When your sign up your kids for youth sports, there’s a lot of issues to think about: uniforms, costs, playing time issues, and team chemistry–to name a few. The last thing you want to worry about is your child’s safety from sexual predators.
Unfortunately, that’s a concern that parents must address in the face of today’s mindnumbing facts about sexual predators. More than 65% or predators who have been identified as child sexual abusers were in positions of trust, such as coaches or clergy. Just as you have safety expectations about your child’s teachers and babysitters, you should also have expectations about the coaches and organizers of your child’s youth sports programs.
Don’t let your guard down
It’s tempting for parents to let their guard down for sporting activities because many coaches are volunteers, parents, or guardians. And although it’s true that most coaches truly care about children and are no risk to them, there are a small percentage who will use the coaching platform as a means to gain access to children for the purpose of victimizing them.
And let’s face it, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any safer. According to the Center for Mission and Exploited Children, U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a huge increase in cases of sexual exploitation of children since the 1990s. As that figure grows, so does the number of children who play youth sports every year. Statistics vary, but many of them put the number of youth sports participants at close to or over 40,000,000 each year. For child predators, that’s a veritable gold mine of opportunity, and parents and sports organizations cannot let their guards down, no matter how well they think they know someone.
No wolves should get past the gate
Last November, two sex offenders in Illinois got past the youth sports guard gate and were allowed to coach until someone turned them in. The question is: how were they allowed to coach in the first place? It is inexecusable for any wolves–sheeps’ clothing or not–to get past the “gate” of protection that should be around children in youth sports.
In February, parents in GRESHAM, Oregon were surprised to learn that a sex offender was refereeing children’s games in the Portland area after he was convicted of having sex with a young teen. Another wolf in sheep’s clothing allowed past the gate.
Be the change
If your child is invited to play sports on a team that does not do background checks for everyone in contact with kids–coaches, referees, umpires, other volunteers–for the sake of your child and the other children on the team, you and other parents must take a stand for kids’ safety and insist that background checks be done.
Be the voice, be the change that helps make kids safer in your community.
This is a guest post by Janis B. Meredith. Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench.