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Safety and Welfare Supporting Specific Needs

No Sport Without Safeguarding: Athletics Coach is a Champion of Participant Welfare

A UK Coaching Hero Award winner who knows what it means to go above and beyond for his athletes, Roddy Slater is urging more coaches across the UK to recognise that in amongst medals and competitive success, athlete experience and safety must come first

Speaking during UK Coaching Week and the launch of UK Coaching’s Duty to Care Hub, Roddy sees the true value of coaching as ensuring the happiness and safety of his participants. Working with athletes and participants from vulnerable backgrounds, he deals directly with issues arising from drug use, anti-social behaviour, and truancy, to body dysmorphia and anxiety-related health concerns.

As a coach, Roddy has worked with medal winners and future stars on the track, and has attended major competitions, and his experiences have shown him that great coaching is found in mastering the principles of care for your participants. That's how to create safe, inclusive and welcoming environments to help them reach their true potential.

Having mentored vulnerable young people since 2007, and coached since the age of 18, Roddy started his RawMentoring business to address the need to support young people struggling with their education through sport.

Roddy received the UK Coaching Heroes Award for his outstanding work in the Reading community during lockdown. Now, he is calling for more coaches to show their incredible worth to communities and support more people to make significant positive changes to their lives by prioritising safeguarding in sport and physical activity.

The background many of the young people I work with come from presents its own unique challenges. In a lot of cases in my local community, they might not have the voice to be honest about what is happening."

It’s not uncommon for coaches supporting people facing these challenges to find themselves facing a range of difficult issues. When asked how coaches can manage that position and effectively support your participants, he makes it clear that you need to take the time to develop knowledge in this area.

"We are here to address the issues of neglect, child abuse, grooming, and the net effect of social media in today’s world. As a coach, it is so important that you’re aware of safeguarding issues, you’re educated to deal with them and you understand how essential it is to do that."

Roddy adds that coaches are in a position to establish a safe, empowering environment in which participants can develop their skills in sport and physical activity and are enabled to express how they feel.

In a space where they feel comfortable, we can help them voice their anxieties and frustrations, which is so important for their broader development. In any session, there will be a plan for what they are working towards, but we look to adapt to best meet their needs, depending on what they might be feeling or going through."

Roddy’s firm focus on athlete support aligned to the six pillars of Duty to Care (Diversity, Inclusion, Mental Health and Well-being, Physical Well-being, Safeguarding and Safe to Practice) helps to establish a transformative environment characterised by wraparound, holistic care. 

"We deal with a lot of children in care, so communication across professionals really helps with the processes. Our primary focus is giving young people a voice. They absolutely need to feel that they can express any concerns to a trusted adult."

Roddy asserts that understanding safeguarding is essential to coaching and to prioritising each individual and putting their needs at the heart of coaching practice.

For me, safeguarding is your starting point as a coach. It’s not just about their sporting performance, it’s looking at everyone as individuals to put their overarching welfare first. I want coaches at every level to know that it’s so important that you stay educated, you make this a priority, because looking after our young people and giving them the best platform to develop is the most important thing."

Coaches like Roddy are championing a system of individualised care management that extends to everyone, from practitioner to parent to participant. UK Coaching's Duty to Care Hub contains a wealth of resources to aid this fundamental endeavour, and to help coaches from all sports and environments embed and reinforce this caring ethos in your coaching practice.

Duty to Care: Safeguarding

Help children, young people and adults, from grass-roots through to high performance level, feel safe and protect them from harmful practice in sport and physical activity

GO TO THE SAFEGUARDING PILLAR

Related Resources

  • Safeguarding Adults: Responding to Concerns

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  • The ‘Three Rs’ of Safeguarding Adults

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  • Safeguarding Adults: Your Questions Answered

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