The USTA’s objective is to create an environment that is inclusive for all. In order to achieve this objective, the USTA strictly prohibits the following types of conduct.
Repeated inappropriate behavior, either direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical, or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others. It is the effect of the behavior on the individual which is important, not the intent of the person committing the act.
Specifically, bullying refers to:
a. An intentional, persistent and repeated pattern of committing or willfully tolerating physical and non-physical behaviors that are intended to cause fear, humiliation, or physical harm in an attempt to socially exclude, diminish, or isolate the individual(s) targeted.
b. Any violation of state law prohibiting bullying.
Examples of bullying prohibited by the USTA include, without limitation:
i. Physical behaviors, including: (a) repeated hitting, pushing, punching, beating, biting, striking, choking, or slapping an individual; (b) repeated throwing at or hitting an individual with objects, including sporting equipment.
ii. Verbal and emotional behaviors, including: (a) repeated teasing, ridiculing, intimidating; (b) spreading rumors or making false statements; or (c) using electronic communications, social media, or other technology to harass, frighten, intimidate, or humiliate ("cyber bulling").
Bullying does not include group or team behaviors that: (i) are meant to establish normative team behaviors; (ii) promote team cohesion; (iii) are a condition of membership; or (iv) do not have reasonable potential to cause emotional or physical distress to any individual. For example, bullying does not include verbal admonitions to encourage team members to train harder and to push through a difficult training regimen.
Intentionally humiliating, degrading, or risking emotional or physical harm regardless of the individual’s willingness to participate.
Hazing specifically refers to coercing, requiring, forcing or willfully tolerating any humiliating, unwelcomed or dangerous activity that serves as a condition for (a) joining a group; or (b) being socially accepted by a group’s members. In addition, hazing refers to any act or conduct described as hazing under federal or state law. Activities that fit the definition of hazing are considered hazing regardless of an individual’s willingness to cooperate or participate.
Hazing does not include group or team behaviors that: (i) are meant to establish normative team behaviors, or (ii) promote team cohesion.
Examples of hazing prohibited by the USTA include, without limitation:
a. Requiring, forcing or otherwise requiring the consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs;
b. Tying, taping, or otherwise physically restraining an individual(s);
c. Sexual simulations or sexual acts of any nature;
d. Requiring social actions (e.g., grossly inappropriate or provocative clothing) or public displays (e.g., public nudity) that are illegal or meant to draw ridicule; or
e. Beating, paddling, or other forms of physical assault.
Harassment includes, but is not limited to, harassment on the basis of race, creed, color, disability, marital status, veteran status, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, physical handicap, and stalking. While it is not easy to define precisely what harassment is, it includes, but is not limited to, slurs, epithets, threats, derogatory comments, unwelcome jokes and teasing, derogatory pictures, posters, gestures, and unwanted blocking or interference of movement and personal space.
Examples of harassment that are prohibited by the USTA include, without limitation:
a. (i) making negative or disparaging comments about an individual’s sexual orientation, gender expression, disability, veteran status, age, sex, physical handicap, religion, skin color, ethnic traits, domestic violence victim status, stalking, genetic predisposition or carrier status; (ii) displaying offensive materials, media, gestures, or symbols; (iii) withholding or reducing playing time to an athlete based on his/her sexual orientation.
b. Any act or conduct described as harassment under federal or state law.
The USTA also prohibits the following forms of Harassment:
I. Emotional Misconduct
The USTA does not tolerate emotional misconduct from any person associated with a USTA sanctioned-event. Emotional misconduct includes any intentional conduct which harms an individual’s spirit and/or self-worth through rejection, threats, harassment, terrorizing, isolating, or belittling. Emotional misconduct exists when there is a pattern of deliberate, non-contact behavior that has the potential to cause emotional or psychological harm to an individual, regardless of age.
Examples of emotional misconduct that are prohibited by the USTA include, without limitation:
a. Verbal Acts. A pattern of verbal behaviors that (a) repeatedly attack an individual personally (e.g., calling them worthless, fat, or disgusting) or (b) repeatedly and excessively yelling at a particular participant or participants in a manner that serves no productive training or motivational purpose.
b. Acts that Deny Attention and Support. A pattern of (a) ignoring a participant for extended periods of time or (b) routinely or arbitrarily excluding participants from practice in a manner that serves no productive training or motivational purpose.
Emotional misconduct does not include professionally-accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, discipline or improving athletic performance.
II. Physical Misconduct
The USTA does not tolerate physical misconduct from any person associated with a USTA sanctioned-event. Physical misconduct includes any non-accidental contact which results in harm. Physical misconduct exists when contact or non-contact conduct results in, or reasonably threaten to, cause physical harm to an individual, regardless of age.
