Robert Wilson, coach of the Edge Bulldogs, a Silver Spring-based Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, often faces inquiries from parents of his new players about himself. He provides a bio of accomplishments and phone numbers of current players as references.
Soon, he’ll have a more formal assurance for parents.
The AAU, a national nonprofit organization that holds regional and national competitions in several youth sports, is mandating that coaches and other volunteers undergo background checks. There are a significant number of AAU basketball teams based in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
“I don’t know why they took so long,” Wilson said. “But I think it’s a great thing.”
The new AAU regulations — which were announced last week as former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky stood trial for alleged sexual abuse of children — also call for coaches not to spend time one-on-one with players.
Ed Polite, coach of the New Carrollton-based PG Redeemers, like Wilson, wondered what took so long.
“I understand guys get in trouble in life and it happens, but you’ve got to clean yourself up and do a good job for these kids,” Polite said. “You’re mentoring, you’re setting the table for them.”
Polite has also faced questions from parents of prospective players and said he’s had no problems convincing them that he’s trustworthy. It’s the parents who don’t ask that concern him, but the new regulations should help.
“Somebody else is looking out for their benefit,” Polite said.
And if the cost of the background checks is passed down to the coaches, Wilson and Polite said they’re fine with that.
“That’s a miniscule amount for the safety of the kids,” Wilson said.