A concussion is a traumatic brain injury. In sports, this is mainly the result of hard hits to the head during play. And although concussions can occur in any game – a child might fall and hit their head or get hit by a ball – head injuries are far more likely to happen in contact sports, most notably tackle football and ice hockey.
Because sports-related concussions get a lot of attention for their long-term physical and mental effects, it’s important for parents and coaches to prevent them and treat them as soon as possible successfully. However, the first step is always detection, and everyone involved in youths sports should know if a child has a concussion or not.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people associate concussions with loss of consciousness, but it doesn’t happen in every situation. Concussions can be medically labeled as severe even when a person doesn’t experience a brief “blackout.” If you suspect a child may be suffering from a concussion during a game or practice session, stop the play immediately and get the child checked out by a medical professional.
There are many signs and symptoms of a concussion, and after a suspicious bang to the head always check the child for:
- loss of consciousness;
- a sudden and severe headache (both during and after play);
- worsening headaches that last several days;
- blurred vision and inability to follow movement;
- disorientation and troubled walking;
- dizziness and confusion;
- slurred speech and lack of concentration;
- unresponsiveness (when you are unable to wake your child up).
After inspecting the child for any of these symptoms, take them immediately to the emergency room. Once there, a doctor can determine the severity of the concussion and prescribe the right treatment for the injury.
Also, keep in mind that some symptoms might not show themselves immediately after the impact to the head, and can develop within 72 hours. During this time, monitor your child or take them to their physician as a preventive measure.
Treatment of Concussions
Every concussion is unique, as are its signs and symptoms and level of intensity. That’s why treatment of a concussion depends on the child, their condition and the situation when the shock occurred.
In case of mild concussions, most frequent in youth sports, doctors will usually prescribe physical and mental rest. Kids will likely have to avoid sports for a while, as well as school. At home, they should occupy their time with only necessary activities, making sure they reduce stress on the brain and body. Parents should also look to prepare healthier meals instead of their usual diet.
In worse case scenarios, parents should take their children to the hospital where doctors can run detailed tests to determine the severity of the injury. After that, they can prescribe the best treatment for your child.
Prevention is the first line of defense when dealing with concussions. Parents and coaches should make kids aware of the injury, and teach them to be safe in sports.
Coaches should get the first-aid certification and teach young athletes how to tackle opponents properly. Parents should provide their children with protective regulation gear for the sport.
The safety of your child and the safety of other kid on the field should always be a top priority for everyone involved in youth sports. And knowing how to detect a concussion can make that possible.
The number of kids playing sports is declining across the US. Surveys for Project Play 2020 show that only 36.9 percent of boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12 take part in sports. The number is down 7.6 percent from 2008 when 44.5 percent of all US kids participated in at least one sports program.
Meanwhile, kids are less active than ever before. The number of kids in the 6-to-12 age group not taking part in sports is over 20 percent, while among adolescents in the 13-to-17 age group this number is 19 percent. And the biggest losers of this decline in participation are the big four team national sports: football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Here’s a brief breakdown of how much and why.
While basketball remains the number one urban sport in America, it is yet to take over the landscape outside of cities. The lack of facilities in the rural parts of the nation makes it hard to come into contact with basketball. Additionally, the decline is also the result of a unique physical build required to participate in the sport, as US citizens are getting shorter. And since kids don’t start growing until they reach puberty, their height makes it difficult to take part in the sport competitively.
Baseball’s decline is mostly due to its inability to connect with kids, and participation is down by 1 to 2 percent each year. According to a report by the Washington Post, the sport is struggling because many parents didn’t play baseball as kids and didn’t introduce it to their children. It is essential for the game as its sluggishness, conservative rules and lack of action make it hard to adapt without a strong influence from a parent.
Historically speaking, soccer is only a recent addition to the plethora of team sports in the US, despite being the most popular sport in the world. The lack of facilities and specialized coaches makes it hard for kids to play the game.
However, after the US Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup in 2015, there had been a spike of girls taking part in the sport. So, there might be a general turnaround for soccer participation in 2026, when the USA will host the World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico.
