As a club welcoming people back, it is important to understand how children and parents feel about returning. Recognising that children and families will have had many different experiences during lockdown could mean you need to consider the support you have in place to help.
Research has shown the variety of experiences and difficulties some young people have faced due to COVID-19 restrictions, from coping with difficult family relationships, feelings of loneliness and a lack of structure, through to increased risks of abuse. As well as inherent risks to safety, these experiences have also resulted in declining mental health and wellbeing.
Having access to a safe environment, feeling involved and connected, and having supportive relationships can both prevent and reverse any harmful effects of adverse experiences. Sports clubs and activities can provide the friendships, interests, learning and health which contribute to a young person’s ability to ‘bounce back’ from hard times.
However, it is important to consider the psychological barriers that may still prevent people from participating fully, despite the benefits. We can help to reduce these when we remain non-judgmental and empowering, and place importance on Customer skills, Awareness, Respect and Empathy (CARE).
These values should be at the core of any club’s approach to safeguarding. As well as ensuring that everyone is aware of reporting and recording procedures, welfare officers are central to a club’s child-centred environment. This role should also now extend to ensuring that clubs are considerate of children’s various emotional states as they return.
We all have a duty to care. Keeping children’s safety, wellbeing, and mental health at the heart of your planning can ensure you create an experience that is supportive of everyone who may be experiencing negative emotions about the possibility of playing sport again.
Provide a feeling of safety
- Create structure and routine through familiar and enjoyable activities
- Allow young people time and space to settle back in and adjust
- Appoint someone to check in with participants to build trust and enable them to reconnect
Think about the words you use
- Use simple and positive language
- Prioritise active listening and empathetic responses
- Promote the positives of the return in a reassuring and unpressurised way
Listen and adapt
- Encourage young people to talk to each other about their experiences
- Involve everyone in discussions and decision making
- Seek feedback and collaborate to arrive at a solution together