A SmartTeams Talk by Katherine Starr: "Best Practices in Preventing Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports"
Safe4Athletes has created a video to learn more about adopting the Safe4Athletes program at your club or school.
The video will also give you a brief overview of abuse in sports. We encourage everyone to take a few minutes
and learn about abusive behaviour in sports and what
you can do to protect your sports environment as an athlete or a parent.
For more information on how to adopt a Safe4Athletes program visit 4-clubs
For more information for athletes information can be found at 4-athletes
Click here to View the Video
Safe4Athletes Survey Results
Safe4Athletes developed an online survey to indentify current and former athletes and to learn about the type of harassment that may have been experienced over the course of their career. The survey allows for both the athlete and a parent of athlete to respond.
Aims: To determine if there were any trends across sport, gender and competition level, that identify abuse levels for emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
Methods: The survey was distributed in phases; the first phase was directed towards personal contacts, via Facebook ( friends and large number of Olympians from around the world), and private communication with contacts that have come to Safe4athletes with experience of abuse in some form in sports. The second phase included a more public distribution with websites like Huffington Post, Momsteam, (a focused parent/athlete audience) and the Safe4athletes website.
Results: 155 participants – 103 Athletes – 52 Athlete/Parent; Athletes 91 Female and 12 Male.
Written by: Katherine Starr
The upcoming film “Palo Alto” centers around a 14 year old high school girl soccer athlete, played by Emma Roberts (actual age 22), who gets romantically involved with her high school soccer coach, played by James Franco. (Movie Trailer click here )
The trailer for this movie begins with scenes depicting the dynamics between Emma Roberts and her teammates, who are openly discussing the obvious attraction that is going on between Emma Roberts (Athlete) and James Franco (Coach). We see Emma Roberts displaying her shyness and obvious attraction for her coach as she is teased by her teammates.
The next vignette of the trailer shows a series of boys, the age of the girls, acting out of control and Robert’s frustration with their immaturity when all she wants is a loving mature boyfriend. This sets the stage for James Franco to make sexual advances toward Emma Roberts, while Emma is showing open displays of frustration with boys her own age. Roberts is left vulnerable to be sexually molested by her coach as she sits in her locker alone at school as the coach approaches her. The Coach enters with the narration overlay “I’m older and I know that there aren’t a lot of good things around”. The coach molests the 14 year old high school soccer player.
A few minutes of your time could be the difference between an athlete being silent about their abuse or having a voice to speak up.
We are asking you to help make sports Safe4Athletes by taking a few minutes of your time to participate in our survey. By COMPLETING our survey we can learn a little bit more about each sport at every level.
There is very little current data to truly understand the type of abuse that has transpired in sports for decades. We know that it's there and know that each sport has different unique characteristics of the type of abuse (Sexual, verbal, physical and emotional). Help us change that by completing the survery. We want to hear from anyone that has competed for a single season to having committed to over 10,000 in pursuit of excellence in your sport. The more knowledge we can gain the bigger the impact. Help us change what is broken and preserve what makes sports great.
The survey can be completed by either the athlete or an athlete parent of a minor competitor. The minor competitor can complete the survey as well as Athlete Self. All responses are anonymous.
Please share this survey with your networks as the more the "past and present" athletes at all levels of sport participate the louder our collective voices become.
Click here to take the SURVEY we will look forward to sharing our findings in the coming months. (Stay Tuned)
Thank you for helping us Make Sports SAFE4ATHLETES
Traveling Far and Thru the Snow to Bring Safe4athletes to Sharon, Pennsylvania
Safe4Athletes would like to welcome Sharon High School to the Safe4Athletes program and recognize them as a leader in addressing the topic of abuse, bullying and harassment in team sports. With the entire world currently watching the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, now is the time to elevate our message and inspire all athletes to be a part of a safe athletic community.
As part of the program we are proud announce our new mobile app for the Smartphone, soon to be available in the App Store and Google Play. The Safe4Athletes app puts the power of program into the hands of today’s youth enabling school and club sports programs, coaches, parents and athletes to become part of a community that does not condone any kind of abuse in sports. The new app offers one of the first-of-its-kind Abuse Reporting features. On the app, anyone will be able to report abuse, anonymously, right from their mobile phone, helping to empower every athlete and provide a safe and positive environment free of abuse, bullying and harassment.
Next Scheduled Interview is Feb 16th at 12:15pm (central time) Live Radio interview on America Weekend with Turi Ryder to discuss Athlete Safety.
To learn more about becoming a Safe4Athletes Program please see our 4-Clubs page for details on getting started.
This week, Richie Incognito, a Miami Dolphins NFL player, was suspended indefinitely for bullying his teammate, Jonathon Martin.
We need to ask ourselves why the cries of Jonathon Martin took so long to hear. Where were his teammates, coaches, and the rest of people in the Dolphins organization? While the players have a code of conduct to which they have to adhere, why did it take the actions of Jonathon Martin feeling like he had to quit before someone heard him.
When you listen to players’ comments, they seem to go both ways, in defense of the behavior or complete shock from the organization. Yet, despite the fact that the Dolphins coaching staff and club infrastructure is in place with the entire NFL above them, apparently, it was not safe for Jonathon Martin to speak up and have the situation resolved before it got to the point of needing to quit.
Has bullying become so normalized that we can’t see the forest thru the trees? If we think that this is an isolated incident, and only related to Richie Incognito and the Miami Dolphins, then we are blind to what is really going on in sport. At every level of sports there is bullying and it exists in a sport culture where teammates do not report abuse for fear of being chastised by coaches and fellow players.
