Between the very public embarrassments caused by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University and Bernie Fine at Syracuse Univeristy among others, any organization the supports children now knows, if they didn’t before, that they must conduct proper background checks on all employees, volunteers, etc.
This is big news for the nation’s oldest youth athletics organization which offers football, basketball, baseball and a host of other programs to over 500,000 athletes across the country.
According to Sports Illustrated, “AAU commissioned the internal probe last December in the wake of decades-old sex abuse allegations against former president Bobby Dodd. The organization had never faced any abuse allegations prior to those against the 63-year-old, who had it severed all ties with, and he to date has never been charged with a crime.”
While it is unclear what kind of background checks will be performed, this is an extremely positive development. I have had the great pleasure over the last several months of spending some time with the president of Prevent Child Abuse America, Jim Hmrovich, discussing the affects child abuse has on children. And beyond the obvious pain and suffering it causes in the the short term, Jim knows the ripple affects are much longer lasting. In many cases, abused children have a hard time in school. Many drop out. This of course, blunts their ability to become productive members of society.
Further, a significant portion of abused children turn to drugs, will engage in criminal activity and in some cases, become child abusers themselves. If you need an example of these ripple affects, check out stories from former NHL hockey players, Theo Fluery and Sheldon Kennedy. Both were abused by coaches in youth hockey leagues and both had their share of struggles as adults.
By adopting this program, the AAU is sending an important message to those that would use their association with this organization to prey on children. The fact that they conduct background checks alone is similar to putting a sign in front of your house with your security company’s name on it. It acts as a deterrent. Beyond that, it can weed out those that just shouldn’t be working with children.