This is a guest post from Nic Donovic.

Nik Donovic is an advocate for safety in sports and monitors the technology that improves it. In his free time, you can usually find him hiking the urban mountains or cycling on the valley streets below.

When you lead a team or athletic program, your players are your greatest resource. Keep your team happy, healthy, and raring to go if you want to succeed. Sports injuries can cause lifelong damage for your players, and can damage your credibility as a leader. Remember that, in addition to his skill as an athlete, a good leader uses wisdom and respect to earn and maintain player confidence. Hard skulls contain soft brains–even a small blow can cause permanent brain trauma.

A healthy team is a winning team. Use these guidelines to protect your players and your reputation.

Educate Your Team

Your players need to be able watch themselves on the field. Teach them about basic safe movement and common danger zones. The National Institute of Health lists the following sites as common places of sports injuries:

  • muscles
  • ligaments
  • tendons
  • bones

Make sure your players are aware of what these parts are and what can go wrong with them. This will help them accurately and promptly report any emerging issues. Additionally, make sure your players understand safety fundamentals, such as bending knees when landing a jump, and avoiding twisting their knees during stretches.

Listen To Your Athletes

Treating your players with respect will not only endear you to them, it will keep them safe. A report from The Gatorade Sports Science Institute found that “[failing] to provide adequate psychosocial support” made injuries more likely. What does this mean? That neglecting your team’s feelings can lead you (or them) to overlook problems and cause lasting harm. This may sound touchy-feely to some, but it’s actually very logical: if they don’t think you’ll listen, they won’t bother reporting any issues. If they don’t report any issues, you won’t know about them and can’t fix them.

Watch The Weather

Get a good weather app and use it. Heat stroke, hypothermia, storm damage, etc. The weather can pose an enormous variety of problems if you don’t pay attention. It seems like common sense, but sometimes extreme weather can sneak up so gradually you don’t notice. Also remember that your players are usually wearing more gear than you and are probably working up more of a sweat.

If you must play in spite of the weather, play safely. Drink lots of water if it’s hot. Bundle up if it’s cold.

Insist On Good Gear

It’s worth shelling out a few extra bucks for the good stuff. Old or broken equipment could put your players in danger. Yes, you did it differently when you were a kid. Try explaining that to a 14-year old’s parents when their kid loses half of her permanent teeth. Or to their lawyer.

Warm Up (And Cool Down) Properly

Warming up, stretching, and easing your way into an event will enhance your performance as well as preventing injuries. Take your time, even if players complain. They’ll complain even more if they start tearing muscles.

Cooling down can be easier to neglect. You’ve already finished the game, the action has climaxed, and it seems so easy to fall into a pile and grab that post-win pizza. Insist on stretching after the game as well as before.