A central goal for all involved in children’s sport is to provide a safe, positive and nurturing environment where children can develop and enhance their physical and social skills. Promoting a child-centered ethos should go hand in hand with identifying and eliminating practices that impact negatively on safe and enjoyable participation in children’s sport.
We in Naomh Maolmhóig Caisleán A Mhuilinn C.L.G. are committed to good practice which protects young people from harm. Members, coaches, officials and voluntary helpers in C.L.G. Naomh Maolmhóig accept and recognise their responsibility, under the Children (NI) Order 1995, to provide an environment which promotes the safety of young people at all times.
In order to safeguard the young people in our care we will:
1. Develop an awareness of the issues, which may lead to young people being harmed.
2. Create an open environment, by identifying a ‘contact person’ to whom young people can turn
if they need to talk. ( Director(s) of Coaching)
3. Adopt child centred and democratic coaching styles.
4. Adopt child protection guidelines through developing codes of conduct for players and adults involved in the club. Adult includes coaches, parents, leaders and volunteers.
5. Ensure careful recruitment, selection and management procedures.
6. Ensure complaints and disciplinary procedures are included in our constitution.
7. Share information about concerns with young people and their parents and others who need to know.
8. Provide information as required to management committees
9. Be involved in training made available through the various agencies, and strengthen links with these agencies.
10. Follow CLG guidelines on good practice for coaches.
11. Keep the Child Protection Policy under regular review.
“To ensure that the best practice is followed by this Club we shall work closely with the GAA. In order to promote the best practice in children’s sport, we shall comply with the guidelines of the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport; as set out in Section 2.7 of that Code which are
Ø adopt and implement the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport in Ireland as an integral part of our policy on children in the club
Ø have our constitution approved and adopted by club’s members at an AGM or EGM
Ø permit all members over 16 years of age to vote, where possible. One parent/guardian will have one vote for all their children under 16 years of age, where relevant
Ø ensure that the Club Management Committee is elected or endorsed by registered club members at each AGM
Ø adopt and consistently apply a safe and clearly defined method of recruiting and selecting Coaches
Ø clearly define the role of committee members, all Coaches and parents/guardians
Ø appoint two Directors of Coaching, as this club caters for both boys and girls.
Ø designate the Club Chairperson to act as liaison officer with the Statutory Authorities in relation to the reporting of allegations or suspicions of child abuse. Any such reports will be made according to the procedures outlined in this document
Ø ensure best practice throughout the club by disseminating our code of conduct, including the disciplinary, complaints and appeals procedures in operation within the club to all its members. The club’s code of conduct will also be posted in all facilities used by the club.
Ø have in place procedures for dealing with a concern or complaint made to the Statutory Authorities against a committee member or Coach or other member of the club. Regulations stipulate that a Coach who is the subject of an allegation, which has been reported to the Statutory Authorities, will stand aside, while the matter is being examined. S/he will be invited to resume full duties immediately if s/he is vindicated
Ø ensure that the Directors of Coaching report to the Club Management Committee on a regular basis
Ø encourage regular turnover of committee membership while ensuring continuity and experience
Ø develop effective procedures for responding to and recording accidents (Appendix 5)
Ø ensure that any unusual activity (high rate of drop-out, transfers, etc.) is checked out and reported by the Club Chairperson to the Governing Body of Sport
Ø ensure that all club members are given adequate notice of AGMs and other meetings
Ø ensure that all minutes of all meetings (AGMs/EGMs/,Committee) are recorded and safely filed
