City suspends youth league for no background checks

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – Hampton City officials have suspended games and practices for one youth league, citing lack of background checks for coaches. They say as part of an agreement to use city fields, Phillips Athletic Association needed to do the checks.

On a normal spring night at Gosnolds Hope Park in Hampton, you would see the soccer fields full of kids. But Thursday night the fields were empty. That’s because the city suspended all league play.

“Kids safety is important to us and it is important to the city,” said Mike Foley with Phillips Athletic Association (PAA).

Foley is a board member for PAA, which is a non-profit youth league that uses city fields for games and practices for both baseball and soccer.

“I really value the organization because it is all volunteer and the focus is on the kids,” Foley added.

The trouble for PAA began Monday night when a concerned parent asked about rule number five in the contract that is signed between the league and the city. The rule says all coaches will be given standard background checks before hitting the field.

“When it was brought up, I made the comment I knew we didn’t do background checks, because it hasn’t happened since I’ve been in the organization,” Foley said.

That concerned parent called 10 On Your Side Tuesday about the lack of background checks and that same day we found Gosnolds Hope Park alive with action — kids scoring goals, making unbelievable saves. WAVY.com asked parents if they care about coaches having background checks, and got mixed reactions.

“That shouldn’t be a concern at all,” said parent Souad Knight. “I don’t understand what the reason is behind it.”

“I think the background checks are very important,” said Andre Billups. “You don’t know what’s going on in someone’s past.”

WAVY.com even got a chance to talk to Coach Bobby Pring of the Under 8-year-old Koalas. He was coaching his son.

“I can see how it could maybe bother some parents, because they really want to know who’s watching their children,” Pring said. “The thing I always think to myself: you should be out here with your child anyways.”

10 On Your Side asked Foley why PAA didn’t meet the background check requirement of the contract and she said they were never told they needed them. WAVY.com also tried to get the city’s side of the story. After almost three days of asking, a Hampton spokeswoman, Robin McCormick, emailed us this statement:

The city of Hampton has for many years required that youth athletic leagues that use city fields ensure that their coaches, managers and commissioners are certified and have passed a background check each year. The leagues agree to meet these conditions.

When members of one league recently let a parks official know that the checks had not been performed, the city suspended the league from using city fields until background checks and certifications can be completed. As soon as that is complete, play can resume.

Hampton’s Parks & Recreation Department will take this opportunity to review use agreements with other leagues to ensure compliance.

10 On Your Side had more questions — does the city reminds leagues to do background checks? Why weren’t PAA coaches getting the checks done, but the league was still running? WAVY.com took those questions to Jim Wilson, Director of Hampton Parks and Recreation and was told he would come out of his office and talk, but he never did.

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