Updated: Nov 2
Several years ago I was traveling with my son’s team in Memphis. While sitting at breakfast with all of the moms a player walked up and asked us what was on the top of the muffin he was holding in his hand. One of the moms said, “That is a banana nut muffin, those are nuts.” The player looked at the muffin then looked over his shoulder and said, “I don’t think Jack should be eating this then.” Every one of the moms jumped up. We all knew Jack had a nut allergy and he was traveling with another family (thank goodness it was another food allergy family). Each mom jumped into high gear, one mom calling Jack’s mom, another mom attending to Jack (who was not exhibiting any symptoms) and a third mom locating his epi-pen and dosing Benadryl. Jack ended up being fine, he had a few symptoms but our trip went on as planned and he flew back with his chaperone and teammates later that evening.
This post does have affiliate links, purchases made from Amazon through these links will provide Ohio Soccer Soccer Moms and Dads with a small commission.
As soccer parents, our primary goal is to support our children's dreams and aspirations, regardless of any challenges they may face. When our young athletes have special medical considerations, it's crucial to ensure they have the same opportunities as their peers, while taking proactive steps to ensure their safety and success on the field. Here's a guide to navigating the world of soccer with preparedness, advocating for our players, and empowering them to excel in their chosen sport.
1. Open Communication with Coaches and Team Admins
The foundation of a successful soccer journey for players with special medical considerations lies in transparent communication. It's essential to have an open dialogue with coaches and team administrators about your child's needs. Start by emphasizing that your player isn't seeking special treatment, but rather a safety net in case of emergencies. Make sure that coaches and administrators are aware of your child's medical condition, their emergency action plan, and any necessary medications or procedures.
Most coaches will welcome your communication and offer to learn and assist in any special circumstances. Unfortunately, I have also come across some coaches who for one reason or another refuse to actively participate in supporting their players in their special medical considerations. If you find this to be the case, this might be your sign that this club or coach is not a good fit for your family. But, you might find an amazing high level coach, potentially from a professional or international background who cares, but just doesn’t have the skill set or bandwidth to be helpful. This is when you might want to volunteer to admin your player’s team or have a conversation with the team’s current admin to be sure your player’s needs are being met.
2. Be Prepared: The Emergency Bag
Preparedness is the key to handling any unforeseen situations effectively. For parents of players with special medical considerations, putting together an emergency bag can provide peace of mind and make a critical difference in an urgent scenario. Here's how to do it:
Organize Essentials: Reserve a dedicated pocket in your player's soccer bag for emergency supplies. This pocket should house necessary medications, instructions, and any essential medical devices.
Clear Markings: To streamline the process, mark the emergency pocket with a ribbon that corresponds to your child's medical condition. This simple yet effective system helps ensure quick access to the right supplies.
Yellow Ribbon: Players with Asthma should have a yellow ribbon indicating the pocket where their inhaler can be found.
Blue Ribbon: For players with diabetes, a blue ribbon can highlight the pocket containing glucose tabs and glucagon pens, blood glucose monitor and insulin dosing supplies could be kept here as well. Storing extra insulin can be tricky and may require a temperature controlled pouch and ice.
Teal Ribbon: Allergic reactions are a concern for some players especially those with food allergies. A teal ribbon can mark the pocket with their epinephrine auto-injector (epipen).
Purple Ribbon: Epilepsy requires specialized attention. Mark a pocket with a purple ribbon, containing emergency meds and a response plan.
Make it easy on those around you. My son with epilepsy wears a medical alert bracelet. Players with special medical considerations can wear rubber bracelets like these from Amazon that can be customized for your color and specific medical needs.
3. Empower Your Player
Preparedness isn't only about tangible supplies – it's also about education and empowerment. Teach your child the importance of carrying their medications, educating coaches and peers about their condition, and advocating for themselves when needed. Encourage them to be vocal about their needs and take ownership of their health, building confidence both on and off the field. Involve your player’s closest friends or someone your player is comfortable confiding in. While your player may be able to advocate for themselves when they are in good health most special medical conditions come on fast and leave players incapacitated - having a teammate that can assist, identify a problem or communicate their friend's needs could be a huge help in an emergency.
BONUS: AEDs: A Lifesaving Addition
For players with heart conditions, having access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be a matter of life or death. An AED is a portable device that can diagnose and treat cardiac arrhythmias. Ensure that every field your child plays on has an accessible AED nearby. Recently, Avive Solutions has introduced a "pocket size" AED available through subscription, making the cost of carrying this vital equipment less than $1 per day. This innovation could be a game-changer for soccer parents seeking peace of mind. To reach out to Avive directly you can contact Jack Scala (firstname.lastname@example.org), tell him Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads sent you for personalized service and ask for their Avive Connect pricing.
Every young soccer player deserves the chance to pursue their dreams, regardless of medical considerations. By fostering open communication, ensuring preparedness, and empowering our players, we can create an environment where they can thrive. Soccer parents play a pivotal role in shaping their children's experiences, and with these steps, we can support them in reaching their full potential while keeping their health and safety a top priority.
Edit: After I posted this my friend text me and said this "It was a really good article... I especially like the ribbon idea. You also forgot to (put) find a a bestie who treats your kid like their own."
I think she is right! One of the keys to any successful soccer journey is finding your people especially the people who love your kids and look out for you and your children.