The LIJSL recently took an important step in further educating its member clubs about the Federal Safe Sport Authorization Act to provide a safer playing environment for players at every age level.
With changing federal and state laws, LIJSL took a proactive approach on raising awareness on the issues of sexual abuse holding two presentations – one at the LIJSL office on April 2 and the other at the Long Island Huntington Hilton on April 11 – with Senior Investigator Kim Bryson from the New York State Police Sexual Abuse Victims Unit leading the discussion.
“I think what the league is doing is extremely important,” Bryson said. “They are going above and beyond the required online training showing a true commitment to their players. Providing education and awareness should significantly reduce the risk and keep our young athletes safe.”
“I think that it’s good the league and U.S. Soccer are getting in front of it,” Carle Place Soccer Club President Mike Hegarty said. “It has been getting a lot of publicity with what happened with the women’s gymnastics team and other sports events that it raised awareness at the national level. Instead of ignoring the problem the league is proactive in getting out in front.
“If you look at the vision and what the league stands for with building character and developing youth, it goes beyond soccer. It’s a real dedication to the kids and that’s what this demonstrates.”
During the presentation and following question and answer sessions with Senior Investigator Bryson, topics such as what to look out for and how to respond to potential issues of sexual abuse were discussed. Club presidents and other club representatives will take the information and provide it to the other coaches and parents within the club, furthering the education process.
“Delivering this message to parents from a club president’s perspective is an indispensable opportunity to stress the importance of child safety,” said Rocky Point President Joe Camarda, who is also a teacher. “When the president delivers this information, it only solidifies the importance of it and how serious it needs to be taken.”
Middle Country Soccer Club President James Malone echoed that sentiment.
“In today’s climate I feel it is imperative for not only soccer clubs to be aware of the dangers but all youth organizations,” he said. “On any given day you can watch, hear, or read in the news of some sort of abuse against children. We (Middle Country Soccer Club) will continue to be proactive in providing a safe environment for our children to play soccer. We feel a responsibility to ensure our parents, coaches, and trainers are educated via any resources we can provide.”
Moving forward, coaches are also all required to take a sexual abuse awareness training course and test. Bob Greiser, who is the registrar of East Meadow, however, feels all adults involved with teams and players would benefit from taking the online SafeSport course.
“We’ve talked about it on a board level about what the responsibilities are,” he said. “What I’ve found is that the SafeSport training anyone can take it, it’s free. You just log on and take the course. I think all the board members will be doing it, all the coaches will be doing it, and everyone involved with the kids should be doing it.”
Oceanside United Soccer Club Rec Program Director Richard Eisenberg also stressed the importance of communicating with parents as well as having clear and defined policies in place.
“[Volunteers] need to be aware of the right way to handle situations, in terms of not being alone with children, being with other adults at the same time, and ensuring the parents know how you’re implementing safe practices,” he said.
The LIJSL, along with its member clubs, has taken an important step forward in raising awareness of this issue and the players, most importantly, will benefit for years to come.
“My main takeaways are: it is our responsibility as adults in this world to advocate for the child who doesn’t have a voice or is too scared to speak up and that LIJSL, is and continues to be, an outstanding organization with the child athletes needs at the forefront of their purpose and mission,” Camarda said.
“LIJSL will continue to educate our membership, providing information as well as policy direction from our Federation (U.S. Soccer) and both our national (U.S. Youth) and State (Eastern New York) associations,” said Steve Padaetz, the League’s Director of Member Services, who organized and coordinated the presentations. “Assisting our member clubs to navigate these waters (Safe Sport Act) and to help protect their most precious assets, our players, is paramount.”