Background Checks of Coaches, Officials, and Volunteers at Youth Groups Help Protect Children

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Editor

A recent news story on, the website of the Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram newspaper, shows the importance of background checks for people who work closely with youths and other “at-risk” groups.  While coaches and officials with youth sports groups are entrusted to watch over children and serve as role models, the Star-Telegram discovered with background checks that some officials and coaches in certain youth sports associations and leagues in the area had criminal pasts and were being allowed to work with young people.

  • The president of a Youth Association resigned after the Star-Telegram reported that the man operated several strip clubs and that, although never convicted of a crime, he was associated violations including prostitution and incidents with minors.
  • One coach led his Girls soccer team to a silver medal in a tournament only two months after being arrested by police on a warrant alleging aggravated sexual assault of a child.
  • Another Girls soccer coach was arrested by police on three charges of fraudulent possession of a controlled substance and also faces a charge of possession of child pornography related to material police found in his car during his arrest.
  • Another man coached a Pee Wee football team even though he was once sentenced to four years in prison after his probation was revoked because he failed drug tests.

The executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) told the Star-Telegram that youth sports organizations are taking great risks if they don’t ensure that background checks are up to date and those who work with children have a huge responsibility to make certain that everyone involved is “tiptop.” Though many youth clubs stated they conducted criminal background checks on coaches and volunteers, experts say some background checks may not be thorough enough to identify potential concerns in some instances. While background checks are useful, running only local or statewide checks may not be adequate, experts say, and even a coach’s or official’s clean record should not give parents a false sense of security.

To help protect children from predators, the National Council of Youth Sports co-founded a national screening service – the National Center for Safety Initiatives – after discovering that some companies being used by youth sports organizations were sometimes providing incomplete or outdated information on applicants. The council created guidelines to be used as minimum standards when deciding who can coach or volunteer with children. The group recommends that youth associations reject those applicants with:

  • Convictions for any felony or any lesser crime involving something of a sexual nature, including pornography;
  • Force or threat of force against a person;
  • Animal cruelty; or
  • Controlled substances.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) agrees with the NCYS and suggests thorough background checks for all people who work with youths and other “at-risk” groups to ensure the safety of everyone. Every coach, every assistant coach, every manager – anybody that comes in contact with children – should go through a criminal background check.

For more information from ESR on background checks for volunteer, youth, and faith-based organizations, visit

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations and Business Development, at 415.898.0044 or