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Managing the Greatest Risk: Protecting Children in Youth Sports


Examination of issues faced by boys in youth sports (new this year) ... Web Cams. Online Yellow Pages. Private e-mail accounts and IM capability. Club Web Sites ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Managing the Greatest Risk: Protecting Children in Youth Sports

Managing the Greatest RiskProtecting Children
in Youth Sports
  • Fran Sepler
  • Sepler Associates
  • Saint Paul, MN

In This Presentation
  • Overview of Risk to Kids in Youth Sports
  • Special look at use of internet and related risk
  • Examination of issues faced by boys in youth
    sports (new this year)
  • Discussion about ways to handle complaints

Youth Sports In America
  • More than 10 million children under the age of 16
  • Supervised by over 1 million adults
  • Youth sports are a ready made resource pool for
  • 30 Felony convictions in past 18 months

In the last week alone
  • Fayetteville GA basketball referee charged with
    aggravated assault after trying to knife an
    assistant coach in front of 7 and 8 year old
  • MEDINA, Ohio - A youth soccer player was charged
    with deliberately kicking a goalie in the face
    seconds after a game, leaving him unconscious and
    with a broken cheekbone
  • The New Mexico Legislature contemplates
    aggravating assault charges when directed at a
    sports official

The culture of youth sports needs to be managed
  • Risk Management is more than criminal record

  • Risk to children is real much of the abuse and
    exploitation of children in youth sports is
  • If you rely on criminal record checks, you are
    providing a woefully inadequate approach to risk
  • To truly reduce risk, the culture of youth sports
    will need to change

Changing the Culture Means
  • Recognizing limits on the authority of the youth
  • Setting the bar high on interpersonal conduct
  • Acting in the interest of safety, even when
  • Taking responsibility for prevention and

Who should we worry about
  • Different risk at different ages and stages

The Child Molester
  • Vulnerable children
  • Unsupervised children (male and female)
  • Surreptitious sexual contact (frottage)
  • Sexual assault, including penetration
  • Soliciting sexual acts/stimulation
  • Violent conduct up through abduction/homicide

Protecting Kids
  • Teach your children to never go anywhere without
    a safe adult. Help them understand that a safe
    adult is someone that you have identified as
    such. At soccer related activities, they should
    stay in groups as much as possible.
  • Identify an adult who will be responsible for
    supervising children not with their parents
    during a game.
  • Do not clothe small children in items that
    identify them by name, either first or last.

Protecting Kids, continued
  • Approach adults who are watching practices or
    games who do not appear to be with
    players/children. Identify yourself and ask them
    if they are watching a particular player.
  • Children should never be allowed to go unescorted
    to public restrooms.
  • Never leave a child alone awaiting transportation
    after a practice or game.

Pedophile Fixated/Seductive
  • Creates/seeks opportunities for access to
  • Has tremendous aptitude for identifying
    childrens needs and vulnerabilities
  • Highly manipulative
  • Generally seeks certain profile of victim(i.e.
    male, pre-adolescent, appearance type)
  • May initially attain gratification simply by
  • Creates special relationships
  • Profile

Statements by Pedophiles who have molested kids
in sports
  • They needed me and I needed them
  • They were so happy when they were with me I saw
    how their parents treated them.
  • No one will understand how in love I was with
    him, and he was with me. No one will ever love
    him like I did.
  • The coaching relationship is intimate. There was
    nothing exploitive about caring for a kid.

Technology and Desire for Recognition Provide
Opportunity to Pedophiles
  • Proliferation of Web Sites
  • Chat Rooms and E-mail
  • Web Cams
  • Online Yellow Pages
  • Private e-mail accounts and IM capability

Club Web Sites
  • Password protect any information that facilitates
    contact directly with children.
  • Do not post pictures of individual athletes.
  • Do not post practice time and places on public
  • Avoid profiles of children, especially with a
    great deal of identifying information.

Right From the Web
  • The United Quest Red '89 Athena youth soccer team
    consists of girls ages 9 and 10 from the
    northwest metro Atlanta area. We are a brand new
    team that was selected after three days of tryout
    sessions in June, 1999. You can click here to
    view our team roster and a team picture. We play
    in the top Georgia Youth Soccer Association U-10
    (under 10 in age as of July 31, 1999) Athena
    division. The Athena program consists of girls
    "select teams" (also called "travel teams") from
    across Georgia.
  • This week's schedule
  • First pre-season practice Sunday, February 6th,
    1215 - 145 PM at Chalker Elementary School.
    We'll scrimmage the boys 10 Reds during the
    second half of the session. Wear your blue
    uniforms and wear turf shoes, not cleats. After
    the practice and scrimmage, we'll meet at 200 PM
    at Christina's house to watch the US Women's team
    play Norway.
  • Monday We'll practice from 530 - 645 PM at
    United. Wear flats and bring turfs. We'll either
    use one of the cement courts or one of the fields
    behind the clubhouse.
  • Thursday We'll practice from 530 - 645 PM at
    United. Wear flats and bring turfs. We'll either
    use one of the cement courts or one of the fields
    behind the clubhouse.
  • Sunday We're going to try to schedule a
    scrimmage game on Sunday, February 13th against
    the U-10 boys White team. We should have more
    information (time and location) by Monday