Football (Tackle) -5.4%
The NFL remains the favorite among sports fans across America. However, the number one reason for its decline among kids is the bad press the sport has received over the years regarding safety and players getting concussions from tackles during games. Parents don’t want to send their kids to hurt themselves or other players on the field.
How to Change This Trend?
All four sports will need to make changes to turn things around. Nevertheless, parents can take small steps and motivate their kids to play sports by highlighting the importance of a healthier lifestyle. And it could be as simple as receiving fundraising assistance from a professional league network that works with communities to improve facilities, create better leagues and promote youth sports. In doing so, parents will inspire kids to take up a game and lead better lives.
Tackling is the fundamental part and most important aspect of football. It’s also the most dangerous and both youth and pro football players risk serious injuries, like concussions, if they don’t perform a proper tackle. That’s why it’s vital that tackles are mastered at an early age, so it becomes a routine reaction in game situations. And to teach them, here are some tips and drills to help you.
Three-Step Tackling Drill
Players must learn to perform the fundamental movement of a proper tackle without thinking about it. The best way of teaching the safest technique is to break it down into a three-count tackle and teach it step-by-step:
- Step 1 – Break the midline of the opponent with the stronger foot, bring the arms back at the same time;
- Step 2 – Swing the arms behind the opponent and grab the back of the jersey. Players need to square the neck and ‘bite the ball’ by pulling the neck back and making contact with the face mask (NEVER tackle with the crown of the helmet!);
- Step 3 – Bring the hips forward and drive the opponent back or to the ground to complete the tackle.
Breaking down the mechanics of a proper tackle like this walks the players through the process. After enough drilling and practice, their bodies learn these motor actions and create muscle memory. In doing so, players gradually increase the speed of their movement ensuring they always make proper tackles unconsciously. Even during hectic game conditions.
Dummy Tackling Drills
Tackling a dummy is a simple way to teach players how to tackle correctly in youth football. It lets players master the three-step tackle before they start practicing with teammates.
Start the drill by positioning the players one yard in front of the dummy. After they take their defensive stance, on the whistle-blowing, each player should rush forward and tackle the dummy. Make sure the players tackle the dummy by wrapping their arms around it and hitting it with their chest plate.
As soon as they make contact, release the dummy, and allow the player to drive it forward or to the ground. Once one player successfully tackles the dummy move onto the next one until the entire squad has completed the drill.
Not grabbing the back of the offensive player is one of the main reasons players at all levels make incorrect tackles that lead to injury. A hug-and-hold drill helps create muscle memory among kids always to grab the ball player with both arms.
To start the drill, have two players take a defensive stance opposite of one another. On your mark, they should grab each other behind the back and start pushing each other. On the second mark, they should release the player and move on to the second part of the drill.
In the second part of the hug-and-hold, an offensive player carrying the ball should position himself in front of the defender. On your mark, the player with the ball should move forward and jump, while the defender should try and grab him by the back with both hands. Again, the emphasis is on using your hands, instead of the helmet during tackles.
Promote Safe Tackling
Even though kids might find these simple drills boring, it’s up to you to explain their significance. Coach players to have fun by creating a competition out of it who can do the best tackle to promote safe tackling. After all, it’s up to you to teach them how to stay safe on the field.
Kids are playing fewer sports in the US these days. A survey has shown that little over 36 percent of 6-to-12-year-old kids are participating in youth sports in contrast to 44.5 percent from 2008. The most significant loss is experienced by the big four national team sports: basketball, football, baseball, and soccer.
The decline is mostly due to social factors. On the one hand, kids from low-income families are the ones hardest hit, because of the increasing costs associated with youth sports. High facility and coaching fees, expensive equipment, and the higher cost of travel are all factors that make these youth sports less inclusive.
On the other hand, it’s also down to the influence of these sports. According to another survey, fathers remain the most significant sports role model that makes children turn to sports. And if parents haven’t played or watched the sport, it’s highly unlikely their kids will want to join a program.
However, the overall decline hasn’t affected some sports, and there are some clear winners in recent years. The three most notable youth sports which are rising are ice hockey, lacrosse, and gymnastics. Let’s take a look at what made them boom in the last couple of years.
