On Target
August 8, 2014
Respecting child protection in sports

Child Protection in sports has taken on significant importance worldwide, as parents, guardians, relatives and friends have turned their microscopes on the issue.

This has become necessary in light of the growing advantage being taken by those with the responsibility for caring, nurturing and teaching the budding sportsmen and sportswomen the various sporting disciplines.{{more}}

Whilst one can safely say that St Vincent and the Grenadines is a relative haven in ensuring that the children participating in sports are managed effectively, the protective guard should always be up.

This conclusion could be made, even though there have been murmurs within the national senior women’s football and cricket teams of the stigma of the members’ sexual preferences.

Again, there are known cases where some parents have expressed their reluctance to have their daughters involved in either discipline.

So, it was quite timely when the director of Sports and Physical Education, Nelson Hillocks, recently underscored that certification in child protection is a critical tool in coaches’ resumés.

This acumen affords coaches, and others who are responsible for the dissemination of skills, with the safety net that could carry them beyond the shores of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

As mentioned before, we are generally safe here, as the reports on adult sports people who have used their position and have allegedly taken advantage of our young sports people have been few and far between.

But one report is one too many, having to carry the burden of stolen innocence. Sometimes the cases are kept quiet or swept aside as just situations in which people lost control in the given circumstances. Unfortunately, though, child protection is often misinterpreted to what is done and is rarely internalised as what is not done.

Therefore, is there any truth to reports of inadequate supervision of some members of the St Vincent and the Grenadines team to the Windward Islands Schools Games in St Lucia? Was surveillance lax, such that some persons were able to break the rules of the camp at will? Was/were any official/officials a party to this apparent breakdown in management of some members of the Vincentian contingent?

If true, what would the management of the team have reported to the parents of the child/children had a worst case scenario occurred? There is no perfect plan that could be executed when having to deal with over 60 students who mingle with another 108 plus. Added, students at that age are often in search of identity, hence are feisty and adventurous, especially when away from home.

The allegations, however, coming out from the multi-discipline games are not virgin, but the frequency of such reports must be addressed.

The St Lucia happenings may have stemmed from the hasty planning of the St Vincent and the Grenadines sojourn, where in the main, things were not thought through and crystallised from the get-go.

Naming someone as an official member of a contingent is one part of the process. It is more critical that the persons understand and carry out their obligations in the best interest of their direct charges and, by extension, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It then dictates that the quality and integrity of the official party could have a direct correlation with the results on the fields or on the courts. Charity though begins at home, as even the Ministry of Education has reneged on its mandate of child protection.

Was it not the Ministry who on two successive occasions hosted the finals of the schools’ volleyball competition which ended just before 8 p.m. and after?

Likewise, some coaches/officials are only concerned about the skill level of their athletes (used here generally) and neglect the other facets which make them better all-round individuals.

Believe it or not, some coaches/officials are very permissive and are promoters of open indulgence of public affection.

Conversely, some coaches/officials get annoyed when parents or guardians take a hands-on approach to safeguarding the wellbeing of their children or wards at training sessions.

No coach, no official can be too cautious when dealing with people’s children; hence any regulations, any guidelines which would offer that legal buffer must be embraced and encouraged.

Child protection also translates to coaches/ officials’ protection.

In summary, coaches and officials have seamless portfolios. They are called upon to be friends, mentors, counsellors, motivators, foster-parents, fact-finders, planners, big sisters, big brothers, chauffeurs, lawyers, chaplains, you name it.