Child Protection and Safeguarding in Martial Arts and Sport

Every-day millions of people participate in sport and martial arts. Every discipline needs its coaches, volunteers, referees, and organisers to ensure the success of the activity and its ongoing development. Sport and martial arts are a positive experience for most, it develops social networks, confidence, skills, and knowledge. For others, the experience is negative.

Safeguarding children in sport and martial arts has been given too little attention by many clubs for a considerable amount of time. Unfortunately, history has shown us that incidents have occurred where children have been harmed, either mentally, physically, or sexually. The most common reactions being that, it does not happen at this club, it’s someone else’s responsibility or is an isolated incident.

These three attitudes are often classified as:

  • Denial
  • Blame
  • Minimisation
These typical responses leave children, coaches, clubs, sports bodies, funding bodies and governments isolated, vulnerable and, in the long term, severely affected.

Safeguarding children has both a preventive and reactive component; ensuring effective policies, practices and procedures are in place to limit harm occurring, as well as having measures in place to report, investigate and deal with suspicions and incidents.

Since 2017 most World Governments have been quick to responded to a United Nations mandate regarding the safety of children. The task of ensuring a totally risk-free environment is huge, there are still gaps everywhere for people with bad intent to slip through, and unfortunately its the criminal that knows these gaps best, leaving the community stunned when something happens. Health and safety must begin and end with us, it doesn’t matter if you are a parent, volunteer, employee, athlete, coach, referee or administrator, every person has a duty to do their part in protecting the young participants of their industry.

Member Protection

Member protection is a term now widely used in the sport and martial arts industry to describe the practices that they put in place to protect all of their members from discrimination, harassment, abuse, and other inappropriate behaviour.

Member protection is important for any organisation – member protection must be proactive and reactive.  It allows members to participate in your program in an environment that is positive, safe and secure.

Organisations now are encouraged to adopt a “Member Protection Policy” (MPP) – a core policy document that describes in detail the key elements that make up the document. Whilst many clubs and associations ‘default’ their MPP to their state or national body policy, it is wise to develop your own MPP as all circumstances are different and many organisations now are private businesses.  

Having your own “Member Protection Policy” is not only about child protection, but also about addressing a range of contingencies before they happen. A MPP should cover but not be limited to the following: –

Club Responsibilities Adopting and distributing the policy to all staff members

Individual Responsibilities Including: – Duty statements, code of behaviour, mandatory reporting requirements, professional development

Protection of Children Including: – Child Protection, Supervision, Transportation, Taking Images of Children, Social media policies

Social welfare Including: – Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying, Hazing

Inclusive Practices Including: – People with a Disability, People from Diverse Cultures, Sexual & Gender Identity, Pregnancy, Girls playing in boys teams

Responding to Complaints Including: – Complaints, Complaint Handling Process, Disciplinary Measures

Coach Check provide a FREE template to help you adopt your own Member Protection Policy. All organisations are different, so you should examine all of the policies and remove the ones that don’t apply and maybe add some that do. The important thing is to get one started and move forward re-assured and positive.

Go to and register as a coach. You will find the Member Protection Policy in the “Step 4” section of the Coach dashboard.

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