Volunteer Management in Youth Sports Programs


YMCAs use an incredible number of volunteers, and their energetic service is a real blessing. However, it can be a challenge to ensure that kids supervised by volunteers operate in the same safe environment as kids supervised by employees. A comprehensive volunteer supervision system that includes initial screening training and on-going monitoring for every volunteer involved with kids can provide that assurance. The following guidelines are suitable for sports and similar programs. Programs that have longer or less supervised periods of interaction, e.g., mentoring, have greater risk and warrant more diligent screening, supervision, and monitoring. Those will be discussed in more detail in a later Risk Management Alert.

We recommend that all YMCAs work toward establishing policies and procedures that include

  • a recruiting procedure that ensures each volunteer, before ever working with children, has
  • completed an application that is basically the same as an employment application
  • received an interview where the application is reviewed and verified; a discussion of abuse, its prevention, and the YMCA's no tolerance policy should be an integral part of this interview
  • read, signed indicating agreement, and received an appropriate code of conduct
  • received a complete, documented reference check that includes a close family member
  • received a social security and/or background check; (the former provides an inexpensive validation of the application's list of residences; missing or conflicting information is a red flag).
  • a training program that either includes on-line and/or in person training on abuse prevention
  • a strict standard of reporting, supervision and monitoring that

    • prohibits coaches from scheduling additional group or individual practice sessions
    • includes an end-of-season satisfaction questionnaire that asks about additional sessions
    • requires at least one non-coaching parent to attend all sessions including practices
    • informs all parents and participants of the rules (e.g., no private practices, appropriate physical contact)
    • informs all parents and participants who to tell if anyone (kids, parents, or coaches) violate the rules
  • a deadline for all volunteer enlistment and screening that is one week before the program's start date; any team not conforming is dropped without exception. (There is verification of predators actually counseling one another to wait until the last minute because screening typically is looser.)

  • peer monitoring, both in general and by pairing volunteers together as co-coaches.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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