2018 RIMS

Risk Management Tips for Sports Organizations

Sports risk management faces a different kind of challenge — especially if the team is well-known and successful.
By: | April 13, 2018 • 2 min read
Topics: RIMS | Risk Management

Want to help your team win off the field as well as on? Then invest in your risk management program, said Monica Rusch, senior director, risk management of the Houston Astros. At a RIMS 2018 presentation on April 18, the 29-year veteran of the baseball organization, along with Tamara D. Bruno, counsel from Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman LLP, offered attendees practical and tested tips for mitigating ever present risks.


When teams win big, everyone from the players to the fans to the front office is thrilled. But the bigger the win —  think World Series champs — the bigger the risks, especially to players.

“There is increased player recognition. Everyone wants to be near the players. Everyone wants to get close to them,” Rusch said. “Even the lesser known players become well known. It’s a new risk every time we get to another level.”

The coveted World Series rings are worn with pride by the players and other members of the organization, but these, too, present a new risk, Rusch said. Safety and theft become additional risks.

“Everyone wants to be near the players. Everyone wants to get close to them. Even the lesser known players become well known. It’s a new risk every time we get to another level.” — Monica Rusch, senior director, risk management of the Houston Astros

But your sports organization doesn’t need to be world champs to be exposed to risk. No two games are exactly alike, so risk varies for each game. An organization’s risk mitigation strategic and tactics need to be tailored. Bruno described how a game between a Texas rivalry called for more security, a closer watch on attendance and other strategies to mitigate risk, above and beyond what is needed for a “less emotional” match-up.

The key to being effective is conducting ongoing training and communication effectively. Training can be taught or self-paced through online training. It teaches best practices and documents your organizations’ efforts should an incident occur. And communication involves constant dialogue with all team members — and a lot of listen in addition to providing information.


Also crucial is having written policies, procedures and consequences. These also document your organization’s efforts. Rusch joked that when anyone leaves their keys in their golf cart and walks away, they know to look for the keys in her office — and they know they’ll be directed to re-take their safety training.

Risks are everywhere and good risk managers are always listening, looking and anticipating those risks. From spectators getting hit with foul balls to stadium slip and falls to player collisions, a good risk manager has a plan in mind to prevent and mitigate risks whenever possible and deal with the aftermath when something does happen. &

Mercedes Ott is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.


But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.


Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &


Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]