By Eric Longabardi
The United State Tennis Association (USTA), secretly and quietly launched a program to background check all coaches, officials and others working with child based tennis programs acorss the United States last October. The background check program was begun without any public notice, notification to parents or to the general public at large.
The new program requires anybody over the age of 18 years old attempting to work with the USTA including coaches, officials and others to pass a background check before being allowed to do so.
The action came 8 months after The Enterprise Report was first to report that the USTA had no program in place to detect sex offenders and others with criminal records from being involved with children and involved in its youth tennis sports programs across the country.
The Enterprise Report has obtained a letter sent out by the USTA's Richard Kaufman, a top USTA official in New York last October that alerted people within the association that the new background check program was being put in place. The background check program went into effect January 1, 2011.
The February 2010 Enterprise report exposed the case of a USTA tennis official from California named Stanley Smith. Smith was a longtime USTA match official and routinely worked at children's tennis matches around the country for years. Smith was a longtime registered sex offender from California. He was detected at a national junior USTA tennis tournament in Arizona in late 2009 by parents who became aware of his background from a source familiar with his criminal past.
The Enterprise Report story last February led to a firestorm of debate inside the USTA and around the country as parents, officials and other demanded that the USTA take action to require adults working with children undergo background checks before being allowed to interact with children and other adults. Although the USTA had a small limited background check program in place for its officials and others at the world renown U.S. Open in New York, a nationwide program was not required and backgrounds checks were rare, spotty and very limited across the country.
In September of last year the U.S. Olympic Committee passed a resolution setting up guideline standards for background checks and other safety "best practices" in Olympic sports like tennis, swimming, track and field and others. The organization's action came in the wake of the USTA disclosures. Two months later in April of 2010, "USA Swimming", the primary sanctioning body for competitive swimming in the USA was the subject of prolonged media coverage after ABC News reported it's own investigation into that sport's record of dealing with sexual offenders.
The number of cases and crimes being committed by tennis coaches, officials and other against children is not known, because no national statistics are kept, but instances of crimes against children perpetrated by adults involved in the world of tennis are routinely made public when law enforcement authorities become involved.
In one of the most well known cases ever, the childhood coach of tennis champion Peter Sampras, Dr. Pete Fischer, who helped launch Sampra's career, was later convicted in 1997 of molesting three young boys. Sampras has never accused his former coach of any inappropriate actions.