Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Rowing Canada has suspended the former head coach of the University of Victoria women’s rowing team for one year after an investigation into allegations of aggressive and demeaning treatment.

The decision released Tuesday says the suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms, including regular mentorship by a coach evaluator and completing course work that emphasizes coaching ethics and working with developing and female athletes.

It shows four team members in the 2018-19 season made complaints against Williams and a three-person panel was appointed last fall, tasked with determining whether he had breached Rowing Canada’s code of conduct or the National Coaching Certification Program code of ethics.

The panel concluded that Williams’s one-on-one interactions with one of the complainants, Lily Copeland, and his conduct at two meetings with an assistant coach, had violated his responsibilities under both codes.

The panel could not conclude that Williams’s interactions with the other complainants amounted to a violation of the codes.

The university announced Monday that Williams had resigned as the women’s rowing coach by mutual agreement as he and the athletic department determined it was in the best interest of the program.

RELATED: University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

RELATED: Harassment allegations at UVic lead to call for coaching codes of conduct

The Rowing Canada panel decision says Williams denied that any of his conduct amounted to a breach of the national codes and denied he was ever aware of negative effects his coaching had on the complainants.

It says the panel heard from 15 witnesses, including Copeland, who testified during hearings that she was excited at the start of the 2018-19 season and felt strong in her role as the team’s only returning coxswain.

Copeland testified that she was subjected to allegedly demeaning and aggressive treatment by Williams and her mental health was poor near the end of fall.

She also testified that she told Williams during a meeting before the winter break that she was scared of him, and the training program and his coaching were affecting her mental health, the panel’s decision says.

Copeland filed a lawsuit against Williams and the university last year alleging she suffered stress-induced physiological symptoms and that the school failed to provide her with a safe environment for training.

Williams and the university deny the allegations in a statement of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the training environment was not hostile and communication was always professional.

None of the allegations or statements have been tested in court.

Williams couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on Rowing Canada’s decision.

The panel report posted on the website of Rowing Canada Aviron says Williams “failed to put Ms. Copeland’s best interests ahead of his personal desire to build a successful team, seemingly at any cost.”

“His ‘direct feedback’ approach with Ms. Copeland was unwelcomed and ultimately harmful to Ms. Copeland’s well-being,” the panel decision says.

It says Williams “knew or ought to have known” that the way he was communicating with Copeland was harmful and negatively impacting her.

The panel determined that the suspension of Williams would act as a deterrent for both him and the rowing community as a whole.

“It is important to note that several women, many of them promising athletes, testified that (his) coaching led them to leave the sport prematurely to the detriment of the sport and to these athletes,” the decision says.

In a statement reacting to the panel’s decision, the university said Williams “expressed regret” in 2019 and undertook a professional development program, which included communication, personal awareness and conflict resolution training.

After its own review, the school says it implemented several changes to its varsity sports program “to strengthen a safe and supportive environment for student-athletes.”

The changes include a professional code for coaches and the creation of a new position, director of varsity performance sport. It also created a student support co-ordinator position to provide clear options for how students can raise concerns and get support.

“UVic is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all our varsity athletes, we want our entire community and especially our students to know that UVic takes athlete wellness seriously,” said Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of the division of student affairs.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City staff has passed an order requiring remedial action on a building that was severely damaged by fire last fall. Trevor Crawley photo.
City council orders remedial action on vacant buildings damaged by fire

City council has issued a remedial action order relating to vacant buildings… Continue reading

At the library
At the Cranbrook Public Library

By Mike Selby The Library is now open with extended hours (with… Continue reading

Candice Marie Neale was last seen by her family on May 5, 2021 around 11p.m. Cranbrook RCMP are asking anyone who sees Neale to contact police. (Submitted file)
UPDATE: Previously missing Cranbrook woman located, found safe and sound, says RCMP

Candice Marie Neale was reporting missing on Monday, she has since been found

Sisters Becky McArthur and Robin Hansen are the owners of Twisted Peaks, which marked its first birthday, May 11, 2021.
Twisted Peaks marks first birthday

Happy first birthday to Twisted Peaks, the frozen yogurt shop that began… Continue reading

GoByBike week takes place in Cranbrook from May 31st to June 6th. There are several challenges to participate in for the chance to win prizes, and the championship title. (Townsman file)
GoByBike week in Cranbrook returns at the end of May

Ride your bike to school or work between May 31st and June 6th

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Laketown Shakedown has been rescheduled for 2022, with options for ticket holders to receive refunds or credit for future events. (File photo)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

BCREA economists also predict home prices to increase by 14.3%

B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup in 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. didn’t effectively manage conservation lands program: auditor general

Michael Pickup says staff had limited approaches to resolving the unauthorized use of the most at-risk conservation lands

The majority of city council votes in favour of this design for a new Salmon Arm flag on Monday, May 10, 2021. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Majority of council salutes new flag for Salmon Arm

Two councillors raise concerns about logo being too corporate for a flag

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read