What Sports Waivers Should I Have Parents Sign for My Youth Sports League?
By Melissa Wickes
May 4, 2023
Without the right sports waivers, you run the risk of getting your organization into serious legal trouble—and that’s the last thing you want as a youth sports organizer.
After all, there have been countless cases when waivers have protected a lawsuit from being successful and saved an organization a lot of money. In the case of Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, parents sued the club because a goal post fell backwards on their son while he was swinging on it. The sports waiver they signed protected the soccer club from liability in the incident.
But before you go waiver crazy, remember that in some states, waivers are unenforceable—like in Iowa where the Supreme Court holds that the public policy of protecting children from irresponsible actions of parents precludes the enforcement of pre-injury waivers signed by parents on behalf of their kids (Galloway v. State). When dealing with hefty responsibilities like a child’s potential injury, always have legal guidance.
The good news is, LeagueApps allows you to include, track, and store waivers in your registration process—serving as an in-your-face reminder to parents that they need to sign them to enroll their child in the program. Learn more about that process here.
So, what is a waiver? It’s an agreement between two parties where one party “waives” legal rights—so in the case of a sports waiver, parents are agreeing that the youth sports organization waives legal liability related to injuries suffered by their child. Sports waivers reduce your organization’s risk in case of an injury during practice or a game. Let’s discuss the different types of waivers you should consider incorporating in your registration forms:
Injury Liability Waivers
Perhaps the most important waiver you will have parents sign is the injury liability waiver. These can help protect your organization if a child gets hurt while playing in practice or a game associated with your organization.
While you can use a waiver template as a guide or for suggestions, you should ideally avoid using it for your final document, and never finalize a waiver without consulting an attorney, David L. Mair and Melanie L. Herman suggest in “Playing To Win—A Risk Management Guide for Nonprofit Sports and Recreation Programs.” Follow these general guidelines from the book when writing a waiver:
- Make the text easy-to-read, with language that’s easy to understand—a waiver is only enforceable if the language is clear and simple enough for any parent or participant to understand. In some states, there are text size and font requirements for waivers.
- The waiver should be a standalone document
- Clearly state what the waiver is in the title, for example: Soccer League Athletic Waiver and Release of Liability; Lacrosse League Release and Waiver of Liability and Indemnity Agreement; Participant Waiver and Release of Liability, Ssumption of Risk and Indemnity Agreement
- Warn the signer of the risks being accepted
- Provide a clear description of the potential risks associated with the activity
- A parent or legal guardian should sign the waiver if the participant is under 18-years-old. Ideally, both parents should sign the waiver, especially in the case of custodial issues).*
- Specify the parties to which the waiver applies
- Give participants, parents, and volunteers time to review a waiver and ask any questions
- If your program includes skill progression, consider a new waiver that outlines new potential risks when the athlete progresses
- If the athlete is exposed to new risks by way of a new program, a new waiver should be signed
- Waiver should be reviewed with your attorney annually, and then again by participants, parents, and volunteers
- Waivers should be retained in accordance with state and local jurisdiction guidelines
*Note: Some states do not consider waivers or releases valid unless signed by both parents, so consult with legal counsel.
Parents can’t attend every game or practice, as hard as they may try to (and as much as they may want to!). This form allows a parent to authorize another party—like a coach—to seek medical treatment for their child in their absence. These forms may include a parent’s preferred hospital, insurance information, or an emergency contact that can be reached in case of a serious injury. Forms like this can allow a coach (or whomever is listed on the form) to make the best medical decision possible in the moment in the event of an injury, getting the child the right help as soon as possible.
If you want to learn more about risk management in youth sports, download this free risk management guide.
Photo and Video Releases
Your customers live online, and to grow your organization (and even engage existing customers), you need to be marketing your organization online with pictures of your events on your website and social media. To avoid any uncomfortable conversations, and even legal trouble, you need to ensure you have permission from parents to use their child’s image on your social media channels and in marketing materials.
A photo release should acknowledge that your organization can use game photos, videos, and other materials on your website and social media pages to promote your organization. Some other things you’ll want to include in the photo release are:
- Where photos and videos may be taken
- The kinds of media the photos may be published on (social, your website, email marketing, brochures, flyers, etc.)
- How parents can contact you to request removal of a photo or video
Sports Waiver Key Clauses
You can use a sports waiver template to get started with writing a waiver, but you’ll want to make sure whatever template you use includes the following key clauses.
- Definition of Activity
- Limitation of Liability
- Relationship of the Parties
- Assumption of Risk
Don’t forget to have your waivers looked over by legal counsel!