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UK Coaching Team
Children Young people Safety and Welfare

Safeguarding and Protecting Children – Frequently Asked Questions

Quick guide to identifying the essentials of good coaching practice, with particular consideration to working with children and young people

This guide is not a substitute for a full safeguarding and protecting children workshop or a condensed version of a safeguarding and protecting children resource, it should be viewed as information to encourage your further learning.

Sport is great fun, can aid a healthy lifestyle and helps develop a range of valuable qualities, which can be used in all aspects of our lives. As coaches, we should encourage all children, young people and adults to be involved in a wide variety of sports and physical activities.

To achieve this aim, your coaching sessions must meet the highest standard for safeguarding and child protection at all times.

Safeguarding and protecting children – the coach's role

It is important that every child (or adult) is safe throughout your coaching session. This includes not only your coaching but also the environment in which you are leading your session. You particularly need to ensure that children are safe as they have less experience and understanding of the risks involved in your sport.

Some children may be in situations that mean they are at risk or suffering significant harm; this could be from their home, school or a sporting environment. These children need to be protected and it is important that you know what you need to do if you become aware of this situation.

As a coach (in a paid or volunteer position) and as an adult, you have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that all participants are safeguarded and protected in your coaching session.


  • the welfare of the child is paramount
  • all participants, whatever their age, gender, culture, language, racial origin, religious belief, sexual identity or disability, have an equal right to be safe and protected
  • all suspicions, concerns or allegations of harm must be taken seriously and responded to appropriately.

Children and/or young people – This refers to a person under the age of 18.

Governing body of sport – Organisation with responsibility for the administration of that sport; for example,The Football Association (The FA).

Safeguarding – The proactive policies and procedures in place for the benefit of all children involved in our clubs and activities.

Child protection – Relates to specific children who are at risk of, or are suffering, significant harm.

Welfare of the child – The well-being of the child for his or her benefit or safety.

Duty of care – The legal and moral responsibility we all have to keep each other safe.

Good coaching practice is one of the key principles of safeguarding children in your sessions. Your governing body of sport will have a safeguarding and protecting children policy and procedure that you should read to ensure your coaching session meets the requirements of the policy.

Your governing body of sport’s code of practice will set out, very clearly, the expectations it has of you as the coach and how you conduct yourself within your coaching session in your sport.

  • Rights – Coaches must respect and champion the rights of every individual to participate in sport.
  • Relationships – Coaches must develop a relationship with performers (and others) based on openness, honesty, mutual trust and respect.
  • Responsibilities: personal standards – Coaches must demonstrate proper personal behaviour and conduct at all times.
  • Responsibilities: professional standards – To maximise the benefits and minimise the risks to performers, coaches must attain a high level of competence through qualifications, and a commitment to ongoing training that ensures safe and correct practice.

Incorporating the key principles from your sport’s code of practice into all your coaching sessions will allow you, the coach, and the children you teach to have a safe, enjoyable session and encourage their improvement in your sport.

By modelling good coaching practice through all your sessions you will be setting a standard for yourself, the children you coach and other coaches in your club or facility. Difficulties can arise when certain poor behaviours or language become acceptable and part of the culture of your club; for example:

  • coaches and/or children swearing without being challenged
  • children regularly being reduced to tears during coaching
  • excessive exercise being used as punishments for children
  • children being asked to take part in humiliating initiation ceremonies (sometimes referred to as hazing).

These behaviours may then lead on to concerns that could be identified as abuse. Unfortunately, children are harmed often deliberately, usually by an adult they know and trust. Harm may be inflicted as a result of not protecting a child.

Category Explanation Sports example
Physical abuse

Physical abuse occurs when someone causes physical harm or injury to a child. Physical abuse in a sport situation may be deemed to occur if the nature and intensity of training and competition exceed the capacity of the child’s immature and growing body.

A tennis coach over-training one of the junior players because they show potential.


Neglect occurs when adults fail to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, and is likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect in a sport situation could include a coach failing to ensure children are safe and comfortable, or exposing them to undue cold or unnecessary risk of injury.

A cricket coach failing to ensure children are safe in their sessions by not adhering to the safety recommendations of the sport (eg children wearing cricket helmets when batting).

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is the emotional ill treatment of a child, resulting in severe and persistent adverse effects on their emotional development. Research shows that children who experience an emotionally abusive environment are at a higher risk of suffering other forms of abuse. Examples in sport include children being subject to constant criticism, name-calling, sarcasm, bullying, racism or unrealistic pressure to perform to high expectations (this may be from parents or coaches).

A football coach constantly criticises the children during training.

Sexual abuse

Where adults or other young people use children to meet their own sexual needs. This includes sexual intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and intercourse or fondling, as well as showing children pornographic videos or magazines or taking photos of children for inappropriate use.

A coach not adhering to the code of practice and inappropriately touching children during their coaching session.


