Safety of Children in Sport

Sport Safety for children. “Hey you! ‘ed de ball!” I grew up (many years ago) playing football every day on Merseyside  The irreverent banter to someone acting a bit dim in every day life was “‘ed de ball” (Head the ball!). Back then, the football was heavy leather, usually soaked in mud. So a heavy ball on the head would obviously do some damage. Many, many years later, the Football authorities have some research coming at them about older players suffering mental problems after a lifetime of playing.

The advantages of being involved in sport far outweigh the risks.

However there is no harm in adjusting and protecting for sport safety. World Rugby and RFU have made adjustments to the way laws are interpreted (high tackles recently) and there has been a heavy education programme to prevent head injuries in rugby players. Cynics will say they just wish to avoid law suits, similar to those looming with NFL. However, American Football players wear helmets and use them in the tackle. Coaches tell rugby players to get their head out of the way. Some US Football teams have adopted some rugby training, with some on field success too (Seattle). Rugby consulted educators and changed mini, midi and youth rugby to suit the children in the age ranges.

Football may ban heading the ball for under 10s as they have in the US. Probably a good move, and maybe some limit in training, but if the kids do not learn to head the ball properly, then when a bit older, there could be a risk of head to head clashes. These are far more dangerous. All to be considered.

Sport Safety

Most sports have safety first and adjust laws, rules and equipment. When I referee rugby, I often say during the game “Safety is Paramount!” Players all agree.

There are risks walking down the street, or in a park, garden and mostly in your kitchen. Sport too has risks, but the benefits to physical and mental health, far outweigh them. So do not let sensational headlines, nor doom and gloom merchants, prevent you from enrolling your child in a lifetime of fun and friendship that sport can bring.

The importance for parents when introducing their girl or boy to a sport, is COACHING! Schools obviously have guidelines. When selecting a club for out of school coaching and playing (highly recommended for social, development, and fitness reasons), ask questions about coaching qualifications. Ask if the club has a Sports England Charter Mark, or is “An Accredited Club“? This is a higher designation in rugby, and one that needs to be maintained. RFU check each year and have a reapplication every three years. Coaches and administrators should be happy to answer these questions, and in fact boast about the answers as they put in a lot of work to get qualified. If they hesitate, find a different club! 

Ask if there is a Safeguarding Officer? Ask if there is a Code of Conduct? Does this apply to parents and spectators? It will be obvious if it is a well run club for children, and you will be happy to entrust your child with them. Sport is working hard to protect its athletes and the directives on concussion are being followed in my experience. Enjoy!

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