Roughly translated form La Presse+ original story published June 24th, 2018 (link)
The road to the Olympics is often fraught with pitfalls. For Guylaine Dumont, it is the abuse of a coach who
almost ruined everything. The great lady of volleyball relives her sinuous journey, from her childhood with
a violent father to the creation of Sport'Aide ... passing through her fifth place at the Athens Games.
Before the Atlanta Games in 1996, I decided to return to the national volleyball team to live my Olympic
dream. At last, I said to myself. A first time, in 1991, I left the national team because it did not work
between the coach and me. He chastised me for my strong character, and he wanted to break me. Result:
a total loss of self-confidence. His authority, his way of speaking to us and humiliating us, spitting on the
ground during a break, went beyond the limits of ethics. At that time, I landed a professional contract in
Italy, where I played four great years before returning in 1995, 15 months before the Atlanta Games.
We had talked to each other before my return and he had sworn he had changed. I had regained my
confidence among the best players in the Italian league and rubbing shoulders with coaches who
respected me. There, they values my strength of character. So I came back very motivated to participate in
the Olympics. It was my dream. Two months later, I was leaving again ...
I remember a demonstration game against Russia in Winnipeg. We had won, but in five sets. The match ended at
9 pm. A lot of people had come to see us, friends, relatives. That night, after the game, he decided to keep us.
Looking at us disgustedly, he said, "Tell your parents and your friends to leave, because we are going to train. "
The training stretched until midnight. He made us do the service reception until exhaustion to humiliate us because
of the match we had played. He said hurtful words. If you made a mistake, he required push-ups or, worst of all, the
whole team was doing it while you were watching.
Today, in my lectures, I explain the difference between the intensity of a coach and the abuse of power.
Yes, you can ask for push-ups, but everything must be done in the respect of the athlete.
When I returned from Italy, I was confident in myself, determined, my shoulders were high. After two months, the
shoulders had come back down to push me back. I had tendinitis in my knees and Achilles tendons.
As soon as I made a mistake, I was punished. I am a perfectionist to start with, and by imposing this pressure on me,
it completely broke me. Playing for this coach, it was not my choice, nor that of the girls of the national team, but
what other choice had we?
I tried to talk to the leaders of the Federation, just as many girls had done before me, but their offices were in
Ottawa. In addition, this coach was a fine talker. I was seeing the sports psychologist on the team, often very
emotional, but as he was working at the University of Winnipeg, he was a colleague and friend of the coach. He
simply supported me in my decision to leave by advising me to go see a real psychologist! Several other girls who
should have been at the Olympics also left before me. The other power center had lost so much fun and confidence
in her ability that she was unable to place a field service. A basic skill in volleyball if there is one!
THE BEGINNING OF ABUSES
I lived my first experiences of abuse of power with this coach while I was part of the Quebec team in the summer of
my 14 years old in Sherbrooke. I did my secondary V playing civilian for this same coach. At the time, it was not
going well in my family. It was an unbalanced environment for a girl of my age. So I took the opportunity to study
elsewhere and do what I was passionate about.
My sister Nathalie disappeared when I was 16 years old. We thought it was a runaway, but it was actually a
disappearance. Her body was found nine years later. Her disappearance made me feel very insecure, especially
since I was starting to travel a lot. One side of me was thriving volleyball, but another part of me was very disturbed
by this whole story. Basically, my sister ran away because my father was violent physically and emotionally. Both by
words and by his violent behaviour towards my mother, my sisters and my brother. "Fortunately," I am the one who,
in my family, received the least blows ... My sister Nathalie was the rebel and I, the one who studied, followed the
rules, did not go out and excelled in sports. It kept me safe from blows.
It is difficult for children seeing their mother being beaten. I dragged this baggage every day. I was very fragile.
When a coach was too bossy, I lost all my means. My father, even in sport, was very demanding. I was good and
when I did not win, he never missed to tell me. I managed to win. Ironically, I owe some of my success to my father's
behaviour. Having said that, I had to develop my positive attitude and inner calmness because I was raised by a
critical father who too often lost control. It was I who then became very critical of myself and had trouble controlling
myself when things were not going the way I wanted.
