When you commit to creating a safe, protective environment for your athletes, you create a place where they can grow and excel. So, how do you take it to the next level?
Be informed about child abuse, be aware of your environment, and be prepared to respond to concerns. Know the appropriate steps to take when a safety situation arises, and be open to evolving your coaching style in ways that better protect athletes. Talk to other coaches and coaching assistants about being open to taking athlete safety measures as well.
Consider these tips as well:
- Anticipate Needs: Develop a new/expanded awareness of your athletes and their needs. Take notice of new behaviors or emotional reactions, especially where touching or privacy are involved. Let this inform your coaching style.
- Become Trauma-Sensitive: Trauma impacts people in many ways, sometimes affecting behavior at odd times and in unusual ways. There can be actions that trigger emotional responses you’ve never seen before. It’s not unusual for a victim to have a strong response to a trigger and not be aware of the cause. They may know something upset them but they can’t put their finger on exactly where it came from. Be there for your athletes and listen to both the spoken and unspoken communication.
- Have a Plan to Speak Up: Be ready to address your concerns with the athlete, parent, and club management. Know and follow your policies and consistently encourage others to do the same.
By being confident and knowing your action plan if you suspect abuse or an athlete discloses it, you will be able to take the appropriate steps to intervene. This will also continue to create a safe environment for your athletes. Want to take it a step further? Learn to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Access Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® prevention training through your USASF Credentialing Portal!
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