Understanding Youth Sports: Risk Management

Risk Management is never fun. It can be long, time-consuming, and tedious. But, it is 100% essential. Risk Management is something that can save lives and is a key part of preventing serious injuries. Risk Management also plays a key role in league and team operations. Failure to complete these steps can result in serious financial loss and even shut down entire leagues. While at the time it may not seem all that important when you’re trying to card players, get rosters and schedules set, etc. Having you and your staff complete Risk Management is essential.

There are several key steps and tips to assure your Risk Management and help mitigate risks.

1.     Have the proper insurances and liability waivers in place to protect staff members, volunteers, the facility, and the participants.

2.     Have all other administrative aspects of a program in order, including managing finances, forms, contracts, etc., and ensure that these documents are handled and reviewed by multiple people in the organization for proper accountability and “checks and balances.”

3.     Do routine, documented facility and equipment inspections to identify liabilities and hazards. For example, inspect and survey a play space to make sure it is safe before participants arrive, and make sure it stays safe while participants are in the area. If a potential liability or hazard is found, fix it immediately. If you cannot fix it, secure the area with proper signage so no one can approach it.

4.     Ensure all equipment provided (to teams and participants) is safe. Provide safety equipment when needed and inspect equipment before all games.

5.     Train staff members, coaches, managers, and volunteers properly on all aspects of a league, and provide applicable training and certifications, such as concussion training, first aid, and CPR.

6.     Promote and monitor hydration and healthy eating. Information can be included in parent packets, orientations, and coaches’ meetings. On game days, look for signs of dehydration and fatigue.

7.     Have a contingency plan. What can go wrong will go wrong, so always have a backup plan.

8.     Have an emergency-action plan. Train for risk scenarios so staff members are prepared to handle any situation.

9.     Have adequate adult supervision on game days that includes staff members or league volunteers.

10.   Have written policies in place to strictly prohibit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, excessive weight loss or weight gain, and any illegal substances. Monitor signs of substance abuse by any coach, parent, or participant throughout the season, and have a process in place to report such abuse.

A common practice is to follow the 10 Ps of risk management.  

1.     Policy. Have proper policies in place to protect the safety of staff members, volunteers, participants, and facilities, and know what to do when an incident occurs.

2.     Planning. Training for incidents will better prepare staff members when an incident occurs. Have emergency-action plans in place for any type of league or program.

3.     Product or service. Understand the potential risks that may occur, based on the service offered. Knowing and understanding the types of risks that can occur helps to be more prepared to prevent an incident or handle an incident when it occurs.

4.     Process. Make sure controls are in place to reduce risk and ensure staff members are trained or qualified to handle them.

5.     Premises. Consider the size and layout of facilities and the risks that may occur. Know how much it costs to repair and maintain the facilities.

7.     Protection. This is much broader than merely protecting people from health and safety risks; it includes identifying risks associated with protecting people, premises, equipment, and the surrounding environment. Once the associated risks are identified, it is imperative to have the proper insurance coverages and waivers in place to protect your most valuable assets.

8.     Procedures. Be sure to have proper procedures in place if an incident does occur.

9.     Purchasing. Have policies in place to control costs, create contingency funds, and purchase quality equipment that will not pose a hazard to participants.

10.   Performance. Evaluate a league regularly to ensure you are following the risk-management guidelines that are in place. If incidents do occur, evaluate them and devise a plan to prevent future incidents.

Remember, don’t lack in your Risk Management. It’s not just about your club’s financials, but the health and safety of families.


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