Safeguarding talented and elite athletes

Last updated: 16 Aug 2022
Talented and elite athletes

Moving through the talent pathway offers fantastic experiences and rewards for athletes. However, there are specific factors in elite sport that can make talented athletes more vulnerable to abuse.

There is a growing body of research and case evidence to indicate that young elite athletes are particularly vulnerable to abuse and the effects of poor coaching practice.

The following is an extract from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Training the Elite Child Athlete (PDF).

"This unique athlete population has distinct social, emotional and physical needs which vary depending on the athlete's particular stage of maturation. The elite child athlete requires appropriate training, coaching and competition that ensure a safe and healthy athletic career and promote future well-being."

Athletes at all levels of sport deserve to train and compete in a safe, healthy and stimulating environment. Those who run sport are responsible for creating this athlete-focused environment, where the health and wellbeing of young elite athletes are at the forefront of every adult involved in their development. 

Adults and young people in a position of trust play an especially important role in developing a safe sporting culture which can positively impact young athletes. For guidance and recommended best practice on this, see our information on:

Maintaining balance

Young elite athletes will likely find themselves having to juggle many aspects of their life with their sport commitments. A balance must be established and maintained. Whilst each individual situation is unique and should be treated as such, learning from research and your feedback, we have identified key factors to be aware of and the importance of acting upon concerns:

  • Balancing the pressure of elite sport – a young athlete on the talent pathway will undoubtedly experience a lot of pressure. They must be helped in managing this pressure to avoid causing harm to their mental or physical health and wellbeing. 
  • Balancing life with elite sport – being an elite athlete requires a lot of time, dedication and work, but young athletes should always feel that they are able to devote time to other commitments, social life and interests.
  • Balancing training with looking after the body – sport, by definition, requires a significant level of physical exertion, and pushing the body to continue to improve. However, looking after the young person’s physical health should always remain the priority over any sport goal.

When the balance becomes tipped, aspects of the athlete’s life, their physical and mental health can become negatively impacted. Parents, coaches and sports personnel should ensure that they are able to recognise when the balance is begging to tip unhealthily, and are able to advocate for positive change for the athlete.

We have also developed some guidance on the important role that parents of elite athletes play in supporting young athletes throughout the elite and talent pathway.

Balancing the pressure of elite sport

A young athlete on the talent pathway will undoubtedly experience change and challenges, which may make them feel under pressure at times – the pressure to succeed, to be selected and to meet their own expectations as well as the expectations of those around them.

Outside of sport, young athletes may also experience other stressful experiences and pressures, including social, academic, family or other day-to-day pressures. Understanding, anticipating and openly communicating about these experiences will help support the young person and give them a voice and some control. 

However, at times the balance can tip and the pressure begin to build, which can put athletes at risk of harm if not identified and addressed effectively. Coaches, sports personnel and parents should ensure they openly communicate with athletes, working together to ensure they are coping adequately, and responding appropriately when concerns of excessive amounts of pressure arise. 


A talented young athlete may have a dream of succeeding at the highest level in their sport. Supporting them in setting achievable progress goals will be beneficial to help them to manage their expectations and navigate the ups and downs of their sporting journey.

Breaking down the overall aspirational journey into smaller goals being worked towards step by step may help to reduce the overall sense of pressure, and manage the expectations of the athlete and those around them.

Whether it be a tournament, a competition or a qualifier, recognising and celebrating success at each level can help athletes and their support network feel a sense of achievement.

Similarly, dealing with not achieving success in the same way will also help. Failing to achieve potential on individual occasions will feel less daunting – it doesn’t mean an end to their progression, just a small bump in the road. Instead, the athlete can be supported in perceiving this not as failure, but using the 'not yet' growth approach – as an opportunity to learn and move forward. 

Dealing with success or no success

By definition, sport is competitive, meaning that it is almost inevitable that a young athlete will not win every time. No Olympic or Paralympic champion has become a success overnight.

