Archive for December, 2012

Information Sharing: Arrest of Mobile Coach Highlights Ongoing Challenges

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Governing Bodies, News, Volunteer Management, Volunteer Screening

The arrest of yet another coach/official on charges of child molestation highlight the ongoing need for information sharing between local sports associations.  Richard Perry, a Rhode Island baseball coach and umpire was arrested after “decades” of involvement in youth baseball.  (Full story here).  The story behind Perry’s arrest should trouble every state association.  Mr. Perry had a long record of service as a baseball coach and umpire.  He even umpired Little League World Series games at one point.  In 2004 a criminal complaint was investigated, but the allegations from the 1990s were deemed to be outside the statute of limitations.

Although Mr. Perry was informally “pushed out” of the baseball league he was working with, he continued to get umpiring assignments from other youth baseball groups.  Amongst his former association, the rumors and suspicion of his behavior were well known.  However, this local knowledge was never communicated outside the organization.  In youth soccer, we have much the same problem, and there seems to be no concerted effort to address this.

While individuals that fail criminal background checks or are suspended by D&P committees may be denied registration, there is little in the way of safeguards to prevent a coach who is denied participation by a local club from moving on to a different organization in the same state or even the same city.  While sharing this information in the past may have been an unreasonably difficult or expensive task, the current state of technology is such that information sharing is feasible if a state association has the commitment to making sure its local members know when other local clubs have rejected or terminated a volunteer.

At Placek Consulting, we have developed uniform volunteer screening procedures that can be used to implement an information sharing database.  Design and implementation of the database is not a prohibitive task.  The challenge is the commitment at the state or national level to making information sharing a priority.  The burden on the local level is miniscule.  In reality, few clubs terminate or reject more than a handful of volunteers a year.  Many clubs have never terminated or rejected a volunteer.  Implementing a statewide system of reporting those rare instances when volunteers are rejected or terminated would put only the smallest burden on the local club.

One possible reason that no information sharing system has been put in place yet may be a concern that information sharing could lead to accusations of defamation by a rejected volunteer.  However, this is again where Placek Consulting shines.  Our reporting forms are designed and reviewed by attorneys to make certain that the information reporting process does not expose the clubs and associations to those types of allegations.  If your state (or area) association is ready to commit to information sharing, let us guide you through the implementation of a properly designed and effective information sharing system.

Implementing Risk Management Plans: “There’s some people we probably want to scare away”

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Coaches, Training, Volunteer Screening

In Nebraska, the Public Finance, Judiciary and Personnel Committee of the Columbus city council just recommended that all groups that use city facilities be required to perform background checks on volunteers that work with children.  As is often the case, the decision was driven by fear, not sound planning.  Committee members were quoted referencing the Penn State scandal as a rationale for the decision.  (Read full story here).  The article noted that some organizations, such as the youth soccer league, already performed such checks.  The youth baseball league, however, did not.

The response from the baseball league was troubling.  ““I think we need to be careful so that we don’t make it so stringent that we have a problem getting a coach,” the baseball league’s former president was quoted as saying.  However, one committee member had a quick retort: “There’s some people we probably want to scare away.”   And she is right of course.  However, this tension highlights the challenge of implementing a risk management plan, and why the creation of such a plan must be a proactive decision of the organization — not one driven by fear or overreaction to a prior incident.

When background checks of coaches started in South Texas, there was a lot of talk about people refusing to comply.  Some of the very broad release language in the consent form troubled people.  Others were indignant that they would be asked to do this after years of volunteering.  However, very few people refused.  Still, the mandate from the state to the local associations and clubs came as a surprise to many of the grass roots level volunteers.  In adopting and implementing a risk management plan, communication and  planning are essential to avoiding hard feelings or resistance from your volunteers.

We recommend several basic steps as an essential part of implementing a risk management plan.

1.  Communicate with stakeholders while the plan is being developed.  Let them know why it is being developed, and let them know that any concerns they have will be heard.  This does not mean they get to approve it.  It does mean that the association will listen and try to address their issues if it can be done without jeopardizing the goals of the plan.

2.  Communicate with stakeholders prior to implementation.  Once the plan is adopted, give ample notice of what new procedures or requirements will be undertaken.  If a volunteer application is now a part of the plan, let your coaches know six weeks before the season, not the week before practice starts!  Nobody should be taken by surprise when it comes time to fill out forms or sign policies.

3.  Provide for confidentiality of sensitive information and communicate those confidentiality procedures clearly!  Some people may have a reasonable concern that embarrassing personal information could come out.  Maybe the local chamber of commerce member who coaches his son’s U8 team had a marijuana arrest 20 years ago in college.  Let the coaches know that results of these checks will be kept confidential.  Make sure your plan has confidentiality provisions and members appointed to positions with access to confidential information can abide by those restrictions!

4.  Make compliance with the plan cost free and convenient!  Some risk management procedures have a cost associated with them.  Budget those costs as expenses to the organization.  Do not ask volunteers to incur them out of pocket.  Make compliance convenient.  Can training be delivered online?  Can policy and procedure acknowledgments be taken care of when coaches get their rosters or uniforms?  You don’t want to ask coaches to make extra trips or undertake extra burdens to comply with your new policy.

5.  Be firm and consistent in implementation.  Nothing undermines a risk management plan more quickly than inconsistent application.  If Coach Mary hears that Coach Jane didn’t have to do the things she is being asked to do, word will get around, people will be suspicious of why they are being asked to do something, and resistance to compliance will grow.  This is one reason we recommend uniform and not random screening policies.  At all times be clear and firm: your organization has the right to determine who its members, coaches and volunteers are.  While volunteering is a noble and giving gesture, it is also a privilege to be selected to work with the kids you serve.  Ultimately, a coach or team manager who is unwilling to follow the organization’s policies is a risk regardless of their background.  There should be no shame or regret in refusing to register someone who resists the requirements of your association.

Financial Controls: Another Board Member Arrested for Embezzlement

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Financial Controls

Another small, volunteer run association has been hit by news that a trusted board member has been arrested for embezzling money from the association.  (Full Story Here).  In Fairview, Tennessee, a 38 year old mother of three was charged with stealing over $60,000 from the soccer association over  a period of years.  The volunteer had served as secretary, treasurer and later president of the soccer association.  The theft was discovered during efforts to reconcile the association’s bank accounts.

Soccer associations can operate on the thinnest of margins and the theft of a substantial sum can imperil the continuation of the association’s programs.  At Placek Consulting, we can review your financial controls policies and help put in place Best Practices to prevent misappropriation of association funds and identify leakage at the earliest opportunity.