Creating a safe, healthy and fun space in sport is crucial and for nearly a decade Sask Sport has been sure to support Provincial Sport Organizations in helping to deliver the necessary training through Respect in Sport.
Since 2012, Sask Sport with the support of the Government of Saskatchewan has partnered with Respect Group to deliver mandatory training Respect in Sport for coaches and activity leaders. The cost of the training is covered for all users and sport organizations across the province are reaping the benefits of ensuring safe and respectful environments.
“A safe sport environment is the foundation for a positive sport experience for all participants including athletes, coaches, officials, administrators, and parents,” says David Robertson, Executive Director of Coaches Association of Saskatchewan. “Sport programs that value safe sport policies and procedures ensure that interactions between participants are respectful, inclusive, and most of all, fun. In my experience, programs that value safe sport by creating positive environments have more participant satisfaction, less conflict, and greater overall success.”
Recently, Respect in Sport training has added additional programming to include information on discrimination such as systemic racism, unconscious bias, and microaggressions to help stay relevant to today’s society. Although Respect in Sport training is mandatory for all coaches in the province, many other individuals are taking advantage of this program.
I think it’s very important for amateur sport communities to embrace safe sport. It does not just have to do with abuse and prevention. There are a lot of things for all of us to take note of to keep our children safe, healthy and happy. Coaches are learning something and can apply it to their coaching style and have education on what to watch out for.Klara Miller, CEO of Gymnastics Saskatchewan on the importance for the Respect in Sport program
Last year, approximately 3,300 new certificates were issued under the Respect in Sport program in addition to 285 being recertified. Since 2013, nearly 55,000 participants have taken advantage of this program.
Respect in Sport program may sound like a wide encompassing term but leaders at Gymnastics Saskatchewan, a pioneer in safe sport training, understand that it is much deeper than that.
“I think it’s very important for the amateur sport communities to embrace safe sport,” says Klara Miller, CEO of Gymnastics Saskatchewan. “It does not just have to do with abuse and prevention. There are a lot of things for all of us to take note of to keep our children safe, healthy and happy. Coaches are learning something and can apply it to their coaching style and have education on what to watch out for.”
Fundamentals of the Respect in Sport programming include assisting leaders who interact with youth at any level to become more confident in identifying and dealing with bullying, abusive, harassing and discriminating behaviour. It provides information about the physical and emotional development of youth, strategies for positive communications, dealing with concussion and other types of injuries among much more. More knowledge also mitigates liability for leaders as well.
“It’s all about confidence building,” says Faye Matt, CEO of Special Olympics Saskatchewan. “Respect in Sport offers these tools to empower folks to be able to lead with knowledge that they can make things better even if it means having uncomfortable conversations or admitting to themselves that they can make a program better.”
Both Gymnastics Saskatchewan and Special Olympics Saskatchewan have more than 600 coaches or leaders who work directly with youth in each of their organizations – all who have taken the mandatory training. Both organizations encourage staff, board members, and other volunteers working directly with athletes to take the program.
“Because our programs are run by grassroot volunteers across the province, it’s so important that our volunteers feel like they have the right tools to create a safe and welcoming environment for our athletes,” Matt explains.
Miller and Matt both agree that Respect in Sport program is much more than just checking a box as a pre-requisite to coach. It is about having knowledge, developing confidence, and understanding the importance of different vulnerabilities that has the ability to enhance athletes’ lives.