It is now recognised that, in some cases of abuse, the abuser may not always be an adult, but could be a child. Bullying may be seen as deliberate, hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves.

A teammate sends abusive text and social media messages to another child in their team.


The impacts of abuse can last a lifetime for some individuals, particularly if they are unable to access support from people or organisations that can help them cope.

A child may have a range of different reactions to being abused; for example, develop behavioural difficulties, eating disorders and body image concerns, suffer depression or self-harm, or in extreme cases of abuse, they could die. It is important that you as a positive role model know what to do if you have concerns.

There is no simple checklist for recognising signs and symptoms of child abuse. Often this can be made more difficult if you know the child outside of your coaching sessions. If the concern is related to poor practice by a friend or coaching colleague, you may not want to believe it is happening.

As the regular coach of a group of children, you are in a position of trust creating a dynamic environment in which children learn and develop. However, you are also in a position where you may notice something about one of the children; for example:

  • has there been a change in behaviour?
  • has the child recently become introverted?
  • has the child lost his or her confidence?
  • does the child lose his or her temper quickly or shout unnecessarily?
  • has the child said something to you that has caused you concern?
  • has another adult or child told you their concerns about a child or another adult?
  • does the child have unexplained bruising or injuries?

Remember that you are not an expert in child protection and it is not your responsibility to investigate. However, it is your responsibility to pass on your concerns.

It is really important if you do have a concern about a child or the behaviour of an adult that you:

  • reassure the child (if appropriate, you do not want to make a situation worse so it may not always be appropriate) and listen to the child. But do not make any promises you cannot keep (eg telling the child you will not tell anyone)
  • appropriately challenge the behaviour of the adult, link their poor practice to a breach of the code of practice
  • pass your concerns to the club welfare officer (CWO) or the designated lead welfare officer (LWO) in your organisation. Do you know who this person is?
  • if you believe the child is at serious risk of harm, then call the police or children’s social care immediately but also inform your CWO or LWO (to keep them in the loop)
  • make a note of your concerns as you will need to pass these to your CWO or LWO (eg What is your concern? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Who did it involve?).

By ensuring the children in your coaching sessions are safeguarded and protected it will not only develop their ability and enjoyment for the sport, but will provide you with a fantastic opportunity to pass on your skills and love of your sport.

Workshops and Training 

UK Coaching Workshops

UK Coaching provides a wide variety of additional workshops for coaches, including: 

  • Keeping Safe in Sport: Safeguarding for Young Volunteers 13+ 
  • Coaching Children (5–12): The Next Generation
  • How to Coach the Fundamentals of Movement 

CPSU Training 

The CPSU has developed a range of safeguarding/child protection training and resources, including: 

  • Time to Listen’ training for people with designated safeguarding responsibilty at club, county and national level 
  • ‘Safe Sports Events’ online tool 
  • Online safeguarding self-assessment tool 
  • ‘Risk Assessment in Recruitment’ 
  • ‘Safeguarding Deaf and Disabled Children in Sport’ resources 
  • ‘Case Management’ tool and training. 

The CPSU also delivers bespoke training to sports organisations in response to specific needs and facilitates/contributes to a range of conferences. 

Safeguarding in Sport (CHILDREN 1ST and sportscotland) Training

Safeguarding in Sport and sportscotland offer a number of workshops which cover the following:

  • ‘In Safe Hands’ workshop – aimed at sports club child protection officers 
  • Supporting Clubs to Keep Children Safe 
  • Identifying and Managing Risk 
  • Recruitment and Selection 
  • Managing the Disciplinary Process 
  • Reviewing Child Protection Concerns 
  • Involving Children in Decision Making 
  • Child Protection Briefing for Boards. 

Governing Body of Sport Training 

A number of governing bodies of sport have developed sport-specific safeguarding/child protection resources, training courses and/or workshops for coaches, staff and volunteers. Contact your governing body for further information. 

County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) 

CSPs facilitate or offer access to a number of UK Coaching workshops for local coaches and volunteers. Contact your local CSP for further information. 

LSCB Training 

In some areas, the LSCB provides access to basic multi-agency safeguarding/child protection courses for staff/volunteers in the sports sector. Contact your local LSCB for information. 

NSPCC Training 

The NSPCC provides a range of training courses for a variety of audiences, including regular courses, learning resources and bespoke training. More information can be found on the NSPCC website, by calling 0844-892 1026 or emailing [email protected] 

Other Useful Contacts

This section lists a selection of organisations that can provide support and guidance on child protection issues. 

Confidential Helplines 

If this resource has raised personal issues for you, the following organisations will be able to offer confidential help and advice: 

  • The Albany Trust (Tel: 020-8767 1827) They offer one-to-one counselling for people who have been sexually abused or suffer from psychological difficulties. 
  • ChildLine (Tel: 0800-1111) Confidential telephone advice for children who are being abused or are at risk – there are a number of ways to contact ChildLine, and more information is available on their website.

