These words definitely describe the approach Allison Forsyth took as she spoke to a crowd of over 40 sport administrators, leaders, coaches and students on the topic of Safe Sport at the recently held inaugural Lunch and Learn Speakers Series hosted by the Markham Pan Am Centre and held in colloboration with the Town of Aurora, Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, SeeWhatSheCanDo Women Coaches Circle and the Town of Markham.
As a two-time Olympian Downhill Skier, World Championship bronze medalist, Partner at ITP Sport & Recreation and sexual assault survivor, Allison spoke candidly and shared intimate insights to help attendees better appreciate how to prevent unsafe situations from happening for athletes and community members and, instead, create a safe sport space for all that's surrounded by a culture of personal safety, advocacy and inclusion.
Allison not only shared her own story of sexual assault at the hands of her coach, but also the stories of many others including her teammates and athlete victims representing numerous sport organizations that she has gone on to support as an expert in safe sport issues and prevention. In a matter-of-fact way, Allison also outlined key definitions, policies and requirements for a safe sport environment but also helped event attendees begin to better understand the grey areas of safe sport.
By leveraging her own personal experiences and those of her clients, Allison delivered a unique presentation that helped her to better explain and illustrate how unsafe sport spaces get created; how bad behaviour and maltreatment progresses; how toxic environments get created that enable abusive behaviour to happen; and the important role that gender equity plays in creating safe sport spaces.
The key points of Allsion's presentation were powerful and clear. The impact on many attendees was immediate and inspirational and best illustrated using their own words of thanks to organizers.
"I want to thank you for providing us the opportunity to be a part of the Safe Sport session with Allison.
It was a fantastic seminar full of important information to teach, give knowledge, and bring awareness to sports organizations so that we can work together in making safe sport a priority in training all athletes.
Allison is an incredible speaker and more importantly a valuable advocate for all athletes for safe sport. Her candor was open and sincere which brought truth from behind closed doors in sports that we do not see. We hear it on the news yet we take it for granted that it's rare or it is taken care of, but in reality it seems to be more prevalent in all sports and organizations from grass roots to national levels (I just read in news that a gymnastics coach has been charged).
I had the chance to reflect on past experiences with our athletes and coaches and I know that we can be better, We can't fail any of our athletes when they put their trust in our organization to train their child, to give them a positive experience in a safe environment, and build lasting experiences so they grow their passion to play and pass it on to their community.
I hope that those that have had the opportunity to hear her become more aware that we need to be supportive in keeping our athletes safe in all sports.
I wish Allison all the best and success in educating and training the sports masses, and she was amazing!"
Allison spends much of her time as a professional speaking to and working with a variety of sport organizations throughout Canada and around the world on the many important issues of safe sport. She also enlightens them on key insights, strategies and organizational values that will enable them to successfully implement safe sport policies and procedures.
Her work also focuses on nurturing a level of compassion and empathy that is vital to fully appreciate the lifetime impact unsafe sport spaces can and do have on athletes. She continually and openly shares the ongoing impact of her own experiences on her day-to-day life as a mother, neighbour, leader and supporter of sport. Allison's ability to turn trauma into triumph is a true testatment of her ability to be the changemaker and the trailblazer required to make safe sport top of mind and a top priority.
Interested in having Allison speak to your sport organization or community? You can reach her in the following ways:
Abuse Free Sport - Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC)
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Blog and photos by Caroline Wiley. Caroline bridged her 20+ years of professional experience in the sport and recreation industry together with her passions for photography and supporting women in sport to create SeeWhatSheCanDo. Her vision is to create a welcoming space where active women find a sense of belonging within their own local community, see themselves in authentic and awe-inspiring ways and find resources to help them be their best active selves.
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