USTA Safe Play
Conduct, Policies & Guidelines
January 1, 2017
I. COVERED INDIVIDUAL
Pursuant to Section 8.7(l) of the Bylaws of the U.S. Olympic Committee (2016), of which the USTA is a member as the National Governing Body for the sport of tennis, the following individuals must meet the USTA Safe Play and safe sport policies: (i) USTA-certified individuals; and (ii) individuals whom the USTA formally authorizes, approves, or appoints to a position of authority over or to have frequent contact with, minor athletes; and (iii) any other individual participating in activities or affairs of the USTA who are subject to the USTA’s Safe Play policies and disciplinary procedures (“Covered Individuals”). Covered Individuals include coaches and player support personnel, such as athletic trainers. For the avoidance of doubt, Covered Individuals include individuals within the remit of USTA Player Development Incorporated, the USTA National Tennis Center Incorporated, and the USTA Foundation Incorporated and does not apply to Sectional Associations or Organization Members; however, the USTA strongly encourages Sectional Associations and Organization Members to adopt similar USTA Safe Play policies and disciplinary procedures.
II. PROHIBITED CONDUCT
The potential for prohibited conduct to occur is greater when there is an Imbalance of Power. An Imbalance of Power exists where one person coaches, supervises, or evaluates another in a program activity. The USTA strictly prohibits the following conduct.
Please note that unless otherwise defined below, all capitalized terms are defined in the attached Appendix A.
A. Sexual Misconduct
1. Sexual Behavior Involving Minors.
a. Covered Adults. Regardless of any purported Consent, a Covered Adult shall not engage in any Sexual Conduct, Sexual Acts, Sexual Exploitation, or Non-touching Sexual Behavior with a Minor where the age difference exceeds three years.
b. Covered Minors. Regardless of any purported Consent, Sexual Conduct, Sexual Acts, Sexual Exploitation, or Non-touching Sexual Behavior by a Covered Minor to a Minor may be considered misconduct: (1) where the age difference exceeds three years, or (2) based on the totality of other circumstances (including the existence of an aggressor, age differences, an Imbalance of Power, or intellectual capabilities). A Minor is an individual under eighteen years of age.
c. Child sexual abuse. A Covered Individual shall not engage in any act or conduct constituting child sexual abuse under federal law or the law of the state where the act or conduct occurred.
2. Sexual Exploitation, Non-Consensual Sexual Conduct, or Non-Consensual Sexual Acts. A Covered Individual shall not engage or attempt to engage in any Sexual Exploitation of, or Sexual Conduct or Sexual Acts with, another person without the Consent of that person.
3. Sexual or Romantic Relationship Involving Imbalance of Power. Regardless of any purported Consent, a Covered Individual shall not engage or attempt to engage in Sexual Acts, Sexual Conduct, Sexual Exploitation or a Romantic Relationship with any person to whom the person stands in a Position of Trust and/or where there is an Imbalance of Power.
4. Sexual Harassment. A Covered Individual shall not engage in any Sexual Harassment. Sexual Harassment is conduct by a Covered Adult to an Athlete or other non-employee, Non-Athlete Participant that constitutes Quid Pro Quo Harassment, creates a Hostile Environment, or includes sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Purpose or intent is not an element of sexual harassment.
a. “Quid Pro Quo Harassment” occurs where submission to such sexual conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of rating or evaluating an individual’s progress, development, or performance, including when submission to such conduct would be a condition for access to receiving the benefits of any sporting program.
b. A “Hostile Environment” is created when such sexual conduct is so sufficiently severe (even if just an isolated incident) or so persistent or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, denies, or limits someone’s ability to participate in or benefit from sport.
c. Examples of Sexual Harassment may include but are not limited to: threatening retaliation against another who rejects sexual advances; requesting or sending a nude or partial-dress photo to another; displaying sexually suggestive images or exposing others to pornographic material; deliberately exposing another to nudity (except in situations where locker rooms and changing areas are shared and in conformance with the USTA’s or locker room policy, if any); making comments or inquiries about another’s sexual experiences; sending unwanted or unwelcome sexually explicit or suggestive electronic or written messages or photos (e.g., “sexting”); making sexual gestures toward or about another; making sexual epithets, jokes, or comments; unwelcome leering or whistling.
5. Other forms of Sexual Misconduct. A Covered Individual shall not engage in any other forms of Sexual Misconduct, including sexualized bullying or sexualized hazing. This includes Non-Touching Sexual Behavior such as sexually suggestive electronic or written communications; making sexually explicit comments; exposing a Minor to pornographic images; intentionally exposing oneself to a Minor or voyeurism of a Minor; or threatening or coercing someone into Sexual Acts or Conduct.