Different athletes will have varying abilities to deal with no success at all levels, which can be exacerbated at the elite level due to the increased investment (such as, time, effort, financial, and so on).

While the importance of a competition, tournament or a qualifier may be difficult to hide from a young person, it is important to openly discuss in advance that they may not achieve their desired outcome yet.

A balance must be struck between encouraging and supporting the young athlete to work hard and perform their best, while also introducing them to the idea that they might not achieve their goal in that test. And though that may be disappointing, it's okay and it's not the end of their dream.

Coping with success can also be difficult for some athletes. With success may come the pressure to succeed again and to always perform, the pressure to act as a role model for other young athletes, and potentially pressure from the media, sponsors or other sources.

Coaches, sports personnel and parents should support athletes through the success journey, being careful to help them to manage pressure, manage their expectations and stay grounded in recognition of their hard work.

Selection and deselection

At different levels during sport there are selection and deselection choices made regarding which athletes are offered the opportunity to participate in an event or activity. This offers an exciting opportunity for some but also means another athlete in their social circle may not have been selected.

Being selected for a team, squad or onto the talent pathway may bring mixed emotions – happiness, but now a pressure to stay. This selection may also potentially bring changes to the young person's lifestyle, such as moving training groups, changing coach or less time for friends outside sport. 

Parents are key influencers in the young athlete's life and career, and therefore they need to be part of the communication with coaches, particularly when changes are happening, so that they understand decisions and feel able to support their child.

Coaches should explain to the athlete and their parents why the decision has been made, and, if the athlete has not been selected, what they can work on to continue their improvement.

Parents should listen to their child and support them in their feelings towards the decision. Where possible, parents should encourage athletes to maintain a positive attitude towards the sport and see that they are on their own continual journey of improvement, and there will be future opportunities for progression.

Parents may disagree with selection decisions, and should be allowed to ask why a decision has been made, but unless they have a genuine concern of misconduct that has contributed to the decision, they should avoid causing tension between the athlete and their coach.

Coaches and parents should bear in mind that the young person may feel more upset if they see their parents reacting negatively to the decisions made and they may think that their parent is making things worse. 


Whether it be due to injury, physical body changes, health, finance, education, or any other issue, athletes may find themselves having to retire from competing in their sport. Retirement can affect young athletes, particularly if the issue is out of their control.

Finding that they can no longer compete in their sport at an elite level can undoubtedly be upsetting for young athletes. Sports coaches, parents and other sports personnel should ensure that they support athletes through this transition.

Athletes’ expectations of their career length should be managed carefully, ensuring that they have an understanding that retirement will eventually become a reality for them. Athletes should be supported in developing new interests and ways to participate beyond retirement from their sport.

A culture of psychological safety

Sports organisations have a responsibility to protect athletes from a range of potential risks, including threats to emotional or psychological health. A vital part of keeping athletes safe involves creating an environment that positively influences the mental health and wellbeing of all individuals.

In recent years, research is looking to the concept of psychological safety to protect athletes from emotional harm and create an environment where athletes can thrive.

Psychological safety refers to an environment where individuals can take risks, express ideas or concerns, ask questions, be themselves, and acknowledge mistakes – without worrying about any negative consequences. It’s a culture that promotes a sense of trust and respect where individuals don’t feel judged and can be their authentic self without wearing a mask. This kind of community can help people feel able to put themselves out there and maximise their potential.

For more information on what psychological safety is, why it’s important in sport, and how to create this culture, see our pages on athlete mental health and wellbeing.

Psychological safety in elite sport

Having a psychologically safe culture is important at any level of sport. However, it is especially vital for elite athletes and young people on the talent pathway. There are a unique set of challenges in elite sport that can influence mental health, including:

  • expectations that are self-imposed, which may lead to perfectionism and fear of failure
  • expectations from others
  • the pressure to succeed or maintain success
  • selection and deselection
  • the possibility of retirement or injury
  • balancing elite sport with everyday life, including education and social time
  • body image concerns or changes to body image through training
  • increased attention from others
  • a pressure to show mental toughness

Because of these difficulties, it’s quite common for elite young athletes to experience mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, or eating disorders and disordered eating. What’s more, it’s been shown that athletes often avoid discussing mental health as they are worried that others may view them as weak. This means that many athletes may mask their symptoms, preventing them from getting the necessary support.

