It is critical that coaches of all sports – and all ages and skill levels – are qualified to coach. Sports and organizations vary in their certification requirements, but proper education and instruction are important nonetheless. Kids should play on teams with a certified coach.

Coaches should be thoroughly familiar with the rules of their sports. Cheerleading coaches, for example, should know the rules for basket tosses and other stunts. Likewise, they should demonstrate knowledge and ability to teach all maneuvers in cheerleading.

Coaches should also be intimately familiar with equipment. Football coaches need to evaluate uniforms, helmets and pads for improper fit and poor condition.

Tennis player and certified coach

Lastly, coaches need at least fundamental knowledge of injury evaluation and management. They should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions, heat illness and musculoskeletal injuries. They should know early management of injuries and illnesses until medical services arrive. Ideally, coaches would hold certification in basic life support.

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I realize that finding a certified coach can be challenging, especially at youth levels. Leagues might not have the funding or administrative staff to implement training and certification. Parents, though, can at least seek out leagues and teams for their kids whose coaches have passed courses on rules, safety and injury prevention in their sports.