Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for April 5th, 2009

You always remember your first…

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…sports injury. Below is my 11-year-old son, pictured (thanks to my cruddy cellphone camera) at the Palos Immediate Care in Palos Heights, Ill., about 90 minutes after he rolled his foot off another player’s foot in the third quarter of the consolation game of the Alsip Park District 7th-8th grade coed league playoffs. (My son got in on a special 6th-graders-allowed exemption.) He made sure to tell everyone here that he misdirected the shot he defended as he got hurt, and that his team won. (And he even wondered about getting back in the game. Given we had no trainer with a cortisone needle, no.) Diagnosis: sprained right foot.

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To check for a predator

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The Denver Post has a common story — how child predators slip through the background checks to get nefarious access to your precious children and your possibly even-more-precious money.

2916318241_95227fe423_mUnfortunately, most of us don’t have Chris Hansen of Dateline NBC on retainer to check for child predators. (As an aside, it would be hilariously inappropriate for the Nashville NHL team to have an affiliated youth team called the Child Predators.) So the Denver Post gives a little advice — with no idea how impractical it is.

• Ensure background checks are at a national level. The most reliable is via the state police, and the cost is minimal.

This is advice aimed at parents, but it should be aimed at leagues. What parents has the time or money to pursue this?

• Convictions aren’t the whole story. Plea bargains are not reflected, so more serious charges can be hidden. Check directly with the court.

What court? So now I have to contact some far-flung paper-slinger somewhere to investigate plea-bargains? I’m sure they’ll drop whatever they’re doing to help me. Assuming, of course, I have any idea what court I’m supposed to be looking for.

• Check lawsuits in the county a person has lived in for any judgments or problems.

How am I supposed to get that information? “Excuse me, coach, could you provide me a list of every county you’ve every lived in? Why? No reason.”

• Check credit by requiring coaches or others handling money to provide a current copy of their credit report. Financial problems can be a red flag.

Again, this is advice for leagues, not parents. I guess you can always ask a league whether it does this sort of thing. I doubt it will. It’s hard enough to get volunteers without saying you’re doing a credit check. A lot of people will no problems will be chased away by the thought of the intrusion.

• Ask for three years of tax records for any nonprofit league. They’re usually online at www.GuideStar.org for free, or simply ask the league. It is required by law to provide them.

Not a terrible idea, but given how well-organized most leagues are(n’t), don’t hold your breath that they’ll get to you anytime soon.

• Do the math. Find out what the team fee is, divide by the number of players. If it doesn’t match what you’re being charged, ask why.

The reason: we’re letting future LeBron James and his best friends on for free.

• Check it out. Travel teams are expensive. Don’t just pay for a flight; check the airline price and the hotels to ensure you’re being charged properly. Ask for itemized receipts.

This assumes you’re having the team book it for you? Honestly, I’ve never dealt with a travel team, so I don’t know.

To make it easier, I will boil this down to something easier to follow:

— Get to know who’s running your kid’s team, or your league if you so choose.

— If you suspect there’s a problem, don’t ignore the little voice in your head. Talk to someone about it.

— If people give you a hard time when you ask about a problem, then you should think seriously about yanking your kid off the team.

Perhaps it’s not as surefire as the intensive investigation the Denver Post recommends. But it’s probably more doable.