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Articles

Protecting our Children from Sexual Predators

What does the Club and the Vallejo Youth Soccer League do to help protect our youth?

The League currently requires volunteers to be fingerprinted and they are subjected to a criminal history check. We are also implementing an interview process that will help us to weed out potential problems.

Is that enough?

No. Unfortunately most sexual predators don't have criminal histories. Those that do, often have minor criminal histories because prosecutors often times have to settle for lesser property crimes rather than sexual predator crimes because of a lack of evidence or an unwillingness on the part of the victim or the victim's family to provide testimony. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. Our failure to deal with the situation only moves it into another community.

What can you do?

In a lot of ways, you, the parents, are in the best position to thwart the efforts of these sexual predators. How do you do that? By being involved. By asking questions. By being observant. By being the protectors of our children.
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Five questions to ask coaching or other volunteer candidates.

  • Why do you coach (volunteer)?
  • What has been positive and negative about your prior coaching (volunteer) experience?
  • Why did you leave your last coaching (volunteer) situation?
  • If I asked each of these people about you, what would they say?

Parents of players
Players
Coaches of your opponents
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Five questions parents should ask themselves about their child’s coach.

  • *Do I believe that this coach is committed to protecting my player?
  • *Am I willing to raise issues with this coach without fear of reprisal to my player?
  • *Does this coach display a healthy limit on his/her interest in the personal lives of his/her players?
  • *Does this coach support my role as a parent?
  • *Does this coach appear to have respect for each of his/her players, regardless of things such as play time?

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Five things to do to protect yourself from accusations of inappropriate conduct.

  • *Avoid being alone with players in non-public settings.
  • *Document unusual situations and forward the documentation to your club president or league representative.
  • *Do not buy gifts or give money to team members.
  • *Let your language set the tone. Avoid profanity, even in conversations that you think are private but may be within earshot of players.
  • *Never verbally demean, negatively label or ridicule a child based on appearance, gender, weight, sexual orientation, race or any other identifying characteristic.

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The ten things your club/program can do to reduce the risk of sexual abuse or exploitation of children.
Never fill your coaching slots with a "warm body." Check background, experience and history of a coach.

Do not allow an adult to come, unsolicited, into your club solely to coach children of a particular gender or age.

Create a structure where multiple adults share responsibility for the well being of each team.

Follow up on players who leave a team without explanation. Minimally, a phone call asking about the reasons is essential.

Educate parents about the expectation that they will raise issues to the coach or the club to assure that issues are properly addressed.

Have a strong and strongly enforced rule prohibiting fraternization.

Prohibit gift-giving by coaches that is excessively lavish or is not equal amongst the entire team (with the exception of "awards" of nominal value.)

If there is concern about the motives of a new or unfamiliar coach, consider asking a more experienced coach to co-coach for a few sessions with the coach, and to mentor the new coach.

Require all team travel to be preceded by a plan for lodging, supervision and other details, and to be signed by all parents and players.

No club volunteer should be alone in the front seat of a vehicle with a child who is not part of their family or household.

Avoid being isolated with a child, or leaving a child unsupervised.
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Other Do's and Don'ts


Parents:

Remember that coaches are volunteers, not babysitters. Don't just drop off your child and leave. Stay there whenever possible. At the very minimum, there should be a team parent at all practices. The coach should not be left to handle everything alone. That can put the coach in a difficult situation. What can they do if there is a medical emergency? They are there to coach, not be the parent.

When it is time to pick up your kids, if you did drop them off to take the other kids to another practice field, be there on time. If you are a parent and there are other kids waiting for parents, wait with the coach until another parent shows up. That parent should then wait until the next parent shows up, and so on, until all the kids have been picked up. The coach should not be left to wait alone with the kids, especially if the coach is not a parent of any of the kids on the team.

Confront strangers. Welcome them. Sexual predators don't want to be noticed. If you see a stranger at your practices, or games, or hanging around the playground; approach them. Introduce yourself. Ask them which kid is theirs. If they are sexual predators they may look for safer hunting grounds. These are your children and it is your job to protect them.

Know that you have the right and the responsibility to bring your concerns and issues to the Club or the League regarding the behavior of any coach or club volunteer.

Coaches:

Set the rules for the parents about dropping off and picking up kids. Don't allow your self to be put in the situation where you are left alone with the kids. You are their coach, not their parents.

Treat every kid with respect. Don't show favoritism.

If you are a non-parent coach, always get one of the parents of the kids on the team to be an assistant coach. There is safety in numbers.

If you are transporting the kids, always have them sit in the back seat. Only allow your own child to sit in the front next to you. That way you cannot be accused of inappropriately touching a kid sitting next to you.

Make sure that parents know that it is appropriate to disagree with your methods or to question what you are doing.


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A Special Thanks to Fran Sepler for her support of our youth sports program.
Printable Handouts for Use by Youth Sports Teams: These are available for your unlimited use free of charge, courtesy of Sepler & Associates: Let us know if these materials are helpful at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Copyright © 1999 Sepler & Associates Last modified: November 11, 1999