Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Who's coaching your kids? Creeps!

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I hate to break this to you, but if a pedophile or general pervert wants to coach your kids, they can.

This story from the San Jose Mercury News, breaking down how a swim coach accused of molesting girls over the course of 30 years was able to bounce from club to club, is sadly not unusual. In most cases, the background forms coaches are requiring to fill out — and I’ve filled out many in my youth sports coaching career — are used only to check against a local or national sex-offender database. They’re great if a convicted pedophile tries to apply. But if the person has given fake information, or has never been convicted of anything (as was the case with the swim coach in question), the person will check out clean.

And you can’t always assume your league has a background check. The Saraland (Ala.) Dixie Youth Baseball league didn’t, though even if it did it wouldn’t have caught the coach who was arrested 31 times in 19 years — all the arrests for misdemeanors, not all were convictions, and none were sex crimes. Or that the background check is done on time. I didn’t have to turn in my forms to my son’s T-ball league until about halfway through the season — a little too late to stop me if I was a bad, bad man.

Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!

So what’s a parent to do? There’s lot of impractical advice out there, about how you should check court records and plea bargains your ownself. Even if parents were given free Lexis/Nexis accounts, no one would have the time and energy to figure out if Coach Tim Smith is the Tim T. Smith who got busted for molestation four states away. Or you could go with this ridiculous from Great Britain, where a school banned parents from coming to their children’s own sports days because allowing them in meant it couldn’t guarantee no “unsavoury” characters would show. (Boy, there’s nothing parents like better than their own child’s school implying they’re unsavoury, er, unsavory.)

Parents, if your knickers are in a twist over whether your child is going to be with a coach who wants to put their knickers in a twist, the best advice is to do everything to ensure your child is never alone with that coach. That’s the advice I got during how-not-to-molest-children training for coaching Catholic school teams, telling me for my own protection that I should never be alone with a child (in a related note, Virtus training for Catholic volunteers is designed by the church’s liability lawyers). The experts in the San Jose story say the same thing about making sure your child isn’t alone with a coach. If there are multiple adults and multiple kids around, it’s going to be hard for anyone to pull anything, literally or figuratively.

You can always check with your league to make sure that sort of policy is in place. You can also make sure not to drop off your child to practice or games too soon, or pick them up too late.  Also, if you see something that strikes you as strange, don’t be afraid to speak up to the league. The people running it, believe it or not, in most cases will appreciate you raising your concerns. Let’s put it this way — if they don’t, you’d be right to take your child out of it.

Written by rkcookjr

July 6, 2009 at 6:54 pm