'Know Your Role' goes national

Jul. 20—The Southern Oregon Sports Commission's "Know Your Role" campaign is going national.

In an agreement announced Tuesday morning, the SOSC, Travel Medford and USA Softball have formed an initial three-year partnership to push the Know Your Role campaign nationally. The effort is aimed at educating all parties involved in youth sports — athletes, coaches, parents and fans — about appropriate behavior directed toward officials and umpires.

Throw in recruiting and retention efforts of officials around the country and it made for something that USA Softball couldn't pass up.

"Obviously it hit a nerve because it is a problem everywhere," said Travel Medford director of sports development Angela Wood. "It's getting worse — the pandemic made behavior at sporting events even worse. It's kind of unbelievable that they're on board with us, but we're really hoping that (partnership) validates it even more and more people come on board and spread the message.

"If we all have one cohesive message we're talking about, it's going to be a lot more effective."

The Know Your Role campaign was created by the SOSC in 2016 and has since gone on to be implemented at schools around Southern Oregon. It is also syndicated statewide thanks to the Oregon Youth Soccer Association — the first association to officially license the campaign in a partnership that began July 1.

That message of "You can be an athlete, a coach, a parent or an official, but you only get to be one — Know Your Role" was created by the SOSC in partnership with Travel Medford, with the goal of changing the trend of negative culture at local sporting events at the youth level.

"It's really positive and I think the message is really clear and direct," said Crater softball coach Chris Arnold, "and everyone who is associated with youth sports or anyone involved with it has a different responsibility and wants the same goal for the kids involved. It's a positive message that Southern Oregon and Oregon have been promoting for a number of years, but it's great to see a nationwide organization, and the premier organization for softball in the United States, embrace what we're doing here and promote that."

Wood said that talks between local officials and USA Softball started in January, with a commitment to take the campaign national coming less than a month later.

There were still details to work out, but USA Softball CEO Craig Cress was one of the driving forces in ensuring that the Know Your Role campaign was going to take a step up to the national level.

With the agreement in place, USA Softball will now have the ability to do what the SOSC and Travel Medford have done with local organizations like the Rogue Valley Timbers and the YMCA. USA Softball will have access to the same videos, the same banners and the same messaging that has been seen across the Rogue Valley for the better part of the last decade.

USA Softball will also get "a real comprehensive outline of how to implement this campaign into your market," according to Wood, with the goal of doing what has been put into place in Southern Oregon but on a much bigger scale.

"Partnering with Know Your Role is another step in USA Softball's commitment to the growth and development of grassroots softball," said Cress in a statement. "As the national governing body of softball in the U.S., we are dedicated to providing the softball community with educational tools and content that ensures an enjoyable and safe environment. This partnership with Know Your Role will allow coaches, umpires, athletes and fans to gain a better understanding of what their roles are in the sport, which will play a key role in enhancing the overall experience for everyone involved."

Arnold, a three-time state title winner and one of the winningest active coaches in Oregon, said that the Know Your Role campaign and what USA Softball want to accomplish seemingly fall right in line with one another.

"I really appreciate what they do," said Arnold of USA Softball. "Training and the information that coaches and participants in USA Softball have to undergo is impressive. It's not just you sign up and go play, there's training that goes on and USA Softball has certain standards that they want everybody involved to abide by."

"In the Southern Oregon area, I love the way that we've moved forward with this message," continued Arnold. "I think even in the state of Oregon we're not perfect and we're still working on those relationships, but I think we are making positive gains — and I think this campaign is targeted at exactly that. I'm very excited about it and I think we can move forward a little more positively than we have coming out of the COVID hibernation."

USA Softball has more than 120,000 teams and two million members nationwide.

Starting July 25, Lithia & Driveway Fields will host USA Softball's 12A and 16A Girls Western Nationals, the second straight summer in which the regional tournament has come to Medford.

And it just so happens to come only a few short days after USA Softball became that much more tied to the Rogue Valley with a prevailing message that started locally but now gains a national boost with an association to one of the biggest youth sports organizations in the nation.

"Our local stakeholders have really embraced it and have noticed it has really changed the culture here," said Wood. "We've talked to several people for testimonials and feel like it really has made a difference here locally. Obviously, we haven't solved the problem — and I don't think anybody will ever completely solve the problem — but we have definitely moved the needle.

"We're super excited about (this partnership) and love that the message is being spread even further because it's such an important and needed message. We're thrilled about it."

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.