How well do we screen coaches who work with kids? Not well enough

Just saw this story this morning about Carl Williamson. I knew Carl from Intramural Sports at UBC. He’s lost his teaching license for 20 years for repeated viewing of porn at work. Whether the other issues (using prostitutes and having inappropriate sexual thoughts about kids) factored into the decision to ban him from teaching is unclear.

What makes this a soccer issue is that Carl was a Y League coach for Abby in 2008 while this was going on and was likely involved in coaching other teams as well.

I don’t think Abby’s standards for checking on coaches is any more lax than everybody else’s. The reality is that paedophiles (and it should be noted that Williamson was not suspended for viewing child pornography) are drawn to work in areas where they have access to kids and can befriend them. Prime areas of concern to date have been teaching and the clergy. The link between predators and coaching was made more tactile with the revelations made by Theoren Fleury about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his junior hockey coach Graham James.

This is now the third person in the last year in the Lower Mainland that I’ve been made aware of that either has a dubious history working with kids or is under active investigation that may result in criminal charges. If I know three you can be certain there are many more out there.

What needs to be done to ensure that kids are able to play on soccer teams that are coached by people who have no other intentions other than to make them better players and better people?

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6 Responses to How well do we screen coaches who work with kids? Not well enough

  1. Canadian Spur says:

    The sad reality is that Crimal Record Checks don’t reval anything about this type of behaviiour until after the the offender has been caught at which time it’s too late. The best advice is to make sure you talk to your kids and be aware of what is happening with them (mood changes, behaviour changes etc.). Youth sports organization obviously have a responsibility to protect the children but I’m not sure that the tools exist for them to identify potential offenders. Parents must also play a role. As parents we can’t just hand over our kids to unknown coaches and walk away. Pay attention, observe the interaction the coach has with his/her players and if something doesn’t seem right don’t ignore it. I am confident that the vast majority of coaches in any sport are involved for the right reasons and I wouldn’t suggest that there is a major problem but anything that has the potential to harm our children is unacceptable.

  2. K says:

    What CS said is pretty much what I was going to say. It is important to have transparency in the interactions with the players.

  3. Coachrich says:

    What Criminal Report Checks??? It’s only been recently that CRC’s have been properly vetted through some sort of database clearing house system. Even these databases are not accurate yet. For decades, people filled out Form A and B that went no where.

    IMO all of us have a responsibility to be involved in street proofing or sport proofing the kids, parents, coaching and the club leaders. We not only have to teach, mentor and be aware but we should encourage clubs to offer educational programs to all. Like coaching don’t expect you players, parents and club to know everything about how to run a development player and team program that is part of life’s learning.

  4. K says:

    You are correct. Form A and Form B were the only required documents for a long time;

    As per BCSA (2010): a) Every volunteer or employee of the Association or affiliated organization who at any time could be
    expected in the performance of their duties to:
    i) be with any minor aged person;
    ii) be entrusted with performing financial duties;
    iii) be responsible for book keeping or bank account(s);
    must have on file the results of a Criminal Record Check completed within the previous 12 months from an
    agency approved by the Association.

    Complete document:

    BCSA Risk Management:

    Crim record checking is not perfect. I can’t think of a more appropriate answer. Diligence is required to be ongoing in keeping our children safe.

  5. Pat says:

    The reality is that pedophiles do not lead traditional criminal lifestyles so criminal record checks are not always effective at screening them out. They deviant as opposed to criminal. They may lead a normal appearing lifestyle until finally caught. They are generally very intelligent and very good at “connecting” with kids. They will foster a strong relationship with parents/guardians so they can have the trust required to commit their deviant acts.

  6. Gregor says:

    Additional charges laid today against Ron Bencze:

    These are in addition to charges of sex assault, two counts of sexual interference with a person under the age of 16 and two of invitation to sexual touching involving a person under 16.

    Worth noting that (a) he was arrested while running a soccer practice for kids and (b) some of these charges go back to events that took place ten years ago. Sometimes it takes people a long time to come to grips with events like this and go to the police.

    Tom Ellison and the Quest program at PW come to mind. Sometimes when there’s institutional complicity, it also adds to the length of time it takes for some people to come forward and provide statements.

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