American tennis legend Pam Shriver has opened up about her ‘inappropriate and damaging’ relationship that started when she was in her teens with former coach Don Candy. As per a story written by Shriver herself in the UK based Daily Telegraph, Shriver said that while Candy did not abuse her physically, there was emotional distress. The relationship ended in 1984 when Shriver was 22 years old. At the time the relationship began, Candy was 50 years old and Shriver was 17.
“Don never abused me sexually, but I would say there was emotional abuse,” Shriver wrote. “The short version of this story is that I had an inappropriate and damaging relationship with my much older coach, which began when I was 17 and lasted a little over five years.”
“If Don had been better informed, he might have been cannier about the potential complications that come with coaching an adolescent girl. Clearly, he wasn’t a predator,” Shriver added. While the former tennis player acknowledged that she still had conflicted feelings about Candy, he should have been more responsible in the scenario as he was a mature adult at the time.
“I still have conflicted feelings about Don. Yes, he and I became involved in a long and inappropriate affair. Yes, he was cheating on his wife. But there was a lot about him that was honest and authentic. And I loved him. Even so, he was the grown-up here. He should have been the trustworthy adult,” Shriver continued.
“Only after therapy did I start to feel a little less responsible. Now, at last, I’ve come to realise that what happened is on him,” she added.
Abusive relationships between players and coaches was never something rare in the world of sport, any sport. Of course, things are better today that they were in the 20th century, but situations still exist where a player might find themselves involved in such cases. Most players, who have been victims of such abusive relationships, do not feel comfortable sharing these stories with the world and there is nothing wrong with that.
Shriver believes that since a number of players today are in similar situations, she needed to tell her story to raise awareness over the issue. There is no doubt that it took a lot of courage on her part to do so and that, indeed, is commendable.
“I believe abusive coaching relationships are alarmingly common in sport as a whole,” Shriver said. “My particular expertise, though, is in tennis, where I have witnessed dozens of instances in my four and a bit decades as a player and commentator.”
“Every time I hear about a player who is dating their coach, or I see a male physio working on a female body in the gym, it sets my alarm bells ringing. For any player or athlete who might be reading this, I want to emphasise the downsides of blurring personal and professional boundaries. The point has to be made very clearly: these kinds of relationships are not appropriate, and there will be consequences for those who cross the line,” she added.