1. The Children (NI) Order 1995.
2. Our Duty to Care 1992.
3. The Sports Council for Northern Ireland: Fact sheet on Child Protection.
4. Code of Ethics & Good Practice for Children’s Sport
Areas Of Risk For Children In Sport
Awareness of risk to children’s happiness and welfare in sport should be seen as central to protection against harm. Such risk could include the following:
Ø children suffering significant harm by being deprived of proper supervision and safety (Appendix 6: Policy on Emergency Action & Appendix 6: Emergency Procedures)
Ø coaches, parents/guardians subjecting children to constant criticism, sarcasm, rejection, threatening behaviour or pressure to perform at unrealistic levels
Ø the infliction of any form of non-accidental injury or other forms of child abuse
Substance Abuse In Sport
Ø the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco will be actively discouraged as being incompatible with a healthy approach to sporting activity
Ø a Coach will not smoke when taking a session or drink alcohol before taking a session
Ø under-age teams will be encouraged to organise receptions and celebrations in a non-alcoholic environment and in a manner that is suitable for the age group concerned. Coaches will act as role models for appropriate behaviour and refrain from drinking alcohol at such functions
Ø coaches will promote fair competition through the development of sound training practice and will actively discourage the use of any substance that is perceived to offer short cuts to improved performances or to by-pass the commitment and hard work required to achieve success
Ø it is the responsibility of all coaches to educate and inform those in their care as to the short and long-term effects of substances taken to enhance performances. Coaches will also insure that those in their charge are aware of the harmful side effects or the illegality of proscribed drugs or other banned performance-enhancing substances
Ø this Club will not seek sponsorship from the alcohol and tobacco industries for Youth teams. Children and parents/guardians involved in sport should be aware of the Sports Councils’ Anti-Doping Programmes.
Psychological Stress, Burnout And Dropout Of Children In Sport
Burnout may be defined as a process resulting from an activity that was once a source of fun and personal satisfaction but later becomes associated with progressive physical and psychological distress. There is a range of factors, which may cause this change, some of which are not associated with the child’s sporting activities. Burnout itself may result from a combination of the number of hours involved in physical training with high expectations and pressure from coaches and parents/guardians. It represents a loss of energy and enthusiasm for sport and is characterised by anxiety and stress. The child no longer has fun and becomes overwhelmed by the demands of competition and training. S/he may wish to drop out of sport.
Within a sporting context the following practices are harmful to children’s health and welfare:
Ø pressuring a child to perform at a level which is beyond his/her capacity based on age or maturation level. As laid down by CLG no child will be allowed to play at more than one level above their age group
Ø over-training or the making of demands on a child that lead to burnout
Ø knowingly permitting an injured child to participate in a sporting activity
Ø failure to take adequate precautions to protect a child from environmental hazards
Ø failure to take account of known ailments or relevant weaknesses of a child
Psychological stress within the sporting context can be caused by:
Ø over-emphasis on winning
Ø age-inappropriate expectations
Ø excessive criticism
Ø inappropriate use of sanctions/discipline
Ø disapproval of skill/performance ability
Ø failure to provide support and encouragement for effort and achievement
Ø failure to involve a child/children as fully as possible in the activity
Ø the use of coarse, inappropriate language
Signs of psychological stress and burnout
Ø sleep disturbance
Ø lack of energy
Ø frequent illness
Ø loss of interest and enthusiasm
Ø absenteeism, arriving late, leaving early
Ø no pleasurable anticipation of participation in sporting events
Combating psychological stress and burnout
Children who show an early aptitude for sport are very often asked to participate in a range of team sports or across a range of age groups. This can put them at risk of stress and burnout. Stress and burnout can be prevented and dropout rates reduced by measures such as:
Ø listening to and respecting children’s views about participation
Ø parents/guardians and coaches de-emphasising the importance of winning and encouraging the development of individual skills and effort instead
Ø attaining an appropriate match between the individual child’s ability and the activity in which s/he is participating
Ø ensuring that the physical or sporting abilities of the child are not viewed by the child as indications of his/her self worth
Ø ensuring that children have fun and enjoy activities in which they are involved
Ø encouraging younger children to play all Gaelic sports both at individual and at team level. This promotes variety and encourages a range of different sport skills in participants
Ø using modified games
Ø maximising the involvement of children by using substitutions
Ø ensuring that children are not participating in adverse climatic conditions
The risk of bullying and harassment by adults and by children should be anticipated by taking active steps to prevent it occurring. A prompt and decisive response will be made to any indications that it is taking place.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is repeated aggression be it verbal, psychological or physical, which is conducted by an individual or group against others. It is behaviour, which is intentionally aggravating and intimidating and occurs mainly among children in social environments such as schools, sports clubs and other organisations working with children. It includes behaviours such as teasing, taunting, threatening, hitting or extortion by one or more children against a victim. It is the responsibility of coaches to deal with bullying that may take place in the club. Incidents of bullying will be dealt with immediately and not tolerated under any circumstances.
