With great fanfare, the Amateur Athletic Union recently announced that it was implementing “historic child protection measures to ensure the safety of youth athletes.” Among the measures; background checks. Our national Judo organizations have had mandatory background checks for coaches for years. Sadly, routine background checks every four years have not stopped inappropriate, sexual behavior between underaged children and their coaches.
Let’s face it, how much digging goes on when the cost of a background check is $16? Besides that, red flags pop up on background checks only if perpetrators have been charged and found guilty of past crimes. How do we handle those who have not yet been caught, charged and convicted? We must change the culture.
So what’s so historical about the AAU measures? It’s certainly not the background check, but it’s most definitely the desire to change the culture. Edmund Burke might have been thinking about the sporting community when he said, “The only necessary thing for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” You see, tens of people- coaches, players and administrators- suspected inappropriate sexual behavior between Judo coaches and their underaged players in two recent cases that made national headlines. But for the most part, those who suspected something fishy did nothing. Needless to say, this inappropriate behavior went on despite passing background checks.
So what’s the lesson here? That’s easy. Good men must act when they see evil, because background checks are pretty much worthless. The key points in the AAU’s new child safety measures revolve around:
- Better training of all staff to recognize child abuse.
- Developing a culture that requires all volunteers, staff, parents and other youth to report questionable behavior to the AAU, child abuse hotlines, and/or the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
Without any doubt, the key to safeguarding our youth is for good men to prevent bad things from happening, even when the perpetrator is a well-known national coach, Olympic athlete, or colleague. Good men willing to act in the face of evil will beat the pants off of any number of background checks.
It remains to be seen whether the AAU is going through the motions and just covering its corporate ass, or whether it’s in fact developing a culture of vigilance and courage to combat child abuse and inappropriate behavior. I hope it’s the latter. Regardless, good men don’t need the establishment’s permission to act in the face of evil. So be part of the solution, and not part of the problem that sees good men turning a blind eye.