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June 05, 2013

From CEO Denise Parker on Keeping Our Sport Safe

First, a BIG thank-you to all of you for the ways that you have helped to grow the sport of archery over the past year! Thanks to you, USA Archery is 7,000 (update as of 11/27/13: we are 8700) + members strong and growing, with approximately 600 (update as of 11/27/13: we are 750) clubs nationwide! Our event participation is unprecedented (average of 30% growth in 2012).

You are likely to see some changes that may affect you and your club starting in January of 2014. As some of you may have seen, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has launched a new Safe Sport (http://safesport.org/) initiative, which puts the safety of athletes participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports and programs front and center. I completely support this and we at USA Archery are excited to implement some key initiatives to support this effort, beginning in January 2014. We hope that as we integrate these new initiatives, which involve updates to our Code of Conduct, liability efforts and general safe environment, we will have our members' full support. So what's coming your way?

Code of Conduct

The first step in working to keep our sport safe is to have a comprehensive Code of Conduct which includes measures to deter - among other things - bullying, hazing, harassment, and emotional, physical and sexual misconduct.  An easy to understand and efficient reporting and sanctioning or suspension process must also be part of the Code of Conduct process.

USA Archery adopted a Code of Conduct a few years ago that included all of the language related to Safe Sport initiatives (click here for Rules and Policies). The reporting process and hearing process is laid out in the bylaws of USA Archery, but we are going to make it easier to find and use this information on our website. In addition, we will make available to members the benefits of the Safe Sport website at http://safesport.org/ that gives athletes, clubs, coaches and parents information on how to create their own safe environments and great reference material on how to prevent and report abuse.

In order for the Code of Conduct to be activated within any organization, individuals must accept the terms to be governed under USA Archery's Code of Conduct. (Update as of 11/27/13: The Code of Conduct has been updated to include a comprehensive Safe Sport Policy). The way this happens in sport is primarily through membership in the organization. When you join an organization you generally agree to the terms and conditions of membership, which includes many of the processes outlined in the organization's bylaws, but relative to this conversation, it also commits the person to abide by USA Archery's Code of Conduct and applicable reporting and disciplinary actions.

Currently, USA Archery enforces membership at all national level events and programs; however, we have not enforced USA Archery membership at a local or club level. Many clubs and state associations have enforced it because of liability reasons, as USA Archery members are covered under our insurance policy, whereas, non-members are not. But going forward, USA Archery MUST capture membership with EVERYONE who is engaged in any activity related to USA Archery, not only so that they can agree to the terms of membership and accept the Code of Conduct, but also so that if they are ever deemed ineligible because of past claims or criminal activity, we can more quickly identify these individuals and keep them from participating in USA Archery activities and programs. In other words, by enforcing membership in all USA Archery programs and activities, we can uniformly ensure that all of our members are familiar with the guidelines for membership and the terms of our Code of Conduct, especially as they relate to Safe Sport initiatives.

We realize that enforcement of membership for clubs or local events could be a barrier to entry for first-time participants, so the USA Archery Board of Directors has approved two new membership categories and a couple of changes that would go along with them. Currently, USA Archery has two categories of membership: Youth and Adult (which can also be combined into a Family membership).  

The two new membership categories include a Recreational Membership and a Temporary Membership, both of which are priced at $15. With the addition of the Recreational membership, a full Youth or Adult Membership will, beginning in 2014, be required to earn any achievement pins in the JOAD and Adult Achievement programs, which is currently only required at a white pin achievement.

The Recreational and Temporary memberships are designed specifically for the new archer. They are priced such that they are hopefully not a burden to entry, but allow the archer to "try out" the sport with minimal investment. At the same time, the Recreational and Temporary memberships allow USA Archery to ensure the athlete agrees to abide by our Code of Conduct and rules, and allows USA Archery to cover them with our insurance policies during their participation.

