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The Rule of Two

Coach/Entraîneur: Dean Sherratt Photo: Andre Forget (CAC/ACE)

With Safe Sport top-of-mind for us all these days, there is a lot to consider when it comes to the health and safety of the children we coach. One of the most popular and effective rules we can follow as coaches to ensure that we are never placing them or ourselves at risk is The Rule of Two.

The Rule of Two states that there should be at least two adults and two children present at all times, in every situation, including:

  • Closed doors meetings
  • Watching tape with teams or athletes
  • Travel
  • Training environments (on the field, court, etc)

The Gold Standard calls for “two screened and NCCP trained or certified coaches” to be present, however the most important thing is that there are at least two adults present and ideally, at least two athletes/participants, to protect minor athletes in potentially vulnerable situations.

As coaches, we know that it’s not always easy or convenient to follow this Rule, yet it is critical to ensuring athlete and participant safety in sport.

Soccer Nova Scotia has produced a short video explaining the Rule of Two. Please click on the image below to watch:

For more information about the Responsible Coaching Movement or The Rule of Two, you can check out the CAC’s website: HERE
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Discussion
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How has your Club or Organization successfully implemented the Rule of Two? Can you share any challenges that were overcome in the process?

Can you share a situation where you had to be creative or problem solve to follow the Rule of Two?

Adam Ziegler, Ontario Football Alliance – Football – Cambridge – 39 years

“…The Ontario Football Alliance (PSO) fully supports the Rule of Two. Coaches are encouraged that when speaking with athletes in closed door meetings, watching tape, travelling or during training sessions, that two coaches should always be present when speaking to an athlete(s). That athlete should also have a teammate present to offer support and to protect the vulnerability of our athletes. In football we are fortunate to have an abundance of coaches, a manager, an athletic therapist or parents to assist us in fulfilling this mandate.

Parents leave their children in our care and much like the relationship of teachers and students this rule of two should always be followed to preserve athletes and coaches own protection. Documenting these conversations is always a good idea but policies such as requiring a police check offer another layer of protection. Coaches, parents and volunteers should be screened through police checks, and preferably a vulnerability sector search.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible.  In a past scenario, a team regularly had to use coaches to transport players to games. Usually four or five players in a vehicle with a coach with a parent picking up the child after a game.

A female athlete was to be picked up by a parent after a game. The parent never showed and everyone else had left in a rush. Being about an hour from home and in a rural area this became problematic.

The two male coaches and a female athlete found themselves in an ethical and moral dilemma regarding the Rule of Two. The parents were called and the parents informed the coaches their only car broke down. Each coach had their own car at this away game.

The solution was decided that the athlete would drive in one car in the back seat of a coach’s car. The other coach followed the first coach until the athlete was dropped off to provide corroboration of the route and time to transport the athlete. The female athlete was asked to call one of her parents as she was being driven and to talk to her mother during the entire drive. Both coaches dropped the child off at her home with no issues or complaints. The parents and coach talked about the dilemma and how to prevent it in the future.

After this situation, the team was told that in the future that if the parent was late showing up, the child would be sent with another player preventing two coaches being left alone with a player. Even though families have busy schedules, players and families were asked to buy into the new procedure to eliminate events like the one described. The procedure of following the car was one used in policing when transporting a female prisoner by a sole officer in a cruiser.

Having had this discussion with parents, another event like the one described never occurred again.  In hindsight, these coaches were placed in a situation that should have been avoided.

In closing, we would encourage all coaches and organizations to embrace the ‘Power of Two’ to safe guard our most precious resource, our children and ensure the NCCP philosophy of Do No Harm is safe guarded by having two coaches/parent/volunteer when speaking with an athlete and allow the athlete to have a friend present to serve as a witness and offer support.  As NSO work towards Sport Canada’s direction of NSO and PSO developing policies to keep Athlete’s Safe, The Power OF Two should be embraced by all organizations and coaches.

As a PSO, we would strongly encourage our Football Coaches not to be transporting their players.”

Benjamin Li – Basketball, Baseball, Multi-Sport Camps – Mississauga – 3 years

“…Working for the City of Mississauga for programs or summer camp, it’s tough to have 2 Coaches/Leaders available at times, the ratio being 15 kids to 1 coach.We are trained to have children go to washroom in a buddy system (minimum 2 kids) with at least one camp leader outside the washroom doors and optionally 1 supervisor as well. In these situations, best way to keep the children safe are to check the bathroom premises first of any community members or individuals occupying the washroom and if cleared, allow the children to enter the washroom. The leaders are then to provide a time limit.In other situations where there are a small # of participants in the program, combining programs or camps is a good solution to ensure at least 2 leaders present and bigger groups are created.Though not exactly The Rule of Two, these are some of my experiences on how to provide children a healthy and safe space to play sports.”

