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Everything You Need to Know About Youth Sports Insurance

Knowing everything you can about youth sports insurance can keep you protected from the stress and money loss brought on by player injury, embezzlement, and lawsuits of various kinds. As a youth sports leader, it’s pertinent that you have an insurance portfolio that covers every contingency—even if you think it’s unlikely it will happen. Follow along for a guide to youth sports insurance—including options and tips for finding a plan that works best for your situation.

Why You Should Have Youth Sports Insurance

Most businesses and organizations have insurance needs, but it’s especially crucial for sports organizations. Sports naturally have a fair share of injuries and accidents and there are certainly inherent risks and liabilities. A single mishap can devastate a sports organization if it does not properly protect itself and its participants. In addition, many sports organizations must provide proof of insurance to receive permits for playing fields, gyms, or event spaces.

The Types of Youth Sports Insurance

Player Accident Insurance

When a player or coach gets hurt, accident policies pay the portion of medical expenses not covered by their own health insurance. And that can be a lot: In the United States, 6% of children and 13% of adults don’t have any health insurance. For them, accident insurance is the primary coverage, paying all their medical bills (subject to the policy’s limits and exclusions).

The Takeaway: You should consider these policies to cover your participants, volunteers, and employees; among other reasons, it reduces the likelihood of lawsuits. You can also arrange to offer supplemental accident coverage to participants, at group rates .

General Liability Insurance

Your organization can be held responsible for personal injuries or property damage associated with your activities, and these policies cover those losses, and related legal expenses. General liability is for spectators injured on the sideline or windshields broken by foul balls, but it is also for such situations as claims of slander by a rival coach. And the coverage extends beyond the organization itself to the actions of directors and officers as well.

The Takeaway: We live in a litigious society. If you’re in business, general liability insurance is definitely something you should discuss with your broker.

Directors and Officers Liability Insurance

Director- and officer-related issues include claims related to contract violations, wrongful terminations, and discrimination based on race and disability, as well as failure to follow your own rules and bylaws and other similar allegations. Some D&O policies also cover cases of sexual abuse and molestation, but many more do not.

The Takeaway: This is an important policy, even for smaller organizations, as it protects against lawsuits that aren’t covered under general liability. You can purchase a standalone D&O policy or find one that is incorporated into other management-related liability programs.

Equipment, Property, and Auto Insurance

Equipment insurance protects against damage to and theft of uniforms, balls, sticks, pads, and the like, but also for the sheds you store it all in, scoreboards, lawnmowers, soft drink machines, and whatever other pieces your organization owns or leases. Larger storage sheds, offices, and other significant structures call for property insurance. And, of course, any vans, buses, and other vehicles your group owns, or rents need to be covered by auto insurance in accordance with state regulations. If team members travel in vehicles owned by others, though, you may need additional coverage.

The Takeaway: This insurance is especially important if the vehicles that you use to travel to practices and games are owned by your organization, or if you operate a large facility that hosts events and is rented out by multiple clubs.

Workers Compensation Insurance

Most states require organizations over a certain size to buy these policies to cover the costs of employees hurt on the job.

The takeaway: If you’re a large organization with full-time coaches and staff, workers compensation is important. If you employ independent contractors (1099s), it’s not necessary.

Event Cancellation Insurance

This insurance covers cancellations or postponements including those caused by weather, natural disasters, labor strikes, power outages, and other circumstances beyond your control. Outbreaks of communicable diseases used to be on the list too, but many carriers have rethought that in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

The takeaway: If you are spending a lot of money to host a tournament or special event, you may need to protect yourself against losses if the event doesn’t proceed as planned.

Sports Fee Insurance

You and your organization likely require players to commit to a full-season fee at signup. This insurance pays whatever portion of that fee hasn’t been collected when a player is unable to continue to participate because of injury, illness, or worse. Some policies also cover fees when a player withdraws because a parent loses a job or is transferred.

The takeaway: You can decide to buy this coverage for all your players or simply offer it to them as an option at signup. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this insurance will likely be more common.

How to Get the Right Terms

Unlike personal auto and homeowners’ policies, which generally include standard provisions controlled by state regulators, the policies that are most relevant to sports organizations can feature many different terms and exclusions. That means you need to look closely at the fine print before deciding a particular policy meets your needs.

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate with your insurance company to remove restrictions (for example, on out-of-state travel, or expand your coverage to do things like include volunteers. Often, you’ll have options for coverage levels and price points. Many insurers, however, refuse to offer coverage in areas in which you’ve already made expensive claims.

Here are some tips to consider in evaluating insurance policies:

  • Understand the overall insurance requirements in your state.

  • Understand the insurance requirements to receive field or gym permits in your community.

  • Accurately determine the number of annual participants in your organization.

  • Determine if the General Liability policy has an athletic participant exclusion clause, is “silent” or explicitly states Participant Legal Liability.

  • Get quotes from multiple brokers and read the fine print!

  • Find brokerages that have special programs setup for local sports organizations.

  • The need and use of waiver forms vary by policy. Ask your insurance to provide what type of online waiver form and waiver messaging is required or preferred.

How to Get the Best Deal

Before buying new insurance, check to see what coverage your organization may already have through its various affiliations. Many school districts and municipal recreation departments, for example, carry insurance for activities they host. Sports leagues, conferences, and associations sometimes provide insurance for their member organizations and often arrange group discounts for additional coverage.

Such arrangements have their benefits, but be aware that their coverage is often very narrow. For example, a municipal policy may cover injuries incurred while a team competes in their facilities or on their fields while offering no protection for mishaps that occur at a neutral-site fundraiser or social event. It may make sense, then, to find a policy that fills holes like these.

Clearly, it will take a bit of time and effort to boil down all the choices to the program that is most appropriate for your organization. But the investment can head off much more difficult and expensive challenges if you don’t have the right protection.


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