Online Master’s in Athletic Administration

The Importance of Facility Management in Youth Sports

Many young athletes, parents, and coaches do not stop to think about all that goes into executing a youth sports league.  One of those steps is an athletic facility management plan.  If you are involved with an athletic facility for youth sports, having a management plan in place is of utmost importance.  Management plans have a vast array of benefits, including optimum financial and social returns, generating support from the community and volunteers, providing needed and relevant services, having a sense of ownership, and above all decreasing legal risk.  Athletics are no stranger to tort law.  Many athletic facilities, coaches, owners, volunteers and athletes have had their day in court due to the lack of an effective facilities management plan.

Ohio University Masters in Athletic Administration

Who Creates the Plan?

In every sports or recreation facilities, it is the facility manager who is responsible for creating the facility’s plan.  The manager should seek the input and approval of staff, volunteers, and in some cases athletes and their parents.  This makes it more of a team and community project, and can bring up topics and concerns the facilities manager may not have considered otherwise.  The manager can also seek input from various clubs and sporting associations, local government, a legal team, or a medical team.  Once in place, the management plan will need to be reviewed regularly and amended as necessary.  The process may initially be one of trial and error.


Protection Against Torts

In a lawsuit, the plaintiff must providence negligence with regard to duty, breach, causation and harm in order to support a tort. For instance, a teen is playing football and gets his foot caught in a hole on a field.  He breaks his ankle in the process and is out for the rest of the season.  The facility has a duty to maintain safe playing conditions.  If the hole is not filled properly to prevent accidents and injuries, the facility, and possibly the coach, is breaching their duty to provide a safe playing environment.  The broken ankle is the harm that happened.  Such a civil suit can leave a sport facility in financial peril.  Because cases like this are so common, it is important that everyone involved in youth athletics be aware of the need to manage the risks inherent to sports, as well as understand the steps to minimize the risks, and understand the law.  Athletic administrators, boards, and coaches should be aware of this information.


Safe Playing Conditions

The facility management plan should state clearly how safe playing conditions should be assessed and maintained.  Everyone can and should play a part in this.  The plan should dictate who will inspect the playing facilities and how often.  It should also include the standard procedure if something is found to be unsafe, along with how it is reported and who will ensure it is fixed.  The plan should include all of these details to be sure procedure is followed and everyone knows their role.


Indoor Facilities

Facilities located indoors should be inspected daily for unsafe playing conditions, such as ceiling leaks, wood splinters, warped boards on the playing floor, lights that are burnt out, etc.  If a certain repair or replacement is needed, the person doing the inspections should submit a written report to notify the administrator or manager, as well as the engineering team, as to what is needed.


Outdoor Facilities

Outdoor facilities need to be checked on a regular basis, as should be outlined in the facilities management plan.  Staff and coaches should check for holes, any low spots, large rocks, the integrity of fences and benches, and the presence of floods or standing water.  Per the plan, there should be a system in place for such problems to be reported and quickly resolved.


Inclement Weather Conditions

There should also be a plan in place for what to do in the event of lightning, floods, tornados, and earthquakes.  Coaches should have plans in place for how to deal with such issues and not be afraid to execute the plan, if that time comes.  The process should be shared among staff and coaches, so the execution is automatic when needed.  Like poor field conditions, allowing players to play in inclement conditions can also lead to a risk.


Proper Equipment

Facilities staff and coaches should also be responsible for making sure the proper equipment is available and in good working condition.  Allowing players to use equipment that is not up to par for safety can lead to injuries and accidents for which the facility and its staff will be responsible in the court of law.  The facilities management plan should dictate how and when equipment is checked and the procedures for getting equipment repaired and taken out of play.  This plan should also include sanitizing where necessary.


Enlisting the Public

Coaches and staff should also heed the concerns or problems brought to them by the public, players, or their parents.  If a player informs the coach of a safety issue, equipment issue, or weather issue, it should be taken seriously and investigated.  Not doing so can potentially prove a breach of duty in court.


Sports facilities should have a facility management plan in place that reduces the risk for all involved in youth sports, from parents to custodians, coaches to spectators.   When a solid plan is in place and everyone knows their role in reducing the risk, the chance of adverse outcomes decreases significantly.




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