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WHAT IS SAFESPORT AND WHY IS IT VITAL TO YOUTH SPORTS?

As a parent, guardian, coach or adult in charge of children and young adults, safety is often one of our biggest concerns. We childproof the house, make sure the car seats are buckled right, teach the kids how to cross the street and don’t talk to strangers. But did you know that most forms of abuse and misconduct come from someone your child knows: Family, friends, coaches or other trusted adults? That’s eye opening. So now what? We educate and prevent.

The US Center for SafeSport was formed by the United States Congress in 2017 and governs all participants in the Olympic Movement. USA Volleyball, as the National Governing Body for the sport of volleyball in the United States, is part of the Movement and therefore abides by SafeSport oversight and policies.

As a member of USA Volleyball, Badger Region is proud to support SafeSport, to bring awareness, education and reporting for abuse and misconduct. While it’s not fun to talk about, or maybe even take the training on, it’s one of the most important things that an adult can do: take action to protect our children.

Not all volleyball organizations or events abide by, are governed by or participate in SafeSport, so please be aware of the child protection standards when choosing different options for clinics, camps, events and clubs.

All clubs registered with Badger Region and all events approved by Badger Region, one of the other 39 Regions and/or USA Volleyball all fall under SafeSport. That means that all adult participants have had some level of training on child protection and abuse that is consistent with what is mandated by Congress.

With the revamping of the Badger Region website, we’ve also re-worked our SafeSport page (https://badgervolleyball.org/safesport/) to include additional information and resources for all adults as well as children and young adults.

Reporting & Abuse

  1. If you are aware of abuse, report to law enforcement immediately.
  2. Be aware of your mandatory reporting requirements. Also be aware that state laws and the SafeSport code may differ.
    a. The SafeSport mandatory reporting requirements also include sexual misconduct and emotional / physical misconduct in addition to child abuse and neglect.
  3. If you are not sure the violation reaches the level of SafeSport, you may choose to either file a report with them, or with the Badger Region.
  4. Cases not rising to the level of SafeSport will be referred to the Badger Region for adjudication. Badger Region, conversely, will report received cases to SafeSport based on severity.
  5. Knowingly making a false report is a violation of policy and will not be tolerated. However, good faith reporting is protected under the same policy.
  6. Confidentiality versus Anonymity
    a. While we understand that it may be uncomfortable to make a report, we highly recommend those submitting claims include a name and contact information. If that is not included, oftentimes nothing can be done to investigate or further the concerns. This leaves the potential victim in harm’s way for the misconduct to continue.
    b. Anonymous reports do not fulfill mandatory reporting requirements
    c. Both the Center and Badger Region take measures to protect the identity of those making the report, especially in third-party reporting situations.

    Wow. That’s heavy and scary. But would you be able to identify different types of misconduct? We can help. SafeSport has a robust training program for all adults involved to be able to help identify the severe and also less severe but still potentially damaging forms of misconduct and abuse. Sometimes it isn’t visible or doesn’t leave physical marks, but it is still abuse.

Training & Education

  1. SafeSport training is good across sports within the Movement. Meaning, if you’re also a coach for hockey or soccer and have taken SafeSport, the course also covers you for volleyball. Reach out to membership@badgervolleyball.org, and we can help you get it connected to your membership profile.
  2. The SafeSport training is now annual and on a four-year cycle. In the first year, participants will take the core course and in the next three years, refresher courses. In the fifth year, the core course will be taken again. The correct course will be retained in the membership account.
  3. The SafeSport training can take some time to complete, so please don’t wait until the last minute.
  4. Members who are 18, or will turn 18 during the season, will be required to complete SafeSport. This must be done before turning 18, or immediately upon turning 18, or they’re not allowed to participate. Because there’s a lot going on during the middle of the season, we recommend that anyone who is 17 take SafeSport prior to the season to prevent any issues.

    Why does an 18 year old who is still in high school need to take this? Child safety and protection. Even though they’re still on a team, they are now technically an adult and have different standards and requirements. Also, with potentially even more access to see abuse or misconduct in action than coaches or other adults, having the education on what the misconduct is can stop it or assist in getting help.

Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies (MAAPP)

You may have heard about MAAPP, or you had to sign some forms or sign into GroupMe at the start of the season. These are requirements under the SafeSport code that govern communication, travel and other one-on-one interactions, including meetings and individual training sessions. Click here for the full MAAPP.

I hope there are many things you take from this article, but if there’s one thing, let it be this. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD AN ADULT EVER COMMUNICATE OR BE ALONE ONE-ON-ONE WITH A CHILD. Even related individuals should have parental consent. If a coach needs to text or message a youth in some way, there should be someone else on the message, whether it’s a parent/guardian or another coach.

If there are situations where a youth and coach are having a meeting, there should be someone else in the meeting (two-deep leadership), or the meeting should happen in a public place, like a hotel or gym lobby. No closed doors, no back hallways or stairwells with no foot traffic.
The guiding principle is this: adult interactions with minors should be observable and interruptible. Someone not involved in the interaction should be able to see the interaction, and interrupt the interaction if they’re not involved.

This principle is not only for the protection of the youth, but also for the adult, in order to be protected from allegations of inappropriate behavior.

SafeSport Resources

What can you do about any of this? This will never affect you, right? You’d be surprised. Educate yourself and those around you, even on the basics. In our website revamp, we’ve added definitions to help you and your family learn what makes up the different types of abuse and misconduct. There are now links to different resources for clubs, athletes/youth, coaches/adults and parents/guardians in addition to a podcast library. There is an Emotional and Physical Misconduct Toolkit to help address these situations. All of these items can be found on the Badger Region SafeSport page.

If this is all overwhelming, please reach out, either to membership@badgervolleyball.org or directly to Executive Director / Commissioner Jennifer Armson-Dyer, the Region’s SafeSport contact and liaison to USA Volleyball. Good faith reporting (meaning, you’re reporting something because you believe something is wrong) is protected in the Code and no one can retaliate without consequences. If you’re experiencing abuse, you know someone who is, or something just doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.

Visit the Badger Region SafeSport page to educate yourself and do your part in protecting minors in sport.