10 Things Every Coach Must Do to Ensure Safety

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

A coach needs to be proactive when it comes to player safety. There are many preventative steps a coach can take to ensure that he is prepared when a player safety issue arises. We polled a collection of industry experts to come up with a list of 10 things every coach should be doing to ensure player safety.

Appoint a safety advisor. Saint Ignatius (Ohio) coach Chuck Kyle has one coach on his staff who is responsible for educating himself and the rest of the staff on issues of player safety. “This person will have the safety factor in mind when we’re drawing up a drill, introducing a new strength training philosophy, or dealing with heat and dehydration.”

Keep the players in-house. Neshaminy coach Steve Wilmot discourages his players from training at local gyms or under the supervision of personal trainers. He prefers to monitor the techniques that are being taught and recovery periods allotted. “I want to make sure I am providing the best weightlifting environment, the best agility and speed program.”

Get educated on best practices. SMU coach Chad Morris was a head coach at the high school level for 16 years, so he understands not every program has a budget for a strength coach and full-time athletic trainer. “You have to be educated on it first, and then you have to educate players on safety.”

Keep records for each player. University of Delaware equipment manager Kyle Martinelli recommends that a coach should have a file on each one of his players. The file should include weight gains, strength gains, and equipment adjustments. “We create player cards with all of their measurements, all sizes, and any alterations. From a liability standpoint, that’s huge.”

Get players acclimated to heat. Korey Stringer Institute of the University of Connecticut Director of Sport Safety Will Adams, PhD, stresses that coaches should ease players into exercise in heat. “All summer conditioning should involve a heat acclimatization period in which you’re gradually exposing athletes to exercise in hot conditions.”

Work with the conditioning levels you have – not the levels you want. Gunnar Peterson, a personal trainer for professional football players, recommends that coaches consider the conditioning level of each player and adjust the workout accordingly. “Start with a fresh canvas every day. You have to amend workouts based on what the athletes are bringing you. Don’t just say, ‘We’ll do this on Day 13, this on Day 14.’ Maybe they took the weekend off, and they’re more at risk for injury.”

Limit the live contact periods. Cathedral High (Ind.) coach Rick Streiff has seen the overall number of injuries decrease since he scaled back the amount of live drills. “We practice thud drills. There’s a predetermined winner. It minimizes the amount of contact, and limits the numbers of hits a player takes in one practice, over the course of a week, and the course of the season.”

Keep sight lines open in the weight room. Carl Middelton, sales manager for Total Strength and Speed, says that injuries in the weight room often stem from a lack of space. “When you’re training 70 or 80 kids at the same time, it’s impossible to keep sight lines open for coaches to oversee proper technique. You want players to have a range of motion so they’re not restricted.”

Stock your training room. Rancho Verde (Calif.) coach Jeff Steinberg stocks his training room with athletic tape, a first-aid kit, crutches, ice, water jugs, heat packs, and a whirlpool. “You don’t want to have to mess around looking for something when somebody needs medical attention.”

Sanitize and recondition equipment. Martinelli recommends disinfecting all hard equipment (helmets, pads) twice a week – before and after games. He also sends out helmet and shoulder pads to the suppliers once a year to be recertified and reconditioned. “We feel good once we get them back that they can be used on the field of play.”

Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at dguttenplan@ae-engine.com. Tweet us @fnfcoaches.