Roxana Maracineanu, Minister of Sports
“All the cruel revelations of sexual assaults that shake French sport will leave a lasting mark on our minds. This wave that overwhelms us forces us to act. Our responsibility is immense. And multiple.
Beyond all that we put in place to set up a sanitary cordon around our clubs and associations and guarantee the physical and moral integrity of athletes; Beyond the arsenal that we deploy to put aggressors, pedophiles out of harm’s way, we must question the nature of the relationship between the coach and the athlete. This particular link is the crucible of drifts. The border between authority and influence regularly turns out to be too tenuous. With, often, an old fashioned way, legitimized by all – parents, colleagues, employers – which can hide deviant, criminal behavior, ranging from verbal violence to humiliation, including emotional dependence.
Shared ambition can transcend but also destroy. Submission, seduction, manipulation, these words come up too often to describe the functioning of the duo when the question of the place of the coach in the pair must arise. How and when does he support his athlete, when does he step aside to let the athlete express himself?
The coach is given the key to their dreams. How can you imagine for a moment that he takes this as a blank check to defy the taboos? It is time to question how we teach sport. The coach is and must remain an educator. Education is the primary role of sport. Let’s put it back at the heart of the athlete’s journey.
We must review the foundations of this relationship based solely on the quest for performance. Because we, athletes, educators, leaders, have all been brought up like this, that we can only do that, strive towards an ideal, whether it be a result, a medal, a time, a figure. Even when there is no question of high level, we create a goal: to be permanently better than the day before.
However, training is not limited to transmitting techniques, to shaping a physical and a mental. To train, it is above all to give the athlete the means to, in all kindness, to build, to appropriate his body. I did it myself recently. For ten years, I supervised a hundred swimming courses with children from 3 to 6 years old. I was happy to see their progress, proud to take them further and happy to hear the parents rave about the end of the internship. But I realize that I should have cared more for their needs than mine. For example, I should have helped them become independent. Teach them to dress alone, to wash alone. By explaining to them why it is important that no one helps them, does not touch them, because their body belongs to them.
In my eyes, the success of French sport will now be measured as much by its ability to allow our children to build and protect themselves as it is to bring Olympic and world medals. “