Former track and field coach suspended

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Athletes walk the halls of the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport at the University of Regina.
‘Student athletes’ is a funny way to refer to people who are forced to face burnout and injury to afford an education. Allister White

Wade Huber faces multiple allegations

by allister white, contributor

In September 2022, Wade Huber was suspended from his duties as the head coach of the University of Regina Cougars Track and Field and Cross-Country teams. Huber’s employment was terminated the following month following what Paul Dederick explained was an “internal investigation.”  

In total, athletes interviewed by Athletics Canada put forward six allegations against Huber. According to Hugh Fraser’s report for Athletics Canada, these included “massaging female athletes at practice when experienced trainers were available to perform that task,” and commenting on the fit of a female athlete’s bra. Fraser’s report as Commissioner of Athletics Canada detailed that “the Whistleblower’s complaint also mentioned incidents that they had not personally witnessed but had been made aware of which resulted in multiple female athletes formally complaining to the University’s Athletic Director about [Huber’s] conduct.”  

Also mentioned in the report was the allegation that Huber had shown preferential treatment towards a group of female athletes and his relationships with those athletes blurred the lines between what was acceptable and what was not. Huber also had “late-night lengthy phone calls” with a group of female athletes. His treatment of these athletes is contrary to the treatment that Morgan Kilgour, another athlete on the team at the time experienced.  

“[Huber] was really slow at answering emails,” Kilgour explained to the Carillon. Huber spoke in lengthy calls after hours with some athletes, crossing boundaries, while being nearly unreachable for others. Fraser stated, “By creating dissension within the team by giving preferential treatment to certain athletes, […] [Huber] has violated the 2015 Athletics Canada Code of Conduct and Ethics.” Kilgour’s experiences emailing the former coach serve as further evidence that Huber demonstrated preferential treatment to the detriment of the entire team.  

As coach, Huber also took an inappropriate photograph of one of the female athletes. Fraser explained in his report that “the witness who discovered this photo did not harbour […] resentment, […] but was nevertheless upset about what she had […] stumbled upon on his phone,” and that, on the balance of probabilities, Huber engaged in the misconduct described. By engaging in this conduct, Huber violated the Athletics Canada 2021 Code of Conduct. Huber’s conduct violated far more than just that, however. Survivors of sexual abuse have had their sense of self undermined by abusers. Wade Huber objectified and dehumanized athletes, violating their boundaries, sense of self, and right to safety and respect.  

For a total of more than seven years (June 2015 to October 2022), Huber was employed by the University of Regina. It’s unknown the full extent that Huber abused his power and authority over that time. The information deficiencies are in part because only fourteen athletes were interviewed by the Athletics Canada investigator, and what’s available may cover only a small portion of Huber’s inappropriate conduct.  

Reluctance to speak on the matter is prevalent. When asked about the impact Huber’s behaviour had on her coaching, current Track and Field head coach Sabrina Nettey said, “I’d actually prefer not to speak on that topic,” instead urging me to contact the program’s athletic director. Paul Dedrick, the university spokesperson on the matter’s self-description as a “strategically minded communications specialist” who can “influence outcomes” does not diffuse questions about the University’s administrative transparency. His statements to CBC News on the matter worsen existing concerns about transparency.  

While the team has a difficult past, its culture and energy have improved with Sabrina Nettey as head coach. Nettey, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology is “very interested in the ability to get to work with people and [understand] how people operate.” Nettey credits this ability as an attribute to her work as a coach. “Yes I love the sport, but realistically, I love being in a position where I am able to help support and guide people through situations whether it’s related to sports, school, [or] life,” Sabrina explains.  

Nettey tries her best “to create as many opportunities as possible for interactions.” She is often present for training sessions with athletes even when she’s not directly coaching, and explains that she does this in order to establish a positive rapport with her athletes. Nettey wants athletes to know that she genuinely wishes to support them. Kilgour, who is a cross country and track athlete said, “[Nettey] has a lot of energy,” and that the team has “a lot more team meetings.”  

“We’re getting closer to each other [and are] encouraged to […] show up and be a part of the team,” Kilgour said. 

In terms of safety, Nettey said that to instill feelings of security team-wide she makes sure to talk with athletes, “which sometimes can be difficult at the track, because [they’re] often […] trying to get work done.” In response to this difficulty, Nettey has set up office hours twice a week. “I make myself super available to chat,” she explains. Nettey makes herself available in an appropriate and equal way to all athletes. According to Kilgour, the team has “become a lot more […] fun and dynamic” as a result of Nettey’s coaching. All in all, Nettey’s actions serve as practical evidence in support of Athletics Canada’s assertion that, “One can be a caring, effective, and successful coach without crossing any boundaries.”  

Athletics Canada’s finding that Wade Huber’s conduct crossed boundaries makes clear the importance of understanding consent. It also illuminates the importance of acknowledging what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. One way to ensure students at universities understand consent is through Consent Week. Consent Week takes place annually throughout the third week of September and is a nationally recognized event. Courage To Act considers it to be a “part of a national dialogue” surrounding issues of consent and sexual assault. According to Courage To Act, less than 50 per cent of Canadians fully understand what giving consent means. Consent Awareness Week “goes beyond campuses” and invites everyone to have “thoughtful, affirming, intersectional, and age-appropriate conversations about consent,”  

Courage To Act is federally funded and helps campuses across Canada prevent gender-based violence. They assert that having informed and thoughtful conversations about consent is one of the best ways to educate individuals so that they may build healthy relationships and be protected from harm when they are vulnerable. The ability to understand what is okay and what is not is crucial, especially in situations like the ones Huber created.  

According to Athletics Canada’s Code of Conduct, grooming is a “slow, gradual and escalating process.” Because of this, recognizing the actions of individuals who behave the way Huber did as grossly inappropriate abuses of trust, power, and authority is key to ensuring personal safety and well-being across campus.  

In the conclusion of his report, Fraser determined that Huber would be suspended for an “indefinite period of time.” Huber has now been suspended “until further notice, from participation, in any capacity, in any program, practice, activity, event, or competition organized or sanctioned by Athletics Canada.” He is also barred from applying for his membership to be re-instated until September 13, 2030, at which point the “rehabilitative steps” taken by Huber will be considered and it will be determined whether or not his future participation in sport is appropriate.  

A copy of Hugh Fraser’s executive summary of decision for Athletics Canada can be viewed at wadehuberexecutivesummary.tiiny.site/  

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