Mike Miller – Soccer  – Milton – 25+ years

“For many of the years that I have coached, I have rarely had an assistant coach. (I coach recreational players, even though I am the Club Head Coach.) This sometimes creates a challenge for the Rule of 2. During games, the player responsible for the half-time snack also brings their mother and she is the designated “Team Mom” for the game. If the player’s parents were separated and the dad had custody, I would ask one of the other moms if they would like to be team mom for that game if the scheduled player’s mom was unable to make it to the game. On occasion, match officials have mistaken the team mom as a spectator and have asked them to go to the other side of the field where the spectators are. I have had to clarify the situation to them. All but one “got it” right away and as for the one that didn’t, I asked them if they wanted to explain to their Club Head Referee why they didn’t want me to follow a best practice recommended by our Provincial Sport Organization. Apparently, that would have been more trouble than it was worth and the team mom stayed put.

When travelling to other communities, if a player was in need of a ride, I would always insist that a parent came along. My child would be in the back and we would pick up the parent and player needing a ride next. Any others would be picked up after the parent was onboard. On the return trip, we would drop off the player with their parent last before heading home.

One time, a game was called seven minutes after the start on account of lightning. I noticed that the youth official was standing out in the storm waiting for their ride. I also had two players on my team that were without parental accompaniment. I put all of them in the first two rows of my van with my daughter (my van has three rows of seats.) I opened up the rear of my van, and sat on the bumper under the door in plain sight and waited for the parents to arrive as there was no second adult to help me.”

Coach Ann  – Athletics  – South Western Ontario – Very Many

“In my sport there is a blend of adult and younger athletes so we are lucky to have more adults available. However, I do not believe it should the role of an adult athlete to be a monitor of the coach for behaviour, that is an unfair responsibility when they need to focus on their development. That said, any athlete should feel ok talking about and telling others about anything that makes them uncomfortable. The mentorship of older athletes travelling and competing together helps with that a lot. The younger athlete learn more about what to expect from interactions with older, experienced athletes.

My strategy is to have a parent with me as my second. Again, here I am lucky because I have several parents who are engaged in the coaching process and want to learn about the sport and how to support their athlete specifically and all athletes as well. Having a second adult helps support athletes of all ages to be their best. Having a sounding board and someone to go to when the coach is busy is very important. I do believe the second person should be an adult, there are so many benefits to having the back-up. They are not a manager and the only duty is to be there and be available.

There is seldom a second coach in my discipline but I do have coaches from other events that I can rely on as well and we always work together, especially when travelling and at big meets. Any club coach is available to any club athlete.

It takes a village….”

Ron Yeung – Basketball – Toronto – 19 years

“The Rule of Two was introduced to my youth program 6 months ago and has been a consistent guideline throughout the season. We introduced it first in our pre-season coach’s meeting, and then brought it up at our start-of-season parents meeting as well. The introduction of this rule was well supported by both the coaches and parents, with the understanding that the safety of our young athletes are first and foremost.

With the horrible weather conditions in Toronto this winter, there’s been a few instances where my coaches called in sick or notify me that they are stuck on the road and can’t get across town. Sometimes that leaves me in a tough predicament to deal with 12-15 young athletes by myself. In instances like this, I would usually ask a few parents to stay for the session to either assist me on the court, or at the very least be an extra pair of eyes from the sideline (should they not be comfortable being on the court and being active). This allows me to keep a good athletes-to-coaches ratio while also ensures that there are multiple adults there should there be any potentially vulnerable situations.”

Pierre Laframboise – Gymnastics – Kingston – 45 years

“We have found supervision in the change rooms challenging at times. Simply trying to ensure that all gymnasts are out of the change room before a coach is not the most ideal situation. We always try to ensure two coaches are in a change room, or one coach and another adult. Also once everyone is out of the change room the change room doors are left open. Another improvement I have suggested is to have coaches and athletes lockers in separate areas so as to reduce the chances of an athlete or coach accessing their locker in the same room or area at the same time without the presence of another gymnast, adult, or coach. This can be challenge in terms of space and cost for separate lockers and areas or change rooms, but is well work the investment to reduce risk and the perception of potential risk.”