Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway – Improving Safeguarding Standards in Sport

ACT Online Safeguarding Training

Tina Thordal,  is an ACT Associate Trainer. In this blog, she talks about our Sports Participation Forums, where you can share your views to help us improve safeguarding standards in sport.

I grew up in the era of fountain pens, black and white TV, dial up telephones and chalkboards. Life was simple and predictable then. Why would things need to change when we had solid and reliable means of communication?

Skip forward 50 years, and here l am in a quite different age. There have been many technological advances – remote TV, mobile phones, the internet. Things have moved on since ‘Watch with Mother!’

For many years l have delivered face-to-face training to health and social care staff. I enjoy it. Its just what l do.

l have been a freelance trainer for ACT for 20 years or so. Recently for ACT, I’ve taken on the role of facilitating Safeguarding Adults in Sport forums. Sport England fund this research project, and I work within a small team.

Sport Participation Forums – How Do They Work?

During these face-to-face sessions for sports staff and participants, Charlotte Gilmartin (former Olympic short-speed track skater) shares her experience of being an elite athlete and the pressures she faced.

l then facilitate a dialogue around research questions based on discussions of what is needed for staff and sports participants to be safe from abuse. We’ve seen a positive response to these sessions, and many clubs have had  the opportunity to share experiences together and learn from each other.

Adapting to Lockdown

Then along comes Covid-19 and lockdown,  reshaping our ideas of ‘normal’ communication.

Because of lockdown, we’ve had to rethink strategies for maintaining contact with work colleagues. Face-to-face dialogue just isn’t possible at the moment.

But the show must go on. We had to continue running our sport forums. Eventually, someone suggested we use ‘online technology’.

Now, l have had conversations with myself about this eventuality. l was prepared to throw it all in, and put my flip-chart and pens into storage. With no regular income, I thought I’d have to resort to living on a diet of baked beans!

For me, the prospect of delivering online training was just as forbidding as being abducted by aliens and transported to another world! The idea made me feel anxious. I had some sleepless nights and a profound urge to just run away – to anywhere!

I thought that online training would mean handing control over to a machine. There were ‘trust’ issues for sure. But so many organisations and colleagues are already going in this direction. It soon became clear that if l didn’t jump on-board, l was going to get left behind.

It has taken courage, support from others, and self-belief. But I finally felt ready to embrace the unknown.

Always Challenge Yourself

I bought a new poster for my kitchen wall. It shouts positive affirmations at me, such as ‘always challenge yourself’, and ‘If you can imagine it – you can achieve it’. I have clung to these quotes and made them into mantras.

Eventually l thought, what have l got to lose, other than my self-esteem, reputation and credibility?

I took the plunge. After my first online session, someone asked me how I felt. The honest response was, ‘Exposed, vulnerable and like I’m trying to drive a vehicle l wasn’t sure l could manage’.

Since then l have realised that many of us are on a very steep learning curve. I am not on my own. But with the kindly, compassionate support of colleagues within the Ann Craft Team, l have grown somewhat in confidence. I have come to realise that actually this form of interaction may not be so daunting after all.

Every now and then l placate myself with thoughts that maybe living on baked beans wouldn’t be so bad. But as the light from my screen bursts into life, l am swallowed up into cyberspace. Funnily enough, it now feels quite normal.

Online training will never completely replace my flipchart and pens. Faces on a screen are no substitute for the privilege of sharing real space and time with practitioners and colleagues. But for now, l’m happy that we can work together to develop our understanding of safeguarding in sport.

Please join us on one of our virtual ‘Have your Say’ sports forums on August 24th.

You can listen to Tina discuss our sport participation forums with Anne Patterson on our Safeguarding Matters podcast. Listen here.