There are two important April observances that we want to focus on today.  One is Sports Eye Safety Month and the other is National Youth Sports Safety Month.  First, in the United States, around 40,000 people suffer sports-related eye injuries annually, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology.  Their recommendation is that all athletes wear appropriate, sports-specific eye protection properly fitted by an eye care professional. 

Adults are urged to choose eyewear that will protect them from injuries while they engage in sports activities.  Eye protection is available for most sports, which include baseball, hockey, football, lacrosse, fencing, paintball, water polo, golf, and basketball.  This eyewear will not affect your performance in a game; however it may save your sight.  In most children’s sports leagues, eye protection isn’t mandatory, so it is up to parents to be sure they wear eye protection.  

Because April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, we want to encourage parents to ensure the safety of their children’s choice of sports by checking out sports fields and playgrounds for hazards.  There may be glass, rocks, debris, potholes, and movable soccer goals which are not secured, that could tip over if they are climbed on.  

As many of us have had children/grandchildren involved in sports, this is too good not to share with all of you.   It’s called the  Golden Rule of Coaching

  • If athletes are coached with criticism, they learn low self-esteem.
  • If athletes are coached with hostility, they learn to fight.
  • If athletes are coached with ridicule, they learn to withdraw.
  • If athletes are coached with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
  • If athletes are coached with patience, they learn to improve.
  • If athletes are coached with encouragement, they learn confidence.
  • If athletes are coached with praise, they learn to have faith.
  • If athletes are coached with fairness, they learn justice.
  • If athletes are coached with approval, they learn positive self-esteem.
  • If athletes are coached with honesty, they learn to trust.
  • If athletes are coached with modesty, they learn teamwork.
  • If athletes are coached with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in sport. 

We’ve probably all had tough coaches and softer-hearted ones; many times the way they treat their athletes has lasting effects.  Coaches must always keep the safety of their athletes foremost.  They should never take chances that could endanger their team.  Here’s some advice for the young athletes, and is also something  for grown-ups (parents) to remember, too:

  • Have Fun!
  • Remember this is a game designed for enjoyment.
  • Do your best while having a good time!
  • Learning how to play the game is more important than winning and losing.
  • Some kids grow faster and are better coordinated than others, but everyone catches up eventually.
  • Be patient.
  • Who you are as a person does not depend on wins and losses.
  • Treat other athletes and your coaches with respect.
  • Remember, everyone is trying their hardest.
  • Honor the rules of the game.
  • Be a good sport.
  • Support your teammates, be a team player. 
  • There’s no “I” in TEAM.

The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation encourages parents to support youth safety by calling or writing letters to athletic directors, school boards, and administrators of youth sports programs.  Encourage them as well to take a leadership role in advocating coaching education.  Be sure they have an emergency plan and an immediate first responder in case of injury.  If young people are taught how to participate safely in sports, their experiences and the bonds they make with others will remain with them for a long time.