Coaches who have been banned for sexual misconduct are still coaching kids, taking advantage of significant gaps in a system the USOC has vowed to fix.
For the first time in the U.S. Olympic movement, an organization has compiled a comprehensive list of banned coaches and others.
Except it wasn’t the organization created to protect young athletes, the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which has been working on a full online list since last summer.
Instead, the website greatcoach.com went live this week by combining online lists from SafeSport, national sports governing bodies and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Users must first register but the site is free to use.
“It seems like there’s just a communication challenge where disparate lists, some of which are hard to find, are all over the place,” said Bill Kerig, the site’s founder and CEO. “That’s something that technology is good at, aggregating and sharing information.”
Some of the national governing bodies have maintained banned lists for decades, reflecting sanctions stemming from sexual misconduct, criminal cases and other violations.
Since March 2017, SafeSport has had its own database of individuals suspended or banned for sexual misconduct. Last June, the center began working to add sanctions from governing body lists to its database.
SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said the center remains on track to complete that by the end of March. It is waiting for a couple governing bodies to certify that cases are for sexual misconduct and that names are accurate, Hill said. Those include three governing bodies – for soccer, cycling and tennis – whose lists have not previously been published.
“There are just a handful of NGBs where we’re still working with them to get their data in and it should be in relatively soon,” Hill said.
Kerig previously started the website RallyMe, which allows people to raise money for sports endeavors, before starting Great Coach.
Kerig said his team started working on the universal list in early December, feeling that the youth sports community should “step up and police itself, to some degree.” It fits the sites mission as a sort of LinkedIn for coaching, where people can post feedback on coaches and teams and parents can communicate.
Kerig, a former pro skier, coaches youth hockey in Utah and was surprised at how little parents knew about the people coaching their children.
“I couldn’t find a single parent who said they had Googled their kid’s coach, even me, which is crazy,” he said. “We all Google where we go to lunch, but you’re not going to Google the coach you’re dropping your kid off for 10, 20 hours a week? That seems like a missing piece.”
Great Coach’s banned list is compiled in a table sortable by any category. SafeSport’s database operates with a search function that requires more precise entering of a name or location to find an individual. People also can search by sport there.
In the wake of the molestation scandal involving USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, the U.S. Olympic movement has faced intense pressure from Congress. Following a hearing in May, the U.S. Olympic Committee required that governing bodies share information about people they had banned for sexual abuse.
Hill said that the center also aims to add sanctions for cases involving other types of physical and emotional abuse by the end of June.
A USA TODAY survey last year found nearly two dozen governing bodies have publicly available banned lists. But a December report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee showed that at least 14 of the 50 governing bodies had lists that they did not publish.
Among them are some of the biggest governing bodies, including U.S. Soccer and USA Hockey. Hill said those governing body sanctions will be included in SafeSport’s database. Any updates also will appear on Great Coach.
A USA TODAY analysis of publicly available banned lists and SafeSport’s database in December found at least 931 people had been sanctioned by a national governing body or by the national U.S. Center for SafeSport. The people on those lists were spread across every state and 36 sports. More than two-thirds are permanently forbidden to participate in the U.S. Olympic movement.
“There are only a little over 1,000 people on the list today, so the chances of you finding your coach on the list are really slim, thank god,” Kerig said. “We’re doing this to make youth and amateur sports better and safer. If we have to publish a list of the bad guys to do it, that’s what we’ll do.”