In 2011 the City of Tamarac in South Florida opted to seize control of its youth sports programs that had been run mostly by parent groups in the past.
That decision proved to be a homerun, creating safer and stronger programming that shifted the focus right where it belongs – on the youth showing up to participate.
It also helped the City of Tamarac earn the prestigious 2018 Excellence in Youth Sports Award, which is sponsored by BSN Sports. For almost two decades, the Excellence in Youth Sports Award has recognized programs that are doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants - including children, parents and coaches. Each year hundreds of youth sports programs across the country and military bases worldwide vie to be an award winner. Developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business Magazine, the first Excellence in Youth Sports Awards were presented in 2000.
To help protect its participants, and get in front of emerging state requirements, the Tamarac staff implemented a comprehensive background screening initiative.
“The state of Florida has worked for several years to improve the requirements for working with children in athletics,” says Rance Gaede, recreation superintendent at Tamarac and a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA). “The City of Tamarac, when we implemented this policy, took steps to go above and beyond the requirements of the state to ensure the safety of our participants and improve the quality of the programs being offered.”
Those interested in volunteering in Tamarac’s programs now must fill out an application and go through an interview with city staff, who both verify the information and gauge the individual’s compatibility with the program.
“We actually bring those people in and talk to them about what their interest is in the program and what brings them in to our facility and find out why do they want to work with kids,” Gaede says. “Eighty-five to 90 percent is because they have children in the program, which is great, but we still want to gauge their interest and how far they want to get into it. Once we feel very comfortable with them and feel like they are in it for the right reasons to really work with the children and try to develop not only fundamental sports skills but also teach them life lessons, we proceed with fingerprinting them.”
Potential volunteers must submit to – and pass – a Level 2 background check using a Live Scan fingerprint that is checked by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI. They are also screened through the National Sex Offender Public Website.
These new screening methods, which were promoted not only to coaches but to parents as well, significantly upgraded the atmosphere surrounding the programs – especially those where questionable coaches had been allowed on the field in the past.
“We took the initiative to promote our new screening methods to coaches and parents and educate them on the strict standards that we would be implementing,” Gaede says. “We did lose some coaches initially that had been with some of our programs, but the overall environment improved as we were able to replace those coaches with fresh volunteers who had the right background and capabilities to work effectively with the children in our programs.”
To make it all happen the dedicated Tamarac staff puts in hours that can be long and tiring at times – but the staff is committed to providing high-quality programs and they are seeing big dividends everywhere they look due to their efforts.
“While our process is long and can be exhaustive in regard to staff hours we have improved the quality of volunteers working with our children, thus improving our community and the communities that surround us,” Gaede says.
Their participation numbers are at an all-time high and the upgrade in the quality of their volunteer coaches has grabbed the attention of parents in surrounding cities who are signing their kids up. And as a Better Sports for Kids Quality Program Provider, they are not only meeting benchmark standards but taking their vetting process to the next level.
“Once we were able to kind of clean house we brought in fresh faces, people who actually had the right motives to be there and that had the best interests of the kids in mind,” Gaede says. “So we saw an increase in the quality of the actual delivery of the program and what we were wanting to see out of those coaches and what was being relayed to the kids. So when the quality increases the parents start to talk and it starts to spread beyond our borders and it goes into neighboring cities. To be able to draw in people from the surrounding big cities to our programs is a statement to not only what our staff has done to make improvements but more so to what our volunteers have done in driving that message home that Tamarac is a safe place for your kids to come and play. And when they do come into the city they are going to get the best quality as far as teaching your kids the fundamentals and working with them on developing their character and building a stronger individual.”Tamarac Excellence Safety Screening
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West Palm Beach, Florida 33411
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