5 Tips to Help Prevent Abuse in Sports

Nov 20, 2015, 14:42 ET from USA Swimming

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Nov. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- There are many reasons why a child should participate in sports, says Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming's Executive Director. Sports teach important life lessons including goal-setting, teamwork and self-confidence, not to mention the great exercise it provides athletes.

Unfortunately, competitive sports can be an environment for misconduct, including physical and sexual abuse. These can also have long-term damaging effects on a child's psychological well-being. 

USA Swimming, the national governing body of competitive swimming in the United States with 400,000 members, is working to increase awareness to reduce the risk for abuse in the sport through its Safe Sport Program.

"The safety and well-being of children is the responsibility of all adults who work with kids," said Chuck Wielgus.

USA Swimming offers five tips to help parents understand, identify and prevent misconduct in sports to keep kids safe:

1. Learn About It
Education is the most important tool to combat misconduct. Look for resources to help understand how abuse occurs and what you can do to address it. At USA Swimming, we provide free training for our non-athlete members, parents and our athletes – teaching how to recognize signs of grooming behavior and boundary violations. 

2. Create Healthy Boundaries
It's important to establish healthy boundaries between athletes and coaches and have clear expectations about the coach's role. Coaches are very influential in the lives of young people and can have positive, long lasting effects on their athletes. A youth sports organization should have policies that establish the behavior it expects from its members.

3. Identify and Address High Risk Areas
In order to commit misconduct, an offender needs privacy, access, and control. One way to reduce the risk for abuse is to create strategies designed specifically to address these high-risk areas.  For USA Swimming, these high risk areas include travel, locker rooms, and electronic communication.

4. Speak Up
If you do recognize red flag behaviors or policy violations, say something! Your youth sports organization should designate someone – coach, team administrator or a parent advocate and then make sure that everyone in the club knows who that person is.

5. Talk to your Kids!
Physical and sexual misconduct can be a hard topic for parents to talk about with their children but having these important conversations is extremely important and can help prevent your child from being a victim of abuse.

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