Legal issues & sports: What’s new, what’s old, and what you need to know

by Mary Angela Shaughnessy, SCN, J.D., Ph.D.
Dean, School of Graduate Studies, St. Catharine College


Neumann University looks forward to hosting the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Soul of Youth Sport Conference from June 15 – 17. Here, Sr. Mary Angela Shaughnessy previews her conference presentation on current legal issues in sports by offering 10 ideas that may not be as simple as they first appear.


No one can deny that sports have occupied a treasured place in Catholic schools.  From the earliest days when students played with makeshift equipment to today when athletics may well claim the largest share of the non-academic school budget, sports have helped young people develop skills for a lifetime as well as athletic prowess.  From the 1800s until about 1970 few Catholic school educators gave legal issues much thought.  Of course, safety has always been important, but a parent’s first thought if a child got hurt or didn’t make the cut was not to hire an attorney or to file a lawsuit.  Today, such thoughts are often a parent’s first ones.  As we have become an ever increasing litigious country, lawsuits increase and insurance costs rise.

How would you mark these statements—true or false?

1.        The laws governing athletic participation in Catholic schools are not identical to those affecting participation in public schools.

2.       Athletes can never be left unsupervised.

3.       Coaches must keep student confidences.

4.       Disciplinary infractions should not result in athletic penalties.

5.       Every student has a right to play sports.

6.       Coaches and trainers can administer over the counter medication.

7.       Coaches should befriend team members on social media.

8.       Most bullying of athletes occurs online.

9.       If a student has a doctor’s clearance to play, he/she must be allowed to play.

10.   Alcohol and drug use are considered medical issues, not disciplinary incidents.

If you find yourself wondering about the correctness of your answers, you may wish to attend this session at the Soul of Youth Sport conference June 15-17.  Legal issues are not always as simple as they may seem at first glance.
2014 soul of youth sport conference

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One response to “Legal issues & sports: What’s new, what’s old, and what you need to know

  1. I am an assistant rugby coach at Neumann University. I began playing rugby at the age of twenty in 1978.
    The sportsmanship of the game, despite its onfield intensity, was one of reasons I came to love the game.
    Seeing players develop a love of the game is my first and most important jobs I have as a coach.It is also the most enjoyable part of coaching when successful.
    I do not measure success in wins and losses. I measure it in how many players continue to play after moving on.It was my philosophy as a youth league director. You see how successful you are by how many kids sign up to play again next year.
    I wish more organizations would stress this
    simple concept.
    Please try and view the sports documentary film the Sixteenth man(on you tube).It is about Nelson Mandela and the South Africa rugby team.Just another reason why rugby is the greatest game in the world and why rugby is a PERFECT fit for the Neumann mission.

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