Who Needs to Complete SafeSport Training? Guidelines for Coaches, Staff, and Volunteers

SafeSport training is a legal requirement for many youth sports organizations. It teaches coaches and staff how to recognize signs of abuse and respond appropriately to incidents that may occur. 

But for youth sports administrators, understanding who SafeSport applies to and what it entails can be confusing.

This guide will demystify SafeS aport training and answer all your questions about getting SafeSport certified. 

What we’ll cover:

So, let’s jump in.

What Is SafeSport Certification?

Regretfully, there have been many cases of abuse in youth sports. That’s why the government established the U.S. Center for SafeSport in 2017 — a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of athletes.

Under the Safe Sport Act, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has legal authority to address reports of misconduct and enforce policies related to abuse prevention. One of these policies requires adults who interact with minors to complete a specialized training course on preventing abuse.

This course is known as SafeSport training or SafeSport certification. 

Now, it’s important to note that these policies do not apply to all youth sports organizations. The Safe Sport Act covers:

  • Organizations governed by a national governing body (NGB) — for example, USA Gymnastics or USA Swimming. This includes Paralympic Sport Organizations (PSOs), Local Affiliated Organizations (LAOs) and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
  • Organizations that compete in amateur interstate or international competitions.

Even if you’re not legally required to, all youth sports organizations should complete some kind of abuse prevention training as a best practice. 

Suppose you do not fall under an NGB or compete interstate or internationally. In that case, you can use a different provider for your abuse prevention training — you do not need to be SafeSport certified. (Just note that you should also check state laws for any additional training requirements at the state level.)

👉 Read more about abuse prevention training in youth sports.

Who Needs To Get SafeSport Certified in Your Organization?

You may be wondering exactly who at your organization needs to take SafeSport training. The short answer is: 

All participating adults who have regular contact with amateur athletes who are minors.

The U.S Center for SafeSport defines an adult participant as anyone 18 years of age or older who is:

  1. A member or license holder of an NGB (National Governing Body), PSO (Paralympic Sport Organization), LAO (Local Affiliated Organization), or USOPC (U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee);
  2. An employee or board member of an NGB, PSO, LAO, or USOPC;
  3. Within the governance or disciplinary jurisdiction of an NGB, PSO, LAO, or USOPC;
  4. Authorized, approved, or appointed by an NGB, PSO, LAO, or USOPC to have regular contact with or authority over minor athletes.

This may include:

  • Volunteers
  • Medical staff
  • Trainers
  • Chaperones
  • Monitors
  • Contract personnel
  • Bus/van drivers
  • Officials
  • Adult athletes
  • Staff
  • Board members

While board members may not be out on the field interacting with athletes regularly, it’s important that even they are SafeSport trained so they can recognize misconduct and ensure incidents are reported in the correct way. 

And, as you can see from this list, it doesn’t matter whether the person is on the payroll or not. Youth sports volunteers must also be SafeSport certified if they’re adults and in regular contact with minor athletes.

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What You Need To Know About Getting SafeSport Certified

Now you know who should get SafeSport trained, let’s talk about the process answered. 

How long does it take to complete SafeSport training?

There are two main SafeSport training programs: the SafeSport Trained Core course and the SafeSport Refresher courses.

The Core course is a 90-minute training program that adults must complete when they first enter a youth sports organization that’s NGB-affiliated (or otherwise meets the requirements explained above).

The Refresher courses are taken annually for the subsequent three years. Each one is different and takes around 20-30 minutes to complete

What other types of SafeSport training are there?

Beyond the Core and Refresher courses, SafeSport offers several other training programs, including:

  • A 60-minute course on creating a safe and inclusive environment for athletes with disabilities
  • A 90-minute Health Professionals Course. Health providers can take this instead of the Core course since it’s tailored to their role.
  • A 15-minute SafeSport for Volunteers course. This is for adult volunteers who do not have regular contact with or authority over minor athletes (those that do need to take the Core course)
  • A 90-minute Mandatory Reporting course that goes in-depth on the topic of mandatory reporting requirements
  • A 30-minute abuse prevention and awareness course for adult athletes
  • A free 30-minute course for parents on recognizing and responding to abuse
  • Free 15-minute courses for children and youth athletes that can be taken with parental consent

Except for the Health Professionals Course, all these are supplemental and do not satisfy the Core training requirements. 

How much does SafeSport certification cost?

If you take the training directly through the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the cost is $20 per person for the Core course (up-to-date as of 2023). Large organizations may get volume pricing.

If an NGB governs your organization, you’ll likely be able to access the training through them.

The supplemental training for parents and children can be accessed by anyone for free.

What does SafeSport Training cover?

The SafeSport Trained Core course is all about creating a safe and positive sports environment. Participants walk away knowing how to prevent, recognize and respond to abuse, as well as a better understanding of their legal responsibilities. 

The Core training is broken up into three units:

Unit 1: Sexual Misconduct Awareness and Education

Young athletes are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. In a 2022 study that surveyed 473 elite athletes, 3.8% reported being sexually assaulted as a minor in the sporting context. Notes the report, “Abused athletes were significantly more likely to report having been diagnosed with a mental disorder.”

Because of this vulnerability and the serious repercussions of the offense, the first unit is wholly dedicated to sexual misconduct and abuse. It covers topics like:

  • Definitions of what sexual misconduct is and the different types
  • Facts and myths about child sexual abuse
  • What appropriate coach/athlete relationships should look like
  • Grooming behaviors and how to spot them
  • Signs and symptoms of abuse
  • Laws, policies and compliance around sexual abuse

Unit 2: Mandatory Reporting

Under the Safe Sport Act, all participating adults are considered mandatory reporters. That means they must report abuse or suspected abuse within 24 hours or risk facing criminal charges. This unit covers what the legal requirements are, what to do when abuse is suspected, how to respond to disclosures of abuse and how to report to authorities. 

This content is essential for ensuring your organization stays legally compliant

Unit 3: Physical and Emotional Misconduct 

This unit covers other types of abuse, including scenarios in which they might occur. These include:

  • Bullying and cyberbullying
  • Hazing
  • Harassment
  • Emotional misconduct
  • Physical misconduct

The refresher courses focus on three different areas, each with the aim of reviewing information and building on the foundations of the Core course. These are:

  • Refresher 1: Recognizing and Reporting Misconduct
  • Refresher 2: Preventing Misconduct
  • Refresher 3: Creating a Positive Sport Environment

How long does SafeSport certification last?

The SafeSport Trained Core course gives you certification for a year. After that, you’ll need to take the first of the three annual Refresher courses. 

After all three Refresher courses have been completed, the Core course must be taken again. So, in other words, you must complete the Core course once every four years and a Refresher course every year in between.

Next Steps

SafeSport certification has become an important component of safeguarding athletes and promoting a safe and respectful sports environment. It empowers coaches, volunteers and other members of the sports community to recognize and respond to misconduct, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

If your youth sports club falls under a National Governing Body, talk to them today about the best way to access SafeSport training. 

You can also get more information or register for SafeSport training courses by visiting the U.S. Center for SafeSport website.