MAKE SPORT SAFE FOR ATHLETES

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Safe4Athletes

Model Policy: Our Club Philosophy and Policies Governing Professional Coaching Conduct and the Conduct of all Athletes, Employees and Volunteers

Following is a Safe4Athletes Model Policy, a document that every sports club should adopt and give to every athlete parent. See the 4 Clubs section of this web site for model policy and other documents.

OUR CLUB PHILOSOPHY AND POLICES GOVERNING PROFESSIONAL COACHING CONDUCT OF ALL ATHLETES, EMPLOYEES AND VOLUNTEERS

1.0           Athlete Safety and Welfare.  It is the responsibility of each coach, volunteer, staff member and parent associated with our Club to act in positive and respectful ways to enhance the health and well-being and increase the sport performance skills of all athletes participating in our program.  We are committed to providing a safe participation environment, being fair, open and honest in our relationships with each other, acting ethically and modeling exemplary sportsmanlike conduct.  The purpose of this policy is to clearly state our beliefs and expectations with regard to the instructional environment we intend to create for children and older athletes who are members of our Club.

2.0         Athlete Welfare Advocate.  The Club shall appoint one male and one female volunteer parent or other volunteer to be an Athlete Welfare Advocate (AWA).  The role of the AWA is to act on behalf of the athlete to ensure his/her safety and fair treatment.  The AWA is not a Club representative who acts to protect the Club or its employees.  The AWA is responsible for listening to any athlete (or athlete and parent) complaint or expression of concern and determining how to best address this concern in the best interest of the athlete. The AWA must always consider the imbalance of power between participants and adults (coaches and others) who are in positions of authority. In addition, there may be other athletes or team volunteers whose actions may be intimidating or threatening to younger or weaker children.  The AWA is the protector of the athlete.  Each AWA is required to have a criminal background check as a condition of assuming this important role.

 3.0        Respect for and Confidence in Our Coaches, Staff and Volunteers.  Nothing in this policy should assume anything but the fact that, generally, we hold coaches and the coaching profession in the highest possible esteem.  The coach’s energy, motivational gifts and expert sports instruction provided to our athletes is highly valued, admired and appreciated.  The Club also appreciates the efforts of staff and other volunteers who devote countless hours and dedication to the success of our program. 

 4.0        Teaching Athletes about Pedophiles and Abuse.  The Club recognizes that even though criminal background checks are conducted, this process is not infallible.   We must protect all program participants from abusers and pedophiles by educating them about “grooming behaviors” and the other ways that such people use to silence, control or intimidate victims.  The fact is that those who abuse children or convince young adults to consent to professionally unethical romantic relationships are adults known to and trusted by the athlete.  This is an important purpose of this policy.

 5.0        Statement of Expectations.  In addition to our obligation to teach athletes about pedophiles and abusive behavior, we recognize that the sports culture too often wrongly tolerates or justifies abusive behavior in the name of developing competitive toughness.  We also realize that the pressures of wanting to achieve excellence sometimes cloud good judgment and that not all coaches and others working in our program have the same training and experience as professional educators of children and young adults.  Thus, it is important to clearly state the Club’s expectations as to what constitutes a safe and positive environment.  

 5.1        USOC and NGB Coaches’ Ethics Code. All paid and volunteer coaches shall be required to annually sign a statement acknowledging receipt and understanding of the USOC and NGB’s Coaching Ethics Code and their obligation to comply with such codes (see Appendix A).   Violations of the code may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or association with the Club.  Any coach, staff member or volunteer banned from Club membership or employment due to misconduct under this policy will be reported to the national sports governing body.

5.2         Club Code of Conduct.  All Club coaches, staff members and volunteers are also required to sign the Club Coach, Employee, Volunteer Code of Conduct Agreement (see Appendix A) as a condition of employment or volunteer affiliation. The Agreement requires the signatory to acknowledge:

  • reading and understanding this policy, “Club Philosophy and Policies Governing Professional Coaching Conduct and the Conduct of All Athletes, Employees and Volunteers”; 
  • obligations under state laws related to child welfare and protection;   
  • the obligation to report any violation of these policies to the club president whether committed by the signatory or by any other coach, employee, volunteer or athlete member of the Club; and
  • the possibility of sanctions if these policies are violated.

5.3         Personal Conduct and Responsibility.  Coaches, staff, and volunteers are to conduct their personal business so as not to bring discredit to themselves or to the Club.  The following guidelines for personal conduct, while not all-inclusive, have been established

  • Act with good judgment, discretion, and integrity both on and off the job;
  • Represent the Club with dedication, enthusiasm, and loyalty;
  • Treat all persons with courtesy, friendliness, and respect for their personal dignity;
  • Do not discriminate against any individual by reason of race, gender, creed, color, national origin, age, handicap, or sexual orientation;
  • Comply with sports governing body rules and state and federal laws;
  • In the event of a conflict or disagreement with another Club employee, parent or volunteer, professionally resolve such conflict in a meeting with the other person;
  • Any situation that cannot be comfortably handled by the coach or that may have Club ramifications (i.e. fan behavior, inappropriate parental interference, etc.) should be brought to the attention of the Club president; 
  • Be responsive to requests for interviews from media but refer matters related to Club policy to the Club president; and
  • Do not text message, tweet, email, telephone, or otherwise socially engage individual athletes.  Text and email messages related to official club business such as changes in practice and competition times or locations, or travel plans, etc. are permitted.
  • Whenever possible, all Club business should be conducted through parents or if emailing all training groups or team members, such advisories should be copied to parents.
  • Ethical conflicts should be avoided.  For instance, while it is acceptable for a coach who has a construction business to be hired by a parent to construct a pool deck, coaches should not accept offers of employment for tutoring, baby-sitting and other personal-care services related to taking care of an athlete in the Club’s program.  Such relationships might be perceived by others as giving these athletes a special position resulting in favoritism by the coach. 

