Things Every Coach Should Do To Keep Their Football Field Safe For Players

By its very nature, football is a dangerous game. It’s a full contact sport played at full speed by some of the strongest, fastest athletes in the world. In nearly every game, players suffer injuries, sometimes minor, other times serious. While there’s nothing that can be done to completely eliminate the risks of playing football, there are some very simple steps coaches can take to keep their players as safe as possible. Perhaps the most important of these is field maintenance.

While everyone knows that a big hit can cause a life-changing injury in an instant, too often, people overlook the more subtle causes of injury. The field itself might not seem all that important to player health, but the fact is there is an inextricable link between the playing surface and player injuries. In fact, one recent study found that college football players suffer knee injuries about 40 percent more often when they play on artificial turf as opposed to grass. But it’s not just a matter of artificial turf vs. grass. Field maintenance is what really matters.

Make no mistake, a poorly maintained football field is every bit as dangerous to a player as a muscle-bound lineman. That’s why former Houston Texans punter Brett Hartmann recently sued the owners and managers of Reliant Stadium for a devastating ACL injury that occurred when he caught his foot between two pallets of grass on the field. Hartmann alleged that poor field maintenance was to blame, and he pointed to other similar injuries players suffered when playing in the stadium.

If improper field maintenance can occur at the highest professional level in the sport, it’s safe to say it can happen at colleges, high schools and rec leagues all across the nation. That’s why it’s so important that coaches take a proactive role in field maintenance, not relying solely on the groundskeepers to keep the field in tiptop condition. Coaches are on the field every day, so no one knows the true condition of the field better than they do, and with their help, safer playing surfaces can be created for athletes.

What can coaches do to ensure better football field maintenance?

Nobody is asking the coach to hop on a mower and cut the grass on the field. That’s not his job. However, there are some simple things football coaches can do that serve an important purpose in field maintenance, such as:

  • Rotate practice areas to reduce wear: Teams have a habit of practicing in the same area on the field every day. The problem with this is that it leads to serious wear and tear in one area of the field. As the turf quality degrades, it becomes less and less safe for the players, and the field never has a chance to heal. That’s why it’s important for coaches to rotate practice areas on a daily basis. This reduces field damage and gives groundskeeping crews the chance to repair practice areas in a timely manner.
  • Inspect/clean the field before and after every practice: Before every practice starts, coaches and players should inspect the field to make sure there’s no trash or other hazards present. At the end of every practice, coaches and the team should clean up after themselves so that the field remains free of debris. A clean field is a safe field.
  • Communicate issues with the groundskeeping team: Good communication between coaches and groundskeepers is essential to timely field maintenance. Coaches need to communicate field issues immediately to groundskeepers so they can be addressed to prevent them from worsening and posing a hazard to players. Of course, communication is a two-way street, and groundskeepers need to communicate their needs and suggestions to coaches so everyone can do their part to maintain a safer field.

When it comes to football field maintenance, everyone has a role to play. Coaches who take a proactive role in field maintenance play an important part in keeping their players safe and injury free! 

Shana Brenner is the Marketing Director of CoverSports’ an athletic manufacturing company that distributes athletic protective covers, sideline tarps and more.

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