Getting fingerprinted a strange experience

I believe it was the first time in my life, though it may have happened when I was a toddler for one of those little safety booklets

“Place your two thumbs together on the glass, press down and wait until you hear the beep. Okay, good. Now, squish the four fingers on your right hand together, put them on the glass, press down and wait for the beep. Okay, good. Now the same with your left hand…”

So I got fingerprinted the other day.

I believe it was the first time in my life, though it may have happened when I was a toddler for one of those little safety booklets they encouraged parents to have back in the day.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to be fingerprinted, that’s for sure. And even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, there is still something odd about having to report to the police office for that reason.

It started very innocuously. I was going to come out of retirement to resume my coaching ‘career.’

Being a volunteer coach is easily among the most gratifying things I’ve done. Whatever sport my son played, there I was, offering up my time.

The lessons any child can learn from sport will serve them well for the rest of their lives. The lessons learned from a good coach, even more so. When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have some fantastic coaches and the influence they had on me, on and off the field, was vast.

It’s so much more than wins and losses (although that was something I didn’t realize until I became a parent — as a kid I was a hyper-competitive freak; our Little League team went something like 59-0-1 in three years, and to this day I’m still sour over the tie). My all-time favourite coaching moment had nothing to do with a championship.

It was an end-of-the-year ball tournament (kids aged 10 to 12). In the final game, our squad was lucky enough to be up by a boatload of runs. The outcome was no longer in doubt. On the bench beside me, having played his three innings, was a great young fellow. Always wanted to keep score, knew the rules inside and out, always full of questions about strategy. Reminded me a little of myself. Far from the best player on a given team, but figured that if I knew more about the game than everyone else it might help level the playing field.

So I said to him “Okay, Skip — you take over.”

“What?”

“Take over. It’s your team. You’re coaching the rest of the way.”

And away he went. Shifting outfielders. Asking how many outs there were.

“Two outs, coach!” shouted nine voices in unison.

Walking out to the mound to talk things over with the pitcher. Shouting “hit the cutoff man” and then (the best part) “good listening” after the fielder did just that. After the game, I told him what a great job he had done.

“I want to be a coach like you when I get older,” he said.

How can you beat that?

Coaching is so important. It’s also something I’ve missed. Once my son aged out of the various sports, I basically stepped into ‘retirement.’ Folks would ask here and there if I’d still help out, but without the boy directly involved, I simply became more miserly with my time.

Now, however, his little brother is ready for T-ball, so it’s time to dust off the old clipboard. Which brings us back around to the fingerprinting.

All coaches require a criminal record check — as they should. Anyone working with children should have to do that, no exceptions. I did, as I’ve done many times before. I got back a letter indicating the clean criminal record, but that I had to go in for fingerprints. Weird.

I learned that now, if you have the same birthday as someone the same age who has been convicted of an offence involving children, they need the prints. The man I talked with at the police office said criminals could commit an offence, get a pardon, change their name and they wouldn’t show up on the routine checks. He said up to 30 per cent (!) of coaches in a certain age group might require them.

“Really? Geez. How many perverts are out there?” I said, incredulously.

“Too many,” came the reply.

That’s disheartening, to be sure. And it might be easy to get your knickers in a twist — civil rights, privacy issues, etc. — over having to submit fingerprints if you’re not a criminal. But in the end for me, it’s a small price to ensure the safety of our children.

Play ball!