When coaches are negligent

By Chris Pedersen

When youth sign up to play amateur sports they do so expecting to learn new skills, become more athletic and have fun.

The last thing a kid expects is that joining a sports team will result in death. Recently in Kentucky, a 15-year-old boy passed out at football practice and subsequently passed away three days later in hospital. The boy was practicing in 34 degree Celsius weather when the incident happened.

The coach was criminally charged with reckless homicide under the pretense that a reasonable man should have understood the consequences of youth practicing in the heat. The coach most likely understood this, but may not have cared, simply because he wanted to win. The best way to win is to train kids hard, no matter the conditions.

The incident raises concerns about coaches pushing kids to win a game. No championship is as important as the lives of young kids. Numerous people believe that coaches are pushing kids too far, while an equal number of people see these as unfortunate accidents that occur in sports.

There will never be a consensus in this fact, but something needs to be done to alleviate these problems. Kids should sign up for sports knowing that every measure is being looked at to ensure their safety.

This being said, a sports team is designed to win and coaches have every right to push the players as hard as needed. As long as it is done in a manner that won’t harm children. This may seem a contradiction, but kids can be trained in heat without their lives being in jeapordy. A coach should be assigned to supervise water breaks in extreme heat to ensure this can never happen. Medical trainers can supervise practices, constantly check on players and ensure their health and lives are the number one priority.

Kids must be taught to speak up and tell coaches if they are feeling sick. Many kids are scared to speak up and with proper education this can change.

In this particular incident, it was not an appropriate measure to charge the head coach with reckless homicide. The responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the assistant and position coaches in conjuction with the head coach.

They are hired to win, but also care for the direct physical well-being of the players on the field. The job of the head coach is to survey the whole field and to ensure practice run smoothly and that the right objectives are covered. A head coach deals with the larger picture on the field and not with every individual player in their respective practice areas at all times.

A head coach deals with the mental and psychological aspects of a football team while the assistant coaches deal with directing the players to drills and practice spots, thus having more intimate contact.

The first line of communication between the head coach and the player should rest with the assistant coach and in this situation, it appears to have failed.

That is not to say that a head coach should not understand his players or watch out for potential threats, it is merely saying that he does not deserve to have full blame placed on his shoulders. When you are paid, or volunteer, for a position where the well-being of kids is at stake, you must place an emphasis on their safety and run practices accordingly. Kids are fully capable of training in hot weather, but they must have ample periods of rest and re-hydration.

More work needs to be done to put in place regulations and kinesiology training, for coaches, to ensure more deaths do not occur. Coaches need to be eduacted about the effects heat and dehydration can have on a human body.

Putting one coach in jail will not change many other coaches from ignoring their kids’ heath in pursuit of victory. A nationwide system must be put in place to allow kids to be cared for when playing sports.

A football team is coached by a group of coaches and this collective should take responsibility for the well-being of the kids.

It is not fair to assign full blame to the head coach when the assistant coaches had an equal part in the kids’ health and the outcome of the incident.

In the Kentucky incident, the courts need to spread the blame around and place it on the entire coaching staff, not just the head coach.

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