Ice Hockey has seen an increase of 64 percent in youth participation in recent years. While it remains a contact sport with a high rate of injuries, ice hockey is becoming less violent as fights are fewer. It has motivated many parents to sign up their kids to participate in the sport.
Besides the usual bastions of the sport in the North of the US and Canada, the NHL is planning to relocate teams into other parts of the US. The prospect of having a team in your home city has driven franchises to promote the sport to kids (and their parents) to increase the fan base in those cities.
Participation in gymnastics at youth level has risen 15% in recent years. The sport remains most popular among girls, especially after the immense success of the US gymnastics team at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In particular, high coverage of Simone Biles’ efforts and her one bronze and three gold medals has motivated kids across America to take part.
Another contribution to its popularity is the winning bid by Los Angeles to host the 2028 Olympic Games. As the host nation, the US Olympic Committee has to produce quality participants in all sports, including gymnastics. And with ten years to go, it’s the perfect time to start training.
The oldest active sport on the North American continent is up 158 percent. Currently, it’s the fastest growing sport in the United States. Because lacrosse is the least violent contact sport, parents choose it for their children instead of football.
Moreover, the sport is being televised more at the college and professional level. It has increased the reach of lacrosse, and children who didn’t have the opportunity to come into contact with the sport are now drawn to participate. The fast pace of the game, the unusual style of play and inclusiveness of both genders makes it attractive to watch, and kids want to be part of that game.
Playing Any Sport Is Important
Despite the popularity of these sports, parents should motivate their kids as much as possible to take part in games. With the help of a professional league network that supports sport in communities, kids are more likely to take up a sport they like, so that they can enjoy a happier and healthier childhood.
Coaches are valuable members of any sports organization. How well they prepare the team tactically, physically and mentally determines the success of the entire team. But good youth coaches also are excellent teachers, educating kids about the importance of having fun over winning, teamwork and fair play.
However, in most cases, youth coaches are volunteers with primary experience in sports who only want to do right by their community and their kids. And after their child stops playing, it’s likely they leave the team to focus on other aspects of their life.
Because a good youth coach is hard to find, it is vital for both the parents and the youth sports organization to pull together and do as much as possible to persuade the coach to stay on the team. So, it’s vital to know how to retain youth coaches after their child stops playing to continue nurturing a fun and enjoyable experience for all the kids on the team.
Use the Two Main Motives for All Youth Coaches
Youth coaches are formal volunteers. They have a personal commitment to the sports organization (their child and their word) and gain a sense of accomplishment and gratification from doing the work (teaching kids and winning games.)
These two motives are the main driving force of your coach. It’s why they chose to lead the team in the first place. After their child outgrows the team, it’s important to highlight their connection with other kids.
Make sure not to guilt the coach into staying, but instead suggest he takes on the team until the next generation of players signs up for the team. It’s far more likely the coach will stay if he feels a sense of obligation to see the whole project through.
Listen to the Coach
Listening to the coach allows you to hear him out and discover his pain points. Sure his child has left the team, but that’s not the only reason why he stayed on as coach. There must be something he wants to achieve or a personal ambition he can realize through the team. Your job is to find out what it is.
Ask questions related to his ambitions and what the team needs. When you do find out what that might be, it will be easier to make constructive suggestions both to the coach and the organization.
Offer to Do Something for the Coach
As mentioned, a sense of gratification is one of the motives that drive youth coaches. Reward the coach’s efforts by offering to support his professional development. Financing a coaching course or getting them to take a first aid certification might seem insignificant, but it demonstrates how much you care.
A coach might also feel empowered by the offer, and share the passion you have for your children. And if he accepts, he’s here to stay.
Offer to Do Something for the Team
Finally, offer to improve and reward the team. Gather the community around a major project, like the sports facility renovation or raising money to take part in a stronger league or tournament. If your offer boosts expectations, it can motivate the coach to stay on and see the new project through.
It also shows the coach that you share his ambitions, while the competitiveness of your offer might be tempting, seeing how he’s a former athlete. The kids will also appreciate the gesture and work harder to make you and the coach proud.