Right from the Web
  • Spring pre-season practices We'll start
    pre-season practices on Sunday, February 6th.
    Here's the pre-season practice schedule
  • Sundays 1215 - 145 PM at Chalker Elementary
    School - wear turfs
  • Mondays 530 - 645 PM at United - wear flats,
    bring turfs
  • Thursdays 530 - 645 PM at United - wear flats,
    bring turfs
  • Special session, Wednesday, February 23rd Dave
    Smith will work with our team on Wednesday the
    23rd from 530 - 700 PM, field to be announced
    later. If you have a schedule conflict with this
    date, please contact coach Ward as soon as
  • This is a temporary schedule. We are due to
    receive our regular practice schedule in
    mid-February, and it will probably go into effect
    in late February. (The Canterbury and Noonday
    fields are closed until then.) We've asked for
    Monday Thursday nights again, but we won't know
    for sure until mid-February.
  • More new photos (January 8) We've added some
    more action photos from the regular season and
    from the Sugar Spice tournament. Click here to
    jump to the team picture page.

AUSTIN is a U7 Player
Example of Material Copied from Web sites
  • 1999-2000 Blue Blaze
  • Becky, Dara, Ashley, Maxine, Casey, Kaitlin,
    Jessica, Renee, Kristin, Amanda, Tracy, Kerry,
    Marissa, Jessie, Rebecca, Sabrina
  • winter practice every Saturday at 930 am at
    the 6 schoolweekly indoor league every
    other Sunday between 8 am and 11 ammid week
    indoor TBA

What is the problem with a few cute pictures?
  • Game schedule, time and place published, in one
    case for 6 months
  • Practice schedule, time and place published
  • First names attached to images
  • Sufficiently young and vulnerable that this puts
    them at risk

Text from a Chat Room
  • I am a 24 year old guy who is looking to help
    some young athletes get a start in life. I have
    connections with the NBA, and know a lot of the
    players. No one helped me out, so I want to help
  • (later in message) Tell me all about your
    appearance or send photo
  • Later found to be convicted sex offender

Why wont they tell ?
  • Threaten to expose them as gay
  • Threaten to go on to sibling or friend
  • Enormous self blame
  • Mix drug or pornography use with exploitation --
    worry will get in trouble.
  • Afraid of being cut, punished or exposed

  • Check references -- thoroughly.
  • Challenge age group preferences (if adult is
  • It is highly recommended in the case of
    non-parent coaches, that at least one parent be
    involved in team organization/administration.
    (i.e. team coordinator, team parent or assistant
  • Question expansion of the coaching relationship
    into other contacts. Explore the relationships.
  • Establish policies for communication and enforce
  • Do not be afraid to ask for information,
    references or background.
  • Actively give feedback if concerns are raised

  • Secrets between coach and players
  • Coach shows particular, notable, and intense
    interest in several children
  • Coach gravitates towards children with troubled
    home lives or poor social acceptance by peers
    outside of soccer
  • Children who do not keep secrets or challenge
    coach are described by coach as outsiders, or
    are chided or ostracized
  • Attempts to be isolated with one child
  • Repeated comments about the appeal or
    attractiveness of a child
  • Child is withdrawing from normal support network
  • Childs attitude towards activity changes avoids
    or gets symptoms
  • Concurrent

If you have concerns
  • Insert a safety net into the situation find an
    adult to share responsibility.
  • Monitor closely.
  • Document concerns.
  • Ask questions.
  • Let the individual know that you have concerns,
    and why, being sure to address it from the
    perspective of concern for THEM.
  • Be present. Involvement of healthy, caring adults
    is the best form of risk management.

  • Jump to conclusions.
  • Use your gut for more than an incentive to
    investigate further.
  • Be conclusive or careless in expressing concerns
    to others.
  • Pull a child or a coach from a situation that may
    or may not be an issue. Get help.

