Youth Sports: The Best Way To Recover From Injuries

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Many youth athletes today would rather play through the pain than miss a practice or a big game. They’ll ignore an injury and hope that it will just go away with time. Unfortunately, neglecting an injury usually leads to an overuse or repetitive trauma injury and can, in extreme cases, affect the player’s ability to play at all.

Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive stress on the muscle and skeletal system without enough rest to allow the body to adapt. Young athletes are especially at risk as their bodies are still developing. Most of these injuries occur during adolescent growth spurts.

As a direct result of the rise in repetitive trauma injuries in young athletes, sports medicine experts are now urging a larger role for athletic trainers at schools and sports facilities. With an effective rehabilitation program, highly trained athletic trainers can help players recover and avoid lasting damage or interrupting the competitive sports schedule. Facilities should look to include more trainers that specialize in sports-related injury and rehabilitation to their staff to ensure the proper recovery of their players. In a recent study conducted by the American Medical Society for Sports medicine, they recommend that facilities enforce preventative training and conditioning regimens, scheduled rest periods and requiring a pre-participation physical exam to assess a player’s ability to play. They also suggest enforcing limits on repetitive motions such as pitching and hitting as well as identifying any injuries certain athletes are prone to.

John DiFiori, head of the division of sports medicine at the University of California Los Angeles indicates that these preventative exams, “…gives parents a better basis for making a decision about their child’s participation”. In other words, if the assessment indicates that their child is prone to repetitive injuries, they may want to consider enrolling their child in an alternative sport.

Access to athletic trainers in school sports programs has doubled over the last 20 years, but only about a third of high schools have full-time professionals on staff, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association. Moreover, many community programs such as soccer and gymnastic leagues don’t have athletic trainers on board. Some states are considering legislation to require a medical professional be present at high school sporting events.

With more athletic trainers on staff, the better the chances are of avoiding an overuse injury in young athletes before they turn into a serious medical issue. For example, if a trainer catches an injury in time, he can put the player on a daily routine of stretching and applying hot and cold therapy with an electrical stimulation device to improve blood flow to muscles to reduce pain. Additionally, during practices, the player may be instructed to kick fewer balls, pitch a little less, hit less, etc., as well as rest for a few days after each game.

The key to avoiding overuse injuries is to catch them before they worsen. Unfortunately, in most cases, the player will let the injury get worse before seeking professional help. The goal of sports organizations and facilities should be to incorporate more athletic trainers into the overall sports program to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place.

Energy saving

You'll be Green with Savings & Sustainability

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Ah, summer. I love winter’s snow, I’m a sucker for the gardens of spring, and fall contains what will always be my favorite holiday (Halloween, of course), but for me summer is hands-down the best season of all. I love the salad-eating, outdoor-exercising, blazing hot energy of it all—the swimming, the relaxation, the air-conditioning.
I know that last item is problematic, and it’s part of a much larger issue. Air-conditioning creates a huge carbon footprint, and if employed without regard to sustainability and energy conservation, it can contribute devastatingly to environmental destruction. However, from a fitness or sports facility perspective, it’s indispensable. Yet, it’s not just summertime air-conditioning that creates challenges. Lighting, energy consumption, heating, material waste—all of these issues affect how you run your facility year-round, how much money you save or spend, and your impact on the environment.
One way to tackle all of these issues at once is to push your facility to achieve LEED certification. Being LEED—or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—certified means meeting certain standards in energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and CO2 emissions reduction. The cost of designing and constructing a building that meets such standards is high, as is the cost of improving existing buildings. Maintaining LEED-certified facilities also carries costs. But in the end, the savings associated with LEED-certification, financial and otherwise, make it more than worthwhile. So how do you go about achieving it?
First, adopt a “going green” mindset. Demonstrate your facility’s commitment to creating an environmentally sound space by getting all employees on-board with the notion. It’s crucial that your management team understands the specific goals and considers LEED-related issues in all decision-making processes; if you have a stated company mission and can make LEED-compliance part of it, all the better. Equally important is that your sales team recognizes the power of LEED as a lever for selling your brand. Potential members and customers will appreciate the knowledge that joining your club or attending your practice facility or venue helps minimize environmental impact, and in a competitive market, such a factor can be a crucial selling-point.
Next, to cover the considerable costs of building a new LEED building or bringing an existing one up to speed, consider gaining sponsorship or embarking on a partnership. Local waste companies looking to promote their recycling programs, cleaning companies that market green products, municipal agencies launching new fitness agendas, and businesses with specific, health-related objectives—these are just a few categories from which to seek out sponsors or partners. To find one that’s right for you, you’ll need to do some research, identify the needs and wants of potential partners, and design proposals that meet those needs and wants. Any proposal you come up with should detail how the image, mission, values, and/or green initiatives of the sponsor or partner align with those of your organization and highlight the value of the alignment.
Finally, think both big and small. Reconfiguring your facility to meet LEED standards is thinking big, and it’s a crucial step that involves a good deal of research, commitment, and investment. You also want to make simple changes that might be tiny in and of themselves, yet, add up to a big change, contributing to an environmentally sound approach to running your facility. Install recycling containers next to trash cans. Replace old drinking fountains with newer ones that allow for bottle refills. Consider ways you might be able to buy locally, stocking your juice bar with fruit from nearby farms and getting supplies from companies in your city or neighborhood. Offer discounts at your café for customers who bring their own drinking containers. Tie messages about personal health into ones about the health of the planet. Every little effort makes a difference, and will help make your facility a leader—year-round—in the sustainability movement.

