• April 30, 2020

For Coaches, Sport Organizations, Parents & Athletes – Staying Safe Online

The new “normal” of virtual coaching and online training sessions is something that may be new to a lot of coaches, athletes and parents during these times. These virtual meetings allows teams and athletes to continue to train and stay connected, which is great for maintaining positive mental and physical health. While it is something that may be new to many, there are some risks that could accompany the rise in these virtual environments.

We’ve put together these resources and guidelines so that sport organizations, coaches, parents/guardians and athletes can enjoy all the benefits and reduce the risk.

Guidelines for all adults to keep in mind:

  • Get parent/guardian permission
  • Remember The Rule of Two
  • Eliminate one-to-one electronic messaging
  • Remain transparent and professional

Access training, screening, policies and reporting resources

For Coaches

  1. Keep your communication professional and transparent.
    Ask open-ended questions, then listen to what they say and validate their feelings (“It is OK to feel disappointed or angry.”).
    Should you need to communicate with an individual athlete, always copy their parent/guardian or another adult. Don’t communicate one-on-one with individual athletes over personal text or social media.
  2. Ensure virtual sessions are appropriately secured and are password protected.
    Remind athletes not to forward the links to anyone outside of the team without your permission.
  3. Restate team expectations about respectful communication and online behaviours.
    This is a great time to remind athletes that their Athlete Code of Conduct is still in effect during physical distancing. Review inappropriate behaviours like cyber bullying, hazing, and harassment.
  4. Highlight physical safety when suggesting home workouts.
    Ensure home workouts are appropriate for the athlete’s level and don’t require resources the athlete doesn’t have at home. Remind athletes to hydrate properly and take breaks when needed.
  5. Be mindful of your athlete’s home life – look for warning signs of distress and/or abuse in the home.
    Provide emotional support and report any suspected or known child abuse to the police and/or your Local Children’s Aid Society.
  6. Never be alone with a participant without another screened coach or screened adult present. (The Rule of Two)
    Any virtual lessons must be observable and interruptible by another screened adult, such as another coach or parent/guardian. Keep doors open and wear appropriate clothing.
    Get permission for all virtual lessons.
    Recording sessions are recommended, where that capacity exists.

For Parents/Guardians

  1. Restate expectations about appropriate behaviour online.
    Talk about how you expect your child to behave and how they should expect to be treated by others during these virtual settings.
  2. Learn about the apps and websites your child is using, including how to control the privacy settings.
  3. Have your child use webcams in a common area or a room with the door open.
    Make sure they are aware of what and who is visible in the webcam or video shot. Cameras should also be covered when not in use.
  4. Maintain open lines of communication with your child and pay attention to their emotional state.
    Even though you may be at home with your child all day, it is important to check-in with them about their day and see how they are feeling. Staying connected with friends and teammates is incredibly important for their mental health but can also open the door to hurtful behaviour.

For Athletes

  1. Use your webcam in a common area or a room with the door open.
    Be aware of what and who is visible in the shot. Cameras should also be covered when not in use.
  2. Make sure any informal team gatherings include all teammates.
    Hanging out with your teammates virtually is a great way to stay connected, beat boredom, and feel better. Make sure all of your teammates are invited in team huddles or game nights.
  3. Say something to your coach, parents, or another trusted adult if you notice someone being cyber bullied, harassed, or exploited.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to a trained professional for any issue – big or small.
    Connect to Kids Help Phone which operates 24/7 providing counselling, referral and information for young people.
    Text CONNECT to 686868 or call 1-800-668-6868 or use the Live Chat online at kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat.

We all know how important sport is to our athletes, our communities and society. It is equally important that we all play a role in ensuring that sport continues to stay safe both on and off the field of play.

Video calling, group messaging, online training etc., allow us to stay more connected than ever before. These tips for online safety will helps us all reduce risks associated with online communication, and instead enjoy the benefits of these virtual environments, so that we can all get through this difficult time together.

Resources

Open 8am – 8pm, 7 days a week, this national toll-free confidential helpline for harassment, abuse and discrimination provides a safe place for victims and witnesses to report their concerns.

Call or text 1-888-83-SPORT (77678)
Contact by email at info@abuse-free-sport.ca

The Canadian Sport Helpline exists to provide advice, guidance, and resources on how to proceed/intervene appropriately in the circumstances.

Access training, screening, policies and reporting resources

As a resource you can provide your athletes and participants, Kids Help Phone operates Canada’s only 24/7, professional counselling, referral and information service for young people.

Text CONNECT to 686868 or call 1-800-668-6868
Live Chat online or through the app at kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat

Young athletes can chat confidentially with a trained, volunteer Crisis Responder for support with any issue – big or small.

Access training, screening, policies and reporting resources

This rule serves to protect minor athletes in potentially vulnerable situations by ensuring that more than one adult is present at all times. Download the Rule of Two guidelines to understand how you can support the Rule of Two in your organization.

If you have received advice from legal counsel or your insurance providers, the advice of your lawyers or insurance providers supersedes the information contained in this article.

References: USA Centre for Safe Sport, Coaching Association of Canada