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3 Tips for Sports Safety

by Ronald A. Rowe | February 26th, 2014 | Elementary

kids soccerIt is a mystery as old as organized youth sports. How do we keep our kids safe when we turn them over to a coach whose goal it is to mold them into peak athletes capable of beating the kids on some other coach’s team? My lovely wife’s initial plan of wrapping our children in bubble wrap until they turn 18 wasn’t exactly practical. So short of that, what can we can do to minimize the risk of sports-related injury?

Most kids hate pre-practice stretching because it is boring and it is the only thing standing between them and the activity that they came to practice for. The truth is, most coaches hate pre-practice stretching, too. That’s why so many of them give only cursory attention to it before jumping into drills. It cuts into practice time. And Coach Jones’ team needs all the practice time it can get because he does NOT want to lose out to that smug Coach Smith again this year. But proper stretching is crucial to the long-term safety of young athletes. As nimble as elementary-age kids are – and as indestructible as they think they are – they are not immune to pulled or torn muscles, cramps, and all manner of sprain. Plus, good habits learned today are good habits practiced in the teen years and beyond when they become ever more susceptible to that type of injury.

When I was a kid I rode my bicycle over all sorts of terrain and never even thought about wearing a helmet. Things have changed a lot since then. (Insert your own old joke here.) Today riding a bike or skateboarding requires a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. The fact that safety equipment is more socially acceptable today than it was a generation ago makes it easier to get your child to wear the proper protection. Don’t skimp. Make sure that you know what is the recommended gear for the particular activity and enforce its use with your child. If you follow the guidelines for your child’s age and activity he or she will be well protected, and you can be almost certain that other parents will be following and enforcing the same, so the whole “but Johnny’s mom lets him…” argument will carry even less weight than usual.

Get Involved
You cannot control what the team’s coach does or how diligent he is about safety issues … unless you are he (or she). If you have the knowledge and time, jump in and volunteer to coach. I have been involved in many different youth sports leagues over the years and one thing that remains constant regardless of sport, age group, or location is that none of them would ever say “no” to getting some additional volunteers. If you aren’t qualified to coach, sign up to be an assistant. That job generally requires just being there and following the head coach’s lead. Head Coach, Assistant Coach, Team Mom , Assistant to the Assistant Team Mom – whatever you can do will be appreciated by the league and earn you some additional influence over the safety of your elementary student-athlete.

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