SFIA Member Spotlight – U.S. Center for SafeSport

Creating a safe space for all athletes, the U.S. Center for SafeSport discusses their future plans for to end abuse.
Member: U.S. Center for SafeSport
Spotlight On:

Shellie Pfohl

Shellie Pfohl, CEO

What is the U.S. Center for SafeSport?

Pfohl: The US Center for SafeSport is making athlete wellbeing the centerpiece of our nation’s sports culture by ending all forms of abuse. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, we’re the first and only national organization that provides sports entities with consultation on abuse prevention techniques and polices, while developing best practices and educational programs focused on putting an end to bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct, or any form of emotional or physical abuse in sports.

We also serve as an independent response and resolution center for athletes to report allegations of sexual misconduct within the US Olympic and Paralympic Movements’ 47 national governing bodies.

When was the US Center for SafeSport Founded?

Pfohl: We opened in March 2017 and hit the ground running.

What are current projects SafeSport is working on for 2017?

Pfohl: We are incredibly busy building our repository with education and awareness best practices, policies and programs on abuse prevention and are consulting sport organizations on how to effectively implement the SafeSport Code and practices into their programs. The Center is also the exclusive authority for investigating all reports of sexual misconduct for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, so we’re busy taking and responding to reports.

How does SafeSport instill positive behavior in sport organizations?

Pfohl: Our tag line is “Champion respect. End abuse.” Our goal is to work with sport organizations to build a culture of respect in which youth and adults can participate safely. And if we build a culture of respect, then abuse will have no place.

Are there any tools you use to help the organizations promote respect and prevent abuse?

Pfohl: We have training, tool kits and one-pagers that can be found on our website, www.safesport.org. We are also looking to build up more virtual resources for individuals and organizations across the country.

What type of growth do you think SafeSport will have in 2017?

Pfohl: As a startup, we are in a super-growth mode and are in the process of hiring and building our team. For example, we brought in investigators and content management folks to our team. So in 2017, we’ll at least have 10 full time and a few contractual employees. By 2018, we will easily double that number.

Are you guys planning on hosting any events to raise awareness of issues?

Pfohl: In future years, yes, but we currently aren’t planning any events or conferences. Instead, we are raising awareness by working with other organizations and introducing SafeSport and our mission to their audiences.

What are some of the biggest abuse problems you see in sports?

Pfohl: The issues we are seeing today range from bullying (including cyberbullying), hazing, physical abuse and emotional abuse to sexual misconduct and sexual abuse. This can be coach-to-athlete, athlete-to-athlete and other scenarios.  It could be adult to adult, adult to youth, youth to youth –all of which are unacceptable.

Do you have any current partnerships?

Pfohl: Yes, we have partnerships with the NBA and WNBA. They understand and believe in our mission and are supporting us financially to help us build out our programs. NBC is also helping us in terms of communications, and, of course, the U.S. Olympic Committee and all of the sports’ national governing bodies are partners because we provide education, training and awareness, and serve as an independent and confidential place for athletes to report allegations of sexual misconduct within the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

What kind of impact do you hope SafeSport will have on athletes in 5 years?

Pfohl: In 5 years, I truly hope that we’ll see a shift in the tolerance of abusive situations and environments. My number one hope is that because of the Center’s work there will be a noticeable trend towards prevention and finding the best prevention techniques in sport. I want to help parents, athletes, coaches, sport administrators and others to prevent all forms of abuse from taking place. Second, when bad things do happen, I want more individuals to feel comfortable and safe coming forward.

How many workers are on the 24 hour hotline?

Pfohl: We have a 24/7 hotline and a helpline. The confidential SafeSport helpline is operated by RAINN and provides crisis intervention, referrals and emotional support. This is important for people who may not be ready to file a report but need emotional support or counseling.  The hotline, or the reporting line, has 6-8 investigators taking reports through an online portal on our website, emails, calls, and more. Individuals can report a concern on our hotline at 720-524-5620 or contact the SafeSport Helpline at 866-200-0796.

Do you have any direct quotes from athletes about your organization?

Pfohl: Han Xiao is a Team USA Table Tennis Olympian, Chair of the Athlete Advisory Council and a huge champion for the Center. He’s said, “The launch of the U.S. Center for SafeSport is an essential step in protecting athletes from abuse.”


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