Unfortunately, fitness professionals and fitness facilities alike are at risk for claims of sexual abuse. Both the physical assistance that you or your Coaches give to your members and/or the words that you speak to clients, can result in a sexual abuse claim in our current legal environment. Actions and words can be miss-interpreted even if no offense or harm is ever intended.
It is absolutely critical for fitness instructors to be aware of what amount of physical contact is appropriate with their clients. People differ greatly in their desire for physical contact. Each client should be approached as an individual to gradually grow the training relationship and understand the individual’s unique personality. This is the first step in building mutual trust that will help the trainer and client work together to achieve their goals. Always be conservative and ask before offering to physically assist a client in a workout.
Additionally, it is necessary to be extremely cautious in regards to assisting minors with physical contact. Trainers should try to always work with minors either in a group or in front of others if their parents or guardians are not physically present. Trainers should not be alone with minor clients.
It is very important to keep professionalism in mind when speaking to your members, as well.
Fitness trainers need to be mindful that humor can easily be misinterpreted. As a CrossFit Box owner or personal trainer, you care deeply about your members and want to treat them like personal friends. It is, however, a WORK relationship rather than a personal relationship. Keep all humor professional.
It is also never a good idea to use belittling words or a condescending tone with members. Even if you think you are using terms of affection or endearment, remember that you are at work. Avoid using diminutives or talking down to clients when training.
Finally, it is critical to protect your CrossFit from claims; to help your Box prosper, it’s key trainers never be perceived to be judging a member’s body vs. assessing their technique. There are encouraging ways to review a client’s workout and goals without offending them. Keep in mind that even complimenting their appearance or body can be interpreted as sexual harassment so always be professional. It is recommended not to mention sense of specific body parts, but to speak in general terms.
As an ambassador for CrossFit, you want to motivate your members to achieve their fitness goals, while building the commitment and purpose that drives the sense of community. By remembering these guidelines, you will protect yourself, your members and your Box.
By Jennifer Urmston Lowe, the national account manager for Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation (SFIC). She has served the fitness industry as a licensed insurance professional, dedicated to helping fitness businesses and professionals for 18 years. For more information, visit sportsfitness.com.