Sport Law & Strategy Group Shares Helpful Tips During COVID-19 – Update 8

Published May 14, 2020

The SLSG is hosting weekly “Conversation Matters: You Ask, We Share” where we spend an hour with sport leaders from across the country sharing information and responding to questions on employment, insurance, leadership, financial management, grief management, and other matters related to managing through COVID-19. The free, online drop-in session hosted by SLSG Partners Steve Indig and Dina Bell-Laroche will remain flexible, based on your questions, and hopefully leave sport leaders feeling informed and inspired to put in place measures to deal with the stuff that is  keeping you up at night. As needed, we are also inviting members from our team or other thought leaders who can help sport leaders make better decisions. Thanks to LJ Bartle for joining us as we discussed ways we could re-imagine sport. Here is what we shared during the session:

  • Steve reminded us that it is critical to attend to the legal requirements as we look ahead to what our Return to Play, or more appropriately, our Return to Practice plans will be. Inspired by the words and music of John Lennon’s Imagine, ensure that your organization is preparing possible scenarios so that can more intentionally prepare for the re-opening of your business. Review and update your risk management plans and ensure you are including meeting insurance and facilities requirements. In addition, the mindset needs to shift as we need to recognize this is not ‘business as usual’ so in what ways can we prepare and anticipate the possible variables? Finally, some of the practical considerations raised by Steve included:
    • Review how assumption of risk agreements, waivers and declaration can be updated to reflect emergent business standards and the values that your organization stands for;
    • Have a conversation with your insurance provider;
    • Stay updated on industry trends and funding expectations;
    • Consider risk management strategies relating an ‘exclusion’ due to contagion in your insurance policies;
    • Learn from what other sports are doing and start there as they are setting what will become the expected standard;
    • Be clear on your standard of care – meeting minimum legal requirements while reflecting your moral obligations.
  • Inspired by her most recent blog on Re-Imaging Sport, Dina invited people to consider the mental health of administrators, volunteers, athletes, coaches, officials … all the people that come to sport as a way to connect, contribute, be inspired and inspiring. The mental health support that is currently accessible in sport is insufficient by far to meet the growing needs. People are inundating crisis hotlines and the load on society, let alone sport, will be insufficient to fully meet the need that we are predicting will be part of the aftermath of COVID-19. The impact of our individual and collective losses is unfathomable. So, what might be some of the ways we intentionally design a Return To Strategy that is human-centered, achievable, inspiring, inclusive and realistic? Some ideas include:
    • Invest in a professional/ leadership development budget that highlights your organization’s deep commitment to your employees. Make leadership coaches available to your staff to help them resolve conflict, work on building different capabilities, manage anxiety, and help them balance what might be competing priorities. Other sectors promote a coaching culture to support their employees in achieving their full potential – why not sport?
    • Anticipate interpersonal tension and normalize it. When you have high performing people working together under tight deadlines and who hold a difference of opinion, you are going to get tension. In fact, we would suggest you welcome the tension as this is the sweet spot where innovation and difference collide. The alternative is to bury our heads in the sand, hope it goes away, and wait for the spike in complaints, that we at the SLSG are already seeing. With multi generations working together who share different values, we see this increasing, not decreasing … and in light of new commitments to Safe Sport, what might be some of the proactive measures we can take to equip our brightest people with the skills and tools they need to work better, together? One way to mitigate this is to offer culture building activities that are supported by individual development work through psychometric tools like the EQ-I and the NOVA Profile and through Integral CoachingTM.
    • The SLSG has Integral CoachesTM that are also trained in grief and loss work, holding the space for people to grieve their losses while hoping for a better way. We believe that we need to prepare for the number of people who will return depleted, grief-struck, and ill equipped to clean up the mess that has been created by COVID-19. Our belief is that what got us here is not what we will need to get us there … and sport will be faced with even more restrictions than other sectors. In what ways can we plan for our Return To Sport with skill and compassion? Inviting your employees and key volunteers to hold the space for this conversation is a good place to start. We invite you to take in this poem by David Whyte who invites us to begin by taking a deep breath, and focus ‘Just Beyond Yourself.’ 
  • LJ Bartle invited us to review and participate in shaping the Return to Sport protocols which will likely become Return to Activity protocols since some sport as we know it may not return for some time. Using strategies, theories and ideas that are being discussed in Canada and around the world, we are encouraging our leaders to consider that our return to ought to be something different … it ought to be a re-imagining and not a ‘let’s go back to what we used to be’. On so many levels this makes sense … our systems, structures, mindsets, values, and disparities are evidence that what we had is no longer sufficient or the desirable path forward.
    • LJ spoke about the opportunities that await those who embrace a new Return to Activity mindset such as new collaborations that could turn sports that are used to operating in a silo into multi-sport activity hubs. She highlighted others who are already envisioning how they can adapt their sport into one that meets physical distancing guidelines by thinking beyond their sport and about partnering with others to share expertise.
    • Instead of focusing on COVID-10 only protocols, LJ encouraged everyone to take a holistic approach.  For example, expanding concussion return to play into ‘Injury and Illness’ systems of prevention and management.  And then once you have returned to your new normal, prepare your systems for the eventual situation of COVID-19 exposure to a group of athletes. Don’t wait until it happens to figure out how you will manage it. Discuss with others who will be affected by it including your athletes, come to a realistic consensus and then communicate this rationale and process to everyone involved. Keep the lines of communication open and transparent.  You don’t have to have all the answers now.  But start asking the questions.
    • Most importantly, LJ reminded participants, when re-imagining your organization’s future, think about why you are doing it instead of what you are doing.  That will make all the difference.

You can access previous webinars or join our next Conversation Matters: You Ask, We Share! on May 27 at 2:00 PM EST where we will share some of our thoughts on how to prepare for the return to play and return to work. What are some of the current ways you are working that you might want to keep? What are the expected safety standards that we need to apply? What are others doing? What are the legal requirements and moral obligations? In what ways can we re-imagine sport and some of the systems and structures that may no longer be serving us?

Flow: Each conversation will begin with the SLSG Partners welcoming everyone and offering a few comments on something topical that is affecting the sport community. We will then move into providing listeners with an opportunity to ask a question or share a perspective that they would like some advice on. Dina and Steve will create a safe and engaging environment for the listeners to address some very specific topics that will most certainly benefit the entire group.

The Sport Law & Strategy Group has been providing strategic insight to the Canadian sport community since 1992. We offer a full range of management consulting, leadership development and legal services to the Canadian sport community. We are accessible, affordable, highly skilled, and we bring experience and common sense to every project. Our mission is to help you achieve yours. To learn more about us please visit

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