Our rugby clubs are a wonderful place for kids to learn and grow. We all work hard to deliver a great experience for them and part of this is creating a safe environment. To do this we need to understand the risks children can be exposed to and to prevent it from happening while they are in rugby’s care.
Look out for signs of abuse
Act on any concerns
FOLLOW SAFE CLUB GUIDELINES
Forming a safe and welcoming environment is a key way we can prevent harm from occurring in our clubs. Here are some simple things you can do before and during the season.
Prevention starts with the kind of environment and team culture we create.
- At the start of the season create a charter or code of conduct that sets out clear rules for how people should act throughout the season – including players, coaches and caregivers.
- Familiarise yourself with your club’s Child Protection Policy and Overnight and travel guidelines, including who the Child Protection Advisor (CPA) is, and what the process for reporting is.
- Talk about the Child Protection Policy with caregivers and let them know how to contact the CPA if they have any concerns.
- Deal with bullying, sexually inappropriate play or fighting immediately. This will reinforce the way others should conduct themselves.
- Use age-appropriate language and speak to the team in a positive manner. This will make the kids feel safe and supported.
- Encourage kids to talk about their concerns, and listen, believe and act on these concerns.
- Avoid negative side-line behaviour. Show support for the children with positivity and enthusiasm and encourage side-line supporters to do the same.
Being alone with children should be avoided. Supervising in pairs in changing rooms, knocking before entering where kids are changing, and keeping trainings group-based are all measures you can take to ensure everyone stays safe.
If you need to contact a child, be sure to include their caregiver and keep it rugby-related. This includes texting and using social media.
There will be times when 1:1 time is unavoidable, for example if a child gets sick and must be taken home but you can keep yourself safe by:
- Letting the child’s caregiver know what’s happening. If you can’t get hold of them let your team manager know.
- If you must transport a child home by themselves, have them sit in the back seat and drop them off without detouring to other places.
- Explain to the child and always get their permission for what you are doing.
- Rugby is a physical game and an important part of coaching is also making sure our team are doing things correctly and safely.
Travelling and overnight stays
- If travelling with the team, make sure there’s a lead person assigned to manage the trip who can distribute information to parents/caregivers and who will have access to all necessary contact details.
- Where possible there should be a mix of male and female adults, accompanying children especially on overnight trips.
- Ensure adults aren’t sleeping alone with kids other than their own on overnight trips.
- Full guidelines for Overnight Stay and Travel are on the website or from your PU.
- Ensure any physical contact with children is appropriate and relevant to the activity and happens in open environments.
- It’s okay to correct kids’ technique to help keep them safe. Always explain to the child what you’re doing and ask their permission. The easiest ways to put this into practice is:
- Explain to the team how you will correct their technique.
- Ask before you do it and get their permission. E.g. “Johnny is it ok if I move your waist down, so you don’t hurt your back going into the scrum?”
- Touch can also be a good thing and helping a player up, giving them a high five, or putting an arm around someone who is hurt where everyone is comfortable with this is fine. It is also okay for you as the coach to let kids know if you are not a hugger.
LOOK OUT FOR SIGNS OF ABUSE
Children can be vulnerable to many forms of abuse - physical, sexual, or emotional, or neglect. Sadly, sometimes children may experience abuse and we need to know what to look for.
Some of the things you might see include bruising particularly in the shape of objects, unexplained injuries, burns or cuts where the story doesn’t add up.
Sometimes kids tell us that something is wrong by their behaviour – they may be withdrawn, anxious, particularly aggressive, self-destructive, have sexual knowledge and play that seems beyond their years or there may be big changes in their behaviour that worry you.
ACT ON ANY CONCERNS
Behaviours in adults
- It’s okay to ask questions and remind adults of these rules if we see behaviours such as:
- An adult or older child consistently seeking alone time or having especially close relationships with certain children.
- Buying gifts or giving money for no apparent reasons.
- Overstepping children’s personal boundaries, for example making a child to sit on their lap. making kids do things that is significantly beyond their skill
- Being threatening or degrading towards a child
- Letting kids have access to alcohol or other adult material.
All concerns of child abuse should be acted upon. It is vital that you do not do your own investigation, and instead report them to a trained Union Child Protection Advisor (CPA) who can take the appropriate action. You can also call Oranga Tamariki on 0508 FAMILY anytime for advice.
If a child tells you they are being harmed all you need to do is listen and reassure them, don’t ask the child questions other than ‘who, when, where’, write down word for word what was said and tell your CPA.
Contact the police on 111 if the child is in immediate danger. The police have a dedicated team of investigators who focus on child protection in all 12 districts.
They will take over the process and can advise you.
Dealing with possible child abuse can be hard for the person handling the concern.
Talk with your Provincial Union about getting support through the process and having a confidential debrief.