As parents, there are a lot of issues to consider when involving a son or daughter in organized sports activities. Are the coaches properly trained and certified? Is my child physically and emotionally prepared to be part of a team? Is he or she having fun? 

US Lacrosse believes there are many reasons to play sports, and numerous studies confirm that participation in organized sports can improve a child’s motor skills, strategic thinking, and interpersonal skills. 

Unfortunately, sports can also be an environment for misconduct, including child physical and sexual abuse. Such conduct is, of course, intolerable, and spurred US Lacrosse’s enhanced commitment to safeguarding youth players.

In 2013, US Lacrosse launched its SafeSport initiative, designed to provide safeguards against all forms of physical and sexual abuse or misconduct. As part of that initiative, US Lacrosse developed a Standard for Athlete Safety & Protection, outlining both prohibited and prescribed conducts and behavior guidelines for all adult members of US Lacrosse who interact with youth. 

While nearly all participants in our sport have the utmost integrity, some, sadly, may use sports as a means for perpetuating abuse. 

"Our commitment to the welfare of athletes is paramount," said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO at US Lacrosse. "There can be no tolerance for physical or sexual abuse of children in the sport of lacrosse, and we will continue to develop resources and policies focused on assuring a positive and safe environment for young lacrosse players.”

Some of the guidelines from the standards document include:

• One-to-One Interactions 
There is a general prohibition on one-on-one interactions between an athlete who is a minor and an adult (who is not the minor’s legal guardian) at a lacrosse facility without being in an observable and interruptible distance from another adult, except under emergency circumstances. An example of an appropriate one-on-one interaction within observable and interruptible distance from another adult could be a necessary individual meeting to address an athlete’s concerns, goals, or academic performance.  

• Individual Training Sessions
An individual training session with an athlete may also be desired or necessary. However, these situations must be conducted within in an observable and interruptible distance from another adult. It may be helpful to seek written permission of a minor athlete’s parents or guardians in advance of the individual training session(s) and have the parents or guardians attend.

• Prohibited One-to-One Interactions 
Other than the exceptions noted above, minor athletes will not be left unattended or unsupervised during team activities. Team coaches, staff members and/or volunteers are prohibited from being alone with an individual athlete or participant both indoors and out except when within an observable and interruptible distance from another adult.

“We are constantly evaluating what we can do to keep our sport safe for participants, and considering what resources we can offer to parents to provide greater peace of mind about their child’s involvement,” said Dr. Bruce Griffin, director for the Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse.

As part of that process, US Lacrosse announced in May that it will pay for a national background screening for all adult coach members. There is no cost to the member for this service, which can range anywhere from $20-$75 depending on a coach’s state of residence.

The expanded screening program provides further support to US Lacrosse’s SafeSport Program and extends the impact of the organization’s current screening program. 

“Providing background screenings is a proactive approach to keeping predatory behavior out of lacrosse, and a natural expansion of our organization’s SafeSport efforts,” Griffin said.

Additionally, US Lacrosse is working on a solution that satisfies the new federal requirement (SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017) that mandates training for coaches about being mandatory reporters. The paramount principle for US Lacrosse and its members is that any and all forms of sexual abuse and molestation are prohibited and must be reported to authorities immediately.

USL is working with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which offers a variety of online training courses aimed at creating safe and respectful sport environments for athletes. Courses provide in-depth information on the following topics: mandatory reporting, sexual misconduct awareness education, and emotional and physical misconduct.

A further announcement from US Lacrosse regarding this training provision for coaches is expected to come soon.

The latest step taken by US Lacrosse to help advance player safety is the hire of Abby Morris as a full-time manager for the SafeSport Program. A licensed graduate social worker with a background in emergency operations and clinical social work, Morris joins the organization to take a leadership role in implementing its SafeSport programming.

“We will be utilizing Abby’s background with child abuse and neglect cases and her experience developing policies and training to lead our SafeSport program,” Griffin said. 

Additional details and information about the US Lacrosse SafeSport standards can be accessed online at uslacrosse.org/safety 
 

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