Organised sport provides children and young people with many fantastic opportunities, but it also comes with risks, both physically and emotionally. At ChildFund Pass It Back, we work hard to make sure those risks are identified, assessed, minimised and properly managed. 

“The program uses the International Safeguards for Children in Sport across all levels of our work to ensure a safe and secure environment for children and young people participating in our activities,” says Chris Mastaglio, ChildFund Pass It Back Director. 

What are some of the potential risks of participating in sport? How does ChildFund keep young players safe?

Physical injury

During most sports activity, there is a risk of physical injury, even when playing non-contact sports. Common injuries include sprains, pulled muscles and even broken bones.

Aside from this direct impact, an injury might also mean an inability to work to support a family, as well as incurring healthcare costs, both of which can have a negative economic impact on families, particularly those living in developing communities.

ChildFund Pass It Back has developed a number of actions to ensure risks to physical injury are managed. Our curricula uses tag rugby, which is a very safe version of the sport. It is easy to learn. It is accessible, as only minimal equipment is needed, and there is very limited physical contact between players.

All coaches engaged in ChildFund Pass It Back are trained First Aiders, ensuring that every training session is led by someone who can confidently provide immediate care in the event of an accident.

Coaches are also trained to use World Rugby’s Activate Injury Prevention Exercise Program, which has been developed to help participants at all levels of rugby reduce the likelihood of experiencing injury.

Conflict between teams

When it comes to sport, there is always competition! As teams compete against each other, there can be a risk of conflict within and between teams. This conflict can lead to physical or verbal bullying or intimidation, resulting in negative physical or emotional impacts. 

ChildFund Pass It Back works to make sure this risk is minimised and, if it occurs, it is addressed. The program ensure that rugby’s values, such as respect, is front and centre across all aspects of the program. By ensuring players and coaches practice these values both on and off the pitch, they understand why they need to respect others and also develop their communication skills.

Another important part of our work is to reduce violence in communities. ChildFund Pass It Back focuses on the development of specific skills, including how to manage emotions and to manage conflict. Coaches support this learning across competitions by using their strong relationships with players to ensure teams are enjoying their experience, regardless of results!

“My players have learned how to solve conflict peacefully, deal with negative pressure, and know where to look for help when in need. For me this is very important” says Thuy, a coach in Vietnam. 

Physical, verbal or sexual abuse of players by coaches

In any sport, coaches always have some level of power over players and most often players develop trust and confidence in their coaches.

But there is always a risk of physical, verbal, or sexual abuse by coaches. In the past few years, a number of cases across the sports sector have become public and shone a light on the challenges that sports organisations face to proactively address these risks.

Across ChildFund Pass It Back, coaches are trained on child safeguarding. We have in place a Code of Conduct which outlines expected standards of behaviour and the consequences for breaching those. All coaches must meet these expectations.   

An open discussion and no-judgement environment is encouraged across the program to help players share and talk about any negative issues they may be experiencing. This is supported by learning modules that help players understand their own bodies and understand their rights.

A clear reporting system is in place for players and coaches so that everyone knows what to do if they feel unsafe or need support, both on and off the pitch. Coaches are also trained to deal with any disclosures they receive from players in a professional and confidential way.

Sport offers both benefits and risks for children but, when the latter is well-managed, young people can fully enjoy the many opportunities it provides, as is their right.

In ChildFund Pass It Back, we support community-based coaches to be continually aware of the risks facing children and young people and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to reduce and manage these risks. This helps them to create and maintain a safe, fun, and healthy environment for everyone taking part in sport.