A Virginia soccer coach arrested and charged with inappropriately touching an 11 year old player provides yet another clear example of patterns common in the grooming and pursuit of young victims by adult authority figures. (Full Story Here). The suspect was a coach at an indoor soccer facility and also had worked as a part time school coach and for a club team. He was arrested after the victim’s mother discovered lewd text messages on her son’s phone from the coach. Further, the abuse was alleged to have occurred when the coach gave the player a ride to watch a soccer game outside of the organization.
How One Simple Omission Puts the Entire System at Risk
I am generally reticent to give specific risk management advice online. Every club is different and there is no one size fits all solution. People ask for forms, but forms don’t address your specifics. A risk management consultant can start with a template, but it is their expertise that let’s them customize the program to fit the specific needs of your association. Risk management requires an investment of capital and human resources. A program for a 1000 player club may not be feasible for a 200 player club. This is what your consultant understands, and it is the reason that I hesitate to give blanket advice online or in my presentations.
After my last three presentations, though, I am going to make one exception, and I will make it because I think it proves two points. First, it proves that whatever benefits criminal background checks yield, and there are some, there is an equal or greater risk of complacency that comes with the knowledge that those checks are being performed. The second point is just as significant. It proves that there is a reason clubs should rely on risk management professionals, instead of trying a “do it yourself” approach to risk management. We have had background checks in Texas for ten years. The advice I am about to give it so simple, the usual response I get is open mouths or gasps because people realize they have borne this risk for years and years. If this simple procedure hasn’t been implemented in ten years, is it really feasible to think that you can create a functional risk management program by web surfing and forming a committee?
More than a decade after firing their swim coach, a Seattle area Parks and Recreation District has settled three molestation lawsuits for a total of almost $5 million (Full Story Here). A fourth suit was recently filed by yet another victim. The coach, who worked in Seattle in the mid-90s, was later arrested in California for sexual abuse spanning a nearly thirty year period. Indeed, one of the charges involved a swimmer allegedly impregnated by the coach before he was even employed in Seattle. The coach is currently serving a 40 year prison sentence in California.
As is common in these cases, news reports indicate potential risk management warning signs. According to the lawsuits, a number of parents, including one who was a parks commissioner at the time, raised concerns about King’s behavior toward his young female swimmers. He was often seen with a young girl seated on his lap during swim practices, and was known to take girls to dinner and send them flowers. This type of favoriting and gifting is common grooming behavior. The lawsuits all alleged the district failed to adequately look into King’s background before hiring him, then failed to conduct annual reviews of his performance that could have led to his firing. These allegations are consistent with the failure to screen and failure to supervise claims seen in many suits against volunteer youth sports organizations.
At Placek Consulting, we work to create policies to protect children and volunteers by creating open and transparent relationships. We assist with training and communication with your volunteers and constituents to create a culture of child protection. Let us review your current policies or assist you in creating a comprehensive risk management program.