 5.4         Safe Environment.   All coaches, other employees and volunteers shall be obligated to report any situation that endangers the health and safety of athletes, employees, volunteers, or other spectators/attendees of Club events to the Club president or Athlete Welfare Officer and act to immediately stop the activity until a safe environment can be restored.

5.5          Evaluation.  The Club shall have evaluation procedures in place that provide for an annual performance appraisal of all paid staff and paid and volunteer coaches which shall include evaluations by athletes and parents.  Such evaluations shall be administered by the Club without coaches being present.  All evaluation instruments shall be jointly reviewed by the coaches and staff members and the Club president prior to their use for the purpose of ensuring that employee evaluation emphasis is on positive professional growth and improvement. 

6.0          Sexual Harassment. Our Club strictly prohibits any coach, staff member, volunteer, parent or athlete from engaging in any form of sexual harassment that affects other employees, volunteers, parents or athletes.  

6.1          Definition.  Sexual harassment is unwanted and often persistent sexual attention and any other behavior with sexual overtones that creates a hostile work or training environment.  Verbal harassment may be directed toward an individual or be comments about an individual that are intended to be or actually are overheard. Specifically, sexual harassment may include written or verbal abuse or threats with sexual overtones, physical contact, sexually graphic literature, sexual advances, demands for sexual favors, sexually oriented comments, jokes, lewd comments or sexual innuendoes, taunts about body, dress, marital status or sexuality, singling out members of one sex or those with a particular sexual orientation for ridicule or devaluing athletic performance or self-respect, sexual or homophobic graffiti, practical jokes based on sex, intimidating sexual remarks, invitations or familiarity, dismissing the contributions of members of one sex or sexual orientation in meetings or training sessions, or other condescending or patronizing behavior, physical contact such as fondling, pinching or kissing, sex-related vandalism, offensive phone calls or photos, and/or bullying on the basis of sex.  Sexual harassment also includes all forms of sexual violence such as sexual assault, sexual battery, rape and sexual coercion, which will be referred to authorities as criminal matters.

6.2          Zero Tolerance.  Sexual harassment by any individual involved in Club activities shall not be tolerated.  If observed, employees, parents, athletes and volunteers shall immediately act to ask the person to stop such behavior and report such behavior to their respective supervisors or the Club president.  Individuals engaging in sexual harassment shall be subject to immediate termination of employment or association with the Club. 

6.3          Confidentiality. All sexual harassment complaints (see section 13.0 below) remain confidential unless such confidentiality affects the ability of the Club to maintain a safe environment.  No punitive or retaliatory action will be taken against anyone who submits a sexual harassment or other complaint.

7.0          Zero Tolerance of Hazing, Initiation Rituals, Bullying and Physical Punishment.  “Hazing” and inappropriate team initiation or bonding activities are defined as any actions, whether physical, verbal, mental, emotional or psychological, which subject another person, voluntarily or involuntarily, to any outcome that has the intended or unintended effect of abusing, mistreating, degrading, humiliating, harassing, or intimidating the person, or which may in any fashion compromise the inherent dignity of the person, for the purpose of association with, or induction to, a particular group or team or to control someone younger, weaker or with less power with the intent of harm.  Such activities are strictly prohibited, whether initiated by athletes, coaches, staff members, volunteers or parents. The Club is committed to the preservation of civil rights and a safe and non-threatening environment.  Athletes should only be asked to engage in activities that are constructive, educational, inspirational, and contributory to intellectual and personal development.  

7.1          Prohibited “Hazing” Behaviors.  Following are examples of, but not limited to,  prohibited actions and behaviors constituting hazing, initiation rituals or physical punishment.  Forcing, requiring or pressuring an individual to engage, endure or participate in any of the following activities:

  • Consumption of alcohol or other drugs
  • Ingestion of any substance
  • Shaving any part of the body
  • Any activity that is illegal, perverse, publicly indecent or contrary to the individual’s genuine moral beliefs
  • Tamper with or damage property
  • Dietary restrictions of any kind unrelated to healthy nutrition
  • Deprivation of sleep and waking up/disturbing individuals during normal sleep hours
  • Creation of excessive fatigue unrelated to normal training expectations and activities
  • Calisthenics or any type of physically abusive exercise unrelated to normal training
  • Paddling, whipping, beating or physical abuse of any kind
  • Forced performance of public stunts or buffoonery 
  • Forced tattooing or branding
  • Road trips, kidnapping, drop-offs, or any other such unplanned activities
  • Work projects without the participation of the full team membership as planned community service or club service activity
  • Assigned or endorsed pranks, such as borrowing or stealing items, painting property or objects, or harassing other individuals or groups
  • Subjecting a member to cruel and unusual psychological conditions
  • Wearing of apparel in public which is conspicuous, not normally in good taste, or designed to humiliate the individual(s) wearing it
  • Morally degrading or humiliating games or activities
  • Verbal or cruel harassment, including yelling and screaming
  • Line-ups, kangaroo courts or any interrogation not consistent with the legitimate testing for information about the purposes and history of the team 
  • Sexual rituals, assaults and/or required nudity 
  • Collective behavior such as marching that has no relationship to sport training or performance
  • Activities that promote or encourage the violation of state laws or Club policies
  • Requiring new members to “greet” initiated members
  • Requiring the answering of phones or doors with songs, chants, or riddles
  • Requiring yelling or screaming upon entering or leaving a facility
  • Deception or threat contrived to convince the new member that he/she will not be permitted to join
  • Mentally abusive or demeaning behavior

