Lakewood Pop Warner Sued, Alleged Improper Coaching Leads to Paraplegia

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Coaches, Litigation, Medical, Training

Could bad coaching lead to a lawsuit against your league? If the result is player injury, it can and already has. Yet another suit has been filed against a local sports league and its directors contending that a coach’s negligent instruction caused injury to the player. (Full story here).

The Lakewood (CA) Pop Warner association, its officers and directors, and the players coach were named in a suit filed recently in California Superior Court. The suit alleges that the player’s coaches repeatedly saw him unsafely tackle opponents head-first in both practices and games but did not attempt to correct his technique. The suit also alleges this was taught and that the players were given “repeated and incorrect instruction that Hill and his teammates tackle opposing players by leading with the head, rather than placing the head on the outside of the opposing player, as directed in national Pop Warner rules and coaching materials.”

According the the player’s attorneys “[f]ilm footage of the game shows Hill consistently making tackles with his head down, according to the complaint. At the moment of injury, Hill’s body went limp after making contact with another player while attempting a tackle with his head down. Doctors at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center later determined that Hill suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia.”

This suit highlights how coaching education is a necessary part of any risk management plan. When we are delivering services directly to youth participants, it is vital that the person directing and instructing the players be properly trained and aware of the latest safety recommendations. The suit against the directors claims that no protocol existed to make sure the tackling rules and safety protocol were being enforced. Willful blindness will not protect an organization from suit.

One of the frequent objections we here in our presentations is a complete misconception that developing rules will render the organization more liable if they are not later enforced. This suit highlights the point we make: you are far more likely to be sued, and in a far worse position with a jury, if you ignore known risks and choose not to make policies. Enforcement and reporting is a part of every risk management plan, and we help you there too.

See how we can help your organization be proactive and develop player safety policies that are implementable and enforceable. Contact us at 512-487-RISK.

Free Consultations Available at NSCAA Convention

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Coaches, Governing Bodies, Training

Scott Placek of Placek Consulting has been attending the NSCAA convention for years.  First, as a club Director of Coaching, later as a college club, and today as a small youth association DOC, Scott enjoys learning from the best and brightest minds in coaching education, and of course visiting with coaching friends both old and new.  However, since launching his consulting practice, the NSCAA convention provides an opportunity for Placek Consulting to offer face to face assistance to club officers and directors tasked with addressing risk management in an environment that is growing increasingly dangerous and litigious.

During the NSCAA convention, Placek Consulting will provide free 30 minute risk management consultations on a space available basis.  Most sessions will be breakfast meetings or early evening sessions following the close of most classroom events.  If you’d like to reserve some time, contact us via our webform, or call 512-487-RISK.

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.