A legal dispute is one of the last things you want to get involved in as a youth sports volunteer. Emails or phone calls over disagreements with parents is a frustrating and time-consuming experience for everyone involved.
But, you can make your life easier by including waivers in your registration forms. A waiver is simply an agreement between two parties that one party will "waive" legal rights. Waivers can help protect the athletes, volunteers, and organizations during your season.
Read more in this post about common waivers that youth sports organizations require during registration and how to include them in your registration forms.
NOTE: The information provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and Jersey Watch makes no representation that the contents will effectively protect any legal rights or satisfy your legal obligations.
In order to fully protect your legal rights, you should contact an attorney. The resources are not provided as legal advice to you, and should not be relied on as such.
How waivers protect sports organizations
Whether you run an existing league or are starting a sports organization, it's essential to have several waivers and acknowledgements for participants to acknowledge before the season.
Waivers help protect your organization and your participants in a few ways:
- They help protect your organization from potential lawsuits related to injuries that may occur during games, practices, and other events.
- They help participants become aware of any potential dangers (injuries, illness, etc.) that they should be aware of before they play.
- They help remove liability from individuals volunteering at your organization, like coaches, referees, and board members.
Sports waiver template
The sports waiver below is a sample form only. Your attorney or legal counsel should direct the final wording. You can also download the template as a PDF.
EASTLAND BOBCATS GENERAL RELEASE WAIVER
I hereby acknowledge that I am voluntarily participating in sports activities organized by the Eastland Bobcats. I understand that these activities involve inherent risks, including but not limited to bodily injury, property damage, and death, which may occur as a result of my participation. Therefore, I agree to the following terms:
- RELEASE AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY: I hereby release and forever discharge the Eastland Bobcats organization, its directors, officers, agents, employees, and volunteers (collectively, the "Released Parties"), from any and all liability, claims, demands, and causes of action that I may have now or in the future, arising out of or related to any loss, damage, or injury, including death, that may be sustained by me or to any property belonging to me, whether caused by the negligence of the Released Parties or otherwise.
- ASSUMPTION OF RISK: I understand and acknowledge that my participation in the sports activities organized by the Eastland Bobcats organization involves inherent risks, including but not limited to bodily injury, property damage, and death. I voluntarily assume all risks associated with my participation in these activities.
- INDEMNIFICATION: I agree to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Released Parties from any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, including attorneys' fees and costs, arising out of or related to my participation in the sports activities organized by the Eastland Bobcats organization.
- MEDICAL TREATMENT: I authorize the Eastland Bobcats organization, its agents, employees, and volunteers, to obtain or provide medical treatment for my child in the event of any injury, illness, or other medical condition that may occur during my participation in the sports activities.
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF UNDERSTANDING: I have read this sports waiver, fully understand its terms, and understand that I am giving up substantial rights, including my right to sue the Released Parties for any injury, death, or damages that may result from my participation in the sports activities organized by the Eastland Bobcats organization.
By checking the box below, I acknowledge that I have read and fully understand this sports waiver, and I voluntarily agree to its terms.
Types of youth sports waivers to have
Most youth sports programs have several waivers that parents must acknowledge when they register. The waivers should be kept separate rather than in one large agreement. This makes the waiver easy to understand for the reader and more straightforward to manage for your sports organization.
Almost always, a parent/guardian should be required to acknowledge each waiver to submit their registration and must acknowledge the waiver to complete their registration.
Here are a few of the most common waivers you should consider adding to your registration forms.
Liability waivers significantly reduce the risk for the sports organization if players get injured during a practice or game. Since sports participation almost always includes a risk of personal injury, a waiver of liability must be acknowledged by each participant.
You might think it's common sense that parents should be aware that injuries can happen during sports, but you should still require an injury liability waiver to participate.
Most injury waivers include a basic overview of the physical activities involved in the activity and state an understanding that injuries can happen during participation.
Medical authorization forms allow a parent to provide authorization for another party to seek medical treatment for their child in their absence. Medical authorization forms are important for most youth sports programs since parents will only be available at some practices or games.
Medical authorizations may require that parents include their preferred hospital, insurance information, or an emergency contact that can be reached in case of serious injury. Coaches and other volunteers can keep this information on file during practices and games.
Photo and Video Release
To promote your sports organization you'll need to post photos of your events on your website and social media. You should have permission from parents to use their child's image on your social media channels and in marketing materials.
A photo release can be a simple statement acknowledging that your organization may use game photos, videos, or other materials on your website or social media pages to promote the organization.
High-quality photos from games, tournaments, and other events help you promote your organization in your community and attract new sponsors. Make sure to get photo releases from parents before your season!
If you don't already have a photo release, you should make sure to include:
- The setting where photos and videos may be taken
- The types of publications that photos may be published (social media, your website, promotional flyers, sports team management software, etc.)
- How parents can contact you if they want to request a photo or video be unpublished
Tips for writing a sports waiver form
Your board should write and review waiver forms during each offseason. You should review any existing waivers to make sure they are up-to-date at least once per year.
Here are a few things to consider before getting started:
- Keep your writing clear and concise. It’s important to be thorough, but you also need to make sure that the waiver can be read in just a few minutes and is easy to understand.
- Be specific. Remember to include the name of your organization, event details, and date/time if applicable.
- Include an Assumption of Risk. An assumption of risk will state that the participant acknowledges any risks involved in participating in activities with your club sports. You can include more specifics about the sports your organization plays and the associated risks.
- Include a Release of Liability. The release of liability should release your organization from liability for injuries that occur during participation in your league. You can also include specific people involved in your organization that will be released of liability - like volunteers, coaches, or referees.
- Include a Waiver of Claims. A waiver of claims requires the participants to waive their right to sue your sports organization.
After creating drafts of your waivers, you should contact an attorney to review any waivers for your organization. There may be a local attorney that can help review your waivers on a pro bono basis. Or, you can find attorneys online at a relatively low hourly rate. An attorney should be able to review your waivers in just an hour or two, and can help ensure that both your sports organization and your participants are protected.
Managing youth sports waivers online
Make all of your waivers easy to access for parents and community members. Dedicate a section of your website to important documents and agreements so parents can view them anytime.
Old school pen and paper registration required parents to print and sign documents before the season. However, online registration forms have made it much easier for parents to register and pay quickly online.
At the end of your registration form you can list each acknowledgement and require that the participant agree to the waiver before completing their registration.
All of your athletic waivers can be included in your online registration form so parents complete every requirement when they register.
The best sports website templates have the option to build waivers directly into your registration forms.
Other forms to consider
Code of Conduct
Poor behavior by parents and coaches is a common problem in youth sports. You should create a code of conduct to help reduce complaints, mistreatment of officials, and other negativity from parents and volunteers.
Codes of conduct can set clear expectations for everyone involved at your organization before your season starts. You should also include specific procedures and punishments for misbehavior to avoid disagreements during your season.
Still need to get a Code of Conduct? View our tips here: How to Create a Code of Conduct for Youth Sports
Refunds are part of the game in community or intramural sports. Families might unexpectedly move before the season, players get injured, or parents decide to sign up for other activities. However, too many refunds can have a negative impact on your organization's budget.
If your organization makes large purchases before your season (like uniforms and equipment) or has had a lot of mid-season refund requests in the past, consider creating a refund policy that protects your organization's funding.
Like other waivers and authorizations, you can require parents to read and acknowledge the youth sports refund policy at the time of registration.
Managing waivers and other acknowledgments is important to running a sports organization. Do the offseason work to ensure your league and your participants are protected. You can contact an attorney for help reviewing waivers for your board and make sure all acknowledgements are available online during registration.