For the last 25 years, Rex Mack has coached youth sports.
In that time, he has developed hard-and-fast guidelines for himself and his assistant coaches to ensure the well-being of his players.
“I think the main responsibility (of a coach) is to be a good teacher and to be a good role model,” he says.
Currently, Mack coaches the Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School softball team. Like every coach who steps on a high school sideline, Mack had to be cleared by the Ohio Department of Education and pass a criminal background check.
The ODE requires that all coaches, whether they are paid or volunteering, obtain a coaching permit and are “deemed to be of good moral character.”
Several area recreation leagues are following suit by mandating coaches undergo background checks. However, experts say parents still need to be aware of who is coaching their children.
There are several tips parents can consider to avoid putting a child in harm’s way.
First, according to Mack, a coach should never verbally abuse a player.
“The line is pretty clear,” he says. “It’s just not necessary to berate a player ever. You can teach without doing that.”
Also, a coach should never be alone with a child. Mack says that if he has to talk to a player, he has someone else present, so he is not one-on-one with a player.
Additionally, there should be clear boundaries when it comes to physical contact.
“[The] policy in our program is there really isn’t a scenario where it’s appropriate to be touching a player in any manner,” Mack says.
Ultimately, players and parents alike should be comfortable with a coach.
Mack advises: “If there’s a situation where a parent feels like a player…is not in a safe environment physically, emotionally or mentally, that is absolutely an appropriate time for a parent to approach either the coach or someone that is responsible for the coach in terms of a league.”