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Coaches, Players, Parents,

A Detective from the Northborough Police Department has notified all youth sports coordinators of an incident which was reported this week (May 2006).
 
A third grade boy was approached after his soccer practice at Ellsworth-McAfee Field on Route 135 by a young white male, mid 20’s, driving a dark red or maroon SUV or large vehicle. The man told the boy that the boy’s mother asked him to pick the boy up after practice and give him a ride home. Luckily the boy said no, however he waited about 24 hours before he told his mother what had happened.  He was in an isolated part of the parking lot when he was approached.  The interaction was not observed by any of his coaches or another adult but the Northborough police have a fairly high level of confidence that the incident did indeed occur.

We feel it is very important to communicate this information and would like to make several points.

Although this is disturbing news, we feel the correct response is to be aware, vigilant, and go about our usual activity while initiating a few simple but highly effective precautions.

We think it is instructive that the boy was isolated when the incident occurred.  There is safety in numbers and the presence of an adult or coach. With that in mind we are asking our coaches to ensure that none of our players are isolated without adult supervision when waiting for pickup at the end of activity, or at any other time.  We think this can be accomplished by adopting a policy of leaving the field of play “as a team” to the pick up area.  Conversely,  on arrival, we are asking that parents acompany their sons to the vicinity of coaches and teammates and verify that a coach is aware that another player has arrived. If any players and parents arrive before coaches are present, parents should wait until a coach arrives.

We don’t think this has to be a burden and in fact “the team” has various responsibilities after handshakes with the other team after games which might improve as a result. These include helping the coaches retreive balls, cones, water coolers and other equipment and, very importantly, picking up and packing out all debris. So the process from now on is “as a team” until we are in our cars and headed home. Quite obviously, a coach is the last to leave.

In addition, parents should review with their children the basic rules of child safety. Google “child safety” or “don’t go with strangers” for advice. We liked this 8 step list of talking points below and think that steps 1 and 2 are especially  pertinent to the recent event in Northborough.

Thanks,
Bob Flynn
President NSYLA



Stranger Danger

Why People Don't Talk To Their Children: The Myths

It will frighten them but still not make them safe.       
They will feel like they can't trust anyone!       
I can't tell them how to protect themselves.


The Truth

Children have a keen sense of intuition and can recognize dangerous situations, but need to be given guidance about what's safe and what's not. Once you help them to understand the difference, a child can begin to make decisions regarding their safety. You can help them understand that they can protect themselves, and that the world does not have to be a scary place.


Step 1: Explain The Danger
Parents often tell children, "Don't go with strangers". This is vague and doesn’t help children protect themselves. Most abductions are by relatives anyway! Better advice would be "if you are lost or need help sometimes it’s okay to ask strangers for help, but strangers shouldn’t be asking you for help or to go with them. Usually you should not go somewhere with strangers unless you need their help in an emergency."


Step 2: Who Is A Stranger?
A stranger is anyone who is a stranger to you. Make an agreement regarding who is safe to go with, and that your child must say NO! to anyone else, no matter what! Teach your child to stay at least arms length away from a stranger who approaches them.


Step 3: Don't Be Polite!
Parents teach children to be "polite"; they should also teach that it's OK to be assertive and not talk to strangers.
Adults should ask adults for help, not children!

Step 4: Home and Phone Safety
Decide if your child is old enough to answer the door or phone when no adult is home. Never answer probing questions over the phone or at the door, call a parent. Teach 911 procedures.


Step 5: Make A Code Word
Teach the child a code word. If a visitor comes to get them, the visitor must know the code word, or the child should not go with them.


Step 6: Pick Their Routes
Avoid alleys, wooded areas, parking lots and spontaneous shortcuts. Choose areas where anything out of the ordinary would be noticed by neighbors, business owners, pedestrians, etc.


Step 7: Identify Trusted Adults
Pick stores, schools, churches, and homes of safe neighbors or homes with Block Home signs along their routes. Make sure your child knows these "safe places" that they should go if they need help. Remember, it’s generally safer if the child picks the adult!


Step 8: NO--GO--TELL
If approached by somebody who is scary, or who asks them to do something that seems wrong, a child should yell NO! then GO immediately to a trusted adult and TELL what happened.