Jun 12, 2012
Criminal background checks aren't anything new, but beginning in September, any volunteer or staff member involved in an Amateur Athletic Union program (not just basketball) will have to undergo a mandatory background check.
The mandatory background checks were part of an announcement by the AAU on Tuesday that included the results of two task forces focused on child safety.
AAU developed the task forces after a wave of sexual abuse allegations involving children last year at colleges and universities in this country – most notably the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State.
Background checks are a good thing, and frankly it's amazing to me AAU hasn't required them before now. Other national organizations, such as Pop Warner Football & Cheerleading, have required background checks for years. It's a necessary way to keep convicted criminals away from children.
I am all for the background checks, but background checks from AAU don't mean the guard can be let down.
In the club basketball world, AAU is just one of many organizations that hold events. USSSA, YBOA and USBA are some other organizations that are common in our area. Other tournaments that are played aren't sanctioned by any governing body.
What does this mean?
Well, if there is a coach who has a concern about his background, he could simply avoid AAU tournaments and play in events sanctioned by other organizations that don't require background checks, or his team could play in unsanctioned events.
I think it's important to point out that abusive coaches aren't common. Most coaches who are involved with club teams – whether it's basketball or another sport – are involved because they love the sport and they enjoy coaching and helping kids. Most coaches aren't going to do anything that would put their players in any sort of bad situation. But there have been incidents in the past, and there are always bad apples in any group.
Also, a criminal background check will only prevent bad apples from coaching if they have been caught in the past. If they haven't been caught, nothing will show up. We hear about coaches and teachers at schools doing inappropriate things every now and then, and they go through criminal background checks.
It was a move that was past due for AAU, and I hope other youth organizations will follow in their footsteps if they don't already require background checks.