Experiencing mental health challenges may prevent some people from being able to perform at their best and may impact overall team performance. For instance, athletes may lack confidence, struggle to focus, or be unable to look after themselves physically. Some athletes may also withdraw from others, making communication in a team difficult.

Psychological safety plays an essential role in improving the mental health of athletes:

  • When individuals feel able to show their authentic self and raise concerns, and also feel part of a respectful and non-judgemental community, they are more likely to feel comfortable discussing wellbeing with teammates or coaches.
  • Mental health support is also more likely to be embedded into the environment, helping to normalise conversations around wellbeing and encouraging athletes to seek help when they need it.
  • A psychologically safe space can also bring many positive benefits which may acts as a protective factors for ill mental health. For example, providing athletes with a space where they can connect with others, flourish in their sport, and feel celebrated for who they are can help to boost overall mental health.
  • In this culture, psychological threats are also prevented. For instance, safe environments will have thorough safeguarding procedures, appropriate leadership and education, and sufficient support services.

Creating a psychologically safe culture involves thinking about several factors such as leadership, communication, and team relationships. Download our poster on psychological safety for some key tips that organisations can follow to create a culture of psychological safety and promote the wellbeing and performance of their athletes.

Related documents

Balancing life with elite sport

Starting and maintaining the life of a performance or pathway athlete can be exciting and daunting as it takes time to adjust and balance training and all the other things in one's life.

Keeping a balanced approach is important, as sport is only one part of an athlete's life – education, family, friends and hobbies are all beneficial to the young person's wellbeing.

At times, the balance may tip slightly; for example, during exam periods or in the lead-up to competitions. However, athletes should be supported in returning to a balance as soon as possible and ensuring that on the whole it is maintained. 

Balancing elite sport and education

While many elite and talented athletes may dream of a career within their sport, it’s important that they be encouraged to continue with the required educational curriculum and understand the importance of achieving their best. Education can open more doors to a future within and beyond sport. 

Where possible, training and other sport requirements should not impact on the young person receiving their full education. Under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, it is the responsibility of the parents (or carers) to ensure their child receives efficient, full-time education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude, and any special educational needs they may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Training or any other sports requirement should not be prioritised over the child receiving this education fully.

Coaches and parents could work with the young person to come up with an education plan, ensuring everyone’s expectations are clear and training is able to fit alongside education. This should also include adequate time for homework and revision, and will be particularly important when approaching exam periods.

If a young person is finding it hard to meet these commitments, education providers, parents and coaches should work together with the young person to carefully establish how best to manage both requirements, and if mitigations must or can be made.

Balancing elite sport and a healthy social life

Although there may be times when training, participating in competitions and taking part in other activities need to be prioritised over socialising, young people should still have time away from sport to be with their friends.

While coaches may wish to ensure their athletes appreciate the commitment required to participate in their sport, young people should not be made to feel that they are unable to have time off to attend social occasions.

Details of mandatory training, competitions or other requirements should be communicated to the athlete and their parents at the earliest opportunity. It may be beneficial for the athlete, their coach and their parents, and if possible, their education provider, to work together to create a schedule, including key training and competitions dates, revision and exam periods, and any key social occasions. This will enable all involved to understand the importance of the athlete's commitments, and create a culture of positive communication. 

Coaches, other sport personnel and parents should strive to have an open channel of communication with the young person, where they feel comfortable expressing an interest in activities outside the sport.

Related documents

Balancing training with looking after the body

Sport, by definition, requires a significant level of physical exertion. When training at an elite level,  young athletes will be pushing their body in order to continue to improve and maintain a high level of physicality.

