Last night a friend and coaching colleague of mine called to talk about his first Over-40 match. He said the match was going well and becoming more competitive as the minutes ticked by. In the middle of the second half, one of his teammates collapsed on the pitch. Everyone stopped and went to help him, a 911 call was made, and people looked for aspirin but couldn’t find any. Does anyone know CPR? All hesitated but finally did act. Before the ambulance could arrive he died of a heart attack.
Needless to say this greatly upset my friend. Seeing a teammate die on the field in front of you has quite an impact. The men in their forties who moments before heatedly contested a soccer game turned in an instant into a collective group working to save a comrade's life. Sports and the win-at-all-costs mentality disappeared and life came into perspective for those adults playing in and watching this match. No matter how deep our passion for soccer maybe it is after all just a game. What’s most important in soccer are the people in soccer.
As our conversation went on last night my friend said that the man who is his assistant coach with the U14 team they coach was also playing in this match. The situation caused them to talk to each other about what they would do if something catastrophic happened during one of their training sessions or matches. So we discussed having an action plan. Every coach MUST have an action plan for injuries and emergencies. This is both risk management and first aid in nature.
Most coaches are quite good about having a first aid kit at practice and games. Is it checked regularly to be sure it is stocked correctly? Is it always with the coach’s equipment? Everyone today has a cell phone and the coach must have his or hers near the first aid kit. It may not be a long run back to the car to use your phone in an emergency, but by having the phone with you on the field you can make the 911 call sooner and you can stay with the players to manage the situation. So the coaches must have a plan. If a serious injury or an emergency occurs who will call and direct emergency services? Who will be the first aid giver? Who will supervise the rest of the players? Do you have an emergency contact for the injured person? Do the players, coaches, parents, team manager or anyone with the team have ICE (In Case of Emergency contact) in their phone? Where do we go in case of a sudden thunderstorm? What is our plan in case of heat stroke? Obviously, there can be more questions to ask and answer in your action plan. The coaches and team manager need to have this discussion and make a plan. Part of the plan is a survey of the skills of the parents of a youth team. Who has medical qualifications of any sort? How might the other adults be able to assist the coaches in a real emergency?
One other thing that came up in our conversation last night is that coaches taking coaching courses may tune out a bit when the presentation is made on the prevention and care of injuries and risk management. The thought goes through the head of many candidates yes, yes that’s fine now can we get on with going to the field to work on tactics? The coach is not fully in the moment during the course when crucial information is being presented that will assist the coach when an emergency occurs. So not only should a coach take coaching courses to learn more about soccer but also attend a first aid and CPR course. When that person collapses on the field with a heart attack is not the time to lament not having gone to the course.