Safer working practices for coaches working with young people
Player Welfare is World Rugby’s number one priority and with increasing numbers of children participating in the game world-wide, steps must be taken by all stake-holders to ensure that a child’s participation in rugby is a safe and enjoyable experience.
World Rugby continually reviews its policies and procedures with respect to child engagement and safeguarding. It is however the responsibility of each Union and Regional Association to determine its child welfare and protection policies in accordance with applicable legislation, codes of practice and best practice guidelines relevant to the jurisdictions in which it operates.
It is also the responsibility of the Union and/or Regional Association hosting and/or organising a tournament, event, meeting or programme at which there may be contact with children to ensure that visiting representatives from other jurisdictions are aware of and adhere to the applicable legislation, codes of practice and best practice guidelines in the host jurisdiction in relation to child protection and welfare, including, as appropriate, obtaining relevant clearances.
World Rugby is mindful that many stake-holders have specific policies in place relevant to their jurisdiction. To further support those wishing to develop their own policies, a range of external resources are available for consultation in multiple languages including:
- International Safeguards for Children in Sport:
- International Olympic Committee resources on safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse in sport:
As trusted adults, coaches have the duty to ensure the safety and well-being of children in their care, protecting them from physical, emotional, and sexual harm. Children have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Coaches should aim to develop respectful and caring relationships, demonstrating integrity, maturity, and good judgement. It also reduces the risk of being unjustly accused of improper or unprofessional conduct.
Coaches should listen to, and support children, but never promise to keep information a secret.
Power and position of trust
Coaches should not use their position to:
- Gain access to information for their own or others’ advantage
- Intimidate, bully, humiliate, threaten, coerce or undermine children.
Acting with integrity
All coaches working with children must maintain public respect and confidence in their ability to safeguard children’s welfare and best interests.
They must have high standards of personal conduct, and must be aware that behaviour in their personal lives (including behaviour and actions of family members) may impact or raise questions about their suitability to work with children (e.g. misuse of drugs, alcohol or acts of violence, etc.).
Dress and appearance
Coaches should wear clothing which is appropriate to their role and for the tasks and work they undertake. It should not be likely to be viewed as offensive, revealing or sexually provocative.
Coaches should avoid any physical contact when children are in a state of undress, and avoid changing in the same place as the children.
Privacy and one-to-one situation
No child should be invited into the home of an adult who works with them. Avoid any visually or physically intrusive behaviour.
Coaches and teachers should avoid staying alone with a child; reasonable and sensible precautions should be taken if a one-to-one situation occurs.
Gifts, rewards and favouritism
Coaches should ensure that gifts given or received are in line with school/club policy ( small thank-you gifts from children or parents are acceptable as long as it is not regular or of any significant value).
Coaches should take care when selecting children for specific activities or privileges to avoid perceptions of favouritism, unfairness or ‘grooming’.
Communication with children (including use of technology)
Keep all communication with children within professional boundaries; in particular, avoid giving personal social networking details to children (blogs, personal websites, social media, etc.).
Take care that the language remains professional and does not rise comment or speculation.
The use of sarcasm, demeaning or insensitive comments towards children is not acceptable in any situation.
Never touch a child in a way which may considered indecent; be aware that even well intentioned physical contact may be misconstrued by the child, an observer or by anyone to whom this action is described.
During activities that require physical contact (e.g. demonstrating scrum binding, etc.), inform and explain what you are going to do before initiating the contact.
Physical intervention should never be a form of punishment. If a coach believes that their actions could be misinterpreted, notify to and seek advice from the relevant authorities.
Similarly, when a child seeks or initiates inappropriate physical contact, handle sensitively considering the child’s needs, and notify to and seek advice from the relevant authorities.
Any sexual activity between an adult and a minor child (including physical contact and non-contact, e.g. watching sexual activity) is unlawful and a criminal offence in most countries. Such conducts would contravene World Rugby values.
Use of control and physical intervention
Use physical interventions with children with extreme behaviours only if it is necessary to prevent serious personal injury to the child or others, or serious damage to property.
Physical intervention should be proportional to the behaviour of the individual, and the nature of harm they may cause – minimum necessary force to maintain the safety and dignity of all concerned.
Children in distress
Coaches should use their professional judgement to comfort or reassure a child in distress in an appropriate way, whilst maintaining clear professional boundaries. Whenever possible, ensure that another adult is aware of the action being taken and inform the parents.
Preferably, a trained first-aider should look after an injured child or a child in distress, explaining what is being done and ALWAYS acting in the child’s best interests. Any administration of first aid should be recorded and reported.
If coaches are asked to transport children, they must ensure that they are clear about the procedures in place regarding insurance, safety, etc.
Photography and videos
Coaches are advised never take photos of children unless parents have given permission, and to avoid using mobiles or personal cameras.
Accessing, making and storing indecent images of children on the internet is illegal.
Coaches should report to the relevant authorities any behaviour by colleagues that raises concern. All allegations should be taken seriously and properly investigated by the proper authorities.