When Poor Communication From Football Coaches Can Lead to Physical Injury To Your Children

Last night, my sons and I attended a parent/player meeting at my 12 year-old son’s school auditorium for the upcoming football season. Earlier that day, the coach had decided my 12 year-old would be helpful to the team by playing the tailback position for the season. I was very proud of him. I had looked up the term “tailback” on the Internet to know what a tailback’s responsibility was on the football team.

Anyway, we were listening to the coach share how the football program worked at my son’s middle school. The head coach went over what the expectations were for both the players and the students. He talked about ways to help raise money to help the team purchase more uniforms and gear. For now he said that there was enough gear for the number of players currently part of the team. He said that players didn’t need to purchase any gear except for their cleats. This was the same statement he informed parents at the parent/player meeting at the end of the school year last year. He also said the same thing at the football mini camp my son had attended that week.

After the coach finished all he had to share, it was time for questions. I should mention two days before, my son and I went to purchase his first pair of cleats. We went to a sports specialty store instead of a mass merchandise store as these were my son’s first cleats and we wanted to get a pair that would last through the season. I saw a bunch of thick, long socks in the store near the shoes, mouth pieces, cups and this made me start to wonder. The socks came in about eight different colors. I asked the salesman what socks were needed in football. The salesman mentioned to me that many coaches encourage their players to wear thick socks that pull up high close to their knees. The salesman had various colors for area schools. He also said I could pick up black and white socks at most stores that would be just fine. I appreciated his information and honesty. And even though the coach said all gear was provided, I guessed socks were not included. I thought to myself that I probably should have known this.

Back at the meeting, the head coach asked anyone if there were questions. I let a few others ask some questions, hoping that the questions I had would be asked by someone else. Since I wasn’t aware of football gear, when the coach said everything was provided by the school besides cleats, I took him at his word. That was my mistake. The coach had taken about six or seven questions when I knew I had to ask the one thing that I didn’t want to ask the coach. As the coach scanned the room to see if there were any other hands raised, I slowly raised my hand. The coach pointed to me and said, ‘yes ma’am.’

I asked the coach what type of socks the players should wear. He said he didn’t care if his players wore socks or not. He left this up to the player. Before I could ask anything else, the coach took another question. I had to raise my hand again. Once again, the coach said, ‘yes ma’am.’

I asked if there were any other items, such as protective or safety gear that players needed to purchase. The coach asked me if I meant mouth pieces. I said that I meant protective gear. As I said this, I took my hand pointing out my face and all the way down my body. The coach said that all players had to have mouth pieces. These pieces could not be clear but had to be colored. Since the coach had not caught on to my comment, one of the players hollered out, ‘she means cups.’

The coach then looked back over to me and said that, ‘players can choose to wear protective cups if they want. But I’m not going to check to see if they have them on.’

You could hear laughter and chuckles in the auditorium reverberate throughout the room. Is was evident that I was getting nowhere fast and I had just embarrassed my son. I had asked what, if anything my son needed for football and I was the butt of a joke. I didn’t ask any additional questions.

When the meeting ended, I asked my son to take his health physical form up front to turn it in to the coaches. A man approached me and introduced himself as one of the other player’s fathers. He said he guessed that this was my son’s first year playing football. In his hands, he had a folded up piece of paper with a few items scribbled on it. He did what the coach and the football staff apparently could not handle to do. This man, who I had never met before took the time to go through a list he had written down that included socks, a mouth piece, a cup, shirts and sliding shorts. He told me where to purchase these items, why these items were needed and introduced me and my son to his son and his son’s best friend, who were both on the football team. This man, who who had a lovely wife, a son who played football and a daughter as well didn’t know me from anyone. But besides educating me on the additional items my son would need, he brought his son and his son’s friend over and told both to look after my son and make sure my son wasn’t picked on. He told me that if his boy didn’t take care of my son, he would take care of his son right away.

So, besides being a very kind father, knowing what it was like when he was a father with one of his sons becoming a football player for the first time, he did a lot to help me help prepare my son for football while also making me feel much more comfortable in a ‘good ol’ boy’ meeting.

For instance, the father clearly communicated what the football coach staff should have, including:

Socks – although the coach said he didn’t care if his players wore socks or not, this father told me that wearing socks high enough to cover a boy’s shins, prevents these players from tearing up their shins every time they are slammed to the ground, having their legs scraped against the football field’s grass, dirt, pebbles and other things players can’t know are on the field.

Protective cups – although the coach said he wasn’t going to be checking if the boys wore cups or not, the benefit to each football player is evident. And this was the first time I knew that I would need to purchase a cup for my son or he would not be protected.

T-shirts -this father said that his son always wore thin T-shirts underneath the shoulder pads that the players had to wear so that his son’s skin wouldn’t get scraped up from the shoulder pads.

All of these items and a few more that this man shared with me, helped me realize my son was not ready to step on the football field. He didn’t have all of the gear he needed to protect his body as much as possible.

So, coach, just so you know, I’m glad you won’t check to see if all of the boys are wearing cups and if you don’t care if your players wear socks or not, guess what? I do care. At least, I care if my son has everything he can to protect himself as much as possible to play the game, enjoy the game and reduce the amount of physical pain he can suffer every time he hits the field in practice or during a game.

Coach, you said you were really excited about this season. You said any of us at this meeting could even ask your wife how excited you were about the football season. I ask that you be just as excited to make sure every player knows about any and all equipment that can offer him any additional safety to keep the game fun and not injury prone. After all, we, the parents are placing our sons in your hands and by your very words you are the coach and know what you are doing when it comes to educating our sons about the proper ways to play football. Don’t forget that the proper ways of educating our boys about football include telling them how to be as safe as possible. This isn’t an option. This is part of your job.

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