How background checks in youth sports are conducted in East Tennessee

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — When your child plays a sport, you want to know they’re in good hands. Volunteers from the community give their time to help coach and referee during games, but if you don’t know who’s helping the kids, there could be a safety concern.

The City of Knoxville and Knox County both have a screening process for volunteers in youth sports.

“We have several hundred, if not thousands of coaches that we do reviews on annually. So we try to not let things slip through the cracks,” said Joe Walsh, the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Knoxville.

Mike Donila, with Knox County Parks and Recreation added, “These background checks will flag misdemeanors and felonies. So if you have a felony, a sexual related felony or a violent related felony, you’re done. You’re not coaching at all.”

Each coach signs a waiver, fills out a form and submits a criminal background check. While people don’t need to have a perfectly clean background to coach or officiate with, both the city and county prohibit anybody with a violent past or sexual offense from participating. The criminal history looks at certain misdemeanors going back seven years.Related: Knoxville referee facing assault charges after knife pulled on youth football coach

“If there’s anybody who’s flagged for having any kind of record from the past, most coaches don’t, but a few do, then we’ll go and review those with the commission that they work for,” said Walsh.

The volunteers aren’t chosen by the city or the county.

Walsh adds, “We partner closely with all these different youth recreation commissions throughout the city. They’re responsible for providing the players and the coaches.”

All the head and assistant coaches go through a background check every two years. With new funding for the parks and recreation department, criminal background checks will soon be done every year. Sports officials and referees receive background checks every year.

Both the city and the county agree that safety is the number one priority.

“We want to make sure that the coaches that are chosen are good role models and will be safe and that the parents can trust they’re in good hands,” said Walsh.

To learn about a coach or referee in a youth sport, you can reach out to the city or county to learn more about a volunteer’s background check.

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