Soon to be 60 and born on the Independence Day of the United States (July 4), Pam Shriver was a tennis player who made her history on the circuit. Very tall for her time, starting at 1.88m, with a simple and flat game, purely offensive, she was one of those who proposed short points, a lot of serve and net. She was part of one of the best doubles pairs of the eighties/nineties and had as her partner one of the sacred monsters in the history of women’s tennis: Martina Navratilova.
Pamela Howard Shriver Lazenby, as her full name, he was also a rival of Gabriela Sabatini in remembered battles, one of them, in the final of the 1988 Masters, one of the two that Gaby won as an important part of his 27 titles. The other was won in 1994, beating Lindsay Davenport in the definition, always in a mythical New York setting: Madison Square Garden.
Pam did her thing on the courts. He won 21 singles titles and was a US Open singles finalist in 1978, when he fell in straight sets to another legend like Chris Evert. She and she achieved no less than 22 Grand Slam doubles titles. Twenty-one of them in women’s doubles (20 in the company of Navratilova and the rest with the Russian Natasha Zvereva) and the other in mixed doubles, at Roland Garros 87, with the Spanish Emilio Sánchez Vicario. She is also credited with Olympic gold in doubles at the 1988 Seoul Games.
TV commentator at the moment, Shriver moved in these hours with his confession of the torments experienced in full adolescence from one relationship which qualified as “inappropriate and harmful” with his coach Don Candy. She was 17 years old and he was 50.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Shriver says that he started working with Candy when he was 9 years old, when he was training as a tennis player and when Candy went to the city of Baltimore to give a clinic. Pam reached the US Open final as an amateur when she was 16 and her relationship with her coach deepened. And at 17 he told Candy that he was falling in love with him and that they were going to have an affair.
In recent times, news about athletes being sexually abused by their coaches has proliferated. The most recent was the case of British cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour de France, multiple world champion and Olympic champion. Shriver assures that Candy, who passed away in 2020, he did not sexually abuse her, but that the relationship “stunted my ability to establish normal relationships and set certain patterns that would repeat themselves: my continued attraction to older men and my difficulties in understanding how to maintain healthy boundaries.”
On the one hand, Shriver acknowledges that the attraction was born from her to Candy. But he feels that her coach, because of the role she played and because of her age, should have had a different attitude. “I still have mixed feelings towards Don. Yes, he and I got into a long and inappropriate romance. Yes, he was cheating on his wife. But there was so much about him that was honest and true. And I wanted it. Still, he was the adult here. It should have been the trusted adult. In a different world, I would have found a way to keep things professional, otherwise. Only after therapy did I start to feel a little less responsible. Now at last I realized that what happened is his fault.”
That relationship that Shriver describes ended up being traumatic in his life and may have affected his professional career in some way. That anyway he had very happy moments. The former tennis player also feels that her story covers a much broader universe and that is why she makes her account public. Cases of sexual abuse are certainly demeaning, but she believes that sometimes it is not even necessary to reach that limit to suffer.
“I think that abusive relationships between coaches are alarmingly common in sport in general. But my specialty is tennis, where I have witnessed dozens of cases in my four-odd decades as a player and commentator. Every time I hear about a player dating her coach, or see a male physio working on a female body in the gym, my alarm goes off.”.
In fact, according to the Daily Telegraph, Anne Keothavong, captain of the Great Britain team participating in the Billie Jean King Cup, warned that it was “a problem that has not disappeared and will not disappear” and that it was something she had discussed with the British players in Prague last weekend , when a team led by Emma Raducanu it was defeated by the Czech Republic 3-2.
And how did the degree of guilt affect you? Shriver said that her relationship with Candy exacerbated that feeling towards Elaine, the wife of the Australian coach, and that she often ended up negatively influencing her tennis. As if he was taking her off the axis and notoriously harming her. It all came to an end when Shriver decided to break the tie by hiring a new coach. Although the distancing was not total, since he continued to consult his ex-coach sporadically. She was no longer with him, but she did not stop having contact.
Taking advantage of her case and the similar situations that she frequently sees on the circuit, Shriver was asked how she would deal with the issue, taking into account the consequences that it can cause. “In terms of solutions, I don’t have all the answers. I think it is possible to educate young athletes, but it probably has to start before they reach puberty: maybe when they are 11, 12 or 13 years old. By the time they move onto the main tennis circuit, a lot of patterns have already been established.”
“And then there are the coaches. The best way to protect your charges is to put them through a training process before they hit the circuit. The same goes for other credential holders: physical therapists, athletic trainers, everyone who is somehow involved in primary and secondary duties. It must be made very clear: these types of relationships are not appropriate, and there will be consequences for those who cross the line.
Following Pam Shriver’s confession, the WTA, which leads women’s tennis, reacted immediately. Steve Simon, its president and director, plans to impose training programs for coaches and members of the players’ support teams, ideally from 2022.
“Depending on what is offered to them…there will be different forms of education that they will have to go through, so that they are aware of the issues and concerns in this area, before they can be accredited,” he told The Tennis Podcast. “So it’s a program we’re working on. It’s not complete yet, but we hope to have it in place, hopefully, early next year.”
According to former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, sports training in general should also include more women. “Although grooming and abuse are not exclusive to girls, many teams and environments that these young players surround themselves with are made up of middle-aged men,” she said. “Is that correct? We have to make sure that more women are involved in tennis training to help end this culture that Pam Shriver describes. I hope Pam Shriver’s story helps end the culture of silence. on this issue, and that the tennis authorities consider it a priority to resolve.
naomi cavadaya former British player, emphasized the dominance of men in coaching and the insecure nature of relationships between players and coaches. “This insecurity increases the possibility of coaches overstepping professional boundaries,” said. “If the coach creates an emotional connection or an attachment with the player, it will be much more difficult for the player to fire him. It can end close personal relationships, often involving a much older man.”
“It is a very complex and confusing position for both parties. Some coaches will be tempted to consciously exploit the situation. Others may not intend for things to unfold, emotionally, but it still happens. These young women tend to be trained only by men. A lot of the coaches would also benefit from education, from understanding some of these issues, because they don’t always intend to find themselves in these situations either.”