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SafeSport Enhances Efforts to Protect Hockey Participants

By Scott Gray, Minnesota Hockey SafeSport Coordinator, 10/15/13, 9:30AM CDT

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An aggressive and proactive approach to enhancing off-ice safety for all hockey participants including players, coaches, managers, referees, parents, volunteers, and spectators has been incorporated into the SafeSport Program by USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey for all programs and events.

Through seven components including improved background screening, education and awareness training, locker room monitoring, policies prohibiting various abuses, monitoring and supervision of the SafeSport program, a reporting mechanism of concerns of abuse, and an established investigative response aimed at addressing abuse concerns, hockey is more suitably positioned than ever before to react to, correct, and hopefully eliminate abuses such as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, bullying, hazing, threats, and harassment.

We have expanded the scope of our screening efforts to more thoroughly scrutinize backgrounds of our coaches and other volunteers. Awareness training and testing through a series of educational videos aiding in identifying grooming techniques and signs and symptoms of abuse has been mandated for association and team leaders. Each local association has named a SafeSport Coordinator to over-see compliance of the SafeSport program in their respective organizations.

The importance of adult supervision of our locker rooms, changing areas, and restrooms during clinics, tryouts, practices, and games cannot be stressed enough. Youth players are particularly vulnerable in these areas due to various stages of dress/undress and because they are often less supervised than at other times. Athlete-to-athlete problems such as bullying, harassment, or hazing often occur when a coach or responsible adult is not in a position to observe. This is especially true in locker rooms. Strict adherence to a locker room policy not only enhances privacy and minimizes the likelihood of misconduct, it also helps ensure that players that may have suffered an injury during a game or practice have an adult present to confer with regarding such injury. We encourage all parents to assist in locker room supervision by volunteering to act as locker room monitors for your team events.

Parental monitoring and reporting of failures to abide by the SafeSport directives as well as concerns of abuse are keys to the success in reaching our goal of reducing misconduct and making our sport safer. In fact, all parents are encouraged to complete the video training provided by USA Hockey. To do so, simply follow the instructions on our SafeSport Training page.

Because SafeSport is a new initiative, there will naturally be many questions to answer, and bumps in the road to overcome as we work through its implementation throughout the country. Nonetheless, USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey view SafeSport with paramount importance and are giving it the utmost attention to ensure that we are doing the most we can to improve the safety of our participants.

Any questions, problems, or concerns of abuse may be directed to myself at sgray@metrolegal.com, your association SafeSport Coordinator, or to USA Hockey.

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