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Advertise Directories Natural Venues Guide Convention Centers Guide YOUTHSports It's Your Job To Keep Them Safe How To Protect Your Athletes & Your Organization From Sexual PredatorsBY MARCIA BRADFORD Shocking allegations of sexual abuse of children participating in sports-related pro- grams at Penn State and Syracuse universi- ties hit close to home for the youth sports community in early December, when Robert "Bobby" Dodd, the former presi- dent and CEO of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), was accused of improper sexual behavior by two individuals who participated in AAU youth basketball pro- grams during the 1980s. While these high-profile cases proceed through the legal process, all organizations with connections to activities for youth should be making sure they have policies in place to eliminate any chance of improper behavior by anyone involved, said Sally Johnson, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS). At the same time, she stressed that concern about these allegations, while merited, should not be a reason to take kids out of sports programs. "There are so many positive life skills that children can learn through participa- tion in organized sports programs," she www.sportseventsmagazine.com said. "But it is absolutely essential that parents be aware of the people and the sit- uations their kids are dealing with while they practice, compete and participate in any other activities, such as travel and social outings." She added that sports commissions, con- vention and visitors bureaus, and any oth- ers involved in host committees for sports events should be aware that they, as well as event planners and event rights holders, share the responsibility for protecting chil- dren from potential abusers. "They bear part of the responsibility to conduct due diligence about the group that is coming to their area," she said. "If a community hosts an event and an illegal activity occurs, it definitely affects their community in terms of publicity, potential lawsuits and oppor- tunities to hold future events." The good news, Johnson said, is that there is a program available to help youth sports groups address issues of this type. NCYS, which has more than 185 member organizations and represents 60 million youth athletes, has had resources in place for more than a decade to help athletes, parents and coaches address incidents of suspected sexual abuse as well as other types of illegal or inappropriate behavior. "Those who belong to organizations that are members of NCYS don't need to feel intimidated if they are having problems or feel that inappropriate behavior is taking place, because they are connected to resources that can protect them and they have a place where they go with their con- cerns," Johnson said. Background Screening & Due Diligence NCYS involvement in this area began in 2002 at the request of its members, many of whom were concerned about potential exposure to lawsuits, according to Johnson. Programs were developed to help protect children from abuse while also pro- tecting volunteers, administrators and organizations from the possible loss of per- sonal or organizational assets because of costly litigation. Background screening, a central element of this effort was made available through the National Center ➤ January 2012 33 ▼