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Why are “Boundaries” Important in Youth Sports? Preventing Sexual Abuse and Molestation of Youth Athletes by Adult Coaches

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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In most sports, there are boundaries that define the playing field or area including the following:

Football – There are boundaries at for the endzone and sidelines.

Tennis – There are boundaries on each side of the net.

Baseball – There are boundaries that define the baselines, foul lines, and outfield walls or fences.

Golf – There are boundaries for the tee, putting green, and out of bounds areas.

While these boundaries are important and help define the basics of the game or sport, there are other boundaries that must be maintained for the protection of athletes in youth parts. These boundaries are those that should be set and maintained that define and limit the relationship between child athlete and the adult coach. When boundaries are blurred or not even in place, children may be at risk for sexual abuse or molestation. While most coaches and mentors are caring individuals, there are others who use their position of trust as a position of opportunity to abuse or molest a child. Because of this, it is important for parents, coaches, volunteers, schools, and sports associations to keep the following in mind:

*If there are policies in place as to the player – coach relationship and limitations / restrictions beyond the field of play – these policies should be honored and followed.

*If there are no policies in place, request the formulation of sensible and practical policies that set the proper “boundaries” for the player – coach relationship.

*Restrict and limit the access of the coach to the player.

*Avoid situations in which a child is alone with a child whether at a field, restaurant, home, or vehicle.

*Parents should be on the look out for any odd behavior or change of behavior in the student athlete that may be linked to the actions or conduct of a coach.

*Parents should monitor the child’s contact with coaches or others via phone, e-mail, texts, and other electronic means.

*Background checks should be performed and updated for all coaches and volunteers.

These are just a few ways in which boundaries can be maintained and children can be protected from an inappropriate relationship with a coach. Of course, all of the good acts and deeds of most coaches should not be erased or washed out by the acts of a few bad and malicious people. Nevertheless, parents and others should make sure that boundaries are in place and maintained.