On this episode of Champion in Every Corner, Tammy Foster-Johnson, joins us to talk about the importance of effectively communicating MAAPP requirements to your child athlete.
Disclaimer: This podcast episode features a guest who is not an employee of the United States Center for SafeSport. The opinions, recommendations, comments, or representations made by the podcast guest do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Center.
Welcome to Champion in Every Corner, the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s podcast. Building a safe and positive sports community is what we're all about. So, you'll hear from experts about innovative ideas and abuse prevention practices you can put in play today. Before we begin, be sure you know your obligations for reporting actual or suspected child abuse, and other abuse and misconduct. Ask a leader in your organization what policies and laws apply to you. This episode is hosted by Mariah Bures, Training Manager at the Center.
On today’s episode, we are excited to welcome Tammy Johnson to discuss the importance of parents and coaches maintaining open lines of communication to foster a safe athletic environment. Welcome Tammy. Can you tell listeners a little bit about yourself?
Yes. Hi Mariah. Thank you so much for the invitation to be here. And yes, I am a parent to a visually impaired athlete. We call ourselves kind of the BVI community, the Blind Visually Impaired, and he participates in a variety of sports and activities. Many of them uniquely tailored to blind and visually impaired athletes, but we live in Washington state and I'm just happy to be here and participate.
We're so glad to have you join us, Tammy. We are excited to have you share your perspective as parent. So to begin, can you talk to us a little bit about how you supported your athlete in sport to date?
Yes. Well, one of the first things we've just encouraged him to participate in anything that he's willing to try. And so just being there actively transporting him to events and giving him that opportunity to try a variety of things, and to just give him that encouragement and support.
That's wonderful. Can you tell us a little bit about what coaching techniques you've seen that foster your athlete's growth?
Yes. Number one, positive encouragement. If it's a new sport for instance, goalball is a sport that is very popular among the BVI athletes and for those that are not familiar with it, it is a sport that's played in the Special Olympics and the athletes are blindfolded. They're operating with sound in order to block the goals, to make a goal. And my son was new to it and knew nothing about the sport. So, he was very apprehensive to do it, but the positive encouragement that he received from the coaches and just to get out there and try was phenomenal and just kept him coming back. And then also inclusion is another great coaching technique when it's not maybe dealing with a team that, or a sport, that is accustomed to accommodating athletes with disabilities for coaches to still welcome and include his participation.
That's awesome, Tammy. Goalball is such a cool sport to watch. When I first started at the Center, I looked up YouTube videos and watched some goalball videos because it's such a cool sport to watch and to see how the athletes, how they navigate a game like that. As a parent how do you prefer to receive information from coaches?
Well, I kind of apply the same technique that I do with a lot of things. I love communication through email because one, it's documented, written documentation. And then secondly, when we have the opportunity to do face to face conversations or during COVID, a lot of times it might just be a phone call to then follow up with a phone call to just have that one-on-one conversation with the coach.
That's great, Tammy, because, you know, some people will miss emails. Um, you know, we're getting so many emails nowadays.
We can certainly miss those. So having that follow-up phone call is really important. And then how do you communicate that information down to your athlete?
Well, we have a very open communication line with our son and try to just keep him involved. If I'm going to be speaking to a coach, I try to give him advanced notice as to what I'm going to do. And, and then if there's information that comes from a coach, I'll relay that to him. For instance, if it's something that he's trying to figure out, “Well, why wasn't I being played? How can I get included more?” And, and I might just talk to the coach and maybe it's something that we need to practice on a little bit more, and it doesn't come as a surprise to him that he knows that I've spoken with the coach we've discussed it. And, and then we see what we can work on.
That's great. It sounds like open communication is really important to you.
To get a little bit more specific, like if there's any updates to any of your policies or procedures at the sports organization how do you prefer to receive that information?
I like the email and then the one-on-one conversation. If I have questions from the email and I try as much as I can to have a presence, even if it's just at pick up or drop off and to just do a quick check in and to not be the helicopter mom, but to just know that I am there and available if, if the coach needs to talk to me or if my athlete needs to talk to me.
That’s great. So let's say your athlete asks you for support in communicating something to their coach. How would you support them with that?
We definitely encourage our son to advocate for himself. And we've actually had some experience with this where he has wanted to reach out to the coach and ask, then I've been trying to kind of teach him either, you know, start it with an email or do a follow up email. And so what I've offered to him, like if you're going to email and you want to just run it by your father or I first then, you know, to make sure, hey, it sounds okay. That’s something that we have done. And it seems to work because he's concerned about what he's trying to say to make sure that it sounds good. And so he has brought some of his emails to us before he hits send, and that seems to have been pretty effective.
That's awesome that you all offer to kind of like proofread their emails.
We could all use it once in a while.
Oh, yeah, for sure. Something I just want to add to, for our listeners, an athlete, a minor athlete, they are totally welcome to send an email or a text message or whatever that is to their coach. But just really important for everyone to know, like when it comes to the MAAPP, the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies, when that coach responds back to the minor athlete, they need to be including either you, Tammy, as the parent or a second Adult Participant on that communication. So even if that athlete, your athlete, for example, is starting that email and it's just them emailing just their coach. The appropriate response would be for the coach to include you or a second Adult Participant when they respond back to the athlete.
Oh, that, that's great to know. And I think from now on, I'll make sure he CC’s us on any communications.
That's great. So, what's one piece of advice that you would give to other parents as they navigate best ways to communicate with coaches?
I think communication it's just so critical and to start it from the beginning that the open communication, and to just know that you're there to support your athlete, you're there to support the team, the coach, and it's a fine line to not be the pest, to not be interfering. But I think just knowing that your presence is there and that you want the communication to flow both ways is critical.
Absolutely. So being proactive, um, you know, making sure that we're appropriate in the amount that we're communicating with coaches and athletes. And, also, I guess another question I have for you is, do you have conversations with your athlete about maybe what's appropriate and what's not appropriate to talk to their coach about, or has that not really come up?
I can't think of a specific circumstance in relation to any sports that he's participated in, but it has been a conversation that we've always continually had with our son and awareness of, you know, what's appropriate communication what's not. He was involved in Cub Scouts for a while, so that was something that was really emphasized. And it's just kind of transitioned over to other aspects of things that he's participated in and to have an awareness of it.
Yeah, absolutely. Is there anything else that you'd like to add when it comes to, you know, communication, the MAAPP, advice for other parents out there?
I think the MAAPP in reviewing that and looking at those guidelines is just so essential. I think, for your athlete to be protected and to have a positive experience. And I can't believe, I didn't think about just a simple CC on an email, but I won't forget that now. So thank you as I'm moving forward.
That's great. Yeah, that's awesome, Tammy. Thank you so much for your time and your valuable insight.
Oh, well, thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.
For our listeners. I do want to let you all know that we have resources available for parents on our website. We actually have a whole website dedicated to the MAAPP and that website is maapp.uscenterforsafesport.org. And on that website, you can actually click on the how it works tab, and there's a whole page just for parents. Tune in next time and visit our website to hear more episodes.
One final important note information about or reasonable suspicion of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, must be immediately reported to law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport and individuals must comply with other applicable state or federal laws. Visit safesport.buzzsprout.com to hear more episodes and share them with a teammate coach or colleague, and feel free to share your own ideas at email@example.com. Thank you for all you do to give athletes a champion in every corner.