James R. Tavares was the coach of a highly successful amateur basketball team in Massachusetts for players aged 13 to 17. Scores of his players had earned basketball scholarships at Division I colleges. But Tavares had a secret: an arrest record for sex offenses and an alleged history of sexually inappropriate conduct towards some of his players. Years ago, Tavares resigned amid disclosure of his police record and allegations that he had asked some players to take whirlpool baths with him and made them shower while he watched.
"Predators come from all walks of life and, more often than not, have a smooth, well-mannered demeanor. They can be charming, witty, helpful, eager to please, says Shaune Osborne, Risk Management Coordinator for the Iowa State Youth Soccer Association.
Men Coaching Girls A Special Problem?
Linda Van Housen didn't tell her mother when her track coach sexually abused her. People don’t understand the power a charismatic coach has over a girl," Van Housen said. "My coach would tell me we had a special relationship no one would understand and to keep it a secret."
Psychiatrist Peter Rutter says that the central personality trait of men who take advantage of trusting women, whether as a coach, professor, minister or psychotherapist, is a desire for power. Van Housen said her track coach's obsession with control manifested itself in harsh rules. During long rides to meets, he wouldn't stop to let the girls on the team use the bathroom. He'd say how weak we were, which is what he'd say if when he didn't allow water breaks or made us run with injuries." As a result of the coach's abuse, Van Housen became a withdrawn teenager, isolated from her friends.
The key to solving this national problem is awareness, say coaches, athletes, administrators and psychologists. Break the silence, says youth athlete Health and Safety advocate Brooke de Lench, founding Executive Director of MomsTeam Institute. Parents and daughters need to talk about the issue.