Written by: Elaine Raakman1, Kim Dorsch2 and Daniel Rhind3
Safe4Athletes Handbook revised March 2013
The purpose of this publication is to provide any local sports club with a turnkey program containing the basic policies, procedures, forms, guidelines and educational materials that will enable the club to immediately install a management system that advances athlete safety and welfare. Each document contained in this Handbook is available as a free download in Word format on the Safe4Athletes.org Web site, so it can be customized with the name of the club and appropriate club staff and contact information.
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.
· 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.
It is important that an athlete “respect” their coach (teammates, staff and volunteers), but sometimes, they act in ways that can be harmful and hurtful to young athletes.
It is important for every athlete to understand what is unacceptable behavior and when to reach out to an adult to ask for help and guidance.
Guidelines for the Ethics Panel: Judging a Misconduct Complaint
Being a member of the Ethics Panel if asked is an important responsibility. Situations that may endanger the safety and well being of our children do arise, albeit infrequently. When they do, they must be dealt with promptly and fairly. Our Club has a complaint processing procedure which is detailed in Section 13 of “Club Philosophy and Policies Governing Professional Coaching Conduct and the Conduct of all Athletes, Employees and Volunteers.” You should familiarize yourself with this document.
Volunteering to be Fact Finder when asked by the Club President is an important responsibility. Situations that may endanger the safety and well being of our children do arise, albeit infrequently. When they do, they must be dealt with promptly and fairly. Both the complaining party and the alleged offender need to be treated fairly. At the heart of fair treatment is an unbiased determination of the facts by an appointed Fact Finder. The following guidelines should be followed during the investigation process. First read the following club documents: