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Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies Promote Safety, Access to Sports

June 3, 2019

Fourteen million people participate in the 50 sports that make up the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic
Movement. From local clubs to national teams, they compete, coach, train and cheer. Keeping them
safe is the mandate of the U.S. Center for SafeSport (Center).

The Center is an independent non-profit created to help end abuse in sports. Since opening its doors in
March 2017, the Center has resolved over 1,700 reported concerns, issued over 500 decisions
sanctioning individuals for violating its code of conduct, including 285 sanctions of permanent
ineligibility, and trained over 500,000 people. And there’s much more work to do.

In addition to investigating abuse, the Center also works to prevent abuse through education and
training. In January, we published new policies that, for the first time, provides the Olympic Movement’s
50 national governing bodies (NGBs) with a single, uniform set of training requirements and policies to
prevent abuse. The Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies create a consistent baseline for acceptable
safety standards; we urge individual sporting bodies to add new restrictions tailored to fit the sport.

The Center designed the policies over the past year at the direction of Congress, which charged it with
developing “reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between an amateur athlete who is
a minor and an adult (who is not the minor’s legal guardian).” Our goal was to prioritize child safety
while balancing access to participation in sports. The Center has also been charged with oversight
authority over all 50 NGBs and the United States Olympic Committee, and will conduct regular and
random audits of them to ensure the polices have indeed been properly implemented in 2019.

Training goes hand-in-hand with the prevention policies. The Center provides free training for any and
all parents at www.athletesafety.org, which helps parents spot warning signs of abuse, such as grooming
behavior. Training gives parents the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their child’s
participation in sports, which allows the policies to account for the diversity of family composition,
socioeconomic status, and access to transportation in both rural and urban communities.

As we developed the policies over the last year, we talked to parents who told us that if there had been
a complete prohibition on one-on-one interactions between all non-parent adults and all children, their
child would no longer have been able to participate in sports. For example, it may be possible for all
athletes involved in a large team sport in an inner-city or suburban area to travel by public
transportation or to have parent carpools, but in a rural setting, where athletes live far apart and few
parents are available to carpool, some children may not be able to participate at all without a coach or
volunteer to transport them on occasion with approval.

Accordingly, the policies must strike an important balance in both limiting one-on-one interactions
whilst not completely removing countless children from participation in sport. That is why the policies
do not allow parents to provide blanket consent for interaction over undefined periods. Rather, parents
must provide consent (should they choose to permit consent)—in writing—for each one-on-one
interaction.

A complete prohibition of parent consent for one-on-one interactions would also apply to sisters,
brothers, extended family, step-family members, as well as friends of the family who may provide safe,
stable and nurturing relationships with children (particularly for those children with a history of violence
and victimization), which are necessary to help kids and teenagers develop healthily.1 The recent work
by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia highlights the
nuances: “Research stressed that institutions need to adopt a balanced approach to ensure that blanket
policies do not take away from the primary aim of the institution and that rules governing contact
between children and adults in institutions still allow for the development of nurturing and constructive
adult–child relationships (Munro & Fish, 2015).”2

As sports implement the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies and the Center audits them to ensure
compliance, we will stick with what works and change what doesn’t. We are always learning and
working to improve because the stakes are too high to think we’ve ever done enough.

What Parents Can Do:

1. Ask your sport’s governing body for a copy of their athlete protection policy. Ask questions
about it. Know that you are not required to give consent to one-on-one interactions; this is your
choice as a parent.

2. If you learn that a policy is being violated or have a concern, report it to the U.S. Center for
SafeSport.

3. Complete the free online parent training.

4. Check out the free online parent toolkit and start a conversation with your child about
preventing abuse in sport.

5. If you do allow one-on-one interactions with another adult, follow these tips:

• Let the adult providing the one-on-one know that you are educated about sexual abuse
prevention
• Ask the adult about the specific timeframe and location of the activity
• Talk with your child after the one-on-one; know the signs and symptoms of abuse
• Continue open communication with your child about misconduct.

1
Turner, Heather & Merrick, Melissa & Finkelhor, David & Hamby, Sherry & Shattuck, Anne & Henly, Megan.
(2017). The prevalence of safe, stable, nurturing relationships among children and adolescents.
2
Patrick O’Leary, Emma Koh, Andrew Dare, “Grooming and Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Contexts”, Royal
Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, February 2017, https://www.icmec.org/wp-
content/uploads/2018/04/Research-Report-Grooming-and-child-sexual-abuse-in-institutional-contexts-
Prevention.pdf (accessed June 1, 2019).