Bullying is aggressive behavior (which may be sexual, physical, verbal, or relational or carried out via technology), repeated over time, that involves an Imbalance of Power.
Examples of bullying may include, without limitation:
Repeated acts or threats of physical aggression—Hitting, pushing, punching, beating, biting, striking, kicking, choking, spitting, or slapping; throwing objects such as sporting equipment at another person.
Repeated acts or threats of verbal aggression—Teasing, ridiculing, taunting, name-calling, or intimidating or threatening to cause someone harm.
Repeated acts or threats of social aggression, including cyberbullying—Using rumors or false statements about someone to diminish his or her reputation; using electronic communications, social media or other technology to harass, frighten, intimidate, or humiliate someone; socially excluding someone and asking others to do the same.
Repeated acts or threats of sexual aggression—Teasing, ridiculing, or taunting based on gender or sexual orientation.
Rudeness, Meanness, Conflict Distinguished—Conduct may not rise to the level of bullying if it is merely rude (inadvertently saying or doing something hurtful), mean (purposefully saying or doing something hurtful but not as part of a pattern of behavior), or arising from conflict or struggle between persons of the same amount of power who perceive they have incompatible goals.
Hazing is any conduct that subjects another person, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or psychologically, to anything that may endanger, abuse, humiliate, degrade, or intimidate the person as a condition of joining or being socially accepted by a group, team, or organization. Consent by the subject of Hazing is not a defense, regardless of the person’s perceived willingness to cooperate or participate.
Examples of Hazing (which may be a form of Sexual Misconduct, Physical Misconduct, Emotional Misconduct or Bullying) include but are not limited to:
Physical acts—Requiring or forcing the consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs, including binge drinking and drinking games; tying, taping, or otherwise physically restraining another person; beating, paddling or other forms of physical assault; excessive training requirements demanded of only particular individuals on a team that serve no reasonable or productive training purpose; sleep deprivation, otherwise unnecessary schedule disruptions or withholding of water and/or food; restrictions on personal hygiene.
Non-physical acts—Personal servitude; requiring social actions (e.g., inappropriate or provocative clothing) or public displays (e.g., public nudity) that are illegal or meant to draw ridicule; yelling at, swearing at or insulting new team members).
Sexualized acts—Actual, or simulations of, sexual acts or contact of any nature.
Illegal acts—Any act or conduct that constitutes hazing under applicable federal or state law.
Harassment is a pattern of repeated incidents (or a single incident if sufficiently severe) that: (a) is intended to cause fear, humiliation or annoyance; (b) offends or degrades; or (c) creates a hostile environment affecting an individual’s willingness or ability to participate in sport.
Examples. Harassment, which may be a form of emotional, physical or sexual misconduct, includes but is not limited to:
Discriminatory Harassment. This is conduct with the design or effect of establishing dominance, superiority or power over an individual or group based on age, sex, race, color, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression or mental or physical disability.
Stalking. Stalking is conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress. Stalking generally involves a course of conduct which includes two or more acts, involving persistent and frequent unwanted in-person contact, surveillance or unwanted telephone and/or other electronic contact. Stalking behaviors include: following a person; appearing at a person’s home, class, work or practice; frequent phone calls, emails, or text messages; continuing to contact a person after receiving requests to stop; leaving unwanted written messages, objects or gifts; vandalizing a person’s property; or threatening, intimidating or intrusive behavior.
Sexual Harassment. Harassment includes Sexual Harassment and is dealt with more specifically as a form of Sexual Misconduct.
E. Emotional Misconduct
Emotional Misconduct is a pattern of non-contact behavior involving verbal acts, physical acts or acts that deny attention or support, except as excluded below. Emotional Misconduct is identified by the conduct, not whether harm is intended or whether harm actually results from the misconduct.
Examples. Emotional Misconduct may include, without limitation:
Verbal acts—A pattern of verbal assault that repeatedly attacks someone personally (e.g., calling a person worthless, fat or disgusting); repeatedly and excessively yelling at a particular Athlete or other participant in a manner that serves no productive training or motivational purpose.
Physical acts—A pattern of physically aggressive behaviors, such as throwing sport equipment, water bottles or chairs at or in the presence of, Athletes or others; punching walls, windows or other objects).
Acts that deny attention or support—A pattern of ignoring or isolating a person for extended periods of time, including routinely or arbitrarily excluding Athletes from practice.
