Sports camps across the country are gearing up for Summer 2015. Coaches, volunteers, referees and other guides/handlers are signing all the important forms, giving clearance for background checks, getting some training, and learning the ins/outs of what’s expected of them during these camps. Organizers are busy finalizing registration numbers, organizing paperwork, scheduling workers, and conducting training sessions.

Camp organizers have undoubtedly put a tremendous amount of work into preparing for these camps. As the chief stewards parents have entrusted to care for their children, camp organizers have an enormous duty to live up to. Sometimes, in the course of planning for such fun and active camps, everyday policies and procedures may get overlooked. You know you need to have a First Aid Policy, but where have you positioned your kits and what are they stocked with? You know children will need to stay hydrated, but how easily accessible is water and when are kids allowed to slurp it down?

Here’s a few critical policies that camp organizers need to keep on their radar and firm up before kids take the field:

What is the daily check-in/check-out routine? Many parents, especially those with elementary aged and older kids, are used to drop-off lines or sending their children out to school bus stops. Some of them may need a gentle reminder about the need for their presence and your camp’s sign in/sign out guidelines. For those parents who are already vigilant about drop off and pick up procedures, how do you reassure them that their child won’t be released into the wrong hands?

One of the best ways to manage the situation is to have one set of doors for entry and another set for exit. Or one side of the field for drop off and another side for pick up. You get the idea. You’ll also want to give each parent-child pair a unique, matching ID number (perhaps through an ID card) and require each party to show their cards for verification before drop off and pick up.

If you live in an area where carpools are frequent, this is a tough subject to tackle, but it needs to be thoroughly thought out before you start being responsible for other people’s children.

What’s the restroom policy?

Look, every kid is going to need to go to the bathroom. For older kids, this may not seem like a big deal. Have a guide take a child to the bathroom and have the guide wait outside. But what about accident-prone preschoolers or older toddlers who are potty training? What about the older kid who got into a water balloon fight and would like to change clothes? These are delicate situations that need to be defined and explained to everyone – workers, volunteers, guides, parents and children – before camp starts.

There is one basic rule in all of this though – UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should a volunteer or coach or whoever it is be alone in the bathroom with a child. NO EXCEPTIONS.

How do you handle boo boos, scrapes, broken bones, allergic reactions and other medical issues? This is a huge, all encompassing big deal. Because it covers everything from deciding to send a child home to calling 911 to regulating foods served at snack time to ensuring you have CPR certified people on staff. The number of items that need to be addressed in your medical policy are plentiful but there are several key items that should be firmed up immediately.

  • What is your well child policy? In other words, what symptoms warrant parents keeping their child home or staffers requesting a child go home?
  • How many first aid kits do you have? What are they stocked with? Do you have AED’s nearby? Are there children stickers in the AED’s? Anyone with CPR training will know what we’re talking about here. If you don’t and you’re a camp organizer, you better get yourself in the know quickly.
  • Do any children attending your camp have allergies? To what – bees, tree nuts, kiwi? How will this affect what snacks you offer? Will children with allergies be required to bring their own EpiPen?
  • In what circumstances should 911 be called?

What is your screening policy? If you don’t have a background check policy for your staffers, volunteers and other people who will be near children during camp, you should seriously getting one. These days, most camps and Vacation Bible Schools won’t operate without screening their folks first. It’s the single-most effective tool you can use to protect the children who will be in your care. Background checking your people is also a vital legal safety net for your camp. By protecting your participants through screening your coaches and volunteers, you’re actually protecting yourself, too.

Finally, this Michigan church has published its internal Safe Church Policy. It’s a great starting point for youth sports camps who have yet to address certain policies in their handbook. Here’s a few of the tips that immediately caught our attention:

  • At no time should a youth worker take a child to another part of the church alone.If the need arises to talk with a child one-on-one, it should be done in an environment in which others are present to view adult and child.
  • A minimum of two (2) adult leaders will remain until the last student has left.
  • Prior to the church year beginning, Background Check Forms must be completed every year by all program volunteers.

Camp organizers – we want to hear from you! What policies have you stumped? Which ones took you the most time to draw up? How has the reaction been from parents, employees and volunteers as you’ve implemented changes? Tweet us here!