6 Essential Types of Background Checks for Volunteers & Youth Sports Coaches
In our Ultimate Guide to Youth Sports Background Checks, we took you through why background checks are important, whether they’re required by law, how to set up your background check policy and more.
Now, let’s dig deeper into the different types of background checks you might use in your youth sports organization.
As a youth-serving organization, you want to ensure every person you bring on board — whether it’s a coach or administrator, paid staff member or volunteer — is the right one for the job. You want to know they don’t pose any risk to the organization or the athletes in your care, and that you can trust them to take on the responsibilities assigned to them.
That’s why background checks are so important.
In this post, we’ll look at six essential types of background checks, including what they are and when you might need them. Then we’ll provide answers to some of your most frequently asked questions.
Types of Background Checks:
- Identity verification checks
- Criminal background checks, including national, state, county and federal criminal record checks
- Credit checks
- Motor vehicle record checks
- Education background checks
- Social media checks
Identify Verification Checks
First and foremost, you want to know that anyone working with your organization is who they say they are. That’s where identity verification checks come in. This process involves verifying personal information, such as name, date of birth, address and social security number (SSN), and comparing it to information held in databases or other sources.
It may also involve reviewing government-issued ID documents, such as driver's licenses or passports, to confirm that they’re valid and belong to the person in question.
Identity verification checks help to prevent fraud and protect against identity theft. They also ensure that all other parts of the screening process are carried out on the right person. Without verifying someone’s legal name, date of birth and SSN first, you could pull up incorrect results or a criminal record belonging to someone else.
Legally, ID checks are also important for ensuring people you hire are authorized to work in the U.S. and meet all regulatory requirements for employment.
Criminal Background Checks
Criminal background checks involve searching multiple databases to determine if an individual has a criminal record. These are crucial in youth-serving organizations. Not only do they help protect a vulnerable population but they also keep you compliant with background check laws and best practices.
The specific databases searched may vary depending on the provider of the check and the jurisdiction, but the most comprehensive screenings will cover records at the local, state and national levels.
National Criminal Background Checks
A national criminal background check searches for records of crimes and misdemeanors committed at the county or state level. This is different from a federal criminal background check, which searches specifically for convictions and pending cases for federal crimes.
People move around often, so a national search is a great starting point. It can flag offenses across the various jurisdictions a person may have lived in so that you don’t miss any potential problems.
Databases that are usually included are:
- National Sex Offender Registry: This registry is maintained by the Department of Justice and includes information on individuals who have been convicted of sex offenses and are required to register with law enforcement.
- National Criminal Database: This pulls information from a wide variety of publicly available sources across all U.S. states and territories.
- FBI Watchlist: This stores information about people reasonably suspected to be involved in criminal or terrorist activities.
Typically, criminal background checks report records from the last seven years, however, it depends on the jurisdiction and specific database. Some states, for example, report offenses from the last 10 years.
State Criminal Background Checks
In addition to a national search, you may need to conduct criminal background checks at the state level. You might be wondering why this is, given that a national check should search across all states.
One reason is that national background checks may not include all databases or cover all up-to-date records.
Additionally, some states have mandated their own state-level checks that are required before working with minors. For example the Massachusetts CORI/SORI Search or Pennsylvania’s PA Child Welfare Clearance. These vary by state, so the specific information obtained and processes used may differ depending on where the check is conducted.
Always check the laws in your state to find out what the requirements are.
County Criminal Background Checks
The most up-to-date and accurate information comes from county criminal records. A county criminal background check searches for criminal records in county courts and will bring up any convictions or pending cases.
Including county-level checks for youth sports coaches, volunteers and staff provides more thorough results and is the best way to minimize risk and protect young players.
Some background check providers include county records in their national criminal history checks. For example, background checks through Ankored include national databases and county records for maximum coverage.
Federal Criminal Background Checks
Federal background checks search for criminal offenses prosecuted through U.S. federal courts. These records relate specifically to federal crimes — for example, kidnapping, tax evasion, identity theft or counterfeiting. This type of search reveals pending cases as well as felony and misdemeanor convictions.