  • Confuse sexual aggression with sexual
  • Attempt to act on impressions gained by

Sexual Abuse by Known,Trusted Adult
  • Intrafamilial or similar dynamic
  • Regressive conduct
  • Impulsive
  • May be associated with drug or alcohol use
  • Serial sexual abuse
  • Mixes nurturance and sexuality
  • Shame and compulsion are common

Identifying Issues
  • Child's symptoms are most likely to lead to
  • Generally no behavioral indicators on part of
    offender or behavioral change has plausible basis
  • Symptoms will include depression, avoidance,
    nightmares, fears, acting out, simulating the
    conduct, precocious behavior, self-harm, or
  • Children fear telling will mean loss of loved
    one, loss of affection, or punishment for them
    often think no one will believe them

If you have concerns
  • Normalize your questions by saying sometimes
    kids feel . . .
  • If you are concerned about another parents
    child, tell the parent you are concerned.
  • Make sure channels of communication are open
  • If you are reasonably convinced that there is a
    problem, contact your local social services
    intake department to ask for help with how to
    address it.
  • You may be mandated to report suspected child
    abuse and neglect. Check your laws locally.

Sexual Exploitation
  • Older adolescents and young adults
  • Sexual behavior or romantic involvement becomes
    part of the terms and conditions for
  • Tolerating sexual advances becomes a term or
    condition of participation
  • A consensual relationship begins between coach
    and player

  • If such a relationship develops in your club
  • or program, it implies the consent was
  • between the player, the coach and the

  • Coach discloses intimate or personal
    feelings/emotions to player
  • Coach seeks personal intimacy with player
  • Coach courts player
  • Coach responds in kind to seductive behavior
  • Special relationships and secrets us v. them
  • Coach makes physical contact excessively or
    disproportionately with one player
  • Openly states appropriateness of dating players

Quid Pro Quo Harassment
  • Player is told or it is implicit that play time,
    team membership, recommendations, support or
    other sport-related benefits will be enhanced,
    improved, or withdrawn or withheld in any manner
    relative to an intimate or sexual relationship.

The Hidden Harassment
  • The Experience of Harassment in Athletics

The Research
  • 125 Youth Athletes
  • All Male
  • 12-16 Years Old
  • Variety of Sports (Basketball, Soccer, Baseball,

Have You
  • Been called names you felt were embarrassing or
  • Had references made to or about you that were
  • Been subject to intimidation or embarrassment
    that had a sexual element?
  • Had your masculinity or sexuality questioned or
  • Been touched sexually?

The Answers
  • Been called names you felt were embarrassing or
  • Yes 86
  • No 14
  • Called names by Peers (86)
  • Called names by Coaches (60)
  • Called names by Spectators (30)
  • Called names by Opponents (45)

The Answers
  • Had references made to or about you that were
  • Yes 65
  • No 25
  • Not Sure 10
  • By Peers 62
  • By Coaches 20
  • By Opponents 25
  • By Spectators 10

The Answers
  • Been subject to intimidation or embarrassment
    that had a sexual element
  • Yes 18
  • No 78
  • Not Sure 4
  • By Peers 16
  • By Coaches 5
  • By Opponents 2
  • By Spectators 2

The Answers
  • Had your masculinity or sexuality questioned or
  • Yes 78
  • No 15
  • Not Sure 7
  • By Peers 75
  • By Coaches 40
  • By Opponents 60
  • By Spectators 30

Common Behavior
  • Fag, queer, or other references most common
  • Explicit sexual references as part of insults
  • What kind of man are you? statement reported
    from as early as 6 years

How Does the Behavior Make You Feel?
  • Its no big deal
  • You have to get kids attention somehow
  • It is part of sports
  • You dont like it but you cant show it
  • When a guy calls another guy a fag it doesnt
    mean anything negative -- its just a word

Two Stories
  • Student A
  • 14 Years Old
  • Coach singled out
  • Youre a queer and your mother is a dyke
  • Filed complaint
  • To school judicial board
  • Deemed to not be harassment
  • Student B
  • 16 Years Old
  • Played for same coach for 10 years
  • Complained when his little brother got taunted
  • Twenty students participated in investigation
  • Coach suspended for harassment

Common Themes
  • Complainant blamed
  • Family pressured
  • Teammates created greatest pressure
  • Female friends not supportive
  • Not believed

Questions to Consider
  • Is the behavior harassment?
  • Are the rules different for boys and girls?
  • Are the rules different in sports?
  • Is this an issue of law or values?