Many children are reluctant to tell adults that they are being bullied. Older children are even more reluctant. This underlines the need for constant vigilance and encouragement to report bullying.
Types of Bullying
Bullying can occur:
Ø child to child – includes physical aggression, verbal bullying, intimidation, damage to property and isolation
Ø adult to child – includes the use of repeated gestures or expressions of a threatening or intimidatory nature, or any comment intended to degrade the child
Ø child to adult – includes the use of repeated gestures or expressions of a threatening or intimidatory nature by an individual child or a group of children
C.L.G. Naomh Maolmhóig Caisleán A Mhuilinn will seek to combat bullying through
Ø raising awareness of bullying as an unacceptable form of behaviour
Ø creating a club ethos which encourages children, coaches and parents/guardians to report bullying and to use the procedures of the complaints mechanism of the club to address this problem
Ø providing comprehensive supervision of children at all sporting activities
Ø providing a supportive environment for victims of bullying
Ø obtaining the co-operation of parents/guardians to counter bullying
A Gaelic club, like any other organization that includes children among its members, is vulnerable to the occurrence of child abuse. This possibility should be openly acknowledged and is addressed in this document. An environment in which awareness of what constitutes abusive behaviour and a willingness to tackle the issue head on is the most likely to achieve effective implementation of child protection measures. It is only by discussing and following procedures and best practice that all coaches can be assured that they are providing the safest and most enjoyable experiences in sport for the children and for themselves.
The prevention and detection of child abuse depends on the collaborative effort of everyone concerned. The following factors are central to effective child protection in sport:
Ø acceptance by all involved with children that abuse, whether physical, psychological or sexual is wrong, severely damages children and must be confronted
Ø awareness of the behavioural and physical indicators of various forms of abuse
Ø knowledge of the appropriate response and action to be taken where abuse is revealed or suspected
Ø vigilance, and avoidance of all situations conducive to risk
Ø open, trusting and co-operative relationships within the club, and with parents/guardians and others concerned with children’s progress or welfare
Ø willingness to co-operate with the Statutory Authorities (police authorities, health boards or social services), in relation to sharing information about child protection concerns at any time
Sources Of Child Abuse
It is important to realise that children may be subjected to abuse by parents/guardians or other family members, persons outside their family, other children, or those who have responsibility for their care for one reason or another for short or long periods of time.
Categories Of Abuse
All Coaches should be familiar with signs and behaviours that may be indicative of child abuse. Though a child may be subjected to more than one type of harm, abuse is normally categorised into four different types: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The categories of abuse may be briefly summarised as follows:
Neglect is normally defined in terms of an omission, where a child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, or medical care. It may also include neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs. Neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over a period of time rather than at one specific point. For instance, a child who suffers a series of minor injuries is not having his or her needs for supervision and safety met. The threshold of significant harm is reached when the child’s needs are neglected to the extent that his or her well-being and/or development is severely affected.
Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between an adult and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. It is rarely manifested in terms of physical symptoms. For children with disabilities it may include over-protection or conversely failure to acknowledge or understand a child’s disability.
Examples of emotional abuse include:
(a) Persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming;
(b) Where the level of care is conditional on his or her behaviour;
(c) Unresponsiveness, inconsistent or unrealistic expectations of a child;
(d) Premature imposition of responsibility on the child;
(e) Over or under protection of the child;
(f) Failure to provide opportunities for the child’s education and development;
(g) Use of unrealistic or over-harsh disciplinary measures;
(h) Exposure to domestic violence.
Children show signs of emotional abuse by their behaviour for example, excessive clinginess to or avoidance of the parent/guardian, their emotional state (low self- esteem, unhappiness), or their development (non-organic failure to thrive). The threshold of significant harm is reached when abusive interactions dominate and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/guardian.
Physical abuse is any form of non-accidental injury that causes significant harm to a child, including:
(b) Use of excessive force in handling;
(c) Deliberate poisoning;
(e) Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy (where parents/guardians fabricate stories of illness about their child or cause physical signs of illness);
(f) Allowing or creating a substantial risk of significant harm to a child;
(g) For children with disabilities it may include confinement to a room or cot, or incorrectly given drugs to control behaviour.