More Confidential Helplines

  • Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) (Tel: 0116-366 5590); email: [email protected]. NSPCC National Training Centre 3 Gilmour Close Beaumont Leys Leicester LE4 1EZ. This serves as a point of contact for sports clubs and individuals who need help and advice with safeguarding and child protection issues in sport. Guidance and downloadable materials are available on the website.
  • Contact NI (Tel: 0808-808 8000) Counselling service in Northern Ireland. 
  • Family Lives (Tel: 0808-800 2222) A national charity providing help and support in various aspects of family life. 
  • Local Rape Crisis Centres (England and Wales: Tel: 0808-802 9999; Scotland: Tel: 0808-801 0302; Northern Ireland: Tel: 1800-778 888) These centres offer help to survivors of abuse. You will find the number of your local centre in the telephone directory or on the websites above. 
  • Nexus Institute (Tel: 028-9032 6803) Offers counselling for adult survivors of sexual abuse in Northern Ireland. 
  • NSPCC (Tel: 0808-800 5000) The NSPCC provides advice and support for children who have been abused, and for adults or other children who are concerned that a child has been abused or is at risk of radicalisation. 
  • NSPCC Whistleblowing Advice Line (Tel: 0800-028 0285) Provides free advice for anyone concerned about how child protection issues are being handled in their organisation. 
  • Parent Line Scotland (Tel: 0800-028 2233; email [email protected]) This is a free and confidential helpline for parents. 
  • Safeguarding in Sport (CHILDREN 1ST and sportscotland) (Tel: 0141-418 5674; www.safeguardinginsport.org.uk) Safeguarding in Sport operates in Scotland and works in partnership with the CPSU to promote consistency and the sharing of good practice across the UK. 

Home Country Sports Councils 

In addition to seeking the advice of the governing body in your sport, the following organisations will also be able to offer help and advice: 

Sport England: 3rd Floor, Victoria House Bloomsbury Square London WC1B 4SE Tel: 020-7273 1551 Fax: 020-7383 5740 Email: [email protected] 

Sport Northern Ireland: House of Sport 2a Upper Malone Road Belfast BT9 5LA Tel: 028-9038 1222 Fax: 028-9068 2757 Email: [email protected]

sportscotland: Doges Templeton on the Green 62 Templeton Street Glasgow G40 1DA Tel: 0141-534 6500 Fax: 0141-534 6501 Email: sportscotland.enquiries@ sportscotland.org.uk 

Sport Wales: Sophia Gardens Cardiff CF11 9SW Tel: 0845-045 0904 Fax: 0845-846 0014 Email: [email protected]

UK Sport: 40 Bernard Street London WC1N 1ST Tel: 020-7211 5100 Fax: 020-7211 5246 Email: [email protected]

Other Organisations 

AccessNI: PO Box 1085 Belfast BT5 9BD Tel: 0300-200 7888 Email: [email protected] Website:

Central Registered Body in Scotland: Jubilee House Forthside Way Stirling FK8 1QZ Tel: 01786-849 777 Fax: 01786-849 767 Email: [email protected] 

CHILDREN 1ST: 83 Whitehouse Loan Edinburgh EH9 1AT Tel: 0131-446 2300 Fax: 0131-446 2339 Email: [email protected]

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety Northern Ireland: Castle Buildings Stormont Belfast BT4 3SJ Tel: 028-9052 0416/028-9052 2951 Email: [email protected]

Disclosure and Barring Service: For any disclosure application queries: PO Box 110 Liverpool L69 3EF Tel: 0870-9090 811 

For any barring referrals and safeguarding matters: PO Box 181 Darlington DL1 9FA Tel: 01325-953 795 

For all freedom of information, data protection and subject access requests, enquiries should be addressed to the relevant department at this address: PO Box 165 Liverpool L69 3JD 

Disclosure Scotland: PO Box 250 Glasgow G51 1YU Tel: 0870-609 6006 Fax: 0870-609 6996 Email: [email protected]

NSPCC: Weston House 42 Curtain Road London EC2A 3NH Tel: 020-7825 2505 Email: [email protected]

Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland: 18 Ormeau Road Belfast BT2 8HS Tel: 028-9031 1611 Email: [email protected]

Next Steps

Safeguarding & Protecting Children (Online Classroom)

Raise your awareness of the tell-tale signs of abuse.

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Safeguarding & Protecting Children (Workshop)

Interactive workshop to help coaches recognise poor practice and the red flags of abuse.

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Renewal: Safeguarding & Protecting Children

eLearning course to refresh and update your understanding of safeguarding at your convenience.

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Related Learning

  • Safeguarding and Protecting Children and Young People Renewal

  • Keeping Deaf and Disabled Children Safe in Sport

  • Keeping Safe in Sport: Safeguarding for Young Volunteers (13+)


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