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Speaking Out & Reporting

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Speaking out about safeguarding and welfare issues involving young athletes can be challenging and there are various scenarios that put both athletes and parents in a difficult position. Weighing up what’s at stake by raising a concern should not, in an ideal world, be part of the equation... but this isn’t an ideal world, and some factors do cause athletes and parents to think twice about speaking out.

Here are some reasons why concerns often remain unreported:

Risk of losing friends:

  • If the athlete is otherwise happy in their training group, you may feel you’ll risk them losing those friendships and that set-up.

Feeling indebted:

  • If a coach is an unpaid volunteer, you may feel indebted to them making it difficult to raise concerns.

Lost opportunities:

  • If the training group is a high-level one, you may feel you’ll risk your athlete losing out on important opportunities.

Fear of retaliation:

  • Those who speak out may fear reprisals, such as negative consequences from coaches, organizations, or peers. They may worry about being ostracized or facing retaliation that could impact their athletic career or personal relationships.


Lack of awareness or understanding:

  • Knowing whether behaviours or situations constitute a safeguarding concern can cause doubt. Parents of young athletes especially should educate themselves about the signs of abuse, grooming tactics, or their athlete’s rights. If in doubt, question it.

Power dynamics and influence:

  • Coaches, trainers, or officials often hold positions of authority and influence over young athletes. This power dynamic can create a sense of dependency, making it challenging for athletes to come forward and report concerns about those in positions of authority

Stigma and shame:

  • Victims of abuse or harassment may experience feelings of shame, guilt, or self-blame. The stigma associated with being a survivor of abuse can deter individuals from speaking out, fearing judgment or disbelief from others.

Limited support systems:

  • Young athletes may feel there are no individuals they trust to disclose safeguarding concerns. They might not have access to appropriate reporting channels or may be unaware of the procedures in place to address such issues.

Cultural or societal norms:

  • Cultural or societal beliefs and norms can influence attitudes towards reporting safeguarding concerns. In some cases, there may be a reluctance to acknowledge or address these issues openly, leading to silence and continuation of abuse.


Expert Guidance

Athletes and parents must be able to trust those in positions of responsibility. How sport is regulated has to change. By not talking publicly about our own experiences, nothing changes, so we’ve decided to do so. We’re also doing this in the hope that it both helps other athletes and parents who may be in a similar situation and educates those who haven’t yet come across this sad side of sport.

The Fear of Speaking Out:

Cheryl Higgins, Mother of Ben, Team GB 400m.

Reporting Issues is not Straightforward - Our Experience:

Cheryl Higgins, Mother of Ben, Team GB 400m.

Speaking out to Stop Abuse:

Cheryl Higgins, Mother of Ben, Team GB 400m.

Reporting Safeguarding Concerns:

Joe and Caroline Fuggle

How & Where to Report Safeguarding Concerns

Our Safeguarding Tips with Hindsight:

Cheryl Higgins, Mother of Ben, Team GB 400m.


Reporting Concerns

The first point of contact when reporting an issue (or an initial concern) will normally be your club’s Welfare Officer. Their contact details should be available on your club’s website.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to bypass the club, there will be, again hopefully, an Online Safeguarding Concern Form available on your Governing body’s website which will be processed by the Safeguarding Team.




Our Advice


  • Don’t ever be too scared to raise concerns and question anything that doesn’t look/feel right. These athletes are your children.

  • Be brave enough to question and/or confront.

  • Don’t ever feel you can’t speak out.

  • You know your athlete better than anyone. Look out for the warning signs that suggest things aren’t right.

  • Always listen to your athlete and take their concerns seriously.

  • Voice and/or report any concerns to your club’s welfare officer, every club will have one.

  • Beware of the trust trap.

  • Follow your gut feeling. Trust your instinct. A parent’s instinct is usually right.


Take Home Point


Fear of speaking out is a common problem across all sports and there’s no doubt, the process urgently needs to be made easier.

Doubting whether an issue you are concerned about actually constitutes a safeguarding concern can be a parent’s biggest hurdle. In situations like this, the golden rule is to trust your parental instincts and, if in doubt, question it.

Oh, and beware of the ‘trust trap’…

Note: We have used the word ‘coach’ as a relatable example, to represent anyone who performs/attempts abusive behaviours within a sporting context.

It’s important that both you and your athlete understand that the vast majority of coaches and support staff are genuine, lovely people, who often give their time and expertise free of charge… and only want the very best for your young athlete.

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