Yardstik’s Playbook for Safer Youth Sports — Part 2: Education and Evaluation
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Written by Mallory Adamson from Yardstik, TeamSnap’s new partner for background checks
In the world of background screening (like most things in life), it’s easy to get tunnel vision.
You probably already have a system to keep bad actors out of your organization. And hopefully, you have some process for maintaining safe environments for your athletes and staff.
But it’s also easy to get complacent. And too many organizations don’t take a hard look in the mirror until after something happens.
I’m not here to tell you how to do that—or even what you should do. But I hope this article helps you think through what safety means for your organization, consider the options available to you, and honestly assess your safety practices.
A natural place to start is background screening.
For many organizations, background screening happens only at the point of hire and may not be as comprehensive as you would hope. If you find your solutions lacking, you might consider enhanced background screenings that survey 7-year criminal history versus the riskier instant searches that only search national databases and have visibility gaps.
We’re also seeing more organizations run social media screenings, surfacing character concerns and red flags, and continuous monitoring—alerting them to any new potential threat to consider in real-time.
Different roles will allow for varying levels of risk, and risk tolerance will vary from organization to organization. However, wherever you land on that sliding scale, the ultimate goal should be to have accuracy and completeness of information in proportion to the individual’s access to vulnerable athletes.
Be proactive and comprehensive in your approach.
Of course, background screening only raises alarms after an incident and only applies to the “bad actors.” Equally important is applying a proactive approach to prevention. There is no shortage of certifications and training programs specific to youth and high school sports—like HEADS UP training, as an example. Programs like these can educate everyone on your staff about abuse risk factors, raise consciousness and awareness, and arm them with the tools to quickly act when situations arise.
And comprehensive safety doesn’t stop at abuse prevention. Enforcing training and certifications in CPR and concussion protocol for contact sports can have literal life-or-death consequences.
Put yourself in the shoes of a parent.
Parents of athletes are better informed and have a heightened sensitivity to news of inappropriate conduct in sports environments. They’re also better informed on the risk of CTE from head injuries in sports and better understand concussion protocols. Imagine them as your audience. Describe what your ideal safety program might look like, and consider how they would react. Are you doing enough?
To reiterate an earlier point, it all starts with individual accountability. Look to others to co-sponsor your proposal and help you research possible solutions, but don’t assume someone else will initiate change.
Evaluate all of your options.
The next step is to take the information you collected in your research and compare and contrast your ideal to your existing program. Where are your strengths, and where do you have gaps?
Evaluation can be a painful and revealing process. No organization is perfect, and it’s essential to remember why you’re doing this and stay focused on your goal, not letting yourself get discouraged. Most organizations we partner with are surprised at how quickly things can turn around.
Is everyone getting screened? Who else should be? How frequently? How comprehensive is the screening?
Are you proactive enough? Are all staff members adequately trained? Is your team missing relevant certifications?
Remember that maintaining safer environments for your youth athletes is a journey, not a destination. How long has your existing program been in place? When was the last time anyone sat down and looked at the processes? How frequently are you re-auditing and refreshing, and is it prioritized appropriately?
Stay focused on the positive changes here. We’re all accountable and working towards the same shared goal: safer environments for youth athletes.
This blog article is part one of a three-part Playbook for Safer Youth Sports series presented in partnership with TeamSnap. Read Part 1: Making Safety a Priority.
Next up, in Part 3, it’s time to take action. I’ll share some thoughts and ideas around incremental steps you can take to make safety a higher priority for your organization.
Want to have a conversation about taking steps to make your youth sports organization safer?
If you feel motivated to take the first step and embark on this journey, please connect with me! I work with many youth sports organizations in your position and might be able to help. Reach out through the form on this page, and let’s chat!