However, coaches, sports personnel and parents, should always prioritise looking after the young person’s physical health overachieving any sport goal.

Injury and recovery management

Unfortunately, injuries can occur at any time during sport and activities, which can be disappointing and frustrating for young athletes, their teammates and their support networks. Sustaining an injury while on the elite and talent pathway can be very challenging for young athletes and their entourage, as they have been working hard towards their goal, only to have it compromised.

If a young athlete has sustained an injury, they should avoid participating in any sport activity that could impact their healing. Athletes should be supported through this time both physically and mentally.

Some injuries are not preventable, while others may occur as a result of improperly looking after the body, such as overuse from overtraining, worsening of an injury previously obtained, or a health condition. Seeking help and support to manage these injuries and other health conditions that may impact the athlete's ability to train well may be hard for the young person.

It may be helpful to put yourself in the young person’s shoes. For example, how would you feel if just before a big competition you badly sprain your ankle? Perhaps frustrated, angry, upset and fearful of potential consequences such as deselection.

As coaches, parents and sports personnel, you should aim to create an environment where the young person feels that:

  • they can come forward at any point and disclose that they feel they have sustained an injury
  • they will be supported
  • their health will be put first

It is important that athletes understand the injury, the recovery, and time scales. Being realistic with time scales and adjusting targets using process goals can help young athletes understand and maintain motivation. You should ensure that you remind them of the support they have around them throughout their recovery.

You may also be able to use this time as an opportunity to learn and maybe work on other areas of their fitness or training, if this can be done safely without disrupting the healing process or causing further injury. Keeping the young athlete involved in training sessions and the training group, where this is possible, can help to maintain their sport identity.

Young athletes should only participate in the sport once their recovery period, as recommended by a medical professional, has come to an end. When returning to training, the athlete should be supported in managing the volume and intensity of training, as too much too soon could contribute to further physical or psychological harm.

It is important for everyone involved to remain mindful that returning to the sport may cause the athlete some significant stress and some anxious thinking, as they may be concerned about getting back to their best performance level, while also managing concerns of sustaining further injury.

Continuous communication should help coaches to monitor how the athlete is feeling and help with interventions, while ensuring that they are not being pushed too hard.

Eating behaviour

Reports into abuse in sport have highlighted concerns of the culture and approach to weight, body and eating behaviours, which surround young athletes.

As children and young people grow and develop, they will experience many changes to their body, which, in some cases, can impact their sporting ability, either in favour or to a detriment. Young people can become particularly sensitive to the changes occurring to their body, which, for some, can cause sensitivities around their eating behaviours.

Everyone involved in sport should ensure that there is always a positive, healthy culture around body image and physical health. Weight, diet and body type should be discussed sensitively, and coaches should always put the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the athlete at the forefront, above any sports goal.

Children and young people should never feel the need to unhealthily change their body in a way that goes against their natural development.

If you suspect that an athlete may be either developing an unhealthy relationship with eating, engaging in disordered eating behaviours, or has developed an eating disorder, you should speak to your safeguarding lead about next steps and how to support the young person to seek help.

Fuelling the body

Young athletes should be encouraged to listen to the needs of their body and understand food as an essential source of energy and nourishment. Most of our energy intake is from food, which we use to fuel our bodies. We expend this energy through exercise as well as through internal bodily processes that require energy to function.

We use the term relative energy deficiency (RED-S) in sport to refer to an athlete whose energy expenditure outweighs their energy intake. This leaves the body in a compromised state as it doesn’t have enough energy to support both the exercise and their bodily processes, affecting health and performance.

Relative energy-deficiency syndrome infographic

An athlete may experience RED-S for many different reasons; for example:

  • an athlete may have increased their training for a period of time, such as in the lead-up to a big competition, but not matched that with their energy intake, leading to a deficiency
  • an athlete may be experiencing a period of growth or maturation that requires more energy, but this may not have been accounted for in their energy intake
  • an athlete may have developed an unhealthy relationship with food, disordered eating behaviours or an eating disorder

It is important to recognise what has caused the RED-S so that we are able to understand how to restore the balance.

