Reject the Fear That Coach Automatically = Pervert: THANK A COACH! New Viral Video Campaign

Hi Folks! I just LOVE this campaign that just got underway in England. It was started by a gal named Heather Piper who describes herself as a “Professor in the Faculty of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, whose research interests tend to be contrarian and challenge the status quo, and much so called ‘wisdom.'” Go Heather! – L. 

THANK A COACH by Heather Piper

When the 2012 Olympics were awarded to London, the UK Government (like other governments before them) made much of the hope that the legacy would be to get children and young people more active and involved in sports – part of a happier and healthier nation. Instead, as recent research has shown,there are many coaches who feel anxious and overwhelmed by the way that trust in coaching relationships has been destroyed by the fear-based and mechanical way that child protection and ‘safeguarding’ has been imposed on them. The result has been that they feel spied-on, and end up doubting their colleagues’ motives, and even their own – viewing themselves and others as potential paedophiles!

There is something very wrong when, on attending their first football training session, eager 9-year-olds have to listen to a talk about the team’s child protection measures (implicit message: coaches are likely to be perverts). Whatever this does to children, an adult coach may be terrified when a young player races over to them as part of her goal-scoring celebration (Is she going to hug me? What will everyone think? Will I get suspended like the guy last year?). The problem is not one for the UK alone, the US, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few, share similarly risk-averse societies.

The pattern everywhere is much like that seen earlier in teaching and childcare and, again, the real losers are the children who lose the chance to benefit from strong and trusting inter-generational contact. The deficit extends beyond the issue of coaching kids to become better swimmer or soccer players: a good coach can provide  emotional support for children learning how to get along and grow up, which is particularly important for kids who may have less support at home.

To try, in a small way, to counter the pervasive negative messages about sports coaching and to honour the selfless work of the many thousands of coaches who offer their technical expertise (and often much more than that), a new campaign focuses attention on the positive coaching many of us will have experienced. In a risk-obsessed, fear-based, and mistrustful era we need some good news stories, and the ‘Inspired to Greatness’ campaign aims to collect and provide them. Take a look and join-in. Thank a coach for what they did for you. We can’t take coaches for granted. We CAN give them the thanks they deserve. Share your videos! – H.P.

Cheers, coach!

7 Responses

  1. I’m not sure that “risk aversion” is the phrase I would use. It all sounds more like grandstanding: people competing with each other to show how anti-pedophile they are.

    I imagine it was the same in McCarthy’s day: the point of being hysterically anti-communist was to tell everyone what a great guy you were, not to actually catch any spies.

  2. Love positive stories like this. Hate being second guessed about one’s actions or words by others.
    @ ad Interesting to bring up McCarthy. Part of the bigger issue of fear-mongering is the current news story about someone taking to task others in their profession that tried to use fear of a particular religion to call for an investigation. (Probably done to raise money to stay in office.)
    I’d like to see more calling out of anyone using fear to demonize others including the newscasters not willing to challenge the agenda of those they interview.

  3. I did the Australian part of the research and the fear here is much less than that in Britain. People are aware of the risk talk but don’t regard it as applicable to their circumstances.

    Or at least the ones I interviewed didn’t.

    One told me I read too much sociology.

  4. And @ad: that’s a great observation about proving you are on the side of the angels by clamouring against pedophiles.

    My Australian interviewees didn’t want to play that game, however, well not the parents and coaches. It was the sports adiministrators who wanted me to admire the width and quality of their ‘child protection’ policies.

  5. Hi – yes the Australia example is interesting. Less fear in coaching as sport is so important, but example of the moral panic around childhood very evident in classrooms etc. I’d be really interested to hear some US coaching examples though as those reported in the press look interesting.

  6. I quit volunteering as a Scout leader in the UK largely because of this rubbish (but also partly because I was tired of having to lie about my religious beliefs).

    I had to go through multiple background checks and there were strict rules about contact with children. All work had to be done in the weekly meeting (not enough time for a kid to really work on any but the most simple badge) or at scheduled camps which happened at most 3 times a year. Always had to have 2 adults with a child. No touching at all, which made the inevitable first aid requirements that come from accidents in the woods difficult.

    When I was a kid in a different country, I spent a lot of my weekends with various scoutmasters working on things, partly due to absent parents, but partly because I wanted to be a success in the movement and that was what it took. We had a shared camping facility that scouts from all over the district could use and there was always 1 scoutmaster from one of the troops around just in case we got ourselves into trouble that required adult assistance, but we hardly ever saw him unless we went looking for him. We just got on with things.

    Today, we can’t have a shared camping facility without constant presence and supervision. All activities have to be risk assessed and our insurance renewal discussions were torture. And kids don’t get the experiences and growth opportunities I had.

    So the movement lost a willing, helpful, reliable adult volunteer. Ah well – lots more free time for my wife.

  7. Coaches, teachers, child care givers, and even strangers, are all people just like anyone of us. And with people, there are some good, and some bad. Just because some coaches, teachers, priests, etc… are perverts, doesn’t mean all of them are. Much in the same way that just because there are rare incidences of child abductions, doesn’t mean it’s rampant and on the rise. Nor does it mean children are in mortal danger.

    IMO, three things need to be addressed and changed. 1. Stop with the fear mongering. Don’t spread wide panic and fear. Be it through media, or passing the word along. It does no one good to make isolated incidences into world wide panic. 2. Institutions need to do a better job in screening who they hire. It’s not invading of privacy, it’s a job requirement. Just like some companies do drug testing for potential employees. And 3. Probably the most important of all, is to educate our children in the recognizing inappropriate behavior. As well as teaching them confidence, self-esteem, and independence so that they would have the courage to speak up should inappropriate behavior has affected them. Many of these incidences go unnoticed because children are too afraid to speak up. Let’s also keep in mind, they should be taught what REAL inappropriate behavior is. Not some people’s holier than thou and perverted attitude towards affections for children. Just because a teacher or coach gives praise to a student who did very well, by way of a hug or even a kiss on the cheek, it doesn’t mean they are perverts. As long as physical interactions with kids are positive, it shouldn’t be banned or deemed inappropriate. Who says that only parents are allowed to give them praise or affection for something they did well and are proud of. Back in my day, we got hugs and kisses from our teachers all the time, and none of them ever crossed the line. But it made us kids feel better about ourselves and our accomplishments. Made us better students.

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