Criminal acts—Emotional Misconduct includes any act or conduct (e.g., psychological abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, child abuse) that constitutes emotional abuse or misconduct under applicable federal or state law.
Exclusions. Emotional Misconduct does not include professionally-accepted and age-appropriate coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, appropriate discipline or improving Athlete performance.
F. Physical Misconduct
Physical Misconduct is any conduct (whether contact or non-contact) that causes or reasonably threatens to cause physical harm to another person except as excluded below.
Examples. Examples of physical misconduct may include, without limitation:
Contact violations—Punching, beating, biting, striking, choking or slapping another; intentionally hitting another with objects, such as sporting equipment; providing alcohol to a person under the U.S. legal drinking age; providing illegal drugs or non-prescribed medications to another; encouraging or knowingly permitting an Athlete to return to play prematurely following a serious injury (e.g., a concussion) and without the clearance of a medical professional.
Non-contact violations—Isolating a person in a confined space, such as locking an Athlete in a small space; 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); withholding, recommending against, or denying adequate hydration, nutrition, medical attention or sleep.
Exclusion. Physical misconduct does not include professionally-accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, appropriate discipline or improving Athlete performance. For example, hitting, punching and kicking are well-regulated forms of contact in combat sports but have no place in tennis.
III. CONTACT & SUPERVISION
In order to prevent situations posing a risk for Sexual Misconduct or any other prohibited conduct, the appearance of impropriety, or an inability to maintain professional boundaries, the USTA has established the following guidelines for its programs, events, tournaments, and other activities. The following are best practices for all Covered Individuals and Athletes and should be abided by to the greatest extent possible:
A. Rule of Three
Interaction with participants should be in an open and observable environment. Adults should strive to avoid being alone with a single child or teen where he or she cannot be observed by others. The “Rule of Three” offers a reminder that a minimum of three persons (two adults and one teen or child; or one adult and two teens or children) should be present at all times during USTA events, programs, tournaments, and activities.
B. Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Areas
Vulnerable individuals should not be permitted to enter a rest room or locker room alone. Adhering to the “rule of three” should be the goal that you strive to follow.
Cellular phones or other electronic devices containing a camera or any other recording capability including audio are strongly discouraged from use in all restrooms, changing areas, and locker rooms at any USTA events, programs, tournaments, and activities.
IV. TRAINING & EDUCATION
The USTA requires that all Covered Individuals complete education detailing the key elements of the USTA’s safety program at least every two years. The USTA has adopted the SafeSport Entity’s online education program for this purpose.
Further, this training and education requirement applies to any Non-Athlete Participant the USTA authorizes to train, reside, or work at the USTA National Campus or at any Olympic Training Center. Such individuals are expected to demonstrate successful completion of the safety program before accessing the USTA National Campus or any Olympic Training Center. The USTA has adopted the SafeSport Entity’s online education program for this purpose.
V. BACKGROUND SCREENING
The USTA requires a background screen be conducted for all Covered Individuals. The background screening process shall take place at least every two years.
Screening shall be conducted by a reputable background screening firm with experience working with youth-serving organizations. Sectional Associations and District Associations or Subdivisions of Sectional Associations may develop policies that go beyond the requirements described herein.
VI. REPORTING & RESPONDING
The USTA asks that anyone with credible information (first-hand knowledge or reliable information from a knowledgeable third party) report misconduct, maltreatment, or behavior that conflicts with these USTA Safe Play Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines.
A. On-Site Response Procedures
If a program or event coordinator witnesses or receives a report of misconduct–regardless if it is reported by the victim or not–the coordinator should proceed as follows:
Depending on the severity of the situation, the coordinator should use his or her discretion as to whether the misconduct rises to a level appropriate for local authorities. In those instances, local authorities should be contacted immediately.
If the situation does not require immediate involvement of local authorities, as reasonably determined by the program or event coordinator, then the coordinator should confront the perpetrator, make it clear such behavior is unwelcome and offensive, and instruct them to stop immediately or they will be asked to leave the program or event. In some cases, the perpetrator may be asked to leave the premises immediately.
A report should be made immediately following the incident. For details regarding how and to whom, please refer to Section B below.
B. How to Report to the USTA
Reports can be made by either: (1) completing and submitting a Safe Play Misconduct Reporting form to the USTA; (2) calling the USTA’s reporting hotline at 855-791-1345 (toll-free, within the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and Canada); or (3) emailing the USTA at firstname.lastname@example.org, clearly describing the incident, location of incident, and people involved.