7.2         Bullying Definition.  Bullying occurs when there is an imbalance of power and the person who is older, larger, stronger, or more aggressive uses his or her power to control or harm someone in a weaker position.  The person bullying has the intent or goal to cause harm (i.e., the act is not accidental) and the action is usually repetitious.

7.2.1      Types of Prohibited Bullying Behaviors.  Bullying can take many forms. Examples include but are not limited to:  name-calling, teasing, socially spreading rumors, purposely leaving people out of groups by telling them or others they are unwanted, breaking up friendships by threatening others or spreading rumors about a friend, or physically hitting, punching, or shoving a person.

7.2.2      Cyberbullying Prohibited.  Using the Internet, email, texting, mobile phones, social media or other digital technologies to do harm to others is bullying and also prohibited.

8.0         Instructional Safety. The Club shall employ coaches who have the necessary credentials and experience to safely and efficiently teach the skills and strategies included in their sport and establish practice environments that minimize the potential for physical harm. Coaches are responsible for conforming to the highest levels of athlete care.  Coaches are responsible for ensuring that paid or volunteer assistant coaches working under their supervision uphold the same instructional standards.

8.1         Background Checks.  All paid and volunteer coaches, the Athlete Welfare Advocate, and other staff or volunteers working directly with children or young adult participants are required to have criminal background checks and employment and non-profit service reference checks (the most recent three jobs or non-profit organization affiliations) as a condition of employment or affiliation.  Any individual convicted of, pleading guilty or no contest to, receiving a deferred sentence for, or currently being charged with any felony, offense involving the use, distribution, or possession of illegal or performance-enhancing drugs or substances, any crime involving sexual misconduct or any criminal offense against a minor shall not be employed or affiliated with the club.

8.2         Professional Development. All coaches shall continue to advance their knowledge related to coaching excellence and safety considerations.  

8.3         Safety Alerts. Coaches are required to stay up-to-date on all safety alerts that are publicly announced by equipment manufacturers, sport governing bodies, or any other organization associated with the conduct of their sport.  Safety alerts must be brought to the attention of facility operators, parents, athletes and other staff members as appropriate.

8.4         Adherence to Physician’s Instructions.  Coaches are obligated to follow the instructions of a medical physician with regard to return to competition or practice following injury, including any restrictions related to training limitations of injured athletes. 

8.5         Distribution of Fluids, Drugs and Supplements.  Coaches, volunteers and other employees are prohibited from dispensing or recommending for the improvement of health or performance, any drug, medication, vitamin, nutritional, or ergogenic aid or other ingestible solid or liquid supplement purported to improve health or performance to any athlete. Further, coaches, volunteers, and employees are prohibited from distributing to any athlete any prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including aspirins, cold medicines, etc.  Water should never be withheld from any athlete.  Any distribution of such substances or withholding fluids is grounds for immediate termination of employment.  Any athlete with a medical problem should be referred to a licensed physician or allied health professional.

 8.6        Acceptable Physical Activities. Coaches are expected to require that athletes take part in instructional, competitive, or conditioning physical activities during practices or contests that are relevant to the sport and meet conditioning and safety guidelines established by sports medicine authorities.  Such activities should be based on the coach’s training, educational background and experience. Any new techniques for which training or certification does not exist, must be prefaced by reasonable external consultation or review by experts and must not impose danger, risk or harm to participants that would normally not be encountered by participation in that sport.  

8.7         Physical Abuse or Inappropriate Touching During Instruction. Physical abuse of athletes is expressly prohibited. Coaches should be aware that physical abuse can take many forms including inappropriate or frequent unnecessary touching. Some of the more common forms of physical abuse include when a coach: 

  • requires or suggests that an athlete perform a physical act that has no relevance to the sport and that is intended to cause embarrassment, be degrading or punish;
  • forces an athlete into training and/or competition that exceeds the capacity of his/her immature and growing body;
  • attempts to control an athlete’s weight or menstrual cycle;
  • requires or suggests that an athlete continue to perform a physical act, whether it is relevant to the sport or not, that compromises established conditioning and safety guidelines; 
  • places an athlete in a situation where he/she is mismatched physically with an opposing athlete causing the possibility of physical harm or the athlete is clearly unable to perform a physical activity safely or effectively without harm; 
  • fails to stop an activity where an athlete is clearly being subjected to physical harm;
  •  roughly yanks an athlete into a position on the court or field

It is good instructional practice to ask the athlete in advance if it is “ok” to touch them in order to put a body part in the right mechanical position.   An occasional “high five” or a pat on the head or back to acknowledge a celebratory performance is generally acceptable unless the athlete feels uncomfortable for any reason.        

8.8         Responsibility to Act. Whenever a coach or supervising staff member observes a potentially unsafe situation, it is the coach’s or staff member’s responsibility to immediately discontinue the activity and restore a safe environment.  Situations involving sexual harassment, hazing, bullying or other activities defined under this policy must be immediately addressed.

