Is your sport organization keeping kids safe?
There’s a critical theme facing society today: sexual abuse. The surge of sexual assault allegations made by women and men against perpetrators in power seem to never end.
Moreover, sport isn’t spared. Recent sexual assault cases involving former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and ex-national ski coach Bertrand Charest have put a much-needed light on the current reality of child sexual abuse. It’s as clear as day that preventative measures and changes need to be further implemented to keep children safe in sport.
Earlier this fall, we put on our first Safe Sport event bringing together a panel of sport experts from the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), Respect Group, viaSport and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP) to discuss child sexual abuse in sport. Their expertise and insights provided practical ways for both sport organizations and parents to help shift the discourse towards prevention:
1) Prioritize child safety
Young athletes need to be seen first as children before being perceived as athletes. This shift in focus places safety where it should be - at the very heart and centre of sport. As a parent, guardian or sport administrator, help children to learn what a healthy adult-child relationship looks like, and provide them with open and safe opportunities to share how they’re feeling. Paying close attention to a child’s behavior and demeanor, especially when things are going well, will give you a better sense of irregular behaviour such as distress or anger.
2) Enforce organizational policies & procedures
Sport organizations should demand the highest standards for coach development through policies and procedures. Create guidelines around keeping all interactions with athletes visible by others. Ensure every sport leader that is in contact with youth has completed a background screening process, including reference and criminal-background checks. Mandate training so that coaches learn how to avoid putting themselves in risky situations, and can identify, intervene and report when other sport leaders are behaving inappropriately. By proactively asking sport organizations about current policies and procedures in place, parents can effectively contribute to child safely.
Preventing and addressing child abuse in sport will continue to be a top priority for us. The learnings and critical input from this first Safe Sport event will help to shape province-wide standards and policies, across all levels of amateur sport in B.C. We will continue to work closely with the Respect Group and the Centre for Child Protection in Canada, who have pioneered the Responsible Coaching Movement for national coaching standards to prevent child sexual abuse.