The OSA Board of Directors approved implementation of the policy for competitive coaches prior to the start of the 2003 season and for recreational coaches prior to the start of the 2004 season. This policy was approved by The OSA Membership at the November 2001 Annual Meeting. All Soccer Clubs in the Province of Ontario must comply with these deadlines.
A GOOD OUNCE OF PREVENTION
The Ontario Soccer Association in conjunction with Sport Alliance and Volunteer Canada conducted a pilot study with the Burlington Youth Soccer Club in 2001- 2002 on the screening of volunteers. Following a risk analysis it was apparent that the highest risk position was the team staff of a Club’s competitive youth team more often placed in the vulnerable position of being alone with a player.
The study concluded with a number of boundary limitations that were essential to incorporate into all Club policies and practices. If screening was to be effective, preventive measures were to become the norm versus the reactive approach already covered by policies in place under the heading of harassment.
The Screening Measures varied in degree from lowest risk, i.e., the mini soccer coach usually conducting sessions in the company of parents with no traveling or extra curricular activities involved to the highest risk that being the competitive team coaching staff.
In the case of the competitive coaching staff the screening measures included an application for the position which required the coach to provide the Club with a few more details that were often not on file or considered; one new one being reference checks and of course the police check.
The Boundary Limitations is probably the biggest ounce of prevention with number one being to avoid youth being left alone with coaches. A big stickler that has erupted from this limitation is the dilemma that a coach is no longer responsible for providing transportation to and from games and practices. The policy did not state that it could not be done any longer merely pointing out to parents that they should no longer assume that responsibility on coaching staff and coaches should give it thought beforehand such as do you have your own child in the car or apply group pickup and drop off points etc. etc..
The bottom line in a policy like Volunteer Screening apart from it’s the right thing to do protect the youth (although some feel it will deter folks from volunteering given the bureaucracy or the questioning of the integrity of long time volunteers who have not had to go through such a screening measure before, particularly in smaller communities where everyone knows everyone ), is to deter perpetrators from becoming involved in the sport of soccer knowing that such a policy is now in place.
No one should be discouraged that their integrity is being questioned given that it is a policy for all competitive youth team staff to be appointed in 2003 and eventually all coaches in 2004. Clubs are in the midst of attending Volunteer Screening Sessions conducted by their Districts to prepare to implement the policy this fall.
It’s a big ounce of prevention in the whole scheme of things.