We’re no strangers to the world of child protection. As sports coaches, we’re sure you won’t be either. The fact is, all staff within a sports club have a responsibility to keep children safe.
Sadly, we’re still seeing new headlines surrounding grooming/child abuse in sport. We’re still hearing of horrific abuse cases that could have been prevented, had someone had the knowledge to intervene.
But other than be aware of the signs/indicators of grooming/child abuse, what else can you do? Do you have extra measures in place to ensure no one slips the net and that all members are safeguarded to the best of your ability?
Carry on reading to see if you could improve upon safeguarding tools/measures within your club.
How do you store your member’s information?
If your member’s information is stored in insecure spreadsheets or, even worse, paper folders, you should consider looking for a more secure way of storing this data. If you’re trying to abide by GDPR best practice, you should be storing data electronically. But you should also ensure that this data is completely secure and accessible to your coaching team.
What happens if there’s an accident and another coach doesn’t have your spreadsheet password? What happens if your laptop battery dies? What happens if your laptop gets stolen? Is your password strong enough to avoid being guessed?
Ideally you should be storing your member’s info in a system that is strong, secure and allows individual access to coaching staff who need to see it.
Do you have a safeguarding policy?
All clubs who have young members must have a safeguarding policy. The policy should state what you will do to keep children safe within your club and how you’ll do it.
You should make this policy accessible to all members/parents, ideally when they first join your club.
How do you ensure you aren’t directly contacting young members?
We hear horror stories of clubs directly contacting their members who are children, all the time. This is usually because it’s easier to contact a member directly, than to remember the name and contact details of the member’s parent.
Under NSPCC CPSU guidelines, sports clubs shouldn’t have direct contact with young members unless written permission has been given by the parent of that member. There are specific guidelines around contacting underage athletes and your club should be following those guidelines at all times.
Our Broadcast system was built directly around these CPSU guidelines and ensures that if a member is:
• Under 13, the communication gets sent directly to the Next of Kin (NOK);
• Between 13 and 18, the communication gets sent to the member, with the NOK copied in; and
• Over 18, the communication gets sent directly to the member.
This is a great way of ensuring no children are ever contacted inappropriately.
Do you have a Safeguarding Officer?
Many clubs will have a Designated Safeguarding Officer/Moderator. Or, if they don’t have a specific title, usually someone who is directly responsible for safeguarding (usually the club owner). Ideally, the Safeguarding Officer should be copied in on all communications to children within the club.
Some systems (like ours), will allow you to add a Safeguarding Moderator email address. This will ensure that this person is copied in on all communications to children within the club automatically.
Do you have a procedure for documenting safeguarding concerns?
Perhaps a child has been turning up to class upset. Or perhaps you’ve noticed some regular bruising. Or maybe they’ve disclosed something to you that you need to act upon. If anything happens that makes you concerned for a child’s wellbeing, you should document it as soon as you can.
Obviously, if the matter is an emergency, then the authorities must be informed as soon as possible. But as soon as you get a moment, it’s best practice to document everything about the situation, not forgetting the date and time of the event/concern and documentation.
Do you have a safe place to store safeguarding information, where no one else can access it? Can you ensure that it won’t be found by other people/parents/guardians, possibly putting the child at further risk? How secure is this place of storage?
Leaving sensitive information lying around on paper can be dangerous as others may find it, but also, it could get lost easily. And what would happen if you lost the paper record, forgot about the situation and something bad happened?
You need to locate the information in a secure place that can be easily accessed by those on your coaching team. It’s a fantastic idea to consider using a system which has a designated area for keeping concerns such as this safe. Our system, Coacha, has a designated Safeguarding Notes area. This allows safe storage of safeguarding reports and cannot be accessed by the member/their parent/guardian.
How can I help my coaches become aware of the indicators of child abuse?
Ideally, all members of staff who have contact with children/children’s data, should have safeguarding training. As a starting point (or even a top-up), download our FREE Safeguarding in Sport Guide. Our guide helps teach you how to spot and prevent grooming/child abuse in sport. It also provides you with a checklist of what to do should you need to officially report a safeguarding concern. Click here to download our guide, totally free.
Can software/an app safeguard my members for me?
Overall, it’s important to remember that no tool/system can safeguard your members for you. Real safeguarding lies in the form of your coaches having the knowledge to spot the potential behaviors/signs that may indicate that a child is being abused, and then to act upon any concerns.
However, tools/systems can be extremely useful in:
• Making sure that children’s data is safe and secure
• Ensuring that no children are ever contacted directly when underage
• Incorporating your club’s Safeguarding Officer into communications and
• The sensitive and secure reporting of any safeguarding concerns.
Any tool you choose to use should complement you and your coaches’ safeguarding knowledge, allowing them to work together in tandem. So that instead of allowing vulnerable children go unnoticed, your club is known for operating the most robust safeguarding procedures possible. One where all children are safe.