Archive for the ‘Spectators’ Category

Is Your Organization Covered—for Anything?

March 21, 2016

The idea of crisis plans for your team, event or venue is to try to think of anything and everything that can happen, and make sure you have a correct response to every scenario you can come up with. auction-gavel-2

But too often, no one takes into consideration 1) demanding parents and 2) litigation at the drop of a gavel.

When his 16-year-old son didn’t get the most valuable player award, Michel Croteau didn’t get mad, he tried to get even. He hired a lawyer and sued his son’s youth hockey league to the tune of more than $200,000. Croteau claimed his son Steve should have been the MVP since he had the most goals and assists in the league. When he didn’t win, daddy claimed that Steve was so embarrassed, he wanted to quit hockey.

This isn’t an isolated case. In the year the Croteau lawsuit was filed, 2013, parents filed more than 200 non-injury-related sports lawsuits against coaches, leagues and school districts in the United States, according to Gil Fried, a University of New Haven professor specializing in sports law.

But wait, there’s more.

The Butzke family sued the Comsewogue, N.Y., school district because their eighth-grade daughter was taken off the varsity high school soccer team.

The Branco family took legal action against the Washington Township, N.J., school district after their son, David, was cut from the junior varsity basketball team.

The Rubin family sued California’s New Haven Unified School District for $1.5 million because their son got kicked off the varsity basketball team.

Marc Martinez sued his son’s baseball coach, John Emme, twice, and both times the suit was thrown out. It all surrounded the fact that Emme removed J.D. Martinez from the varsity roster, and dad claimed Emme did it for spite since Martinez the elder had complained to the school district that Emme was having his son throw too much. Coach Emme then countersued Martinez, a move Emme’s lawyer said was as much about Martinez as it was to send a message to parents around the country.

Most everyone has insurance to cover injury, weather, and other fairly predictable problems. Litigation is a growing issue, though, for many sports organizations, especially youth sports. Make sure you have a plan (and an attorney) in place that can help you out, in case there’s a case brought against you.

A Lesson to Be Learned

March 14, 2016

A while back we told you about the fight at a girls’ high school basketball game in Indiana that resulted in the suspension of both teams from the rest of this season.

Pike High meeting

Photo Courtesy: Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star.

Now, as Paul Harvey might say, here is the rest of the story.

After both the Pike and Ben Davis girls’ basketball teams were suspended after the on-court brawl, most everyone thought that would be the end of the issue. But Anucha Browne saw it as an opportunity for a life lesson for everyone involved.

Browne is NCAA vice president for women’s basketball championships. And she comes in with a hoops pedigree: She starred at Northwestern and led the country in scoring in 1985 with a 30.5 points per game average. And she decided she needed to talk with these players.

“I thought it was important to be in their space and help them understand that those split-second decisions can change the rest of their lives,” she told the Indianapolis Star. “I took pride in owning the fact that those young people deserve another chance and to have a dialogue with somebody who has been where they are. I want to be impactful in their lives.”

Browne met with the Pike team last week—she’s scheduled to meet with Ben Davis next week. Neither high school appealed the suspensions, although Pike did ask the Indiana High School Athletic Association to reevaluate its process in ruling on fighting at games.

“These are just young people, and you have to invest in young people,” Browne continued. “We tell our kids to be sportsmen, but what does that mean? I think to have that dialogue and talk to them about the impact of their behavior and what they do is important. It says everything about them.”

As for the school, Pike Athletic Director Doug Schornick said the meeting with Browne was another step in the healing process. “I think the message coming from somebody of her background was perfect,” he said. “We’re going to get stronger. All our programs are going to get stronger.”

Kudos to Browne for reaching out to both teams after a devastating end to their seasons. Let’s hope the schools, and especially the players, learn and grow from it.

The Sad Side of Sports

February 22, 2016

A high school girls’ basketball game this past weekend between Pike and Ben Davis high schools, two Indianapolis-area schools, had to be called with five minutes left in the fourth quarter because of a fight that apparently involved both fans and players.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers

Photo courtesy of teamfenon.com

Video posted on social media showed both players and fans on the court, although officials are not saying right now what may have started the incident.

At the time of the scuffle at Ben Davis’ gym, Pike was leading the game by a wide margin. Officials from both schools are scheduled to meet with the Indiana High School Athletic Association later this week.

In a statement, Ben Davis’ administration said, “We are extremely disappointed that good sportsmanship was not shown by the players involved in (today’s) girls basketball game at Ben Davis High School We are working closely with administrators at Pike High School and the IHSAA to determine exactly which players were involved in this incident.”

The statement continues: “This behavior is not representative of our values, beliefs or how we coach our student athletes. It is not reflective of the Ben Davis pride of our students, alumni and community share. And it certainly does not reflect the rich tradition and success of our girls basketball team. The Ben Davis players involved will face consequences at school, and we will comply with any consequences we receive from the IHSAA.”

For its part, the Pike athletic department Twitter feed posted this message: “Today’s girls’ BB incident was unfortunate! We are working with BD & IHSAA to investigate today’s occurrence.”

Last season the IHSAA hit Griffith and Hammond high schools with sanctions after a fight at a boys game, suspending both teams for the year. Eventually both schools got a temporary restraining order so they could play in the post-season tournament, and Griffith make it to the 3A championship game.

This investigation probably will go on for weeks, with sanctions expected on both sides. But when young players, girls or boys, see the behavior that goes on at some professional games, is it any wonder that scuffles break out? It makes it even more imperative for youth coaches to have proper training to make sure that nothing like this happens at their events.

Keeping Spectators Safe

September 2, 2015

Anyone in the events business knows that one big concern is keeping spectators safe. Often the emphasis is at the point of entry: Checking bags and ‘wanding’ spectators is now the norm at professional sporting events, and is happening more and more at the amateur level.

But now, safety issues are shifting to venues themselves. The issue has turned tragic this past week, with the death of a spectator at Turner Field, who fell over the railing of an upper deck. It’s the third fatal fall at Turner Field since 2008. Earlier this month, Justin Verlander and other Detroit Tigers called for baseball to extend netting to protect fans after a fan was struck in the seats at Comerica Park, and that comes after a spectator was seriously hurt at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway.

We know that attending a sporting event carries its own level of risk, as is spelled out on the backs of most of our event tickets. But railing height has been almost as much of an issue as extending the nets down the base lines to protect fans. Atlanta Braves’ officials say the new Braves stadium is designed to have higher railings, even though the present railings meet safety standards. The International Building Code mandates that venues like Turner Field and the Rangers’ ballpark, where, four years ago, a fan reached over the outfield wall to retrieve a tossed baseball and fell 20 feet to his death, have rail heights of 33 inches, increasing to 42 inches at the base of aisles. Those guidelines still have not prevented fan-falling incidents at those parks as well as the Georgia Dome and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in recent years.

And here are some sobering stats: There are 53,000 foul balls that enter the seats every year, according to Edwin Comber, creator of foulballz.com. And 1,750 spectators are injured every season by batted balls at major league games, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg News.

It will be costly for stadiums to upgrade their facilities, and they’re reluctant to obstruct lines of sight because they don’t want to encourage fans to stay at home where they can get an even clearer, closer view of the game from their HD television. But if it continues to become a major safety issue, something will need to be done, and soon. Don’t wait for someone else to die.

Photo courtesy pa baseball netting.

Photo courtesy pa baseball netting.