Abuse in Youth Athletics Expert Article

Youth athletics, be it a team or individual sport, presents a unique environment and a distinct set of power dynamics whereby minors under the age of 18 are training and competing under the guidance of adult coaches. In recent years, high-profile instances of abuse and misconduct have entered the public discourse, leading to the development of regulations and policies to address abuse and misconduct in youth sports.

In this article, David Ester explores the topic of abuse in youth athletics from the perspective of his forensic investigations, as guided by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Abuse in Youth Athletics: Investigating Sexual, Physical, and Emotional Abuse

At the forefront of the endeavor to protect the safety and well-being of young athletes stands the U.S. Center for SafeSport. The U.S. Center for SafeSport was created as the primary entity for safeguarding athletes and organizations against misconduct.

Grounded in federal legislation with the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 and recognized by Congress, USOPC, and NGBs, it serves as an entity that develops standards, guidelines, and best practices in the domain of athlete safety.

Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies (MAAPP)

Central to the mission of the U.S. Center for SafeSport is the implementation of the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies (MAAPP), which are proactive prevention and training policies for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Movement. These policies outline requirements and responsibilities for all entities operating within the sports domain.

The MAAPP comprises three core components:

  1. Education & Training Policy: Mandating training for Adult Participants within the Olympic & Paralympic Movement who have regular contact with minor athletes, ensuring they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to prevent abuse.
  2. Required Prevention Policies: Enforcing measures to limit one-on-one interactions between Adult Participants and Minor Athletes, mitigating the risk of misconduct.
  3. Recommended Prevention Policies: Providing additional guidelines to bolster existing safeguarding measures, tailored to the unique needs of each sport and organization.

The MAAPP complements the SafeSport Code by focusing on proactive prevention measures, such as education and training policies and limitations on one-on-one interactions between adult participants and minor athletes. It serves as a vital tool in enhancing athlete safety within the Olympic & Paralympic Movement.

The MAAPP applies to a spectrum of individuals and organizations within the Olympic & Paralympic Movement. Minor Athletes, defined as amateur athletes under 18 years of age participating in sanctioned events or programs under the purview of governing bodies, are at the heart of the policy's protective scope.

Adult Participants, encompassing members, employees, and board members of relevant organizations, are tasked with upholding these safeguarding standards.

Organizations are mandated to ensure compliance with the MAAPP, with regular audits conducted to uphold standards. Both organizations and individual participants share the responsibility for adhering to these policies, with violations subject to sanctions under the SafeSport Code.

The SafeSport Code includes various forms of prohibited conduct, encompassing, among others, child abuse, sexual misconduct, emotional and physical misconduct. Participants and organizations in the Olympic movement are obliged to adhere to the standards, guidelines, and best practices outlined; and organizations must incorporate these provisions into their frameworks.

Conducting Internal Investigations

As an expert specializing in abuse cases within youth sports, conducting a thorough investigation is crucial to laying the groundwork for the case analysis. This process includes:

  1. Defining the scope of the investigation in collaboration with legal counsel and relevant stakeholders.
  2. Clearly outlining the specific allegations or concerns that need to be addressed and the objectives of the investigation.
  3. Understanding the scope to ensure that the investigation remains focused and efficient.

Documentation and Discovery Materials Relevant to Abuse/Misconduct Investigations

There can be a variety of data and documentation related to the allegations of abuse. This may include written complaints, incident reports, witness statements, medical records, and any other relevant documentation.

It's essential to obtain as much detail as possible to fully understand the nature and scope of the allegations. After considering all available materials, the investigation would identify key individuals involved in the case. This typically includes the alleged victim(s), accused perpetrator(s), witnesses to the alleged incidents, and relevant staff members or coaches.

Review of Policies and Procedures

An expert evaluation may include a review of the organization's policies and procedures specifically related to athlete safety, abuse prevention, and misconduct reporting.

This may include:

  • Codes of conduct
  • Athlete protection policies
  • Background check procedures for staff and volunteers
  • Reporting protocols for allegations of abuse

Policies or guidelines specific to interactions between adults and minor athletes, as well as procedures for responding to and investigating allegations of abuse are considered.

Determination of Compliance

When appropriate, an assessment may be made to determine the extent of the organization's policies and procedures and if they were followed in the specific incident under investigation.

  • Were there any deviations from established protocols or failures to adhere to safeguarding guidelines?
  • Were there any gaps or deficiencies in the organization's policies that may have contributed to the alleged abuse, or allowed it to go unchecked?

These gaps could include inadequate training for staff and volunteers, lack of supervision protocols, or ineffective reporting processes.

By conducting a thorough review of policies and procedures, valuable insights into the organizational processes can be analyzed.

Abuse in Youth Sports Expert Witness Investigations

The experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained to conduct investigations when allegations of abuse in youth sports are brought forward. The scope of our investigations will typically include an analysis of all relevant information and documentation, a review of policies and procedures, and a determination of Compliance with the standard of care provided by SafeSport and MAAP.

Submit an inquiry or call 800.813.6736 to discuss your case with an expert.

Featured Expert

David Ester, Weightlifting & Fitness Facilities Expert

David Ester

Weightlifting & Fitness Facilities Expert
David Ester (Sergeant, US Army Retired) is an expert in weightlifting and fitness facility operations. As an International level USA Weightlifting (USAW) coach, his expertise spans the full scope of… read more.


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