Yardstik’s Playbook for Safer Youth Sports — Part 1: Making Safety a Priority
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Written by Mallory Adamson from Yardstik, TeamSnap’s new partner for background checks
As the organization administrator, imagine you’re in the shoes of a parent who is, for the first time, going through the motions of signing up their kid for a sports season. Before you sign up your child, you’ll want to ensure they’re in good hands.
As that parent, you might look at the website or Facebook page to learn more about the program. Knowing the heightened awareness for safety in today’s age, you’re probably also looking for information on organization safety procedures or trying to get in touch with the head coach so that when you drop off your child for their first practice, you have peace of mind.
Parents should and will be asking about background checks. But is “ticking a box” enough? Or should organizations strive to do everything they can to protect their athletes, coaches, and organization?
You can be that thought leader. Is what you have in place today truly protecting everyone?
We created this series to help you take action.
Your organization is unique, and you’re on your own path. There isn’t a single one-size-fits-all solution and I’m not here to tell you how you should be running things. Heck, I’ve never even juggled half of the items you have on your plate as a youth sports coach/volunteer/administrator.
Instead, my goal is to draw from our collective experience here at Yardstik, help you inspire positive change, and guide you through the basics of an executable plan that increases safety for your youth athletes.
In this three-part blog series, I’ll be walking you through some simple steps that we’ve helped youth and high school sports organizations implement successfully.
It can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be overly complicated.
Unfortunately, abuse is a very real problem in youth sports.
Your young athletes are in a uniquely vulnerable position. We ask a ton of our coaches and volunteers—to be teachers, protectors, and, in some cases, even parental figures for our children. And with that responsibility comes access to children that requires a tremendous amount of trust—and, unfortunately, a tremendous amount of risk.
While there’s no perfect model for safety, there are steps we can all realistically take collectively to educate, introduce transparency to our processes, raise awareness, and proactively minimize risk.
Recently, we’ve seen a disturbing trend of abuse in youth athletics—emotional, physical, and sexual. According to a 2017 study by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, an estimated 10% of K-12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate high school.
The youth sports world, in particular, has been shaken in the wake of countless scandals—both on the national stage and, for many of us, disturbingly close to home.
The good news is that awareness is higher than ever, and people are taking action.
The silver lining is that public consciousness of these risks—alongside the dangers of insufficient response to medical emergencies or inadequate concussion protocol—is higher than ever. Parents are more aware and involved, spotlighting the issue and forcing reactive and proactive responses from those responsible for keeping their children safe. That activism has created a swelling of bottom-up pressure that has affected real, meaningful change for the better across the country. But we still have a ways to go.
Okay, enough Negative Nancy, time for some words of encouragement. The good news is this: from our experience at Yardstik working alongside youth sports organizations, those most responsible for safety are, by and large, acutely aware of the risks, willing to listen, and eager to do something. The more challenging questions are generally what to do and how to do it.
But it all starts with individual accountability. The bystander effect is natural. Don’t wait for new protocols to be handed down to you or for someone else to take the lead. Instead, do your research, identify risks, and propose solutions.
This article is part one of a three-part Playbook for Safer Youth Sports series presented in partnership with TeamSnap. Next up, I’ll get into the steps you can take to educate yourself and your staff on potential risk, your options, and how to evaluate your current state honestly.
Want to have a conversation about taking steps to make your youth sports organization safer? No obligation to buy anything (I promise), but I’d love to learn more about any concerns or challenges you might be facing. We might be able to help. Reach out through the form on this page, and let’s chat!