Where Fitness and League Sports Meet

Where Fitness and League Sports Meet

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There’s a new professional sports league in town. For this league becoming fit isn’t just the preparation for the game—it is the game. The National Pro Fitness League (NPFL) is a new organization that pits co-ed teams of athletes against each other in a range of functional fitness events. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, the NPFL has franchises in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Its season will kick off at the end of August and last for six weeks, with the franchises competing in a total of 12 matches and a culminating championship match taking place in early October.

Wow. This is exciting news for fitness facilities and sports facilities alike. What a great development to get behind and support. Even if your facility doesn’t focus on functional fitness or offer related classes, the creation of the NPFL can be a boon to you. Since it will bring both fitness and league sports events to the forefront of the nation’s attention— at least for a little while (especially because, as NPFL Director of Team Development Cassie Haynes pointed out in a recent article, this league, unlike the NFL, MLB, and other older leagues, can be built around technology. The opportunity for fan engagement will be huge).

How can you benefit from the upcoming NPFL events? First, let your members know about them—chances are, they haven’t yet heard about the NPFL. Be the first to fill them in. Get enthusiastic about the league and convey your enthusiasm with posters, announcements, and by having your trainers talk it up. If there are competitors from your region, build up a show of support for them; make the events a bonding experience and a way to motivate your facility’s patrons in their own fitness and league practice sessions.

If you have the space and technology, you might consider setting up a few in-facility viewing events for members (and potential members!). Chances are, you’ve been looking for ways to build community anyway—and if you’re not, you should be! This is another excellent way to do so.

One great thing about the league is that it has the potentially to appeal to a wide variety of audience. It’s co-ed, so both men and women can get behind it. And it’s not filled with just hot young things; for each match, at least two competitors (one male, one female) from each team must be a “Master Athlete”—meaning age 40 or older. What other sport can boast of such inclusion? In spreading the word about the league—in your facility or on social media—you’ll want to stress this aspect of it. There’s something here for everyone.

Finally, can you think of any tie-in events you can stage at your own facility? If you have the capacity for functional fitness training, maybe you can plan for training activities that match a particular competition occurring on a certain day. Or after an event is over, you may have a trainer analyze an athlete’s performance together with clients, and help incorporate lessons to be learned into clients’ own practices. As always, the benefits you reap from such an exciting development (the creation of the NPFL) are up to you: You’re limited only by your imagination. It’s worth spending the time thinking about where you can go with this.