8.9         Responding to Athlete Questions.  Coaches are expected to be responsive to respectful athlete questions regarding the purpose and intended impact of training and instructional activities.  Athletes should be fully educated about the nature of their sport education experience.

9.0         Coach Responsibility for Positive Instructional Environment                 

9.1         Equal Treatment. Coaches are expected to treat all athletes equally. Coaches are prohibited from socializing with individual athletes (see 10.2 and section 11), singling out a player through excessive negative interactions, or ignoring individual players as punishment or to communicate disfavor.  Coaches should avoid situations in which they are alone with any athlete.  Coaches should encourage participation of all athletes and must never devalue any athlete’s role on the team, his/her potential for success, or an individual’s personal worth. Coaches are prohibited from discriminating against any athlete or group of athletes based on race, religion, age, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.

9.2         Team Success and Failure. It is paramount that coaches recognize that the successes and failures of athletes and teams are a result of multiple factors including athlete skill, collaborative effort and effective training by coaches.  Coaches are prohibited from placing the blame for team failure on any one athlete or group of athletes. Coaches should never deflect the responsibility for failure completely away from the coaching staff. Analysis of success and failure should be confined to critiques of skill execution, strategy, consistency of effort and other objective elements of performance.      

9.3         Proper Error Correction. Coaches are expected to correct inefficient performance of skills and strategies by athletes.  Error correction should always be targeted at the actual physical performance or the effectiveness of the decisions made.  Coaches shall not use error correction in ways that target personal attributes or characteristics of the athletes including but not limited to such comments as alleging that the athlete is being too weak, too lazy or too fat. Error correction must be free from profanity or personally degrading language.

9.4         Use of Peer Pressure. Captains and other athlete team leaders are often given responsibilities to “set the bar” for teammates by demonstrating intensity in practice and games, positive energy and an unwavering level of commitment to team principles. The positive purpose of such captain leadership is to create an athlete-driven system of motivation and support that becomes contagious throughout the team. At times, however, delegation of high levels of control to captains can create unreasonable peer pressure that could become a conduit of abuse characterized by athlete control through intimidation. Coaches are responsible for educating captains and other athlete leaders about their appropriate roles and monitoring the level of peer pressure that is being imposed. Coaches are prohibited from encouraging or allowing athlete team leaders to require activities outside of practice or levying sanctions or punishments in any way.

9.5         Social Isolation. Compared to many other activities, participating on a sports team or sport training program requires an inordinate time commitment. Daily practices, contests and the time spent traveling to and from contest sites can often prohibit athletes from taking part in other social activities with peers and family. When these regular sport time commitments are added to the common practice of extending sports seasons through championship play, athletes also playing together on school teams, and the encouragement to engage in year around training programs, the result may be an environment of social isolation where the vast majority of an athlete’s interactions are with teammates and coaches.  Despite the fact that athletes voluntarily elect to participate in our Club program, coaches should not exacerbate this potential for social isolation. Therefore, coaches are prohibited from: (1) requiring (or implying that penalty will be imposed) that athletes spend even more time outside of Club activities practicing skills, watching film, lifting weights, etc.; (2) requiring (or implying that penalty will be imposed) that athletes eat together, live together or socialize outside of team planned activities; and (3) stating (or implying that penalty will be imposed) that an athlete’s status on the team or playing time is in jeopardy if that athlete participates in a family, non-sport, or different sport activity or if athletes do not participate at all in the off-seaso

10.0        Inappropriate Professional Conduct.  Coaches, staff members, volunteers, or others who have authority over or provide professional services to athletes must exhibit the highest standards of impartiality and professional treatment and are prohibited from engaging in inappropriate conduct with athletes.                 

10.1        General Physical Bodily Contact. Coaches, other staff and volunteers may not have any physical bodily contact with athletes outside of the practice or contest environment. Within the practice or contest environment, coaches may not have any physical bodily contact with athletes except under the following conditions: (1) when the coach asks for permission first to touch an athlete for the purpose of correcting physical form or placing a body part in a correct mechanical position; (2) giving a congratulatory “high five” or pat on the head or back to congratulate an athlete for a good performance; or (3) “spotting” or any protective coaching intended to reduce the risk of practicing or performing a skill that may cause harm with such “spotting” techniques explained to athletes beforehand.  In general, if anyone touches an athlete, they should ask the athlete’s permission before doing so.

10.2       Sexual, Intimate, or Romantic Relationships.  Having a sexual, intimate, romantic or similar close personal relationship with individuals over which a person has an instructional or service responsibility, even if a consensual relationship between adults, creates the appearance or actuality of favoritism and special treatment, which is professionally unethical and expressly prohibited.  Examples of other professionally inappropriate and prohibited behaviors include but are not limited to 

