While it takes a continued and dedicated effort from sports organizations, coaches, parents, volunteers and more to protect youth athletes from sexual abuse, volunteer background checks can stop a lot of would-be predators from ever entering your organization. No child should ever have to suffer from sexual abuse, especially when a sports organization is supposed to be ensuring their well-being and safety from any kind of harm. To start, every youth sports organization should issue mandatory background checks for all their adult staff and volunteers. Here are a few other things to consider:
1. All adult volunteers must complete a background check prior to working with your youth sports organization, including criminal history and sex offender registry checks. This includes anyone that might work for your league such as coaches, officials, groundskeepers and so forth. Your league is ultimately responsible for who is allowed into the organization and it’s much better to be extra strict on making sure everyone passes a background check than risk letting even one potential predator slip through the cracks.
2. Determine what offenses that could appear during a background check would automatically disqualify a volunteer from being allowed to join your youth sports organization. Look at background checks in black and white; when everyone knows where the line in the sand is it’s much easier to create a safe environment for youth athletes. No one should be exempt from this “no go” list, no matter what their qualifications may be.
3. Fingerprint-based screening is often considered the “gold standard” of background checks; however it is not permitted in some state and might be too expensive for many sports organizations to implement even if they do have legal access to it. While the laws from state to state may vary, each organization should make use of the most comprehensive screening available.
50% of reported abuses cases by someone outside of the family said it was by someone whom they know and trust and youth sports coaches and volunteers are in a unique position of power and proximity with dozens of children. It’s important to remember that many instances of child abuse go unreported, so it’s possible that even with a thorough volunteer background check the wrong kind of person can be allowed to volunteer for your youth sports organization. Background checks are a necessary precaution, but there is no end-all solution that can guarantee safety.