NSPCC Northern Ireland is calling on local sports clubs to ensure that their safeguarding procedures are sufficiently robust, so that the sporting environment is both safe and fun place.
A 2011 study of young adults’ childhood experiences of organised sport found that the young people surveyed reported widespread emotionally harmful treatment (75%) and unacceptable levels of sexual harassment (29%).
Peers were the most common perpetrators of all forms of harm reported in the research, with coaches sometimes failing to challenge it effectively. Coaches were the second most common perpetrators of harm with their role in harm increasing as young athletes advanced through the competitive ranks.
Noting that the majority of children who take part in sport do so in a positive atmosphere, with genuine support from the adults involved, Paul Stephenson from the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit said that “participation in sport is a regular and enjoyable activity for many children and young people”:
“It gives them a chance to improve their fitness and interact with other children. The NSPCC believes that every child and young person has the right to have fun, be safe and free from harm whether training for a local team or club, or representing their country at international level.
“After education, sport is the largest sector in terms of its contact with children. In a competitive atmosphere, these children are more vulnerable and it is important that they have a supportive environment in which sports coaches can use their position of trust and responsibility appropriately.”
Welcoming the contribution and commitment a number of sports governing bodies have made to safeguarding children and young people involved in sport, Paul he added, “Most have taken significant steps including the appointment of a Designated Safeguarding Children Officer to ensure the implementation of good practice and respond to any safeguarding issues.
“We are heartened to see the sporting community, like other areas of our society, recognising the need to protect children from individuals who may abuse position of trust.”
Sports clubs should implement the Club Framework for Safeguarding Standards in Sport available from the Northern Ireland section of the CPSU’s web site www.thecpsu.org.uk which will help those responsible for developing and supporting children and young people in sport to ensure that practices reflect sound safeguarding principles.
For more information on Safeguarding Children in Sport contact Paul Stephenson on 0203 222 4246 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.