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Safeguarding in Sport Special Interest Group

'Towards a cultural shift in sports coaching: The case study of child-first coaching in a South East England football club'

22nd February 2024, 9:30am - 11:00am

Speaker: Dr Dikaia Chatziefstathiou

Chair: Dr Suzanne Everley

Understanding the landscape: Safeguarding in sport

Safeguarding in sport is important for fostering a secure and inclusive environment where athletes can thrive physically, mentally and emotionally. A robust safeguarding framework establishes trust, promotes fair play, and contributes to the overall positive development of athletes, fostering a culture where everyone can enjoy the benefits of sports in a safe and nurturing setting. 

Exploring child-first coaching

In the sport safeguarding discipline, child-first coaching has become a pivotal paradigm shift. Recognising children as active participants with unique perspectives, desires, and vulnerabilities is foundational to creating a coaching environment that truly prioritises their well-being. By actively involving children in decision-making processes, understanding their individual needs, and valuing their voices, coaching becomes not only a means of skill development but a vehicle for empowerment and personal growth. This approach not only safeguards against potential harm but fosters a positive sporting experience, where children not only feel protected but also actively engaged and heard in their sporting journey.

The session

In 2023, Dr. Dikaia Chatziefstathiou and Dr Laura Gubby undertook a small-scale preliminary investigation to examine how a ‘traditional’ football club understands coaching, and the potential for the adoption of child-first coaching ideas. Participants included 20 children from 8-15 years old, and three coaches between 35-48 years old - all based in a South-East England football club. 

In this session, Dr Chatziefstathiou will present their research project, and what their findings suggest about the potential of child-first coaching in sports. The session will unveil compelling insights into how traditional coaching experiences may impact players' acceptance of autonomous play and discuss the broader implications of child-first principles for coaching dynamics.

Don't miss your chance to be part of this transformative event, contributing to a safer, child-centred approach in sports.


The AoCPP is proud to be launching our 'Safeguarding in Sport' Special Interest Group. This group will meet periodically throughout the year to discuss how we can improve child protection and safeguarding practices within sports organisations.

This SIG will be chaired by Dr Suzanne Everley, Head of Sport Social Science and a Reader in the Sociology of Physical Education, Activity and Health at the University of Chichester. And we'll be bringing together professionals and organisations from different areas within child protection and sport to contribute and shape the SIGs work.

But what can you expect from this first meeting?

At our launch meeting we'll introduce the SIG and what you can expect from us, as well as hearing presentations from Dr Sam Warner, Paul Stephenson and Jennie Smith with plenty of time left over for Q&As and to hear your own perspectives.


Dr Suzanne Everley - “Listening to Children’s Voices in Sport Research and Practice”,

Dr Sam Warner - “Understanding and working with trauma: the importance in performance, mental health and safeguarding”,

Paul Stephenson - TBC.

Jennie Smith, Safeguarding Today- TBC

It is clear that much more work needs to be done for us to keep children and young people safe in sport settings, so we look forward to having you join the conversation.

Book a place at this event below.

Free for AoCPP members.