US Lacrosse believes there are many reasons to play sports, including athletes enjoying a wide range of physical, emotional and social benefits. But abuse, on any level and in any form, must never be part of the equation.

It’s for that reason that US Lacrosse has doubled-down on its commitment to protecting youth athletes by requiring adult member coaches to complete a mandatory national background screening and an online Safe Sport training tutorial. 

To date, nearly 30,000 coaches have completed backgrounds screenings and almost 4,000 have completed the online training, which became a mandatory membership requirement in August.

To foster greater discussion and understanding about SafeSport, US Lacrosse is also hosting a first-ever Safe Sport Symposium as part of this year’s LaxCon event in Philadelphia. Featuring a line-up of subject-matter experts and panelists, the Symposium is a free event and scheduled from 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, January 10.

“We have a duty to lead on this critically important issue,” said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO at US Lacrosse. “We’re committed to doing what is needed to protect our kids and to make our sport safer. There’s no room for people who abuse others in lacrosse.” 

One of the agenda items for the symposium will be a deeper dive into understanding the Safesport Authorization Act, a federal law that requires mandated youth abuse reporting as well as abuse awareness and prevention training for adults in youth sports organizations.

Professional facilitators Alexis Brandolini and Erik Mineo will lead an interactive session to stimulate the discussion. As parents of youth athletes, they have a strong appreciation for the importance of this dialogue.

“There should never be a thought or concern by a parent about whether their child is safe as a youth sports participant,” said Mineo. “Our mantra has to be ‘never our sport, never our children.’”

Mineo notes that recent headlines highlighting abuses in gymnastics, skiing, and swimming should serve as a strong wake-up call. Parents must be proactive in knowing that the coaches who work with their children are both qualified and honorable in their intentions. 

“As a parent of a young gymnast, those stories shook my faith in youth sports and made me wonder if I had done my due diligence,” Mineo said. “It certainly opened my eyes and pushed me to have conversations with my daughter’s coaches as well as with the owners of the facilities where she practices.” 

Because of the growing concerns about the safety of children, US Lacrosse has invested significantly in strategies to reduce the risk of physical and sexual abuse in lacrosse. With an investment of more than $500,000 in its Safe Sport program since its inception in 2013, the symposium is simply the latest effort to bring further awareness to the issue.

Brandolini says that one of the goals is to empower coaches and parents to help apply the proper safeguards in their local lacrosse organizations and to serve as vocal advocates to help ensure widespread adoption of Safe Sport guidelines.

“We hope that they will walk away and feel that they can implement changes right away,” she said. “We want them to feel like it’s not something that’s too difficult to do.”

Safe Sport Symposium

An event designed to provide leadership in youth sports safety by protecting athletes from abuse and misconduct.

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