Identifying Risk And Preventing Problems With Your Team

When you are running an organization, there is a big problem: you don’t know what you don’t know. It is impossible to plan for everything and protect everyone. Still, you need to do some planning. If you don’t you may be putting your organization and yourself at risk.
By considering various situations you can avoid bad things. The right systems will help you recuperate quick. You will gain the trust of your players and families because you are ready for the unexpected.
Take a look at the following areas you may be at risk and what you can do to keep risk to a minimum.

Areas of risk

Nobody ever wants bad things to happen. But things go wrong. And if you are running teams long enough you are certain to see something you never thought would happen.
This should not keep you from running or starting your own program. Risk is in everything you do. Keep an eye out for the following areas.


In sports, you are always going to risk injury. The obvious time for this would be during competition. But what if there is a car accident? Or someone falls down a flight of stairs? What if you play outdoors? Is the wind or lightning a factor? Do they affect the playing surface?
Some of these you can help prevent. Others are a normal part of the risk. And some things you cannot predict. Think about where injuries can happen with your team. What will you do if something happens?


Kids will be kids. While that seems like a cop out to most of us, some players and coaches are not aware of how they affect the things around them. In this case, picture damage to hotel rooms and rental cars. Are you ready for this?

Their word vs. mine

In the sports world, a coach may only have limited time to work with players. It is impossible for them to know everything that is going on in a player’s head. Problems at home, school or the playground can affect where a player is coming from. These same things can affect a coach.
With an unknown mindset, memories of previous conversations or situations can be hazy. When there is a disagreement about what happened, them vs. me is a recipe for disaster. How will you avoid this?


You already knew all these things are a possibility. The key is putting the right systems in place. The right systems ensure that things are much less likely to happen or that they never happen at all
Here are some of the things we have done over the last 15 years to help us be successful.

Get in front of things early

Training – There is the obvious like making sure your coaches or chaperones have a valid driver’s license. There is also other extracurricular training like becoming CPR certified that are beneficial. With our coaching staff, we do a coaches’ training before we start the season. We cover non-basketball related stuff including how to work with players off the court, what to do about injuries, etc. And the best training is experience. There is no replacement for experience.
Preparation – we have proven over again that the more we prepare before a trip or event, the more success we have. The key is thinking through the entire event from start to finish. Write down each task that you will need to complete. For each task, make sure you have the right people in place to execute it and have a way of double checking on each. When you have a plan, stick to it unless something completely disrupts it. Then be ready to make your adjustments (you will want a communication plan for that as well) and move forward.
Avoidance – it is almost always better to make the safe play when it comes to looking after your players. Don’t let your ego or emotions get in the way. You have a big responsibility to the families of these players. If a player might have a concussion, don’t play them. If a back road might be a little faster but more dangerous, don’t take it. These are common sense but often ignored.
We never have coaches talk with a player in a hotel room one on one. This puts the coach in a “them vs. me” situation. Always have another coach or player in the room with you. We also try to avoid giving players a ride by themselves for the same reason.
If you are going to have late games the day you head back then either hire a professional driver or stay an extra night. Tired driving is not worth the risk!

Put good systems in place

From a liability and financial standpoint, have systems in place BEFORE you start. Here are a few that we use.
Waivers and forms – every player that signs up for an event or team will sign a release waiver. We then store the waivers, either physically or electronically.
For our travel teams, parents will sign three different forms before their kids can play.
  • Medical release form – gives us permission to act on the guardian’s behalf in a medical situation. It also includes their insurance information, allergies, medications, etc. that we can give to a doctor. We also have each player send a copy of their insurance cards.
  • Credit Card Authorization form – it further explains the financial responsibilities of each player. It also authorizes us to charge their credit card if they fail to pay.
  • Player Expectations form – signed by both the player and parent, lays out our expectations of behavior. It also gives us permission to use imagery of the players in promotional stuff.
Liability and medical insurance – the facilities we work with need us to carry insurance. But insurance has other benefits for your program. Take a look at what is available for your program. If you find the right coverage it is a good investment.
We have found is that using a corporate Visa credit card has had insurance benefits for car rentals. You should do your own research but a lot of cards will provide various benefits like this when you travel. For us, not only are we insured, it eliminates the debate on buying rental car insurance when you rent a vehicle.
Form an LLC – to add another layer of protection, we run our operations through a separate company. We also set up a company bank account. An LLC is a great way to get started. We are not lawyers so do your own research on this topic. But having the barrier of an LLC or corporation protects your personal assets if something happens. Make sure that you are keeping your personal stuff separate from the business stuff. If you don’t you may be “piercing the company veil” and negating the purpose of the company.

Plan, identify, prevent

Anytime you put yourself out there, as a coach or an organization, there are going to be risks. But when you plan things out, identify the potential problems and then take action to prevent / prepare you will be in a great position to have success.
Would you agree? What is the most unexpected thing that has happened with your team?