This week, Richie Incognito, a Miami Dolphins NFL player, was suspended indefinitely for bullying his teammate, Jonathon Martin.
We need to ask ourselves why the cries of Jonathon Martin took so long to hear. Where were his teammates, coaches, and the rest of people in the Dolphins organization? While the players have a code of conduct to which they have to adhere, why did it take the actions of Jonathon Martin feeling like he had to quit before someone heard him.
When you listen to players’ comments, they seem to go both ways, in defense of the behavior or complete shock from the organization. Yet, despite the fact that the Dolphins coaching staff and club infrastructure is in place with the entire NFL above them, apparently, it was not safe for Jonathon Martin to speak up and have the situation resolved before it got to the point of needing to quit.
Has bullying become so normalized that we can’t see the forest thru the trees? If we think that this is an isolated incident, and only related to Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins, then we are blind to what is really going on in sport. At every level of sports there is bullying and it exists in a sport culture where teammates do not report abuse for fear of being chastised by coaches and fellow players.
The focus of Safe4Athletes is to give every athlete a voice, including Jonathon Martin. Jonathon should be able to practice and play his sport with the freedom and liberty that is afforded workers in the workplace.
While the Safe4Athletes policies and procedures have been implemented at the open amateur and school/college levels of sports to address abuse, bullying, and harassment, we now see the need for such policies at the professional level for adult men and women to have a safe and positive experience while remaining competitive?
At every level of competition, including the NFL and other professional sports, there needs to be an identified safe place where athletes experiencing abuse, bullying, and harassment can go without fear of retribution from teammates, coaches, or management. The Safe4Athletes model requires the designation of an “athlete welfare advocate” (or team of athlete welfare advocates) to address athletes’ safety needs. This advocate is necessary because of the huge power differential between athletes and coaches, owners, and managers. Even in the pros, athletes are “low men on the totem pole”.
The athlete welfare advocate, coupled with an investigation that is activated when these issues arise, allows the sports club to hear their athletes and give them a voice through a third party that can protect them from retaliation.
We need to teach our athletes how to speak up and we need to listen to our athletes when they do have the courage to speak up.
We need to pull our heads out of the sand and hear ALL our ATHLETES from Pop Warner to the NFL. We need to make room for our athletes to speak out and we all need to be better listeners. We all need to realize that listening is not always with our ears. We have to observe players’ behaviors, challenge hostile and bullying actions and read the feelings of distressed athletes. We must be more diligent at each of our sports programs.
Let’s all hear and help every Jonathon Martin that is being bullied out there.
To learn more about adopting Safe4Athletes in your sports club and giving every athlete a voice, see our 4-Clubs Page
USA Swimming Safe Sport Handbook
There are a lot of great reasons to swim – at any level. As a life‐long activity, people often swim to have fun and spend time with friends. Swimming also encourages a healthy lifestyle and builds self‐confidence. Swimmers even benefit from the sport out of the water. They learn goal‐setting, teamwork and time management skills. Unfortunately, sports, including swimming, can also be a high‐risk environment for misconduct, including physical and sexual abuse. All forms of misconduct are intolerable and in direct conflict with the values of USA Swimming. Misconduct may damage an athlete’s psychological well‐being. Athletes who have been mistreated experience social embarrassment, emotional turmoil, psychological scars, loss of self‐esteem and negative impacts on their relationships with family, friends and the sport. Misconduct often hurts an athlete’s competitive performance and may cause him or her to drop out of our sport entirely. USA Swimming is committed to fostering a fun, healthy and safe sport enviornment for all its members. We all must recognize that the safety of swimmers lies with all those involved in the sport and is not the sole responsibility of any one person at the club, LSC, or national level.
Complete Handbook available for download
STAYING IN BOUNDS
Why a Policy on Relationships with Student-Athletes?
Sexual relationships between coaches and student-athletes have become a serious problem. NCAA member
institutions must unambiguously and effectively prohibit such relationships to ensure that sport programs offer
a safe and empowering experience for all student-athletes.
This NCAA resource is designed to educate member institutions and their student-athletes about why sexual
or romantic relationships between athletics department staff and student-athletes are inappropriate, how to
avoid those relationships, and what to do if they occur. When adopted and enforced by institutions of higher
learning, this model policy will help create a safe, healthy environment on college campuses. Although most of
the examples offered herein refer to coaches, the policy is intended to provide clear guidance for all members
of the athletics department (including coaches, administrators, athletics trainers, and other staff), as well as
student-athletes and parents.
Full Text Hereor read more
4 UNIVERSITIES AND HIGH SCHOOLS HANDBOOK
Revised Sept 2013
Schools and colleges that are recipients of federal funds are obligated to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and its specific obligations related to sexual harassment and gender equity. Athletics directors should consult with the institution’s Title IX coordinator and legal counsel to ensure that all adopted policies and procedures conform to these laws.
DOWNLOAD THE HANDBOOK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO IMPLEMENT A SAFE4ATHLETES PROGRAM FOR YOUR SCHOOL
The investigation of relationship maintenance strategies has received considerable attention in various types of dyads including romantic, marital, and familial relationships. No research, however, has yet investigated the use of maintenance strategies in the coach-athlete partnership. Thus, this study aimed to investigate coaches’ and athletes’ perceptions of the strategies they use to maintain relationship quality.
Written by: Elaine Raakman1, Kim Dorsch2 and Daniel Rhind3
· The failure to have policies or prevention systems is, in itself, an action by the Club to take no action. In other words and for example, if sued by the victim or her/his family, a court would most likely say “The athlete was harmed by the Club’s failure to exercise reasonable care on behalf of the athlete by failing to adopt and administer policies that would have prevented the abuse suffered.”
- Parents want to know that a sports program is safe for their children. Having specific policies that address these issues will increase parent trust and confidence in club leadership, coaches, or ownership.
- Athletes can concentrate on their sports, without second-guessing their “gut feeling” that someone’s behavior isn’t right.
- Clear rules and a fair process reduce the Club’s risk from lawsuits that may be filed by dismissed coaches or the abused victim or her/his family.
- Many national sport governing bodies (NGB) do not yet require their Club members to have comprehensive athlete protection policies, and if they do, these policies may not address bullying or coach/peer athlete conduct that falls short of criminal behavior.
- Even when NGBs have processes that are applicable in cases of athlete sexual abuse, reporting and investigation procedures take a considerable amount of time and because the NGB is not the employer, the NGB in not in a position to address immediate suspension of an employee in the case of serious misconduct.
The local Club is responsible for the safety of its program participants and is obligated to take immediate action to remedy a hostile environment.
Why should your club adopt Safe4Athletes or similar child safety and welfare policies and procedures?
Attached please find a copy of an important club policy, “Club Philosophy and Policies Governing Professional Coaching Conduct and the Conduct of all Athletes, Employees and Volunteers.” The purpose of this policy is to define in a very clear way inappropriate coach, sport leader and athlete participant conduct and the Club’s commitment to protect the safety and well-being of athletes. The policy defines important terms and concepts such as bully, hazing, initiation rituals, physical punishment, sexual harassment, verbal and emotional abuse, etc. Please let us know if you have any questions.