YMCA supports bill that would encourage background checks for youth coaches

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DENVER -- While the vast majority of youth sports coaches are role models, there is no denying the number across the country who have been arrested for abuse in recent years.

"Coaches are abusing kids across this country -- it's an epidemic," said Michelle Petersen, an advocate for background checks.

Petersen's son played on a team where the coach was found to be an abuser.

Petersen testified at a hearing Tuesday in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer that would require all sports organizations to inform parents whether they perform background checks.

Singer sponsored a measure last year that would have required all sports leagues to conduct background checks, but it failed in the State Senate.

No one testified in opposition to the measure Tuesday, although Republican lawmakers expressed similar concerns from last year.

Those concerns include whether the government should be interfering in private sports league affairs and that background checks would be too costly for volunteer-run organizations.

The YMCA is speaking out in favor of the measure.

"I think it's about kids lives and safety," Denver YMCA president Jim Hiner said.

Hiner says his organization already spends about $40 per coach for background checks and estimates they stop about eight potentially threatening coaches each year.

Hiner said he has seen websites where child predators communicate which sports leagues that don't perform background checks.

"They communicate and are very well informed," Hiner said.

The measure passed a House committee. It is expected to face serious opposition when it reaches the Senate.

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