KidsIn game-time scenarios, it can sometimes pay off for coaches and players to take a risk. But when it comes to the overall management of a youth sports organization, there is no room for risk-taking.
Youth sports clubs have the responsibility to keep young athletes safe while they are at practice, in games and tournaments, at the club’s facilities, and in the presence of the organization’s staff. For these reasons, clubs must take precautions in all areas where they have some control.
Get risk management tips for your youth sports organization below, and plan ahead to avoid potential risks.
“The essence of risk management lies in maximizing the areas where we have some control over the outcome while minimizing the areas where we have absolutely no control over the outcome.”
Peter L. Bernstein, American financial historian and economist
Properly Train all Coaching Staff Members
One of the most important things to do to reduce the risk of injury to young athletes is to ensure that all coaching staff members receive proper training. This training can come from the organization, through coaching seminars and clinics, or both.
- Rules and Regulations: All coaches need to be trained in the rules and regulations of the league. Having coaches who do not know the rules puts athletes at risk as those rules are intended to keep them safe during games and practices. Regulations are also intended for coaches to follow to reduce risks to the team while also building on the skills the athletes need to have.
- Safety: Coaches need to be aware of all safety rules and precautions associated with their sport. This includes safety while performing skills, what equipment should be worn, and what protocols should be taken when injuries do occur, like a suspected concussion or fracture. Coaches also need to be aware of when to call in medical personnel to address an injury or ailment and when to defer to the trained medical professional about player eligibility after an injury or medical incident.
- First Aid: All coaches must be trained in basic First Aid. If there is an emergency during a game or practice and a medical professional isn’t immediately available, the coaching staff is responsible for administering First Aid to help the player until help arrives.
- Behavioral Guidelines: Coaches need to know what behaviors and interactions are not acceptable when they are around youth players. A good training program will include organization guidelines about language, gestures, and overall behavioral expectations.
Looking for tips on how to keep your youth sports club a safe and positive environment? Click here to read more.
Thoroughly Vet all Staff Members
We like to think people in our community are all good people, but there can’t be any chances taken when it comes to letting adults work with children. To reduce risks to young athletes, properly vet all staff members before they’re allowed around kids.
- Criminal Background Checks: Background checks should be performed on all potential staff members before they are hired. From a legal standpoint, this will ensure proper measures are taken to fully research each person before they are green-lighted to work in the organization.
- Interview Process: A thorough interview process is a must for each potential new hire. Include all key members of the organization in these interviews, and ask a broad range of questions. This will help youth sports clubs learn more about candidates before they offer a position.
- References: Collected and verify references for each job candidate. References give organizations an opportunity to talk to other teams or groups the candidate has worked with to learn more about how this person will interact with staff and kids.
Require all Players and Parents to Submit Key Paperwork
In case of an emergency with a player, youth sports clubs need to make sure all necessary paperwork is submitted and signed by each player’s parent or legal guardian. This will protect both the child and club.
- Waivers, Releases, Consent Forms: Before an athlete can participate in any team activity, all waivers, releases, and consent forms must be signed and kept on file. Legally, these forms can help protect the club in case anything happens to a child. All required forms need to be on file for each player, every season, and all documents need to be signed by a parent or legal guardian. Seek legal advice if you have any questions about what to include on the forms or about liability in any potential incident.
- Medical Forms: All athletes need to submit recent medical forms before the start of a season. This ensures athletes are healthy enough to participate in team activities and events. This also provides an opportunity for parents to list any known medical issues the child suffers, including allergies or asthma, and any other ailment the club and coaching staff need to be aware of. All forms must be signed by the child’s doctor and parent or legal guardian.
- Health Platforms: Clubs can also invest in an injury management platform, like Player’s Health. This platform allows players’ medical records to be added to the interface so they can be accessed by both the current team and any future clubs. This ensures a player’s medical history follows him or her and previous conditions – like concussions – don’t get overlooked. It also allows parents to add in medical history and updates about their child. This can help ensure all coaches have a clear picture of an athlete’s health and that players don’t return to action too soon after an injury.
- Emergency Contacts: Each player should have a list of emergency contacts on file. This should include parents or legal guardians, backup contacts in case a parent can’t be reached, and information for the child’s doctor and clinic.
Put Policies in Place
To protect itself and reduce risks against potential issues, have policies in place to help govern the club.
- Code of Conduct: Clubs need to outline expectations and requirements for all coaches, players, and parents. This code of conduct document should be signed and submitted to the organization before the start of the season. This will serve to hold all participants accountable for their actions and behaviors. Here are some tips for writing your code of conduct.
- Insurance: Organizations need to have insurance policies in place to protect themselves when an incident occurs. Consider taking out liability, Directors and Officers, and sports accident policies. Consult with an insurance agent to determine any additional coverage they might need.
- Facility and Equipment Guidelines: It’s best practice to create a policy to address usage of all team equipment and facilities. This can include a list of tasks that need to happen every time a team uses a field, court, or rink. This list might include things such as locking up, cleaning, and turning the lights on and off. Inventory equipment through documentation and create processes on how to inspect and maintain equipment.
- Risk Assessment of Facilities: All facilities the team uses for training, practice, and games should be assessed to identify any potential hazards. This could include a slippery floor, a hole in the field, or any area where an athlete could potentially suffer an injury. Additionally, assess any hazards spectators could face – such as getting hit by a foul ball or flying puck. Create a process identifying how coaches and staff report hazardous conditions to get them repaired.
- Financial: Having financial processes in place will protect the team’s monetary funds. Identify key personnel allowed to work with money and team bank accounts as well as how all transactions are recorded. Additionally, set goals and budgets, and work toward keeping them in check.
By following these risk management tips for youth sports organizations, you can help keep your athletes, coaches, and club a safe place to have fun and improve skill, in and out of the game.