  • Coaches performing back rubs or massage on an athlete even if the coach is a licensed allied health professional (must be performed by a non-coach who is a licensed allied health professional hired for this specific purpose and approved by the Club) 
  • Kissing  
  • Touching an athlete for instructional/mechanical instructional corrections without prior consent
  • Commenting on athletes’ or employees’ bodies or appearance in a sexual manner
  • Commenting on bodily changes and attire of the athlete that is unrelated to the athlete's athletic performance.
  • Exchanging or giving gifts
  • Romantic communications  
  • Showing obscene or suggestive photos  
  • Videotaping or photographing athletes or employees in revealing or suggestive poses
  • Discussing/writing about sexual topics unrelated to work responsibilities of employees
  • Making sexual jokes, sexual gestures, and innuendos or engaging in inappropriate sexually oriented banter (e.g. discussion of dating behavior)
  • Sharing sexual exploits or marital difficulties
  • Intentionally invading the athlete's or another employee’s or volunteer’s privacy during non-working hours or outside of regularly scheduled practice and competition
  • Using e-mail, text-messaging, instant messaging, or other social media to discuss sexual topics with athletes or employees
  • Such unprofessional behaviors or sexual or romantic personal relationships undermine the trust in the coach or employee and belief that the athlete will be treated impartially. Employees or volunteers engaging in such unethical conduct shall be subject to immediate termination of employment or affiliation with the Club.  Athletes, coaches, staff or volunteers with knowledge of the occurrence of such conduct shall be expected to immediately inform the Club president or Athlete Welfare Advocate 

10.3        Emotional or Verbal Abuse. Coaches and athletes constantly engage in verbal interactions. It is the coach’s responsibility to use such interactions for instructional and motivational purposes.  Emotional or verbal abuse of athletes is expressly prohibited and can take many forms, such as when a coach: (1) excessively, in comparison to treatment of other athletes, singles out an athlete through negative interactions; (2) uses profanity or degrading language; (3) personalizes error correction; (4) devalues a player’s role on the team, potential for success or value as a person; (5) constantly blames the team or groups of players for failures; (6) places athletes under consistent pressure to perform at unrealistically high standards given the athlete’s development status; and (7) when a coach isolates a player by ignoring him or her. Coaches must make every effort to avoid such conduct. Coaches should immediately call a halt to any bullying or emotional verbal abuse undertaken by any athlete toward another while in the coach’s presence. Coaches should refrain from and disallow their athletes from engaging in verbal discourse that denigrates others.

11.0        Coach-Athlete Relationships. Coach-athlete relationships can be extremely powerful. Coaches and athletes spend an inordinate amount of time together in an activity that can be intense and emotional. There is always the danger that the relationship between a coach and an athlete may cross the line from mentor-mentee to one that is based on total control, dependence and/or romance. It is the coach’s full responsibility to maintain an appropriate professional teacher/student relationship with each and every athlete regardless of whether the athlete is an adult and can legally consent to entering into a dating, romantic or sexual relationship with the coach. The coach must maintain an unbiased position, demonstrating no appearance or actuality of favoritism toward any one or several athletes.

11.1        Control and Dependence. The nature of participating on a sports team demands a certain amount of inter-team dependence and discipline. It is the coaches’ responsibility to establish a team environment and ethos that maximizes cooperative effort and performance without compromising basic individual rights. There must be appropriate times in which athletes are free to question and discuss and the coach to respond with explanations. A coach’s system of discipline should at all times be reasonable and professional. Care must be taken to avoid creating an atmosphere based on fear, intimidation and total compliance. Such systems of control are antithetical to the learning environment. Team environments should be a balance between positive, nurturing and supportive and highly organized, disciplined and efficient.

11.2        Romantic, Dating or Sexual Relationships. A coach may never enter into any romantic, dating or sexual relationship with an athlete while that athlete is participating in our Club program, and for two years after cessation or termination of coaching that athlete in any program within or outside the Club, even if that athlete is not currently engaged in participating in the sport.  The two-year prohibition is based on the belief that public confidence in the Club program will be undermined by the appearance or actuality of intimate relationships with former athletes.  A coach who engages in such activity even following this two-year period still bears the burden of demonstrating there has been no exploitation of the coach-athlete relationship if faced with allegations of impropriety.   This prohibition and obligation to demonstrate no exploitation is consistent with the United States Olympic Committee Coaching Ethics Code                 

11.3        Social Prohibitions. Coaches are teachers first and foremost and have a significant responsibility to maintain a mentor-mentee relationship with athletes. Therefore, coaches are prohibited from: (1) engaging in a dependent friendship with any athlete; (2) regularly socializing with an athlete or a group of athletes outside of organized team   social activities; and (3) having a romantic, dating or sexual relationship with an athlete.                    

11.4        Prohibited Parent Requests.  Parents and athletes should never ask a coach to drive a Club participant home or to any other site after an event.  If emergency transportation needs to be arranged, another parent should be contacted.  This policy does not prohibit a coach from participating as a driver in normal club group transportation arrangements to and from practice and competition sites.  Similarly, parents should avoid inviting coaches to dinners, family gatherings or non-team social events.  As much as we like and appreciate our coaches, special treatment and benefits could be perceived by others as buying special treatment for Club participants.  However, it is appropriate for coaches to be invited to attend events when the entire team is invited (i.e., weddings, etc.).

12.0        Possible Sanctions.  The Club has the right to impose the following or other appropriate sanctions on individuals or groups who violate Club policy: 

  • Warning
  • Reprimand
  • Probation with or without conditions
  • Requirements for restitution
  • Conditions intended to encourage personal rehabilitation   
  • Suspension for a definite period of time or until fact-finding a determination by the Ethics Panel is completed 
  • Report to police and possible criminal prosecution
  • Termination from employment or affiliation with the Club 

The Club reserves the right to enforce immediate sanctions for violation of zero-tolerance policies at the Club’s discretion or for the purpose of restoring a safe environment.  Coaches or other staff determined to be involved in or who condone such zero-tolerance activities shall be subject to immediate sanctions such as suspension of employment and/or affiliation with the Club pending completion of the complaint process. 

