Securing a Safer Future for Athletes Everywhere

Shellie PfohlTwo years ago, Shellie Pfohl ‘85 was nearing the end of her presidential appointment as executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition when she was first approached about becoming CEO of the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Founded by the U.S. Olympic Committee, SafeSport is an independent nonprofit organization created to address issues of bullying, harassment, hazing and all forms of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in sports. It represents a safe and confidential place where athletes can report sexual misconduct and abuse and also works to prevent abuse of all forms by educating and training athletes, parents, coaches and sports administrators across the country.

“I can’t think of a more important issue to address in sports today than the work we do at SafeSport,” Pfohl said. “I am honored to be a part of an organization that is working diligently to change the culture of sport in America.”

As a former college athlete, Pfohl is no stranger to sports. Before she graduated from UNI in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in community health education, she was the starting first baseman for the Panther softball team that won an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Division II national championship in 1982.

Her lifelong experiences as an athlete, dating as far back as her early childhood days playing at the local park, have made an indelible impact on the person she is today.

“I learned teamwork, perseverance, leadership skills and so much more that shaped me as a human being,” she said. “If one athlete, at any level, is abused and denied the opportunity to experience all of the positive benefits that sport participation has to offer, that is one too many.”SafeSport logo

Pfohl believes it will take a collective effort to secure a safer future for athletes, from educating sports administrators who are developing and implementing policies that protect athletes to educating athletes on physical, emotional and sexual abuse and what actions to take when it does occur.

“I believe it is important for all of us to create an environment where athletes are safe, supported and strengthened through sport,” she said. “Changing culture is never easy, but changing the culture of sport is necessary to ensure that all athletes are uplifted through sport participation.”