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Safety and ethics

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Coaches should display ethical behaviour at all times, and ensure the welfare of participants is paramount.

Increasingly, coaches are required to face ethical issues such as sportsmanship, doping in sport, cheating, bullying, eating disorders, respect for officials, abuse of power, harassment and judging when an athlete should return to sport after an injury.

Coaches should be conscious that they are in a position of power in regard to the participants they coach. It is essential coaches operate professionally and with integrity in their relationships with people who are participating in or associated with their sport. 

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has developed a Coach's Code of Behaviour which provides a standard for all coaches.  Accredited coaches are required to sign on to the Coach's Code of Behaviour.

The coach’s code of behaviour is a positive document for all coaches. It affirms a coach’s support for the concepts of responsibility, trust, competence, respect, safety, honesty, professionalism, equity and sportsmanship. The code also provides a reference point for clubs, parents, athletes, schools and employers to expect that a coach will demonstrate appropriate standards of behaviour.

Coach Code of Behaviour

Safety and Health of Participants
• Place the safety and welfare of the participants above all else.
• Be aware of and support the sport’s injury management plans and return to play guidelines.

Coaching excellence
• Help each person (athlete, official, etc) to reach their potential.  Respect the talent, developmental stage and goals of each person and encourage them with positive and constructive feedback.
• Encourage and support opportunities for people to learn appropriate behaviours and skills.
• Support opportunities for participation in all aspects of the sport.
• Treat each participant as an individual.
• Obtain appropriate qualifications and keep up-to-date with the latest coaching practices and the principles of growth and development of participants.

Honour the sport
• Act within the rules and spirit of your sport.
• Promote fair play over winning at any cost.
• Respect the decisions of officials, coaches and administrators.
• Show respect and courtesy to all involved with the sport.
• Display responsible behaviour in relation to alcohol and other drugs.

• Act with integrity and objectivity, and accept responsibility for your decisions and actions.
• Ensure your decisions and actions contribute to a harassment-free environment.
• Wherever practical, avoid unaccompanied and unobserved one-on-one activity (when in a supervisory capacity or where a power imbalance exists) with people under the age of 18.
• Ensure that any physical contact with another person is appropriate to the situation and necessary for the person's skill development.
• Be honest and do not allow your qualifications or coaching experience to be misrepresented.
• Never advocate or condone the use of illicit drugs or other banned performance enhancing substances or methods.
• Never participate in or advocate practices that involve match fixing.

• Respect the rights and worth of every person, regardless of their age, race, gender, ability, cultural background, sexuality or religion.
• Do not tolerate abusive, bullying or threatening behaviour.

Code of behaviour agreement form

All coaches wishing to become registered with the NCAS are required to sign an individualised coach’s code of behaviour agreement form. This form requires coaches to:

  • agree to abide by the code of behaviour of the relevant national sporting organisation and/or training provider. The Australian Sports Commission has developed a coach’s code of behaviour. National sporting organisations and training providers must use this code unless they develop their own.
  • acknowledge that the national sporting organisation and/or training provider may take disciplinary action against them, if they breach the code of behaviour (national sporting organisation and training providers are required to implement a complaints handling procedure in accordance with the principles of natural justice, in the event of an allegation).
  • acknowledge that disciplinary action against them may include de-accreditation from the NCAS.

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Child protection for coaches

  • Child protection is a complex subject with a number of strategies involved. It includes policies and practices put in place to keep children safe from harm — from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect.
  • Child-protection legislation sets out how child abuse should be reported and investigated, and imposes obligations on people dealing with children. This includes a requirement in most states and territories for people working with children, such as coaches, to undergo a national criminal history check (in other words, be screened) to determine their suitability for working with children.
  • Most state and territory legislation also requires specific persons to report reasonable suspicions of children being abused or neglected. Individuals working with children including teachers — and in some states and territories, coaches — are required by law to report any suspicions of child abuse or maltreatment, including neglect.