Of course, I also knew that I did not have an easy character. Coming from a family like mine, I was very demanding
on myself and it could be disturbing for a coach. When I made a mistake, I got angry. Not against others, against
myself. I hit my thighs so I had bruises. My coach and everyone around hardly understood my behaviours, and with
I did not talk about what was happening at home. All that probably made me more sensitive than another girl. So
my coach thought he had to break me and break my character to rebuild me. At that time, on the one side I knew it
was unacceptable and on the other I was saying to myself: "It's true, I have a bad character, it's my fault and I
deserve it. But as the sport had become my lifeline, it took a lot to let go.
I went my way, but I met this coach often. I played for him again on the junior national team. Then another full year
with the senior national team. This was the kind of person who ridiculed and humiliated the players, who
commented on their bodies with a scornful look. When he was not on my case, it hurt so much to see him humiliate
my teammates. It was no coincidence that I decided to leave the national team for the first time to play as a
professional in Italy.
It is there that I really bloomed. They loved my character. I was known as “mia grinta”, for my passion and the
intensity with which I played. The coaches accepted me as I was. In Italy, I became the athlete I thought I could
Nevertheless, I still had the same desire to join the national team. It was difficult to leave another time ... I turned
my back on my dream and I was having my Olympic mourning.
I did not want to live the Olympics in this context and mindset. I continued to play a bit in Italy, but I lost the
passion. So I gave up my professional career, and in hindsight I know it's because of this coach. I stopped all
competition in 1998.
This break has been critical in my life. I met my husband, who is a coach. We got married. We had a child. I took the
opportunity to become a therapist in helping relationship. It gave me the tools to learn to communicate more. Deep
in me, even if I stopped playing, I felt that I was still an athlete. The coach was gone, but the truth is that the
Canadian Federation fired him after the Games.
It was at the end of this period, in 2002, that Annie Martin called me and convinced me to resume the competition
in beach volleyball. This time, I surrounded myself with people I trusted and who believed in me. They brought me
positive energy. It was important for me to create a positive and harmonious environment. That's why we decided
to work with a coach in mental preparation and to work with Vincent Larivée, who became our coach. Together, we
have developed a team philosophy by integrating my experience gained through the hardship and my training.
In 2004, I was finally able to compete at the Olympic Games in Athens. We finished in fifth place. More than the
result, I am proud to have participated in the Olympics in my own way, according to my values based on pleasure,
communication and integrity.
I completed my training in 2002, and after the 2004 Olympics, I started working with athletes whom I supported in
stress management. I use strategies and tools that I acquired, but I also share my experience. The idea of creating
Sport'Aide came to me during my break, in 1998. I was looking for a way to help athletes who do not know where to
turn when they experience abuse, as they did for me.
I envisioned an organization that would serve as a support group for athletes experiencing difficulties in sport. I had
put my ideas on paper: resource line, awareness, education. It became more concrete around 2010 when I shared
them with Sylvain Croteau, who is now the managing director of Sport'Aide.
Together, we met Sylvie Parent, a researcher at Laval University, specialized in violence in sport. We then presented
an organizational chart illustrating our vision of what could become Sport'Aide. She had analyzed a similar
organization in the UK (Child Protection in Sport Unit) and she immediately decided to join the project. We
registered as an independent, non-profit organization in the fall of 2014. Then, after meeting the government for a
first presentation, came the "Charest case" in downhill skiing. Hence the arrival of the SportBienêtre.ca platform,
created by Ski Québec Alpin, enhanced through a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Higher
Education, Sports Quebec and Sport'Aide.
Today, if I met the young Guylaine Dumont as a teenager, I would say without hesitation to call the resource line for
coaching and orientation from Sport'Aide.
This could reassure her as to what she is going through. Those who are physically, emotionally, sexually abused
often feel - and unfortunately - at fault. It is important to welcome them, to hear and accept what they live, to
reassure them as to the feelings that inhabit them. This is called emphatic listening. I would have needed it when I
In such a context, Sport'Aide could also accompany and advise a federation to help it, in particular, to establish a
code of conduct. Also, the SportBienêtre.ca platform brings together specific resources for all: parents, coaches,
athletes, stakeholders, club leaders, officials, etc.
Finally, I do not teach you anything by saying that the action of denouncing or confronting an unethical situation is
not easy. And this, for athletes as well as for parents or anyone who witnesses. Abuse (sexual, psychological and
verbal) leaves invisible scars that often result in disengagement of the athletes, but also coaches, partners and
volunteers. I am still very optimistic about the initiatives that are emerging ant that want to foster a healthy