Let Them Play, but Keep Them Safe
Physical fitness. Coordination. Confidence. Self-discipline. Teamwork. These are just a few of the benefits kids gain by playing sports.
But there is another side to sports: Risk of injury. The good news is most injuries are preventable with some simple precautionary steps.
Do your homework
With just a few inquiries and a little research, parents can help ensure their children are in the best environment.
“It’s ok to ask questions,” said Tryg Odney, certified athletic trainer at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. “Are the coaches certified? Are there AEDs on site? If an injury occurs, what is the action plan for the coaches or association?”
Answers to these questions will help parents better understand the safety measures put in place.
Help them succeed
A child’s physical and mental maturity play a major role in sports. Scott Hettenbach, manager of Sanford POWER, recommends parents understand the level of play and the amount of time that is expected.
“Some groups will have a more casual, relaxed environment, whereas others will be highly competitive,” said Hettenbach. “Parents need to find the program that best fits their children.”
If an injury occurs during practice or a game, observation and recognition is key in responding appropriately. Parents often will see something from their vantage point that can help shed light.
“This helps the athletic trainers and medical staff get a better idea of what we’re dealing with,” said Odney.
In addition, parents are typically better at recognizing behavior changes in their children. Young athletes often can’t verbalize what’s wrong, or may be afraid to speak up – this is where the coaches’, athletic trainers’ and parents’ voices are needed most.
“We want to keep our kids safe and healthy – and continuing to play if they’re injured is not the answer,” said Hettenbach.
Keep it simple and fun
It’s important to remember that kids are not small adults. Young athletes are still learning what they like and what they don’t. This is the time when parents and coaches can help build the foundation for a child’s attitude toward sports.
“This is about creating a positive experience for kids,” said Odney. “Children at this age can be quite vulnerable, and one bad experience can change it all, so it’s up to us to make sure our kids are getting every benefit possible from playing sports.”