SafeSport Center Opens – What Is It? + Latest Developments on Safety

Misconduct in the sport of gymnastics has been front and center in the headlines in recent months. In the April issue of Inside Gymnastics, we recap some of the latest developments and strive to provide some resources for athletes, parents, coaches and others in the sport.

It’s been a difficult time and we salute the bravery of our athletes in coming forward. The sport of gymnastics, as well as other sports, have to put better processes and better methodology into place to ensure our athletes are as safe as possible. We’re encouraged by the recent developments we see on that front, from senate involvement to the opening of The U.S. Center for SafeSport.

SafeSport Center Opens – What Is It and How Does It Work?

Late last month, the much anticipated opening of The U.S. Center for SafeSport was announced. Here’s a look at the initiative, its mission and outlook, provided by The U.S. Center of SafeSport.

SafeSport – What Is It?

The U.S. Center for SafeSport (The Center), is a national non-profit focused on preventing all forms of abuse in sport. The Center is a first-of-its-kind organization, providing independent response and resolution services across the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

SafeSport – What Is The Mission?

“Our mission is to see that every athlete has an opportunity to participate in sport while being safe, supported and strengthened,” said Shellie Pfohl, CEO of The Center. Prevention is at the heart of The Center’s charter. Its Education and Outreach Office promotes issue awareness and provides athletes and sport organizations, at all levels of competition, with best-in-class resources and training to promote respect and prevent abuse. These materials include talking points, fact sheets, self-evaluation tools and a comprehensive online training course. The Center also centralizes best practices, connecting sport organizations with thought leaders on issues common across sport.

SafeSport – What Others Are Saying

“The WSF is committed to promoting safety in sports for athletes of all ages and abilities,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We are encouraged by the formation of this new center and look forward to working with SafeSport leadership to ensure its promise is fulfilled.”

Resources on SafeSport.Org

Among the current resources featured on the SafeSport website are:

SafeSport Online Training Program –

“This SafeSport online training program teaches you about the nature of misconduct in sport: how to recognize it, how to prevent it and how to take action. The information in this course will help to keep sport a positive experience for every athlete, coach and volunteer.”

Online Reporting Form for Misconduct

Resources With Additional Information, Tools and Background on the Center

Additional Latest Developments Recap:

USA Gymnastics Board of Directors accepts Steve Penny’s resignation as president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, effective March 16

Penny informed the Board of his decision to resign during a Board conference call that was originally scheduled to fill a Board vacancy and to consider amendments to the Bylaws pertaining to the U.S. Center for SafeSport. The agenda was expanded after the USOC notified USA Gymnastics that its Board of Directors had discussed the recent attention on the organization’s challenges regarding sexual misconduct. USA Gymnastics will initiate a national search for a new president and CEO. In the interim, Board Chair Paul Parilla will guide the organization’s operations and move forward the initiatives currently in progress to strengthen and refine its policies and procedures for handling sexual misconduct, including the ongoing, independent evaluation by Deborah Daniels that is expected to be completed this spring.

USA Gymnastics Statement Regarding Steve Penny

Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing on the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act on March 28. The bill, intended to prevent the sexual abuse of minors and amateur athletes. Witnesses included three former Team USA Olympic athletes, who all testified in support of the legislation. Rick Adams, chief of Paralympic Sport and National Governing Body Organizational Development United States Olympic Committee, also testified on the SafeSport initiative and what the committee was doing to protect young athletes. This follows legislation, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, that would require all Olympic national governing bodies to immediately report abuse allegations to authorities. USA Gymnastics was invited, but did not attend the hearing, issuing a statement to be entered into the record instead.

The following statement also appeared in USA Today:

“USA Gymnastics cares deeply about all the issues that were before the Senate Judiciary Committee today and, particularly, suffering described by the athletes to the committee,” the statement said. “USA Gymnastics board of directors chairman Paul Parilla’s written statement submitted to the committee expresses these deep concerns. USA Gymnastics did not appear due to pending litigation, but previously has spoken with members of the Senators’ staff and met with Sen. Feinstein about these issues. As Sen. Feinstein noted in her news conference, USA Gymnastics strongly endorses S-534, Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017.”

We Will Get Through This Together

It remains a challenging time for our sport, and our hearts ache for the victims. We’re pleased to see that changes, improvements, new procedures, more open dialogue and more resources are in development. We love the sport with all of our hearts. It’s provided a foundation of so much good for so many, from the recreational side to the highest levels in so many regards. It will continue to be a great sport, a source of incredible happiness for so many, and it will be an improved sport for all. Peace and love to our community…