By John Balch
The tough task of securing volunteer coaches for youth sports could be a little tougher this year with a new law that requires coaches to give more time and money for specific training to deal with athlete injuries.
Act 642, known as the Coach Safely Act, went into effect Jan. 1 and concerns coaches of athletes 14-under and any place those sports are played, such as the Nashville City Park.
Under the new law, the Nashville Parks and Recreation Department “shall require all coaches and athletics personnel to complete an online or residence course approved by the Department of Health, if available at no cost, which provides information and awareness or actions and measures that may be used to decrease the likelihood that a youth athlete will sustain a serious injury while engaged or participating in a high-risk youth athletic activity.”
Sports mentioned as “high-risk” to the 14-under age group include (but are not limited to) flag football, basketball, baseball and soccer, all of which are offered at the Nashville park.
The park also provides facilities for a youth softball program, which will also have to adhere to the new law.
The law states that an annual “youth injury mitigation and information course” required of coaches/volunteers must cover the following subjects:
– Emergency preparedness, planning and rehearsals for traumatic injuries;
– Concussions and head trauma;
– Heat and extreme weather-related injury familiarization;
– Physical conditioning and training equipment usage; and
– Heart defects and abnormalities leading to sudden cardiac death.
Nashville Park Director Meghan Floyd said the park will offer the training, which can be up to three hours with one separate course costing $50, which the park will credit back to the coach.
She added that prospective coaches are required to submit to background checks through the Nashville Police Department before becoming eligible to participate.
Floyd noted that the sports programs offered through the park have grown consistently year by year, and securing coaches each season to accommodate the growth is a constant challenge.
“Every year, we are scrambling around to find at least two positions for every sport we offer,” said Floyd, who added that in 2023 there was a record number of 45 youth baseball teams.
“If we can’t find a coach for a team, that team will be dissolved and split up among the other teams.”
Floyd is hopeful the new law will not discourage potential coaches from wanting to participate and said that the park commission is prepared to address the required, unfunded change.
The park will host a meeting on Friday, Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. for all current and prospective coaches.