Background Check Oversights Plague Kansas Youth Sports Leagues

By Michael Klazema on 11/24/2014

State law in Kansas doesn't require youth sports leagues to run any background checks on their coaches. And while some leagues are cautious and do run checks to make sure that their volunteers are safe and trustworthy, others are more cavalier with the safety of young kids.

Indeed, a recent case in Topeka involved a 37-year-old assistant softball coach who was arrested and charged with fondling a child younger than 16. In another case, this one in Wichita, a registered sex offender was allowed to work as an assistant coach. There is simply no state law in place in Kansas that would prohibit such an offender from volunteering with a private sports league.

Needless to say, the lack of protective state laws is something that needs to change. Coaches often spend as much unsupervised time with children as teachers do, if not more. It's nearly unheard of that a teacher is allowed to work with kids if they have not passed a background check. However, since most youth sports coaches are volunteers instead of full or even part-time employees, they are often allowed to slip through the cracks without any screening.

Until Kansas legislature takes charge and passes laws to protect children in these sports programs, though, parents have to be vigilant to make sure they are not entrusting their kids to someone not worthy of trust. How can this be done? For one thing, parents should make a point of getting to know their child's coach. They should come to practices every once in awhile, especially early on, and see how the coach interacts with kids. For instance, is the coach too 'hands on'? Such touchy feely behavior can often be a red flag, but it isn't the only one. Often, problems arise simply because coaches don't know where the appropriateness line lies for interacting with kids. The relationship between a coach and an athlete should be as formal as the relationship between teacher and student. That means that the coach should not be connecting with athlete on Facebook or other social media, and certainly shouldn't be texting your kid on a regular basis.

Of course, there are cases where the coach just wants to be friends with their athletes, and means nothing malicious by these behaviors. This becomes even more common as your child grows older and begins high school sports. Still, such informal communications are often a cause for concern and are something you should be wary of if your child plays youth sports. This is especially true if you live in a state like Kansas, where background checks for these volunteers aren't always required.


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