Five Steps to Safeguard Your Sports Facility Against Liability

5 Steps to Safeguard Your Sports Facility Against Liability

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Ever had an athlete twist an ankle on your field, or worse: break a leg, dislocate a shoulder, or sustain a head injury? Ever had someone run into a brick wall? I’m serious here — at one football field, a brick wall was placed just beyond the end zone, and a player ran full speed into it. Be glad you weren’t the owner of that field when the question of liability arose — because, when you run a sports facility with a field, the question of liability always arises. You have to be vigilant about it, and take constant measures to both protect players from injury and yourself from litigation. What can you do?

  1. Start with common sense. There are no published industrywide standards for all aspects of sports fields, but there are generally accepted expectations. Is your playing field level? Is it free of debris, holes, depressions, and other potential safety hazards, such as loose seams and worn patches? Is there a risk of rocks rising to the surface, and is the field playable when wet? Your field maintenance efforts should focus first on safety, while your common sense should guide you in terms of what is safe and what isn’t.
  2. Next, take a look at your field as if you’ve never seen it before. If there are liability issues, you’ve probably become so accustomed to seeing them that you don’t really notice them anymore. Take the brick wall, for instance: Any field manager who has stopped to think about it would have realized the danger. However, it’s easy to not think about things when you’ve got a routine and a checklist of tasks to accomplish. Step onto your field and look around. Are there poorly placed walls? Are there ridges or lips on the field?

    If it’s an expanded field, such as a soccer field, is there sufficient space for athletes to slide without hitting fences? Is there room to comply with American Disability Act requirements? See everything as if it is for the first time and make assessments. If you’re too busy to consider all of the potential problems, or are just too familiar with your field to be able to see it with a fresh eye, don’t hesitate to have an outside firm audit safety issues. If you don’t have the budget for an outside inspection, consider asking a fellow sports field manager to inspect your facility in exchange for you to inspect theirs.
  3. Do your paperwork. Make sure you have contracts, insurance documents, and anything else you might need in place, in order to manage any financial and legal liability. If anything unfortunate ever does occur, you’ll need to have the paperwork ready on hand.
  4. Don’t delay. When you identify a potential problem, fix it right away. No, scratch that: First document it by noting the problem, how and when it was discovered, and what the strategy for resolution is. Then go ahead and fix it.
  5. Finally, after an issue has been discovered, documented, and dealt with, schedule regular re-inspection times (document your re-inspections!). Then take the time to analyze: Why did the problem occur in the first place? Could it lead to other problems? Are there ways to avoid such problems in the future? Remember, the best way to reduce risk is through prevention. This way, any time and resources you invest into large-scale improvements now will pay off for you down the road.

3 Quick Ways To Streamline Scheduling

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These days, scheduling just one day in a single family’s life practically requires a PhD in metaphysical engineering. Your spouse is out of town, you have an important work meeting, you’re out of groceries, and the plumber is coming to fix your broken sink; meanwhile, one kid has to get to soccer practice, taekwondo, and a dentist appointment and the other has a dance class and a tutoring session. Figuring out how it’s all going to get done seems impossible.
No wonder running a sports facility can give you a headache. If coordinating four people’s activities in one day is complicated, what about coordinating fields, equipment, practice space, classes, and special events for hundreds of people over several months? How are you going to get it all done?
Of course, you already have systems in place for tackling this task, but can you improve those systems? Here are a few tips for streamlining:

1. Test Your Knowledge

If you use league scheduling software, make sure you know its capabilities. Sure, you know how to publish a schedule to your website (you do, right?), but can you schedule multiple divisions at once? Are you sure you’ve got the settings right so you avoid double booking? Are you accommodating team preferences? If your software doesn’t allow you to do all these things, it’s time to find a new one. If it does and you’re not sure how to do them, it’s time for a refresher course. Do some research online, or, better yet, call your software’s support line. If you don’t use scheduling software, oh boy. Unless you’re a tiny, boutique facility, offering just one sport and with only a small clientele, you probably really need some.

