MARTIAL ARTS AND CHILDREN

More and more, I see and hear of children as young as ‘two’ being tar-geted to participate in Martial Arts and, when children reach a certain level of competence, they are often used as assistants and instructors in some clubs. To many of you this may seem perfectly acceptable, but the trouble is that it is not. Some years ago I introduced a pee wee section to my schools, and following professional guidance and programming, which I was provided with by other organisations and agencies, I recruited a large number of children between the ages of four and eight years of age. To my horror I found that I could not get any insurance for children under the age of five (5) years and this remains true to this day. I have spoken with many brokers and insurance providers and not one has been willing to provide insurance for children under this age limit. The risks may be regarded by some as minimal and the benefits of insurance would be somewhat limited to death or loss of limbs but there is a responsibility and general duty of care which, as a responsible instructor, I am obliged to adhere to.

Another factor that could have an impact upon this age group is that it falls within the pre-school age range and may require registration and inspection by local or government agencies for which appropriately trained and qualified staff would be needed. Some time ago I spoke to some other instructors from various organisations that were keen to debunk this notion, as they had thriving preschool age sections in their associations. They had been assured by their governing bodies that they had all the adequate insurance and qualifications necessary to teach under 5’s. Not wishing to get involved in any disagreement, I simply wished them good luck and asked if they could provide me with the name of their insurers, as I would like to obtain my insurance from them as it was obviously better than that which I could get. A short while later

I got a call from one of the instructors who said that after carrying out his own enquiries, he found out that not only was he not covered on insurance but that he definitely needed to register as an approved pre-school play group -contrary to all the advice and guidance given by his large and respected Governing Body!

In my schools, we have disbanded the under 5’s group and even though I get parents of potential new members under this age arguing that the

Martial Arts club down the road takes under 5’s but that they can’t attend on the nights the other club operates, I have to turn them away or add them to our growing waiting list.

At the other end of the scale is the lack of understanding and perhaps even an ‘abuse’ in using children (under 18 years) as coaches and instructors for which I can similarly find no insurance company willing to provide indemnities. Whilst I acknowledge that in other sports such as Gymnastics, not only can you get insurance for a junior coach under this age but you can also get qualifications, it would seem, rightly or wrongly, that Martial Arts is viewed very much as a stand alone activity in terms of starting age and competence to assist or instruct. In fact some companies will not insure instructors or assistant instructors in Martial Arts under the age of twenty-one years! Quite often it is the case that instructors assume because they hold their own indemnity this automatically transfers to and covers those whom they use as assistants so say ‘directly under their control or supervision’. However, the point here is that, other than the obvious age constraint, the point at which control is passed from the instructor to the assistant can be a very thin and fragile line indeed. One could go as far as to argue that not only would it be a lack of a general duty of care to use minors or uninsured assistants, but that it is also placing the aforementioned as well as members at further and unnecessary risk.

Within all sport and recreational activities comes protection under Health and Safety legislation placing a duty upon all organisations/employers to ensure that no-one is exposed to unnecessary risk as a result of the actions of themselves or those used to run, supervise or assist in running sessions or activities. Under the obligations of a ‘General Duty of Care’ are those acts which, although not deliberate or intentional, are foreseeable and thus there may be a claim for negligence against an organisation or instructor. As an instructor (the same with organisations), you must accept a responsibility for leading others and you are obligated to them under a duty not to expose them to any unnecessary or foreseeable risk and as a safety net one should expect compliance with third-party liability insurance requirements.

An important consideration is that one would reasonably expect that the most qualified and experienced (compos mentis) person is appointed to lead or assist in the activity and that they possess sufficient understanding, through age and experience to comprehend the understanding of the nature, extent and meaning of his/her obligations and contracts. To highlight the point: Would you send your child to school if it was being run and taught by children? The issue here is that Martial Arts, because of their very physical and combative nature are regarded as a ‘high risk’ activity and if insurers regard those under a certain age range as not insurable for either being to young to participate or too young to carry out certain duties, such as instructing or assisting etc, are you being negligent or unreasonable to disre-gard such evaluations? I would suggest that you may well be! Sadly, even though I have spoken to a great number of instructors about this, the response of many of them has been to dismiss the issue and ignore it simply because they disagree with the obligations or requirements. It’s not that they can’t fulfil their obligations they just won’t! Within my own organisation we take our responsibilities very seriously for both instructors and members and as such we have introduced a level of ‘appointed persons’ for the purpose of coaching or assisting defining clearly what each person can and can not do: The following definitions of appointed persons have been correlated through discussion with insurance companies, insurance advisors and dictionary definitions. The definitions follow a strict structure and clearly show when an appointed person is required to be insured.

