By Matt Settles
Coach Settles is entering his 12th season as a high school coach in Indiana. The former collegiate player at the University of Southern Indiana is also a regular contributor to the Soccer Toolbox
August is here and for a lot of high school teams and programs across the country, the 2017 season is here and ready to get started. A new season means the opportunity to work with a new team and group of players, an opportunity to build on success from the previous season, or maybe forget a not so successful season.
As you start your pre-season training, make sure you don’t forget your number one priority as a coach which is keeping all your players safe. There are too many injuries in soccer that happen each year whether its heat related, a torn muscle, or broken bone. We all need to step back and remember our jobs are not to win every single game and bring home the state championship. We are teaching kids a sport and must not lose track that their health and safety is in our hands.
Heat related illnesses are a big problem and every coach can help prevent these serious injuries. Make sure your players get lots of water breaks throughout the practice and be smart if the temperature is hot outside. Hopefully you understand and follow heat index warnings and rules as a coach, but regardless of that, every player needs to have breaks and get fluids in their body. Encourage kids to be open and honest and that they won’t get punished for letting you know if they feel bad, fatigued, or even sick.
Your coaching staff can play a big role in helping you identify players that need to be watched closely or maybe given longer breaks if they are struggling through a session. Don’t take a chance with pushing players through the heat. There are no games that are worth putting a player’s life in jeopardy.
Knee injuries are becoming more and more common in soccer and even though they are not completely preventable, there are several things that coaches can do to help the cause. Stretching and proper warm ups seem to be forgotten by some teams and programs. This is not smart and also very dangerous for the players.
If you expect young teenagers to be able to play a full game or lots of minutes without properly stretching and warming up, you are setting yourself up for a seriously injured player. A torn ACL has become the most common knee injury and seems to happen more often with female players due to several different reasons. Regardless if you coach boys or girls, you play a critical role in helping to prevent these serious injuries.
Proper warmups that include static and dynamic stretching to all muscles, as well as jogging and building up to sprinting are important to get the legs ready to play. Also, if a player does hurt his or her knee during a practice or game, make sure they are properly evaluated before being allowed to resume playing. The knee ligament tears can sometimes be prevented by players not playing hurt and putting themselves in a position to make the injury worse.