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What is child safeguarding in sport?

What is child safeguarding in sport?

Child safeguarding in sport and in sport & development is a set of actions that help to ensure all children participating in sport have a positive experience.

Child protection or child safeguarding?

While child protection and child safeguarding are often thought to have similar meanings, there is a distinction. Child safeguarding is about keeping all children safe from harm, abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect. Having effective child safeguarding measures in place means that your organisation or club is proactively working internally and externally to ensure that children are kept safe.

In contrast, child protection is protecting an individual that has been identified as being at risk of harm, abuse, violence, exploitation or neglect. Child protection forms part of child safeguarding measures, but should be seen as the last line of defence in child safeguarding.

A key part of child safeguarding is spreading the message about keeping children safe, to challenge community norms and build a community culture of always acting in the best interest of all children.

Who needs to be safeguarded?

When individuals participate in sport they often:

  • Have a coach, instructor or mentor; someone they admire and respect
  • Develop a sense of belonging from being part of a team
  • Train and change in close proximity
The factors listed above make it difficult for participants to speak out against abuse which they have been subjected to. It is also difficult to avoid the perpetrators who are respected individuals or close teammates.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. Having effective safeguarding measures in place is primarily designed to protect this group. 

Effective measures will safeguard everyone in sport, from participants through to coaches and organisational management. The benefits of having effective measures in place are relevant for all that participate in sport and include: 
  • Participants will know how to report a concern
  • Coaches will be protected against false allegations
  • Participants and coaches will know how to access support
  • Management will know how to respond
  • Everyone will know what is and is not acceptable conduct

Peer-to-peer

Unfortunately it is commonly accepted that children can be excessively mean to each other; that children will laugh and make fun of other children. These behavioural patterns result in harm, and are often referred to as bullying. Bullying comes in many forms and can present itself in sport as:
  • Taunting other participants about skills or clothing
  • Excluding or not wanting to be on the same team as an individual
  • Discriminating on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, etc.
Staff and volunteers in sport and development need to ensure that actions which could be described as bullying are not ignored. Acting upon such behaviour will set the stage for good conduct and will make all athletes feel emotionally and physically safe to participate and gain from the positive benefits sport has to offer.
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