All national sports associations to have at least one safeguarding officer for athlete abuse by year end

With the topic of athlete abuse making headlines recently, Sport Singapore is increasing efforts to protect them from such misconduct and harassment.

The national agency is aiming to have at least one trained safeguarding officer in each NSA by the end of this year.
The national agency is aiming to have at least one trained safeguarding officer in each NSA by the end of this year.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE – With the topic of athlete abuse making headlines recently, Sport Singapore (SportSG) is increasing efforts to protect them from such misconduct and harassment.

The national agency is aiming to have at least one trained safeguarding officer in each national sports association (NSA) by the end of this year, and double this number by the end of next year.

The Safe Sport Commission was launched last year to look into preventive measures to safeguard athletes, coaches and other participants. 

Nearly 100 safeguarding officers have been trained and of the 64 NSAs, fewer than 10 have yet to appoint a safeguarding officer.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua also addressed the need for coaches to adapt to the evolving landscape of sports in Tuesday’s (Oct 20) opening day of the 2020 CoachSG Virtual Conference organised by SportSG.

To help coaches with this, a SportSG-Education and Development (SportSG ED) portal developed by SportSG and Republic Polytechnic will be launched by the end of the year, said Mr Chua. 

Through the portal, coaches can learn about sport science and new digital skills as well as access content from renowned coaching consultants and experts.

Mr Chua added: “As coaches, you need to be able to make sense of the evolving landscape of sports, learn from global best practices in coaching, and translate this into lessons that will shape the character, values and attitudes of those under your care.”

The release of Netflix documentary Athlete A in June on USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual assault of young athletes prompted many to come forward to share their own experiences of mental and physical ill treatment.

Among them were former Singaporean figure skater Yu Shuran and ex-national gymnast Eileen Chai, who spoke out about their experiences while training in China.

Mr Chua highlighted Singapore Swimming Association executive director Edwin Ker’s experience as one of three safeguarding officers at the association. “As part of his training programme, Edwin was taught how to identify the signs, practise responding to complaints of abuse, and gained insights into how to handle both parents and children,” he said.

The training has heightened Ker’s awareness of the additional precautions required in ensuring safe sport, and “how to communicate with his own children should they be unable to communicate clearly”, added Mr Chua. 

Ker, who has three children aged three to seven, said he feels assured and grateful the relevant authorities are taking the initiative to discuss safe sport and help NSAs enhance their standard operating procedure (SOP) in this area.

Ker told The Straits Times: “By educating the sporting fraternity... and driving a stronger awareness on the red flag behaviours, more stakeholders are aware and informed about the dos and don’ts, as well as the processes to report cases and incidences where necessary.”

National netball captain Charmaine Soh, 30, said that with proper SOPs in place, athletes can focus on playing sport instead of worrying about external factors. 

“If safeguarding officers know how to respond, I would feel encouraged because I know that things will be handled well and more athletes would come forward if they are assured that the safeguarding officers can do their jobs well,” she added.

Besides training more safeguarding officers, SportSG will also launch online modules on safe sport as a part of its coach education courses by the end of this year. 

The 2020 CoachSG conference runs until Thursday. Other speakers include former swimmer and mixed martial arts fighter May Ooi and former national sprinter C. Kunalan.