US Lacrosse announced last month that it will pay for a national background screening for all adult coach members

One might guess this is a response to the recent news headlines about adults taking advantage of young athletes and the terrible impact that has on young people involved in sports. The reality is that US Lacrosse has been concerned about athlete safety for years. 

Our coach certification program has required a national background screening since 2008, and we also began requiring screenings for persons in leadership roles within the organization and with our U.S. national teams that same year.

In the fall of 2016, the US Lacrosse Insurance and Risk Management subcommittee recommended to our board of directors that this screening policy be broadened to include all adult coach members. Since then, we have been working to make this possible. 

Some might ask, why a national background check? Doesn’t our local league already do screenings? Many leagues and teams are indeed doing a great job making sure safe, trusted coaches are on the field. But we cannot be sure that local checks include national databases that might help keep predators out of our sport.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) responded to 10,093 reports regarding possible child sex trafficking in 2017. It also notes that in 24% of the reports, reporters mentioned that they suspected or knew that additional children were targeted by the same offender.

It’s important for everyone in the lacrosse community to understand that most crimes against minor athletes are NOT crimes of opportunity, but planned, calculated efforts to find victims and exploit their vulnerability. These predators move from state-to-state and sport-to-sport to find opportunities.

The most recent statistics provided by the NCMEC places the number of registered sex offenders in the United States at 747,408.

As our sport grows, new coaches from various parts of the country are trusted with our children. No one at US Lacrosse or in a local lacrosse organization wants children and athletes to be victimized. 

The fact is that approximately 60% of boys and 80% of girls who are sexually victimized are abused by someone known to the child or the child's family. Relatives, friends, baby-sitters, persons in positions of authority over the child, or persons who supervise children are more likely than strangers to commit a sexual assault. 

It is with this in mind that I urge everyone to take action.

What Can You Do?

• Ask your Local Lacrosse Organization to require national background checks for all coaches and administrators. This is a free service being provided by US Lacrosse as part of each coach’s membership registration. 

• Ask US Lacrosse to make national background checks a mandatory requirement for coaches’ registration. Currently, the no-cost background checks are a voluntary option for coaches, but some have suggested that they become mandatory. Provide us with your feedback on this issue so that we can make an informed decision.

• Share the facts. This FAQ answers some of the main questions about US Lacrosse’s national background screening process, and further explains how to get started.

If questions, please contact the US Lacrosse Call Center at 410-235-6882. 

Dr. Bruce Griffin served as the director for the Center for Sport Science at US Lacrosse, and is also staff liaison with the US Lacrosse Insurance and Risk Management Subcommittee.