Whether you’re eating healthier, taking up daily meditation, or embracing ‘Dry January,’ the New Year is all about self-improvement.
But it’s not just people who can benefit from methodically implemented, carefully considered change.
The world of sport is long overdue for a phoenix-like transformation of its own. Thanks to better athlete oversight and the sharing of stories by many brave survivors and whistleblowers, awareness around sexual abuse in athletics has taken significant strides forward over the last five years.
But there’s much more work to be done.
In honor of the New Year, here are 10 ways we can all help horse sport become the very best version of itself in 2024. Because one thing’s for certain: there’s no better time than right now to start embracing a healthier, more healing, and better protected future for young athletes everywhere.
1. I will hang up a code of conduct sign in my barn.
When we post best practices, we encourage everyone—riders, parents, and coaches—to know and adhere to them, so we can all work to ensure current and future generations of athletes have safe and positive experiences. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE code of conduct sign.
2. I will uphold The Window Rule when I’m at the barn and horse shows to promote accountability and safe athletic environments for riders and trainers alike.
Empower yourself by learning how to create and maintain transparent environments by watching this video about The Window Rule.
3. I will go beyond a background check for my trainer by contacting references and verifying coaching records.
Background checks are necessary, but not sufficient to ensure whether it is appropriate or safe for an individual to be serving as a trainer. Predators, on average, abuse 120 victims before they are caught and only 2.5% will be incarcerated. In addition to official background checks, confirm a trainer’s history. It is important to know when and why they left previous positions.
4. I will learn how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics between coaches and athletes.
To support sporting communities, #WeRideTogether created the Coach Athlete Relationship Dynamics Diagrams (C.A.R.D. Diagrams) to help coaches, athletes, parents, and bystanders recognize and identify patterns of healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics. These diagrams can be used as a gut check. Think about conduct you experience and observe in your sporting community and discern if what is occurring aligns with a caring and supportive coach/athlete relationship.
5. I will honor myself by leaning into self-care.
Self-care is truly only a gift that we can give ourselves. It is a process and journey and discovery about yourself. When we take care of ourselves, we are doing a huge service to ourselves and others. Self-care is not selfish, but rather essential and sustaining.
6. I will get real in my discussions of sexual abuse.
If we can’t talk about it, we can’t fix it. In 2024, let’s lean into nuance and lift the veil on the often-challenging discourse surrounding sexual abuse in sport—and the changes we all need to embrace. Let’s finally shift the stigma surrounding these conversations from “icky and uncomfortable” to “frank, necessary, powerful” and, potentially, “transformative.”
7. I will learn about four tools that every athlete should keep in their back pocket.
Developing and possessing your own Athlete Toolkit serves as mental and emotional preparation to safeguard and support yourself in the face of potential misconduct and abuse that you or a teammate may experience. These tools can be used by anyone and can support your mental and emotional strength and resilience.
8. I will help foster healthy relationships between athletes and their coaches by taking the Coach Athlete Pledge.
There is no healthy sport without healthy athlete-coach relationships. This year, let all coaches embrace the Coach Athlete Pledge to help codify standards of behavior and protect the longevity of sports as a safe and welcoming place for participants of all ages.
9. I will learn how to create a protected space for survivors.
Sexual abuse is traumatizing. Sharing your story shouldn’t be. This year, let’s all learn how to support survivors when they disclose their sexual abuse for the first time. Whether it’s sharing new resources available to them, or empowering yourself with knowledge, we can all learn how best to support friends and family members through their trauma in the short- and long-term.
10. I will actively work to help horse sport thrive.
Healthy sport is fun sport! Let’s let kids be kids and have a safe place to learn to be the best athlete they can be without fear of sexual harassment, misconduct or abuse—the way sport is supposed to be.
Here’s to making 2024 the happiest and safest New Year in sport yet!
Learn more about what you can do to prevent sexual misconduct, support survivors and find help at weridetogether.today.