Lessons: Liability issues and Where?


I Have been contacted by a Mother who wants to set up her 3 excited kids with unicycle lessons. Ages 9-14. They all have their own uni and can all ride a bit. They are interested in performing kind of stuff, and I explained that I could help with the uni skills they would need for something like that, as well as some tips on juggling.

Anyway… The family has a membership at the local YMCA. The problem is the Y wont allow an un-insured instructor to use their facilities for Lessons. I am not sure who spilled the beans first me, or the Mother… But we should have never mentioned lessons.

So my Questions are:
Does anyone know of a way out of the Liability issues? Is the Y out of the question now? Liability insurance for what I am doing should be pretty cheap, but I don’t think it will happen as quickly as myself and the kids want to get riding.

Anyone know of some other possible indoor spots that might be worth giving a try?

Having to work around weather sucks, specially in this time of year. Should I just find somewhere outdoors that I think will work? Will that be to embarrassing for the kids? I also feel that finding some back alley court wont really give the right impression to the Mother.

I am figuring most of this out on my own, just thought I would put this out there for some advice from those of you with experience and/or knowledge on the subject.


I have run into many issues like this myself - I have been an martial arts instructor for many years and have been a program director as well. This is what I would try first.

Contact the Y with a proposal of an “umbrella” type insurance; the deal would be simple - you would be an instructor for them under no payment and they would cover you for insurance - any Y student could take the class and you would be free to bring in outside parties at their own cost to you.

These arrangements are typically easier to do with a school - offering some type of weekend program etc. Also try churches, VFW’s, Rotary organizations, Free Masons, or any other community based organization. I think you’ll have a hard time with this the Y, but hey its worth a shot (you’ll also kinda screw yourself since the kids are a member and you won’t be able to get payment from them, but it is a start).

Typically the best programs I have ever run were arranged as such:

I would contact a school about a program, get payment or coverage by them and then run a 6-8 week program while accruing outside participants for further funding. After a few of these the idea really took off and summer programs were in high demand - as were day camps, etc.

If you have any problems on a legal end you’ll have to start a inc., I’m not sure of the laws where you live or the specific legal issues around this but in NY I started an incorporation for very little cost with no insurance under the agreement that the incorporation was liable - and could be sued for full cost (you would also cover the cost of a suit to the Y). This is hairy if you get larger because then you would REALLY want insurance, but I was fortunate enough when starting that I never ran into issues. I also used a lot of disclaimers and had a good lawyer advise me.

I hope this helps - PM me if you would like concerning other specific questions.

Thanks. The no insurance thing sounds a bit scary, though I am a pretty trusting an optimistic person. A wavier is enough for me(for now), but I guess just not quite enough for the Y.

The 'rents are happy to pay for these lessons, and its enough that I would have to sacrifice the nice indoor space of the Y, to stay away from the umbrella deal. I have enough plans for uni related things in my life, that going official sooner than later might be helpful. Gerrr, cant make money without money.

I just started working for a bike tour company. I might have some luck getting some outdoor ideas, that would work for lesson, from some of those guys.

You could sign up to be a USA-affiliated club; the USA has an umbrella liability policy to cover clubs.


One thing I didn’t add was that a waiver under federal law cannot protected you from a suit; you cannot take someones right away to sue - even if they sign it; its a loop whole. Most people when siging a waiver don’t realize this, but in court it wouldn’t hold up.

Again though, contact a local school, or church - church basements are typically wide, open and they are fairly accomdating. Good Luck!

this is probably your best answer, good to know!

Awesome, thanks.

there is nothing in Boston yet, and I am already a USA member.

Or if there’s no local club available, create one consisting of you, your students and any other area unicyclists you know. The insurance contact persons (Wendy Wgrzych and Hans Mills) should be able to help you with the details. USA membership is cheap, and this might be the best way to get you up and running fast. Contact them through the USA contact page:

Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel.

It’s Wendy Grzych, and her email is wgrzych “at” comcast “dot” net

It’s interesting that you face such a problem with the YMCA where you live. It is partly who you know as to how much bureaucratic red tape you face. The after school care people at a school I work for recommended me for a holiday program with the YMCA in my town. I also tried to get into Rainbow, another school holiday program for holiday employment over the christmas holidays. Both places “should” have gotten a Police check for me before hiring me, even though the schools where I work have done a Police check already and decided I’m OK to work with children. I only got paid at the YMCA and not Rainbow because YMCA hired me without waiting for a Police check. I went along voluntarily to Rainbow anyway because I felt it would be a shame for all those unicycles to go to waste. I don’t have any insurance- not even for my unicycles, even though I’ve had several stolen over the years.

I can relate to the weather problem. One of the schools where I work allows me to teach in the School hall and the other one does not, after a girl broke her arm in two places while learning to ride. The principal said she had to act to satisfy the board of trustees, but I don’t think the action was justified- as all rugby feilds are not closed after someone breaks their back or neck at school, and it is fairly common knowledge that halls are quite safe to ride in.

I’ve done some lessons after school for some kids very similar to how you describe, except that I had good weather and we did our lessons outside at a local school, with permission from the Principal. I think you shouldn’t worry too much about the mothers attitude towards your selection of places to ride, as long as you find somewhere suited for learning- flat and smooth, with a wall or rail to lean on. If possible do it where there are not too many people because some learners get embarrassed or distracted easily at first.

You could possibly teach them outside or near their home, showing them places they can practise when you are not there to help.

Tell me about it! Keep persevering- what you are teaching is a valuable skill and when you have many successful students you will know it is all worth it, regardless of how much money is made. The world is out of balance and we need to give children the tools to learn balance, so they recognise imbalances and correct them throughout their lives.

To avoid all accidents, you would wrap the student in bubble wrap, shin, knee and elbow pads, body armour and full face helmets, and have an ambulance waiting on standby. This is not practical or cost effective so what I do is teach children how to land on their feet and I carry plasters, spray bandage, cold spray and sunscreen. Next I plan to get some sterile wipes to clean wounds before I put a plaster on them cos that is something I haven’t got around to yet. I’ve been fairly lucky that parents seem to understand that getting slightly hurt is part of learning physical things.

I also suggest you do what John said and start a club if you don’t already have one, because a lot of the kids who aren’t motivated enough to learn by themselves need some sort of group or inspiration to keep it fun. A lot of my old students have been keen as at school and buy their own unicycle, but stop riding when most of their peers are not doing it. So the club idea is not just for insurance but it can also help insure some riders keep riding!