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|Responsible Sports: When Should Sick Athletes Return?
Last month, a Responsible Sports Parent wrote to our panel of experts to ask: “The team mom/parent of a player states through an email her son won’t attend the wrestling match due to his bronchitis. The following practice the wrestler shows up and I the coach ask if he is still sick, the wrestler stated to me a little, I am still on antibiotics and can’t run. As a coach what should I do?”
Ken, a concerned coach.
We asked two of our experts to weigh in. Jordan Burroughs – 2012 Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Team member had this to say:
“As a coach you have to be able to determine the difference between someone who is actually sick and unable to practice at their best ability and someone just feeling a little bit under the weather. There are days when athletes are not going to feel their best. In order to be a great wrestler, a great athlete, great at anything you have to be able to work hard, push through adversity, and work on the days you do not feel your best.
As the coach I would have to decide if he is in danger of making himself worse or infecting his teammates. I would analyze the situation ask exactly how he was feeling and if he was on medications, ask that he bring a doctor’s note clearing him to practice. If he has not seen a doctor I would have to trust his word as a man and as a student athlete and use my best judgment.”
And Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:
Thanks for asking a question that I’m sure has come up for many youth sports coaches. One thing a Responsible Coach can do in this situation is request a note from a doctor clearing the athlete to participate (and to what level). You noted this player was on antibiotics, which means a doctor must have prescribed them, so you’re simply asking this doctor to let you know when it’s safe for the player to participate. This shows concern not only for the player himself, but also the teammates who will be exposed to him.
If the doctor clears him to participate, but not to run, there are still plenty of other ways to involve this player at practice. Rather than simply sitting him on the sidelines to watch, you could have him feed balls into drills, officiate, set up cones, time drills, etc. He can still benefit from the coaching at practice, even if he is not running.
Reading into the fine print of your question, if you’re faced with this at practice, and there is not time to get a doctor’s note, I’d call the player’s parents and ask if their child was cleared by the doctor to be at practice. If the answer is “no,” then I’d ask the parents to come get him. It’s not easy to be the “heavy” on this sort of thing, but it really is putting the health and safety of all of your players first.
Do you have a youth softball question you’d like to pose to our panel of experts? Visit us online and ask your question today! We regularly post answers on ResponsibleSports.com and each month we’ll feature one question here at USA Wrestling.