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Safeguarding in Sport SIG | Towards a Cultural Shift in Sports Coaching: The case study of child-first coaching in a South-East England football club

A digital download of this Safeguarding in Sport Special Interest Group Meeting. Safeguarding in Sport SIG Meeting | Towards a...
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A digital download of this Safeguarding in Sport Special Interest Group Meeting.

Safeguarding in Sport SIG Meeting | Towards a Cultural Shift in Sports Coaching: The case study of child-first coaching in a South-East England football club

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 and Dr Gubby present their research project, and what their findings suggest about the potential of child-first coaching in sports. The session unveils compelling insights into how traditional coaching experiences may impact players’ acceptance of autonomous play and discusses the broader implications of child-first principles for coaching dynamics.

Dr. Dikaia Chatziefstathiou is Director of the Sport, Human Rights and Safeguarding Research Group that is committed to conducting high quality, values-led research to improve health, wellbeing, and welfare for those working and participating in sport. 

She is Reader in Olympic Studies & the Social Analysis of Sport, and Director of Research Environment in the School of Psychology and Life Sciences in Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. 

She is the author of the book Discourses of Olympism: From the Sorbonne 1894 to London 2012 published by Palgrave (2012; co-authored with Professor Ian Henry) and the Editor-in-Chief of the Routledge Handbook of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (2020). She has edited several books in relation to Olympic Studies, e.g., on Olympism, Olympic values and Olympic Education. 

She has also written the storytelling book Imagine my Stories for Peace containing five stories for inspiring young people to embody the Olympic values in their lives (2016; published by the International Olympic Truce Centre). 

In her more recent work, she is unpacking some of the diverse issues of abuse and harassment in sport. She is the winner of the inaugural Coubertin Prize 2008 awarded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee (IPCC) for her qualitative research on Pierre de Coubertin’s writings and speeches.

Dr Laura Gubby is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport, and the Postgraduate Research Lead for Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her primary research interests relate to gender and physical activity, and the use of ethical research methodologies with children. Current research projects focus on safety perceptions of women who run, and a rights-based approach to the coaching of children in sports. As an active member of the Sport, Human Rights and Safeguarding Research Group at Canterbury Christ Church University, she contributes to the continuous development of research knowledge and culture around this topic area; actively participates in seminars; and engages with external organisations, postgraduate students, and other researchers and academics in relevant fields. She has published in a variety of high impact journals, such as: Sport, Education and Society; Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy; Sport in Society; and Studies in Higher Education.

About the video

Video length: 116 minutes

Featuring: Dr Suzanne Everley (Chair), Dr. Dikaia Chatziefstathiou, Dr Laura Gubby, AoCPP staff and event delegates.

Additional information

What our members say

My membership is something I value as I work in academia, my knowledge and expertise is enhanced by the AoCPP community itself and the Child Abuse Review journal. I enjoy and receive great benefit from the opportunity to attend conference events and Congress to "tap into" cutting edge research and evidence of best practice nationally and internationally, all of which benefit the students on my teaching programmes and my own research and publications

Claire Richards, Lecturer, National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse (NCSPVA) Worcester.