2021 in Review: WBSC Athletes Commission plays key role in safeguarding campaign

2021 in Review: WBSC Athletes Commission plays key role in safeguarding campaign
Commission co-chairs Maria Soto and Justin Huber also played an active role in the Tokyo 2020 Games-Time Experience while Commission member Randolph Oduber represented the WBSC Executive Board at the U-23 Baseball World Cup closing ceremony.

After an impressive #StayHealthy, #StayStrong, and #StayActive campaign last year, the WBSC Athletes Commission played a crucial role in the WBSC's #SafeCall campaign, launched in February by the WBSC Integrity Unit, which is chaired by Secretary-General Beng Choo Low.

The WBSC's safeguarding campaign is aimed at serving and protecting the rights and best interests of athletes and saw the WBSC Athletes Commission appoint Safeguarding Officers to be present at WBSC events, where they document all reports of discrimination, harassment and abuse, and determine if any follow up is needed.

The WBSC released a number of videos on safeguarding with the first one titled: "What is harassment & abuse in sport?" featuring Commission co-chair Maria Soto and Commission members Ashley Stephenson, Pauline Prade and Bruno Motroni.

The second set of videos were launched prior to this year's U-23 Baseball World Cup and featured co-chairs Justin Huber and Soto as well as Commission members Erika Polidori and Randolph Oduber, who explain how to react if there's a case of harassment or abuse at WBSC events.

"It was an important next step to the commitment made by the WBSC Athletes Commission in early 2019, and unanimously supported by the Executive Board, to the wellbeing and safety of the athletes during their tournaments," Huber said.

Oduber, who represented the WBSC Executive Board at the U-23 Baseball World Cup closing ceremony, Polidori and Commission liaison Amy Park are participating in the first IOC International Safeguarding Officer course. After completing the eight-month course, they will be amongst the first certified safeguarding officers.

"Once qualified, Rudolph and Erika will be equipped with the knowledge and expertise to attend WBSC tournaments, acting in an official capacity as the appointed safeguarding officer", added Huber. "This will be a key milestone and significant achievement for the Athletes Commission, who with the help of the WBSC Integrity Unit and Executive Board, continue to look for meaningful opportunities where athlete representatives can have a critical presence and can maintain their constant vigilance over player safety and wellbeing at these events.

As far as onsite presence in 2021, the COVID situation has meant for limited opportunities for the members of the Athletes Commission. "It's been a hard year. We went through the [COVID-19] pandemic and I haven't been able to participate in a tournament," Soto said regarding her role as chair of the Commission during the pandemic.

Both Soto and Huber did participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but virtually as special guests as part of the International Olympic Committee's Games-Time Experience where the WBSC, in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), offered a baseball/softball virtual experience to the IOC's Top Sponsors. Both Soto and Huber acted as WBSC experts.

"The opportunity to participate in this official GameTime Experience was a very small contribution to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, however, one that meant a lot to me on a personal level," Huber said. "Getting a chance to talk about my experiences playing baseball at an international and professional level for 14 years helped my audience of IOC partners get a glimpse of what life is really like on the other side of white lines. It was a lot of fun to reminisce, but most importantly, to know that even though I'm no longer an active player on the field, I still had a chance to bring some Olympic spirit into the lives of our widespread and growing global community.

"My Tokyo Games-Time experience was bittersweet," commented Soto, who captained the Venezuela national team and was the country's flagbearer at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. "As the Athletes Commission, we couldn't be at the Games however I still had the chance to be involved in the programme and got to share knowledge from my playing career with people around the world."

Erika Polidori represented the WBSC Athletes Commission on the field. The Commission member helped Canada win a bronze medal. She appeared in six games, three at shortstop and three in left field. She scored one of the three runs that Canada used to beat Mexico in the bronze medal game.

Meanwhile, together with WBSC Ambassador Ayako Rokkaku and Coach Commission liaison Giovanni Pantaleoni, Oduber and Stephenson became IOC Ambassadors for the Prevention of Competition Manipulation campaign.

The WBSC Integrity Unit is working with the IOC and the IOC Ambassadors to help educate athletes, officials and staff about the latest trends and topics surrounding international sport, including two recent webinars on the subject of the prevention of competition manipulation.

In a final comment, Huber added: "With all that athletes have endured over the last two years, their wellbeing, mental health and safety have never been more important.  We will continue to work tirelessly with the WBSC Executive Board, Integrity Unit and Office staff to ensure these priorities remain at the top of the 2022 agenda.