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Preventing Sexual Abuse: Protection for Kids in Youth Sports

Good First Step

But background checks do not solve the entire problem. It is a good first step. Unfortunately, most background checks do not show information about a person who has moved from state to state. For example, the information that is collected by the statewide soccer organization of which I am a member (South Texas Youth Soccer) only gets its information from a Texas database. If the person had a problem in Massachusetts it probably would not show up in Texas.

Coach And Player: Never Alone

There a variety of steps a parent can take to protect their child from sexual predators. By far the most important step is to make sure that a coach is never alone with a child.

  • Not paranoid: This may sound paranoid but it is for the protection of all involved. This may be more difficult in individual sports like tennis and golf but this precaution is vital to the safety of the young player.
  • Protects child: A child is vulnerable to sexual abuse by a coach because he or she inherently trusts the coach and may be unable and unwilling to accept an abuse of that trust. If the coach is never alone with a child, the child is protected from being a victim of sexual molestation.
  • Protects coach: Prohibiting a coach and player from being alone also protects the coach from accusation or innuendo that something could have gone wrong. A coach's career can be destroyed if the accusation of inappropriate behavior is made because the coach has no way of defending himself if he was alone with a child. This is a simple but powerful protection for all people involved. If an opportunity for inappropriate behavior never exists then inappropriate behavior cannot be alleged. Neither is inappropriate behavior likely.

Teaching Safe Versus Unsafe Touching

Parents should also be proactive in teaching their children how to determine a safe environment to be in as well as safe actions by adults. Children should be taught how to determine what is safe touch and what is bad touch. In youth sports, touching does occur. But it is imperative that the child feels comfortable with the type of touch that is appropriate in sports and can determine if a coach or player has stepped over that line into inappropriate touching.

Training Materials Are Available

Youth sports organizations or parents are often uncomfortable providing safe training for kids. They do not want to feel like they are meddling with the raising of children. An excellent way is to use materials that are already in existence and have been tested for effectiveness. This means the parents or youth sports organization does not have to start from scratch to provide this level of training.

A good place to turn is the Rape and Sexual Abuse Center of Nashville, Tennessee. RASAC has been in existence for 25 years and has been developing resources that are effective in school settings as well as recreational youth sports settings. The program "Safe @ Last" has been very effectively used in the Nashville parks and recreation program as well as several Nashville area school systems. 

A Safe Sports Environment Is Vital

One of every three girls and one of every six boys will be victims of sexual abuse by the time they are 18. One of the places that children are vulnerable is in youth sports. Make sure as parents that you have done your part to create a healthy and safe environment for your child and every child in your youth sports organization.

Updated April 4, 2012