Communication is key to coaching and teamwork. You communicate with other coaches, staff, athletes and their parents every day in your facility. But how do you converse with them?
A big part of preventing abuse is open, honest communication. When dialogue is encouraged among coaches, athletes, and parents, it makes it harder for an offender to gain access to a child. It’s important to communicate that athlete safety is the main priority. Ask yourself, “what am I communicating to athletes, parents, and other staff? Is there a way for them to communicate back?” Are you approachable? Are you informed? Be confident when discussing boundaries, bodily autonomy, and safety.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Set Expectations: Explain your expectations and style of coaching, not only to your athletes but to their parents and guardians as well. This should include an explanation of the child protection policies that you adhere to as put forth by your organization or team. Having this open conversation with both athletes and parents ensures that everyone is on the same page and are prepared to hold each other accountable.
- Empower Peer-to-Peer Support: Empower athletes to support one another when it comes to safety issues and concerns. For instance, after you explain your style and the ways you will ensure they’re protected, encourage them to speak up if they see another teammate whose boundaries are being crossed. The Athlete Safety Matters program from Monique Burr Foundation for Children can be a helpful tool for empowering your athletes to speak out against abuse.
- Match Your Physical and Verbal Communication: Understand the nuances of the way you communicate, both verbally and nonverbally. Listen to your tone. Does the tone of your voice match what you are saying? Is your body language convincing? Are you telling an athlete that something is OK, but you are crossing your arms or standing rigidly?
By being aware of your communication style and positively reinforcing your own boundaries, you are letting the athletes know they are in a safe environment and their safety and health is your number one priority.
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