Athletic Personnel’s Duty To Warn


By Shaleek Blackburn

When it comes to the wide range of sports, whether interscholastic or professional, each has its own unique set of rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts, warnings and violations. If players don’t follow them, they not only risk racking up penalties that could cost their teams the contest, they can put their own health and well being in jeopardy. Similarly, if athletic personnel fail to do their due diligence to develop processes that adequately warn their teams and student-athletes about participation risks, practices and proper procedures, they could face serious, gamechanging legal action.

As a former head football coach at Mission Viejo and Trabuco Hills high schools, Bill Crow knows firsthand the growing importance of a coach’s and athletic administrator’s duty to warn. “The responsibility to warn is definitely magnified now,” says Crow.

“You better know the laws if you are coaching because if not, you may find yourself in court.”

One of the most effective ways to warn, suggests Crow, is to hold a mandatory parents’ meeting annually to cover important safety issues, including protocol for handling practice and game day situations.

Equally critical, Crow notes, is the need to instruct every coach in your program on how to identify and respond to riskmanagement issues, particularly injuries. “There are a lot of things that you need to convey to and warn them about, but I think you need to start and end with injuries because that’s what every coach will eventually face, no matter the sport,” he says. “As a coach, that’s the most important meeting of the year. It’s when coaches go through the athletic leader’s responsibilities and the consequences of not upholding those responsibilities.” The crucial goal of proactive education, he adds, is ultimately about focusing on the safety of the studentathletes. The list of problematic issues is growing in sports,” says Crow. “It is key that coaches and athletic administrators stay on top of these changes.”

Finally, it’s important to document the “duty to warn” efforts of the athletic personnel. Putting rules and regulations in writing and requiring the signature of parents and players elevates the importance of the information and protects all parties.

3 “Duty To Warn” Tips

Put Parents First

What do you want to make sure the parents know? What are the coach’s responsibilities to them? Transparency should be number one on your list.

Meeting Of The Minds

Hold meetings with coaches and athletic leaders. Devise collective processes and plans for your program and streamline them between all programs.

Heat Or Ice

Give out pocket-sized pamphlets for quick access to information for handling common issues, including when to apply heat or ice to injuries.

Tags: Blog, coaching, sports

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