According to the old saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Keeping sports both safe and fun requires proper planning and effective execution.Whatever the sport or athletic activity you have in mind, engaging in effective planning can help protect you and your participants from serious injuries. Event organizers need to recognize the potential for injury, take necessary precautions, and efficiently respond if injuries occur.
1) Preventable Incidents in Our SchoolsStatistics show that the most common sports-related injuries happen because of accidents, poor training practices, or using the wrong gear or equipment.[i] Consequently, it is imperative that our school and church leaders are aware of any medical or physical limitations before a person is allowed to participate.
Additionally, the event coordinator or group leader should take the following steps:
(a) consider requiring a physical examination,
(b) facilitate warm-up exercises and stretches,
(c) prohibit participation by injured students or members, and
(d) group children by their skill level and body size, especially for activities that may include contact.
2) First AidThe size of your group determines the size of the first aid kit. It is important to familiarize yourself with the content of the first aid kit, and, whenever possible, pursue first-aid certification. It’s important to keep your kit accessible, yet safely out of reach for children. Remember to restock your kit after each use and periodically check for expired or damaged items. For more information on first aid kits and basic supplies, visit the American Red Cross and Ready.gov.
3) Supplemental Insurance PolicyIf you are planning a sports event, Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) recommends purchasing sports accident coverage. ARM offers two different coverages for sports accidents: one for organized leagues called Sports League Activities (Note: Adults age 18 and over are excluded when participating in the following contact sports: soccer, football, lacrosse, and wrestling.), and one for recreational sports activities (snow skiing, go-carts, skateboards, parasailing, in-line skating, dirt bikes, rock climbing/rock propelling). Please work with your account executive to apply or request additional details about this coverage.
4) HydrationOne effective and simple way to avoid injuries is to plan for proper hydration before, during, and after exercise. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. You may feel tired, have muscle cramps, dizziness, or other serious symptoms.”[ii]
How about sports drinks? Are they allowed? It depends. Sports drinks are often high in calories from added sugar and may contain high levels of sodium. Further, some sports drinks contain caffeine, which may cause a diuretic effect on your body.[iii] We recommend water as your main source of hydration. If you are interested in a sports drink, choose wisely and do not forget to check the nutrition facts for additional details.
5) Child Protection and Risk Management for Away GamesDuring the planning process of a sports league or trip, it is important to also consider non-sports-related risk factors, such as supervision, volunteer screening, and driver qualifications, etc.
- Supervision – Some activities may require more supervisors than others. For example, a trip for younger kids requires additional supervisors and planning. Furthermore, if a church or school is organizing a rock-climbing outing, there may be a need for qualified instructors to assist with the activity.
- Volunteer Screening – According to the NAD Working Policy (FB 20), a background screening should be completed before a volunteer is allowed to serve. In addition to the criminal background check, the volunteer should also provide three character references. Given the rising number of child abuse cases in the church and nation, screening volunteers is a much-needed step to ensure long-term safety of our children.
- Driver Selection – NAD working policy states that all drivers should be screened, carefully selected, and in compliance with the federal and local laws for the class of vehicle being operated. It also states that the recommended minimum age for drivers is 21 years old. However, a person who is at least 19 years old may be granted to be a driver with the approval of conference officers. Drivers should have no more than two traffic citations and no history of accidents that led to a misdemeanor or criminal charge.
Adventist Risk Management has created the Trip/Offsite Activity Planning Checklist which is helpful as you outline your trip. This tool will help you prepare for the unknown, as it addresses the following topics:
- qualified supervisors
- permission slips and medical release forms
- communication guidelines.
- [i] https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/most-common-sports-injuries
- [ii] https://familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration/
- [iii] https://familydoctor.org/athletes-the-importance-of-good-hydration/