Love affairs between a mentor and a student have always been a fertile source of contentious issues and scandals that any responsible parent should be wary of. Such forbidden relationships can develop not only in classroom situations. Interaction in school sports activities is just as full of opportunities for illicit romance between coach and student.
And maybe even more so, since engaging in soccer coaching, for instance, makes physical contact a norm between a male coach and a female student player. The coach will certainly find himself often up close and personal with his female wards in some figure-hugging soccer jerseys. A coach with a truly malicious intent can even ask his female players to change their team uniforms in front of him, at one pretext or another.
This was exactly the case brought up against the coach of Atlanta Fire United Soccer Club, Patrick Ahern. The 27-year-old coach was accused of statutory rape or engaging in sex with a minor–one of his female student players, a sixteen-year-old. However, he evaded conviction from the charge on technicality. In Georgia, where the incident happened, sixteen is the age is consent. Ahern was instead charged later with felony robbery in connection with the incident which allegedly happened in the girl’s bedroom.
One immediate take here is that parents must be vigilant about the team goings-on of their daughters involved in one sport or another. The incident about coach Ahern asking his female players to change soccer uniforms in front of him should have already rang alarm bells. At the very least, such practice should have been immediately called to the attention of the Atlanta Fire United soccer team management.
Kids in general also have to be taught how to recognize child predatory behavior, not only of coaches but other menacing adults. Besides the subtle soccer jersey changing which Ahern was fond of asking his girl players, there are many other indications by which to recognize that some form of child abuse may be brewing. Some predatory approaches may even be innocent, such as lavishing gifts and attention to a target girl player.
Hence, child safety experts suggest that a parent will have to be on the lookout if a coach is paying too much attention on their kids. Offers of special outings or private training sessions to a child player must be scrutinized and double-checked. Frequent communication such as SMS or texting or interaction via Facebook or other online social media network from a coach may also signal an impending threat of coach abuse.