13.0        Complaint Process. The Club recognizes how difficult it may be for an athlete or parent to report a coach or staff/volunteer offense because of fear of retaliation against the athlete or his/her family or subjecting a young athlete to an adversarial or hostile examination process.  Similarly, coaches and staff must be assured of notice of allegations, a fair hearing and protection from frivolous complaints. Thus, the following mechanisms have been put in place to establish an appropriate fact-finding and hearing process to be utilized for any complaint.

  
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13.1        Meeting with the Athlete Welfare Advocate (AWA).  Whenever an athlete is distressed about any situation, the athlete (and/or his/her parents) is encouraged to meet with the Club’s Athlete Welfare Advocate to discuss the situation.  The AWA shall not be a member of the Board of Directors. The AWA must hold an independent position of acting for and on behalf of the athlete.  The athlete shall not be required to confront an alleged abuser. If asked, the AWA will represent or accompany the athlete in any meetings with the Fact Finder or others.  The AWA will help the athlete (a) complete a complaint form (see Appendix B) if the decision is made to pursue a formal complaint process and (b) respond to any inquiries from the Fact Finder (see 13.7).  

13.1.1     Report to Police.  Alleged criminal conduct shall be immediately reported to the proper authorities as required by state law.

13.1.2     Confidentiality.  If the athlete requests confidentiality, including a request not to inform the athlete’s parents, such request shall be honored.  The Club recognizes that any policy requiring automatic disclosure to parents may prevent the athlete asking for assistance. 

13.1.3     Keep Club President Informed.  The AWA should keep the Club President informed of pending situations while maintaining promises of confidentiality and should seek the assistance of the Club President in acting to restore a safe environment

13.2        Written Complaint.  Complaints must be in writing and detailed rather than generalized in nature (see required Club complaint form – Appendix B).  The complaint form must be signed by the athlete but the signed copy of the form may be retained in the confidential file of the AWA.   Part II of the Complaint Form – the detailed facts of the situation shall be made available to the Fact Finder and any person accused of misconduct.  The AWA may represent the athlete in the complaint process.   Note:  a written complaint form may not be necessary for minor complaints that are easily resolved by the AWA to the satisfaction of the complainant and his/her parents (see 13.2.1 below) but, in such cases, the AWA shall be responsible for putting a record of the situation and resolution in the employee’s personnel file.

13.2.1     Resolution without Hearing. If the AWA and the complainant agree that the complaint can be resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant and the person accused without further action, such effort to negotiate a resolution may be initiated by the AWA on behalf of the complainant.  If a resolution is agreed up by both the complainant and the person accused of misconduct, it must be recorded in writing and signed by both parties.  The AWA may ask the Club President to assist in this process, such as in any case where the resolution includes a warning or any formal action against the person alleged to engage in misconduct.  In such cases, formal written record of such action shall be placed in the employment file of the person alleged of the misconduct.

13.2.2      No Resolution.  If the allegation is denied, a resolution is not agreed upon, a resolution is not appropriate, or if the alleged offense falls within the zero tolerance or serious inappropriate or unprofessional conduct (i.e., sexual harassment, sexual abuse, prohibited coach-athlete relationships, etc.) the complaint shall proceed directly to the fact-finding and ethics panel process.

13.2.2.1   Option for NGB Investigation in Lieu of Club Investigation.  The complainant may choose to file or be required to file his or her complaint directly with the NGB in lieu of the club complaint resolution process in cases of serious misconduct.  The Club should check with the NGB regarding reporting requirements.  If the complainant is not required to file the complaint with the NGB, the option to file directly with the NGB is recommended under the following conditions:  

  • the Club has acted to restore a safe environment by temporarily suspending the employment or club affiliation of the person alleged to have engaged in serious misconduct until the complaint process is completed
  • the individual alleged to have engaged in misconduct is a member of the NGB
  • the alleged misconduct is of such a serious nature that the remedy sought is permanent revocation or suspension for a time certain of NGB membership of the accused individual (banned from coaching) or other appropriate sanction
  • the NGB has a code of conduct that prohibits the alleged misconduct
  • the NGB has an athlete protection officer and complaint process that has been utilized to deal with member misconduct complaints
  • the NGB investigation and hearing process is conducted by telephone, thereby removing the possibility of the complainant having an in-person confrontation with the alleged abuser 
  • The complainant may also wish to file directly with the NGB if the complainant believes that there is conflict of interest at the local level that makes it difficult for the local club process to be impartial. 

13.2.3    Potentially Criminal Conduct or Severe Misconduct.  All potentially criminal conduct shall be immediately reported to the police.  The person accused of such severe misconduct shall be immediately suspended from employment or affiliation with the Club until the complaint process is completed.  Club fact- finding and ethics panel administrative proceedings should move forward simultaneously with criminal proceedings and begin promptly as soon as authorities have completed their initial gathering of evidence.    