This type of check examines a person’s credit history. This may include things like credit card debts, mortgage repayments, student loans, etc.
Credit background checks are usually not required for everyone in a youth-serving organization. Youth sports coaches, staff and volunteers who don’t have any responsibility in the administration of the club likely won’t require one.
If, however, you’re appointing someone in a role like a board member, treasurer, accountant, financial planner, etc., you may wish to conduct a credit check to verify that the person is responsible with money and can be trusted to manage the club’s finances.
Sometimes, the coaches or volunteers at your organization will take on the job of driving young athletes to and from training sessions or competitions. In that case, motor vehicle record (MVR) reports are a useful type of background check.
MVR reports provide information about someone’s driving history. They can help you assess whether there’s any risk in letting that person provide transport to your players.
MVR reports are maintained by each state’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), and the information they contain can vary from state to state. In general, MVR reports will tell you about the driver's license validity and status, traffic violations, accidents and any other driving-related incidents that are on record.
Education background checks
Whether you’re hiring a sports coach or a bookkeeper at your club, you want to know that they have the qualifications they claim on their resume. Unfortunately, exaggerating qualifications and skills is not uncommon. In one 2022 survey, 36% percent of respondents confessed to lying on a resume.
Education background checks help you verify the dates that someone attended an institution and the qualifications they earned, so you can lower the risk of negligent hiring and ensure you’re getting the best person for the job.
Social Media Checks
We live in the digital age, and social media checks have become a common part of the pre-employment screening process in many organizations.
This type of background check involves reviewing an individual's social media activity and online presence. For example, looking at their posts, comments, photos and other content on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
The purpose of this is to gain additional insight into an individual's character and identify any potential red flags, such as discriminatory or illegal behavior, that may not be revealed through other background checks.
If you decide to conduct social media background checks in your organization, do so with caution. These types of checks do come with risks, such as violating discrimination or privacy laws. Always get legal advice before you begin.
Are there different types of background checks?
Yes!There are various types of background checks that you can run before hiring someone or accepting them as a volunteer at your organization. Each type of check has a different focus, so the ones you need to run will depend on the person’s role in your organization.
For example, if driving will be one of the person’s responsibilities, you can run an MVR (motor vehicle record) check. If they’ll be responsible for finances, you might run a credit check.
In youth-serving organizations, identity checks and criminal background checks are typically run on every adult who will interact with minors, whether it’s a sports coach, staff member or volunteer.
What is the most common type of background check?
Generally speaking, criminal background checks and credit checks are two of the most common types, though the latter is primarily used by credit card companies and lenders. In youth sports organizations, criminal background checks and identity checks are the most common and essential types of screening.
What type of background check do I need to run for my organization to be compliant?
Legal requirements differ depending on the state you’re in, including the type of checks that are required and for who (e.g. paid staff vs volunteers). It’s important to find out your state’s specific background check requirements. The ChildCare.gov database is a useful starting point.
Beyond legal compliance, criminal background checks have largely become standard practice in youth sports. Many clubs and national leagues require background checks as part of their safety policies, and they’re recognized as an important step in maintaining a safe and positive environment.
How do you conduct a criminal background check?
First, you need to select a background check provider that meets all your requirements. Next, inform the candidate that you’ll be running a check and get their consent. It is illegal to run a background check without consent.
Once you have consent and the candidate’s basic information, you will submit the background check via your chosen provider. You can get results in anything from a few hours to three days depending on the complexity of the screening.
If you want to reduce manual workflows and make the process easier, you might opt to use a compliance management system. That way, you can easily keep track of each candidate’s screening status all in one place.
If you haven’t already done so, make it a priority to put a strong background check policy in place at your organization, detailing who needs to be screened and how often. Background checks make a positive difference, and creating and documenting your policy is where it all starts.
It’s also important to remember that background checks are just one way to keep young athletes safe. Abuse prevention training is another essential piece of the puzzle. Read our Guide to Abuse Prevention Training in Youth Sports to learn more.