Coaches have a fundamental responsibility to the well-being of their athletes. The legal system supports the argument that “a coach's primary role is to minimize the risk of injury to athletes under the coach's supervision”. When teams and organizations lack access to on-site medical personnel, such as athletic trainers (ATs), coaches’ step into the role of athlete caregiver and should be mindful of potential risks associated with this responsibility. To protect themselves and their athletes, coaches should also recognize the certification and liability standards associated with their role.
Liability standards, in the world of sports law, are somewhat murky. The standard for coach liability that has been utilized in high school sports was established in the case of Kahn v. East Side Union High School District in 2003. The case held that a coach might be liable for an injury to a student or student-athlete only if the coach “injures the student or engages in conduct that is reckless.” Reckless conduct is defined as something that is “outside the range of the ordinary activity“ involved in coaching the sport. To protect themselves and their athletes, it’s crucial that coaches obtain general liability insurance if not provided by their organization. In addition to liability insurance, coaches can prioritize various certifications that provide coaching education.
Coach certifications cover a variety of topics including anatomy, physiology, and first aid. Current policies and standards around certifications for Youth Sports Coaches vary. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends that when working with youth athletes in a team setting, coaches should be certified in adult and pediatric First Aid and CPR. Coaches can seek out their own certifications to help support and reinforce athlete safety.
- Flegel, M. J. (2014). Sport first aid. Human Kinetics.
- League Apps. (2022, August 4). Everything you need to know about youth sports insurance. leagueapps.com/blog/youth-sports-insurance. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from https://leagueapps.com/blog/youth-sports-insurance/
- Mark R. Hamilton Jr., Pros and Kahns: The Proper Coach Liability Standard for Athlete Injuries in Collegiate Athletics, 32 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 599 (2022)
- Williamson, K. (n.d.). How to become a youth sports coach. Retrieved January 15, 2023, from https://blog.nasm.org/how-to-become-a-youth-sports-coach