Playing sports is one of the best ways to help kids develop self esteem, healthy habits, teamwork and critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime. However, millions of kids suffer from sprains, bruises and more serious injuries each year as a result of not following recommended safety measures. While injuries cannot be prevented entirely, these 9 tips provide parents with basic youth sports safety guidelines to keep kids safe and having fun regardless of the sport they choose to play.
9 Tips for a Safe Youth Sports Experience
- Annual Physical: Schedule an annual physical exam for your child to ensure they are healthy and able to participate in their physical activity of choice.
- Open Communication: Encourage your young athlete to communicate any injury to you and/or the coach immediately. Make it safe to say “I’m hurt.”
- When in Doubt, Sit Them Out: Insist that your sports program follows a “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out” policy if an injury or suspected injury occurs. Always seek approval from a licensed health care provider before allowing your child to return to play after injury, especially in the case of head injuries/concussions.
- Prevent Overuse Injuries: Prevent overuse injuries by avoiding specialization too early in a child’s developmental years and by watching for signs that your child may be in pain. Encourage your child to try multiple sports.
- Positive League Culture on the Field: Look for sports programs whose core values are fun, good sportsmanship and safe play. Do the coaches emphasize “winning at all costs” or teaching the fundamentals of the sport and the value of winning and losing with grace?
- Positive League Culture on the Sidelines: Choose programs where parents and spectators are supportive and encouraging versus critical and combatative. Tune-in to what you hear on the sidelines and in the stands. Is it sportsman-like or destructive? Remember… it’s supposed to be a game!
- Trained Officials: Make sure your child’s sports programs have trained officials at every game to ensure rules are enforced, competition remains healthy, and good sportsmanship is a priority.
- Protective Equipment: Ensure your child wears the appropriate safety gear for the particular sport being played (i.e., helmet, mouth guard, shin guards, etc.).
- Stay Hydrated: It is always important for athletes to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather. Make sure your young athlete drinks plenty of water.
Early experience in sports can be the start of a life-long love of physical activity. As a parent, you have a BIG role in ensuring this experience is both safe and fun for your kids!