Youth sports often provide children with opportunities for personal growth and new experiences, and for many years, they have been a regular part of life in towns and cities across the US. As parents have grown more concerned about those coaching their children and the safety of these organizations, some communities have worked to adapt to these changing expectations and requirements.
In some areas, patchwork policies leave the door open for problematic scenarios. In El Paso, Texas, a convoluted municipal sports system allowed one convicted felon to allegedly scam parents out of sports-related funds.
According to a report by local affiliate KVIA, the city of El Paso does not directly manage any youth sports teams. Instead, it regulates access to city playing fields for these teams while providing limited oversight for individuals registered as coaches. The city runs a criminal background check on registered coaches, similar to backgroundchecks.com's US OneSEARCH, and disqualifies them for certain records. These include felony convictions and misdemeanors involving drugs and alcohol.
El Paso parents were surprised to learn that the man organizing one new sports team had a recent felony theft conviction and misdemeanors in his record. The discovery was made after parents paid Jose Ochoa hundreds of dollars for uniforms, sporting equipment, and team registration fees. Though Ochoa claims that he was himself defrauded by a uniform company, El Paso police subsequently arrested him on suspicion of theft and for violating the probation from a prior conviction.
Ochoa did register the team with the city, but he was not subjected to the “mandatory” city background check. City officials pointed to the fact that Ochoa was listed only a "point of contact" for the team and not its coach. While it is unclear whether he represented himself as the coach to parents, what is clear is that many of the parents and city officials involved believed everything was above board.
Even if the background check had been conducted, El Paso does not currently identify theft convictions as disqualifying offences. In the wake of KVIA's report and Ochoa's latest arrest, city officials claim they are reconsidering that policy.
backgroundchecks.com makes it simple for parents involved in the organization of a youth sports league to ensure that those working with their children are fully vetted. While some municipalities, such as El Paso, take some responsibility for background checks on coaches, volunteers can fly under the radar. Investing in a criminal history search tailored to your requirements makes the process of screening coaches, staff, volunteers, and others straightforward and stress-free.
With increasing concern about the threat posed by those who work with children, securing personal access to the right vetting tools may be a next step for concerned parents to consider.