A Port St. Lucie select coach and club officer was arrested following allegations that, over the course of a year, he molested a 15 year old player on a team he coached. (Full Story Here). Although the coach passed as many as ten background checks during his time with the club, other signs of potential issues apparently went unheeded. The coach in question did not fit any stereotypical profile. He was married with children of his own who played in the club. Nonetheless, other reports indicate that the coach provided the victim with transportation and gifts. The player described the coach as a “second father”. The coach was also alleged to have held parties for players at his house where alcohol was served. Some of the alleged criminal conduct was alleged to have occurred at one of these parties.
Sound child protection policies train volunteers to identify signs such as favoriting, gift giving and extra-organizational socializing. They also seek to create policies that prevent coaches from having isolated contact with players. Isolated contact is particularly common in transportation and in home settings. Coaches should not shudder at policies that restrict outside contact with their players. By preventing isolated contact, players are protected from abuse, while coaches are protected from false allegations. The child protection policies are also volunteer protection tools. The use of criminal background checks, which discover only prosecuted behavior, should never prevent a club from creating and following proactive risk management policies.
State and national governing bodies may be interested in our presentation “Beyond Background Checks.” The information available in criminal background checking is so limited, that its use, to the exclusion of other methods, can actually place participants at greater risk. The “Beyond Background Checks” program, which can be presented in 60-90 minutes at an annual meeting or workshop, educates club and association directors and administrators about evolving standards relating to the duty of care a youth sports association owes to its youth participants. The program focuses on volunteer and staff screening and management, but also introduces the concept of Comprehensive Risk Management.
The bulk of the program is dedicated to concrete suggestions in the screening and management of volunteers and paid staff. The presentation covers both policy development and screening methods. The volunteer management portion of the program discusses both internal club policy making and external communication of policies to the club membership.
Finally, the program concludes with a discussion of comprehensive risk management. Comprehensive risk management attempts to instill a culture of proactive risk management within the leadership of the club. Within the youth sports community, risk management has historically been a reactive measure, driven by the most visible and recent perceived threats to a club. Comprehensive risk management is an objective and thorough planning process leading to a formal risk management plan for a club. The program also discusses structural impediments to executing risk management plans.
Clubs and local associations, of course, can always enact risk management programs that exceed the state minimum requirements. Indeed, where the requirements are minimal, local risk management planning is vital. Let us help you get started with a review of your child protection and volunteer management policies!