Helping sports organization solve integrity, growth, and development challenges

Personnel Issues

Open Amateur Club Sports: Policies Governing Professional Coaching Conduct

The adoption, implementation and enforcement of the USOC Coaching Ethics Code (or appropriate sport specific national sport governing body ethics code) and a detailed sport organization “Policies Governing Professional Coaching Conduct,” the violation of which may result in the coach’s immediate suspension and other penalties up to and including termination of affiliation or employment is an essential "standard of care" responsibility of youth sports organizations.

Specific Policies Regarding Bullying, Hazing and Sexual Harassment Applicable to All Athletes, Parents, Officials and Sport Organization Staff

The adoption, implementation and enforcement of specific policies regarding bullying, hazing and sexual harassment applicable to all athletes, parents and sport organization staff is an essential "standard of care" obligation for all youth sport organizations.

Background and Reference Checks and Required SafeSport Training of "Covered Individuals"

The adoption and implementation of policies and procedures that adequately ensure that volunteers and employees successfully pass background and reference checks that identify individuals with past histories of sexual abuse of minors, inappropriate relationships with athletes, substance abuse and other disqualifying offenses is an essential "standard of care" obligation.

The Misuse of Student-Athlete Evaluations of Coaches and Student-Athlete Exit Interviews

Student-athlete annual evaluations and exit interviews should never be the sole determinant or even a significant determinant of employee termination and compensation decisions.  Research on student-teacher evaluations (SET) clearly reveals the lack of reliability of such instruments:   

The Misuse of Annual Employee Performance Evaluation and Failure to Utilize Progressive Disciplinary Action

I have been involved as an expert witness in numerous employment cases.  In almost every case, a single negative annual employee performance evaluation, often involving invented facts, a minor NCAA rules violation portrayed as serious transgression and/or negative student evaluations are used to justify the termination of a strong employee who raised gender inequity issues.

Q: Should athletes be required to discuss issues with their coach before filing a complaint with the athletic department?

A:  Generally, yes – with several exceptions.  The athletic administrator must directly address the athletic program culture with both coaches and athletes at the beginning of each academic year in order to better offset the tremendous imbalance of power between coaches and student-athletes.  There should be a clearly stated policy and expectation that athletes have the right to ask their coaches any question and the coach, as a teacher first and foremost, has an obligation to adequately respond to such questions.  Included in this policy statement should be the requirem

Q: What would you recommend with regard to coaching behavior expectations?

There are three keys critical to the oversight of professional conduct of coaches:  (1) the existence of a comprehensive athletic department policy regarding standards of coaching conduct that explicitly defines prohibited behaviors, (2) the requirement that the coach’s supervisor have an annual meeting with the team and the coaches prior to the start of practice to review the policy so that student-athletes as well as coaches clearly understand prohibited conduct and student-athletes understand the complaint process, and (3) having a policy that requires all staff members to report ob

Q: Are there management cautions with regard to avoiding imposition of a double standard for male and female coaches regarding athlete retention and satisfaction?

There are many higher education institutions that do not award substantial amounts of athletic aid and depend on partial or non-scholarship athletes to pay a substantial portion of their tuition.  At these institutions, to the extent the institution depends on these tuition revenues for maintaining its regular enrollment and economic well-being, athlete retention is often more important than winning and program success as a coach employment expectation.  Athletics recruiting is the equivalent of admissions office recruiting with athletics department efforts often considered to be