In the middle of practice, the weather changes suddenly as the clouds darken and the winds kick up, bringing in a pop-up thunderstorm. As most of the parents have dropped off their kids for practice, there are not enough vehicles available to seek shelter. Coaches need to be prepared to handle the unexpected; be it a change in the weather, a freak injury to a player, or other surprise scenarios.
Coaches signing on to lead an athletic team generally know what is required to prepare a team to compete. Just as they may have to bone up on some sport-specific fundamentals or seek pointers on player treatment and handling parental issues, they should also research methods of developing a coach’s Emergency Action Plan.
Creating an emergency medical form to be filled out by parents, and being present with the coach during all practices and games, is a ‘must do’ for anyone coaching youth athletes. The form should include:
- The address of the child/parents
- Home and mobile phone numbers of the parents (and at least one other relative/contact)
- A list of any prescription medications the child is taking
- A list of known allergies (food, bee sting, medications, e.g.)
- A list of medical conditions (asthma, e.g.)
- A section that permits the coach to transport (by car or official emergency vehicle) to the nearest hospital.
If there is more than one hospital locally, include a section, which allows a parent to list the preferred hospital (for insurance purposes, e.g.). Coaches should make copies of each form, keeping the original at home and placing the copies in a container to carry with them.
Bumps, scrapes, and contusions are a part of most athletic events. Coaches can prepare a medical kit (purchasing a trainer’s kit or a fishing tackle box, e.g.). Stock the kit with the basics: anti-bacterial ointment, adhesive bandages, elastic tape, elastic bandages, scissors, eyewash, hydrogen peroxide, petroleum jelly, non-stick gauze pads, gauze, and medical gloves.
Players with asthma should have their inhalers readily available. Coaches need to be aware of the medical instructions for each player’s inhaler use and closely monitor players who are using inhalers in accordance with the prescription directions.
Coaches need to be familiar with the surroundings of practice and game facilities. If the sport is indoors, it is a good idea to know the building evacuation routes available. If possible, have a diagram of the routes available (place it in the container with the emergency medical forms). If the team is a visitor, the coach needs to ask the home team coach about emergency exits, etc. If the sport is outdoors, develop a plan for evacuating the field when rain and thunderstorms occur.
Note: Players should be taken to the safest area possible at the first sign of lightning or the first audible thunderclap. There are also weather apps available for cell phones which provide lightning detection.
All coaches and parents should be aware of the evacuation plan. Take ten minutes of practice time to discuss these plans with everyone. It is a small price to pay for the safety of everyone.