Sports organisations must switch their focus to player welfare and support during COVID-19 or risk losing their top performers, a UK academic has warned.
Professor of Duty of Care in Sport at Abertay University, Dundee, David Lavallee (pictured) launches the institution’s new free set of resources to help sports groups meet their safeguarding obligations.
Created by Abertay University students and supported by Abertay University’s Bell Street Ventures enterprise programme, the Sports IntegriTay package is evidence-based, detailing best practice on a series of key duty of care measures, with themes across seven different areas including safeguarding, medical provision, career transition, mental health and inclusivity.
The resource features both general and sport-specific assets, ranging from procedures to support child performers and how to combat youth drop out, to mental health techniques for elite rugby and advice for coping with eating orders in gymnasts.
It can be used by a range of participants, including athletes, coaches, parents, recreational players and many others, and fresh content will be added on a rolling basis.
“Players are coming to realise how important it is to play for a club that provides the support they need, and when they need it, for example making a transition to another career after they retire.” – Professor David Lavallee
Prof Lavallee said Covid-19 would be a test of sports organisations’ commitment to their players, and warned that actions taken now in regard to welfare would have an impact on engagement in the future.
He said: “The relationship between clubs and their players has changed profoundly since Covid-19 and I think we are seeing a fundamental shift. What clubs do in the face of Covid-19 and how they respond coming out of it, will have a major impact on their sustainability.
“For the first time, many players are looking at their careers from a different perspective, and I think forward-thinking clubs are seeing this too. Players are coming to realise how important it is to play for a club that provides the support they need, and when they need it, for example making a transition to another career after they retire.
“When a player is faced with a choice between two offers in the near future – a higher salary and less support, or less salary and more support – I predict players will elect to play for the club with the best player support structure. So, clubs will risk not retaining their best players if they cannot demonstrate that they can provide the support they need. And, clubs who have, or develop, a reputation for supporting players will benefit significantly.
“There has been some poor practice used by a number of sports organisations since the crisis began, including some neglecting to support the mental welfare of players. Others, however, have been proactive in supporting players in their education and helping them prepare for life after sport.
“It is more important than ever to offer a source of reliable information and guidance that those involved in sports groups can draw upon. Sport IntegriTay is an excellent starting point and the intention is to add to the library on offer as we progress towards a new structure for recreational and competitive sport.”
Duty of care is a key component of all Abertay University’s sports degrees and the University’s research in this area has been commended in a House of Commons Debate on Sport in the UK.
The Sports IntegriTay resource has the backing of Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who led an independent review into Duty of Care in Sport on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
She said: “Abertay students are dynamic and forward-looking. They don’t just bring academic rigour to their work, but genuine practical experience with sensible solutions in the real world.”
The resource follows a body of other duty of care work at Abertay, with Professor Lavallee’s Sport Census tool, designed to improve recruitment, retention and sustainability, having been rolled out by over 80 sports in the last 12 months, and current research funded by the Northwood Charitable Trust supporting safeguarding in sport.
Dean of Abertay’s School of Applied Sciences, Andrea Cameron said: “The Sports IntegriTay resource is a fantastic showcase of our student work and is a great example of the ‘active citizen’ quality that we endeavour to foster in our students. They have created some highly accessible and very practical resources which honour a collective responsibility toward duty in care in sport.”
Abertay BSc (Hons) Sport Development and Coaching student Callum Walls was involved in creating the Sports IntegriTay resource.
He said: “Sports IntegriTay was a great project to be part of and I am proud to have created something which can play a small part in helping organisations, parents and guardians support the welfare needs of swimmers. Nobody knows what the sporting world is going to look like after Covid-19, but I think sharing ideas of best practice now allows for these concepts to be embedded into organisations and the minds of guardians, which will ultimate help create a more supportive environment for all.”
To view the Sports IntegriTay resource visit https://www.abertay.ac.uk/business/services/sports-integritay