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The Importance of Safe Environments for Our Athletes


As horrific as it may seem, we have seen scenarios in recent years that make parents of athletes universally cringe with every detail that is released.

The USA gymnastics abuse scandal is one that may come to mind for many folks.

The cheer world has definitely seen our share of these in recent years as heartbreaking as the stories are to hear.

From cheerlebrities that have been involved in some seriously horrifying situations with younger athletes to the more recent national cheer gym brand that has come under fire for seemingly layer upon layer of unruly activity, precarious situations, and abuse allegations, these are all hyper-unsettling for anyone that may be involved in youth sports.

Even if not reaching the level of seriousness that has been exhibited by these aforementioned examples, more subtle cases of inappropriate circumstances involving athletes and adults involved with youth sports seem almost constant…

The verbally aggressive parent at the softball game.

The basketball coach who takes drills one step too far.

The dance mom who relentlessly gossips about other athletes in their program.

The stories are endless, and one has to wonder where does this stop?

It is almost as if you wait around long enough, some type of mind-numbing story, whether small or huge, is going to make its way to the surface at some point.

So, what do we do?

How is this avoided?

Why don’t the powers that be take a more firm stand to work toward weeding out these types of abusive instances?

All valid questions for sure.

The obvious challenge is that even if rules are in place put forth by governing bodies aimed at preventing any of these types of things from happening, their enforcement is out of the control of coaches, program owners, participating families, etc.

As disheartening as this realization may be, although we cannot necessarily control the administering of consequences for the negligent and overtly despicable actions of others, it is imperative that we all stay diligent and focus on what we can control.

It is extremely important that throughout sports we all work together to help eliminate all types of potentially abusive situations, while at the same time providing environments which our athletes are comfortable in approaching authority figures who can help make sure that appropriate actions are taken if need be the case.

What happens in occasions where the authority figure is the one who is the nucleus of the disturbing activity?

In these circumstances, it is important that athletes ongoingly realize that if they ever find themself in an uncomfortable situation with an adult at any level, without judgement there should be a parental-type figure in place whom the athlete can approach, confide in, and help navigate through things, even getting more stringent authorities involved in the most extreme of situations.

Having a safe haven in sports should be exactly that, a place where both athletes and families alike do not have to worry about the darker portions of life that any athlete growing up should surely not be exposed to.

While definitely a difficult conversation to have, it is just as equally vital so that our athletes know what constitutes an unacceptable action by an adult and the proper way to make sure it is worked through if an uncomfortable occurrence, no matter how large or small it may seem, should ever arise.

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