Pam Shriver reveals "traumatic" relationship with 50-year-old coach as teenager

Tennis legend Pam Shriver

Tennis legend Pam Shriver has opened up about a “traumatic” relationship she had with her coach Don Candy while still a teenager. 

In an article for The Telegraph, Shriver revealed the details of the relationship and warned that such situations are still commonplace in tennis. 

She described how she first met Candy when she was nine years old, having taken up the offer of a free tennis lesson at her local club in Baltimore.

Shriver began working with him properly a couple of years later, and remained with the coach as she rose to the top of women’s tennis, reaching the final of the US Open in 1978.

One year later, aged 17, Shriver told Candy she had fallen in love with him, and the pair began an affair which lasted for five years. 

“I still have conflicted feelings about Don,” Shriver wrote. “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 went on to explain how the relationship “stunted my ability to form normal relationships and set certain patterns which would recur: my ongoing attraction to older men and my difficulties in understanding how to maintain healthy boundaries.”

She also claimed the relationship impacted her time on court, describing the four seasons after breaking up with Candy as the “best of my career”.

Shriver, the 21-time Grand Slam doubles champion, then issued a stark warning about the number of abusive coaching relationships in sport. 

​​“I believe abusive coaching relationships are alarmingly common in sport as a whole,” she said. “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.

“As far as solutions go, I don’t 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. 

“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.”

Shriver, aged 59, is now a respected broadcaster after retiring from tennis in 1997. Candy died in 2020, aged 91. 

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