The focus of Safe4Athletes is to give every athlete a voice, including Jonathon Martin. Jonathon should be able to practice and play his sport with the freedom and liberty that is afforded workers in the workplace.
While the Safe4Athletes policies and procedures have been implemented at the open amateur and school/college levels of sports to address abuse, bullying, and harassment, we now see the need for such policies at the professional level for adult men and women to have a safe and positive experience while remaining competitive?
At every level of competition, including the NFL and other professional sports, there needs to be an identified safe place where athletes experiencing abuse, bullying, and harassment can go without fear of retribution from teammates, coaches, or management. The Safe4Athletes model requires the designation of an “athlete welfare advocate” (or team of athlete welfare advocates) to address athletes’ safety needs. This advocate is necessary because of the huge power differential between athletes and coaches, owners, and managers. Even in the pros, athletes are “low men on the totem pole”.
The athlete welfare advocate, coupled with an investigation that is activated when these issues arise, allows the sports club to hear their athletes and give them a voice through a third party that can protect them from retaliation.
We need to teach our athletes how to speak up and we need to listen to our athletes when they do have the courage to speak up.
We need to pull our heads out of the sand and hear ALL our ATHLETES from Pop Warner to the NFL. We need to make room for our athletes to speak out and we all need to be better listeners. We all need to realize that listening is not always with our ears. We have to observe players’ behaviors, challenge hostile and bullying actions and read the feelings of distressed athletes. We must be more diligent at each of our sports programs.
Let’s all hear and help every Jonathon Martin that is being bullied out there.
To learn more about adopting Safe4Athletes in your sports club and giving every athlete a voice, see our 4-Clubs Page
By Katherine Starr – President & Founder Safe4Athletes
Since the Sandusky case we have jumped on the bandwagon in sports and addressed child sexual abuse in sports. We show videos of adolescent aged girls and boys being targeted and abused. Without a doubt, we react emotionally and with revulsion to something so horrific as the taking the innocence of a young child.
Yet, that isn’t the whole truth when discussing coach-athlete sexual abuse. If you look at the list of banned swim coaches on the USA Swimming website, there isn’t one coached banned for a sexual abuse who was accused of having a relationship with a swimmer under the age of 13.
We wouldn’t know that based on the education videos that we are forced to watch in order to be certified in some capacity in sports. These videos only depict young children being cultivated by acquaintance pedophiles.
Why aren’t we seeing videos of an 17-yr-old voicing how a close relationship with his or her coach went from athlete affection as a reward for their hard work on the practice field to molestation or, from the psyche and perspective of the artfully manipulated athlete, “a loving relationship.” This scenario just doesn’t pull at our heartstrings in the same way. Why aren’t we seeing a video of a 25-year-old, who we assume is a consenting adult, talking about such a relationship? We react with even less sympathy in this case, if any at all.
If we truly want to address sexual abuse and harassment in sports we need to call it what it is, an abuse of power between the coach and the athlete that occurs at all ages. We are misled if educational materials imply something else.
If we look at the minimum age requirements to compete in the Olympics by sport, one would find that age requirements correlate to the vulnerability of athlete sexual abuse. The lower end sports that begin to peak around 13/14 like gymnastics, swimming and taekwondo is also the age where the “coach-athlete relationship” begins and coaches start to get banned for their inappropriate relationships with their athletes.
When you look at some of the old minimum-age sports like Team Handball, Cycling and Weightlifting that have age requirements of 17-or 18-years-old, we hear less about these cases, as it is presumed that there was consent with the coach at that point.
If you look at the website of listed organizations with a list of banned coaches, they are the ones with the younger age limits to compete at the international level.
Safe4Athletes had the privilege to take part in an Al Jazeera interview on The Stream - The high price of Olympic glory on .
The broadcast included Attorney Jonathan Little, Dr. Mitch Abrams Ph.D and Nancy Hogshead-Makar. The program examines how more athletes are coming forward and openly talking about the abuse they received from their coaches, whether it’s psychological or physical abuse, with several high profile cases making headlines. Allegations of abuse are not limited to the U.S. That’s exactly the reason Safe4Athletes pushes for more stringent policies that protect athletes from abusive coaches, whether they are Olympians or in club sports.
Safe4Athletes is dedicated to athlete welfare -- where every athlete is provided a safe and positive environment free of sexual abuse, bullying and harassment.
Summer is almost over for most schools around the country with school sports and open amateur sports programs beginning across the United States. New sports season can often mean new coaches, supporting staff and new teammates.
As every parent prepares their young athlete for the new sports season, they get all the right equipment and make sure their children have everything they need to be successful for training and competition. Parents purchase the new team gear and may stock up on the latest trend in “energy” products to keep young athletes refreshed and hydrated in the field of play. Parents do as much as they can to ensure their children have whatever they needs to make the team, be successful at training and are in the best position they can be to win their races or contests.
As parent engage in this preparation, seldom do they consider the dark side of sports -- sexual abuse, bullying and harassment. If asked about the issue, most parents believe these are things they don’t happen in their school or their children’s youth sport program. At best, parents might say they’ve watched the latest educational video and know what to look for.
Even when parents have watched that video and feel educated about sexual abuse, bullying and harassment, when that behavior is right in front of them, they are at a loss with regard to what they should do, Without policies and procedures in place to address these issues, individuals who abuse our children continue operating in the sports system simply because there aren’t mechanisms established to confront and penalize misconduct and ultimately to ban such individuals from continuing to work with our children.