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Speaking Out & Reporting


Speaking out about safeguarding and welfare issues can be challenging and can put athletes (and their parents) in a difficult position, especially if the issue relates to the athlete's coach. Weighing up what’s at stake by raising a concern shouldn't, in an ideal world, be part of the equation... but this isn’t an ideal world, and some factors do, sadly, cause athletes and parents to think twice about speaking out.

Here are some reasons why concerns often remain unreported:

Risk of losing friends:
If the athlete is happy in their training group, they may feel they risk losing those friendships and that set-up.

Fear of retaliation:
Those who speak out may fear reprisals, such as negative consequences from coaches, organisations, or peers. They may worry about being ostracised or facing retaliation that could impact their sporting career or personal relationships.


Lack of awareness or understanding:
Knowing whether behaviours or situations constitute a safeguarding concern can cause doubt. Athletes and parents should educate themselves about the signs of abuse or grooming tactics. If in doubt, question it.


Power dynamics and influence:
Coaches, trainers, or officials often hold positions of authority and influence over athletes. This power dynamic can create a sense of dependency, making it challenging for athletes to come forward and report concerns about those in positions of authority. An athlete may feel indebted and guilty about raising concerns if a coach is an unpaid volunteer. This is a common dilemma.

Stigma and shame:
Victims of abuse or harassment may experience feelings of shame, guilt, or self-blame. The stigma associated with being a survivor of abuse can deter individuals from speaking out, fearing judgment or disbelief from others.

Limited support systems:
Young athletes may feel there are no individuals they trust to disclose safeguarding concerns. They might not have access to appropriate reporting channels or be unaware of the procedures to address such issues.

Cultural or societal norms:
Cultural or societal beliefs and norms can influence attitudes towards reporting safeguarding concerns. In some cases, there may be a reluctance to acknowledge or address these issues openly, leading to silence and continued abuse.

Lost opportunities:
If the training group is high-level, the athlete may feel they risk losing out on important opportunities.


Reporting Concerns

When reporting an issue (or an initial concern), the first point of contact will normally be your club’s Welfare Officer. Their contact details should be available on your club’s website.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to bypass the club, there will be, again hopefully, an Online Safeguarding Concern Form available on your Governing body’s website, which the Safeguarding Team will process.

We decided to talk publicly about our own safeguarding experience in the hope that it helps other athletes who may be in a similar situation and educates those who haven’t yet encountered this sad side of sport.

Don’t ever be too scared to raise concerns and question anything that doesn’t look/feel right.

Expert Guidance


Take Home Points 

  • Don’t ever be too scared to raise concerns and question anything that doesn’t look/feel right.

  • Don’t ever feel you can’t speak out. Voice and/or report any concerns to your club’s welfare officer. Every club will have one.

  • Follow your gut feeling. Trust your instinct. 

Note: We have used the word ‘coach’ as a relatable example to represent anyone who performs/attempts abusive behaviours within a sporting context.

It’s important to understand that the vast majority of coaches, support staff and volunteers are genuine, lovely people who often give their time and expertise free of charge… and only want the very best for you.


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