The Role of Loss Prevention at the McDonald’s All American Games

Editor’s Note: As LP Magazine looks back at some of its most popular articles from 2015, we see once more the diverse challenges and opportunities that can be presented by a loss prevention role—outside of the traditional LP responsibilities in a retail or restaurant environment.

Loss prevention is a profession that has traditionally been built upon a foundation of safety, security, protection, and support. Regardless of the specific duties, our role is typically invisible when managed correctly. But that doesn’t mean that our responsibilities are any less crucial to a particular program, initiative, or event. On some occasions we are also granted those opportunities when our responsibilities can be critically important, but also rewarding in ways beyond what we might expect. On other occasions, it might prove to be fun as well.

While March Madness may bask in the spotlight every spring, we don’t want to lose sight of our high school prep athletes, as their stars are shining brightly as well at an exciting event that puts their talents front and center. LP Magazine recently had a conversation with McDonald’s Regional Security Manager Daniel Thomas about the McDonald’s All American Games and the role that the loss prevention team has in the success of this annual event.

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What are the McDonald’s All-American Games?

The McDonald’s All American Games is a premier high school basketball event drawing in the top boys’ and girls’ high school basketball players from around the country. Featuring student athletes in their senior year of high school, each team plays a single exhibition game after the conclusion of the high school basketball season in an East vs. West format.

As part of the annual event, boys also compete in a slam dunk contest, a three-point shooting competition, and an overall timed skills competition. The girls take part in the three-point shooting competition as well as the overall skills competition. The boys’ game has been contested annually since 1978, and the girl’s game has been played each year since it was added in 2002.

Some of the NBA’s top players and Hall of Famers have participated in the games as high school seniors, including Michael Jordan, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Carmello Anthony; as well as WNBA stars Seimone Augustus and Candace Parker. It is a special event for all of these young men and women, and a glimpse at the potential talent that will grace the courts for years to come.

What makes this event even more special is that all benefits from the games go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, whose mission is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well being of children. That support may involve providing housing near a hospitalized child, covering the expense of staying together in another city, providing basic medical and dental care in a vulnerable community, or championing any number of related projects that support children and their families.

How are players selected?

The initial list of potential names is gathered by Sports America, Inc., which has worked with the McDonald’s All American Game since it was founded in 1978. Names are submitted by members of the Selection Committee as well as state representatives who religiously follow the prep scene in their areas. In addition, Sports America subscribes to every major basketball publication and is read carefully by its staff to ensure that deserving players are not overlooked. While there is no set number of players that can be nominated, the final total is traditionally between 1,500-1,800 boys and 900-1,200 girls.

The staff of Sports America then contacts the player’s high school to confirm with the coach or athletic director that the nominee is an eligible senior in good academic standing. Sports America also asks the coach if there are other seniors on his team that he or she feels deserve a nomination. A consensus list of the top 125 players will then be sent to the Selection Committee, where the ballot may grow to nearly 150 names after initial evaluations.

A Selection Committee comprised of the nation’s most knowledgeable high school analysts, prep scouts, high school newspaper reporters and prestigious basketball coaches then takes on the daunting task of determining the final rosters. The committee is chaired by Coach Morgan Wootten of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Coach Wootten has over 1,200 career victories and has won five national high school championships.

When the ballots are returned to Sports America in mid-January, the votes are tallied and the Top 100 vote-getters are considered McDonald’s All American Finalists for that year. The list of Top 100 Finalists is revealed to the public in early February.

The top 100 finalists are then subject to further evaluation, and a diligent series of voting sessions take place to narrow the field to two point guards, two shooting guards, two small forwards, two power forwards and two centers with the players divided onto East and West teams and by position to create the final rosters. The process is designed to ensure that equal representation is coming from around the country and for each position. The Selection Committee Chairman also has the option to add additional players if it is determined that it is warranted for the overall good of the game.

While players are divided based on relative geographical location, no specific line determines the East / West breakdown. Assigning players to the East or West team may also be subject to player positions to balance rosters and distribute players by position on each team. Typically, at least 90 percent of the players will fall in their appropriate region, but McDonald’s also wants to have the best players in the nation represented in the game and field a competitive event.

What role does the McDonald’s loss prevention team play?

The McDonald’s US and global security departments partner with internal and external stakeholders to include marketing, media, legal and operations; collaborating to develop a comprehensive security plan that is executed by McDonald’s regional security managers. The primary objective is to ensure the event is carried out without incident by reducing the risk for any major interruptions, delays, or safety concerns.

