In 2020, and ahead of the national Anti-Bullying Week organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), Northerners AC became the first sporting club in Guernsey to become an Associate Member of the ABA. At the time, the club, under the guidance of Club Welfare Officer, Kerry Tardif, was focussed on promoting the important message about ‘being kind to one another’ as part of the overall strategy within the club to ensure inclusivity for its grassroots participants. The focus for the club remains the same as in 2020 as it again supports the ABA’s 2021 campaign through training sessions, social media and themed competitions. The emphasis for the club is to teach these important values to young players right from the outset when they are in Reception, that will help them develop into pro-social team players whilst participating in competitive sport in the future.
The work of Northerners AC to promote anti-bullying is just one example of the great work undertaken in recent seasons to raise safeguarding standards throughout the club, which currently runs teams from Reception through to four senior open age teams. Other important work undertaken has included ensuring all club coaches are compliant with Criminal Record Checks (DBS), ensuring qualified coaches with each age group, establishing risk assessments, updating safeguarding related policies and procedures (including Safeguarding, Whistle Blowing, Anti-Bullying, Changing rooms, photography & recording, communications & social media), sharing safeguarding information and messages with club members and having a more visible club welfare officer presence.
Every club with youth teams is required to have a qualified Club Welfare Officer, and one who is happy and prepared to be a champion for safeguarding in football. Being a Club Welfare Officer isn’t an easy role, and those that volunteer for this important position take on a significant amount of responsibility. Thankfully, the recognition that safeguarding is an essential component of all children’s (and adults’) activities is now far wider than in previous years through the work of the FA, Guernsey FA and local clubs but it is important to recognise that the Club Welfare Officer cannot be at every training session and match, so it is important to have the support of the whole club with positive relationships and lines of communication being essential.
The role of the Club Welfare Officer entails a number of important responsibilities, which include:
1. Being clear about the club’s responsibilities when running activities for children and young people.
2. Help the club personnel to recognise that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and to actively play their part
3. Be visible and make sure everyone in the club knows how to make contact
4. Effectively implement club safeguarding practice
5. Promote the FA Respect campaign and ensure Codes of Conduct are followed
Reflecting on her time in the role, Kerry commented:
“Safeguarding features heavily in my day job so perhaps I have that insight that others might not necessarily have. I think it is important to remember that our ‘coaches’ have volunteered to do just that – ‘coach’! They all have day jobs, families and social lives and they are giving up their spare time to teach children how to play football – the news that if they want to teach football it also comes with the additional commitments of safeguarding and emergency aid training in addition to renewing their DBS checks every three years can understandably be met with a ‘that’s not what I signed up for!’ response. As Club Welfare Officer its my job to help others recognise that these things are an important part of working with children and young people and that as coaches, they play an important role in keeping children safe while simultaneously having fun and playing football at the same time.”
“I have been in post for 3 years now and during this time we have revisited existing and introduced new policies at North. However, it’s one thing to issue the policies in the first place but it’s another to keep reinforcing the messages when new coaches and players arrive at the club each season – its important for us not to become complacent. It’s a culture shift and at North we are fortunate to have such a fantastic team of volunteers that work with the Committee to make the necessary changes. It is important though to recognise that its an ongoing journey and there’s always room for development!”
“In my experience, one of the biggest challenges is making sure that everyone recognises the older youth players (16 – 18 year olds) as children. It is so easy to forget this in open-age football when 16 & 17 year olds are quite happily absorbed into a game of predominantly adult players and they don’t want to be treated differently and perceived as a child. A tricky balancing act for all involved but raising awareness and repeating messages is an ongoing task. Whilst that has been a challenge, there have been positive changes in the club and one of those that I am most happy about is seeing some of our youth players volunteering to assist with coaching at our Minis session on Saturday mornings – our really young players love having them helping out and its great to see the youth players providing positive role models on the pitch. We hope to continue with this initiative which adds to the sense of community at the club.”
For more information about safeguarding in Guernsey football, please click here