Swimming outings source of liability claims

Safety first at team pool parties

The swimming outing in a coach’s backyard or at a motel pool during a tournament is commonly the source of drowning or near-drowning incidents.

Drowning among youth baseball and softball players seems to be a prevalent problem in youth sports leagues. Of course, this is not isolated to just the baseball/softball arena, but more common most likely because of spring and summer activity.

An 8-year-old boy nearly drowned during his football team pool party in Arizona. His parents were in attendance but distracted for just long enough. Fortunately, the child was rescued by another alert parent.  Unfortunately, most cases that we read about do not have such happy endings.

Sport-related injuriesVigilance is the key

Drowning is the second highest cause of accidental death in children under the age of 15, according to the Center for Disease Control.. Approximately 750 children will drown next year, 375 of whom will be within 25 yards of an adult.

Accidents cannot always be prevented. It’s critical, however, to be vigilant when dealing with children in youth sports organizations. Most of the time, not every one of the children has a parent or guardian with them, especially when the team travels.  These parents trust that the coaches and volunteers that they leave their children with will be monitoring their safety and bringing them back home in one piece.

Steps toward prevention

Simple precautions can be taken to lessen the risk of drowning.

  • Participation requires passing a swim test.

  • Instill in team members “the buddy system” so they’re accountable for each other.

  • Have at least one CPR-trained adult in attendance.

  • Prohibit alcohol consumption by adults at all youth parties.

  • Adults should not be involved in any distracting activity (such as grilling, reading, talking on phone)

  • Hire a certified lifeguard and require them to provide proof of adequate General Liability insurance.

The avoidance alternative

A number of Sadler Sports insurance clients have been sued for drowning or near drowning incidents resulting in very costly settlements. I’ve personally witnessed a number of incidents around pools where parents get caught up in conversations and lose their concentration for just a split second, and that’s all it takes.

In my opinion, the risks of serious injury and resulting lawsuits are so significant with swimming parties that such activities should be avoided as their risks outweigh their benefits. Avoidance of high risk activities is sports risk management 101 and I put swimming parties right up there with the use of 15 passenger vans (tip-over risks) and sleepovers (sex abuse and molestation risk).

You can find further information on pool safety on the American Red Cross website. If you have questions, please contact us.