It's not "that good, old neighborhood team" anymore, filled with local kids, families that know each other and parents who often work closely with coaches.
So says one academic who focuses closely on American youth sports and child development. Professor Emmett Gill states that the comfortable bonds of such neighborly units have been largely supplanted these days by "a bunch of strangers on teams with the best athletes, with the purpose of winning."
Under such a scenario, coaches and their helpers are often unknown commodities. So too are teammates, who can come from far and wide to participate on high-octane traveling teams. Those teams often travel -- largely unsupervised -- to other cities and states for games and tournaments.
That can be a problem.
To be blunt, such a team spells opportunity for an adult sexual predator, a fact noted in a recent national article chronicling the rise of unmonitored child/adult contacts in a growing world of elite youth sports.
The readers of our victims' advocacy blog at the Law Offices of Joseph C. George, Ph.D. don't need to be reminded of the horrors that can emerge from that realm. The continuing fallout from sexual abuse in female gymnastic programs serves as a constant reminder.
Gill and legions of other concerned professionals, parents and care givers say that kids' sports programs across the country at all levels need to be far better supervised. "We have to get upstream" in efforts to better educate the public regarding problems, asking timely questions, implementing protocols for early investigation and prosecuting wrongdoers, notes one safety advocate.
One organization that is currently being spotlighted is the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a recently created independent entity that works with law enforcement to probe abuse claims across the entirety of Olympic sports events.
SafeSport was established last year. Notably (and sadly), it has already received several hundred reports of abuse.