Sports activities require safety first

While both victory and the 'agony of defeat' teach student athletes important lessons, it is the agony of serious injury that should concern coaches and administrators most.

Role of coaches

First, supervise activities at all times. Lack of supervision is cited in nearly every sports-related injury, according to Frank Stratton, PACE program manager. If supervision is not available for a practice session, cancel practice.

Coaches must follow the district's policies and the regulations of Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA):

  • Provide a safe environment for training and events.
  • Plan the activities appropriately.
  • Evaluate athletes for injury and ability.
  • Provide adequate equipment.
  • Warn athletes of the risks associated with the sport.
  • Instruct athletes on proper use of equipment and safe procedures for the activity.
  • Know first aid and the school district's emergency procedures.
  • Supervise the activities at all times. Failure to supervise is often the leading reason injuries occur.

The school district's role

The school district has a duty to give students a safe environment for athletic activities. Use the following guidelines in managing your athletic program and facilities:

  • Establish a school district policy that defines the duty to provide a safe environment for students. Then enforce this policy.
  • Inspect and test all equipment and facilities before use. Repair or replace damaged equipment. Implement an equipment maintenance program that outlines procedures for inspection and repair. Check the facility regularly to maintain a safe and proper playing environment.
  • Implement a complete training program for all student athletes that includes conditioning, nutrition, exercise and drills.
  • Enforce mandatory supervision of all activities. Supervision is key to ensuring student safety during athletic activities. It is also one of the top issues cited in liability claims.
  • Establish a medical procedure for coaches and student athletes. Require coaches to receive first-aid training, and require physical examinations for all participants as a condition of registration.
  • Hold meetings before the start of the athletic season for parents and students to explain the district's expectations for safety.
  • Require parents to sign consent forms that authorize their children's participation in athletic activities.
  • Implement a standard injury-reporting process for coaches and students for use in all athletic programs. These reports can help to determine trends with specific coaches, pieces of equipment or activities.

PACE can also help you develop an effective risk-management program for your district.

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