When people break...  

We coach a full contact sport. On wheels. Shit happens. Of course it does. But every time shit happens during my training session, it’s not so easy to dismiss.

The first time I coached the new skater group, someone left in an ambulance. She fell, twisted an ankle. Nothing broken, but you don’t know that at the time. And, in all honesty, it so easily could have been broken instead of just sprained.

I wasn’t beside her when she fell…. Should I have been? Should I have noticed if the drill was too complicated? Too intense? Not appropriate for her skill level? Was she working with people who were too skilled? Not skilled enough? I refused to coach skating for months after.  At least with rowing, you just have to fish them out of the water occasionally and I was well-trained in the use of foil blankets.

“I just break people” kept going through my head. I couldn’t shift the mantra.

A few years and a few more athlete injuries to my name, I’ve learned some lessons. You can’t dwell. You can’t panic. You can’t step back.

Instead you need to assess what’s happening and respond to it. You need to know that when one of your squad has just broken, a whole lot of other people need your attention too. You need to support the entire team to still feel safe and confident.

There are ways to mitigate against injuries. There are things you can think about -- like watching for trends and seeing if it ties to particular drills or activities or nights. Is it right before a game? Are people stressed? Are they tired? Were they warmed up enough before starting? Did they feel uncomfortable in the drill? You can ask yourself if there are adjustments you can make to how you run the lesson and work with your athletes to minimise risk.

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But you need to be prepared to admit to yourself that sometimes shit really does happen when you put 30 people on skates and get them to hit each other.

I can be very pragmatic when it comes to injury these days. You need to be as the coach. But after a session where someone gets hurt, I often go to bed that night with “could I have prevented it…” on a loop in my head. And I still wake up in the morning with that guilty feeling in my gut.

How do you manage, as a coach, when one of your athletes gets injured?

Originally posted on the Female Coaching Network October 2016