Do we follow best practice in our British Gymnastics clubs to safeguard children and vulnerable adults?
British Gymnastics has a very useful analogy to apply in any coaching scenario to check whether you’re applying best practice or not. It uses the catch phrase: Motivation – Duration – Perception. Here’s how it works…
Scenario 1: There is a club rule that no child can leave the room without permission. A parent might complain if they were to see a child’s exit being blocked.
Motivation:- The child’s whereabouts during a session is the responsibility of the coach. Parents leave their child with you and hand over responsibility to you, so it’s important that you are caring for them as a parent would, by always knowing where they are. If a child leaves the room, you should be aware they have left and why.
Duration:- Asking permission to go to the toilet or to get a drink is good practice and shouldn’t take more than 3-5 minutes. Equally if children are running off to mum or dad mid session, the coach needs to know why.
Perception:- Children asking to leave the room is a good thing as it means the coach and child are communicating effectively. If a child leaves the room without the coach knowing it could be a sign there is a problem; the the child should always feel able to ask their coach if they need anything.
Scenario 2: During stretching/ flexibility exercises a male coach walks around his competitive girls correcting hips and leg positions. He is bent over with his back to parents watching and a gymnasts’ expression looks unhappy.
Motivation: The coach is performing an important task ensuring the stretching is done correctly and safely.
Duration: British Gymnastics has specific guidelines on stretching and as coaches it is important we are always following best practice and are informed. If you’re not sure always seek professional advice and back up your practice with research and good reasoning.
Perception: It is important to consider what your actions look like to those watching, especially when those watching may not be as informed as you! It’s a good idea to position yourself where you and your actions can be seen to prevent any questioning of intentions.
The MDP model is well worth remembering and applying to any and all situations in your gym and can help you to see a scenario from a different perspective. Now onto what else we can learn about safeguarding our children in gymnastics…
Abuse in Gymnastics
What is ‘abuse’ in the gym? These points are directly from our governing body, so it’s important to remember them.
- Using physical exercise as punishment
- Using physical contact/ supporting techniques to mask inappropriate touching of a child
- Children being subjected to name-calling, constant criticism, unrealistic pressure to perform to high expectations
- Failing to ensure the training equipment is safe and to ensure the environment doesn’t unnecessarily increase risk of injury e.g. room temperature, servicing
- Unwanted physical contact, stealing/ hiding of personal items, being ostracised or ignored, threats and gestures
- If you need to contact individuals use bulk messages and copy in the welfare Officer and Parent
- Social Media and transport arrangements leave children open to abuse/ grooming
Safeguarding Your Gymnasts
- Use a central social networking page to message not personal accounts.
- Tell coaches to avoid circulating social media accounts and befriending those they coach.
- Ensure data is kept in accordance with GDPR.
- If you need to contact individuals copy in the Welfare Officer and Parent and don’t use a personal account
- Be Polite, Professional, Helpful & Accurate in all your communications and avoid expressing opinions.
- Only publish content that is age appropriate and relevant.
- Be clear on the purpose and requirement of your communication before using social media.
- Always seek permission from parents when filming or photographing a child and avoid them being recognised and located.
Check List for Clubs
*’members’ in this context includes children and parents
Your Welfare Officer has a dedicated email address and all club members are aware of it
Safeguarding is an agenda item in your Staff/ Management Meetings
Members know the staff structure, welfare officer and who to speak to regarding concerns
Regular feedback to parents on how their child is doing (and opportunities for parents to ask for feedback)
Gymnasts give feedback on key club decisions and give suggestions for improvement
Parents have opportunities to watch their child in session via viewing windows/ CCTV/ open viewing time
Staff understand the BG safeguarding policies, your club’s toilet procedures and pick up/ drop off policies
Welfare Officer details displayed with Regional officer details/ LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) and BG Safeguarding officers
Welfare noticeboard includes codes of conduct, safeguarding reporting process, first aid information and where British Gymnastics and club policies and procedures can be found.
So what now? Coaches and young leaders should visit the British Gymnastics website and click on the blue ‘Safeguarding’ button on the home page. Visit the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) website for information, additional resources including photo and video consent forms. Familiarise yourself with your club’s guidelines including ‘acceptable use of technology’ and ‘e-safety’ policies. Ensure all coaches renew their safeguarding training every 3 years as well as staying up to date with legislation (your welfare officer can help with this) and ensure you’re following best practice as set out by your governing body.
Despite being a safe environment with all the best safeguards in place, abuse can happen. Though it may not happen on site your gymnast may find someone in your club who they trust to tell about abuse. This is called a disclosure and it is important that all adults working with children know what to do.
Your club welfare officer is on hand to help and support you and your gymnast every step of the way and it’s important that you report to them as soon as possible afterwards. Welfare Officers have special additional ‘Time to Listen’ training as well as experience and they will know what to do next, ensuring the disclosure is handled appropriately.
The NSPCC Helpline is a free 24 hour service which provides help to anyone worried about a child.
0808 800 5000
Support from British Gymnastics:
- Regional Welfare Officers
- Safeguarding Officers North, East and South
- British Gymnastics Safeguarding Office
Legislation: Section 11, The Children Act 2004
NSPCC 2018 Report ‘How Safe Are Our Children?’
I hope you found this post useful, it’s been in the pipeline for a while and attending a Safeguarding course was just the ticket to get me sharing my thoughts. If there’s anything you’d like to add, keep me posted and share a comment. In the meantime ~ keep bouncing! Bella x