VIENNA YOUTH, INC.
SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION POLICY
Vienna Youth, Inc. is a youth sports club founded as a 501(c)(3) entity in 1971 that provides children in Fairfax County Virginia from K-12 with an opportunity to play and participate in eight different organized sports. Football and basketball were the original two sports and subsequently cheerleading, wrestling, track, cross country rugby and volleyball have been added.
BASIC VYI POLICY
VYI is committed to the safety and well-being of all athletes who participate in its programs. A most important principal for VYI operations is that any and all forms of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and/or misconduct are strictly prohibited. VYI requires the highest standard of integrity for its sports to ensure that abuse and misconduct do not occur at any level. No coach of any VYI sport may engage in behaviors that are considered child sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, or physical misconduct.
VYI volunteers are prohibited from exhibiting the following physical behavior with their players; romantic or intimate contact with a player, corporal punishment, patting the buttocks or other private areas of the body, or showing items of pornography or sexual nature. Other prohibited behavior includes pushing or shoving a player, corporal punishment, withholding water as punishment, allowing an injured player to compete without medical approval, sharing photos of an inappropriate nature, or unwanted sexual contact.
Appropriate physical contact is limited and may include giving “high fives” or “fist bumps” for good performance, or brief pats on the back or shoulders.
Emotional abuse can occur in many forms, but specifically VYI volunteers are not to tell jokes of a sexual nature to their players or to make sexually provocative or degrading comments. Abuse can also come in the form of hazing or harassment from a coach or other players and this is strictly prohibited.
Contact of a sexual nature is prohibited between players and if observed the coach must immediately separate the individuals and report the behavior to the League Commissioner and the Chief Operating Officer for further action.
During the first session where a coach meets his players the coach should define the boundaries of his position. The coach is a mentor and trainer of the youth on his team. He is not their friend or texting buddy, and the coach is not allowed to be alone with a player at any time. The coach should not allow more than one child to go to the bathroom at any one time and parents are encouraged to attend every practice and game to assist the coach and monitor practices and games where needed. All interactions with a child one on one must be observable and interruptible.
SCREENING AND SELECTION
VYI began this effort over five years ago when it contracted with the National Center for Safety Initiatives to begin conducting bi-annual background checks on coaches of all sports, sports commissioners, volunteers with an active role with children, and members of the Board of Directors.
Results of background checks are shared, when a “red light” situation occurs, with the sport commissioner who then evaluates the situation and terminates that applicant if necessary. If further action is necessary one of VYI’s Chief Operating Officers or the Chief Executive Officer are brought in to confer on the proper action.
In addition, VYI requires a Coach Application for any coaching applicant, which goes above and beyond the background check and asks questions of each coaching applicant related to their conduct and any past activity that might preclude them from participating in youth sports.
The coach application is also a teaching vehicle as it describes the varied levels of behavior required of a VYI volunteer.
Effective as of the 2022 Summer Season, all coaches and volunteers who regularly participate with a VYI sport are required to complete an online education and training course, which is part of their seasonal application process. Additional guidelines are being added to the website for the use of organization leaders, coaches and volunteers and parents.
MONITORING AND SUPERVISION
VYI has a hierarchy within its management structure that provides multiple levels of oversight of its various volunteers. An assistant coach, if they interact with the players reports to a Head Coach, both of which are required to complete the background investigation as well as filling out the complete coach application.
All VYI coaches are expected to follow the VYI Coach Code of Conduct which is enumerated on VYI’s website www.vyi.org.
In addition to that level of oversight VYI also has a commissioner and in many cases, an assistant commissioner of each sport, who also must take the background investigation as well as fill out an application. Commissioners are usually chosen by the Chief Operating Officer of the sport, after years as a coach or volunteer within the sport, who also must complete a background check.
The next level of oversight is that the Chief Operating Officers of the organization, who manage all the sports, are overseen by the Chief Executive Officer, who also must complete a background check.
Other officers in the organization such as the Secretary, the Vice President, Administration and the Chief Financial Officer are expected to complete background investigations.
INTERNAL FEEDBACK SYSTEMS
Parents of all our children are encouraged to attend as many practices and games as they possibly can. The parents form a very active feedback loop to identify obnoxious, overbearing coaches or other parents who might intimidate the children playing the game.
Coaches are encouraged to report parents who get out of hand and aprents are encouraged to report coaches, if necessary. This system works very effectively to keep all elements at games well under control.
Referees are also trained by the sports commissioners and the Chief Operating Officers and told to give technical fouls when appropriate to the bench to keep parents under control. Referees are encouraged to report unruly parents to the head referee, Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. Parents who violate VYI policies of conduct are banned from attending games for varying lengths of time depending on the infraction.
Parents have an active process to report coaches and other VYI officials who they believe have stepped over a line in their behavior. Parents can complain about coaches teaching techniques as well as their behavior with the children if they wish. VYI offers a ladder of ascending management that parents can appeal to in the event they do not like the answer they have been given.
A final level of appeal is set up where three members of VYI’s Board of Directors who are unrelated to the sport in question form a committee to hear the parent grievance and to render a final decision in the case. This grievance process also extends to coaches who feel they have been unfairly treated with regard to length of suspension or banishment from games and practices for a certain period of time.
While parents have an avenue to complain about volunteers, they also are expected to act in a mature and reasonable manner at all times during practices and games. They are expected to follow the Parents Code of Conduct in dealing with all VYI personnel, referees and other parents at games and practices. Infractions of this policy could result in suspensions or banishment from VYHI activities.
VYI is particularly careful to respond to a parent concern or report within 24 hours of the incident and to schedule a hearing with the line of management involved within three days after the initial report.
Any incident related to physical or mental abuse of a child will be handled immediately, normally by VYI’s Chief Executive Officer and other members of VYI’s Executive Committee.
One of VYI’s Board positions is the Vice President of Safety and Security whose sole responsibility it is to monitor all background investigations and to actively search for ways to make the children in our organization safe and secure while they are under our volunteer’s supervision.
In addition, new procedures are being added periodically to VYI’s website to help better educate parents, coaches and volunteers, and VYI club administrative personnel.