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Safe Sport Spotlight: Social Media and Electronic Communication

05/31/2017, 1:45pm CDT
By Suzie Riewald, USA Fencing Safe Sport Coordinator

To bring awareness to the many different elements of the USA Fencing Safe Sport policy, USA Fencing Safe Sport Coordinator Suzie Riewald will be writing a series of “Spotlights” where she places a focus on one aspect of our Safe Sport policy with the goal of drawing it to your attention and discussing strategies to integrate these policies.  

“Back in the day,” we had to talk in person or pick up the phone to communicate information related to practices, events, administrative concerns and logistics. Today, we send texts, email, instant message and Facetime. While electronic communication is often an effective way to share information and to dialogue, such modes of communication can also increase the chance of improprieties, misunderstandings and inappropriate comments. 

The Social Media and Electronic Communication policy that USA Fencing has in place helps guard against such potentials. For it to be effective, however, we need to increase awareness of the policy.

Have you read the USA Fencing Social Media and Electronic Communication policy? The complete policy can be found in Secion VII.(F) of the Safe Sport Policy. In reads in part:

All electronic communication between coach and athlete must be for the purpose of communicating information about fencing activities. Coaches, athletes and all administrators must follow common sense guidelines regarding the volume and time of day of any allowed electronic communication. All content between coaches and athletes should be readily available to share with the public or families of the athlete or coach. If the athlete is under the age of 18, any email, text, social media, or similar communication must also copy or include the athlete’s parents.

The Safe Sport section of the USA Fencing website also contains an Electronics Communication Template policy to be used as a model for clubs (click here to view). This is a valuable document because, as you know, USA Fencing clubs are required to have an electronics communication policy for coaches and non-athlete members to follow. This template provides guidelines and boundaries to ensure that clubs and individuals adhere to the policy in their communication practices. Additionally, in this sample policy, athletes are made aware that there are certain standards for electronic communication for all individuals associated with the club.

For example, did you know that…

  • …electronic communication should adhere to the T.A.P. test. That is, electronic communication with fencers should be:
    • Transparent – clear and direct with no room for misunderstanding;
    • Accessible – include another coach or parent in the communication as it should be viewed as a part of the club’s record;
    • Professional – is the message professional such that one would be comfortable posting it for others to read? Think carefully about what and when you text/email.
  • …there is a statement related to use of social media sites. Coaches, you should not be a “friend” to your athletes nor should an athlete be your “friend” on these sites. There should be no private or instant messaging.
  • …the policy provides best practices for athlete electronic communication? The policy contains a section just for athletes to educate them on how to use electronic communication effectively as well as how to avoid “red flag situations.”     

This information, and other information contained in the policy, is great, but how does the message get out? We need to move beyond “checking the box” and simply having an electronics communication policy. Rather, we want the policy to raise awareness, educate and impact practices. Some suggestions:

  • Clubs
    • Create a new member packet that contains policies that coaches, athletes and parents must read and sign.
    • Get this information “in front of” your membership by posting the policies or creating a poster that can be displayed in a common area.
  • Coaches
    • Create a training environment that is supportive, positive, welcoming and focused. Lead by example as such an environment is going to be counter to demeaning or profane electronic communication.
    • Discuss with your fencers the boundaries as it relates to electronic communication so everyone is on the same page.
  • Parents
    • Ask to be included on all electronic communication with your child.
    • Check your child’s social media sites and accounts or ask your child about fencing-related communication.

As club, coaches and parents can all learn so much from each other by sharing your experiences, I welcome any of you to e-mail me at S.Riewald@usfencing.org to share any effective ways you have found to raise awareness and increase education among fencers as it relates to social media communication or other areas of the Safe Sport Policy.

Tag(s): SafeSport