When my son was three years old, we put him on a soccer team as his first introduction to sports. The league worked for our busy schedules since it was only on Saturday mornings. I did very little research, thinking what harm could be done with 3 year olds playing soccer? It was a disaster. The coaches were volunteer parents. No one asked about my child’s asthma or peanut allergy. My son was yelled at, miserable and learned little-to-nothing about soccer. We made it through; but this situation could have resulted in serious injury, medical mishap, or discouragement from future sports.
Recently, I sat down with Dr. Elizabeth Davis, a pediatric sports medicine physician on KIDing Around with Dr. Candice to discuss sports concussion on Episode 8 “What you need to know before your child gears up!” I asked her to give our parents steps on choosing the right coach and team so that you can avoid what I did years ago. This is what we highlighted (plus some extra).
- Let your child play the sport they want to play. Encourage safer alternatives like flag football vs. tackle for younger children.
- Do your research. Is the league monitored by a national certification program? Do they have a website showing a level of organization with a focus on coach training, safety, and a positive experience for the kids? Get references from other parents. Have a conversation if your child has any special accommodations or health concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice concerns.
- Fun is the focus, not just winning! Request a team change if this is not the case.
- Safety is mandatory. Is there adequate adult supervision? Are the children learning safe and proper sports technique? Example: No head to head hitting in football. There should be frequent breaks for hydration and prevention of heat exhaustion. All of the sports staff should be prepared to implement an emergency action plan for illness or injury. Players should have emergency medicines readily available.
- Positive Coaching is everything. A good coach praises, gently corrects, and is patient. He/she listens when a player says they are hurt or needs a rest. The players should gain life skills such as teamwork, good sportsmanship and positive leadership.
- Parents be present. Your child loves it! But please, settle down. Leave your competitive spirit at home so that he/she can learn and have fun.
With the right coach and right team, your child can have years of safety and fun in sports.
To see the complete video and become more informed on sports concussion, click here.