A note regarding anonymous reporting: anonymous reporting may make it difficult for the USTA to investigate or properly address violations of Safe Play. There are times that in order to investigate a report, the USTA may need additional information from you or may ask some follow-up questions to gain more clarity regarding the allegations asserted. As a result, we encourage all who file reports anonymously to check back periodically to see if additional questions have been posted to the initial report. Nonetheless, while the USTA recognizes how difficult it may be to report an allegation of misconduct, we strongly encourage individuals to include their contact information when making a report.
Should you need to contact someone immediately or have questions on how to report, please contact email@example.com.
Maliciously or vindictively making a report of misconduct is prohibited and may violate state and federal criminal laws as well as civil defamation laws as well as any sanctions issued by the USTA.
C. State Reporting & Resources
Without respect to the USTA’s reporting procedures, the USTA and its employees, volunteers, independent contractors, agents, and vendors who have reason to believe there has been an incident of misconduct that has occurred will report it to the proper law enforcement authority as required or permitted by applicable law.
The USTA will determine, with the assistance of legal counsel if necessary, whether the USTA has a legal reporting obligation based upon the report and act accordingly. Factors relevant to determining whether the USTA or a particular individual shall or should report include without limitation:
1. Applicable federal law
2. Applicable state law, which:
- Defines “child abuse and neglect”
- Identifies professionals who are required to report child maltreatment
- Identifies other individuals who are required to report child maltreatment
- Who is permitted to report
- The standard for reporting
- Whether the communication is privileged
- Whom reports should be made to
- Whether the report will be anonymous
- Whether the reporter’s identity will be disclosed
For the avoidance of doubt, the USTA shall cooperate fully, to the extent permissible by law, with any investigation, criminal or otherwise, by any law enforcement or government authority.
The USTA reserves the right to suspend an individual, whom is the subject of an investigation, from participation in any USTA sanctioned tournament, event, or program until said investigation has concluded.
D. How Reports That Are Handled
To the extent permissible by law, the USTA may investigate, as appropriate, non-sexual allegations of violations of Safe Play and address accordingly. Should the USTA receive a report of misconduct which, as determined by the USTA, rises to the level of unlawful behavior, the USTA will make a report to the proper law enforcement agency. Should the USTA receive a report of non-sexual misconduct, the USTA shall not conduct an investigation if said investigation in any way interferes with a pending legal investigation or criminal prosecution. The USTA does reserve the right to suspend that individual’s participation in any USTA sanctioned tournament, event, or program until said investigation has concluded.
On receipt of a complaint, the USTA will determine in its discretion the appropriate steps to address the conduct based on several factors, including (i) the age of the complainant or victim, (ii) the age of the accused, and (iii) the nature, scope, and extent of the allegations. As appropriate, the USTA may involve the Section, Club, or other legal entity having authority within the territory of the alleged complaint. If the accused individual is a minor, the USTA will contact his or her parents or guardians unless the circumstances surrounding the allegations reasonably suggest otherwise.
The USTA will address allegations against a staff member and/or volunteer under relevant organizational policies (e.g., Employment Policies and Procedures, Bylaws and Constitution, local laws).
The USTA will address violations or alleged violations of any provision(s) of Safe Play or any other current USTA policy in its discretion, in consideration of the safety and wellbeing of all participants, and in accordance with USTA Codes of Conduct and USTA bylaws. Such action will be taken in proportion to the severity of the infraction.
E. Bad-Faith Allegations
Any individual who alleges misconduct under Safe Play that, upon review, is determined to be malicious, frivolous or made in bad faith will be a violation of Safe Play. Bad-faith reports may also be subject to criminal or civil action may be taken as well appropriate USTA sanctions.
(1) “Athlete” is an individual recognized as an athlete by an NGB under its bylaws, rules, regulations, guidelines or other governing documents.
(2) “Bullying” is defined in Section II(B).
(3) “Consent” requires clear, knowing, and voluntary words or actions that give permission for specific conduct. Consent to any one form of conduct cannot automatically imply
Consent to any other conduct. Someone who is Incapacitated cannot Consent.
(4) “Covered Adult” is a Covered Individual who has reached the age of eighteen.
(5) “Covered Individual” is required to meet the USTA’s Safe Play criteria: (i) USTA-certified individuals; and (ii) individuals who the USTA formally authorizes, approves, or appoints to a position of authority over or to have frequent contact with, minor athletes; and (iii) any other individual participating in activities or affairs of the USTA who are subject to the USTA’s Safe Play policies and disciplinary procedures (“Covered Individuals”). Covered Individuals include coaches and player support personnel, such as athletic trainers. For the avoidance of doubt, Covered Individuals include individuals within the remit of USTA Player Development Incorporated, the USTA National Tennis Center Incorporated, and the USTA Foundation Incorporated and does not apply to Sectional Associations or Organization Members; however, the USTA strongly encourages Sectional Associations and Organization Members to adopt similar USTA Safe Play policies and disciplinary procedures.
