Check Please! Background Checking A Critical First Step

As SportsOrganized constructed our basic OrgCheck accreditation, there was more discussion than one might think about the topic of background checks.  It’s not that we questioned whether or not background checks were necessary.  In fact, our first instinct was that background checking those with direct access to children was so commonplace that it didn’t seem like much of a way to compare one league to another.  Each of us had been background checked more than once to be able to coach our kids and every league we’d played in required it.

But then we discovered it wasn’t as universal as we assumed.  As prestigious a brand as the NFL doesn’t require it’s flag football leagues to background check its coaches.  The NFL does partner with a national service that is offered to its sanctioned leagues, but it is “not mandatory” for those looking to set up a new league.

A recent AZFamily.Com article noted that “one of the biggest youth sports leagues in the state…doesn’t even make every coach fill out an application”.  As we dug further into the world of youth sports, we were surprised to find many other examples of leagues that didn’t seem to take this seriously.

It most certainly is a very serious issue.  That same AZFamily.Com article noted that “one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18”, so obviously this is a significant threat.  And since youth sports leagues offer direct access to children, they are on the front lines.  So why wouldn’t background checks be universal?

Cost and the inconvenience to volunteers are most often cited as reasons why leagues forego background checking their coaches.  Background checks cost between $20-$50 per coach, a few extra dollars per player that every parent I know would happily pay.  And any coach or other volunteer who finds it inconvenient to fill out a document or provide a fingerprint in the name of protecting kids may not be a great fit to lead those same kids.

At SportsOrganized, we talk a lot about the “duty of care” that Board members must live up to in serving as leaders of their organizations.  With player safety being the single highest priority of all youth sports leagues, it is unconscionable that any youth sports organization would fail to take this most fundamental step.  Background checks for coaches, paid or volunteer, should be mandated by all youth sports leagues.

For more information, visit the SportsOrganized.Com website, which hosts resources to help youth sports organizations pursue organizational excellence.  Or drop us a line at with any questions, comments or suggestions you might have.  We especially love to hear from organizations about best practices that work well.  Share your knowledge with others!