SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2015

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Page 44 of 67 August 2015 45 ing a game moving, said Dr. Chris Stankovich, a licensed athletic counselor and founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, based in Columbus, Ohio. "Youth sport officials are more chal- lenged today, trying to balance allowing for competitive play while at the same t ime keeping the games as safe as possi- ble," he said. "For example, concussions are a hot topic right now—and deservedly so—but officials are sometimes caught in the middle, trying to allow physical play to occur right up to the point where it is still safe and not at-risk for an injury like a concussion. Finding this imaginary line is very subjective and not always easy to do, especially when you add in the high emo- tions often experienced in sports." In situations in which referees are not calling obvious fouls or rough play, how- ever, there may be some additional factors involved, Stankovich added. "Sometimes it's ignorance of not know- ing exactly where to draw the line, while in other cases officials sometimes get caught up in the fun and competitive spirit often experienced in youth sports," he said. "In other examples, I believe officials are impacted by league or parent expecta- tions, where it may be overtly—or covert- ly—implied to let the kids play." Other Factors Affecting Injuries Stankovich also pointed out other factors in youth sports that are contributing to injuries, some of which officials cannot control. "These are challenging times for youth officials in that kids are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before, lead- ing to an increased likelihood for sports injuries," he said. "The degree to which officials can prevent injuries from occur- ring is debatable." He explained that the job of an official is affected by mediating factors such as the quality of sports equipment, the rules in place to protect kids, the expectations of the parents and the league administrators. "To immediately call out an official who might have missed a cheap shot, per se, may be short-sighted without looking at other variables." Also, while most parents are concerned about their kids' safety, some parents—and some coaches—make things more danger- ous for the players by encouraging rough play and dirty tricks, Roberts said. This is borne out by the "Changing the Culture of Youth Sports" report, in which 28 percent of athletes surveyed responded t hat "it is normal to commit hard fouls and play rough to send a message during a game." When Things Get Out Of Control So, what should parents do when they become concerned about the safety of the kids during a competition? The worst step to take is to start scream- ing at the referee or other players, Roberts said. "When there is a break or time-out, the parents could talk to the coach. If it's a tournament, parents might be able to approach the head official or officiating supervisor," he said. "But in a single game, there might only be one referee, so it's best to try to work through the coach." After the game, parents might also call or write to the officials or administrators of the program, he added "If dangerous activity is blatant or repeated, a parent can choose to pull a child from the game," Roberts said. "It's usually surprising how often kids can bounce back when they are hurt, but they should not have to suffer repeated injuries because another player is too rough." Roberts also said coaches should approach officials when they see rough play. "When I was coaching soccer, I would call for a discussion with the offi- cials at the break if I felt they were miss- ing some rough play," he said. "Sometimes they just don't see what is happening." He added that parents and coaches teach players to speak up if they are taking rough hits. "In these cases, the player can talk to the coach, but the player should not try to address the ref directly," he cautioned. n For More Information Preventative Measures t YOUTH Sports Preventing rough or dirty play starts with consistency in youth sport league rules and equipment, according to Dr. Chris Stankovich, a l icensed athletic counselor and founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems. Sports organiza- tions should always require continuing education of coaches and officials, and develop improved protocols to deal with situations where injuries occur. Referees should be taught to look for types of play that lead to serious injuries and put a stop to them before some- one gets hurt, he said. Following a game where rough play has occurred, coaches need to continue to re-empha- size safe play and play- ing within the rules, with healthy sportsmanship as the crux of competi- tion, he said. "After the game, if it is found that an athlete intentionally broke a rule leading to an intentional injury, appropriate steps should be taken, including a suspension in some cases," he said. "Similarly, officials who are found to be guilty of negligence or incompetence need to be assessed to see if continuing education can remedy the situation, and if not, they should be immediately relieved of their duties." "The good news," Stankovich added, "is the vast majority of youth sports officials are terrific people who prioritize kids' safety over everything else. Unfortunately, we tend not to hear about those individuals nearly as much as we do the bad ones who allow things to go too far and put kids in danger." n

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