Sports coaches don’t always have the world’s happiest job. Every coach from the New England Patriots down to the Bullamakanka Netball Club gets castigated by supporters when the team fails to win. And when things go really bad off the sporting field, every decision that lead there may be scrutinised as well.
On 27 December 2014 Kristen Galuardi, a pupil of Trumbull High School in Connecticutt, was engaged in a practice at the Fairfield Gymnastics and Cheerleading Academy. It was alleged that the team’s director made two critical decisions in setting up the training. First, one of the team was permitted to train in socks without shoes. Second, the team were practising without spotters. When Galuardi was thrown into the air, her team-mates attempted to catch her. The team-mate wearing socks slipped and Galuardi hit the floor, suffering injuries. She lost consciousness, but (it was alleged) the manager declined to seek medical assistance for her.
Galuardi sued for her injuries. The case settled at the door of the Court for an undisclosed sum. It is always difficult to draw lessons from a case that resolves by agreement rather than judgment; nevertheless, a few points can be made –
The fact that an activity is sporting rather than (say) work-related does not reduce the standard of care on administrators: Wilson v O’Gorman High School (2008).
Coaches should not increase the risks inherent in sports participation, at least outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in teaching or coaching the sport: Honeycutt v Meridian Sports Club LLC (2014).
Catchwords: New South Wales – sports coach – indecent assault on a girl under 16 years – grooming – appeal – sentence
Facts: The defendant was a 25 year old sporting coach from a small community in the Riverina. In 2013 he committed a number of offences in relation to a 14 year old girl. It appears the victim was known to him in their community but not part of the sports team he coached. Over a period of some months he sent her a number of sexually explicit text messages and suggested both sexual activity and developing a relationship. On two occasions he touched her in a sexual manner. He was charged with indecent assault on a girl under 16 years (Crimes Act 1900, §61L), and with grooming (Crimes Act 1900, §66EB).
The NSW Local Court (Magistrate Greenwood) noted the impact of the offences on the victim, including her loss of reputation and feeling judged and blamed. A pre-sentence report indicated that the offender had little insight or remorse into his offending. He was sentenced at first instance to 20 months imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 15 months: R v Unidentified Sports Coach (2014), Border Mail, 15 July 2014, p.__. The defendant appealed against the severity of the sentence.
Held: allowing the appeal, that the defendant had extensive support from his family and community. A variation of the penalty was considered to have the potential to continue the defendants efforts at rehabilitation. The sentences imposed by Magistrate Greenwood were converted to suspended sentences.
No written judgment is available. The report prepared based on the account in the Border Mail (Albury Wodonga), 3 December 2014, p.3.