The days when volunteer dads got together and coached a select sports team or gave lessons to their own kids on the driving range or tennis courts are long gone. At the more select levels of competition, paid coaches work to prepare and coach teams for kids still years away from puberty as well as kids preparing to enter college. Outside of team practice, cottage industries of private trainers have sprung up across the country, offering parents yet another option for providing extra training and practice for those willing to put in the time and pay the money. Among youth sports clubs, alliances with private trainers provide both a recruiting edge in selling prospective players on outside training opportunities and a possible pipeline of privately trained players steered to the club. Alliances between trainers and clubs can benefit both, and are increasing in frequency. On the surface, they appear to be low risk for each party, as there is often no contractual relation or agreement, and even when there is strict independent contractor status is usually maintained. But is there actually more risk than we might realize?
The past few months have seen a disturbing rise in arrests and allegations against private trainers. An nationally recognized golf coach was recently charged with over sixty counts of child molestation. (Full Story Here). Many of the offenses occurred while providing transportation to students or traveling out of town — areas your internal risk management policy should address. “He befriended them as the cool coach, gave them rides to and from practice and bought them gifts, including top-of-the-line golf equipment,” police said. Similar arrests have occurred in tennis (See Story) and soccer (See Story). Consider whether your organization could face liability for referring players to a “preferred” or “exclusive” private trainer.
If your club has entered into a preferred private training relationship, or especially an exclusive one, there is certainly the possibility that your club could be the target of litigation if injury, abuse or molestation occurs in the private training setting. This is true even if there is no employment relationship between the club and the trainer. The exposure is further increased if the private training takes place using the club’s facilities.
At Placek Consulting, we caution against creating preferred or exclusive training arrangements with parties that the club cannot control. However, if your club makes this competitive choice, we can work with you to create appropriate risk management policies and contractual agreements to protect the club. We can review your existing agreements and advise you on any unanticipated risk created by those agreements. Contact us at 512-487-RISK for an analysis.