How to Create a Background Check Policy for Youth Sports

Tim Gusweiler
a team with a youth sports background check policy
a team with a youth sports background check policy
As a youth sports volunteer one of your primary responsibilities is keeping your athletes safe during practice, games, and events. But you also need to recruit as many volunteers as possible in order to run a successful program.
Making sure your volunteers have clean records and are qualified to interact with young athletes can be tough, but with the help of background checks you can get access to any red flags about potential volunteers. Below we’ll answer a few key questions about background screening and outline a process to create a background check policy for your youth sports organization.

An Intro to Background Checks for Youth Sports

Your board probably won’t personally know everyone that wants to volunteer at your organization. Background screening can be useful to help monitor potential volunteers and check record of the following:
  • Confirming identity
  • Felony convictions
  • History as a sex offender
  • History of child abuse
  • Domestic violence history
  • Serious driving infractions, such as DUI or Reckless Driving
youth sports background checks results in Jersey Watch
It’s becoming the standard among sports organizations to require volunteers to complete a background screening. Putting a background check policy in place for your organization is a critical step before your next season.

Are Sports Organizations Required to Run Background Checks?

You could be required to run background checks on all of your coaches and/or volunteers depending on if your organization supported by a specific governing body like Little League, Babe Ruth League, US Soccer, USA Football, Pop Warner, USA Volleyball, etc. Some national governing bodies will require background checks on coaches for insurance purposes – be sure to be up to speed on any requirements each year.
Certain states or provinces also require background checks for certain volunteer or coaching activities. You can check your state’s website to see requirements for youth sports volunteers. A few states with strict background check policies for youth sports include:
Not sure if your state has specific requirements for youth sports organizations? Try Googling "youth sports background check law {insert your state}"
If your organization is run independently in your community you may not be required to run background checks on volunteers, but having a background check policy can be a great way to establish credibility and gain trust from parents.
Regardless of whether or not your organization is required to run background checks – you should. It’s relatively inexpensive to run background checks (see below) and not too difficult.

Who Pays for Background Checks for Coaches & Volunteers?

Your sports organization should be prepared to pay for background checks for volunteers instead of passing the costs along the the volunteers. It’s important you don’t put up any unnecessary barriers to prevent volunteers from signing up, so reserve a few hundred dollars next season to pay for the background checks out of your organization’s budget.
Background checks for coaches and volunteers can range between $10 and $50, depending on the amount of detail in the background check and the state in which your sports organization is located.
The more information you decide you’d like to know about each volunteer, the more expensive the background check will be. Basic background checks can run as low as $10 and help you confirm the identity of the volunteer and any felony convictions. To screen for more detailed criminal records you should estimate between $30-40 per background check.
Depending on the state and county your organization is located in, there can be additional fees associated with running local background checks.
If you're using Jersey Watch to manage your background checks, you can select if you'd like the organization or candidate to pay for each check.

How Long Do Screenings Last?

Background checks will not be continually updated after the initial screening. Many employers will just require a background screening when the employee is hired, but will not require subsequent background checks if the employee is cleared. But, your organization will not be notified of any future criminal history or driving record updates after the initial background check is completed.
To keep things easy, require coaches and volunteers to complete a background check each year or before each season. A simple policy is to require a background check during player registration so that each coach and volunteer is cleared before practice begins. This will give current and potential volunteers plenty of time to complete their background check before the season starts.

Creating Your Background Check Policy for Your Youth Sports Organization

Be sure to post your background check policy on your website and require coaches register each year so that you have their basic information on file. If you have the name and email address of each potential volunteer it’s super easy to send them an email invitation to complete their screening.
Recommendations to create your background check policy:
  1. Require at minimum a basic screening that includes federal crime history and sex offender history. These will cost around $10 per background check. If you’re interested in driving records or local criminal history you should expect to pay around $30 per background check.
  2. Require that volunteers complete a background check once per year. This will insure you have an updated record of each volunteer and keeps your policy simple.
  3. Note that the organization will incur the costs of the background checks – don’t force coaches and volunteers to pay for their own background screening.
  4. Require that a background check is completed before the first practice or event and enforce it!
  5. Review the background check policy each year with your board. Check with your state and governing body for any new requirements before your new season begins.
  6. List your background check policy clearly on your website with other important volunteer information.
Creating a simple background check policy for your sports organization can go a long way to saving time for your board members and makes your organization more eligible for grants, funding, and support in your community. In your next offseason spend a meeting formulating a policy that your organization can use for years to come!

VIDEO - Background Checks Overview for Youth Sports

Additional Resources

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