Nothing else works if our kids are not safe, so we start there. There are threats in every youth sports environment. At DSC we acknowledge them, and take precautions to reduce those risks as much as possible. The big risks we see are:
Here's how we address them - one at a time.
Youth organizations can be fertile hunting grounds for sexual predators. It stands to reason that anywhere there are a large concentration of children would be attractive to these predators, so it is a basic responsibility to ensure our kids are safe from this threat.
We do this with a three pronged approach:
First, we require background investigations to be complete on all coaches, assistant coaches and volunteers who work directly with kids. Our investigations are done through the National Center for Safety Initiatives (found at www.NCSISafe.org). These checks include national, state and local criminal checks, sex offender registry checks, and verification of identity. A "green light" determination is required before volunteers are allowed to work youth. NCSI Safe has one mission: to protect vulnerable populations: youth, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Second, we monitor compliance on an ongoing basis. Our coaches, assistant coaches, and volunteers who work with youth must complete a background investigation no less than every 12 months. The investigation is updated 6 months from the initial application to ensure that everyone working with our kids are free from sexual crimes and other criminal activity. If the investigation is not done, they are not permitted to work with our kids unsupervised.
Third, we require child sexual abuse training no less than every two years (48 months). We've contracted with Darkness to Light (D2L), a not-for-profit dedicated to eliminating sexual abuse. D2L provides a 2 hour online training program as well as in-person group training. These sessions are intense!
While D2L is the service we pay for, we also accept a limited number of other child sexual abuse training programs such as the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) Youth Protection Training, Girl Scouts Youth Protection, and Montgomery County School System's Youth Protection training. Certificates must be provided as evidence of completion and the expiration date must fall after that last day in which that coach, assistant coach or volunteer will be working with our kids.
This short video introduces the D2L program:
Head or brain injuries are serious business. They're also often overlooked because they don't always show obvious outward signs. The long term damage that can come from large or even small repeated injuries can affect balance, coordination, ability to concentrate, performance in school, and even personality.
All coaches and assistant coaches are required to complete annual concussion training through the Center for Disease Control's Heads-Up concussion training program. Completion certificates are kept on file for each coach & refresher training is mandatory.
Parents are also encouraged to take the parent's module of this training to become better aware of the risks and prevention of these types of injuries.
US Youth Soccer has released New Rules To Protect Against Concussions. Parents and coaches are encouraged to read and become familiar with these rules. Officials are instructed to enforce them.
Watch the discussion between our Club President and the Executive Vice President of Unequal Technologies, the maker of head protective devices called "Halo."
Injuries can and do happen with youth sports of all types. Here are a few steps we take to reduce the risk for injury:
Boredom, overwhelm, unfair treatment, bullying, or bossy and overbearing behaviors ruin the youth sports experience for kids. They need to feel comfortable to do their best, to make mistakes, and that they need to feel like they are in good hands.
These behaviors can come from coaches, assistant coaches, volunteers, and even parents on the sidelines. Anyone who spends enough time watching youth sporting events will eventually see the barking coach or parent (the one who yells negative stuff all the time), or the "joystick" coach or parents (the one who treats the game as if he or she is controlling the players from the sidelines).
Good coaches and parents provide encouragement. They allow and even encourage mistakes to happen. They empower kids to think for themselves, to make decisions (good or bad), and to find their way on the field. They understand capabilities of any given age group and avoid activities or instruction that is either too advanced or too simple for the stage of kids they are working with.
One way to ensure that kids are getting proper instruction is to make sure that all coaches understand what is age-appropriate and what is not. We do this through providing education and guidance.
Licensing and certification programs give coaches and assistant coaches clear guidance on what to focus on at each age group. It gives coaches a library of resources to draw from and a guidebook to plan their seasons and individual sessions around.
Good judgement is still a huge part of effective coaching, but guidance from proven experts is an important tool in every coach's toolbox. Our coaches carry (and are encouraged to carry) licenses, certifications, and/or diplomas from many of the following organizations:
The Damascus Soccer Club provides at least one education opportunity per year for coaches. All coaches are encouraged to complete a license, certification, or diploma program.
Wearing of the coveted "Coach" title under the logo shield on a Club polo is limited to coaches who have completed at least a formal education program.
Through our network of great coaches and Club leadership, we are continuously on the lookout for bad coaching and/or parent behaviors. Club management circulates on the sidelines of nearly every game. Please feel free to engage anyone wearing a Club polo with the word "Coach" or other title beneath the shield.