Speaking to young athletes about RED-S, and the importance of healthy eating as a way to provide their body with the energy it requires, rather than using potentially triggering language, such as weight or diet, could help the young athlete to develop a more healthy relationship with food and exercise.

Making weight in sport

In weight-making sports (where athletes must meet certain weight requirements to compete), athletes should feel supported and given guidance to make weight at a healthy level and speed.

Without this, athletes can be left vulnerable to establishing disturbed practices to manage and maintain their weight, which are unhealthy or even dangerous, and can be both detrimental to their performance and to the athlete's long- or short-term health generally.

There should be a regular review to ensure that athletes are making weight for the most appropriate category, which enables a balance between optimising performance without engaging in behaviours and practices that are doing more harm than good.

For example, if an athlete must lose weight in order to meet their category requirement, they will almost certainly have to be in an energy deficient stage (RED-S), which, as outlined above, can have performance risks.

There are certain considerations that organisations must address in order to support their young athletes who are going through the process of making weight:

  • How are decisions about the weight categorisation being made, and are they in the best interests of the longer-term health of the athletes entering into the competition?
  • Whose responsibility is it within the organisation to protect the health and welfare of the athlete as they go through this weight-making process?
  • What safeguarding is in place to make sure that the athletes is not engaging in some of the more unhealthy or dangerous disturbed practices?
  • What advice is being given to athletes as they embark on this process? And is it being communicated effectively, giving enough time for the athlete to make the weight without relying on extreme behaviours and practices to meet the criteria for their competition?
  • What are the consequences for the organisation and the athlete if they are unable to make the weight for the competition? What procedures are in place to support athletes who are unable to safely meet the weight?
  • How can organisations minimise the level of distress for athletes associated with their weight management being under scrutiny for long periods of time?


Some sports, such as gymnastics and swimming, are early specialisation sports, often requiring young people to commit to training for a single sport at a young age. Other sports benefit from later specialisation, so young people have the opportunity to develop more general skills in movement and strength, which are later transferable into multiple sports.

When specialising in a singular sport at a young age, athletes may be encouraged to train intensively in similar ways to gain certain skills and strengthen specific areas. However, research has identified that such a highly intensive approach can risk overuse injury, overtraining and even burnout.

Intense training sessions for some young athletes may result in an overuse injury. An overuse injury is any type of muscle or joint injury, which is usually sustained due to training errors when an athlete takes on too much physical activity too quickly. 

Coaches, parents and other sports personnel should ensure that they carefully navigate training requirements and competitions, with the needs and wants of the young athlete at their stage of their physical development and maturity.

Although sport is, by nature, physically challenging, overall young athletes should still feel enjoyment in training for and competing in their sport. They should not be pushed to burnout or encouraged to over train, risking this enjoyment being taken out of the sport.

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When the balance tips

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle as an elite athlete, balancing the demands of their sport and the demands of other life commitments must be considered and maintained.

When this balance tips, aspects of the athlete’s life, and their physical and mental health, can become negatively impacted.

Athletes should be supported by sports personnel, family, education staff and other influential figures within their support circle to ensure that they are able to maintain a healthy balance, where their health and development remains the priority. They need to feel that trusted adults around them are listening, recognising, responding and advocating for their wants and needs.

If you recognise that an athlete is struggling, the balance has become unhealthily tipped, or their health and development appears to no longer be a priority, you should raise a concern with your club welfare officer or lead safeguarding officer.

Mental health and wellbeing

Children and young people can experience a wide range of mental health issues for many different reasons. Sport and staying active can have a positive influence on mental health and wellbeing.

However, there are some unique stressors within sport that can have a negative influence, particularly given the additional pressure when competing at the elite and high-performance level.

