Over the years USA Hockey has compiled an impressive track record when it comes to making the game safer for all participants.
From establishing the Heads Up, Don’t Duck program to creating the Hockey Equipment Certification
Council to implementing rules that require coaches to wear helmets, USA Hockey has taken great strides to protect its members on the ice.
But what about creating a safe environment off the ice, in locker rooms, on team trips and away from the rink?
USA Hockey has always put systems in place to protect its participants from various forms of abuse and misconduct that can be harmful to youth hockey players. And now that philosophy is about to get stronger, with the adoption of the SafeSport program, which is intended to bring all of USA Hockey’s policies under one comprehensive umbrella to protect participants.
These policies include dealing with various forms of abuse, from sexual, physical and emotional, to bullying, threats and hazing. The new policies address areas where misconduct can occur and are intended to reduce the risk of potential abuse, including a locker room policy, travel policies and situations surrounding the ever-expanding growth of social media and electronic communications.
By combining all of these elements into a comprehensive program, USA Hockey intends to create the safest possible environment for everyone involved in the game.
Highlighting USA Hockey’s SafeSport program is an abuse prevention training program that was produced by the United States Olympic Committee and will be available at no cost to all USA Hockey coaches, employees and volunteers in USA Hockey programs.
Also included are more defined standards for the required background screening of coaches and other volunteers having access to youth participants, and guidelines for USA Hockey programs in reporting and responding to suspected abuse.
“We’ve long been a leader in providing a safe environment for all involved in the game,” said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey.
“As an example, we first began screening adults involved with children in the 1990s. The USA Hockey SafeSport program packages our long-standing policies with some updates and includes the excellent video training our partners at the USOC have produced.”
USA Hockey’s board of directors unanimously endorsed the program during its 2012 Annual Congress in Colorado Springs, and plans are underway to implement the program through the organization’s local associations, Affiliates and Districts.
According to Dennis Green, who sat on the committee that formulated plans to move the program forward, it’s just another example of how USA Hockey continues to adapt to ever-changing times.
“I just think that it’s another process of the game evolving and taking it to the next step,” said Green, a longtime hockey administrator in Minnesota who has served the game at the local, state and national levels.
“It’s part of bringing synergy to trying to get everybody to do the same things, trying to look at the overall good of what we can do for kids to help grow the game.”