Who agrees that the safety of a child while under the tutelage of a tennis-teaching professional must be an absolute? Is there a club that does not want to provide the comfort for its members that their professional teaching staff have been criminally background screened, trained to recognize the most prevalent forms of misconduct occurring in youth sports and empowered to report it?
This is, without question, a hyper-sensitive issue today. Given what has transpired in other sports where children have been sexually abused by coaches who were previously trusted, our sport has taken a stand with the support of Congress, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, that we will put in place the procedures and protocols that we can be the safest sport in America for children. While this may be a lofty goal, it is paramount that the USPTA fully embraces it.
For that reason, the USPTA has agreed with the USTA that our members should be Safe Play Approved, meaning the member has completed a criminal background screen, training to recognize misconduct and acknowledgment of the Safe Play reporting tools and policies. This requirement was put in place ahead of 2019 and is part of the new certification pathway that will begin in earnest on Jan. 1, 2021. All USPTA members – save honorary, lifetime, retired, affiliate and corporate members – must complete Safe Play by Jan. 1, 2021, to be considered in good standing.
We have communicated this requirement to our membership frequently over the last year, so this should not come as any surprise. But, the clock is ticking, and January 2021 is only eight months away. If you are a full-time, part-time or seasonal teaching professional employed at a club, commercial facility, parks and recreation department, HOA or school (elementary, middle, high school or college), the time to get this done is now.
Now, some in our membership may not believe a non-profit trade association can mandate this exercise. Others will say they’ve worked at one facility for many years and have never had issues. Still more will say they only work with adults or seniors, never coming into contact with children. They wonder, “Why should I have to do this?” I get it.
But Safe Play is more than some online modules and a background check. It makes one aware of behavioral traits that can help identify warning signs that, if recognized, could prevent a future tragedy. Whether you work with children or not, everyone benefits from this training.
The USPTA and USTA are firmly aligned on this core principal. The USTA fully understands the importance of this to our sport, so it has agreed to cover the cost for all USPTA members to complete the Safe Play Approved process by registering either at NETGeneration.com or www.usta.com/safeplay. Do the right thing. Get this done as soon as possible. There is no reason to procrastinate until December.
The USPTA Board of Directors and Executive Committee are fully committed to seeing this initiative through and will treat those that do not comply just as we have treated those that did not meet the continuing education requirement during the last two education cycles. Once again, let us unite and take a stand, knowing there is no greater cause we can embrace than the safety of our children.
Tennis and all racquet sports will be better off in the long run, and parents will have confidence entrusting their precious children to programs run by USPTA teaching professionals. I thank you.