PoA #017: Complaints Happen, Are You Ready?

PoA #017: Complaints Happen, Are You Ready?

No matter how sound your management and leadership practices are, things happen. With hundreds of student-athletes participating each year, it’s inevitable that some will have concerns, complaints or issues they will express to the Athletics Director (or higher authority).

So what do you do? Do you have a plan in place? Are there policies or procedures that clearly define your course of action?


If not, it’s worth the time investment to establish a plan for dealing with complaints.

Source of complaints
  • Student-athletes
  • Parents of student-athletes
  • Fans, spectators

Common Situations from Student-Athletes

  • Conflict with their coach. Usually about playing time or role on the team, but also can be about treatment, communication or alleged abuse.
  • Season or year-end evaluations/assessments might reveal potentially serious allegations… but these are usually anonymous. What now?
  • In-person meeting at the request of student-athletes. Good idea to be open, but SA’s often feel uncomfortable and fear retaliation if/when their coach finds out

Common Situations from Parents

  • It’s never about playing time, but it’s almost always about playing time.
  • Communication with head coach, or lack thereof.
  • Safety or risk concerns related to transportation, accommodations or meals.

Common Situations from Fans, Spectators

  • Students were rude, vulgar or otherwise inappropriate
  • Staff customer service (ticketing, concessions, merchandise) was poor.
  • General cleanliness of facilities.

Prepare for these situations

  • Establish a policy and procedure related to speaking with student-athletes and parents about playing time/role on team. Up to the coach and support him/her.
  • If action on your part is required, define what that looks like, who will be involved and a timeline for action and resolution.
  • Determine the criteria for engaging outside sources to conduct inquiries or investigations. Cleaner, safer for student-athletes, objective opinions and observations.
  • Establish regular, systematic process for collecting feedback from student-athletes and fans/spectators (but not parents!).

What to do when situations arise

  1. Assess the level of credibility and risk
    Are there serious allegations of abuse, safety or unethical/unprofessional behavior?
  2. Do you need to engage outside counsel?
    Serious allegations require an outside, objective person that offers a layer of protection for both sides of the issue.
  3. Internal inquiry or investigation should be quick, thorough and provide resolution.
    Hopefully, swift action remedies the situation and leaves a legacy so that it does not repeat.

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Mark Majeski founded Majeski Athletic Consulting in 2011 after spending more than two decades working in small college athletics.


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