How do you keep high school sporting events safe?

With violence rife in the United States, mass shootings becoming the norm, and divisions escalating, schools are spending a lot of time on safety and security.

This year, and over the last several decades, the United States has seen many school shootings. The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, showed how disobeying policies and procedures can have devastating consequences. We’ve also seen parades, grocery stores, movie theaters, shopping malls, places of worship, clubs and mass shootings in office buildings.

Other non-high-profile shootings are also on the rise in many parts of the country. Trends include North Carolina. The City of Durham has reported nearly 400 shootings so far this year, as of August 11. In Raleigh, he has 26 murders this year, compared to his 19 in the same period in 2021.

We have also seen officials being assaulted at sporting events, including videos that went viral on social media.

There are more safety and security considerations for schools to consider, and it’s not just limited to school days. Sports days are held after school, and members of the community come to campus to participate in those events. On Wednesday, members of the NC Athletic Directors’ Association met for a virtual training session on safety and security at high school sports days to discuss some issues and best practices. Safe Sport Zone President Jay Hammes led the discussion.

Hammes was a high school athletic director in Wisconsin, participating in traveling athletic meets. When he left school, he was shot and narrowly missed him. Since then, Hams has been an advocate for sport safety.

All North Carolina schools are required to develop emergency action plans for situations such as medical emergencies and severe weather. But Hams says plans are often too long to understand, and when an emergency actually hits, people forget about it and rely on their instincts.

“Do you think I was thinking about my plan of action when the bullet was fired?” he said. “No, never. When things heat up, plans evaporate. Instincts take over. Instincts come from practice, practice, practice.”

Hammes said it’s important that everyone involved in running a game day, from school administrators to coaches to all event staff, have an emergency plan in place. I am able to react with instinct when a crisis occurs. I have seen such situations occur in North Carolina.

Just last week, a Salisbury High School vs. West Rowan High School football game ended early and the rush to exit began as an unidentified woman allegedly yelled about a man with a gun.By the Salisbury Post and three injured in the stampede. According to police, it happened after a social media post said a shooting would occur near the game. could not be found.

In September 2021, several gunshots were fired during a football game between Chambers High School and Glenn High School in Charlotte. No one was injured, but the rush of people trying to evacuate the stadium was broadcast live on HighSchoolOT. In October 2021, two of his teenagers were shot after a soccer game at 71 High School, and Northern He was shot at Durham County in his stadium after a game between Durham High School and Riverside High School. Another of his teenagers was shot in a car yard.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What will it be like in five years?’” says Hammes. “Like our fire drills, it has to be done consistently. We have fire drills, but there are more shootings than fires at our school.” .”

Prevention is key

Hams said the best way to keep people safe at high school sporting events is to prevent emergencies from happening all at once.

“Prevention, prevention, prevention is the name of the game today,” Hams said. “But you can’t provide 100% security. If someone really wants to do something, they will do it.”

Hammes’ company teaches a practice called “active supervision.” This requires everyone involved in the event to be trained to supervise spectators as they enter the facility, in the stands, and anywhere in between.

One of Hammes’ recommendations is to purchase a handheld metal detector for your gate. He said it’s best to use it when spectators enter the facility, but simply displaying it at the gate can be a deterrent.

Gates are important places for surveillance. Hammes says it’s important to have administrators and law enforcement at the gates because scanning the gates as people enter can alert event staff to potential problems.

“People detectors are sometimes better than metal detectors,” says Hammes. “They shouldn’t be looking for physical characteristics. It’s profiling. If they’re doing that, get them out of there. But look for things like people walking in with their hands in their pockets. and look into their eyes, scanning you, looking for witnesses, looking for exit routes and cops.

If the school uses metal detectors, having law enforcement officers on the side of the metal detectors is helpful because they are good at looking for suspicious activity, Hams said. He said it’s also important to look for things that are out of place, such as people wearing jackets when it’s hot outside.

manage the audience

Active shooters and people with weapons aren’t the only safety and security issues that exist at high school sporting events. Spectators can pose a safety hazard if they lose control of their behavior in anger or storm the court at a celebration.

Last December, at the John Wall Holiday Invitational at Wake Technical Community College’s Northern Wake Campus, pepper spray was used to quell a brawl between fans, ending the night’s tournament. A brawl between fans at Farmville Central High School and Life in Kissimmee, Florida spilled onto the court midway through the game. The bout followed the on-court bout of the previous match, which already had heightened security, a spokesman for the tournament said at the time.

Also last December, two high school students were shot during a basketball tournament at Catawba College in Salisbury. The shooting has put the campus on lockdown.

Managing spectator behavior is another important way to prevent security issues at high school events, starting with having enough people at the event to monitor the number of spectators in attendance. says Hammes.

“If we can learn to actively oversee events, we can reduce the problem to one or two incidents every three to four years,” he said.

Hammes said event workers should be assigned a section to monitor. Every few minutes, event workers scan the section for people who are upset, angry, yelling, or yelling at referees or coaches. Once the person is identified, write down what they wear, not what they look like. Focusing on what you’re wearing is called pattern matching recognition, Hammes says, so it’s easier to identify a person the next time they scan that section.

“Every time I look back, I see that person in focus,” Hams said. “You can calm people down just by looking at them. They know what you’re looking at.”

Hammes says non-verbal communication, such as shaking the head or gesturing to calm down, can be effective. Standing or sitting close to people can also help.

“If the person continues to do that, you have to deal with it. We have to have the courage to stand up and do it.” Importantly, it makes the situation worse. That’s it.

“You can’t escalate if you’re not calm. Be patient,” Hams said. “When you see conversations heating up with other Event Workers, go help them out. Intervene and help reduce escalation.

NC working on preparing for school

NCADA is the professional organization for athletic administrators in North Carolina, and one of its primary responsibilities is to provide education and resources to the state’s athletic directors. A virtual session with Hammes was part of that educational process, but it doesn’t end there. In 2023, NCADA plans to offer safe sport accredited classes to its members.

“As parents, we expect to drop our children off at the game, come back and pick them up. to do it,” said Roy Turner, NCADA Executive Director. “We’re just trying to be in a positive situation.”

Athletic directors in North Carolina are already paying more attention to the environment, Turner said. He said that when there are rumors that something might happen at a sporting event, those rumors are taken very seriously and not taken lightly.

“I think we’re starting to be more proactive and have a greater sense of purposefulness,” he said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have moved to using digital tickets, which give schools more opportunities to identify who is attending an event. Some school districts have implemented a clear bag policy, while others use magnetometers and metal detectors at gates. We are investing and some schools are displaying QR codes to allow people to anonymously report hints of violence and threats.

“I think we all want to make sure …in the future, every child will have the opportunity to experience (education-based athletics), learn the life skills we were able to learn, and You learn what you have stolen from,” Turner said.

Keeping events safe is an integral part of keeping high school athletics viable for children in the future, and today it means preparing for, and hopefully preventing, violent behavior at events.

“It’s really sad that kids today have to go to school and worry, but it’s a new world,” Hams said.

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