13.2.4    Standards for Administrative Decisions.  It should be noted that taking action against an employee or member regarding violation of Club policy requires a lower standard of proof than is required in criminal cases that might result in incarceration of the offending party.  Administrative decisions regarding minor or serious violations of policy simply require the Club President to believe that, more likely than not, the policy was violated. Thus, the Club President can act to suspend the employee before the completion of a fact-finding process and such action, if determined by the Club President to be necessary, should be taken to protect participants. Similarly, the decision of the Ethics Panel is a determination of whether the members believe that, more likely than not, Club policy was violated.  These decisions do not require the higher criminal decision standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

13.2.5    Departure of the Person Alleged to have Engaged in Misconduct.  In the case of any severe misconduct, if the person committing the misconduct is immediately terminated or, in the case of an athlete or volunteer, dismissed from the Club, and there is no denial of the misconduct:

a.     Potentially criminal conduct shall still be reported to the police; and

b.     In the case of any coach or other individual who is an NGB member, the NGB shall be asked to investigate the case in lieu of the club per 13.2.2.1 above OR full fact-finding shall be conducted by the Club and the Ethics Panel shall make and record a formal decision.  The Club decision in the case of the latter shall be communicated to the NGB with a request for the NGB to revoke NGB membership privileges.

13.3      Prohibition of Retaliation.  There shall be zero tolerance (i.e., immediate termination of employment or affiliation with the Club) for retaliation engaged in by any coach, employee, volunteer or athlete against any person submitting a complaint.  This includes any retaliation by friends, parents, or spouse of the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct.

13.4      Immediate Action to Restore Safe Environment.  If the complaint alleges a dangerous or hostile environment, the Club President and/or Athlete Welfare Advocate shall act immediately to restore a safe environment while the complaint process takes place (i.e., temporary suspension of the accused athlete or coach). 

13.5      Confidentiality.  If the athlete, or parent of a minor athlete, reporting harassment or other serious transgression, asks that the reporting athlete’s or victim’s name not be disclosed to the person accused, all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the athlete’s request shall be taken as long as doing so does not prevent the Club from responding effectively to serious misconduct (i.e., sexual harassment, hazing and preventing harm to others).

13.6      Notice to Person Alleged to Engage in Misconduct.  The Club President shall advise the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct, verbally or in writing, that (1) he/she is alleged to have violated Club policy, (2) the specifics of the allegation contained in Part II of the complaint form (but not the identity of the person reporting the violation if confidentiality has been requested and can be honored), (3) that the Club complaint process will be followed, including the possible imposition of sanctions (i.e., appointment of a Fact Finder and decision by Ethics Panel), and (4) contact with and/or retaliation against the complainant shall not be tolerated, with immediate termination of employment and/or Club affiliation imposed if retaliation does occur.  See Appendix C for a sample notice.  The person alleged to have engaged in misconduct shall also be asked to indicate any witnesses to the situation who should be interviewed.

13.7      Fact Finding.  The Club President and the Athlete Welfare Advocate(s) shall agree on the assignment of a non-member of the board to conduct fact finding to verify and determine the full facts of the complaint.  If the Club President has an ethics conflict (perceives self to be close to the coach/employee or influential in his/her hiring, or child being coached by the coach, etc.), another member of the Board shall be asked to participate in this appointment process. The designated Fact Finder shall interview the complainant, the person accused, and any other individuals involved in or witnessing the situation. 

13.7.1   Interviewee Verification of Statements Given.  Following the interview of each principal and witness, the Fact Finder shall have that person sign the Fact Finder’s summary of the interview to verify the accuracy of the statements recorded.

13.7.2   Right to Submit a Written Statement.  The person alleged to have engaged in misconduct (and his/her attorney or other representative) shall have the opportunity to submit a written statement directly to the Ethics Panel in addition to the Fact Finder’s summary of the interview.

13.7.3   Report to Ethics Panel.  The Fact Finder shall prepare a report summarizing the case, attaching the written complaint and signed statements of interviewees and any written statement submitted by the accused.  Because the Fact Finder is the only person interviewing all principals, the Fact Finder may comment on the credibility of individuals who were interviewed.  The Fact Finder shall also make a recommendation to the Ethics Panel, supported by the attached statements, as to whether the alleged activity probably occurred.  The Fact Finder may or may not recommend sanctions.

13.7.4   Confidentiality.  The Fact Finder shall not communicate his/her findings to any persons other than the Ethics Panel and should not discuss the case with anyone prior to the Ethics Panel meeting.

13.8      Ethics Panel. The Ethics Panel shall determine whether Club policy has been violated on the basis of the report of the Fact Finder. 

13.8.1   Composition of Ethics Panel.  The Club president shall oversee the Ethics Panel appointment process.  One current or former club member shall be appointed by the complainant and one current of former club member shall be appointed by the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct.  These two members shall agree on a third member who shall Chair the Ethics Panel.    The panel chair shall be responsible for working with the Fact Finder and other panel members to schedule the Ethics Panel meeting.

13.8.2   No Interference.  The complainant and person accused shall be instructed by the Club President not to contact members of the Ethics Panel prior to their meeting to determine the outcome of the complaint.

13.8.3   Process.  The Ethics Panel shall receive the Fact Finder’s written report at least 24 hours prior to the meeting of the Panel. The panel shall meet with the Fact Finder to ask questions related clarification of the report.

13.8.4   Credibility of Interviewees.  The Ethics Panel shall not make judgments related to the credibility of the principals or witnesses interviewed by the Fact Finder because that is the function of the Fact Finder, who is the only person directly communicating with all principals and witnesses and therefore in the best position to make such determinations.  The Fact Finder’s determination of credibility may be a key determinant in the case.  The following rules apply: 

1.     If there is a disagreement between the complainant’s view and the alleged abuser’s view, and the Fact Finder has reason to make a credibility determination, the Hearing Panel must accept this determination as “fact” unless the Panel believes that the Fact Finder has not made an impartial determination (i.e., has reached a conclusion that is wholly inconsistent with the facts or one that has been influenced by fraud, corruption or misconduct).  If the Ethics Panel rejects the Fact Finder’s credibility determination, no credibility determination is made and the decision rests solely on the facts presented.

