Key themes included the need to properly define different types of abuse, while there were best practice case studies from the Bahamas and Argentina.
The NOCs of Guatemala and Suriname detailed how they used the Olympic Solidarity Activity Grant to help their athletes create a safe environment through education.
Learn more about the IOC Safe Sport 2020 Webinar Series for NOCs and sign up for a session here.
The two webinars hosted for Panam Sports looked at the different approaches that organisations are taking to promote Safe Sport, but also discussed the core challenges which can hinder such developments. The issue is not straightforward, and the IOC Safe Sport 2020 Webinar Series for NOCs is addressing this complexity by delivering region-specific sessions that consider different sociocultural contexts and the fact that there is not aone-size-fits-all solution for Safe Sport.
Breaking the cycle
One of the key issues addressed was the lack of clarity in defining the different types of abuse. This can be one of the most effective ways to ensure athletes are comfortable talking about the subject and understand their rights, along with other solutions such as easily accessible education.
Pedro Yang, a member of the IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission, emphasised the importance of defining abuse. This is one of the key pillars that enables the implementation of a Safe Sport policy, and allows an effective procedure to be in place to follow up reports of any incidents.
Identifying factors that can make athletes hesitant to report – including not being believed and a fear that you could harm your sporting opportunities – revealed a clear need to break the cycle, with education playing a key role. The IOC Safeguarding Toolkit, for example, can act as a roadmap for any organisation or athletes’ commission that is looking to develop its own policies and structures to prevent abuse in sport.
Read more about Pedro’s experiences in helping create a safe environment for athletes using the IOC Safeguarding Toolkit
María Julia Garisoain, Director of the Argentina NOC’s Athletes Commission, explained how the NOC has focused on ensuring victims feel comfortable and confident enough in the system to report abuse by clearly signposting the numerous methods to contact the relevant authorities. This includes a confidential phoneline, a dedicated email address, visiting the office directly, as well as additional information and means of reporting through the Argentina Olympic team app.
Defining abuse through statistics
Dr Margo Mountjoy, professor at McMaster University and member of the IOC Working Group on the Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport, agreed that defining abuse is the first key step in the fight against it. She provided a researcher’s perspective and presented diverse sets of data revealing key factors that facilitate abuse in sport, and demonstrating why elite athletes are among those most vulnerable to such abuse.
Approaching safe sport from a scientific base is key for those developing safeguarding policies. By having studies and data as a foundation they will have a far clearer picture and can understand not only what programmes are needed, but also how effective those implemented are and what needs to be adapted. In combining these points, an organisation can tailor programmes to their specific context and set priorities which will have the largest impact on promoting a safe sporting environment.
A safe sporting environment in the Bahamas
Former Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture in the Bahamas, Darron Turnquest, presented a case study of how he and his safe sport team went about ensuring a policy was put into effect at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2017.
One of the key factors that allowed the team to be effective and place athlete safety as the central focus of the Games was the combined support from organisers, local government and law enforcement. This gave the safeguarding team the authority to follow policy with action, whether that was suspending an athlete from participation until an appropriate chaperone was found, or removing an abusive coach from the Games.
The athletes competing at the Commonwealth Youth Games felt assured their safety was the number one priority, and that they could trust they would be listened to if a problem arose. This must also be the case at every competition in which you compete.
Planning based on athletes’ needs
Gabriel Sagastume, from the Athletes Commission (AC) of Guatemala, discussed how the commission are committed to helping athletes develop in all spheres of life, but particularly with regard to understanding and promoting Safe Sport. To ensure effectiveness when creating development programmes, the Guatemalan AC is made up of athletes from a range of disciplines and actively seeks gender equality.
In their bid to promote Safe Sport, the AC developed diplomas and courses on a range of topics, including health and safety of athletes, mental health, and the prevention of harassment and abuse. Two such diplomas, which were established thanks to funding and support from the Olympic Solidarity Activity Grant, have so far trained over 170 elite athletes.
The NOC of Suriname also provided a case study of how it used its Olympic Solidarity Activity Grant to establish an Athletes Commission. As one of the three individuals involved in the AC’s inception, Kirtie Algoe explained how the NOC is already adapting Athlete365 resources like the IOC Safeguarding Toolkit to their own national context.
Approaching safe sport from a scientific base is key for those developing safeguarding policies. By having studies and data as a foundation they will have a far clearer picture and can understand not only what programmes are needed, but also how effective those implemented are and what needs to be adapted.