The Recreational Membership is designed for an archer who wants to participate in USA Archery club activities, but may be new to the program and not yet ready to participate in the pin program or compete at an event. Recreational Membership allows the archer to have full coverage with USA Archery insurance and thus protects the club at the same time. However, Recreational Membership is NOT valid for ANY tournament activity or the Achievement Program. Once the individual has decided to participate in the Achievement Program, or to attend an event, they will need to purchase a full Youth, Adult or Family Membership or at the very least a Temporary Membership for that specific event.

The Temporary Membership is designed specifically for a USA Archery club or state level sanctioned event and is made for those archers who may not be members of USA Archery and are not sure yet about whether or not they want to pay a full member fee, but want to try out a tournament. This membership is ONLY valid for a single event. This membership allows the individuals to be covered under USA Archery's insurance policy, again protecting the club or host of the event, but does not convey any additional member benefits. Temporary membership is NOT going to be available for Regional and National level events.

Sanctioned Events

A sanction from USA Archery is required for any archery competition that is held outside of general club activity. "Outside of general club activity" is defined as a club holding competitions within the United States with open registration, where individuals are allowed to participate who are not current members of the member club. Included with the sanctioning of the event is insurance coverage through USA Archery's insurance program and posting to the USA Archery calendar of events. In order for a national record to be recognized at your event, it MUST be sanctioned. In addition, if you want scores from your event to be recognized as World Records, you must also sanction that event as a Star FITA through USA Archery.

Starting in 2014, any event that is sanctioned must enforce USA Archery membership for all participants. For the reasons discussed above, it will be imperative that any individual participating in a USA Archery event be a member. Temporary (Club and State level events only), Youth or Adult memberships will apply for this purpose. USA Archery, at its discretion, will check sanctioned event registration against membership lists to ensure compliance with this policy starting in 2014.

To try to make the process of sanctioning of events easier, USA Archery will be launching an online sanctioning process for USA Archery member clubs and state associations. We are hopeful that this will make it easier for USA Archery members to pay for and acquire a sanction from the organization. (Update: this process is online and active through the USA Archery membership system, and the new calendar is online as of 11/27/13).

Background Screenings - Education

As part of the USOC Safe Sport initiative, background screens will be mandated for any person who has frequent contact with athletes. In addition, the USOC is also mandating that these same individuals go through a required education and training course concerning the key elements of the Safe Sport program. Currently background screens are mandated within USA Archery for instructors and coaches who are Level 2 or higher, but no education and training is required.

Beginning in 2014, all Level 2 or higher instructors and coaches will be required to go through the Safe Sport education and training program for their certification to be valid. There will be a transition plan for all instructors and coaches, and more information will be coming out on these elements of the Safe Sport initiative. (Update as of 11/27/13: USA Archery has also created a Range Pass for those who are Level 1 or volunteers to make this easier for clubs to manage).

Because the USOC is mandating that any person in frequent contact with archers/athletes must have these screenings and education, starting in 2014 ALL USA Archery clubs will be required to have at least one Level 2 or higher instructor within the club and we will require that any additional volunteer, instructor or coach who will have frequent access to the archers also be certified as a Level 2 or higher instructor. (Update as of 11/27/13: This has been revised to only require one Level two and the remaining individuals who will have frequent access will need to obtain a Range Pass).

New Club Agreement

As you can see from above, many of these new programs and changes will affect local clubs most significantly. Therefore clubs will see new club agreements for 2014 that will commit them to following the above guidelines and asking the club to agree to support USA Archery's and the USOC's efforts to keep our sport as safe as possible for all participants. (Update as of 11/27/13: This is now online and can be reviewed).

We know that change is hard, but we hope that you will all support USA Archery in these changes. Sport is ever changing and we must keep up with the standards set by our partners in order to maintain a healthy environment for athletes and all participants within our clubs, teams and events. Many thanks to all of you in advance for your support of these new initiatives. 

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