2. Setup Quick Group Meetings

Have weekly or daily check-in sessions with employees to make sure everyone knows what’s on tap, forestall any potential glitches, and fix any problems. Scheduling works best when all the people involved know about the schedule and have a chance to weigh in on it. You’ll be doing yourself and your facility a big favor if you create time for brief, frequent sessions to ensure all systems are go. Also! No matter how carefully you plan and check your plan (and double-check your plan), conflicts happen. Know your steps for handling conflicts; train your employees in handling them too. Remember the end goal: Keep the customers happy.

3. Make Time for Analyzing Mistakes.

Again, conflicts arise. If something has gone wrong with your scheduling despite your mastery of software, your open lines of communication, and your vigilant efforts to stay on top of things, you need to know what went wrong. It can be useful to have a flowchart of questions to help you avoid problems in the future (for example: Did I enter this team’s practice location change into the software correctly? If no, then learn how to enter changes; if yes, then did I check to make sure the change was communicated through the proper channels? If no, then…. You get the idea).
We tend to think scheduling should come easily to us, and sometimes it does. But your facility is a complex system. To maintain complex systems, small adjustments often are necessary—and they can make a big difference. Figure out what small changes you can make to simplify scheduling!

Fill Positions And Keep Them Filled

Fill Positions And Keep Them Filled

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There’s a particular kind of frustration that all business owners have experienced: You spend time and money searching for the perfect employee. You make a promising hire, invest valuable resources in training, and finally breathe a sigh of relief — and then your employee moves on. So how do you fill positions and keep them filled?

At fitness centers and sports facilities, certain positions are especially hard to keep staffed. Over on the IHRSA blog, three fitness/sports center owners recently answered questions about the positions they’ve repeatedly had difficulty filling. For Telos Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas, the trickiest position is the front desk. “By nature, [it’s] entry-level and offers competitive, but minimal, hourly pay and ‘front line’ responsibilities,” says Brent Darden, the center’s owner/general manager. At Riverside Health Club in Mount Vernon, Washington, owner Karen Westra has found the facilities manager position most challenging to fill. Joe Cabibbo, owner and general manager of Odyssey Athletic Center in Waldwick, New Jersey, struggles with personal trainers leaving because they lack skills to market their services.

Whatever position you struggle to keep properly staffed at your own facility, there are some general steps you can take to improve the situation. First, take the time to analyze all of the tasks that the position in question is responsible for. You might find that you’re consistently hiring people with the wrong experience, or that the tasks can be split between two positions, making it easier to keep the troublesome one filled. That’s what Westra discovered when she sat down and listed out everything a facilities manager would have to do in order to keep up with preventative maintenance demands at her club. The solution? Hire a facilities assistant, and consult regularly with the facilities manager about which tasks can be delegated.

Next, rather than investing resources in a particular individual, invest in systems and training. This approach works for Darden with the font desk job. “We have found the best solution is to invest heavily in the systems and training of front desk staff in order to maintain consistent service, despite frequent turnover,” he says. In other words, even if you have to make a new hire for the front desk position, or any position, every six or nine months, having seamless systems in place and a rigorous training program will ensure that members’ day-to-day experience doesn’t change much.

Finally, for personal trainer positions or similar ones that require self-promotion, make sure your hires are equipped to engage in self-promotion. As Cabibbo puts it, “Regardless of the extent of their certification, personal trainers seem to have difficulty applying their knowledge in a marketing/sales aspect.” Where certification programs fail, you might have to be prepared to teach. Keep your coaches, personal trainers, and perhaps other employees up-to-speed on the best ways to attract and keep clients. You’re the one who will benefit in the end, because you won’t have to worry about replacing the employees who aren’t keeping themselves busy enough.

Creating Infographics

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This season, to startlingly effective results, the San Francisco 49ers have been flooding fans with infographics. The great thing about infographics, visual representations of data or knowledge, is their quick, clear presentation of complex information. And the great thing about infographics designed by someone who knows what they’re doing is their quick, clear, and beautiful presentation.

Take, for example, the one the 49ers posted a couple weeks ago, just before their last game at Candlestick Park, where they played for 42 years (which I know from glancing at the infographic). It’s truly a work of art, and in addition to its stellar design, it gives fans all the detailed information they need to feed their nostalgia till long after the team moves to their new stadium later this year. But what I really like about this is that it’s a great model for any sports or fitness facility, whether you’re a stadium, an ice rink, a health club, a baseball center, or any other venue in the industry.

