[City of Tamarac, Excellence in Youth Sports Award]

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 youths showing up to participate.

It also helped the City of Tamarac earn the prestigious 2018 Excellence in Youth Sports Award. 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.

Potential volunteers also 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.

With safer programs, improved coaching and a tireless staff committed to children, it’s easy to see why the City of Tamarac is an Excellence in Youth Sports Award recipient.