Statement | Let’s also make the sports sector socially safe

The theme of social security in an organization requires leadership and courage. This means intervening in an atmosphere and culture that often unconsciously – for a long time – allows too much. In all social sectors, including sports. Many sports federations have the courage to intervene. They proactively investigate members’ experiences with transgressive behaviour, both emotional and physical. Overall, the results are always in line with previous, general prevalence studies of sports culture: yes, there are experiences and incidents. Yes, there is a sense of uncertainty. Being wake up calls, as well as the cases of transgressive behavior that make the news. Just like the increase in the number of files at the Center for Safe Sports (more than a thousand this year).

The sports sector still has a long way to go. Through internal discussions and public assessments, she is on her way to a framework of standards for the gray area, to which no rules apply in sport.

Employers in education and childcare have long been required to request a Certificate of Good Conduct (VOG) from each employee. They know contact points and confidential advisers. In sport, however, clubs and associations must not arrange or ask for anything formally. Not for coaches, not for supervisors, not for volunteers and not for professionals.

The sport runs on volunteers

We have 24,000 sports clubs in the Netherlands. They are the cornerstones of a rich and unique sports and exercise culture. They form the third educational environment next to family and school and are communities where equal opportunities are the starting point and where friendships are built. They rely on thousands of volunteers and – if the greenhouse allows – a few professionals.

Millions of children and young people build up the routine here – if all goes well – to continue playing sports as adults. Keeping sports and exercise fun at a time of their lives that is crucial for self-confidence and self-esteem.

Do we, as a society, ask all the thousands of youth counselors in this environment for sufficient educational foundations? Do we ask if they are able to recognize and counter bullying? Do we ask them to fill out a simple form that shows they have an accurate record?

Not to date. The question is: why not? The answer is layered. The sports sector is built on and by volunteers. Very, very well going. With great commitment and ditto enthusiasm. These are people with a passion for sports who like to support others in their sporting fun. Should we ask them more – training, administrative tasks – when it is already difficult enough to connect such good people to your club?

Also read: Significant increase in cases of sexually transgressive behavior in sports

Social security as standard

It can also be uncomfortable in an association. As uncomfortable as approaching the encouraging, yelling parent on an individual level… Yes, it’s hard for anyone to approach someone you barely know about social behavior. But that is precisely why we must make a socially safe climate in sport a matter of course. With principles, rules, norms, conversations and, for my part, obligations that we dare to impose on each other based on our moral compass. Pronounced obligation to a socially safe climate can remove the discomfort.

It helps that Sports Minister Helder (VVD) has recently advocated a VOG commitment for all sports in the national sports agreement.

As far as NOC*NSF is concerned, we as an industry make the following agreements: mandatory VOG for everyone who works directly with groups of children and young people (offered in advance free of charge), a code of conduct, a confidential contact person and basic training in pedagogical skills for coaches and trainers (the online training for this already exists and is also available for free).

We have an incredibly beautiful and fine-grained sports landscape, thanks to all the associations with their often long history and great social importance. Let’s take concrete steps together towards a sports culture that makes visible and discusses a socially safe climate. I bet the screaming parent down the line will slowly disappear as well.

Leave a Comment