Examples of physical misconduct that are prohibited by the USTA include, without limitation:
a. Contact offenses. Behaviors include:
i. Punching, beating, biting, striking, choking or slapping an individual;
ii. Intentionally hitting an individual with objects or sporting equipment.
b. Non-contact offenses. Behaviors include:
i. Isolating an athlete in a confined space (e.g. locking an athlete in a small space);
ii. Forcing an athlete to assume a painful stance or position for no athletic purpose (e.g., requiring an athlete to kneel on a harmful surface);
iii. Withholding, recommending against or denying adequate hydrating, nutrition, medical attention or sleep;
iv. Providing alcohol to an individual under the legal drinking age (under U.S. law);
v. Providing illegal drugs or non-prescribed medications to any individual;
vi. Prescribing a dieting or other weight-control methods (e.g., weigh-ins, caliper tests) without regard for the nutritional well-being and health of athlete.
c. Any act or conduct described as physical abuse or misconduct under federal or state law (e.g., abuse, child neglect, assault).
Physical misconduct does not include professionally-accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, discipline or improving athletic performance.
III. Sexual Misconduct (including Sexual Abuse)
The USTA does not tolerate sexual misconduct from any person associated with a USTA sanctioned-event. Sexual misconduct includes any form of sexual activity with an individual(s) or vulnerable adult, regardless of age, which can include inappropriate touching, use of sexual or sexually explicit language, sexual references, or intentional exposure to sexually explicit media.
Sexual misconduct exists when there is any touching or non-touching sexual interaction between or among adults and/or minors that is (i) nonconsensual or forced, (ii) coerced or manipulated, or (iii) perpetrated in an aggressive, harassing, exploitative or threatening manner.
Any sexual interaction between two or more individuals, regardless of age, in which exists a great disparity in age, development or size, or intellectual capabilities, or in which exists evaluative, direct or indirect authority. Such relationships involve an imbalance of power and are likely to impair judgment or be exploitative. (See Comment 1)
Sexual misconduct is also any act or conduct described as sexual or abuse or misconduct under federal or state law (e.g., sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, rape).
The types of sexual misconduct prohibited include sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or any other sexual intimacies that exploit an individual. Minors cannot consent to sexual activity and all sexual interaction between an adult and minor is strictly prohibited.
Examples of sexual misconduct that are prohibited by the USTA include, without limitation:
a. Touching offenses.
i. Fondling an individual’s breasts or buttocks;
ii. Exchange of reward in sport (e.g., team placement, scores, feedback) for sexual favors;
iii. Genital contact;
iv. Sexual relations or intimacies between persons in a position of trust, authority and/or evaluative and supervisory control over athletes or other sport participants. (See Comment 1)
b. Non-touching offenses.
i. Discussions of or questions about an individual’s sex life;
ii. Requests for or the sending of nude or partial-dress photo(s);
iii. Exposing individuals to pornographic material;
iv. The sending of sexually explicit or suggestive electronic or written messages or videos, photos, or illustrations (e.g., "sexting");
v. Deliberate exposure to sexual acts;
vi. Deliberate exposure to nudity (except in situations where locker rooms and changing areas are shared);
vii. Sexual harassment; specifically sexual solicitation, physical advances or verbal or non-verbal conduct, that is sexual in nature, and:
a. Is unwelcome, offensive, or creates a hostile environment, and the offending individual knows or is told this;
b. Is sufficiently severe or intense to be harassing to a reasonable person in the context.
For purposes of clarity, minors cannot consent to sexual activity and all sexual interaction between an adult and minor is strictly prohibited. This section does not apply to: (i) romantic or sexual relationships where it can be demonstrated that there is no imbalance of power and said relationship meets appropriate state or federal laws; or (ii) in which exists a pre-existing relationship between two spouses or life partners. However, if within any of these relationships any behaviors raise to the level of physical or sexual misconduct, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233 (SAFE). For additional information on domestic abuse, please click here
In addition to the Safe Play guidelines, individuals should follow common sense and current USTA policies, remembering that members of the USTA community are held to a standard that encourages and retains the public trust in the USTA. The USTA has created the following resources which provide additional guidance:
The USTA’s Safety, Security, and Sensitivity Handbook
In 2012, the USTA released its Safety, Security, and Sensitivity handbook which provides recommended guidelines for youth tennis programs. A copy of which can be downloaded via the link below.
The Safety, Security, and Sensitivity handbook contains guidelines, sample policies, and implementation criteria for: i) applicant screening; ii) medical safety; iii) personal security and safety; and iv) sensitivity fairness and equality for youth tennis programs.
To download a full copy of the USTA’s Safety, Security, and Sensitivity
Handbook, please click here
The Youth Protection Policies and Procedures for USTA Jr. Team Tennis
USTA Jr. Team Tennis brings kids together to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles on teams. It promotes social skills and important values by fostering a spirit of cooperation and unity, as well as individual self-growth. It is a fun environment for kids in which they learn that succeeding is about how they play the game – win or lose. An important goal of USTA Jr. Team Tennis is to provide a safe and positive experience for participants so that they may enjoy the benefits of a sport they can play for a lifetime.
To download a full copy of the Youth Protection Policies and Procedures for USTA Jr. Team Tennis, please click here