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Risky Business – Review Your Risk Management Policy


Risk Management is an important topic in youth sports for a collection of reasons – member safety and organizational health are at the top of the list.

Traditionally, we think about background checks as the primary component of risk management, but there are many other situations to consider when producing a comprehensive risk management policy.

Low Probability Risks

At a youth soccer workshop a few years ago, Bollinger Sports presented an eye-opening session titled: “$5 Million in Liability Claims and How They Could’ve Been Avoided.” Included were 10 scenarios with their associated claim/award amounts as well as best practices to reduce these risks. The examples were wide ranging – from dangerous fundraisers to field safety to sideline injuries and more.

Worst Case Scenario

In April, 2004, players from North Carolina Youth Soccer Association’s (NCYSA) Olympic Delevelopment Program (ODP) were abroad in France when their bus crashed, killing two players. The bus driver was speeding at the time and NCYSA had not adequately reviewed the safety record of the foreign bus company.

Parents of the 13-year-old boys filed suit in 2005 and a judgment was handed down in late April. The total amount awarded? $8.3 million.

While no amount of money can make up for the loss of life, parents of one child felt a ‘sense of vindication’.

This situation is a worst case scenario for all involved – players died while under the direct supervision of a youth sports organization, the financial award was quite large, and the case received lots of publicity both when it happened and recently in court. While NCYSA is insured, it’s unknown whether or not coverage extended to the full amount of the award.

Review Your Risk Management Policy

In your own organization, here are three ideas to help manage your policy moving forward:

  • Be Transparent. If a situation happens in your organization, what changes will be made to make sure this never happens again? What new policies/procedures are in place as a result? In this situation, there has been no word from NCYSA – in direct response to inquiries, on the website, in board meeting minutes, or anywhere else. While they may be unable to comment on some specifics due to possible court restrictions, they should still address the matter with their members.
  • Be Safe. Evaluate current policies to determine any shortcomings. If one claim can extend past your coverage limits, address the situation by limiting those risks and/or adjusting your policy.
  • Continue To Evaluate. At minimum, review your policy annually and stay abreast of any new developments in the industry and in youth sports in general – and make sure you account for them!

We encourage you to have an open dialogue with your provider to make sure the best interests of your members and your organization are in mind at all times.

Have any recommendations based on your experience? Let us know!

Kris Baker

Kris Baker is the President of Demosphere and has been serving the Youth Sports Community since 2006.