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What Not to Do with Kids Sports Background Screening

While youth sports programs have been intermittent this year because of COVID-19, they are still a part of life for many American families. According to Project Play, three in every four households in the United States have at least one school-aged child who participates in youth sports. Unfortunately, youth sports have, in the past, provided channels for predators and abusers to take advantage of vulnerable children.

All youth sports organizations have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for youth athletes. As part of that obligation, all youth sports organizations should be running a kids sports background screening on coaches, mentors, referees, volunteers, and other involved adults. To help youth sporting enterprises develop effective coaches background checks and other background screening policies, here are five common mistakes to avoid.

Skipping them altogether

Youth sports organizations must do their due diligence when hiring coaches or appointing volunteers, not only to protect their athletes but also to protect themselves. Failure to protect young athletes is a form of negligence that can result in extremely costly consequences. An example is Penn State University, which in 2013 settled dozens of lawsuits worth millions of dollars for failing to stop the abuses perpetrated by former coach Jerry Sandusky through his youth sports charity. No youth sports organization should risk skipping a background check and overlooking potential red flags in a hire’s background.

Relying on do-it-yourself internet searches

Not all background check platforms are equal. While it’s easy to find tools online that let you run a criminal background check on someone for free or at a low cost, those do-it-yourself tools typically utilize incomplete and out-of-date databases. Instead, try working with a trustworthy, reputable background check company—one that either goes directly to the source to run background checks (such as county courthouses) or that works hard to maintain an up-to-date database of criminal history information.

Assuming social media background checks are a suitable stand-in

In using online tools, don’t assume that social media platforms are a stand-in for true coaches background checks. You can find a lot of information on Facebook or LinkedIn, but criminal history information is not part of that category. Social media tools can often lead to false positives (e.g., when you search a Bob Jones on Facebook and find a profile for someone who shares the same name). They have a range of shortcomings that make them difficult to depend on for background check purposes.

Forgetting FCRA requirements and other compliance factors

If you are running a background check to make a hiring decision (and that includes for volunteer roles), then you are legally required to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA outlines the steps that you must take to notify a job candidate that you will be running a background check and obtain consent to do so. Other requirements apply if you decide to take adverse action against the person (i.e., if you decide not to hire that person based on background check findings).

Overlooking FCRA requirements and other compliance factors—such as guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or ban the box laws—can lead to costly lawsuits.

Not being comprehensive

Kids' sports background screening policies are designed to protect children—a priority that demands a thorough background check process. Rather than running a single county criminal history search, you should consider widening the scope of your criminal checksverifying resume informationchecking the candidate’s identity, and taking other steps to improve the reach of your screenings.

At backgroundchecks.com, we regularly work with youth sports organizations on their background check strategies. Learn what we have to offer on our youth sports page, or read this white paper for a comprehensive exploration of this topic.

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.

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