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First-Ever SafeSport Summit Wraps In Denver

By Trisha Mathis | April 23, 2014, 7:33 p.m. (ET)

Melanie Lockwood Herman presents at the United States Olympic Committee’s first-ever SafeSport Summit in Denver. The three-day summit took place April 21-23 and included more than 130 participants from various sport organizations and 26 National Governing Bodies.

More than 130 participants from 26 National Governing Bodies and various sport organizations attended the United States Olympic Committee’s first-ever SafeSport Summit in Denver, April 21-23. With discussion centered on abuse in sport, the summit’s content was heavy, but the stories left each attendee inspired to take action — a nod to the SafeSport program’s take-action approach.

In 2010, after realizing the need for an entity to combat misconduct within the sport community, the USOC created the Working Group for Safe Training Environments and tasked it with developing a set of recommendations regarding misconduct in sport. USOC’s Director of SafeSport and Ethics Malia Arrington has spearheaded the program since its inception.

“We’ve taken a team-centered approach to putting SafeSport at the forefront of our programming,” said Arrington. “To do so, we’re collaborating to improve our practices and deliver a consistent message.”

During the three-day summit — which was the culmination to a 12-month campaign targeted on abuse in sport — participants heard from speakers on topics including the prevalence of child sexual abuse, how to identify certain risks associated with abuse, proper procedures for managing a crisis and abuse prevention and response techniques.

Tuesday night’s dinner ended with a keynote speech from former NFL defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann, whose life story and educational coaching philosophy inspired an entire room of experts to rethink their own coaching and teaching philosophies. Ehrmann founded Coach for America, an organization focused on transforming lives positively through sports, and has spent more than 30 years teaching his revolutionary concepts of leadership, coaching, team-building and mentoring, which he explains in detail in his new book, “InsideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives.”

Speaker Keith Kaufman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Portland State University, presented findings from a three-year pilot project. Funded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the study analyzed the Situational Prevention Approach — a no-cost prevention strategy that can be tailored to the needs of each local sport club — applied to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

“The ability to impact such an incredibly huge number of children and teenagers and families is an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often,” Dr. Kaufman said following his presentation. “My hope is they get excited about the idea of having a simple, practical and effective tool that can support their local affiliates. Something that if it were in place, would allow coaches, parents and kids to work together to create a safer environment.”

Michael Massik, the executive director of USA Weightlifting and a member of the SafeSport Working Group, said the Summit has created a sense of community in the sport world.

“It allowed me to interact with my peers and with those that are ahead of me in the evolution of this program,” he said. “If we in sports can work together to keep the bad people from coming into the sport world, then we’ve had a great measure of success. Bad people are out there, and we’re not going to stop them or fix them, but we can make them go someplace else. And we can make it too hard for them to come to us.”

Massik added that working for a sport organization comes with a natural duty to protect all athletes from all forms of misconduct.

“As leaders of NGBs, we’re entrusted to shepherd our sport,” he said, “and part of that shepherding means that we have to keep our participants of all ages safe. If we don’t do it, we’re shirking our responsibility.”