Tips for coaches to protect children

There are actions a coach can take to ensure children feel safe and protected when participating in sport. These good coaching practices include the following:

  • use positive reinforcement and acceptable language when talking about or to a child
  • develop a calm and non-confrontational behaviour management style
  • make any physical contact with children and adults in a way that makes them feel comfortable, for example, shaking hands and a congratulatory pat on the back. If a coach must make physical contact with participants as part of an activity, then they should explain the activity and what they will do, and ask for the participant’s permission
  • avoid situations where an adult may be alone with a child, for example, dressing rooms or first aid rooms
    when children need to be transported, ensure there is more than one child (and, if possible, more than one adult) in the vehicle
  • manage allegations (disclosures) of child abuse through established processes and reporting lines to ensure there is due process and natural justice
    document all incidents involving physical restraint of children or violence involving children
    document all incidents that seem to be unusual or ‘out of the ordinary
  • coach children to be a ‘good sport’, recognise that they have a right to feel safe, and know what they can do if they do not feel safe (if they are abused, harassed or discriminated against).

Coaches should seek out information on the child protection requirements specific to their state and territory by visiting the Play by the Rules website.

Incident management

Coaches need to be able to respond to an emergency situation.  These can range from a minor injury to something more serious. If a participant is unconscious, it is a life-threatening situation. The coach must respond immediately, as the participant may need resuscitation. Resuscitation should be performed by someone with first aid training and this is why it is good practice for all coaches to undertake this training.

Coaches should:

  • have access to a telephone to contact an ambulance
  • have information about the participant’s medical history (especially for ongoing health issues such as asthma, epilepsy or diabetes)
  • know how to access first aid equipment (blankets, first aid kit, ice etc)
  • ideally, be able to administer basic first aid
    ensure an injury report form is completed.

STOP procedure

The STOP procedure allows the coach to assess whether the injury seems severe and to determine whether the participant should continue with the activity.

  • Stop
  • Talk
  • Observe
  • Prevent further injury (via the three options below)
  1. Severe injury - Get help
  2. Less severe injury - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Referral (RICER)
  3. Minor injury -  Play on

RICER regime

Management of sprains, strains, corks, bumps and bruises should follow this procedure outlined in the PDF, see related downloads.

Keeping things safe

Good coaching practices to reduce risk

  • plan all coaching sessions
  • follow child protection guidelines
  • conduct pre-participation screening using a medical history form (see example form in the coaching templates)
  • ensure participants warm up prior to activity
  • don’t mismatch participants (consider size/strength, not age)
  • clearly establish the rules for behaviour and activities
  • ensure the safety of playing areas, facilities and equipment
  • require participants to use protective devices
  • adapt activities for environmental conditions (for example, hot, humid, or cold, wet conditions)
  • cater for individual needs

Tips for ensuring the safety of playing areas

Ensure that:

  • the playing area is level, firm and free from obstructions (for example, holes or exposed sprinkler heads)
  • permanent fixtures such as goal posts are padded, flexible and highly visible
  • corner posts and other field posts cannot injure participants on contact (these should be made of cardboard or other ‘non-threatening’ material)
  • there is adequate lighting if playing at night
  • there is adequate matting where necessary (for example, gymnastics, high jump)
  • perimeter fences are well back from the playing area
  • spectators are kept well away from the playing area

Tips for ensuring the safety of protective equipment

Check that protective equipment:

  • is worn by participants during training and competition
  • fits the participant correctly
  • is regularly checked and maintained
  • is specific and appropriate for the sport, size and age of the participant
  • is being used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and the recommendations of the governing sporting body

Tips for ensuring the safety of environmental conditions

In hot or humid conditions:

  • Encourage participants to wear loose, lightweight, light-coloured clothing made from a natural fibre (for example, cotton).
  • Avoid intense activity in hot or humid conditions and monitor participants carefully for signs of heat illness.
  • Help participants avoid sunburn by encouraging them to slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat.
  • Encourage participants to drink plenty of fluid before the activity begins and schedule regular drink breaks during the activity

In cold and/or wet conditions:

  • Encourage participants to wear clothing appropriate for cold conditions (for example, dress in layers to trap heat, wear gloves and a hat to reduce heat loss).
  • Avoid participants standing exposed to the cold for long periods.
  • Encourage participants to change wet clothing as soon as practicable.
  • Alternative venues (for example, indoors) should also be considered, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of participants.
  • Long breaks will cause the body to cool down, so participants should be encouraged to wear warm clothing. Coaches should plan training sessions to avoid long breaks. Another warm-up period may be needed if long rest periods cannot be avoided


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