10 Questions to Ask Before Your Child Plays Sports
This concrete electrical box, within 1-foot of the field of play, was immediately reported to the school by a concerned parent. It should be padded for player safety.
With children starting back to school and participating in demanding sports programs, it’s important to be your child’s advocate for injury prevention. The best way to do so is to take the initiative right from the beginning. Find a way to get involved with the team. Join the booster group or start a group of team moms. If you don’t have time for that, then at least take a moment to talk to the coaching staff and observe a few practices, even if you have to do so from a parked car.
By asking the coaching staff pertinent questions, you will understand their philosophy concerning your child’s safety through the school year, and it will give you peace of mind. No one is a better advocate for your child than you. Here are a few questions worth asking that might be important to you:
Who is trained to handle a medical emergency? Are they on the field at every practice, or in an office across campus?
Is the coaching staff trained to recognize heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or a concussion? Has the coach talked to the players about health issues and reviewed how to recognize them?
Is there an emergency action plan, equipment, and supplies? Is there an onsite defibrillator in case of sudden cardiac arrest? If so, where is the equipment and what is the plan?
Has the coaching staff informed the team about an open-door policy to report health or other concerns?
How often are water breaks? Are the breaks increased on days with high temperatures? Does the school have water at every practice; should your child’s water bottle run empty? Is there water on the sidelines or easily accessible?
How do extreme weather conditions in your area typically affect practices and games throughout the season?
Typically children can’t play without medical clearance and documentation of a pre-participation exam or physical, in addition to photo releases, emergency contacts, and other important documents. With 20-30 players on the team, has the coach thoroughly read every child’s medical paperwork, or just scanned it looking for a green light? Is the coach aware of any physical limitations or medical conditions your child might have?
Is your child wearing the proper protective equipment during practice and games? Or, are players allowed to practice whether or not they are wearing everything they need?
What is the condition of the equipment the school provides?
Are the practice and playing fields properly maintained? Look for trees, poles, posts, hard obstacles, electrical boxes, or concrete walls near the field? Are they suitably padded? Have the wall pads and landing mats been inspected for the new season to see if the foam inside is fresh or crumbling to dust? Are the attachments intact?
Begin your inquiry by talking with parents who have been through a season already. Be prepared to ask questions during the parent meeting, contact the coach via an email, or set-up a time to meet, rather than interrupting practice. Don’t just take the coach’s word for what goes on at practice or games; ask your child for an account, so you don’t get blindsided when something does go terribly wrong.
Report In Writing
You certainly don’t want to be a helicopter parent, hovering around the field or court looking for infractions, constantly complaining, and embarrassing your child. But if you see something, say something. Take a photo and report your concerns in writing to the coach and school administrators to hold them accountable for implementing changes. Because, unfortunately, changes don’t get made until after an accident happens.
In many schools, budget cuts have resulted in a reduction of buses for transporation to sporting events, as well as other necessities. Make the coach aware of whether your child is allowed to ride with fellow inexperienced teenage drivers. If you drop your child off at school, assuming he or she will be transported by a volunteer parent, you could be wrong. In California, it would be illegal for a student under 18-years of age with a Provisional license (less than 1-year) to drive a fellow student anywhere, if unaccompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25-years of age, unless the student is a family member. The law is in place for good reason, but not every parent or child adheres to the law. Check the restrictions in your state, and give your child specific instructions.
Talk to Your Child
Lastly, open a dialog with your child about ANY anxieties or worries he or she might have. Listen and take your child’s concerns seriously. He or she could be subjected to bullying, hazing, sexual assault, and other unacceptable practices or rituals of which the coach may not be aware. Have your child record incidents on their phone, or better yet, be present.
Visit the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) for additional suggestions to ensure a safe and healthy environment.
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