As part of our commitment to use Coacha’s platform to make a difference to sports clubs, coaches and their athletes, we recently published See | Report | Save – A 3-step guide to spotting, preventing & reporting grooming & child abuse in sport. We created this FREE guide in partnership with safeguarding organisation, Freedom from Abuse CIC and promised that more club safeguarding resources would follow.
Early in 2019, when we first met with Freedom from Abuse, we discussed some different things coaches may do to be kind or helpful, that from a safeguarding point of view, may not be entirely appropriate. One of the topics that came up was whether or not to give young athletes a lift to/from training. So, we thought we’d get Marilyn, Freedom from Abuse’s Founder & CEO, to give you the headlines on best practice.
There are always going to be moments when a parent/carer is unexpectedly held up and late to pick their child up from training. From a coach’s point of view, what do you do? What don’t you do?
As a coach, it is not and never should be your responsibility, at any time, to take athletes home who are under the age of 18. Even if you are well-known to the parent/carer and they request your help, this is still the case.
There is the understandable difficulty, if in any other part of your life, you happen to be a friend of the family and have taken the youngster home in social situations (like school runs and after school clubs). Even in that situation, the youngster is best travelling in the back seat.
This is because it’s very important to protect your reputation as a coach and when in the back seat, it is tricky to be accused of anything inappropriate when driving. Whereas sitting the child in the front seat could be considered either a reckless act, or a deliberate opportunity.
However, when working as a coach (even if this includes volunteering), the situation changes.
1. Professional reputation
Firstly, there is the need to protect your professional reputation. Youngsters can and do have crushes. Any time a coach senses an inappropriate closeness or connection from an athlete, it should be reported to the welfare officers immediately. It should also be addressed with the parent/carer.
This way, the situation will be better-managed and shown to have been reported from an early stage; rather than a coach having to defend themselves later down the line.
In this day and age, we sadly have to consider what messages our OWN behavior is sending out, even if completely innocent.
2. Unavoidable lifts
There may be instances where giving lifts to youngsters is a part of your coaching position. If this is the case your motor insurance needs to be made aware. There are extra clauses if your vehicle is used in connection with your job. Giving a lift after coaching, even as a favour, will cause insurance issues if there is an accident. Teachers who officially take pupils to and from school have to be insured for doing so.
To conclude, as a coach, you are not obliged to give children lifts to/from training and should avoid doing so. However, if the situation is completely unavoidable; or it's a part of your position as a coach; children should sit in the back of the car and your car insurance should be informed. In all situations, whether your coaching role involves giving children lifts or not, you need to be thinking of best practice to protect the children (and of course, yourself) at every level.