*Information provided in this article is not to be considered a substitute for legal advice. Readers are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of a licensed attorney familiar with youth sport laws and regulations within your state and local district.
Volleyball leaders bear an important responsibility in overseeing the safety and well-being of athletes under their care.

Through diligent supervision, adherence to best practices, and implementation of comprehensive emergency action plans,  leaders contribute significantly to creating a safe and thriving volleyball environment. The legal duty to safeguard athletes extends beyond the physical act of supervision, encircling the broader culture of the club and team. By embracing these responsibilities, volleyball leaders, including coaches, team captains, and support staff, not only fulfill their legal obligations but also play a central role in the club’s overall success. Through constant alertness, detailed planning, and a commitment to providing sufficient emergency care, volleyball leaders can ensure a safer and more prosperous sport environment.

Supervisory Responsibility of Volleyball Leaders

One of the 13 Legal Duties of Volleyball Leaders is the act of supervising, the physical action of safeguarding athletes. Supervising with diligence will ensure a safe and productive volleyball environment during practices, competitions, and travel. The definition of safeguarding is to “protect from harm or damage with an appropriate measure” (Oxford University Press, 2023) and is the overall concept of placing the safety and welfare of all participants, staff, and support personnel as a primary priority.

The responsibility to provide supervision requires the physical presence and attentiveness of volleyball leaders to minimize or lessen the potential for injuries or harm. Coaches are to supervise practice areas and locations where a team would gather and provide a safe environment before, during, and after training or competitions. This responsibility extends to any transportation situation. For example, on walks to and from hotels to playing areas, planes, trains, automobiles, and transportation-loading/unloading areas. The supervision responsibility also extends to times during out–of–town overnight stays and when athletes officially represent the club/team. When conducting practices and preparing for competitions, a volleyball leader’s supervision happens from 5 minutes before your athletes arrive to 5 minutes after they leave. It is a constant action!

Not only is supervision the action of physically supervising an activity and event closely, it also includes the process and act of supervising the overall environment and culture of the volleyball club, team, or league. Volleyball leaders should supervise their clubs’ culture against physical and psychological harm from others. Removing any threat or potential harm provides a general feeling of safety and security.

Best Practices for Supervision
  1. Establish a protocol for consistently supervising all volleyball environments.
  2. If necessary, implement a rotating schedule for supervising common areas, such as locker rooms/bathrooms, pickup/drop-off areas, lounge areas, etc.
  3. Volleyball clubs and teams should have scheduled review times of supervision policies. These reviews should incorporate a range of stakeholders, including but not limited to parents, players, coaches, and directors.
  4. Develop a set of rules specifically for teams traveling and staying overnight on out-of-town trips. Share these rules with parents/guardians, ensuring they know them before the trip and requiring a signature for the athlete to travel overnight with the team.
Safeguarding within Emergency and First Aid

Volleyball leaders’ have a legal duty to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) specific to their environment, needs, and demands. Volleyball leaders are responsible for being able to implement and put into action the EAP if an emergency arises. EAPs can involve severe weather physical injury emergencies, or situations where an antagonistic person is present—for example, severe weather, an injured athlete, or any outside threat or risk.

Developing an emergency action plan (EAP) is essential for effective risk management in sports. Volleyball Leaders must have a plan for every practice or competition site, ensuring immediate action in case of emergencies. The plan includes maintaining accurate “emergency response cards” with athlete information submitted to the athletic administrator before participation. Coaches receive these cards for their athletes and can keep them in first aid kits or a digital format. Provide an Emergency Action Plan to coaches, detailing site-specific information, emergency contacts, and procedures. Advise coaches to carry cellular phones for immediate help when supervising athletes. The EAP also addresses hospital arrangements, notifying parents, and emphasizes compliance with HIPAA regulations for obtaining medical information. Here are details on specific documentation suggestions for a Volleyball Club Leader.

The obligation to deliver proper emergency care entails volleyball leaders to be equipped with first aid and CPR training, along with knowledge and skill in emergency stabilization and assistance to fulfill their duty in providing proper emergency care. Legal case after legal case holds sport leaders responsible for negligence in providing care and safeguarding athletes. A defense of “I didn’t know” or “an EAP wasn’t given to me” is not a valid argument. I emphasize the crucial role of all volleyball leaders in developing, implementing, and practicing an Emergency Action Plan for their respective sports. Find an expert who can assist in the development of an EAP that best fits the needs of your club and teams.

Best Practices for Developing an Emergency Action Plan

The National Athletic Trainer’s Association’s position statement on Emergency Planning in Athletics is an excellent resource that lists the industry’s best practices and to begin the AEP development process.

Volleyball leaders must ensure that all athletes receive proper care in case of accidents or injuries. If comprehensive training is mandatory for all volleyball leaders within your club, the risk of potential legal issues can be reduced, creating a safer environment for all participants. Volleyball leaders play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of players and the club’s overall success. They must be diligent in their supervisory responsibility, best practices for effective supervision, and the critical role of Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) to ensure the well-being of athletes. Supervision and planning are indispensable in creating a safe and thriving volleyball environment.

View the Risk Management Solutions Series.

View more JVA resources for Club Directors and Leaders.

About the Author

Jenny D. Johnson, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at American Public University in the Sports & Health Science Department. She played indoor at UNC Greensboro, Class of ‘95, and is a Coach/Coordinator at Coast United Beach in Conway, SC, a JVA member beach club.