There is an inherent risk in any sport. However, there are things you can do to minimize the risk according to kids' sports expert Kevin Delp. Fortunately for us, Kevin took time out of his busy schedule to share some of his kids' sports safety tips.
About Kevin Delp
Kevin Delp has been involved in organized sports in one way or another since the age of five. He started out playing soccer and baseball. By high school, he played soccer both on his school teams and for local recreational clubs. He went on to play soccer in college but unfortunately suffered a career-ending injury his first year there. However, he eventually turned his love of sports into a career in teaching and coaching.
In addition to coaching and assisting his own children's sports teams, Kevin has offered his insight as a speaker for the ACSI teacher's conference and has been teaching sports and physical education professionally for the last thirteen years.
Making Sports Safe
LoveToKnow (LTK): What can coaches and parents do to keep their kids safe during sports?
Kevin Delp (KD): First of all, there is an inherent risk in all sports. For example, during my first year of college, I tore my ACL simply by turning during a game. There are injuries that happen in sports that are simply not preventable. Therefore, when we talk about sports safety, we need to talk about managing risks and avoiding preventable injuries. It's important for a coach or parent to focus on those things they can control, such as proper equipment and a safe environment, to be as proactive as possible in avoiding injuries.
Common Factors that Lead to Preventable Injuries
LTK: What would you say are the most common factors that cause injury during sports?
KD: The two biggest factors seem to be an inappropriate environment and proper supervision. That's not to say that controlling these things will prevent all sports-related injuries. With that said, if you have an appropriate environment and the adults involved are actively involved in supervising, you would be well on your way to having an injury free practice, game or season.
LTK: Can you explain more about what you mean by 'actively supervising'?
KD: Hopefully, any adult that is running an organized sport is not only watching what's going on but is anticipating the accident before it happens. Depending on the age of the children involved, that adult needs to be 'in the thick of things' so to speak. Coaching children is definitely not something you can do well while you are standing still. A good coach will also be aware of likely accidents beforehand and take precautions to help avoid those scenarios. For example, when we teach hockey to preschoolers, we constantly remind them to keep their sticks down.
LTK: What do you feel like is an appropriate environment?
KD: The appropriate environment depends on the sport. For a field sport like soccer or football, the environment needs to be a large, open space that is free of debris and is relatively even. After all, kids are less likely to trip if there's nothing to trip over! It's also important that the activities are age-appropriate. Presenting a child with a task that is too difficult during practice can put a lot of unnecessary stress on a child's body.
LTK: Can you talk a little about the role of equipment in sports safety?
KD: Having the proper equipment is essential in preventing injury. You would never ask a ballerina to dance in high top sneakers. Likewise, parents can go a long way towards preventing injuries by simply providing the appropriate equipment. Typically, kids are not allowed to play in organized sports without the right equipment.
Simple Kids Sports Safety Tips for Coaches and Parents
LTK: If you could give three safety tips for parents and coaches that are involved in organized sports, what would they be?
KD: First, it's important to provide age appropriate practices. This is done by both presenting age appropriate activities and age appropriate equipment. Secondly, one of the biggest things parents and coaches can do to minimize the risk of injury is to provide and maintain a safe environment for playing the sport. Most importantly, that area needs to be free of debris. Third, anyone involved in supervising organized sports needs to be actively involved. This means that they need to be watching the whole picture and paying attention to what's going on.
LTK: Any advice to parents on the sidelines if their child is injured?
KD: I have children, so I know that my first instinct is to run right out onto the field. However, the best thing to do is to be visible but to also stay back and let the coaches and first aid personnel handle things if possible. With that said, you don't want to be invisible in the crowd either. If you keep in mind to stay visible if you're needed, but out of the way, you'll be doing the right thing.