I wonder how many youth league sports treasurers are shaking in their boots after hearing about the Chicago cop stealing thousands of dollars from their organization's coffers. Of course, most youth league treasurers are upstanding, honest people. But if you look at all the incidents that our organization hears about on a weekly basis, I'm guessing that there are some pretty nervous local youth league treasurers around the country.
Just look at the headlines of the following stories of people caught stealing from youth leagues and you'll see what I mean. I'm sure all of these people thought they'd never get caught:
- Treasurer accused of stealing money from Little League to build pool
- New York youth baseball treasurer accused of embezzling90,000
- Ex-treasurer for Little League group admits embezzlement
- Former treasurer sentenced for embezzling from New Jersey youth league
- Man accused of embezzling20,000 from youth baseball charity
How does all this happen? I'll make it quite simple by putting it this way. Let's say your child is signed up to play on a youth baseball team and they need coaches. You agree to coach because you want your kid to play. Not long after, the board members of this non-profit association say they need someone to volunteer to be the treasurer of the group. For some crazy reason, you raise your hand and now you're the group's treasurer.
The reason no one else wants to volunteer is that they all have busy jobs and the board is just happy to have anyone show up for a monthly meeting. Having someone handle the books is a job nobody wants, so whoever volunteers is a godsend.
The only thing the members of the board care about is that their kid plays. Therein lies the open invitation to say to yourself after a few months on the job, "Well, no one is even looking at how much money we take in; I'll just take a few bucks from the till. After all, I'm volunteering for this thankless job so I deserve a few bucks as compensation, right?"
Then after a little longer on the "job" the treasurer gets a little bolder and he thinks about that nice vacation he and his wife could take. After all, he thinks to himself, "This job is harder than I thought and they've got plenty of money in the pot so I'll just take a few more bucks. They'll never miss it."
Or, well-meaning individuals hit a rough patch in their life and make bad decisions. Those who suffer a job loss and encounter unexpected financial strain have easy access to large sums of money and begin altering the book's numbers while draining the program of thousands of dollars.
Starting to get the picture of how all the above stories happened?
For years the National Alliance for Youth Sports has urged organizations to pay close attention to how they manage their books and monitor their league finances. Our National Youth Sports Administrators Association online program even features an entire segment devoted to this issue, which includes incredible insight from a leading expert on how to prevent embezzlement - and the embarrassment that accompanies these cases when the community finds out that thousands of dollars were swiped from the league without anyone knowing it.
The bottom line is that it's sad that these kinds of things happen in youth leagues across America. Along with too many parents acting like fools, coaches berating kids for the simplest of mistakes and now even kids attacking game officials, it's time to say "enough is enough."
After all, almost all of these incidents happen on local ball fields and courts paid for by you, the taxpayer.