With more and more child sexual abuse in sport stories coming to light in the press recently, there's an ongoing pressure to be the best we can be as coaches and work to the best standard possible. In a recent meeting with the team over at Freedom from Abuse, we got onto the topic of 'appopriate touch' and what it meant for sports coaches. It wasn't something we'd given much thought to before, so we asked CEO, Marilyn Hawes to write an aritcle for our users.
Touch is an important aspect of lots of support roles with children, but it needs to be beneficial and not put the child at risk.
Always remind yourself that the last thing you need is an allegation to be made against your club or the coaches within it. Should this happen, your name will be entered onto List 99. A List 99 Check is a search on the Children’s Barred List to confirm if an individual is or is not barred from working with Children and it is a separate check to DBS.
DBS checks have been scaled back, unless someone is one-to-one with a child and others are around. Self-employed and volunteer tutors/coaches do NOT legally need a DBS and can only obtain one if applying through an organisation. It's a good idea to acquire references from new coaches to ensure you're taking the process seriously.
Advice for self-protection
1.How close should you stand when demonstrating?
It is a good idea to have the player by your side and use a mirror to show and copy. You should never hold the player to demonstrate. Not only will this raise eyebrows of concern, it also means the player may receive a message that everyone is harmless.
2. Is it a good idea to use video?
It is not a good idea to video to show the correct posture etc. unless the device belongs to the organisation. But even then, who holds the film and for how long? Have you established parental consent? There are lots of things to consider and policies to have in place.
3. Gaining consent
Always ask a player if it is okay to hold their arm etc. We never know the history behind anybody's life. Even appropriate touch can be a memory trigger for some and this could have a negative impact on them.
4. What if an athlete has a 'crush' on a coach?
An athlete may push physical boundries if they have a crush on a coach. Gently request the player stands less close, report the incidents to the welfare officer or DSL and keep a record and monitor it. Always ensure that you keep a paper trail of events.
5. Should I take 1:1 sessions?
1:1 tuition is always a risk. Request the parent attends for the protection of yourself and your coaches.
6. What about being alone with athletes at other times?
Request parents arrive 5 minutes before the end of any session. Some parents use this time to go off shopping and return late. It's not good practice to be alone with the last athlete.
7. Who monitors changing rooms?
Best practice is 2 approved adults to avoid any allegations of misconduct.
8. Should I give athletes a lift home?
Never take a young player home from your club. Even if you are a known friend who often takes the child home from school. This situation is different and has different rules and implications. If, in the event of an emergency you have to give the child a lift, ensure they sit in the back of the car.
9. Can I do anything extra?
It is a good idea to offer a workshop to parents to show them what IS appropriate touch with regards to your particular sport, effectively and safely. This can help parents not be paranoid, confused and make them aware. So, if anything goes beyond the line, they should know to report.
Please remember those of ill intent WILL push boundaries against the safeguarding policy and in that instant ANY concerns no matter how small, need reporting.
If you're looking for a sports club membership software that will help you safeguard your members, try a free trial of Coacha today.
About Marilyn Hawes
Marilyn founded Freedom From Abuse after a Head Teacher and close family friend sexually groomed and assaulted 3 of her sons over 17 years ago. Marilyn was driven by not wanting others to go through what she and her family had gone through and has committed her life to trying to prevent grooming and child sex abuse as much as she can.
She teaches schools, sports associations and other organisations all across the country and has a lot of experience in publicising her views on child protection.