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Safeguarding and Safe Practice when working with Elite Youth Athletes

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  1. Safeguarding and Safe Practice when working with Elite Youth Athletes Dr. Melanie Lang Edge Hill University langm@edgehill.ac.uk

  2. Dr. Melanie Lang • Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, near Liverpool Contact: • langm@edgehill.ac.uk • 01695 583402

  3. Content • Definitions • International and UK policy context • Violations of children’s rights in elite youth sport • Ensuring safe practice and children’s rights

  4. Definitions (1) • Safeguarding & safe practice: “Taking all reasonable measures to ensure that the risks of harm to children’s welfare is minimised; and where there are concerns about children and young peoples’ welfare, taking appropriate action to address those concerns.” (UNICEF working group, http://www.sportanddev.org/en/newsnviews/news/?4769/1/UNICEF-takes safeguarding-procedures-beyond-paper)

  5. Definitions (2) • A child: “A child is regarded as a human being below the age of 18 years, unless national or state laws recognise the age of majority earlier.” • Elite child athlete: “Any person under the age of eighteen who competes in any sport at international or national level competition.” (UNCRC, 2011)

  6. International Context (1) • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Direct link to sport: “The protection of young athletes should be understood in the perspective of the principles stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. That is why protection should not be understood solely in terms as health as well as physical and psychological integrity...Protection also includes safeguarding against such dangers as violence, doping, early specialisation and over-training” (UNICEF, 2003, p. 2)

  7. International Context (2) • IOC - http://www.olympic.org/sha • Host of other international organisations – IAYS, Panathlon International, Keeping Children Safe network, Save the Children charity • ‘International Standards’ – from UNICEF & CPSU

  8. UK context (1) • 1995 – Olympic swim coach Paul Hickson arrested for raping swimmers • 1996 – Amateur Swimming Association introduced a voluntary safeguarding policy • 2001 – Safeguarding policy becomes mandatory; CPSU set up

  9. UK context (2) • 2002 - CPSU launches National Standards for Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Sport • 2005 – Post of Lead Officer and Club Welfare Officer becomes compulsory; CRB checks mandated • 2011 – CPSU introduces the Sports Safeguarding Framework

  10. What do we know about violence and abuse in youth sport?

  11. TRUE or FALSE? • Children are mostly abused by strangers • Men abuse children more than women • Disabled children are less likely to be abused • Girls are more likely to be abused than boys • More children are abused now than 10 years ago • Children often lie about abuse • Elite athletes are more likely to suffer abuse than non-elite athletes • Athletes in sport where clothing is minimal (ie: swimming, gymnastics) are more likely to be sexually abused?

  12. Defining violence and abuse (1) • Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child. • Examples in sport include when a child is forced into training and competition that exceeds the capacity of his or her growing body or where the child is given drugs to enhance performance or delay puberty. • Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. • In sport, coaching techniques which involve physical contact with children could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed. The power of the coach over young performers, if misused, may also lead to abusive situations developing.

  13. Defining violence and abuse (2) • Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved or inadequate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children including interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another, serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. • Examples of emotional abuse in sport include subjecting children to constant criticism, name-calling, and sarcasm or bullying. Putting them under consistent pressure to perform to unrealistically high standards is also a form of emotional abuse.

  14. Protection from violence and abuse – Article 19 • NSPCC retrospective study carried out between 2007-2010 with more than 6000 students regarding their experiences in sport up to the age of 16 • 75% of respondents had experienced emotional abuse • 29% had experienced sexual harassment • 3% had experienced sexual abuse • 24% had experienced physical abuse - in all cases, the numbers for males and females were broadly equal (Alexander, Stafford & Lewis, (2011) The experiences of children participating in organised sport in the UK.  London, NSPCC)

  15. The risk to elite athletes • Elite youth athletes at highest risk of sexual and physical abuse and exploitation

  16. Perpetrators of violence and abuse • Athletes most common perpetrator of bullying and harassment in sport – bullying and hazing • Coaches are most common perpetrators of violence and abuse in sport, especially sexual and physical abuse – male and female • Power imbalance in coach-athlete relationship = abuse of trust: http://sha.olympic.org/home.html (Ashley’s story)

  17. Protection from exploitation – Article 39Protection from illegal drugs – Article 24 • ‘Win-at-all-costs’ mentality - getting a ‘return’ on your investment • Commodification of young athletes

  18. Right to health – Article 24 Right to age-appropriate leisure – Article 31 • Early specialisation • Intensive training & competition regimes

  19. What is Safe Practice? • http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/cpsu/resources/video/poorpractice/PoorPractice_wda65063.html

  20. Ensuring safe practice and children’s rights in sport (1) • “The protection of young athletes should be understood in the perspective of the principles stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. That is why protection should not be understood solely in terms as health as well as physical and psychological integrity...Protection also includes safeguarding against such dangers as violence, doping, early specialisation and over-training” (UNICEF, 2003, p. 2) Protection Promotion Prevention

  21. Ensuring safe practice and children’s rights in sport (2) 1. Protection: • Develop and implement safeguarding policies • Have a mechanism in place for reporting & managing suspected abuse and poor practice • Joint responsibility with sport managers & funders

  22. Ensuring safe practice and children’s rights in sport (3) 2. Promotion: Train coaches on best and safe practice – new staff induction, codes of conduct Communicate policies and procedures around safeguarding – posters, handbooks, lead contacts Give children a voice – athletes commissions

  23. Ensuring safe practice and children’s rights in sport (4) Prevention: • Have safe recruitment checks in place • Challenge others if they behave inappropriately

  24. Conclusion “The entire sports process for the elite child athlete should be pleasurable and fulfilling” (IOC, 2005, p.1)

  25. Thanks for listeningAny questions?

  26. Implications of UNCRC for sport 91) • Health-related risks of intensive training & early specialisation (Article 24) • Sexual, emotional and physical abuse and neglect (Article 19) • Violence (Article 19) • Doping (Article 24) • Economic exploitation (Article 32) • Trafficking/sale of athletes (Article 35) • Right to education (Articles 28 and 29) • Discrimination (Article 2)

  27. UNCRC (1) The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that all children, regardless of identity, have the right to: • Be protected from all forms of violence, abuse, maltreatment and exploitation (Article 19) • Engage in play, leisure and age-appropriate recreation (Article 31) • Enjoy a standard of living which provides adequate physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development (Article 27)

  28. UNCRC (2) • Obtain an education that contributes to the development of his or her personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential (Article 29) • Express their views on matters that affect them (Article 12) • Enjoy a full and decent life in conditions that ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate active life in the community (Article 23) • Ensure that decisions and actions taken do not have a negative impact on a child’s survival and development, including the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, psychological and social development