Athletes' extended physical and mental pressure can contribute to the development of difficulties with mental health, which can only be exacerbated when the balance tips.

If you are concerned about a young athlete's mental health and wellbeing, speak to your welfare officer or lead safeguarding officer.

  • for more information on how you can recognise and respond to concerns about a young person's mental health in sport, visit our Mental health and wellbeing topic page


There are certain factors within sport, particularly elite sport, that can leave a young athlete feeling isolated and lonely.

Training in sport at an elite level requires a huge time commitment, which can result in time being taken away from other areas of life. This can mean that young elite athletes have limited time for socialising with friends or family outside of their sport.

In addition to this, young athletes may feel that they need to mature quickly, as they are spending a lot of time interacting within the 'adult world' of the elite and high-performance competitions and training, and having to manage the media. This can make them feel isolated from peers their own age. Research indicates that those who are lonelier and more isolated can be more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

  • we have produced a webinar with advice and guidance on supporting those involved in sport to reduce loneliness: 


Anyone can experience anxiety at any time during their life, including children and young people. With so much pressure, both physically and mentally, on top of other demands, young athletes can develop anxious thoughts. Anxiety can take many forms, from anxious thoughts about their future to health anxiety.

There are certain situations within the elite and talent pathway that a young athlete may experience pressure within their sport, which can feed into a mental health issue like anxiety. What might start as nerves about a selection decision or a competition, can, for someone with mental ill health, begin to manifest in other areas of their lives.

Disordered eating and eating disorders

Physical health and body image are often directly entangled within sport and physical activity. Being in the elite sporting environment, which is intrinsically linked to the function and sometimes the image of the body, can antagonise weight and body image concerns and dysmorphia, and contribute to the development of disordered eating behaviours and eating disorders.

Those working with young athletes should ensure that, where possible, the athlete is avoiding being in a state of relative energy deficiency (RED-S). Where RED-S in an athlete is identified, sports personnel should work with the athlete to understand and address the cause in order to restore a healthy energy intake and expenditure balance, in turn optimising health and performance.

However, some sports require athletes to make weight in order to compete, which can often involve establishing an energy deficiency (RED-S) for periods of time to lose weight. Athletes should feel supported throughout the process of weight-making, and be given guidance to make weight at a healthy level and speed.

If left without support and guidance offered at the appropriate time, athletes may feel that they have to adopt disturbed practices that are unhealthy or even dangerous to meet the criteria.

If you suspect that an athlete may be either developing an unhealthy relationship with eating, engaging in disordered eating behaviours, or has developed an eating disorder, you should speak to your safeguarding lead to discuss what steps to take.

Related documents

Parents of elite athletes

Throughout the career of an elite young athlete, parents who are positively involved play a key role in their health and wellbeing as well as their overall success.  

Coaches and parents should always communicate effectively and ensure they are working together to support young people. Parents play an important role in their child’s sporting life, both when things are going well and by supporting them if something’s wrong. In the adult world of elite sport, having a trusted adult to turn to with any worries, concerns or help is vital to ensure the young person feels safe. 

If you are worried that your child is being abused or at risk during their involvement in sports, it is vital that you talk to someone. Take a look at our Speaking out in sport pages for advice.

Parents should always put the wants and needs of their child over any of their sporting commitments.

As a parent of an elite athlete, you will appreciate how tough it can be for your child to achieve their best at the right moment in the many different environments they are part of – sport, friends and social, school or academic work and even growing and maturing physically and mentally. 

Coaches and parents need to talk, understand and support together the needs of the young athlete. For example, if the coach is discussing recovery ideas with a young athlete, the parent should be involved in the conversation too, so that everyone involved in looking after the child is aware of what they should be doing and why.  

Regularly having conversations with your child about how they are feeling can help your child to know that you are there to listen to any concerns that they may have. Being mindful with feedback can also help your child feel well supported during competitions and training. 

Checking the safeguards are in place

Parents should ensure that the appropriate safeguards are in place to protect their child.

