When it comes to safeguarding young people in sport, initiating physical contact, such as administering medical aid, can be a daunting task because of the social and legal frameworks set up to protect children from harm.
While these frameworks are without question a good thing, it can be hard to know where you stand as a teacher, parent, carer or sports coach. In this blog, we ask the question of what is considered appropriate from a physical perspective when you come into contact when working with children and young people.
The Child Protection in Sport Unit, part of the NSPCC, has established helpful guidelines for those who work with children in sports. One of the main tenets should be that physical contact should only take place if necessary, to treat an injury, to demonstrate sports skills, to keep the child from being injured or to comfort or celebrate the child’s achievements.
Some of these guidelines include such ideas as:
The full list of recommended guidelines can be found here.
Generally, when demonstrating sports skills and abilities to their pupils, sports coaches and teachers should use their discretion. Contact with a child should be justifiable and done in such a way that it can’t be misinterpreted by the child or by bystanders. Where possible, demonstrations should take place with different children each time, rather than the same one. Be sure to listen to the child if they become uncomfortable and explain to them each time what you’re demonstrating.
The physical punishment of a child, such as striking them, holding them down or any other action that is taken as penalty for an infringement is not acceptable and is against the law. The only physical intervention that can be made in response to misbehaviour is to prevent the child from harming themselves or others.
Various sporting bodies for different sports have released their own guidelines on working with young people. These guidelines can help you prepare for specific situations and to know your boundaries. For a more general understanding of physical contact with children in sports from a safeguarding perspective, you can find our informative training courses here.