Athlete sexual abuse is a real issue. But false accusations can happen, so coaches and program leaders need to take precautions. Robert Shoop, a Kansas State University professor and expert on the issue of sexual abuse by teachers and coaches, recommends the following guidelines.
- Conduct open practices.
- Always have another supervising adult — an assistant coach or another parent — at all practices and meetings.
- Never transport players to or from games or practices.
- Involve parents in selecting uniforms and allow them to make the final decision, especially when coaching players of the opposite sex.
- Avoid personal communication with athletes.
- Don’t buy gifts for your athletes.
- Avoid excessive praise and physical contact with athletes that could be misconstrued, such as a hug, pat on the back or massage.
- Be on the alert if a child shows particular fondness for you.
Protect Your Organization
Organizations need to set clear polices to prevent athlete sexual abuse. Experts suggest implementing these best practices.
- Prohibit any one-on-one time between coach/program leader and athlete/participant. If a personal meeting, special therapy, training or individual practice is required, set a strict policy that a parent and/or another coach must be present.
- Make it clear that any sexual relationship between a coach or supervisor and an athlete will not be tolerated. Include this zero-tolerance policy in all training and handbooks.
- Educate athletes and parents about coach-athlete relationship policies. Provide materials to help parents talk to their children about what is appropriate behavior by an adult and what do to if someone crosses the line.
- Establish clear procedures for reporting and investigating any complaints.
- Develop policies for monitoring and evaluating new hires to be sure that they understand appropriate behavior.