(6) “Covered Minor” is any Covered Individual who is under eighteen years old.
(7) “Criminal Disposition” is any disposition of a criminal proceeding other than an adjudication of not guilty, and includes an adjudication of guilt or admission to a criminal violation; a plea to a lesser included offense; a plea of no contest; or the disposition of the proceeding through a diversionary program, deferred adjudication, disposition of supervision, conditional dismissal, or similar arrangements.
(8) “Emotional Misconduct” is defined in Section II(E).
(9) “Force” is the use of physical violence, pressure, threats, intimidation, or coercion that overcomes free will to Consent.
(10) “Harassment” is defined in Section II(D).
(11) “Hazing” is defined in Section II(C).
(12) “Imbalance of Power” exists where one person coaches, supervises, or evaluates another in a program activity.
a. Factors relevant to determining whether there is an Imbalance of Power include, but are not limited to: the nature and extent of the supervisory, evaluative or other authority over the Athlete; the actual relationship between the parties; the parties’ respective roles; the nature and duration of the sexual relationship; the age of the adult; the age of the Athlete or Non-Athlete Participant; and whether the adult has engaged in a pattern of Sexual Misconduct with other Athletes or Non-Athlete Participants.
b. Once a coach-Athlete relationship is established, an Imbalance of Power is presumed to exist throughout the coach-Athlete relationship (regardless of age) and is presumed to continue for Minor athletes even after termination of the coach-Athlete relationship until two years after the Minor turns eighteen.
c. An Imbalance of Power is not presumed where an intimate relationship existed before the sporting relationship (for example, a relationship between two spouses or life partners that preceded the sporting relationship).
(13) “Incapacitated” means someone who mentally or physically—because of developmental or mental disability, alcohol, or other drug use, blackout, sleep, unconsciousness, or involuntary physical restraint—cannot make rational, reasonable decisions and thereby lacks capacity to give Consent.
(14) “Minor” is an individual under eighteen years of age.
(15) “National Governing Body” (“NGB”) is a U.S. Olympic National Governing Body, Pan American Sport Organization, or Paralympic Sport Organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee pursuant to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. §§ 220501-220529. When the USOC manages and governs a Paralympic sport, the USOC falls within this definition.
(16) “Non-Athlete Participant” is any coach, trainer, team staff, medical, or paramedical personnel, administrator, official, or other athlete support personnel, employee, or volunteer who participates in amateur sports programs offered or sanctioned by an NGB or the USOC.
(17) “Non-Touching Sexual Behavior” includes any sexually suggestive electronic or written communications; making sexually explicit comments; exposing a Minor to pornographic images; intentionally exposing oneself to a Minor or voyeurism of a Minor; or threatening or coercing someone into Sexual Acts or Conduct.
(18) “Physical Misconduct” is defined in Section II(F).
(19) “Position of Trust” includes any Non-Athlete Participant exercising supervisory, evaluative, or other authority over an Athlete.
(20) “Romantic Relationship” means intimate acts or words (spoken or written) such as those between spouses, life partners, or persons in intimate relationships.
(21) “Sexual Act” is any act listed under federal law (18 U.S.C. 2246(2)) regardless of where the act occurred.
(22) “Sexual Conduct” is any conduct listed under federal law (18 U.S.C. 2246(3)) regardless of where the conduct occurred.
(23) “Sexual Exploitation” occurs when, without Consent, one person takes sexual advantage of another to benefit or gratify one’s self or any person other than the one(s) being exploited, and may occur regardless of whether the behavior ultimately leads to any Sexual Act. Examples of Sexual
Exploitation include, but are not limited to (a) voyeurism or spying on others who are in intimate or sexual situations, involving two adults, (b) exposing one’s genitals or inducing another to expose his or her genitals without Consent, (c) taking pictures or video or audio recordings of another in a sexual act or in any other private activity, without the consent of all involved in the activity (a minor cannot give consent), (d) disseminating or threatening to disseminate pictures or video or audio recordings of another in a sexual act or in any other private activity, or (e) exchange of reward in sport (e.g., team placement, scores, feedback) for sexual favors, pictures, or other Sexual Misconduct.
(24) “Sexual Misconduct” is defined in Section II(A)
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.