Youth Soccer Parents Want to Know . . . “What are you doing to keep my child safe?”
In the face of actions by Larry Nassar and others, among them Jerry Sandusky, young athletes need our protection. Here is the latest in youth soccer and, in specific, what US Club is activating.
What are the requirements for background checks and training for youth soccer coaches and volunteers?
This is a huge problem.
Youth Soccer News: The question really is who is assuming responsibility for the safety of our youth soccer players? What is the responsibility of the coaches and the organizations?
When we “parents” drop our kids off at soccer practice, we assume they are safe.
We assume that the coach will act as a quasi-parent and protect kids from sexual predators, among other things, while they participated in soccer activities.
When a player is abused by a coach, as in the case of a Northern California coach, our world is rocked.
The parents of a young 12-year-old player who was sexually abused by her soccer coach Emanuele Fabrizio sued United States Youth Soccer, Cal North, and West Valley Youth Soccer League for negligence and willful misconduct.
Fabrizio sexually abused plaintiff, who was then 12 years old, from May 2011 until March 2012. After he pleaded no contest to continuous sexual abuse of a child and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14, he was sentenced to 15 years in state prison. In addition, Mr. Fabrizio had previously been convicted in 2007 of battery against his spouse.
One of the core issues centered on the question of background checks. The parents of the abused player asked the question — if proper background checks had been performed, wouldn’t the coach’s 2007 battery conviction have been discovered, would this coach ever have been hired to coach their daughter?
Another lawsuit alleging that the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) failed to shield four unnamed players in Lancaster, California, from coach Renoir Vincent Valenti, now serving a life sentence for sexually abusing over a dozen kids, was filed on March 3 in Los Angeles.
According to the public documents, “AYSO knew, or should have known, about Valenti’s sexual abuse of minors and/or his sexually deviant propensities prior to the abuse,” the complaint states.
On the backs of these individuals’ pain and in part due to an obvious desire to protect other children from any form of abuse, there has been a serious surge of interest in mandating background checks.
Millions of Kids Play Youth Sports – This is a HUGE problem.
While some organizations still have yet to announce an official requirement for background checks, beginning July 1, 2018, US Club Soccer is adding SafeSport online training to the stringent requirements for Player Health and Safety Initiatives already in place for all US Club Soccer-registered coaches and staff members.
US Club has consistently been a forward thinking and nimble organization which has pioneered many best practices in the youth soccer landscape. Yesterday, a Letter from CEO Kevin Payne was sent out to all of US Club Soccer informing them of the new required SafeSport online training.
We caught up with US Club’s CEO, Kevin Payne and he said, “We want everybody that comes in contact with kids in our environment to be familiar with the dangers that they should be on the lookout for.”
“Everyone needs to be familiar with their responsibilities,” said Payne.
“The SafeSport online courses provide guidance which helps staff members be on the lookout for potential inappropriate relationships between adults and children, and also trains them on recognizing bullying and harassment as well as possible signs of physical abuse. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ways in which kids’ welfare is endangered by those around them.”
“It is really critically important that coaches understand what their responsibilities are under this new federal law. I think the vast majority of people have no idea what is coming down the road. There are very substantial reporting obligations under this new law,” said Payne.
“I asked someone this morning what would they do if a parent came to them with credible information that one of their coaches might be having an inappropriate relationship with one of their players,” said Payne.
“The response was clear — They would initially suspend the coach, meet with the parent and the player to determine what was going on, and then decide from there.”
“I asked, ‘Well, when would you do this?’ And he said, ‘Well, as quickly as possible,’ and
I said, “Well, you’re in violation of federal law.”
“The federal law doesn’t require you to moderate or mediate any of these issues,” said Payne. “It doesn’t require you to investigate anything. It does require you to inform local law enforcement within 24 hours. You also need to inform U.S. Soccer as the national governing body and the SafeSport center as well. And, if you don’t do those things, you are potentially guilty of a misdemeanor. Or even potentially a felony violation of the law, and you could face up to a year in jail.”
“Now, my guess is that probably 95% of people who are involved in youth soccer, probably youth sports in general, have no idea of the requirements that are part of this new law,” said Payne. “So rather than publicize this and hope that people educate themselves, our board unanimously thought that it was critically important that we require our 75,000 staff members to take this course.”
“U.S. Soccer’s done a great job of staying on top of this.” said Payne.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport online training consists of three modules covering the following subjects: sexual abuse, hazing, bullying, emotional misconduct, physical misconduct, harassment (non-sexual) as well as reporting obligations.
SafeSport recently garnered national attention when federal legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, [D-CA]was signed into law: “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017.” This bill – among other responsibilities – extends the duty to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours to adults who are authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes.
Of all youth soccer organizations, US Club has clearly taken a leadership position on doing more to provide a safe environment. US Club has the best-in-class background screening and completion of the Sideline Sports Doc online injury triage course.
Up Next: Interview With Kevin Payne on Keeping Players Safe.