ReVille case spurs scrutiny, may discourage volunteer coaches

Academic Magnet basketball coach Mike Kelley. (File/Staff)  

Mike Kelley keeps thinking about the children and parents whose trust was betrayed by Skip ReVille, a coach who has admitted to sexually assaulting five boys.

"Sad is the only word that comes to mind," Kelley said. "Sad for every human involved."

As a volunteer coach, Kelley also is affected.

"Skip really made things tough for guys like me. I feel bad for all the good volunteers out there," said Kelley, a 41-year-old financial adviser who coached a junior college team to a national basketball championship and has volunteered for the last six years as a middle school basketball coach at Christ Our King in Mount Pleasant.

Most Lowcountry youth sports organizations are evaluating their volunteer policy in the wake of ReVille's arrest Oct. 28, and volunteer coaches expect more scrutiny next time they introduce themselves to parents and players.

"Right now, I wonder what people think about me," said Ryan Jennings, a 27-year-old intern architect who is volunteer basketball coach at Mount Pleasant's Moultrie Middle School, a role ReVille held from 2008 to 2011. "Scrutiny is good; parents need to look after their kids very closely. But I also know how important it is to have role models out there who are not your parents."

Many youth sports organizations in the Lowcountry have discussed the ReVille case during the last week, just as national news outlets heavily cover child rape charges involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

"This concerns not just our department but every department in the state," said Goose Creek Recreation Director Gary Stuber. "Any single guy who volunteers, I'm sure, is going to get a long look. But we need coaches. We don't have people lining up to coach the way we used to, and we don't even have as many parents coming to games."

Tim Orvin, athletic director at St. Andrew's Parks & Playground, said there is no need to significantly re-evaluate things in a West Ashley department that includes 400 volunteers, "because we think we have had all the background checks in place."

"But we want to push the Darkness to Light (child-abuse prevention) program with our parents and coaches and let them know that if they see a sign of trouble, to bring it to the forefront," Orvin said. "Maybe we can turn a negative into a positive."

The Summerville YMCA relies on more than 1,000 volunteers annually, said chief executive officer Gary Lukridge.

"Our staff has talked about (the ReVille case) to make sure we are doing the proper protocols," Lukridge said. "We have checks and protection screening but, as we know, no check is 100 percent bulletproof."

The Charleston County School District said ReVille passed a RAPTOR security screening system "multiple times" while coaching at Moultrie Middle School. But while the district has reached out to Moultrie Middle School students and parents with a "tip sheet" notice from the principal and a PTA meeting, it has not reached out to students or parents at Wando or Academic Magnet, the high schools where almost all of ReVille's former Moultrie players are attending.

The school district invited representatives of the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center to Moultrie but not the high schools.

"Mind-boggling," said one parent of a Wando student who ReVille coached at Moultrie.

"Where is the school or the district on this? Where is our PTA?" said another parent of a Wando student who played for ReVille at Moultrie.

Help might be on the way. School District spokesman Jason A. Sakran said Wednesday that the district communicated with Wando guidance counselors Tuesday "and are working with them to come up with the best plan for communicating directly with students and parents who may have had interactions with Mr. ReVille."

Orvin hopes the ReVille case doesn't rile enough people to deter potentially good volunteers.

"A coach can make such a difference," he said. "Something a coach says or does now can really make a difference for a kid later in life. There is still a lot of good out there in the gyms and on the playgrounds."

As youth organizations that rely on volunteers seek to tighten safety measures, Lowcountry Children's Center Director Emeritus Libby Ralston had praise for one Charleston institution that has the right idea: the Boy Scouts of America, and its policy against one-man/one-child interaction.

"At least two registered adults must be with a Scout or Scouts at any time," said Legare Clement, an executive in charge of the nine-county Coastal Carolina Council, which includes 8,300 Boy Scouts. "Also, our Scouts are taught to question any situation in which only one adult is present."

Kelley and Jennings plan to adjust to new scrutiny sure to come.

"I have always been careful," Jennings said. "Now I'm going to be even more cognizant of anything I do that might be considered questionable."

The same goes for Kelley.

"Volunteer coaches will have more hoops to jump through and, frankly, there is going to be a perception," he said. "But if this scrutiny identifies one Skip ReVille, then it's all worth it."

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter at @sapakoff.