Sexual abuse case prompts warnings about private coaches

Watch above: It takes more than a helmet and padding to protect kids in minor hockey leagues. Amber Rockliffe takes a look at an issue in light of a recent sexual abuse case involving a private coach and youth.

SASKATOON – The Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association makes all team officials – including coaches, assistant coaches and trainers – undergo criminal record checks and take anti-harassment courses. But the organization is warning parents to be wary of private coaches, who don’t necessarily go through the same processes.

“There could be a coach that’s not a registered team official, but he’s maybe a private coach that helps with different skills like goaltending, skills development, or power skating,” explained the association’s Executive Director Kelly Boes.

Former private coach Ryan Chamberlin pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting young boys on April 6. He was charged in February 2015 after inappropriate messages were found on a boy’s phone. In March, Chamberlin was charged with sexual exploitation, child luring, sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault.

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READ MORE: Former Sask. hockey coach pleads guilty to sex assault, luring boys

“That incident led us to make sure that our teams know next year to, if they’re using private coaches, check if they’ve got a criminal record check,” Boes explained.

He said offenders often target children from vulnerable families, such as low-income and single-parent families, offering them one-on-one coaching services.

Boes said minor leagues have taken big steps over the past few decades to prevent abuse on sports teams.

“We have regulations in place where male coaches can’t be in rooms alone with the girls; there’s always going to be a female official in there with them,” Boes explained.

“We ask all of our coaches, no matter the scenario they’re dealing with, parents or kids, to always have two team officials involved at all times,” he said.

But the Little Warriors organization said some coaches continue to find loopholes and abuse their power.

“The people that we give access to our kids, because we trust them, they can be the ones that we’ve got to be the most careful of, unfortunately,” explained the organization’s founder Glori Meldrum.

“If an adult is showing extra interest in your kid, you know, they want to take them to the mall, they want to take them on trips, that’s something you’ve really got to take notice of,” Meldrum said.

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Meldrum said 95 per cent of children don’t report sexual abuse, and the Little Warriors organization is working hard to erase stigma so more victims come forward.

Chamberlin’s sentencing is set for May 6 in Swift Current.

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