Concacaf scores with 'Safeguarding Children in Sports' coaching workshops

Monday, June 17, 2019

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A partnership involving key stakeholders is driving a programme to institutionalise the protection of children in sport in Jamaica, and beyond.

Tagged 'Safeguarding Children in Sports', the programme seeks to equip coaches and administrators with the knowledge and training to create broad-based safe environments for boys and girls in sports.

The workshops will serve to educate coaches on appropriate ethical practices to safeguard children in their care, as well as safeguarding themselves in professional practice.

With regard to football, Concacaf has made it mandatory for all coaches — from the bottom up, to be certified haveingcompleted the 'Safeguarding of Children in Sports' course, not as a reaction to a crisis, but a proactive move to stay one step ahead of the game.

The grass roots development of sports, football included, has been stymied by negative perceptions and stigma, deepened by mistrust from parents due to global reports of children facing varying degrees of abuse and forced to get their instruction in generally unsafe environments

For the Jamaica pilot, University of Technology (UTech) , Jamaica, Money Market Brokers (JMMB), through its Joan Duncan Foundation, the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaica Football Federation have partnered with Concacaf to stage a series of workshops, as part of a broader coaching education system, to bring Jamaican football coaches in line with the knowledge that will allow them to safeguard themselves and the children they guide.

“That is something that should have been part of any youth programme in football, or any other sport… a lot of the time we place a lot of emphasis on coaching education or preparing the coaches on the technical side and have left off a very big component-and that is to create a safe environment for children and how to protect the children, because children are vulnerable.

“Parents must feel confident that their children will be safe when they drop them off to play football under the guidance of a coach or instructor… a lot of the time people overlook that and, unfortunately, there have been a lot of incidents all over the world. and we as a region, we don't want to leave that behind, but we want to be a leader in it,” said Concacaf's Chief of Football Officer Manolo Zubiria.

At the end of the first workshops at the campus of UTech on Saturday, the Concacaf official promised greater participation by his organisation.

“Concacaf's director of development Jason Roberts is now on a Fifa panel on safeguarding, so we are going to be very active to make sure that there are more events like the one we had here today.

“Anybody who goes through a coaching education course, whether at the lowest or the highest level, they need to complete a safeguarding course. we have already agreed that it will be part of our coaching education [system], so we are going to make sure that any coach that participates in competition of Concacaf must have a coaching licence and must have completed the safeguarding courses, or any other administrator who is involved in youth sport,” noted Zubiria.

He said the existing partnership sits on a foundation ripe for further co-operation in Jamaica, but more importantly, it is creating a template to expand the safeguarding programme across the 41-member confederation and to ultimately reach the 800 coaches in its survey.

“Together with the government of Jamaica, the Jamaica Money Market Brokers, the University of Technology Jamaica, they reached out to Concacaf to help them with the curriculum because we were already doing some safeguarding initiatives; and this was actually a great opportunity for us to partner with other stakeholders and what better place but in Jamaica right around the start of Gold Cup?

“Jamaica has been a strong partner of ours and it helps that we have an office here in Kingston and the relationship with the JFF — so Jamaica is perfect for us to try new things… as you know we had the coaching B Licence pilot here in Jamaica, some of the first NextPlay festivals we did were here in Jamaica, so we have a lot of support locally to implement things,” Zubiria told the Jamaica Observer.

He said already the existing partners are ready, to do another set of workshops, and noted that Concacaf is encouraged by that expressed enthusiasm.

“We are going to do more in Jamaica, and the government has already expressed its commitment to do more like the ones we did this week, and we will export this programme through the curriculum we have developed to all our member associations, the same way we do our coaching education workshops,” Zubiria explained.

Looking back at the activities surrounding the first set of clinics at UTech, Zubiria said they covered key areas.

“The workshops this week were a lot of in-classroom work. a lot of real case scenarios and how to apply certain things, how to behave in certain situations, a lot of talk about how to treat children at different age groups, how to handle certain situations, and how to handle the safety of the children from a behavioural standpoint. it could be safety in the facility that these children are training, and to create generally safe environment for them to play the sport and so they can feel protected and that they are not being abused,” he outlined.

In the case of football, the former AS Roma executive says it's imperative that parents are comfortable dropping off their kids for training, therefore they must believe in the integrity of these safeguarding programmes and what they aim to achieve.

“We have found that an obstacle in increasing participation of children in the sport is that parents are not feeling comfortable leaving the children to train. and this surely happens more in women's football because they may prefer the child being coached by a woman, who they feel will be better able to relate to their child, or at least that the person coaching their child has some kind of training in maintaining a safe environment.

“Some parents are just not comfortable to drop their kids off to be coached, so we are trying to address that with these safeguarding courses and to make sure the parents understand what we are doing, and to help them overcome that fear,” Zubiria ended.

— Sean Williams

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