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Column: Know your coaches; know your child

It's tough to tell which coach gets more disgusted when an incident that took place about 8 years ago is brought up.

During one of the many junior tackle clashes between Newman and Amboy, a young Clipper got dinged up. A Newman doctor offered to take a look at him.

As he did, the youngster's father stormed over, snatched up his son and snarled, "He's a football player."

"I hate to say it, but I know it was because it was someone from Newman who was looking at him," Newman junior tackle president Jube Manzano says.

"That's not right. That's stupid and taking the rivalry too far," Amboy president Todd Hobbs says. "He's not a football player. He's a kid playing a game. And you can sell it to the kids that it's just a game, but you'll have a hard time selling it to some parents.

"A kid'll get hurt, and [parents will] yell at him to get back in the game. I say, 'No. You're sitting down.'"

It's a changing, refreshing approach.

We no longer just "rub some dirt on it" when someone's hurt.

Nor should a rivalry – which exists mostly in the stands – blur what's important, our kids' health.

Kudos to Hobbs and every other coach who "gets it." He considers every one of his players – current and former – as his kids. And he preaches to his coaches – some of them former players – the importance of their responsibility, hoping they'll treat their players the same.

Not every program is so lucky, and it's up to the parents to make sure they know who's looking out for their kids and to what extent they're willing to go to do so.

Again, we return to the question: Would you drop your kids off at the public pool if no lifeguard was on duty?

Of course not.

Well, how about this one: Would you drop your kids off at a pool whose lifeguard was glaringly out of shape and had one of those mammoth-sized bags of Doritos with him on his perch?

I'd hope not.

The same goes for coaches. Knowing the sport they're coaching isn't enough. They need to be equipped to react and help athletes, should they get hurt.

Put them to the test. It's not just your right, but your duty as a parent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website offers free training on recognizing and handling concussions. If your kid's coach isn't willing to spend 30 minutes to take the Heads Up course, it might be time to look into another sport.

Maybe you're thinking, "You don't have kids. What gives you the right?"

Let's just say I'm working ahead. Like Cari Johnson, my noodle never truly stops working. From the moment my wife, Kayla, and I decided we would grow our family, these sorts of things have been on my mind.

I don't know if our sons will play football. Who knows, maybe the big man upstairs will take the decision out of my hands and bless us with the granddaughters my mother wants so badly.

If only it were that simple. Fact is, no matter what you sign your kids up for, that decision is not to be taken lightly. I don't care if the activity is as low-impact as competitive dominoes, Kayla and I will take thorough inventory to make an educated decision.

While you're bound to share a lot of characteristics with your kids, they are their own person. Mad props to my dad, an avid outdoorsman. While we went on a few fishing trips when I was a wee tike, it didn't take long to realize I preferred a Louisville Slugger to an Ugly Stick.

He didn't try to pound a square (that's me, to a tee) into a circular hole. And he never made me feel bad about it, either.

They say it takes 1,000 hours of repetition to master anything. But that's no good reason to register 4-year-old Johnny for tennis, whether he likes it or not, in the hopes he'll someday become the next Pete Sampras.

I firmly believe that kids need to experience as much as possible. But when they turn up their nose at something – that isn't a vegetable – it's time to back off.

On the Web

View the CDC's free online concussion course.

More online

To read more from our special series on sports concussion, please check out The Hidden Injury project page on Click here to visit.

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