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You want a qualified coach for your child? Dream on

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In the very good Charm City Moms blog from the Baltimore Sun, Kate Shazkin passes along the National Athletic Trainers Association’s tips for keeping your young athlete safe and healthy.

There’s some great advice, such as making sure your family is ready to handle the financial and time commitment. And making sure your child has not only have a physical, but also a mental, which assesses whether a child is even interested in the sport and level of commitment (for the love of whatever deity you worship parents, you will do yourself and us youth coaches a favor if you don’t push your child into a sport he or she clearly does not want to do). And providing your child’s coaches with a medical history — don’t try to hide your child’s asthma because you’re afraid a coach won’t play him or her, unless you want the sight of your child panicking to breathe and a coach panicking to figure out what the hell happened.

Of course, this being the blog it is, I couldn’t, as the far more respectful Charm City Moms does, leave the list as it is. There were two items that I will tell you, concerned parents, if these are deal-breakers for your child playing youth sports, enjoy the Xbox 360.

The first is “find out who’s taking care of your kids.” The trainers association is realistic in noting that half of high school teams don’t have trainers. If you child is at a lower level, you’re lucky if there’s a first aid kit available, or a set of Dora-embossed Band Aids. Parents, the answer to the question of, who takes care of my kid if he or she gets hurt is some combination of you or 911.

(Unless you have kids on the team whose parents are EMTs, and who are allowed to leave the station with the ambulance to watch their kids’ games. I had an assistant coach who was able to do that for a while, until he was told by his chief he couldn’t leave the station anymore, which seemed ridiculous. Fortunately, nothing ever happened with him at or away from the field to the point an EMT was needed.)

Anyway, the lack of a physician, nurse, trainer, veteranarian or faith healer on site is part and parcel of your child being in a youth league run by volunteers. Which brings me to the second item of parental disappointment: “Ascertain the qualifications of your coaches.”

Here is how Charm City Moms relays what the trainers association says you, as a parent, should be seeking:

A background check should always be performed on coaches and volunteers before they are allowed to work with children, and parents should ensure the following guidelines are followed:
• Coaches should have background and knowledge in the sport they are coaching. They should be credentialed if that is a requirement in the state, conference or league.
• All coaches should have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), automated external defibrillator (AED) and first aid training.
• Coaches should strictly enforce the sports rules and have a plan for dealing with emergencies.

Here is what you really will get.

Your child’s coach may or may not be a background check, depending on the budget of the organization and whether the state it’s in even requires one. Of course, even if there is a background check, it’s probably limited to sex crime convictions only, so you’ll never know about the past coke bust or the secret computer in the basement where the otherwise upstanding, churchgoing coach has stashed his child porn.

Your child’s coach will not even be remotely qualified in the sports which he or she is coaching, even though he or she is convinced that years of yelling at the local pro team on television is qualification enough. He or she will have no certifications or credentials for the sport, much less working with children.

Your child’s coach will not have CPR, AED or first-aid training. You will be lucky if coach simply doesn’t take smoke breaks.

Your child’s coach may or may not strictly enforce the sports rules, especially if the parents are on his or her ass about not winning enough, or the opposing coach is too stupid not to know the third-grade basketball league doesn’t allow pressing. Your child’s coach’s plan for dealing with emergencies: somewhere between asking if a parent has a cellphone for calling 911, and telling the kid to rub some dirt in it and walk it off.

What you will get, if you’re fortunate, is a parent who realizes his or her limitations, tries to learn a little bit how to teach a sport at an age-appropriate level, communicates with you once in a while, and treats the players and parents with respect, even if he or she is not getting any. At the youth level, it’s almost impossible to know that your child’s coach is “qualified.”

However, you can learn that later. You’ll know that your coach is qualified if, at season’s end, your kid can’t wait to play again next year.

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An eminently qualified coach.

Written by rkcookjr

March 16, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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