- Proper Training
Kids don’t naturally know how to slide into home base, head a soccer ball or wear a football helmet properly. A good coach will insist that kids play by the safety rules. I was surprised to learn that basketball is the sport that sends the most kids to the emergency room each year; apparently all of the jumping, twisting and squatting puts little knees at risk for injury. Make sure that the organization that you sign up with provides proper training, warm up and cool down, no matter what the sport, and that safety equipment (helmets, mouthguards, goggles, etc) are worn the right way, every time.
- Health Considerations
Before sending your child to sports practice, make sure she’s had a physical check-up! While most kids who are in good health are able to play sports without a problem, an undetected heart or lung condition can put your child at risk during strenuous sports. Also, if your child has an injury, get medical clearance before you allow her to play or practice again.
- Environmental Considerations
Particularly during warmer weather, dehydration and overheating are potential dangers. Make sure that your child is well-hydrated before practice and games, and be sure that she’ll be allowed (and encouraged) to get a drink when necessary during game play. Playing on uneven or rocky surfaces can put your child at risk for slip-and-fall injuries; make sure that the kids are playing outdoor sports on an appropriate field or court.
- Check out the Coach
Your child’s coach should be fully background-checked, and should not be in a situation where he is left alone with a child. The coach should be CPR-certified and should know the basics of first aid. Observe the coach in action; if you have concerns about the way he treats the kids, speak up to whomever is in charge of the organization.
- Listen to Your Child
The most important thing that you need to do to keep your child safe and happy is to listen to her. If she’s not enjoying the overall experience of participating in a sport, then find out why. It may be that she’s being bullied at practices, that she’s physically uncomfortable, that the program is disorganized or one of a host of other possibilities. Listen to your mama-instinct and, most of all, listen to your child! Remember that this is supposed to be fun; forcing a child to participate will give her a bad taste in her mouth when it comes to sports and, possibly, to exercise in general.
While you do need to do some legwork in order to be sure that your child is safe and happy while playing sports, remember that the benefits of kids playing sports are many! Keep in mind the above considerations, but don’t let fears and concerns prevent your child from enjoying all of the good things that can come out of playing sports.