Safety is a tenant woven into the fabric of youth sports. Whether it’s concussion awareness, overuse injury prevention, or mental health, proponents of safety have established these aspects as integral to ensuring youth athletes are able to maximize the well-established benefits of sports participation.
Yet in February 2018, SportsEngine embarked on a partnership with Abuse Training Prevention Systems to help guarantee an additional component of athletic safety: A child’s ability to participate in sports free of the risk of sexual abuse.
“There are all kinds of benefits and values in sports that don’t occur in any other setting,” said Gregory Love, Co-Founder of Abuse Training Prevention Systems. “What our challenge is and what SportsEngine wants to embrace with us is to make sure that sports include as healthy and as safe of an environment for kids to experience these benefits."
Started in 1998, by Love and his wife, Kimberly Norris, Abuse Training Prevention Systems owns a unique five-part safety system which includes on-demand awareness training targeted at stopping sexual abuse before it starts. The one-hour video series aims to equip adults involved in youth organizations to recognize “grooming” behavior by sexual predators and to subsequently report that behavior.
Love and Norris began integrating this training into the sports community in 2011 through a partnership with the United States Olympic Committee, and eventually progressed to youth sports through the United States Youth Soccer Organization. Today, including all youth organizations, across sports, churches, and camps, 12,723 organizations worldwide have viewed the training series, including roughly one million unique individuals.
“What we’re doing is giving the 35 million people involved in youth sports new eyes and new ears,” said Love. “We want them to see the warning signs and the small things that should have alerted them that there was a problem.
Additionally, we want to give them the mouth to speak. Under new federal legislation, every adult involved in youth sports organizations is a mandated reporter.”
The partnership between SportsEngine and Abuse Training Prevention Systems became official in 2018 following the passing of 2017 federal legislation mentioned by Love.
In addition to the initiative regarding mandated reporting from adults participating in youth sports organizations, the 2017 bill also called for applicable sports organizations to “offer and provide consistent training to all adult members… regarding the prevention and reporting of child abuse.”
CONTENT AND ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS
In total, Love and Norris’ training program includes nine segments. The ultimate goal is to convey the risk posed by sexual abuse and the early warning signs to prevent it from occurring.
According to Love and Norris, “When [adults] understand the risk, [they] can see the risk unfold.”
Throughout the sections, Love and Norris define sexual abuse methods, provide insight and examples of grooming behavior, present methods of risk, and establish viable reporting methods among other items.
One of the major tasks the duo addresses are common misconceptions surrounding sexual abuse including:
- Abduction offenders are the most common type of abuser (in reality these offenders only represent five percent of the convicted population
- Background checks are the only method needed for preventing sexual abuse (Less than 10% of sexual offenders will encounter the criminal just system)
- Offenses are primarily committed by strangers (90% of victims formally know their abusers)
Following the completion of 9 sections, the training culminates with a quiz that is accompanied by a certificate of completion that can be saved and distributed to organization leadership.
Outside of the content, Love offered a piece of advice for parents of young athletes.
“The one thing I would tell parents is the more you understand how someone wants to place your child at risk, the more you understand what to do, what to see, and what to say,” said Love. “The other thing I would tell parents is no secrets. Secrets are the playground of the abuser. Creating a culture of no secrets in your family is a proactive step every parent can take to mitigating risk.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Today, most sports organizations implement Abuse Prevention Training concurrently with background checks for coaches, officials, and volunteers. Together, the combination creates a powerful force in the effort to ensure youth athlete safety, on and off the field.
Keeping kids safe from harm requires everyone to be informed and ready to take action. Learn more about how to protect your organization and your athletes by implementing the gold standard of safety programs through SportsEngine.