Source: U.S. Olympic Committee

The U.S. Olympic Committee today announced the launch of Safe Sport, a welfare training program aimed at improving the safety of athletes. The program is the latest step taken by the USOC to implement the recommendations of its Working Group for Safe Training Environments. "Sport offers children immeasurable benefits, whether it's learning the value of teamwork and fair play, or simply gaining from a healthy and active lifestyle," said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. "As sport administrators, it's our job to provide opportunities for young athletes to compete and to ensure that they can do so in a safe and secure environment. That requires constant vigilance and the U.S. Olympic Committee is committed to provide leadership, energy and resources in the effort to safeguard children." In 2010, the USOC convened the Working Group for Safe Training Environments and charged it with the task of developing a set of recommendations concerning misconduct in sport. The diverse group, which included individuals from the Olympic family as well as external experts, focused on four primary objectives:

~Address sexual and physical misconduct in sport ~Review the guidelines across sport and sport-related organizations for responding to these issues~Assess the needs of athletes, coaches, staff, National Governing Bodies, clubs and other sport organizations~Develop a set of recommendations to promote athlete well-being

Based on the group's report, the USOC hired a director of safe sport in 2011 charged with developing a robust program to address misconduct in sport by providing information, training and resources. The immediate Safe Sport resource being made available is an 80-page handbook titled "Recognizing, Reducing and Responding to Misconduct in Sport: Creating Your Strategy," which aims to guide the development, implementation and internal review of effective athlete welfare and misconduct prevention strategies for local, regional and national sport organizations. The handbook, developed in consultation with the NGB Council and its Safe Sport Taskforce, has been distributed to each of the NGBs in the U.S. Olympic family and is endorsed by the full NGB Council.

"This handbook will serve as a helpful guide to all NGBs as they create policies and procedures to ensure that young athletes have every opportunity to participate in sport while ensuring that the training environment is safe and secure," said Ron Van Pool, chairman of the NGB Council's Safe Sport Task Force. "Every sport and every sport organization is different. This handbook recognizes that fact and provides for the appropriate application of different strategies for different organizations, all of which serve the goal of protecting athletes."

In addition to the handbook, a new website is in the final stages of development and will be launched later this month. It will offer downloadable material, including the handbook, best policies and procedure practices, a professionally produced video certification training program and other resources to identify the potential signs of abuse, the environments in which abuse can occur, and direction on how to raise a red flag before any inappropriate behavior occurs. Finally, recognizing that legal guidance and assistance will be required in some instances, a Safe Sport Legal Referral Network has been formed thanks to a group of generous firms and legal professionals committed to providing legal support to NGBs, free of charge, to aid them in appropriately investigating claims of athlete maltreatment.

Emily Attwood is Managing Editor of Athletic Business.