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Guidance for Virtual Teaching and Coaching

Post Publication Note: Swim England has edited the criteria for land work at home during the Coronavirus outbreak it originally published on 24 Mar 2020 now entitled as above with  strike-throughs and additions (in green) shown below (as at 14 Apr 2020):

The current situation is unprecedented and challenges us to find ways to keep our members active and training connected and engaged with our sport whilst respecting adhering to government guidance around social distancing etc  in response to the Covid-19 outbreak

One clear opportunity is to undertake online delivery of activity from the teacher / coach to the athlete(s)  member(s) either via live connection or recorded content or social media interaction.

The following guidance sets out how a teacher or coach delivering on behalf of a club can deliver online / facilitate virtual training and ensure that they are operating within Swim England parameters in a safe and effective manner and the club is covered by their in accordance with the Swim England insurance policy for this activity  and Child Protection Policies and Procedures, which are still in operation.

The Swim England Safeguarding Team have provided further guidance (section 3) in relation to the use of online communication platforms with members under the age of 18.

1. Level of coach

Coaches should only deliver activity for which they are trained.  In all of the instances below, coaches should apply good coaching practice.  They should risk assess the activity, ensuring that it is appropriate for the developmental stage of participants and also take into account the fact that they will not be in close proximity to the athletes or directly supervising them in the same way as a face-to-face environment. Adjustments should be made accordingly.

a) Coaches with a recognised land training or strength and conditioning qualification

These coaches can deliver land training activity online as long as they risk assess the activity appropriately, ensure as far as possible safe practice on behalf of the participant and work within the level for which they are trained.  Extra care should be taken to ensure the activity is safe for the athlete.

b) Coaches with a recognised aquatic qualification (but not a land-training qualification)

It is clear that non-pool activity is going to be the main form of training for most participants at this time.  If the coach has been educated to deliver pre and post pool dryland activity then they can use this in their online training, ensuring that they deliver appropriate technique and ensuring that the volume and intensity is within healthy limit for the participant.

c) Coaches with no recognised qualification

These individuals should not be delivering online / virtual content.

d) Activity outside of the scope of the qualification

If the coach wants to utilise techniques that are out of the scope of their qualification then ideally they would use a person with a relevant qualification to deliver this as per (a).  If this is not possible, then they could refer the participant (or their parent if Under-18) to relevant and reputable content available elsewhere.  There will be content available on the Swim England website and links to reputable sources of further content.  It should be made clear to the participant / parent that the club, coach and Swim England accept no liability for any injury or issue arising from following such content.

2. Maintaining Participant Safety

Safety of the participant must be paramount.  Delivering online / virtually can bring extra challenges that should be addressed. 

The following guidelines should be followed:
  • The coach should consider all of the usual safety considerations for the training they intend to deliver.
  • Consider the environment that the athlete will be training in and ask the swimmer (over 18) or their parent (under 18) to check it and confirm that it is appropriate for the training they are going to undertake. The following are examples of what should be considered:
  • What is the floor like? Is it safe and will it stay so when wet?
  • Is the area well ventilated?
  • Do they have a mat?
  • Can they exercise outside?
  • Is there furniture they may bump into—can it be moved?
  • Have they got enough space to exercise safely?
  • Are there any trip hazards? Are pets and other distractions being kept away from the exercise area.
  • NB: Any equipment used should be wiped clean before and after use
  • A responsible adult should be in proximity of the athlete at all times to deal with any issues that arise and to stop the athlete training if there are any health / safety concerns.
  • The swimmer / parent for U18s should confirm to the coach that the athlete is fit and healthy for the intended training or seek medical advice if in any doubt.
  • Appropriate clothing should be worn including suitable footwear, no jewellery etc.
  • There is a mechanism for the athlete to feedback to the coach any problems or issues with the session and have a session debrief if possible.
  • The teacher / coach should issue an initial disclaimer to the parents / guardians of the participants to clarify that participation in the session is done so at their own risk and that neither the teacher, coach nor club accepts responsibility for any injury that occurs as a result.
  • The teacher / coach and athlete participants should stay hydrated.
  • Ensure the athlete keeps pets and any other distractions away during exercise.

3. Safeguarding Making Virtual Communication Safer

Pre delivery considerations:

Just as with any other form of coaching, implementing good safeguarding practice is extremely important to protect the coach and the participant.

All usual safeguarding considerations should be taken into account.  In addition, the following guidelines should be followed:
  • Ensure the Club Welfare Officer is aware of any methods which are being used for communicating with members under the age of 18 years.
  • Gain written Consent  – can include email consent – must be sought from parents / guardians and explain what the purpose of the training is, when it will be done, on what platform etc.
  • As per the safety guidance above, ensure that a responsible adult is in proximity to the athlete (if under 18).
  • Use an online-share platform – that way the coach will not necessarily need access to the children’s contact details and only use it for the purpose of the training.
  • Consider which platforms are appropriate to use. Familiarise yourself with the privacy settings on your chosen platform to ensure that individuals from outside of the club cannot access the session. Know how to report any safeguarding concerns.
  • Pre-recorded sessions are easier to manage from a safeguarding point of view. If a live platform is to be utilised then safeguarding risks and mitigations should be considered.
  • If you decide to use a method such as a live or interactive broadcast the Club Welfare Officer should be consulted and informed of the consent gained, nature, frequency and timing of any online communication with children. There must be a method of other adults being able to access the session.
  • Personal accounts should not be used and we strongly advise that your social media is private and inaccessible to members and you do not hold personal information (such as phone numbers) for members under the age of 18.
  • Ensure appropriate privacy settings and that images of the athlete are not shared online.

Considerations during session delivery:
  • The communication should take place in an appropriate setting. You should avoid recording in casual or intimate atmospheres / locations (such as a bedroom). An impersonal or blurred background is preferred and is less distracting for members.
  • If any live or interactive broadcast is used, there should not be any one-to-one interaction between the coach and child without another responsible adult present with the child. This will reduce any risk to both the children and adults.
  • Appropriate boundaries must be maintained – avoid contact that a reasonable person might question. A professional tone is critical to maintain boundaries online.
  • Only post images / videos of participants if prior consent has been obtained (This must comply with Swim England’s Child Safeguarding Photography Guidance, page 86 of Wavepower).

Post-delivery considerations:
  • Images / videos of the session may not be stored for personal use or without parental consent. If a teacher / coach(es) has a legitimate reason for such they must comply with Swim England’s Child Safeguarding Photography Guidance, page 86 of Wavepower.
  • Report child safeguarding concerns immediately to your designated safeguarding officer such as the Club Welfare Officer or Swim England’s Child Safeguarding Team. The Swim England Child Safeguarding Team are still available during this period and can be contacted on 01509 640252.
  • Do not make contact with athletes outside of the training unless with parental consent.
Please continue to visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs for any further useful updates.

Thank you for helping to keep our members safe during these challenging times.

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