SOCCER COACH, PROTECT YOURSELF!
Soccer Coach, you give all your time to others, but you must be sure to take care of yourself. You must make time to protect your well-being and the well-being of your family. CoachingAmericanSoccer.com® recommends that you consider and act upon the following:
Stay in shape. You should be able to play with your team. Get annual physicals and stay healthy. Pay particular attention to your heart and circulation. Choose good foods and maintain a proper diet. Drink in moderation. Absolutely no smoking. Use sunscreen, at least SPF-30. Wear clothing appropriate for the weather and proper soccer gear, including shoes and shinguards. You can find these products online or in your local sports outlet. Wear a hat if you are losing your hair. Warm-up and stretch properly before each practice.
Minimize the use of whistles. Their extremely high decibel level will damage your hearing. Whistles generally do not need to be used at practice. If you do use a whistle, it should probably only be to simulate what a referee would do during a match. Even then, it does not have to be blown at full blast.
There is no place for inappropriate behavior. You must learn to recognize and to stay away from any situations that could be misconstrued as inappropriate behavior. Expect that your organization will require you to undergo some sort of background check. The most common is the “KidSafe” program. In addition, research local and state laws that may be applicable to how an adult in any kind of position such as teaching or coaching may or may not be able to touch a child. No cursing, smoking or alcohol use. (Assume you are subject to being filmed by mobile phones at any time.)
Know child abuse reporting requirements. Congress recently enacted a new federal law, the “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017,” that requires coaches to report any suspicion of child abuse, including sexual abuse. Certain adults who are authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes at a facility under the jurisdiction of a national governing body must report suspected abuse within 24 hours of knowledge. This includes U.S. Soccer. Any individual who is required to report suspected abuse, but fails to do so, is subject to criminal (and possibly civil) penalties. “SafeSport.org” offers resources on how to report a potential violation. See: https://safesport.org/report-a-concern for more information.
Inform parents that you will most likely need to touch their children during instruction, to teach right-from-left, to put-on-and-take-off pinnies, to tie shoe laces, to teach proper movement of limbs to contact the ball, to place kids properly on the field, and to give handshakes, “high fives,” and hugs. Ensure that all parents are told in the presence of others. Record who was there. If you wish, put this in writing and have them sign the document as “informed consent.” If any parent balks, you must inform your organization and never, ever, touch their child.
Always have a second adult with you at all times during practices, games, and any other activities involving your players. This is not only for the safety of your players, but also for you. Make sure that both of you have emergency contact information for each other. Never, ever, leave a child at a field alone with the expectation that they will be picked up.
If you transport any players under the age of 18, get permission slips from the parents or guardians. Contact your automobile insurance provider regarding coverage. If you transport a significant number of players in vans, especially institutional or rental vans, you need to confirm your insurance coverage for this type of activity. In addition, you need to see if you are required to have any special licensing for your state or to cross state lines. Also, you should check the licensing and maintenance of the vehicle(s) themselves.
You must have your own health and accidental injury insurance. You can sustain a personal injury during practice just as easily as your players.
Research personal liability insurance. Homeowners’ and renters’ policies may or may not apply or may only be limited to your property. If you don’t have this type of policy, it doesn’t apply at all.
Obtain an “Umbrella” insurance policy. Some insurance agencies may still offer “tort” insurance.
Join the United Soccer Coaches organization (formerly the National Soccer Coaches Association of America – NSCAA). This will include you under their insurance policy.
Research your institutional insurance coverage. If you coach under the auspices of a school or similar organization, they should have some sort of group policy.
Take advantage of other insurance offerings. Many youth groups provide an insurance option from national youth-sports-insurance providers. (For example, the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, NYSCA, has insurance options.) Expect that your organization may require you to take some sort of child protection course.
Don’t let your insurance lapse. Pay all of the premiums on time. You can’t afford not to.
Always notify a parent or guardian of suspected injury to a player. This is especially true of a head injury involving a possible concussion. Follow up any verbal notification in writing.
In most states, if you are approached by a child who reports a case of sexual abuse, it is mandatory that you report this utterance to police. Some states have laws that you may be prosecuted for failure to do so. Document everything.
Educate yourself and follow the rules of your organization, league, state association, and US Youth Soccer or US Soccer. Coaches are subject to sanctions or suspension for such things as registration violations, failure to make payments, or being named as defendants in litigation (see US Youth Soccer Bylaw 252).
Develop a “thick skin.” There is always that certain percentage of the population that will second-guess or feel that it is their right to criticize, even though they don’t volunteer, because they somehow think they know better or because they paid money. Pick any battles wisely and don’t always expect your Club or Association to back you up.
Be extremely careful what you put in writing and send to others. Assume that anything you transmit can be forwarded by anyone to anyone.
When setting up soccer fields, know how to recognize poison ivy and other poisonous plants so that they can be avoided.
If you are responsible for directing the finances of your team, properly record every single transaction on a spreadsheet. Print and distribute the spreadsheet, on a least a monthly basis, to all parents and other interested parties.
Ensure that your assistant coaches are covered, as well. Your assistants need to be aware of, and follow, all of the same requirements listed above.
© Copyright, John C. Harves