I wrote this paper for a speech class. I did a lot of research on Sheldon Kennedy, and Graham James, his abuser. R & R please. Thanks.
Competitive team sports is a safe haven for troubled children,
right? Some of these children have no place else to turn, to the
least dangerous place for them is team sports, right? Are
professional athletes not to be upheld as role models? And
college hazing only happens in made-for-TV movies, right? It is
practially obsolete, of course. WRONG. These are just some of
the many misconceptions about team sports. Today I am going
to talk about many of the problems with competitive team sports,
a few specific cases and different solutions that could be used to
eliminate the problems many youth sports organizations face
If you have heard of Sheldon Kennedy, you are also probably
aware that he was a victim of sexual abuse perpetuated by a
trusted and revered youth hockey coach, Graham James. As a
teenager, Sheldon Kennedy had a talent for playing hockey, and
that was what drew junior coach Graham James to the
fourteen-year-old boy. Kennedy, whose father was physically and
emotionally abusive to him, was a perfect target for the
charismatic, manipulative pedophile Graham James.
The definition of a pedophile is desfined by Merriam-Webster as
a "sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual
object," but a more specific definition describes it as a period of
over "six months of recurrent, intense sexually arousing
fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving children (generally
thirteen-years-old or younger). The fantasies, sexual urges or
behaviors cause significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The person
is at least sixteen-years-old and at least five years older than the
child or children in the first category."
James honed in on Sheldon Kennedy's insecurities with his
father and targeted the lonely boy much like a hunter would zero
in on his prey. The first sexual encounter between James and Kennedy
occured in Winnepeg in 1984, at James' apartment. From that
point on, Kennedy's life and career belonged to Graham James,
"He had this whole thing planned. He knew what he was doing.
It's the way they work. He always keeps you...down so you'd
always have to look to him as the only one who could help you,"
said Kennedy in a 1996 interview.
Over 300 episodes of abuse occured in a span of little over five
years. Kennedy was trapped into the relationship and felt
helpless to escape James' far-reaching power. After Sheldon
made it into the professional ranks, the abuse stopped, but the
pain did not. Kennedy turned to alcohol and drugs to numb his
pain. He was arrested January 1, 1995 for possession of
marijuana (the charge was later dropped) and in 1993 had been
arrested for drunk driving, which he plea-bargained.
Prior to training camp, he was jailed for two weeks for violating
probation orders stemming from that 1993 charge. Kennedy
quickly gained a reputation in the National Hockey League as a
While Kennedy's life spinning out of control, Graham James was
flourishing as the coach of the Western Hockey League's Swift
Current, Saskatchewan Broncos.
James lead his team to the Canadian Hockey League Memorial
Cup in 1989, and coached future stars Joe Sakic of Colorado,
and Theo Fleury of New York.
For Sheldon, who contemplated taking his own life many times,
it sickened him to see Graham in such close contact with young
The decision to come forward was spurred by the fact that he
saw James regularly at the Canadian Airlines (Penworth)
Saddledome where he was the coach of the WHL's Calgary
Hitmen, and in part because Kennedy and his wife Jana had just
had a baby girl. "I had a hard time going to the rink and seeing
Graham with kids," Kennedy said.
James was convicted on two counts of sexual assault for more
than 350 attacks on two of his former players (the other player
wanted to remain anonymous). That included aproximately 300
attacks on Kennedy over a period of five or six years, from 1984
through 1989. He was sentenced to 3 1/2 years, which many felt
was too light a sentence, and was released early for good
Now, I'm going to look at another grave problem running
rampant in youth sports: hazing.
Hazing is indeed a form of abuse. It can cause serious adverse
psychological effects on the athlete/victims that could last a
Hazing can range from the simple shaving of the head to
performing acts violent and sexual in nature. Hazing occurs
mostly in university settings, such as fraternities and sororities,
and junior hockey.
In a recent survey conducted by Alfred University and the NCAA, it
found that over 80% of college athletes had been subjected to
some form of hazing. This equates to more than 250,000
athletes during the 1998-1999 school year alone. Half were
required to participate in drinking contests or alcohol-related
initiations while two-thirds were subjected to humiliating hazing.
Even pro sports teams are not immune from hazing, including
the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.
The University of Vermont was recently the focus of a high-profile
hazing incident. After the incoming crop of freshmen were hazed,
the young men were ordered to keep silent. Freshman hockey
goaltender Corey LaTulippe refused to follow the orders. After he
was hazed on October 2, 1999, he, along with three Canadian
freshmen, went publick and filed a $275,000 (US) civil suit
against the university for emotional damage and financial loss.
That created a storm of publicity and prompted an investigation
by Vermont's attorney general, which lead to the cancellation of
the University of Vermont's hockey season.
The Vermont attorney general released their official report
February 3rd, 2000. In graphic detail, it outlined how UVM players
ordered nine freshmen to prepare for "rookie night" by shaving
their pubic hair and painting their toe and fingernails, then show
up at the team captain's house wearing only thong bikini
underwear and togas.
When they arrived, they were ordered to strip down and lie
facedown on the floor while older players poured and spat beer
on them. They were then forced to drink a strong liquer and eat
seafood quiche, which made them vomit.
But the indignities did not stop there. There was a nude pushups
contest where cups of beer were strategically placed under the
rookies' genitals. At another point, the freshmen players vomited
again after being herded into a closet and told to quickly drink 32
cans of beer, which had been heated to the temperature of warm
tea. They ended the night with the rookies forced to parade
around the room naked, holding their genitals in their hands.
Now that I've talked about a few of the serious problems in youth
sports, I'm going to talk about possible solutions to these grave
One solution really would not work on eliminating either
predatory coaches or violent hazing. Many different methods
would have to be utilized to ensure that our children are safe and
One possible solution is a child sexual abuse program aimed at
sports organizations that could inform children of warning signs
that someone might be abused, ways to prevent it happening to
yourself and helplines to call if you or someone you know is
Abuse hotlines could be set up so that abused children can find
someone to confide in. Another solution that should be used
(and is being used by many organizations) is background
checks on all coaches, assistant coaches, team trainers, team
doctors, team owners, team presidents, etc. No sexual
predators should be allowed a position of authority over
If these suggested solutions are adopted, the problems within
the youth sporting industry could be solved. And be made a safer
place for our children.