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others, For example:
(a) Exposure of the sexual organs or any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of a child;
(b) Intentional touching or molesting of the body of a child whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification;
(c) Masturbation in the presence of a child or involvement of the child in the act of masturbation;
(d) Sexual intercourse with the child, whether oral, vaginal or anal;
(e) Sexual exploitation of a child;
(f) It may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
Signs Of Child Abuse
Signs of abuse can be physical, behavioural or developmental. A cluster or pattern of signs is the most reliable indicator of abuse. The following indicators should be noted. It is important, however, to realise that all of these indicators can occur in other situations where abuse has not been a factor and that the list is not exhaustive.
Physical Indicators Behavioural Indicators
Unexplained bruising Unexplained changes in
in soft tissue areas behaviour- becoming
Repeated injury withdrawn or aggressive
Black eye(s) Regressive behaviour
Difficulty in making friends
Injuries to mouth Distrustful of adults or excessive
Torn or bloodstained clothing attachment to adults
Burns and scalds Sudden drop in performance
Bites Change in attendance pattern
Fractures Inappropriate sexual awareness,
Marks from implements behaviour or language
Inconsistent stories, excuses Unusual reluctance to remove clothing
relating to injuries Reluctance to go home
Children Who May Be Especially Vulnerable To Abuse
Children in certain situations may be especially vulnerable to abuse. These include children who, for short or long periods, are separated from parents or other family members and depend on other adults for their care and protection. Children with disabilities may also be more at risk as the nature of their disability sometimes limits communication between themselves and others and they may depend more than most children on a variety of adults to meet their needs, for example, for car and transport.
Recognising And Reporting Of Suspected Or Actual Child Abuse
The ability to recognise child abuse depends as much on a person’s willingness to accept the possibility of its existence as it does on knowledge and information. It is important to note that child abuse is not always readily visible, and may not be as clearly observable as the “text book” scenarios might suggest. If a Coach or a parent/guardian is uneasy or suspicious about a child’s safety or welfare the following response should be made:
Grounds for Concern
Consider the possibility of child abuse if there are reasonable grounds for concern.
Examples of reasonable grounds are:
Ø a specific indication from a child that s/he has been abused
Ø a statement from a person who witnessed abuse
Ø an illness, injury or behaviour consistent with abuse
Ø a symptom which may not itself be totally consistent with abuse, but which is supported by corroborative evidence of deliberate harm or negligence
Ø consistent signs of neglect over a period of time
In some cases of child abuse the alleged perpetrator will also be a child and it is important that behaviour of this nature is not ignored. Grounds for concern will exist in cases where there is an age difference and/or difference in power, status or intellect between the children involved. However, it is also important to distinguish between normal sexual behaviour and abusive behaviour. Persons unsure about whether or not certain behaviours are abusive and therefore reportable, should contact the duty social worker in the local health board or social services department where they will receive advice.
Reporting Child Abuse
The following process will be followed in reporting child abuse to the Statutory Authorities:
(a) Observe and note dates, times, locations and contexts in which the incident
occurred or suspicion was aroused, together with any other relevant information (Appendix 8);
(b) Report the matter as soon as possible to the person designated for reporting abuse (the Chairperson). If the Chairperson has reasonable grounds for believing that the child has been abused or is at risk of abuse, s/he will make a report to the health board/social services who have statutory responsibility to investigate and assess suspected or actual child abuse;
(c) In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk and the Chairperson is unable to contact a duty social worker, the police authorities should be contacted.
Under no circumstances will a child be left in a dangerous situation pending intervention by the Statutory Authorities;
(d) If the Chairperson is unsure whether reasonable grounds for concern exist or not, s/he should informally consult with the local health board/social services. S/he will be advised whether or not the matter requires a formal report;
(e) A Chairperson reporting suspected or actual child abuse to the Statutory Authorities should first inform the family of their intention to make such a report, unless doing so would endanger the child or undermine an investigation;
(f) A report should be given by the Chairperson to the Statutory Authorities in person or by phone, and in writing (Appendix 8);
(g) It is best to report child abuse concerns by making personal contact with the relevant personnel in the Statutory Authorities.
