing from young cheerleaders their own age, may well alert them to situations they’re either experiencing themselves or witnessing in others, and provide tools to get help. In this respect the episode will no doubt have major impact, but what can we do as coaches? – It’s not enough to watch the show and just say “how terrible, I’m so glad that didn’t happen in my gym!”, “the system’s broken, there’s nothing I can do”, or even to publicly condemn the abuse (although that would be a good start and demonstrate to your athletes that you don’t support what happened). We need to be the change we want to see and that requires consistent effort and action on our part.
Ensuring your staff are all trained in safeguarding is only the first step in changing the culture and making safer spaces for athletes. A training course is an excellent start, but it cannot be a tick-box exercise. It needs to be translated into real, meaningful cultural change and effective procedures in your gym.
For more information on how you can work with Squad Safe to train your staff and make meaningful, sustainable change in the culture of your gym, click here: www.squadsafe.org/contact