Little room for second chances in youth sports

4/14/2014

A news story from Miami Gardens, Fla. was disturbing for a number of reasons, mainly because it showcased a number of volunteer youth sports coaches who were allowed to volunteer even though they were convicted felons. Actually about 10 percent of the more than 300 volunteer coaches at this program had felony convictions – many involving violent crimes.
 
The article went on to say that the city (who is responsible for screening the volunteers) has a written policy where it can refuse to allow anyone to volunteer if it has “good cause.” Additionally, it said that their community was in need of role models since violence is so common.
 
It seems apparent that the city’s policy needs to be updated to have set guidelines for volunteer screening. I would think that violent felony convictions would be a “good cause” to turn away a potential volunteer! Since screening is more than just a criminal history check, I would encourage the city, as well as all the volunteer youth leagues, to review the NAYS Background Screening in Youth Sports guidelines.
 
When I think about role models I think about a person who is looked up to, who we want to be like – someone whose behavior can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. Many parents assume that someone who volunteers is a good person.
 
I also believe that many parents assume that their child’s coach is not a convicted felon.
 
Youth sports organizations must have written policies that address screening of volunteers and should include disqualifiers. These policies must be abided by and promoted to everyone so that parents won’t assume but will know exactly what screening process the volunteers have completed.
 
While I believe in second chances, I am not sure that the youth sports environment is the right place. What do you think?

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