Response To A Child Reporting Any Form Of Abuse
The following points will be taken into consideration:
(a) It is important to deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent way through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem, rather than interviewing the child about details of what happened. A full record of the allegation will be made using the proforma.
(b) It is important to stay calm and not to show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying. Listen compassionately, and take what the child is saying seriously;
(c) It will be understood that the child has decided to tell about something very important and has taken a risk to do so. The experience of telling will be a positive one so that the child will not mind talking to those involved in the investigation;
(d) The child should understand that it is not possible that any information will be kept a secret;
(e) No judgmental statement should be made about the person against whom the allegation is made;
(f) The child should not be questioned unless the nature of what s/he is saying is unclear. Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non-specific questions should be used such as “Can you explain to me what you mean by that”;
(g) The child should be given some indication of what would happen next, such as informing parents/guardians, health board or social services. It should be kept in mind that the child may have been threatened and may feel vulnerable at this stage.
Allegations Of Abuse Against Coaches
If an allegation is made against a Club Coach, two procedures will be followed:
(i) The reporting procedure in respect of the child
(ii) The procedure for dealing with the Coach
The following points should be considered
Ø the safety of the child making the allegation and any others who are/may be at risk should be insured and this will take precedence over any other consideration. In this regard, the club should take any necessary steps which may be immediately necessary to protect children
Ø if a coach is the subject of the concern s/he will be treated with respect and fairness
Steps to be taken within the Club
Where reasonable grounds for concern exist the following steps will be taken by the club:
Ø advice will be sought from the local health board/social services with regard to any action by the club deemed necessary to protect the child/children who may be at risk
Ø the matter will be reported to the local health board/social services following the standard reporting procedure outlined above
Ø in the event that the concern is connected to the actions of a Coach in the club, the Coach involved in the concern will be asked to stand aside pending the outcome of any investigation by the Statutory Authorities. It is advisable that this task be undertaken by an appointed committee member other than the Chairperson who takes the responsibility for reporting. When the Coach is being privately informed of
a) the fact that an allegation has been made against him/her and
b) the nature of the allegation, s/he should be afforded an opportunity to respond. His/her response will be noted and passed on to the health board/social services personnel.
All persons involved in a child protection process (the child, his/her parents/guardians, the alleged offender, his/her family, Coaches) will be afforded appropriate respect, fairness, support and confidentiality at all stages of the procedure.
Confidentiality is about managing information in a respectful, professional and purposeful manner. Confidentiality will be maintained in respect of all issues and people involved in concerns about the welfare of a child or bad practice within a club. It is important that the rights of both the child and the person about whom the complaint has been made are protected.
The following points should be borne in mind:
Ø a guarantee of confidentiality or undertakings regarding secrecy cannot be given, as the welfare of the child will supersede all other considerations
Ø all information will be treated in a careful and sensitive manner and will be discussed only with those who need to know
Ø information will be conveyed to the parents/guardians of the child about whom there are concerns in a sensitive way
Ø giving information to others on a “need to know” basis for the protection of a child is not a breach of confidentiality
Dealing With Anonymous Complaints
Anonymous complaints can be difficult to deal with but should not be ignored. In all cases the safety and welfare of the child/children is paramount. Any such complaints relating to inappropriate behaviour should be brought to the attention of the Chairperson. This information will be checked out and handled in a confidential manner. Any such complaints relating to child protection concerns will be handled in accordance with procedures already outlined.
Rumours should not be allowed to hang in the air. Any rumours relating to inappropriate behaviour circulating in the Club should be brought to the attention of the Chairperson and checked out without delay. Any ensuing information will be handled confidentially and with sensitivity. If the Chairperson has reasonable grounds for concern that a child has been abused s/he will refer the matter to the Statutory Authorities, using the standard reporting procedure. If there is any doubt about the requirement to report the substance of a rumour, advice will be sought from the duty social worker in the local health board or social services department.
Children should be encouraged to report problems or concerns directly to their director of Coaching and/or to their parents/guardians, or any trusted adult, regardless of how minor or serious the problem might be. Parents/guardians should also encourage children to inform them of any such problems or concerns.
Open trusting relationships between adults and children will help to ensure that all-important issues are dealt with in a constructive manner.