Youth Coach's Playbook

Coaching youth sports can be a truly rewarding experience. A good coach has a tremendous opportunity to impart the values of sportsmanship and teamwork to a new generation of young athletes while helping them create memories and skills that will last them a lifetime.  

Good coaching requires preparation.  You need to know what to do defensively when the bases are loaded with nobody out.  You need to have a plan for 4th and 3 when your team is down four.  And you need to have a play in your back pocket that just might work when your team is inbounding the basketball, down two points with three seconds to play.  These are all scenarios that a coach will likely face and needs to be ready for.  Unfortunately a more likely occurrence that you must account for as a coach is that one of your players will be injured during practice or a game.  Even the most minor injury must be treated quickly and correctly.  In short you will need a plan, and that plan begins with a complete and fully stocked First Aid kit.

Assembling a Coach’s First Aid Kit

First and foremost a coach’s First Aid kit should contain emergency cards for each child, complete with parent/guardian contact information and emergency contacts if different.  The cards should also contain information regarding any medical conditions, allergies or medications that a player is taking, as well as insurance and physician information.  

For wound care the kit should contain sterile gauze pads, rolled gauze, antiseptic solution for cleaning the wound, adhesive bandages in various shapes and sizes, non-stick pads, petroleum jelly like Vaseline, and increasingly important these days – hand sanitizer.

In the event of emergency or other injury the First Aid kit must include elastic bandages in varying widths from two to four inches to wrap sprained or strained joints, a splint, instant cold packs and heat packs, and a CPR mask.  You will also need scissors, alcohol wipes, examination gloves, adhesive tape, tweezers, sunscreen, and insect repellent to round out your kit.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and you can certainly add to it as you see fit.  When it comes to assembling your kit, the old adage -- It is better to have something and not need it, than need something and not have it -- definitely applies.

Ice Packs vs. HEATING PACKS: What is the Best Remedy for Your Young Athlete’s Injury

While assembling and maintaining a complete First Aid kit is important, it is only the beginning of your First Aid preparation.  Just as you should know whether to shift the infield to account for a batter’s tendencies, you need to know which injury remedy will be the most effective for your sidelined athlete.  Aside from the run of the mill cuts and minor lacerations that you can simply clean and put a Band-Aid on, sprains and muscle pain are among the most common injuries youth athletes can suffer.

In the case of a sprained ankle for example, most experts agree that the R-I-C-E prescription of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation is the best course of action.  A sprain is a twisting injury that damages some of the surrounding supporting ligaments, and you will want to limit the amount of blood flow to the area to reduce swelling.  This is accomplished by elevation and ice.  Elevation uses gravity to limit the accumulation of blood, while the application of ice to the area helps to constrict the blood vessels.  

Most sports medicine physicians also recommend that ice bags be used over the readily available and convenient freezer packs.  Old fashioned ice bags are generally more malleable and will mold more easily around the injured area, and often the freezer packs reach temperatures that are colder than ice and can cause secondary skin problems. Today’s dual purpose hot and cold therapy bags offer a sturdy solution to the leaky plastic bags of old.

Heat has the opposite effect; it will generally bring blood flow to an area which would be counterproductive in reducing swelling and inflammation and is obviously not recommended in the case of a sprain.  For muscle pain and soreness however, heat is the perfect remedy.  Bringing blood flow to the area provides the injured tissue with healing nutrients as well as increasing the flexibility of the muscles and tendons.  

The application of heat to sore muscles can be accomplished in many ways.  Heat packs and electric heating pads can be equally effective, and some find that the additional humidity of moist heating pads allows the heat to better penetrate the muscles.  Each allows for increased blood flow for better healing, more flexibility and greater range of motion.

You have taken on a great responsibility by volunteering as a youth coach.  You have sworn an unspoken oath to the children you coach, their parents and guardians, and the community at large to leave these athletes better than you drafted them; and that includes physically as well as helping them learn lessons that they will carry with them into the rest of their lives.