Sports Safety for Coaches

Positive Coaches should try to remember the maxim, “First, do no harm.” You are working with someone’s children. You are ultimately responsible not just for their wins and losses but also to help them learn the valuable life lessons that sports can teach.  And above all else, you are responsible for your athletes’ safety.

Positive Coaches work from a Safety Checklist each and every time they work with athletes.  Are you considering the following each time to get ready to play?

    Avoid Sports Injuries Youth sports Weather: If conditions are too hot, cold or stormy (where lightning strikes are a risk), adjust. Cancel practice or move it indoors. In extreme heat, conduct lighter workouts and avoid the “gassers” or other forms of extreme exertion.

    Field/Court Conditions: Before your athletes arrive, check the condition of the field, court, ice, mat or pool.  Ensure that the playing surface is up to your standards before you start drills or games.  If your standards aren’t met, prioritize your athletes’ safety and reschedule!  Watch out for things like broken glass on a blacktop, moisture on a wooden court, major divots in the ice, and holes or bare patches in a field that can cause sprained ankles or worse. Make sure lighting is sufficient for players to see and avoid danger.

    Equipment: Make sure equipment is in working order…no splintered sticks, no goals with sharp corners protruding, no mats with insufficient padding. The same goes for players’ padding, uniforms, helmets, and mouth guards.

    Hydration: Make sure players are hydrated, especially in extreme heat and humidity. Players or their parents should provide water or sports drinks, but it is still the coach’s responsibility to build into practices time for sufficient water breaks. Forget that old school mentality that players can and should tough it out without those breaks.

    CPR and First Aid: Know it, and have another coach or parent volunteer with you who knows it too. Many programs require CPR and/or first aid certification. Keep your phone handy for any necessary 911 calls.

    Concussions:head Injuries Concussions Youth sports Head safety and concussions have become ever-growing Gone are the days when you might say, “Oh, he just got his bell rung. He’ll be ready to back in in a minute.” If there is any suspicion of a concussion or other head injury, remove the player from play and ensure there is no return until a doctor clears it. Consider conducting a concussion seminar for both players and parents to understand the danger and to recognize the symptoms.  Also clearly outline your policy regarding removing players from games where a concussion is suspected.

    Rides Home: Depending on league rules, arrangements with players’ parents and the general safety of the environment, you may or may not want to stay at practices and games until all players are picked up by their parents or guardians. When in doubt, stay with a child. At the same time, avoid being left alone with any child other than your own in light of recent years’ sex abuse accusations against coaches at all levels of sport.

    Communication: Have a full list of contact information for players, preferably entered into your phone, so that you can quickly contact them in case of emergency.

We know this is not the most fun, exciting aspect of coaching youth sports, but sports safety is the most important.


In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.

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