As you all know, USA Hockey is introducing its Abuse Prevention Program SafeSport this year and Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) is taking huge steps to make sure all Colorado hockey clubs are on board. To make sure this program is successful, we need parents to be fully engaged and participating in the entire program.
I know acknowledging that abuse (physical, sexual or emotional) can take place where our kids play sports is hard, but we must educate ourselves if we want to protect our athletes. As parents we must accept our responsibility in making sure that those who are around our youth—coaches, parents and other athletes—are behaving appropriately. SafeSport is where that education and awareness can begin.
Following are some quick tips on how to implement SafeSport with your athlete.
- Have both parents read the organization’s SafeSport handbook. If you believe your athlete is old enough (12 and up), have your player read it on his or her own.
- Then, read the handbook together with your athlete, no matter what age.
- Discuss each section, and ask your athlete if he or she has ever seen or experienced any of these issues.
- Give your athlete examples of situations and ask what he or she would do. Offer ideas on how to handle these situations.
- Have regular discussion with your athlete (during all those drives to the rink) about SafeSport and find out if there is anything your player needs to discuss.
- When you read articles in the paper about bullying, sexual abuse or physical abuse among athletes, engage your athlete in a discussion.
- Use high-profile athletes’ stories about overcoming abuse as examples.
- Talk with your athlete about what the coach or other teammates do that is bothering him or her, and provide support on handling those issues.
- Talk about the locker room. Make sure you give your athlete an opportunity to tell you if something is going on. Be engaged and send a message that you are interested, you know that things can happen in there and you are not afraid to hear about it. You want to know.
- Remind your player of the rules and SafeSport policies prior to travel or tournaments. Discuss this at the dinner table and make it a part of your regular conversation with your athlete—even if he or she complains. Your player will get used to it and will know that he or she can come to you if necessary.
- • Encourage your child to report and be a hero.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Michelle Peterson M.Ed., of Michelle Peterson Consulting for this story. Michelle is a national expert on child abuse and currently works with youth sport organizations on creating child abuse prevention policy and procedures.