Sports teams that have policies and procedures in place allow for concerns of abuse to be addressed in a timely fashion. The #1 problem for athlete abuse is figuring out who has the POWER and JURISDICTION to do something about it.
Becoming a Safe4Athletes team puts the power back in the hands of the athletes. It is very important for every team to emphasize to their coaches, athletes, employees, volunteers, and parents that athlete safety and welfare policies do not imply distrust and are not intended to portray coaches or others as “villains.”
Similarly, athlete safety and welfare policies restrict the actions and behaviors of coaches and others in order to maximize the possibility that we will be able to protect program participants from the harm caused by one person with malicious intent.
Safe4Athletes Team commits to doing four things:
ADOPT POLICIES that (a) require criminal background checks for coaches, volunteers, and others before they are permitted to work directly with children and (b) clearly define prohibited conduct in a detailed way, from poor instruction or supervision practices and bullying behaviors, to more serious allegations of professional misconduct such as sexual harassment, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Coaches, employees, and volunteers sign a code of conduct agreement acknowledging having read and understanding their obligation to adhere to the policy.
EDUCATE TEAM COACHES, ATHLETES, AND VOLUNTEERS about these inappropriate behaviors and the existence of a team conduct policy that must be followed.
Appointment of Athlete Welfare Advocates (AWA)
APPOINT two parents or other volunteers as ATHLETE WELFARE ADVOCATES (AWA) TO ASSIST TEAM ATHLETES. Athletes are often afraid of confronting more powerful coaches or even their own parents when faced with a distressing situation. The AWA distributes educational materials and invites athletes to call or email to schedule a confidential conversation if they need help handling any situation that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Establish and implement the following appropriate procedures that will restore a safe environment if misconduct occurs: Availability of an Athlete Welfare Advocate to meet in a confidential and supportive environment to assist the athlete (and/or parents) in identifying and addressing the concern. Immediately correct any hostile environment or situation that threatens the safety and well-being of participants. If appropriate in the case of minor transgressions, the Athlete Welfare Advocate works with the team president to resolve the situation to the satisfaction of the affected athlete (and his/her parents) or initiate a formal complaint.
In more serious situations, temporarily suspend the coach or other individual accused of misconduct for the duration of the complaint process that includes the following elements:
- The AWA represents or accompanies the athlete who is never required to confront her/his alleged abuser.
- The accused is given notice of all charges.
- The team appoints an impartial Fact Finder to interview all parties.
- The accused receives a full hearing and the opportunity to submit a detailed written statement to the Fact Finder.
- The Fact Finder presents the facts and recommendations, including the statements of the accused, the complainant, and all witnesses to an Ethics Panel that determines if team policy was violated and, if necessary, imposes appropriate sanctions
- The team reports any coach or volunteer determined to have committed serious misconduct and whose employment or affiliation with the team was terminated to the team’s national sports governing body (NGB), with a request to revoke the individual’s membership and the ability to coach or to be affiliated with all NGB member teams.
Athlete Welfare Advocate
As a Safe4Athletes Team, the coaches, amateur athletes, and parents are all interconnected with a Safe4Athletes Athlete Welfare Advocate (AWA) at the core, who is on-site working to ensure accountability of the program. When a challenge is presented, the Athlete Welfare Advocate works with S4A’s internal staff to remedy the situation on a local, state, and national level efficiently to defer further escalation.
The role of the AWA is to act on behalf of the athlete to ensure the athlete’s safety, always considering the imbalance of power between participants and adults (coaches and others) who are in positions of authority, NOT a person whose role is to protect the team or its employees. S4A prefers to have two Athlete Welfare Advocates on-site, giving athletes a choice of a person they are most comfortable in speaking with about sensitive topics. The team should consider having both a male and female AWA.
Guidelines for an Athlete Welfare Advocate
- Child-Friendly, Victim-Friendly Listener. The AWA should be someone who understands “child friendly” communication and is approachable.
- Confidant. If the athlete wishes to have his or her name kept confidential, then only the AWA knows his/her identity, and the AWA represents the athlete in any meetings with the Fact Finder.
- Independent. In order to maintain a position of independence, the AWA should not be a member of the board of directors of the team or serve the team in any other capacity.
AWAs are important people for athletes to rely on when they need help thinking through and talking about stressful situations. Teams should care about the safety and welfare of all participants and hope that any athlete who may be the victim of abuse — whether it is sexual, bullying, harassment or other improper misconduct by a coach, peer, parent, volunteer or staff member — feels safe enough to speak to an AWA. With this athlete assistance focus in mind, the AWA must be open to gaining the confidence of the athlete and developing a trusting relationship that will encourage factual, honest, and open dialogue. The AWA needs to keep in mind that they are the advocate for the athlete and their purpose is to hear the concern and then act on behalf of the athlete by working with others on the team to develop a resolution.
Do you want to become an Athlete Welfare Advocate or want to become a Safe4Athletes Team?
Local-Based Policies and Procedures for Sports Programs
- Provide training to Athlete Welfare Advocate via monthly Zoom calls.
- Online Readiness Tool Kit (Checklist of deliverables to become a S4A Team).
- Safe4Athletes support for issues that arise for athletes, parents, and Athlete Welfare Advocates.
- Walk point of contact through policies from start of issue through to resolution.
- Provide recommendations based on the facts provided.
- Our programs are designed to affordable for all program types
Pricing tiers based on team* size Implementation fee/maintenance Fee (Yearly) $500.00 per team (regardless of size)
*Colleges and high schools (Public or Private) structured pricing based on request.
- Safe4Athletes has policies, procedures, and educational materials that teams can use to implement a Safe4Athletes program.
- USE OF SAFE4ATHLETES LOGO AND SAFE ENVIRONMENT STATEMENT
- Teams that adopt these policies and procedures are asked to use the Safe4Athletes logo and advocacy statement on their website and printed materials.