Inspection is Key: Providing Safe Playing Conditions and Equipment
By Kenny Connolly
As important as it is for coaches to properly teach on a given playing field, it’s equally important for coaches to ensure the safety of the student-athletes they are educating.
Two of the fundamental practices in providing a safe playing environment fall under the 14 Legal Duties of Athletic Personnel: the duty to maintain safe playing conditions and the duty to provide proper equipment.
As part of being a trained professional, coaches must be able to identify whether or not an indoor playing surface is defective. They must also be able to identify whether an outdoor facility is hazardous to the student-athletes – diagnosing the field conditions themselves or any severe weather conditions.
In addition to the playing surfaces, other areas coaches must constantly inspect are the locker rooms, weight rooms, or any other area a student-athlete will utilize when under the supervision of a coach.
And as the weight room falls under an area that needs to be under constant supervision, the weights themselves are one of the many aspects that would fall under actual equipment that must be up to date and properly inspected.
Whether it be pads for football teams, shoes for runners, or safety mats for cheerleading – the newest sport at the high school level – each sport requires necessary equipment for student-athletes to perform.
The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) acknowledges there’s a shared responsibility in reducing sports-related injuries. While participating in sports requires an acceptance for the risk of injury, there’s also an expectation that coaches have taken “reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of significant injury.”
Using football as an illustrator of this mutual understanding, the NOCSAE states, “Helmets do not protect the neck, and none of these injuries can be completely prevented due to the tremendous forces occasionally encountered in football collisions; but they can be minimized by manufacturer, coach and player compliance with published rules of play, proper coaching, and in the case of head and brain injuries, compliance with accepted equipment standards.”
Coaches are the individuals responsible for ensuring equipment is up-to-date, not faulty, and they must be able to ensure their student-athletes know how to properly use this equipment.
3 Tips For Providing Safe Playing Conditions
Actively Inspect Equipment
The equipment athletes use should provide maximum amount of protection against injury. Not only should athletes be properly fitted for equipment, but coaches should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and inspection, guaranteeing it is up to standard and suitable for usage.
Keep An Eye Out On Environmental Conditions
Temperature, humidity, wind chill, and severe weather warnings have a major say in determining whether conditions are safe or hazardous. Monitoring forecasts allows you to plan ahead.
A Safe Environment Isn’t Limited To The Field of Play
Locker rooms, weight rooms, and dugouts are just a few examples of areas that also fall under a coach’s responsibility in maintaining a safe physical environment. Supervision is required in all of these areas. Constant inspection will determine whether equipment is up to par and if any hazardous materials must be removed. .
Protect Your Players and Your Program: An Athletic Leader’s Legal Duties
Keep Your Head In The Game … Or, Not