Conflict with coaches

There may be occasions when a parent disagrees with a decision that a coach has made; for example, their child may not have been selected for a team or competition. However, unless there is a genuine concern that the decision has been made on the basis of inappropriate bias or misconduct, parents are advised to focus on supporting their child.

Parents should avoid conflict with the coach, and approach coaches for clarification about the decision, calmly, away from any young people. Both coach and parent should take a child-centred approach and put their own feelings aside and focus on how they can both support the young athlete in their enjoyment and success.

Maintaining positive parent-coach relationships can help young athletes to succeed in and enjoy sport.

Responsibility of care

Parents should ensure that they are always aware at what times they are responsible for looking after their child at events, competitions and training.

Parents should communicate with care providers, including coaches, event organisers and chaperones to ensure they know drop-off and pick-up details, and who is responsible for their child during times when they are not doing their sport.

Managing finances

Funding a child through elite and high-performance sport can be a huge financial burden for parents and carers. However, children should not be made to feel that they themselves are becoming a burden.

Healthy communication about the financial side of their involvement in elite and high-performance sport could assist a young athlete’s financial learning. By openly communicating in a positive way, a parent can help the young person to understand money management and appreciate when finances are tight.

There may be opportunities to earn or be given funding within elite sport. This could be through being awarded a grant, winning a bid or being approached with sponsorship deals.

Parents should work with coaches and sports personnel to understand what funding opportunities may be available to them, and how they can apply for and secure appropriate funding.

They should also ensure that any scholarships or sponsorship deals that have been offered to the young person are legitimate and are appropriate for the young person to be involved with, ensuring that the young person isn’t being tied into a contract that requires them to do anything that they can’t, or don’t want to, commit to.

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What athletes can do

All athletes have the right to enjoy sport, free from all forms of abuse and exploitation, and to be involved in decisions affecting them.

There are lots of things that athletes can do, and be involved in, to help promote their own welfare and safety. 

What athletes can do

Know their rights and responsibilities

Athletes will have responsibilities to comply with their sport's code of conduct, and also those related to specific areas such as anti-doping. Athletes' rights and options should be made clear to them.

For further information, see UK Anti-Doping's Clean sport essentials for talented young athletes.

Be familiar with their sport's safeguarding policy and procedures

These policies and procedures will have information about what athletes can expect the organisation to do to look after their well-being, and what is expected of the individual and other people such as parents and coaches.

Contact your National Governing Body for further details.

Be committed to the athletes' code of conduct

The NGBs should have a code of conduct explaining how athletes are expected to behave, and also how other people are expected to behave. It will also outline what will happen if these codes are not followed.

Know how to raise any concerns

All NGBs have to provide information on where to go for help and advice in relation to abuse, harassment and bullying.

It’s important that athletes can talk to someone they trust if they have concerns about anything that might be happening to them, or anyone else, in or outside of their sport.

Athletes should also consider what support systems are in place among and beyond their entourage members (family, friends, teachers and/or coaches).

Ask for support as they transition through the system

Transitions can involve entering top-level sport, moving from junior to senior ranks, deselection, appeals, and leaving top-level sport.

Transitions can be really hard; support should be provided to help athletes navigate through the process. There should be inductions that provide information about how the system operates and what support is available. This should be part of a continuous conversation about the individual's sport and life after top-level sport.

For more information, see UK Sport's resources for athletes, which includes guidance on transitioning from a career in elite sport.

Seek opportunities to become a voice for athlete welfare

Look for opportunities to get involved and become a voice in decision-making about athlete welfare and protection. Sports are required to have mechanisms in place to consult children, young people and parents as part of their reviews of safeguarding policies and practices.

Support their peers

Supporting peers by encouraging and helping them to speak out if they witness or have any concerns about their own or anyone else’s welfare.

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A wide range of resources are available to help safeguard talented and elite young athletes – we list some of the most useful resources here.

CPSU resources

Sports resources

Other useful resources and websites

Publications and reports