Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Youth Sports: Preventing Sexual Abuse

The best thing that you can do as a youth sports parent is to make your kid feel comfortable talking to you about anything. The second best thing to do is ask questions and listen attentively to what is said and perhaps not said.

Here are two situations where I talked with my daughter, listen attentively and helped her out of an uncomfortable situation.

2nd Grade YMCA Basketball
In second grade, my daughter was on a YMCA basketball team made up of boys and girls. The head coach was the grandfather of one of the kids on the team. The coach was over-qualified to be a coach of 2nd graders. He had coached at every level including college. He was a terrific coach and guy.

After the first practice, the coach came up to me and asked if CC was my daughter. I said yes with pride. He went on to tell me how impressed he was with her ability to listen and learn at such a young age. He was also impressed with her determination and athleticism. He gave me his card and told me to call him when she is ready for AAU basketball. On the way home, I told my daughter. She was beaming with pride herself.

The next practice, the coach used CC for all the teaching demonstrations. He constantly called her out to demonstrate a technique or where to be on the court for certain situations. It was second grade level coaching, nothing lofty, but it was quality coaching. Again, I watch with pride as my daughter performed all of the tasks for the coach.

The next week, my daughter did not want to go to practice. She wanted to quit. I asked her why, but she just said she did not like it anymore. I gave her the standard speech about finishing what you start. I knew she loved the sport, so I asked her more questions. I thought that I was going to hear that one of the boys was bullying her. That was not it. I thought that maybe one of the girls on the team was mean to her. That was not it. Finally, with tears in her eyes, she told me that she did not like the coach. I was surprised. I asked why. She finally told me that he touches her too much.

Well, I was at every practice and my daughter was never ever out of my site, so I know that nothing inappropriate happened. She went on to tell me that when she is in front of the team demonstrating plays, the coach pushes her and pulls her. As I thought it was nothing inappropriate, but it did make her feel uncomfortable.

Before the next practice, I spoke to the coach. The coach changed his style and my daughter went on to love basketball and the coach.

Fours years later with a different basketball coach, my daughter started complaining about the same thing. This time I was a bit more concerned because we leave our daughter with the coach. I asked my daughter very specific questions. Again, nothing inappropriate happened. My daughter just does not like to be pushed and pulled.

Again. I spoke with the coach and told him to simply, tell my daughter where he wants her to be and she will move to that spot.  I went on to tell him that she does not liked to be pushed or pulled. The coach was apologetic and the situation was resolved.

The Main Point

Talk to your kids about proper and improper touching. Make sure that they know that they should talk to you if they get into situations that make them uncomfortable.

Furthermore, make sure that the team has a "Coach and Player are never alone" rule. It protects the kid from potential abuse and it protects the coach from potential false allegations.

This post was prompted by a Sportsletter.com article called Preventing Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports.

Momsteam.com also has some great content to help parents protect their young athletes from predators.


  1. This is a really great post. I saw it the other day and bookmarked it to read later, glad I did.

    I was very surprised when I started coaching at the number of parents who drop their 7 & 8 y/o(sometimes younger) children at practice with a coach they never met.

    Parent should not assume the coach is "safe" just because they were "hired" by the league. These are strangers, remember this and act accordingly.

    1. Thanks Joe. I am surprised too when parents drop off their young kids.

  2. A local school was in a jam and asked me to help coach 5th grade girls. I have never coached a girls team, so it was a bit different for me. I made the commitment to myself to never touch the girls when demonstrating a drill or basketball position. This can be difficult because sometimes you need to show a player how a certain defensive position, cut, shooting position must be performed. Nevertheless, it is a good policy and I have managed to coach the same team for four years

  3. Kids need to know where the line between appropriate and non-appropriate is because many sexual predators will start with innocuous touches, but there is definitely a line. But even if there is nothing sexual about it, if a child feels uncomfortable then they need to know they can tell someone and their feelings will be heard and respected.

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