Liz Behnke is a specialist safeguarding in sport consultant. She is currently the national lead safeguarding officer for British Fencing and British Taekwondo. 

Safeguarding, ‘surely that is not something that concerns me?’ I hear you say. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and something that we should take seriously. Having a well safeguarded club that protects adults as well as children under 18, means that you have thought about possible risks, and how they could affect your judo club and its members. Most importantly though, it sends out a strong message that you care about people in your judo club. Think, if a new beginner at your club sees this approach in action they will be more likely to join and keep coming back.

Safeguarding is a diverse area and a very rewarding one. By following my five tips below and thinking about what you actually do at your judo club and where your weaknesses are you can improve the safeguarding standards of your club significantly.

So here are my top 5 safeguarding tips:

  • Create a positive culture towards safeguarding

    Instil the idea that safeguarding is a positive thing. Safeguarding is about working together to safeguard children and vulnerable adults and taking action to enable them to have the best outcomes. I can’t imagine any club that doesn’t want nothing but the best for its members whether that is having fun taking part, or becoming an Olympic champion. They will only be do that if everyone buys into the idea that safeguarding is something that we do proactively, and not as a compulsory tick box exercise from outside the club.

  • Create a framework to understand your club’s safeguarding needs

    A clear plan is always useful when trying to make something work better. Setting up a framework allows us to come back to the basic principles of why we should be doing something and how this should happen. Most clubs can adopt a policy that has been put together by their governing body. It is important that not only does your club adopt this, but also personalise it to your club’s needs. This shows the club has a clear understanding of its own safeguarding needs.

  • Appoint a Welfare Officer

    Appoint a Welfare Officer (or two) for your club. Welfare Officers are not just there to deal with problems and tricky situations, but also to ensure that safeguarding policies and procedures are in place, are being acted upon and are the “go to” person for concerns. The Welfare Officer can also have a very strong impact on club development by making sure that the safety of the participant is at the heart of everything that goes on.

  • Train your volunteers

    People are offered a new job because they have the skills and competencies to that job. All too often at sports clubs it is assumed that a new volunteer has already acquired the knowledge they need to do the role. Make sure your judo club gives its volunteers an induction programme in which safeguarding is an important part. Help them to acquire their knowledge by training them. Sign them up to Codes of Conduct and make sure that their idea of being a role model or what being professional means is the same as the next person.

  • Who will listen to me?

    There is a need to ensure that everyone in the club knows about safeguarding be that a child at the club or a parent of a member that has a concern. Who should they contact? In most cases this is likely to be the coach. But what if the concern was about the coach what then? People need to know that it is ok to express their concerns. However, if you have good communications within your club you are likely to pick up these concerns quickly, sometimes before they even happen. Having people in your club whose role it is just to circulate and be attentive listeners can be invaluable. Just think how much intelligence you are gathering and how many people you might be able to recruit as volunteers.