Youth recreational sports are all about the kids. Education, confidence, improvement, athletics, teamwork, sportsmanship—these are just a few of the things we want young players to experience when they are on the field or court. Underlying these benefits is another important concern: safety. Leagues go to great lengths to ensure equipment and facilities are in top condition to keep kids safe. Moreover, they educate coaches and officials on proper technique, on rules to prevent injury, and on how to spot concussion symptoms in order to keep kids safe. And there’s one other area leagues must also address when it comes to safety: the character and backgrounds of their volunteers.
The thought that a coach or official might be a danger to young players is definitely unpleasant to consider. The vast majority of all the volunteers in youth sports in this country are quality individuals. However, there’s always the slim chance someone has a history of abuse or violence and should not be given responsibility with children. This is why youth sports background checks are so important.
In 2016, coaches and other volunteers expect the background check—it’s not an issue with most of them. The challenge is for leagues to organize and order the screenings, which is no small feat if the number of volunteers reaches triple digits. Here are four steps to take when conducting youth sports background checks that will ultimately keep your league’s players safe:
1. Let league management software help
As stated, the numbers involved in youth sports background checks can be daunting. Often, leagues will direct coaches to fill out consent forms when picking up their teams’ equipment; those forms are sent to a third party that conducts the checks; and, hopefully, they are completed before Opening Day. The process is inefficient and yet another thing for overworked league directors to worry about.
Online league management software can streamline youth sports background checks for your organization. Volunteers consent through the platform, and the checks are efficiently sent to a third-party screener. The results expediently come back through the software, thus giving you a record who has been screened and who hasn’t. Reminders can be automatically sent to coaches to fill out the online form in order to get the process rolling. Finally, the best league management software providers offer this feature at a lower price per check than many other vendors do, which keeps costs down and helps ensure budget isn’t preventing checks from being conducted.
2. Start checks early
The scramble just referenced is something many leagues are familiar with. You don’t want coaches starting practice without the checks, but the checks take time to be completed, thus leaving you with a conundrum and a fair amount of hassle right before the season starts. Therefore, start the process as early as possible. If someone expresses an interest in volunteering, send the person a link to the consent form right away. League management software gives you the ability to initiate checks weeks before the season begins instead of days.
3. Tie checks into registration
Another time- and headache-saving strategy for youth sports background checks is to tie screenings right into the registration process. When parents sign up their children for the season and express an interest to volunteer, they can give consent to the check right on the registration form. Besides getting this important step out of the way for parents right away, this also eliminates conducting checks later—the majority are complete before you even form rosters. You will still need to screen volunteers who don’t have kids playing, but that will be a far smaller percentage of checks to be conducted later than all of them.
Before you declare “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” (and you know you want to …), this initiative can give everyone—parents, kids, game officials, and coaches—peace of mind that volunteers have been thoroughly vetted to be important role models for the players. Here’s how badges work: After a coach, official, or other volunteer has been successfully checked and approved, you can provide a badge—an ID card of sorts—that will identify that person as being an approved member of your league.
The best league software solutions will help you with the process, from showing you how to print and add photos to the badges, to providing all the materials necessary. Perhaps the top benefit of badges is that it shows kids that the volunteer they are seeking help from (especially if it’s not their own coach) can be trusted. This promotes safety, which, again, is an underlying goal of your league.
How much of a priority are youth sports background checks in your league?