Program coaches the coach to keep young athletes injury free

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Baseball diamonds, soccer fields and volleyball courts will fill up with the area’s youngest athletes this summer.

Experts say children between five and 14 years old will make up 40 percent of all sports-related injuries at hospital rooms around the area. But, one nascent program called Coach Kids Up is coaching the coaches to make sure kids stay healthy on the field.

“This is us getting properly warmed up, with the volleyball in our hands, ” said Deborah Newkirk, founder of the online tutorial program.

Inside the gym at the West Austin Youth Association, Newkirk coached a small group of 10-year-old girls in an afternoon volleyball practice.

“Nice job watching and learning,” she tells the girls.

Coach Kids Up  - Kids playing volleyball, exercise (KXAN Photo)

Newkirk says a good warm-up and cool down are two of the best ways to avoid injuries. Another one: a well-trained coach. She founded Coach Kids Up last year to teach amateur coaches everything from proper technique, effective player motivation and skills to avoid injuries on the court and the field. Some of the parents are parents who took on the task of coaching their child’s youth league team.

The program comes at a time when more than 3.5 million kids under 14 receive treatment for sports injuries every year, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. The Centers for Disease Control says more than half of those are preventable.

“In basketball, if I catch a rebound wrong, sometimes it bends your fingers back,” said Gabriella, one of Newkirk’s players.

She’s not alone in her sports-related injury.

“I got tendonitis in my right shoulder because I served the ball really hard,” said Juliana, Gabriella’s teammate.

Although good form and proper technique are the most effective ways to keep young athletes healthy, Newkirk believes keeping injuries at bay is deeper than healthy bones and muscles. It’s mental, she said.

“When we think of youth safety, we’re not always thinking of ankles and ACLs and broken noses,” Newkirk said. “We’re also talking about emotional safety and mental safety and truly the overall development of the young person and how good they’re feeling about sports in general.”

Amateur coaches like Shana Josephs, who started coaching her daughter’s volleyball team this season, are signing up for the program.

“I’ve had a couple of girls on my team who had to sit out because they sprained their wrist,” Josephs said. “I’m getting the girls low in their stance. So, when they get ready to pass they have a nice stable base. We learned all of that from Coach Kids Up.”

Teaching kids how to recognize when they are injured and to take a break may be one of the biggest challenges.

“They [coaches] tell me to keep going,” said Yuval, one of Newkirk’s players. “But, if it’s bad, they tell me to take a break for a bit. But, I never want to.”

Many children will want to play through the game once they are injured, according to sports medicine doctors. If they are hurt, a parent or coach should pull them out of the game right away because continuing to play could make that injury much more serious. Doctors say parents can tell if their child has been injured because the young player may favor one side of their body over the other, they may have shortness of breath and an inability to sleep.

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