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The Impact of Storytelling in Sport: Lessons from SafeSport Conference

by | May 3, 2022

3 boys in sports uniforms sitting on a grassy field waiting for sport lessons

United Kingdom-based organization, SafeSport International organized its annual conference last April 1-3, 2022. The online event was an ideal opportunity to connect with different stakeholders about safeguarding in sport and child youth protection. This was the first time that the event was held in a hybrid format due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was attended by different athletes, coaches, and experts in sport and exercise psychology, including elite and Olympic athletes. 

Due to the nature of the online format, Anne Tiivas, OBE Chair of Safe Sport International facilitated the program through a series of sharing sessions and testimonials from persons of interest related to safe sport. The speakers shared that abuse was widespread. Even Elite athletes were victims of both physical and psychological abuses. During the first session, Dr. Daniel Rhind of Loughborough University, UK discussed “readiness” or “prevention” as part of the safeguarding pathway. Without the existing pathways or mechanisms, the abuses will continue since the perpetrators will try to circumvent the rules in order to escape sanctions and disciplinary action. 

On the second day of the conference, the main topic was about reporting and whistleblowing. “Athlete testimonies and research on their experiences, as children or as adults, has shown that athletes are rarely informed of: their rights, what abuse is in sport, what safeguarding means, and who they can safely turn to if experiencing any type of abuse –emotional, physical, sexual, or harassment.” (SafeSport,2022) It’s vitally important to provide safety measures for whistleblowers and ensure that they are given the opportunity to speak and testify without fear or prejudice. The second part of the session also included a presentation of papers related to safesport especially on the research about whistleblowing. There are still many athletes who want to speak out but they lack the crucial methods and programs for their protection.

The last day explored the rapid development of safe sport entities including the diversity of models and learning experience to inform future developments. The session also provided organizations ways to present their existing and future programs for safesport. Existing programs can be evaluated and their best practices implemented for sport organizations which are still developing their safesport or safeguarding in sport programs. 

Summing it up, it is important to have a program for safeguarding and sport. Different organizations should strengthen whistleblowing, testimonial sharing, and remedial procedures to help abused athletes and put to justice those who committed abuses. The elements to increase safeguarding – the importance of collaboration, and seeking help and intervention when it’s needed – matters. Sport is a safe space for athletes and their communities to enjoy health and wellness. 

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