Including athletes is key to addressing safeguarding in sport
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Following the launch of the Child Safeguard Standards at the Beyond Sport Summit last year, sportanddev.org speaks to senior director, Ethics and Safe Sport at the United States Olympic Committee, Malia Arrington. Malia talks about the commitment to protecting athletes and how the new United States Center for Safe Sport will significantly enhance safeguarding in sport procedures in the U.S.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) was one of the organisations involved in discussions around the International Child Safeguarding Standards in Sport (ICSSS) to ensure that sport around the world happens in an environment that is safe from harm. Now the USOC - one of the world’s largest Olympic Committees - has taken a globally significant step in developing a new U.S. Center for Safe Sport (USCSS) to independently investigate claims of misconduct in sport and provide resources to oversee education programmes for safe sport. Malia explains key lessons from this process ahead of the centre’s projected 2016 opening:

Involving athletes is key
Under the USOC’s firm commitment to protecting athletes and involvement with the ICSSS group, there is a clear need to ensure that athletes are involved in conversations around any materials and policies that are developed. As the USOC does not have individual members, the relationship with national governing bodies (NGBs) is critical to ensure that athletes have a voice. This is a difficult issue to raise and it’s easy to let them fall out of the conversation. If you’re setting rules around harassment, what respect looks like on your team and what consequences are to be in place, it is critical to get their buy in. Our NGB partners have been doing a fantastic job at holding in-person sessions, walking through case studies to get reactions and simultaneously involving adults to hear these reactions. Being able to connect what young athletes are thinking about and what we hear is a crucial way to learn where boundaries are perceived.

The importance of externalising this work

Over the last couple years, the USOC has developed a model that improves upon existing procedures and the new USCSS will be external and independent of the USOC and USOC-sanctioned NGBs. As one of the first centralised response bodies in the U.S. to deal with cases across the country and provide investigations, guidance and information, interesting challenges include how to involve and adapt materials and systems that already exist and the communications and messaging used in and around the resources developed.

Taking the lead
It is important for any organisation to take a leadership role and drive the conversation to influence the people they are working with. For the USOC, it is an opportunity to centralise the conversation across our NGBs, in the same way the ICSSS has centralised the conversation globally. More broadly, it is about making people understand the issue and how to start talking about it and addressing it.

This year, the Beyond Sport Awards will recognise the importance of safeguarding through the launch of the UNICEF Safeguarding Children in Sport Award.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]



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