How much do you know about your youth league’s coaches?
With most youth leagues, the adults who supervise are volunteers. Often, it is the parents of the young athletes who offer their time to be coaches or team managers. However, this is not always the case as many volunteers do not have any kids participating in the league.
Without knowing the true motivators for why your coaches are volunteering and without running a background check on them before introducing them into the league, you may be exposing your young athletes to dangers in what should be a safe environment.
An alarming statistic recorded by Darkness2Light, an organization committed to ending child sex abuse, says that “about 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by the people the family trusts”. The study further states that “About 90% of children who are victims of abuse know their abuser. Only 10% of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger”.
With statistics as disturbing as these, there’s good reason for why parents and youth league administrators should be cautious when choosing the individuals who supervise their young athletes.
This is why it is important to do a thorough check before putting them in a position of power our athlete’s lives and why we should be doing the following:
Implement background checks.
There should be mandatory background checks on everyone involved in your youth league organization; from the volunteer coaches to the front office to even the groundskeepers. Those with nothing to hide will not have any resistance to having their backgrounds checked, and those who do will give off warning signals.
To verify that someone is who they say they are, run their Social Security Numberthrough the system for verification. The National Criminal File Search is a database that can scan if your individual in question is on any government watch list, sex or violent offender registries.
Trust your instincts.
Not all abusers are already in the system. They may have evaded getting caught for many years. Parents and sports administrators need to learn how to recognize the signs of sexual abuse. Use your intuition but don’t be paranoid.
Do certain behaviors appear inappropriate and exhibit sexual undertones? Does a coach seem to take a special interest in a particular child?
Abusers are rarely random people kids meet on the street or strangers they’ve encountered. Abusers can be anyone within your circle and your community. Too often, the abuser has been someone who held a leadership role in the child’s life; an older relative, an adult family friend, a teacher and even, their coach.
Rely on your intuitions to distinguish whether the adult’s actions are playfulness or flirting. Trust that instinctive feeling we have when we sense that something is not quite right.
Everyone in the community needs to recognize the reality of such threats and actively choose to educate themselves on how to identify the warning signs, the proper approach when you have suspicions and ultimately, the course of action once your fears are confirmed.
Adults volunteer for many positive reasons, and their intentions are admirable. They want to give back to their community. They played that sport when they were younger and felt their experience will benefit the youth athletes. Or they just have a genuine love for the game and are amazing with kids.
However, there is the dark side to why some inject themselves in activities that involve children like sports leagues, and if we deny the existence of these threats, we put our young athletes at risk.