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Greater Protection of Children From Abuse in Sports Is Needed

U.S. Should Implement U.K. Model

Children seen as commodities?

Our society (UK and USA) has been labelled as ‘late-capitalist', where capitalism has taken on a new, more voracious form - everything is a commodity, children are not excluded, neither those working in sweatshops in developing nations in support of our (‘Western') consumer lifestyles, or our own children who just want to ‘play ball' but find themselves thrust into intensely competitive situations that often takes little account of their well-being and places overwhelming emphasis on winning, and encourages them to do so. The ‘commodification of childhood' perhaps finds a comfortable home in the sub-world of sport, where winning really is everything (at least according to the voices, images and organizations that children are drilled to listen to) and the objective (and principle attraction) is always conquest, often physical.

Child Protection Policies Essential

Centrally supported policies to protect/safeguard children in sport are essential. Their value lies in their potential to foster cultural change (principally by ‘stick' rather than ‘carrot'). However, given the forces of patriarchy and commercialism stacked up against those who believe in a different version of physical activity than that currently on offer to our children within the discourse of ‘sport', their ability to deliver change that will truly transform childhood physical activity seems somewhat limited. Such forces are often ready to accept child protection policies to weed out the deviant few (as long as they are not too inconvenient). But of course, the suggestion here is that if we are really serious about tackling childhood abuse, policy development is only the first step in a long process of radical change - a process that many forces dominant within sport might perceive that they have a vested interest in resisting. The role for those adults who are prepared to put the interests of children first will clearly be a vital one in this struggle and explicitly acknowledging and advocating children's rights will be a key aspect of it.

Mike Hartill is a lecturer in the Department of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, England, and has written frequently on sexual abuse of boys in sports. He can be reached at hartillm@edgehill.ac.uk. He is particularly interested in hearing from men who may have experienced sexual abuse in sport. Follow on Twitter: @MikeHartill1