Organised sport provides children and young people with many opportunities, but it also comes with risks, both physical and emotional. At ChildFund Sport for Development, we work hard to make sure those risks are identified, assessed, minimised and properly managed.
“Our work uses the International Safeguards for Children in Sport as our reference to ensure a safe and secure environment for children and young people participating in our activities,” says Chris Mastaglio, ChildFund Sport for Development Director.
Let’s have a look in to Pass It Back, our core Rugby for Development program, to learn more about some of the potential risks of participating in sports, and how ChildFund partners to keep young players physically and emotionally safe.
During most sports activity, there is a risk of physical injury, even when playing non-contact sports. Common injuries include sprains, pulled muscles and even broken bones.An injury might also mean an inability to work to support a family, as well as incurring healthcare costs, both of which can have a negative impact on families.
Pass It Back has developed a number of actions to ensure risks to physical injury are managed. The curricula uses tag rugby, which is a very safe version of the sport – it is easy to learn, requires minimal equipment and there is very limited physical contact between players.
All coaches engaged in Pass It Back are trained First Aiders, ensuring that every training session is led by someone who can confidently provide immediate care in the event of an accident, and who knows where to go for medical assistance. Coaches are also trained to use World Rugby’s Activate Injury Prevention Exercise Program, which has been developed to help participants at all levels of rugby reduce the likelihood of experiencing injury.
Conflict Between Teams
When it comes to sport, there is always competition! As teams compete against each other, there is a risk of conflict within and between teams. This conflict can lead to physical or verbal bullying or intimidation, resulting in negative physical or emotional impacts.
Pass It Back works to make sure this risk is minimised and, if it occurs, it is addressed. Rugby’s values are front and centre across all aspects of Pass It Back. By ensuring players and coaches practice these values both on and off the pitch, they understand why they need to respect others and also develop their communication skills.
Another important part of our work is to reduce violence in communities. Pass It Back focuses on the development of specific social and emotional skills, including how to manage emotions and to manage conflict. Coaches support this learning across competitions by using their strong relationships with players to ensure teams are enjoying their experience, regardless of results!
“My players have learned how to solve conflict peacefully, deal with negative pressure, and know where to look for help when in need. For me this is very important” says Thuy, a coach in Vietnam.
Physical, Verbal or Sexual Abuse of Players by Coaches
In any sport, coaches always have some level of power over players and most often players develop trust and confidence in their coaches. This creates risks around physical, verbal, or sexual abuse by coaches. In the past few years, a number of cases across the sports sector have become public and shone a light on the challenges that sports organisations face to proactively address these risks.
Across Pass It Back, coaches are trained on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. A Code of Conduct which outlines expected standards of behaviour and the consequences for breaching those is in place and all coaches must meet these expectations.
An open discussion and no-judgement environment is encouraged to help players share and talk about any negative issues they may be experiencing in their lives. This is supported by learning that helps players understand their own bodies and understand their rights.
A clear reporting system is in place for players and coaches so that everyone knows what to do if they feel unsafe or needs support, both on and off the pitch. Coaches are also trained to deal with any disclosures they receive from players in a professional and confidential way and to connect to services in their communities.
Sport offers both benefits and risks for children but, when the latter is well-managed, young people can fully enjoy the many opportunities it provides, as is their right.
At ChildFund Sport for Development, we support partners to be continually aware of the risks facing children and young people and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to reduce and manage these risks. This helps them to create and maintain a safe, fun, and healthy environment for everyone taking part in sport.
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