As parents, we want to give our children every opportunity to succeed and live a life that is healthy, happy, and active. Enrolling our children in sport and physical activity programs provides a multitude of mental, physical, and social benefits. But, on occasion, the benefits can be violated by trusted coaches or volunteers through abusive actions.
Abuse in sport is an upsetting, unimaginable act, but we can’t deny that it’s happening. Does that mean we should stop registering our children in sport and physical activity programs? No. There are steps that you can take to help keep kids safe.
When looking for appropriate activities for your children, consider the three main tenets of quality sport:
1. Good programs:
- Kids are engaged and having fun
- The program challenges them to learn
- The activities follow programming through recognized national sporting organizations
- Ask about policies and procedures: For example, are all staff/leaders required to undergo a criminal record check?
2. Good people:
- The leader or coach is trained or certified in what they are delivering
- Pay attention to who is coaching or instructing your kids, and don’t be afraid to ask pertinent questions about the coaches and the activities they’re delivering
- Look for respectful and supportive interactions between your child and their coaches
- The leader or coach engages with you when they encounter a challenge with your child
3. Good places:
- The activity or practices are open for parents to attend
- You and your child feel safe and comfortable
- The spaces and equipment are safe and are sized to your child (eg: half-ice hockey, small sided games, smaller balls for younger participants)
- Your child is never alone with the leader/coach, there is always another person present – we call this the “Rule of Two”
Related read: Investigation Unit established to address abuse and harassment allegations in sport
Leaders who work in sport across the country are also concerned about how to make sport safer for participants. There are several initiatives underway to help provide a safer experience in the future and to provide support resources if something does happen. That work has led to seven consensus statements that will be used in the creation of a safe sport code of conduction. You can learn more here.
In addition, the new Canadian Sport Helpline is available to field inquiries toll-free across the country at 1-888-83SPORT, or 1-888-837-7678. You can also reach out to the hotline by email, text, or live chat.