SA officials stress respecting the uniform after Ottawa Gee Gees assault allegations
Never hurt the team. It’s the unwritten rule of varsity sports.
But on the weekend of Feb. 1, 2014 somehow, this rule was broken.
Very few people know the exact details of the sexual assault that is alleged to have occurred in Thunder Bay involving several players of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s hockey team.
Amid allegations of excessive drinking and sexual misconduct, the men’s hockey program was suspended and its head coach fired.
While Algonquin’s student athletes were not involved in the February incident, Thunder Athletics administration nevertheless agree their athletes carry the same weight of representing the highest calibre of ethical behaviour in all of their activities.
“Whether (student athletes) are at an Ontario College Athletics Association (OCAA) event or when at training, they adhere to a higher standard,” said Geoff Tomlinson, head coach of men’s rugby. “Essentially, this means they have to show discipline on and off the field.
“There are things you do when you pull on an Algonquin jersey: you represent the college, you represent the OCAA, and you represent yourself along with the team family.”
This sentiment is echoed by Martha Peak, acting athletics administrator at Algonquin.
“Athletes have to follow the OCAA behaviour code of ethics that are all about fair play,” she said said. “Additionally, coaches will develop their own sets of rules for their players.”
Peak is in the process of developing a new, separate behavioural code of conduct for student athletes at the college that would supplement the official behavioural code athletes, as well as every student, are expected to follow now.
This would complement the OCAA’s code of ethics which governs behaviour related to fair play, inappropriate and defamatory social media use, and alcohol consumption.
Josh Bell-Webster, OCAA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, confirmed that the code of ethics was primarily created to govern the field of play.
“If there was a non-game incident, such as the case with uOttawa…if there was that sort of incident, student athletes would fall under their college code of conduct and be penalized by the college,” he said.
Yet, there are some interesting differences between both university and college approaches to specific guidelines governing their varsity athletes’ behaviour. Student-athletes and their coaches in the OCAA for example, are forbidden to consume alcohol while on team road trips.
“Under no circumstances are they supposed to have alcohol or anything like that,” Peak said. “There is not supposed to be alcohol around student-athlete events at all.”
In light of uOttawa’s February incident, Peak was unable to confirm whether or not the athletics department had re-examined any of their policies as she had just recently started in her position.
However, Kris Holfford-Walker, then a basketball player for the Thunder, said nothing changed at the time.
“Everything stayed the exact same,” he said.
Nevertheless, Peak said she was in the midst of creating a new, “more intensive” sign-on package for both athletes and coaches as well as new policies and procedures.
“You want protocols and expectations for your coaches and athletes that are clear cut and represent a thought-out process,” she said.
One of the new changes Peak has introduced this year was requiring all coaches to sign an official code of code of conduct themselves.
“It is so we can have all the same expectations for all coaches and be on the same board of how I’d like them to behave at the different institutions…so there is no gray area,” Peak said. “So far, most of them were excited about it and welcomed it.”
One of those coaches is Tomlinson, who expressed satisfaction with the new arrangement.
“I would rather coach a program with a clear code of conduct…than a university club program without clear expectations,” he said.
Nevertheless, the good conduct and rules Peak and Tomlinson make reference to hold true for 23-year-old Algonquin student-athlete Lindsay Whittaker.
The returning captain on the Thunder women’s basketball team said acting with respect has always been part of the game.
“The rules are basically things we should be doing anyways,” the third-year business marketing student said. “Being respectful, and making sure that you are not being disruptive and acting as mature adults.”
This is echoed by 20-year-old Holfford-Walker, now goalkeeper for the Thunder’s men’s soccer team.
“This is the same stuff your parents would bring you up on,” the office administration student said. “You represent your family…now, the team you go with is your new family.
“All the rules are pretty simple, they don’t ask for a lot: be there and be respectful, go to win, pack your bags, and go.”