2.     It is acceptable for the Fact Finder to conclude that she/he cannot make a credibility determination, in which case the Ethics Panel, who has not interviewed all witnesses, cannot make a credibility determination.   Thus the Ethics Panel decision shall rest solely on the facts.  

13.8.5   Decision.  In a session without the Fact Finder, the three panelists shall make the following decisions:  (1) whether it is more likely than not that a violation of Club policy has occurred, and (2) if a violation has occurred, what sanctions should be levied against the person who violated policy. The panel shall make its decision based on a “preponderance of evidence” standard (i.e., that the allegations are more likely to be true than not).  More specifically, the panel may determine any of the following decisions: 

13.8.5.1 Complete Exoneration.  The allegations may be determined to be false and not supported by the facts.  In such case, the hearing record with a copy of the decision shall be filed in the employee’s file.  No sanctions are levied.  Complainant and alleged person are informed of the decision.  If the complainant is an athlete, the athlete may appeal the Club’s decision to the NGB. The Club shall notify the NGB of the allegation and the finding in the case of any serious misconduct.   

13.8.5.2 No Determination.  The Panel may decide that there is insufficient evidence to make a determination.  In such case, the hearing record with a copy of the decision shall be filed in the employee’s file.  Conditions or warnings regarding future behaviors may be levied but no other sanctions are levied.  Complainant and alleged person are informed of the decision.  If the complainant is an athlete, the athlete may appeal the Club’s decision to the NGB. The Club shall notify the NGB of the allegation and the finding in the case of any serious misconduct.   

13.8.5.3 Allegations Supported and Minor Sanctions Levied.  Some or all of the allegations are found to be supported by the facts.  Minor sanctions are levied such as:

·       Warning

·       Reprimand

·       Probation with or without conditions

·       Requirements for restitution

·       Conditions intended to encourage personal rehabilitation 

·       Suspension

The complainant and alleged person are informed of the decision.  If the complainant is an athlete, the athlete may appeal the Club’s decision to the national sport governing body. The Club shall notify the NGB of the allegation and the finding in the case of any serious misconduct. 

13.8.5.4   Allegations Supported and Major Sanctions Levied.  Some or all of the allegations are found to be supported by the facts and major sanctions that include termination of employment and expulsion from Club membership are imposed.  The individual shall be included on the Club “banned” list of individuals permanently excluded from membership, employment, or further association with the Club.  The Club’s decision is final.  The Club shall notify the NGB of the allegation and the finding and make a formal request to have the individual permanently expelled from membership in the NGB.  The individual determined to have engaged in misconduct has a right to appeal any national sport governing body decision to revoke his/her national association membership.  However, the Club shall not interpret any NGB membership decision as invalidating the Club Ethics Panel decision or sanctions, including termination of employment or expulsion from the club.  

13.8.6     Communication of the Panel Decision to Others. The accused person, the complainant (through the Athlete Welfare Advocate), the Athlete Welfare Advocate and the Club President shall receive oral and written notice of the decision of the Ethics Panel.

13.8.7     Athlete’s Right to Appeal.  In the case of any decision that exonerates or applies minor sanctions to the person alleged of misconduct, an athlete complainant has the right to appeal the Club’s decision to the national sport governing body. This avenue of appeal is established recognizing that in the case of many highly successful coaches, Club members are reticent about losing a high performing asset, despite the implications for athlete safety.  Recognizing this potential conflict of interest, the Club shall honor the decision of the national sport governing body with regard to the athlete’s appeal.

14.0        Education and Awareness

14.1        Distribution of Policy.   A copy of this policy shall be distributed to all coaches, staff, volunteers and parents along with a copy of “What Every Athlete Should Know.”.  Any questions that may arise during education sessions or raised by employees or members of the Club’s Board of Directors or other advisory boards regarding the purpose of Safe4Athletes policies or educational materials should be addressed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and will be answered promptly.

14.2        Parent Education.  The Club President and Athlete Welfare Advocate shall conduct an education program for parents at the beginning of each season, which shall include distribution of a copy of this policy and “What Every Parent Should Know.”

14.3        Athlete Education.   Educating athletes about the contents of this policy is a dual responsibility.  The Athlete Welfare Advocate together with the coaching staff shall be responsible for reviewing the “What Every Athlete Should Know” education publication at the beginning of each season.  Every parent shall also be asked to do this with their child in the home setting.

14.4        Athlete Welfare Advocate. The Club shall provide each parent and athlete with information on how to confidentially contact the Athlete Welfare Advocate.  Such information shall appear on the “What Every Athlete Should Know” educational publication.

14.5        Staff Meeting. The Club President shall conduct a meeting of all paid coaches, staff, and volunteers at the beginning of each season to review this policy and “What Every Athlete Should Know.”  All paid coaches, staff and volunteers shall be reminded of their duty to report any prohibited or perceived to be unsafe activity or environment and that individuals who have knowledge of prohibited or unsafe activities occurring and who do not report such activity, or who do not cooperate in the fact finding process, or who provide false or misleading information during the fact-finding process, may be subject to sanctions.

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