  • Let players know that they will be supported for
    seeking help with anything that makes them
    uncomfortable as part of their participation
  • Assure that there are multiple avenues of support
  • Exit interviews for any players that leave
    without explanation
  • Hold coaches to high standards AT EVERY AGE AND

There is no simple way to analyze the degree of
  • Ask questions.
  • Gather more data.
  • Avoid gossip and cavalier statements.
  • Assess the conduct and demeanor of the players.
  • Get involved.

Parents are the primary advocate for their
  • Parents must be willing to speak up when they
    have concerns.
  • Speaking with the coach directly is far more
    important than talking with other parents on the
  • Formal risk management is a SECOND line of
    protection for children.

Why Wont They Tell (parents)?
  • Community pressure
  • Do not want kids to have to testify
  • Scholarship or team placement issues
  • Concerns about child or familys reputation
  • Self blame
  • We were blinded by the winning and the fun we
    were having

Courage and Commitment
  • Must be willing to speak up
  • Must keep sports achievement in perspective
  • Massachusetts Mom Five sons abused over ten
    years -- waited until final son scholarshipped.
    Coach sentenced to 20 years. Why did she wait I
    did what I needed to do for my boys.

  • There is no typical victim
  • Detection is not intuitive
  • Most kids are confused and bound up by shame --
    they do not think of the molester as hurting

When You Get A Complaint
  • Assemble a risk management team to review the
  • Make decisions on the appropriateness of interim
    (immediate) action
  • Develop a communication plan
  • Decide whether to involve law enforcement
  • Seek legal advice early

When You get A Complaint
  • Do not make broad public declarations -- proceed
    on a need to know basis
  • Contact anyone who may have information that will
    be helpful
  • Limit those who are gathering information to one
    or two individuals
  • Document all steps you take and what you learn

When You Get a Complaint
  • Make a decision about when and how you will
    inform the accused
  • Identify existing policies and procedures
    regarding grievances and appeals
  • Develop a communication plan so questions are
    answered in the same manner

Five questions to ask coaching candidates
  • Why do you coach?
  • What has been positive and negative about your
    prior coaching experience?
  • Why did you leave your last coaching situation?
  • If I asked each of these people about you, what
    would they say?
  • Parents of players
  • Players
  • Coaches of your opponents

Sepler Associates
  • 651-681-1821
  • Or

Five things to do to protect yourself from
accusations of inappropriate conduct
  • Avoid being alone with players in non-public
  • Document unusual situations and forward the
    documentation to your club president or league
  • Do not buy gifts or give money to team members.
  • Let your language set the tone. Avoid profanity,
    even in conversations that you think are private
    but may be within earshot of players.
  • Never verbally demean, negatively label or
    ridicule a child based on appearance, gender,
    weight, sexual orientation, race or any other
    identifying characteristic.

Five questions parents should ask themselves
about their childs soccer coach
  • Do I believe that this coach is committed to
    protecting my player?
  • Am I willing to raise issues with this coach
    without fear of reprisal to my player?
  • Does this coach display a healthy limit on
    his/her interest in the personal lives of his/her
  • Does this coach support my role as a parent?
  • Does this coach appear to have respect for each
    of his/her players, regardless of things such as
    play time?

The ten things your club/program can do to reduce
the risk of sexual abuse or exploitation of
  • Never fill your coaching slots with a warm
    body. Check background, experience and history
    of a coach.
  • Do not allow an adult to come, unsolicited, into
    your club solely to coach children of a
    particular gender or age.
  • Create a structure where multiple adults share
    responsibility for the well being of each team.
  • Follow up on players who leave a team without
    explanation. Minimally, a phone call asking about
    the reasons is essential.
  • Educate parents about the expectation that they
    will raise issues to the coach or the club to
    assure that issues are properly addressed.

The ten things your club/program can do to reduce
the risk of sexual abuse or exploitation of
children (continued)
  • Have a strong and strongly enforced rule
    prohibiting fraternization.
  • Prohibit gift-giving by coaches that is
    excessively lavish or is not equal amongst the
    entire team (with the exception of awards of
    nominal value.)
  • If there is concern about the motives of a new or
    unfamiliar coach, consider asking a more
    experienced coach to co-coach for a few sessions
    with the coach, and to mentor the new coach.

The ten things your club/program can do to reduce
the risk of sexual abuse or exploitation of
children (continued)
  • Require all team travel to be preceded by a plan
    for lodging, supervision and other details, and
    to be signed by all parents and players. No club
    volunteer should be alone in the front seat of a
    vehicle with a child who is not part of their
    family or household.
  • Avoid being isolated with a child, or leaving a
    child unsupervised.

For Further Information
  • Local Law Enforcement (Officer Friendly, McGruff,
  • Sexual Assault Centers
  • Public

Sepler Associates(651)