So why does it seem to keep happening? To address the issue, we first need to acknowledge some hard truths. Abuse does happen. We entrust coaches to teach children sports in a safe and positive manner and help them learn valuable social skills. It’s assumed coaches volunteer because of their passion for their sport and their willingness to teach children. Unfortunately, sometimes there are other dangerous motives. Let’s look at how background checks fight abuse in youth sports.

Sports Illustrated published an article titled, Every Parent’s Nightmare. It’s a publication that still holds true today. In the article, several former youth coaches are interviewed. All of which are either serving life sentences or were charged with various criminal acts against a youth athlete. Some of those interviewed had previous records prior to obtaining a coaching position. Families of these victims were often blindsided as some coaches were hired with impressive backgrounds and proved themselves to these families with winning seasons, etc.

Here are the hard truths:

  1. There are youth sports organizations that do NOT conduct background checks on coaches or volunteers.
  2. Not all youth sports organizations have job descriptions that define and limit the authority of their coaches or volunteers.
  3. The average “seducer” molester, the kind most common in youth sports, victimizes approximately 120 children before he is caught. Keith Lanning, an FBI supervisory agent
  4. Abuse can happen off the field or court and can include digital communication.
  5. Not all background checks are equal. Some organizations cut corners and miss the red flags. See our blog post on a similar story: click here.
  6. A background check by itself won’t stop abuse.
  7. Parents need to stay involved.

“Parents today are so busy, they’re allowing coaches to take over the after-school hours, which is the foot in the door pedophiles need.” [Bob Bastarache, Every Parent’s Nightmare]

Background Checks Fight Abuse in Youth Sports

So what can you do to protect young athletes against possible abuse? The broad answer is to reduce risk by eliminating opportunity. Firstly, ask questions. Does your organization have defined policies in place for conduct? What are your organization’s policies regarding coaches giving players rides in their car? What are the policies for travel? Is there a two-adult rule? Are there ever opportunities where a child would meet privately with the coach?

Second, use a thorough background check. Background checks are not created equal. Some athletic organizations choose the cheapest option they can find due to limited budget and lack of knowledge. Do not cut corners here. Our TotalCheck package provides the scope you need. From there, have a firm policy about what records will disqualify a candidate. Every applicant over the age of 18 should have a background check.

Unfortunately, a background check by itself won’t prevent sexual abuse. Some predators just haven’t gotten caught. Unless something shows up on their record that would disqualify them, they could still coach. That being said, if you run a high-quality background check annually, it goes a long way to deter abusers from applying in the first place.

As an organization, don’t get complacent. Stay involved. No matter how much you trust a coach, set boundaries. Never allow the coach to give a child a ride home after practice or a game. Never allow a private meeting with a child and coach. Make sure to enforce a Two-Adult/Two-Deep Leadership rule during all sporting activities. Lastly, encourage parents to talk to their children about appropriate coach/player interaction and keep an eye out for any changes in their behavior.

If you want to learn more about One Source, what’s included in our searches or would like to compare our background check reporting with your current vendor, send me an email at gsimmons@onesourcebackground.com

Greg Simmons

Greg oversees the nonprofit business development at One Source. He helps clients around the country and across a full range of industries, hire the right people by providing the most comprehensive pre-employment screening products and services.