The US Open tennis tournament kicks off in New York City this week. It’s the last grand slam tennis tournament of the professional season. More than 720,000 on-site fans will visit Flushing Meadows, and thousands more will be employed at the complex, during the tournament’s two-week run.

Most of the employees who work at the tournament are hired either by the United States Tennis Association, American tennis’ governing body, or Amerivents, the concessions subcontractor. More than 600 concessions positions will be filled during the US Open.


It’s the USTA’s background screening policy that we really want to examine here. Called Safe Play, it’s one of the most
comprehensive and far-reaching policies that we’ve seen for an athletic organization that depends heavily on grassroots efforts, community education and youth training to grow its sport.

Let’s tackle how the USTA explains Safe Play on its website and explain why it’s so effective.

What the USTA Says:

Program Overview 

The USTA seeks to ensure the safety of all participants, and as such, the USTA has expanded and incorporated its criminal background screening policy into Safe Play as a legitimate business necessity to further its mission.  

 Criminal background screenings have been implemented by the USTA in order to:

 i.   Ensure a safe, secure and fun environment for participants to compete and continue to develop and enhance their skills.

 ii.   Provide parents and legal guardians with a sense of security for their children.

 iii.  Prevent individuals with ill intentions from becoming involved with its programming. 

Background screening is designed as a preventative measure. It is not a guarantee against incidents of inappropriate behavior or criminal activity. The USTA encourages parents and legal guardians to play an active role in their child’s development, both on and off the court, to ensure their well-being.

hat Active Screening Says:

The USTA is transparent in its mission of implementing background checks. It provides clear, solid reasons for why screening is imperative to its operations – Safety, Security, Prevention. The USTA also is smart to mention that screening is preventative, not a guarantee. That ensures parents and grass-roots organizations who may use the USTA model that they need to be vigilant on their own, and also offers the USTA some legal protection.

What the USTA Says:

The United States Tennis Association Incorporated (National), USTA National Tennis Center Incorporated, and the USTA
Player Development Incorporated (collectively, “USTA”) has developed a comprehensive program to ensure a safe environment for the individuals participating in its programs. The USTA has required background checks for a number of years and has recently expanded its program to include an educational component to provide a more comprehensive approach to safety. Effective Aug. 1, 2013, this expanded program includes USTA Junior Team Tennis coaches/managers and co-managers who are registered on TennisLink, and local/area USTA Junior Team Tennis coordinators who are registered on TennisLink; and effective Jan. 1, 2014, this expanded program includes Officials seeking USTA certification, USTA Player Development event coaches, massage therapists, athletic trainers, and USTA Youth Tennis Workshop Coaches(each an “Applicant”, collectively, “Applicants”). 

The following three components must be fulfilled to be eligible to serve in the above-referenced capacities:


The USTA has adopted the online training module produced by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). For information on how to access the video, please visit Access the Training located here. Depending on your knowledge and skillset, the training will take you 90-120 minutes to complete. If you are unable to complete the training at one time, you can return and continue using the account you created. USTA Junior Team Tennis and USTA Certified Officials have the option to take the condensed training located here.

Junior Team Tennis Applicants

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, all individuals seeking to be cleared for USTA Junior Team Tennis are required to participate in the online training module.

All Other Applicants

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, all Officials seeking USTA certification, USTA Player Development event coaches, massage therapists, athletic trainers, SmashZone volunteers, and USTA Youth Tennis Workshop Coaches are required to participate in the online training module.

What Active Screening Says:

The USTA does a fantastic job of explaining who is required to undergo background checks. There is no room for misinterpretation. There is special focus given to coaches who work with juniors (ie. kids), as well as extra staff, officials and, this makes us very happy, volunteers. We’ve long extolled the need for screening volunteers in youth sports groups and the USTA is leading the charge.

Additionally, the USTA requires employees and staff to undergo a massive online training that incorporates chid safety training. The training covers the USTA’s definitions of prohibited conduct and its procedures for reporting and responding abuse. This is a incredibly proactive step that further enhances any screening protocols already in place.

What the USTA says:

Cost of Background Check

For those individuals not serving in a capacity for USTA Junior Team Tennis, the USTA has agreed to pay the fee of the Biennial Screening for all Applicants who are members of the USTA in good standing. All Applicants that are USTA Members in good standing will be prompted to enter their valid USTA Membership number during the Biennial Screening process. Applicants who are not USTA Members in good standing will be responsible for the fees associated with the Biennial Screening ($20 base fee plus transaction fee will be prompted during Biennial Screening process; provided however, additional fees may apply based on Applicants place of residence and/or should additional information be required by the National Center for Safety Initiatives to complete the Biennial Screening at which time the Applicant will be notified and required to pay any difference).  For those individuals serving in any capacity for USTA Junior Team Tennis, the fee for the Biennial Screening will be included in the fee set forth in TennisLink. 

What Active Screening Says:

Bravo!!!! Background screening is a necessity to hiring good, honest people, but requiring these good, honest people to fork over cash year after year for re-verification of their background checks isn’t always fair. Pennsylvania recently increased its background check requirements for people who want to work with children, and after some scuttle about paying for the checks, the governor moved to eliminate some of the fees.

Asking people to foot the bill for their own background checks isn’t out of the question though.

What the USTA does really well in its explanation is that it maintains members must be in “good standing.” This sets the tone for employees and volunteers that the USTA takes its screening policies seriously, and that folks will be rewarded for their hard work, honesty, and integrity. This helps create a positive work culture that people want to be a part of.

What do you think of the USTA’s policy?

Does your company have a screening policy that you thing is an ACE?

Or is yours OUT of date?

We’d LOVE to hear from you.

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