Loss prevention professionals are responsible for ensuring the safety of the players, guests, volunteers, staff, and all of the various participants involved in the event during game week. The security planning process starts four to six months in advance to ensure that every element is considered and to allow for any last-minute changes.

How is the loss prevention team involved in the safety and security of the players?

The loss prevention team’s number one priority is to ensure that the players are escorted safely to the different events scheduled during a five-day game week, leading up to and including the actual game. We complete a security orientation session with the players and coaches upon arrival and during the welcoming dinner. We will also outsource several security staff resources and professionals, to include both law enforcement and contracted companies to perform specific protective assignments depending on the venue in order to meet the desired level of security for the location.

Resources are assigned to specific safety and security tasks to ensure continuity of services, prevention, and mitigation in the event that either an accident or other emergency incident should take place. The security plan is fully developed and tailored towards prevention; but also includes response protocols to for crisis management or out-of-our-reach situations.

How does the loss prevention team prepare?

McDonald’s Meetings and Events Security Manager Cory Keith and I, under the direction of McDonald’s VP of Global Safety and Security Michael Peaster, attend several calibration meetings and conduct numerous off-site visits to the different venues, months in advance and prior to the week of the games. The objective is to assess security concerns and understand event-associated risks. Based on the information collected from our advance work, event agenda and venues, we then develop a security plan which details security strategies and solutions that mitigate risk. The security plan will include but is not limited to:

• Hotel safety, security and associated risks
• Venue safety and security and associated risks, advantages and challenges
• Vetted and secured transportation throughout the event
• All external functions such safety and security planning for: restaurant visits, hospital visits, etc.
• Practice facilities security and protection (safety, security, access controls, athlete’s escorts, etc.)
• Special functions safety and security such as: Media day, Ronald McDonald House Charities visits, etc.
• Supplemental medical services as needed for selected venues
• Security for male and female players, attendees and volunteers for all games sessions, etc.

We partner with additional security managers and security resources to execute the plan. The comprehensive strategy is shared with stakeholders and discussed with law enforcement and other support security organizations. We prepare assignment instructions for each position and post to ensure that everyone supporting the plan will have the necessary information to effectively discharge their duties.

We also “inspect what we expect.” Throughout the week, key stakeholders continuously meet with security to calibrate and adjust the security plan to identify and resolve challenges and opportunities. This plan is not written in stone, but rather is considered a living document that is adjusted before, during and even after the games. We collect best practices, lessons learned, and also recommendations on each and every game.

What are some of the primary safety/security concerns?

Many concerns focus on providing secure transportation, safe housing, enforcing athlete’s security through accountability to include room checks, preventing injuries, and preparing to address the unknown or unseen risks. However, the majority of our time and energy is centered on using resources and strategies that allow us to know the players’ whereabouts twenty-four hours a day.

Contingency plans intended to prevent and effectively address any potential emergency situations in a timely manner is an ongoing loss prevention mission. We want to have strategies in place to address emergencies such as fires or related incidents; as well as immediate professional response plans in the event of an injury. As part of our duties, we ensure that the players have the necessary knowledge and are trained on what to do to prevent and handle emergencies.

What do you find most rewarding about being involved in events like this?

It’s rewarding to watch the players give one hundred percent of their special gifts on the court during the different practices sessions and while participating in the games. Knowing that our organization has been able to positively influence these young men and women and provide a stage for many of today’s prospects and tomorrow’s stars as they begin their journey is a rewarding feeling.

But it’s equally, if not more rewarding, to see these young athletes engage with the children and their families at the Ronald McDonald House. Bringing a smile and a message of hope to kids and their families as they are facing personal challenges and hard times is second to none. It makes all of the hard work worthwhile.

Game Results

College basketball’s future lady stars took the court first April 1st with the East Girls defeating the West Girls 89-87 in what would be an entertaining game throughout. Notre Dame commit Marina Mabrey led the West Girls with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals while Lady Vols commit Te’a Omari Cooper led the East Girls with 21 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals en route to winning the game Co Most Valuable Player Award.

Once again, the boy’s 2015 game did not disappoint, with the East squad triumphing over the West squad 111-91 at the United Center in Chicago. Uncommitted prep star Cheick Diallo took home the game’s MVP award as fans got an early look at basketball’s next generation of potential stars, which also featured strong performances from Brandon Ingram, Antonio Blakeney, and the nation’s top overall recruit Ben Simmons.