By: Greg Bach, VP, Communications
National Alliance for Youth Sports
It turns out if you live in South Florida and you wanted to place a bet on a football game you didn't have to head to Las Vegas or connect with an offshore gambling website.
You simply had to walk through the doors of a local barbershop in Ft. Lauderdale, head to the back room, and place a bet on pro and college sports or – grab a seat for this part of the story – youth football games.
That's right, thousands of dollars were being wagered on football games involving children, many as young as 7 and 8 years old.
Outside the Lines first reported the gambling going on at youth football games in South Florida last year, prompting the Broward Sheriff's Office to launch its "Operation Dirty Play" investigation.
What they uncovered during the course of 18 months is mind boggling and downright disturbing on all levels – the sickening exploitation of innocent kids, all in attempts to stuff pockets with illegal cash.
According to the ESPN.com report $20,000 was bet on one game and up to $100,000 would be wagered on the youth league's championship games at season's end.
Six of the nine individuals facing charges are coaches who are ex-convicts with a history of felony drug, assault and theft charges. That's certainly not a trifecta to be happy about with this bunch.
So these are the types of people being allowed access to supposedly coach and mold children? Not a single person ever bothered to look into the backgrounds of these individuals?
The ESPN.com story also reports that coaches of opposing teams could be seen taking bets on the sidelines of a game involving their own teams.
Now, I don't know about you, but I think that would have raised a red flag with me since the youth games I've been a part of coaches typically shake hands and wish each other luck before the game and then focus on getting their kids ready – they don't exchange money or discuss if the point spread should switch from 2½ to 3 because little Timmy is grounded and isn’t at that day's game.
And yet no one found these exchanges alarming?
And what exactly was everyone in the stands doing the time one coach waved a wad of cash in front of his players to show them how much was riding on their performance? Not a single person questioned what was going on? Or even cared?
C'mon, they couldn’t have thought he was collecting money to buy the team a post-game pizza.
There is so much blame to go around here it is sickening. Every single person associated with these programs, whether they coached or watched games from the stands, failed these kids so unbelievably badly.
It's just another horrific example of adults kicking to the curb what should be one of the most special times in a child's life.