National Youth Sports Safety Month: Protecting Athletes With Purpose

National Youth Sports Safety Month What is safety? Most define it as a form of protecting oneself from injury or harm. In youth sports, it’s inevitable that injuries will occur, especially in today’s sports, as athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than they’ve ever been.

According to Johns Hopkins University, over 3.5 million young athletes suffer physical injuries each year; but if you add in mental trauma, the injury count far exceeds that. Across the youth sports landscape, athletes’ “intangible” attributes and how they relate to safety is rarely even addressed. Oftentimes, it’s these categories, and the neglect they’re shown, that damage an athlete the most. For most athletes, physical injuries will heal, but emotional turmoil caused at a young age can cause a scar that lasts a lifetime.

That’s why at Upward Sports we are so passionate about developing and protecting young athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially as they continue their athletic journey and grow into total athletes.

In recent years, youth sports have seen a drastic increase in the number of injuries among young athletes as they have begun specializing in one sport, playing more games, training harder, and playing at a higher level of competition at younger ages.

The first of those causes (athletes playing only one sport) may seem strange, but statistics tell us it can significantly influence the likelihood of an athlete receiving an injury. A recent survey conducted by Loyola University in which 1200 youth athletes were surveyed found that those who specialized in one sport were 70-93 percent more likely to suffer from injuries when compared to multi-sport athletes. Providing athletes with a variety of sport offerings is something that is critical in Upward Sports programming. We are proud to offer basketball, volleyball, soccer, cheerleading, and flag football as part of our sports catalog.

Within each of these sports, our approach is calculated with a strong focus on safety. In the case of flag football, we adopted the “no contact” approach instead of tackle football, because we believe through the grades K5-8 there is plenty of physical maturity left for these athletes, and this format allows them to reach it while learning the rules, skills, and proper form without risking unnecessary injury.

Along with program variety, Upward Sports also accommodates young athletes by meeting them where they are within their individual athletic journey. This is important because far too often parents, coaches, and peers push players to perform at a level that they just aren’t mentally or physically prepared for. It is our goal to ensure every athlete competes against the proper level of competition, plays in the safest environment, and ultimately is allowed to reach his or her full potential. Upward Sports coaches embody this train of thought as they passionately pursue what’s best for an athlete’s long-term development over any short-term gains.

In today’s sports culture, safety is often viewed as protecting against only those things that cause physical danger, but there is also emotional protection that needs to be taken into consideration. In youth sports in particular, there is a certain group of parents and coaches who push athletes to reach for perfection. When an athlete inevitably falls short of those unattainable expectations, he or she tends to be berated and belittled by their supposed role models and support system.

This is a very dangerous scenario that often causes an irreversible view of sports for athletes, leading many to lose their love for the game. It’s an unfortunate fact that 70 percent of athletes are driven out of sports by the age of 13. A large number of these participants tend to leave because there is simply too much pressure from outside forces preventing them from having fun within a sport, which in its creation, was designed for just that – FUN!

At Upward Sports, we take pride in providing youth sports programming that values safety on the court or field and takes a serious stance in ensuring athletes have a solid spiritual foundation to make wise decisions and develop a strong lifelong relationship with Christ.

No matter what Upward Sports program you choose, you can feel confident in knowing that keeping our athletes safe is of the highest priorities. Upward volunteers and coaches share in this passion as they serve leagues nationwide, putting Upward Sports’ mission and philosophies into practice, including safety.

It is our goal to provide our players and families with a first-class sports experience in a safe environment that allows them to learn and develop to reach their full potential.

As we continue moving through National Youth Sports Safety Month, take the time to sit down with your athlete and go over how they are protecting themself, as well as ways he or she can improve.

And remember, when you play – Play With Purpose!