The Private Trainer Risk

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Contractors, Molestation, Players

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.

After It’s Too Late

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Governing Bodies, Molestation, Volunteer Management

In the midst of the challenges of running your programs and preparing for the next season, it is easy to let risk management planning slip by the way side.  Every week, coaches from settings varying from university to youth athletics are accused of improper behavior.  Often, it is difficult to imagine how such behavior went unchecked and unmonitored.  The answer is simple: often we don’t address the problem until it’s too late.

In Pennsylvania, a local school board recently adopted an adult-student interaction policy.  Consisting of five pages of detailed instructions, it “restricts electronic communications with students to the school’s systems and outlines what is inappropriate to discuss with students and where and how interactions take place. It even bans knowingly engaging in online gaming with students.” (Full story here).  But the policy didn’t come out of a considered and proactive approach to risk management.  It followed the arrest of a coach for “institutional sexual assault and corrupting a minor” — a sixteen year old female student.  Despite the fact that electronic communications are a primary grooming method used by abusers, the school had no policies in place to address the interaction between its staff and students.

However, some organizations do act proactively.  In Tennessee, an arrested youth football coach is demanding reinstatement after the league suspended him following his arrest.  The coach was charged with a road rage incident and threatening a 16 year old driver with a knife.  In addition, burned marijuana cigarettes were found in the car.  At the time of his arrest, a closed knife was found on the dashboard.  Incredibly, parents from the team he coaches started a petition to have him reinstated.  (Full story here).  Although the coach is certainly entitled to a presumption of innocence on the criminal charges, a youth sports organization is entitled to act to protect its participants pending the outcome of the trial, and would even be justified in denying future participation if it so decided.  This type of proactive, kids first attitude is to be commended.

At Placek Consulting, we work with youth sports associations to address issues before they become problems.  We give you the tools to manage your volunteers and staff in an atmosphere that conveys professionalism and respect while still focusing on child protection.  Find out how we can help you.  Call Scott Placek at 512-487-RISK (7475).

Is Your Association Required By Law to Report Suspected Abuse?

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Coaches, Molestation, Training, Volunteer Management

The Jerry Sandusky case and the response of the Penn State administration to reported suspicions of child molestation prompted much discussion about the moral and legal duties of a university to report suspected child abuse by one of its employees.  Because that case arose in the school context, there was little to no associated discussion of mandatory reporting requirements as they may apply to youth sports clubs.  Indeed, we are accustomed to thinking of professions like teachers, doctors and clergy as mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse.  We don’t think of volunteer sports coaches having the same obligations.  However, the designation as a mandatory reporter is of great significance because failure to report is associated with criminal liability.

In many states, youth sports associations are required to report suspected abuse.  Consider this designation in Lousiana of required reporters:

Organizational or youth activity providers, including administrators, employees, or volunteers of any day camp, summer camp, youth center, or youth recreation programs or any other organization that provides organized activities for children.

Under this definition, not only your officers and administrators, but also any volunteers of a youth sports association would be required to report suspected child abuse.  Are your coaches and administrators trained to do this?  The penalty for failure to report is up to three years imprisonment at “hard labor” if the abuse results in serious bodily injury.  What does this requirement mean to an organization that receives a complaint of questionable activity on the part of a coach?  Can you ignore it?  Should you even be the one to investigate it?

Now consider the Sandusky effect.  Many states are expanding the designations of what groups are considered mandatory reporters. Florida recently enacted the toughest mandatory reporting law in the nation.  Under the new Florida statute, any person who knows of or has a reasonable suspicion of child abuse is a mandatory reporter.  Failure to report is punishable by up to a year in jail.  Texas has a similar requirement that a “person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report.”  Again, are your staff and volunteer corps aware of and prepared to fulfill their obligations?

If a coach or parent is ejected for punching a child, has the duty to report been triggered?  If you are a league commissioner and receive the game reports that show such an offense occurred, could you face  criminal charges for not making a required report?  If a parent comes to your board to complain about the verbal abuse and grabbing of a player by a coach, has a duty to report been triggered?  What if a coach just notices that a player comes to practice with unexplained bruises and injuries on a regular basis.  What constitutes abuse and what constitutes a sufficient report under the law? Does your association know the answer? Have you even considered the question?

At Placek Consulting, we offer educational and training programs to advise organizations on their reporting duties.  We also deliver online training to assure that volunteers are properly educated about when and how they are required to report.