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Communicating a Plan in a Time of Crisis

When the COVID-19 Pandemic struck, East Grand Forks’ Parks and Recreation department faced many tough decisions on how to press forward. From youth hockey teams about to take part in State Tournaments hundreds of miles away, to making a plan to return to play, the department needed to communicate quickly and accurately to all its families. 

East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation counted on SportsEngine HQ to get the right information to its more than 1000 member families quickly, ensuring everyone was on the same page on plans and precautions. 

When Mark Dragich joined East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation, the city had a website for its recreation programs, but many of the processes were still manual. The department is responsible for a variety of sports and activities and has more than 1,000 athletes across all its programs. The department also plays the unique role of overseeing the town’s youth hockey program and its more than 30 teams. 

“The hockey program’s Blue Line Club was using their own SportsEngine site, and that was my first experience with the platform,” says Dragich. “At that point, we were doing registration the old-fashioned way with pen and paper.” 

Through the Blue Line Club, he learned that SportEngine offered a simplified, online registration option. “That made a world of difference in the time we spent with registration,” notes Dragich.

“From the start, it was an amazing experience. They provided amazing communication and support, even giving detailed notes for our financial director to see the real dollars and cents we’d save.”

Dragich and his counterpart, Katie Boespflug, count on SportsEngine HQ for a variety of tasks to make their day-to-day operations easier. “One thing we really appreciate is how seamless the communication is between different teams and programs,” says Boespflug. “With so many different pieces, that barrier-less communication is essential.”

Everything was going well for the department. Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed. “We actually had a couple of hockey teams down in the Twin Cities about to take the ice for the State Tournament,” notes Dragich. “When the governor shut down all activities, we were using SportsEngine HQ to communicate with the parents and coaches directly in real-time.”

Parents in the community were unsure of what would happen next. Add to that, the neighboring town of Grand Forks, North Dakota kept youth sports going, and there was a lot of messaging that needed to get out.

“We met extensively to talk about how we could get our kids back out there. But it had to be safe. We knew we had to do it right.”


As the team built their plan, they communicated regularly with all their members using SportEngine HQ’s communication tools. “The system made it so easy to communicate. We could say here’s what we’re planning, here's when we’ll be back,” says Dragich. “SportsEngine HQ played an essential role in keeping parents and players informed with accurate information.”

SportsEngine was even there to help as they worked on their Return to Play plan. “SportsEngine sent us really helpful guides and playbooks that we used as a framework to build our Return to Play plan,” says Boespflug. “They had some great ideas we could share with athletes and parents to keep them active during the shutdown.”

Once athletes returned to the fields and courts of East Grand Forks, the pair continued to count on SportsEngine HQ to keep everyone updated.

Their plan was put to the test when one of their baseball coaches tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine. 

“SportsEngine HQ was essential in contact tracing by checking which other athletes were at the same field,” says Boespflug. “We could quickly and confidently take action. Quarantining the people who may have had contact and giving everyone accurate, timely updates.”

Their quick, decisive action worked, as no one else tested positive. 

“We know we’re all in this together. We all have to do the right thing,” Dragich points out. “We’re just so happy the kids can get back out there and play.”

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