Any facility could design and distribute something similar to bolster support from clients, members, fans, or just the surrounding community. Make a timeline of your history, starting with when you first opened or when plans for your facility first began. Pick out the moments you want to highlight, and then make a list of interesting facts. You can mix up both number facts and fun-to-know facts: for example, the number of trainers you have, the number of young athletes you serve who have gone into professional sports, the number of Olympic medalists who have visited your facility, or: tidbits about celebrities who have visited, a description of the most outrageous kind of class you ever offered, and anecdote about a funny or moving incident that occurred. You can also include, as the 49ers did, interesting quotes about your facility from the people who work there. You can add a thank-you message, if your goal is to show appreciation for your members. What you choose to include is limited only by your imagination and your designer’s talents.

After you’ve got an infographic you’re happy with, send it out into social media-land. This is a place where infographics thrive, because they attract attention, so people like to share them; they provide a whole load of information at a glance, so there’s a quick payoff to looking at them; and they efficiently demonstrate to others the loyalties and interests of the individual posting them. Depending on the occasion — if it’s an important anniversary, for example, or if you’re sponsoring a big fundraiser — you can even turn them into posters to hand out. (Sometimes, they really do look good enough to hang on the wall.)

If you get positive feedback, consider creating infographics regularly. The 49ers did one every few days this season and got tons of comments and shares in response. Even if you do it only once a month, you’ll have found a great way to spread information about your facility, hold people’s attention, and dole out some eye candy.

customer satisfaction

Have You Created a Survey for Your Sports Facility?

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When my son was five and had great enthusiasm for building with blocks, a friend of mine asked him if he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up. “Maybe when I retire from professional soccer,” he replied. Almost from the time he took his first step, the kid has known that sports will always be an important part of his life. And so, since more or less that time, and he’s eight now, he’s used sports facilities of various sorts, engaging in some kind of training or game or competition or workout. But it was only recently that a facility did something that seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t encountered it before: It offered me a chance to fill out a survey.

The facility is a huge, multi-sports complex that caters to all ages. My son joined a soccer league there this fall. When the season ended a couple weeks ago, I got an email asking me to fill out a survey online about our experiences with the facility. Now, I don’t fill out every survey request that comes my way, but I leapt at the chance to do this one. Youth sports are so central to my life, as they have become central to so many families’ lives; like it or not, our plans revolve around when practice is, when games are, what the weekend commitment will be, and where tournaments are taking place. So it seemed important to make my voice heard in this regard, and I welcomed the chance to do it.

What impressed me was how thorough the survey was. There were questions you’d expect: “What sport is being evaluated?” “What gender is your child?” “What grade is your child in?” But then there were more intriguing questions: “What gender is your child’s coach?” “Did you play sports during high school or college? If so, at what level?” And then statements with which to “strongly agree” or “disagree,” or to remain neutral about: “The coach is approachable”, “The coach defines success as more than winning/losing”, “The coach treats players with respect.” Other questions solicited opinions about the coaches’ and facility’s communications with parents, about ways in which participating in the given sport helped the child, about what sources of information were being considered while answering these questions (discussions with children, coaches, or other parents, for example).

I realized that as much as the survey allowed me to voice my opinion, it also allowed the facility to gather an enormous amount of feedback about how its operations align with its clientele’s values. I liked almost everything about the facility, for example, but I did not feel that it made its Athletic Handbook policies clear to parents, and I heard other parents voicing the same complaint. If we all note on our surveys that this is an issue, will things improve? Will we know more about the policies upfront, and be kept better informed about what is expected of us and our children? That remains to be seen, but at least the facility now knows that that’s what we want.

Have you created a survey for your sports facility? Websites like make it easier than ever to design and distribute surveys. If you haven’t done it yet, think about all the data you can gather to help you better gear your services to your clientele. Better serving them can lead only to desirable outcomes — I know I’ll definitely be signing my son up for soccer lessons at the facility this spring.