Posts Tagged ‘football’

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.

Evaluating Criminal Background Checks: Arrested Florida Football Coach Had Prior Drug Arrest

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Molestation, Volunteer Screening

In Florida, a youth football and basketball coach with over 30 years of service as a volunteer coach was arrested on charges of lewd or lascivious exhibition, performing a lewd act in the presence of a child and two counts of soliciting or committing a lewd assault or act on a child.  (Full story here.)  The allegations arose after a ten year old player reported to his father that the coach had offered him $40 to perform a sex act.  When the boy refused, the coach raised his offer to $100.  Since the initial investigation, up to seven players have made allegations against their former coach.

A spokesman for the city parks department noted that the coach had a 14 year old conviction for possession of a controlled substance.  However since the conviction did not relate to children and was so far in the past, it was decided he could continue as a volunteer.  This, of course, is a common outcome in background checking.  Various matrices exist that rate convictions by severity and recency to determine if a positive result should act as a disqualifier.  There is some merit to that.  A law abiding citizen who has a minor drug charge from their college days should not be permanently excluded as a volunteer.  A conviction for passing a bad check should not necessarily mean a person can’t be a youth coach.

However, there are other considerations in properly utilizing a criminal background check.  First, as discussed extensively on this site, a criminal background check is only one part of a risk management program.  A positive result, even if it is from a long time ago, may call for more intensive screening using your other risk management tools.  Moreover, even if a conviction is remote in time or unrelated to youth safety, it may give rise to other clues that the volunteer poses a risk.  In the case of the Florida youth coach, the drug conviction arose in his late 30s.  Moreover, further reporting shows that after serving his sentence, he violated his probation and was incarcerated again.  This factor alone should have been enough to red flag the volunteer.  A minor criminal conviction is a regrettable thing that has happened to many people.  However, after that experience, the failure to adhere to probation guidelines signifies an individual with a serious lack of understanding of boundaries and conforming to expectations.  A youth association would be perfectly correct in denying participation out of a concern that the volunteer would not comply with association rules or policies.  In this case, it is not the conviction that provides important information in screening, it is the volunteer’s response to that conviction.

At Placek Consulting, we can help you develop background check matrices or consult on individual results.  More importantly, however, we can help you put in place a full volunteer screening program. so that you are not wholly reliant on criminal background checking.

Football Coach Arrested for Assault of Player: Is It a Field Safety Issue?

Written by PC News on . Posted in Coaches, Field Safety, Players, Training, Volunteer Management

In Mapleton, Utah, a parent’s, coaches, and youth league’s worst nightmares have come together in an incident that has resulted in the arrest of the coach for allegedly assaulting an opposing player during a game.  The video can be viewed here, along with an editorial about the incident.  The circumstances that led to this incident are fairly undisputed.  The player was running a sweep around the left side of the line and ran out of bounds.  The coach, was standing on the sideline, right where the player was headed, and raised his arms as the player approached.  The player ran into his arm, was knocked to the ground, got up and continued playing the remainder of the game.  After the game, the child’s mother took the child to the hospital, but no injury was found.  County level prosecutors declined to charge the coach due to lack of an injury.  However, the city attorney stepped in and filed charges himself.

There is much debate over whether any crime occurred, what the coach’s intention was, and whether the coach’s actions were instinctive, protective or aggressive.  Regardless of the existence or non-existence of a criminal act, a civil lawsuit against the coach and the league remains a possibility.  Claims of assault can be litigated civilly as well as criminally.  However, a view of the video shows what should be a concern for the association as well.  Football fields, like soccer fields, contain designated areas outside the field of play where teams and coaches are permitted to stand.  The video shows that many coaches and players were outside of the designated area and right up against the sideline.  If the coach and team had remained in the designated area, this incident probably never happens.  Imagine the potential exposure to the league if a substitute was seriously injured in a sideline collision because the coach did not keep his team in the designated area.

This incident speaks to issues of training for both the coaches and the game officials.  Clearly, a lax attitude toward the enforcement of “bench area” boundaries existed in the league.  Three different coaches appear in the video outside of the bench area, along with numerous players.  Did the league have a site monitor to assist in game management?  Had the referees made any effort to enforce compliance?  It is tempting to treat technical areas/bench areas as annoyances or guidelines that can be disregarded with little or no consequence.  However, this situation shows exactly why an association should be diligent about enforcing rules that potentially impact player safety.

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