Everything Youth Sports Organizers Need to Know about Background Checks
June 11, 2021
For youth sports organizers, nothing is more important than creating a safe and healthy playing environment— and that goes beyond simply protecting players from sports-related injuries, it also means preventing abuse. Toward that end, many national governing bodies—including Little League, USA Football, and US Soccer—and even some state and local governments are now requiring background checks for all coaches. In many cases, staff and volunteers need to be screened as well.
This crucial responsibility for youth sports organizers remains an evolving arena. To help you navigate it, here are answers to questions you might have about background checks:
Should I conduct background checks even if I’m not required to?
Absolutely. We need to think about background checks the same way we think about helmets and pads. That is, as protective gear. A consistent background check policy is just one more way to maintain player safety. Vetting your coaches and staff also reassures parents that you take the threat of abuse seriously, and shields your organization from potential multimillion-dollar lawsuits.
What do background checks cost and who should pay for them?
Typically, you’ll spend between $10 and $40 for each, depending on how many data sources are consulted. There might also be fees imposed by local court systems for record checks. Some sports organizations offer free or discounted background checks to applicants and members. Other clubs ask potential hires, staff, and volunteers—parents and other adults who help out and spend time with players—to cover the fee for their own background checks.
What information is included in a background check?
Searches usually target databases of sex offenders, people with criminal records, and those who have been previously disciplined by sports organizations. Sometimes, they also double-check social security numbers and previous addresses. More detailed checks may look at county court records, driving records and credit reports, if a history of accidents or excessive debt is relevant to the position in question.
At LeagueApps, we’ve partnered with Player’s Health, a leading provider of participant-safety solutions for youth sports associations. The data it accesses comes from JDP, a major employee-screening organization trusted by many national sports organizations. They search two national criminal databases and national sex offender registries, and perform a county-level criminal record check in the county or counties associated with the individual’s address history found on the social security address trace. Then, to ensure accuracy, the JDP team reviews all information before sending the results of the report to the Player’s Health platform.
Can I be sure the information is accurate?
National databases may not include all offenses, misattribute offenses to someone with a similar name, or confuse essential details. If an initial scan turns up a concerning issue, you probably should dig a little deeper into underlying court records. Some background-check providers include that deeper dive in their initial fee. Others charge about $10 for such verifications.
What do I do when a background check turns up something on an applicant or current employee?
Whatever you do, do it carefully. Federal law has installed specific rules that ensure employers treat applicants fairly. These include getting consent before conducting a background check and disclosing the information that led you to take adverse action on their employment.
To prevent questions of discrimination, it’s useful to develop a set policy to govern uncovered past behavior. Here is an example from USA Basketball, which lists offenses that are automatically disqualifying and others that may or may not lead to termination after further consideration.
How can I conduct background checks with the least amount of hassle?
One option is to use a background-check provider that seamlessly integrates with the operating system you already use to run your organization, the way Player’s Health does with LeagueApps. Their program also features an easy-to-use dashboard that tracks the status of background checks. In addition, it can coordinate other safety services such as concussion-prevention and abuse-recognition training.