Mentor

A Mentor is an appointed person who stands with a new student in order to boost their self-esteem and confidence. A Mentor does not demonstrate technique or give any advice or instruction and must be advised of this. Simply put a mentor, cannot and must not, teach, advise or demonstrate technique. To perform this task requires the appointed person to be at least an Intermediate

Coach and hold the relevant qualifications grade and insurance.

Intermediate/Sessional Coach (level 1) An Intermediate Coach must be 18 or over, hold our NGB recognised coaching award and must hold at least a Black Belt or equivalent. An Intermediate Coach must hold Instructor Indemnity Insurance of £5million, a full disclosure CRB check and current personal first aid certifi cate. In addition an Intermediate Coach must be ‘logged-on’ to our NGB approved National Coaching Qualification system. An Intermediate Coach will assist more qualified Coaches, providing aspects of sessions, normally under direct supervision. Intermediate coaches must not conduct sparring or other higher risk sessions.

Coach (level 2)

In addition to fulfilling all the criteria of Intermediate Coach, a Coach must prepare for and deliver sessions or a series of sessions, to a mixed ability group, normally working under the overall support of a higher level individual. A Level 2 Coach must hold Instructor Indemnity Insurance of £5million, a full disclosure CRB check and current personal first aid certificate.

Senior Coach (level 3)

In addition to fulfilling all the criteria of Coach, the Senior Coach will plan, implement, review and revise seasonal/annual programmes to mixed ability groups of performers, normally using a context-specific ‘mix’ of methods and procedures. A Senior Coach is ultimately or jointly responsible for schools within their group. It is the Senior Coach’s responsibility to ensure that all necessary members of their group hold the correct Indemnity Insurance, first aid certificates and full disclosure CRB checks. As a member of our NGB, ALL Senior Coaches MUST ensure that a monthly insurance and membership subscription is paid, through their bank, directly to the NGB. Failure to do this will terminate their group’s membership of our NGB.

Advanced Coach (level 4) Fulfils all the criteria of a Senior Coach and in addition will be qualified as a National Coaching Qualification Assessor. Advanced Coaches evaluate the process and outcome of Coaching Programmes, in order to design, deploy and refine coaching practice towards longer term and/or more complex goals. A Level 4 Coach must hold Instructor Indemnity Insurance of £5million, a full disclosure CRB check and current personal first aid certificate.

National Coach (level 5)

Fulfils all the criteria of an Advanced Coach and in addition will be qualified as a National Coaching Qualification External Verifier. National Coaches generate original solutions, pro grammes and processes, through critical reflection on a broad range of com plex issues, in order to address the needs of per formers in one or more specified contexts. A Level 5 Coach must hold Instructor Indemnity

Insurance of £5million, a full disclosure CRB check and current personal first aid certificate.

So then, where is all this taking us? Hopefully
to a much more professional level of higher standards of practice and instruction where the interests of the members of organisations are put first rather than ad-hoc situations which invite unnecessary risk. No-one here is denying that all sport, Martial Arts included, contain an element of risk and it must be accepted that it is virtually impossible to lay down golden rules, which if followed will ensure there is no negligence but by behaving like a ‘reasonable person’ taking into account specific skills, knowledge and experience it can reasonably be argued that you are satisfying your ‘duty of care’ If you have any doubts about what your organisation or instructor is or is not insured to do, do not be afraid to ring up their insurance company and ask the questions directly so that you are fully apprised of any appropriate liabilities held.

The last thing to remember is that disclaimers are often not worth the paper they are written on and should not be used as an implemenf to convince members into accepting any higher or unnecessary level or risk.

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