Early introduction to fitness, sports, and physical activity can create a lifetime of healthy habits for children. These activities are an opportunity for children to socialize with other kids while learning how to move their bodies and run out some of that boundless energy. For all the benefits of kids’ programs at a gym, there can be a small risk of inappropriate relationships between an adult and a child. 

Whenever children are separated from their parents, the opportunity arises for an adult to take advantage of a child’s naivety. Parents are depending on the staff of your gym to keep their children safe from abuse while teaching the class they are attending. It is a huge responsibility to take on the safety of children, but safety must be at the forefront of your mind during kids’ classes. 

How To Prevent Child Abuse in Your Gym 

By taking a few easy steps, including education and implementing policies, you can ensure that your gym is a safe space for members of all ages. You cannot control every person’s behavior, but you can control your gym’s protocols and staff training to prevent inappropriate situations. 

Education and Training for Staff

The number one way to prevent child abuse in your gym is through education and staff training. Every employee at your gym must know how to behave appropriately around the children in your programs. Some things seem to be common sense, like don’t make any physical contact with a child without their consent. However, plainly stating the gym’s expectations for employee behavior removes any gray area. 

On top of employee conduct, all staff members should be trained on what to look for when it comes to child safety. Predators could be parents, unknown adults at the gym, and even fellow staff members. The best method for educating your team is to bring in a consultant who is well-versed in child abuse, warning signs, and business policies. If there is not a local consultant available, you can also look into online training programs. 

One of the reasons that education is so important is because many predators use a process called “grooming”. This is when someone gets involved and gains the trust of other parents, children, and employees. Grooming is a slow process that can be harder to detect. Educated staff who know the warning signs can be better equipped to recognize inappropriate behavior before it progresses too far. 

Get Parents Involved

Have a space in your gym where parents can sit and wait during kids’ classes. Having parents present can make the children feel more comfortable and add a layer of accountability for everyone. 

You can also offer classes where parents and children can work out together. Not only does everyone get to work on their fitness, but games and activities make the classes enjoyable for all ages. Parents will feel more comfortable being able to see who is interacting with their child and the children can feel the most confidence with their parents supporting them. 

Include safety information in your welcome packet when parents sign up for their kids. In addition to the general gym and physical activity safety information, have a section that talks about child abuse prevention. Talking points should cover your gym’s policies for maintaining child safety and training requirements for your staff. 

Gym Policies

You should set gym policies in place that protect the safety of the kids at your gym. First and foremost, guidelines for physical and verbal contact between staff members and children should be documented. These written guidelines should be taught to all staff members during verified on the job training. 

Any employees that have contact with children need to have a background check completed. You’ll most likely need to find a local business that conducts background checks that include fingerprinting. 

Instructors or coaches (or all employees) should wear identifiable clothing. This might mean a shirt with the gym logo and a branded name tag. Children should be able to quickly identify which adults are coaches at the gym. 

Only parents should be allowed in the waiting area during classes. There is no need for them to bring unrelated adults to the gym. Additionally, parents should provide prior authorization for their child to go home with another family or person. 

One policy that can help protect children is no photography in the gym. Photographs can be used or sold for malicious intent. Since parents will probably want the opportunity to get photographs of their children during class, you can offer a location where parents can photograph their child without any other children in the background. 

Finally, your gym should have security cameras covering the entirety of the gym. Cameras act as an accountability measure. There is no need for them to be hidden. Obvious cameras that are easy to see can sometimes be enough to prevent inappropriate behavior. 

How To Handle a Potential Child Abuse Situation

Immediately involve the authorities if any claims of child abuse come up at your gym. Law enforcement officers are specially trained to handle these sensitive situations. Cooperate with their investigation and offer any help that you can.

In the meantime, support the child and parents as best as you can. There may not be much that you can do, but the family must know how serious you take the situation. 

If an employee is involved, they should be immediately placed on suspension if allegations occur. You may be close with your staff members and sometimes emotions can get involved. Do your best to separate any loyalty for your employee from a very serious situation. 

In the unlikely case that an act of child abuse occurs at your gym, put your staff through further training. There may not have been anything they could have done to prevent the situation. However, you should always do your best to keep your staff’s education and training up to date. 

Final Thoughts

Child abuse is a topic that is uncomfortable to think about and discuss. As a gym owner, you must take the time to consider all possible situations. This allows you to train your staff and put policies in place that protect the children at your gym. Ideally, these guidelines will all be planned out before starting a children’s program at your gym. 

close

GET NEW ARTICLES IN YOUR INBOX

Fresh articles every Monday morning

We don’t spam! Unsubscribe at any time.

Gym management software that frees up your time and helps you grow.

Simplified billing, enrollment, student management, and marketing features that help you grow your gym or martial arts school.

Start A 30-day Free Trial
×

Get Our Best Content In Your Inbox

Insights on how to manage and grow your gym

Subscribe Now
×

Get more articles like this directly in your inbox.

Learn how to make your gym or martial arts school a profitable business.

* Unsubscribe at any time