Today, there is a proliferation of sports camps and clinics in our country. In every sport, there are a multitude of choices of these events with varying promises and benefits for the attendees. Some promise the best instructors, others promise the opportunity to be scouted by colleges, and some are high-end, invite-only events for blue chip recruits and professional athletes. On the flip side, high-level athletes have the opportunity to participate as instructors or owners with varying degrees of benefits and risks. For example, if someone goes to somewhere like Brookwood Camps, then they might be lucky enough to be coached by the one and only Charles Oakley. That’s a great incentive to get your kids to go into a summer camp, particularly if they enjoy sports.
Regardless of the sport, athletes can get a nice return or have their name dragged through the mud depending on what transpires at these short-term sports assemblies. The devil is in the details and setup for each day long camp or clinic lasting more than a month can cause your star athlete may lose reputational yardage if the details are not understood.
Many athletes participated in camps and clinics growing up and believe (as do some agents and managers) creating, instructing, or lending their name to these events is a quick and easy way to make some money while giving back to the community with little risk. However, good athlete lawyers understand there are more traps with these events than the NHL Playoffs.
Athletes have a number of motives for putting on camps and clinics. Some look to score easy money, others want to develop skills in younger athletes, many use them as an opportunity to give back to the community, and others are required to do so under a term in their contract with a sponsor or team. Regardless of motive, professional and high-level amateur athletes need to have lawyers familiar with the legal playbook to keep athletes protected in these endeavors.
Camp’s Legal Entity
The legal entity of the camp or clinic is a foundation that should be reviewed carefully. A camp/clinic is a legal entity like any other. Regardless of the purpose for the event the athlete should be protected as best as possible. This means the legal entity, insurance, and waivers for attendees should cover your athlete client from holding the bat if a judge calls the clinic out for an injury or loss of some kind by an attendee.
Advertising may end the camp game before it begins. Athletes will likely not have free reign to use team logos in advertisements, and photographs of the athlete may contain some copyright protections. While this issue can regularly be negotiated without cost with the athletes’ team and an alternative solution may be agreed to, this can slam the breaks on a clinic during the critical time of promoting the event.
The contract entered into with attendees or their guardians will effect your athlete client’s reputation. If the terms are clear, concise, reasonable, and accurate for what the camp will offer, then afterward those who attended the event will walk away with a positive association with the star athlete that may lead to future opportunities.
Camp Management and Instruction
A well-run camp/clinic will promote the athlete through its function. If attendees are provided with a schedule, quality instructors, and consistent instruction, attendees and their families will have positive feelings about the camp/clinic as well as for your client. This will help boost attendance at future similar events involving your athlete client, and can provide some additional benefits when your athlete client is looking for the post-athletics career.
The facilities are one of the most important visual aids of the entire venture. A clinic held in a rundown sandlot with taught by hall of famers will likely be held in lower regard than a clinic held in Dodger Stadium with low level instructors. The lease agreement with the venue is crucial to provide an adequate and appropriate location for the event and also provide a visual reminder of the quality of the camp.
Regardless of the motive your athlete client has when creating or participating in a camp or clinic, several protections should be sought to make sure your athlete is protected in any camp or clinic he/she participates:
Be on the Defensive. Get your athlete insulated from legal liability as much as possible. Have the legal entity in another person’s name, liability held by the other person in a partnership agreement, and have your athlete client named as an additional insured on all insurance policies.
Speed is a Tool Best Utilized On the Field. If your athlete client wants a camp/clinic set up quickly, you may need to damper their expectations. Even a three-day clinic should be viewed as a business venture (regardless of the potential financial profit) rather than a recreational activity.
Script Your Plays. Defining a set curriculum, making sure the instructors understand the curriculum and time constraints, and defining where each drill is to take place may not seem like lawyerly tasks but these will decrease the chances of having unhappy customers and limit the risk of accidents and injuries.
Know Your Teammates. Determine and hire the proper staff, vendors, facilities, and proper equipment for the quality your client is looking to achieve. Higher skilled participants will likely require better facilities, instruction, and visibility. It also opens the door to valuable sponsorship opportunities.
Veteran Leadership. While an agent or business manager may have you join the team after much of the setup has been put in place, take charge and ensure the event maximizes the return your client is looking for and limits the risk.