Pam Shriver has opened up on the “inappropriate” relationship she had with her Australian coach when she was a teenager.
Pam Shriver has opened up on the “inappropriate” relationship she had with her coach while a teenager, telling her story in the hope tennis bodies act to address the “alarmingly common” issue in the sport.
Writing about her experience in a column for the UK Telegraph, Shriver revealed the “inappropriate and damaging relationship” she had with Australian Don Candy.
Candy, who died in 2020, had been working with Shriver since she was nine years old and coached her as the 16-year-old went on to reach the final of the US Open.
Shriver said when she was 17 years old she told the then 50-year-old Candy she was falling in love with him and the pair went on to have an affair.
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“My main motivation is to let people know this still goes on — a lot,” Shriver wrote in the column.
“I believe abusive coaching relationships are alarmingly common in sport as a whole. My particular expertise, though, is in tennis, where I have witnessed dozens of instances in my four-and-a-bit decades as a player and commentator.
“Every time I hear about a player who is dating their coach, or I see a male physio working on a female body in the gym, it sets my alarm bells ringing.”
The 22-time grand slam doubles champion wrote that she has “conflicted feelings” about Candy, adding that he did not sexually abuse her but that “there was emotional abuse”.
“I felt so many horrendous emotions and I felt so alone. The worst would be my anger and jealousy when his wife came to tournaments,” she wrote.
“It was horrible. I can’t even tell you how many nights I just sobbed in my room — and then had to go out and play a match the next day.”
“Yes, he and I became involved in a long and inappropriate affair. Yes, he was cheating on his wife. But there was a lot about him that was honest and authentic. And I loved him. Even so, he was the grown-up here.
“He should have been the trustworthy adult. In a different world, he would have found a way to keep things professional. Only after therapy did I start to feel a little less responsible. Now, at last, I’ve come to realise that what happened is on him.”
Shriver wrote that the relationship “stunted” her ability to form normal relationships and is speaking out in the hope it will motivate tennis to act and face the problem head-on.
“My relationship with Don was a traumatic experience for me,” she wrote.
“The after-effects lasted far beyond the time we spent together. Our affair shaped my whole experience of romantic life.”
In suggesting possible solutions to solve the issue, Shriver wrote that she does not have all the answers.
“I think it’s possible to educate young athletes, but you probably have to start before they even reach puberty: maybe when they’re 11, 12 or 13,” she wrote.
“By the time they graduate to the main tennis tour, many patterns have already been set. And then there’s the coaches. The best way to protect their charges is to put them through an education process before they arrive on tour.
“The same goes for other credential-holders: physios, fitness trainers and so on. The point has to be made very clearly: these kinds of relationships are not appropriate, and there will be consequences for those who cross the line.”
Originally published as Tennis great Pam Shriver breaks silence on ‘traumatic’ affair with Australian coach