Ensuring Effective Safety Protocols for Summer Training
As strength and conditioning professionals, our foremost responsibility is the well-being of the athletes we serve. Nowhere is this commitment more crucial than during summer training, when athletes return to play after a break. It is imperative that we prioritize athlete safety by implementing effective safety protocols that align with the guidelines. I usually don’t write blogs about things that can easily be found on the NCAA website, but I’ve witnessed too many coaches thinking they know it all already and don’t need a refresher. So hopefully this blog helps serve as an added reminder for all of us.
Note: this is not an exhaustive list of the guidelines or protocols, rather I’ve highlighted the ones I see most neglected. Please consult the NCAA official guidelines for all athlete safety protocols and have a certified athletic trainer present for all training sessions.
1. Educating Athletes on Hydration and Heat Management:
Summer training often exposes athletes to high temperatures and increased risk of heat-related illnesses. Educating athletes on proper hydration strategies, recognizing signs of heat exhaustion, and implementing appropriate cooling measures are essential components of safety protocols. By prioritizing hydration and heat management, we protect athletes from potentially life-threatening conditions.
A good way to do this is to educate and prioritize hydration all year round! It’s unrealistic to expect athletes to adhere to hydration guidelines only during one part of the season. Instead, highlight the effects of dehydration and detriment to performance that it can create so your athletes are incentivized to hydrate all year round.
2. Proper Equipment and Facility Safety:
A safe training environment relies on the availability of appropriate equipment and facility safety measures. Regular equipment inspections, proper maintenance, and ensuring the presence of emergency response equipment are essential. Summer training often involves equipment or implements that haven’t been used since last summer. Don’t assume the equipment hasn’t weathered or worn in that year’s time. Take the extra step in doing your due diligence to check the safety and quality of your equipment.
Additionally, monitoring and addressing facility hazards, such as uneven surfaces or inadequate lighting, contribute to the overall safety of athletes. This should be done each training session – evaluate the field conditions if doing an outdoor run; determine temperature and humidity levels so proper care can be taken during training. I’ll say it again: I know you know this stuff, but if it isn’t specifically written into your protocols, it’s easy to skip over.
3. Knowing and Implementing Emergency Action Plans:
Even with the utmost precautions, unforeseen emergencies can occur. Having a well-defined Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place is critical. This includes training staff on emergency response procedures, establishing communication protocols, and ensuring the availability of emergency contact information. By being prepared for emergencies, strength and conditioning professionals can swiftly and effectively respond to any unforeseen events and prioritize the safety of athletes.
Not long ago I concluded a Masters level course that included having to create your own EAP and it was surprisingly more difficult than you would think. As athletic department professionals we are supposed to know and review these each year, but few of us actually do it with emergencies in mind. If we even open the attachment, our eyes glaze over when we see how many pages it is. I can’t encourage you enough to take it seriously – as a coach who has experienced several emergencies, you won’t regret knowing your EAP.
Summer training serves as a crucial period for athletes to prepare for the upcoming season. However, it is essential to remember that athlete safety should always be the number one priority. By adhering to NCAA guidelines and implementing effective safety protocols, we can create an environment that supports optimal performance while minimizing the risk of injuries. Let us remain dedicated to providing the highest level of care, ensuring that our athletes train safely and effectively during summer training and beyond. Together, we can build resilient athletes and set the foundation for success.