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Continue the Dialogue

09/29/2017, 11:45am CDT
By Suzie Riewald, USA Fencing SafeSport Coordinator

Creating a SafeSport environment in our clubs is important; we want to keep our fencers physically, emotionally and socially safe and healthy. As parents and coaches, you can seek out education materials, find resources online or watch the SafeSport videos to educate yourself. Club owners, there are also education materials and resources available on the USA Fencing SafeSport webpage as well as other online resources that can provide you with guidance and direction as you embrace the responsibility of creating a SafeSport environment.

But, what about our young fencers? What is their role as it relates to SafeSport?

We need to educate the athletes on SafeSport so they can be active participants in their own safety and in creating a SafeSport environment at the club. I’m sure many parents have already begun the discussion at home. Club owners are undoubtedly raising awareness about SafeSport by implementing SafeSport policies within their clubs. An additional part of this education can be raising awareness through discussions of SafeSport topics and issues with the athletes themselves. 

To add to what you may already be doing as a parent, coach or club owner, below is a short True/ False SafeSport Quiz for fencers. This can be given to the athletes to complete followed by a discussion of the correct answers. Note that the important piece is not just the answer but the discussion and dialogue about the “WHY” behind each correct response. 

SafeSport Quiz – answer True or False for each of the statements below.

1.    A coach who is not a relative can share a hotel room with a fencer at an event.

2.    It takes a lot of courage to talk to an adult about something you feel bad or uncomfortable about.    

3.    For the first lesson of the day, it is okay that it is just the fencer and coach at the club.

4.    It is all right for a coach to email or text an athlete late at night.

5.    To keep a conversation private, a coach and athlete can have a closed door meeting.

6.    If a fencer thinks a teammate is being hurt by someone, it is okay to tell someone, even if the fencer told her teammate she wouldn’t say anything.

7.    Coaches and fencers can be “friends” on Facebook and can instant message.

SafeSport Quiz answers and discussion points:

1.    False: Regardless of gender, a coach should not share a room with an athlete. While it is often easy and can save money, the athlete’s safely must come first. During travel, we want to minimize private one-on-one interactions between the coach and athlete, so sharing a room is not an option. Additionally, adhering to this policy can protect the coach from false allegations or misunderstandings. 

2.    True: It is not easy discussing topics or situations that have made you feel uncomfortable. But, it is important to do so as an adult can help you with the situation or offer guidance. Coaches, parents and club personnel should communicate to the fencers that they are available for such discussions and view it as part of their roles.  

3.    False: There should be Two-Deep Leadership, meaning the coach and one other adult must be present whenever a minor athlete is involved. Some clubs refer to this as the “Rule of Three.” You can accomplish this by having your parent stay at your lesson until others arrive.  

4.    False: Electronic communication between a coach and athlete should only be for the purpose of communicating information about fencing activities and should only occur during “fencing hours.” Additionally, communication between a coach and minor fencer also should copy the fencer’s parents to avoid any misunderstandings.

5.    False: One-on-one meetings between an athlete and coach should be open and observable.  Keep the door open or find space in a corner of an open room where others can see you to have private conversations with your coach.

6.    True: The teammate’s safely is the priority. If you are concerned, share this with a safe adult such as a parent, club personnel or coach.

7.    False: Your coach is your coach, not your friend. Check to see if your club has a Facebook page that you can “like” for information and updates on team-related activities.

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