PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE AMATEUR SPORT ACT TO ADVANCE ATHLETE WELFARE AND SAFETY
by Katherine Starr
Unlike athletes and students in schools and colleges who are protected by Title IX’s sexual harassment and abuse provisions, athletes in open amateur sports are currently unprotected from coach or sport leader misconduct except by criminal law. While the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has promulgated recommended policies, it does not require its national sport governing bodies (NGBs) nor the local organizations and coaches who are members of these championship conducting entities, to have such protections in place. Thus, children and adult participants in non-school youth sports programs nationwide are vulnerable to pedophiles and unethical coaches who use parent and athlete respect for their positions to manipulate their athletes to engage in inappropriate relationships and sexual exploitation.
Training to be an elite athlete requires discipline and focus beyond what any of us can imagine if we haven’t had such experience ourselves. Parents must bring that same discipline and focus to child/athlete protection and be committed to ensuring a safe and positive environment sports environment.
Taking short cuts is intentionally skipping a responsibility in the hope that no one will notice or someone else will do it. An athlete knows that skipping a work-out or eliminating ten more repetitions at practice is the difference between winning and losing. When the well being of our children is at stake, short-cuts simply cannot be acceptable.
Taking short cuts in practice is often frowned upon by teammates. If team members have to do an entire workout to the best of their ability, then every team member commits to achieving this goal. The pressure around teams to be individually accountable is so strong it’s at the heart of the sport and the basis of the sport work ethic. As long this pressure on each other stays within safe and positive and doesn’t extend it’s self into bullying (more on that issue at www.safe4athletes.org), the result is impressive. Similarly, parents need to pressure each other to be concerned about issues of athlete welfare.