Arrest of Coach Highlights Lack of Background Checks in Nashville Youth Sports League

By Michael Klazema on 8/27/2015
A 29-year-old man who had coached a youth sports team in Nashville for three years was recently arrested and charged with felony drug and illegal firearm possession. Police visited the coach's home on an unrelated complaint, but asked to search his home when they smelled marijuana. The coach allowed the officers into his house, and they subsequently found the (loaded) gun, as well as 16 marijuana plants. They arrested the suspect for "possession with intent to deliver" charges on both the drugs and the gun.

According to a report published by The Tennessean, the suspect was a coach with the Donelson-Hermitage Warriors, a youth football team based close to where he lived. The president of the team, as well as the team's board, suspended the suspect as soon as they learned of the charges brought against their coach. However, when journalists at The Tennessean pressed the president of the team to learn whether or not they run background checks on their coaches, he admitted that they do not.

Worse, the president said that background checks aren't required by the Tennessee Youth Football Alliance, the broader youth sports in which the Donelson-Hermitage Warriors play their games. That means that other youth football teams throughout the state could also have coaches on staff who have not been subject to background checks.

The president of the Donelson-Hermitage Warriors said his team was thinking about implementing background checks for coaches, who are all volunteers. However, he told The Tennessean that his team has "never had a need" for background checks in the past, simply because policy dictates that no coaches are ever left alone and unsupervised with kids.

It's evidently not uncommon for youth sporting organizations in Tennessee to leave background checks up to individual teams. The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which administers athletic events for junior and senior high schools throughout the state, does not have a blanket background check policy either. Instead, the organization assumes that school districts will have their own background check policies in place for coaches and volunteers. It's unclear whether or not the association runs checks on event referees and officials.

While both the Donelson-Hermitage Warriors and the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association both have reasons for skipping background checks, implementing such policies would still help to close loopholes and keep kids safe. While a youth sports team can say that no kids will ever be left alone and unsupervised with a coach, background checks are still a necessity to make sure they aren't putting sex offenders and other predators in a position where they have a chance to even get to know kids.

As for the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, while it's probably true that most junior highs and high schools in the state are already running background checks on coaches of their own volition, putting a blanket policy in place just to make sure would at very least make sure of that fact.


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