Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) recently rolled out a new policy affecting all of its member organizations.  The Sport Protection Policy (SPP), which focuses on screening, training and management of conduct within a program, is an important piece of program implementation; however, as some are approaching this area for the first time, there are challenges that have arisen.

What we have found through direct conversations with members since the inception of this policy is that many of the questions posed fall into five similar areas:

  1. What exactly do we need to have in place?
  2. Does the policy apply to ALL staff and volunteers?
  3. How much will it cost us in time and money?
  4. When do you expect us to have all this in place?
  5. Do we have to create this all from scratch?

As such, we hope this article can help to address some of these topics in an accessible way!  These questions have also been addressed in a web presentation available to members via the following link:  5 Things You Should Know about SPP

  1. What exactly do we need to have in place?

Under the SPP, member programs are required to have a written and publicly available policy that meets the minimum standards of DSUSA.   This policy should include the following:

  • Definitions of prohibited conduct and how such conduct will be addressed
  • Information on the training and education resources available to your staff and volunteers, and communicate how they can be accessed
  • Description of your screening process for staff and volunteers, including by not limited to interviews, annual reviews, reference checks, background screens, etc.

You may already have a policy in place, in which case, you would need to confer with DSUSA to ensure the existing policy meets all the minimum standards set forth by DSUSA.

If you are creating a policy for the first time, there are policy templates available to help guide the way.

Please note that it is acceptable (as long as minimum standards are met) to use trainings and screenings from outside entities.  For example, if a volunteer has recently completed a background screen for employment purposes, they can ask that the agency conducting the screen share the results with your program.

  1. Does the policy apply to ALL staff and volunteers?

You may have noticed the term “Covered Individual” is used a lot throughout the DSUSA policy.  This phrase is meant to identify those within the program who should be subject to screening and training.  The DSUSA definition of a “Covered Individual” includes anyone whom the organization has given authority, approved, or appointed to have regular contact with athletes and/or minors; however, it is up to member organization to define who are “Covered Individuals” within their program and what constitutes “regular contact.”

Covered Individuals can include, but are not limited to:

  • Employees
  • Part-Time or seasonally contracted coaches
  • Board of Directors
  • Committee members
  • Volunteers
  • Contractors
  • Any other individual authorized, approved, or appointed by Chapter to have regular contact with athletes and/or minors

During initial implementation, applying a tiered approach to screening and training staff and volunteers that focuses on those in positions that involve a power imbalance or frequent rate of interaction with at risk participant populations.   Look for HIGH RISK situations (i.e. extended interaction, one-on-one lesson set ups, etc.) and mitigate the risk in those areas as a first priority.

  1. How much will it cost us in time and money?

There are hard and soft costs associated with implementing new screening and training protocols.

In terms of the hard costs, DSUSA has negotiated reduced rates with SafeSport and the National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI), which are exclusive to our member programs.  Programs may also choose to use alternate screening and training providers (ex. Darkness2Light).  If this is the case, the chapter must ensure that the products provided meet the minimum standards set by DSUSA.  In addition, it is up to each program to determine if it will absorb the cost (all or in part) of trainings and screenings or pass on to volunteers as part of their onboarding.

Administrative time is one of the soft costs associated with policy implementation.  The initial launch of your policy may be labor intensive, but rolling the process into to volunteer onboarding and annual training requirements will, overtime, diminish the time investment required.

Again, member programs can accept trainings and screenings from external orgs (i.e. if someone has recently been trained or screened as part of a job application or other volunteer position), which can also help cut down on time required.

  1. When do you expect us to have all this in place?

With the initial roll out of this policy happening in late 2019, DSUSA expects its member programs to begin implementation by the end of Q1 2020.  As previously mentioned, this can seem daunting at first, but if programs take a tiered approach during initial stages, focusing on addressing high-risk situations, the program can expand the reach of their efforts over time.

Many programs already have policies and procedures built into their program design, which may just need to be formalized and written down. For example, we have heard from several programs that lessons are designed to be two-deep; there are always at least two instructors present on any lesson, no matter how small the group size.

Ultimately, the implementation of the policy will become part of the organizational culture; as regular and automated as asking a participant to fill out a registration form.

  1. Do we have to create this all from scratch?

DSUSA has created several resources to help aide you in the process of developing and implementing your policy.

  • Online ResourcesPolicy templates are available online
  • DSUSA StaffRyan Semke, Insurance Program Manager with DSUSA, is the lead on SPP implementation and compliance. Contact Ryan with any questions you may have!
  • DSUSA member network – ALL member organizations will be required to implement this policy; Ask your peers what they do – what works and what doesn’t.

DSUSA will continue to create content around this area – so, if you have questions or concerns let us know!  If we see trends in questions/concerns we can put content out to the group that addresses your needs.