Sports Policy and the Sports Environment

Critical question 3: What role do preventative actions play in enhancing the wellbeing of the athlete?
Sports Policy and the Sports Environment

Rules of sports and activities

Rules are designed to protect the athlete from injury and are usually enforced by referee’s or umpires on the field. In high impact sports such as rugby league or AFL, there is a greater potential for injury. The sport protects its’ athletes by having game laws and processes to deal with athletes who abuse or break them. For example, in rugby there are a number of ‘illegal tactics’, such as high tackles, and players who use these stragies may be dismissed from the field of play or suspended from several games.

Other types of regulations include the use of protective equipment like shin pads in soccer or helmets in cricket. These rules are created and enforced to increase and promote safety in sport.

Modified rules for Children

Recent modifications have taken place in junior sports to create an environment that lowers the risk of injury and focuses more on participation and enjoyment, rather than results. The modified games still encourage skill and tactical development, however, they are primarily designed to ensure safety for young athletes.

Some examples of modified sports include:

  • Kanga or milo cricket – plastic bats, rubber ball, everyone has a bowl and a bat
  • Basketball – lowering the ring to enhance the ability to score
  • Little athletics – lighter equipment and reduced distances to encourage participation and increase success
  • Rooball (soccer) – smaller fields, smaller goals, fewer players
  • Mod league –two passes from dummy half before defence can move

These modifications are designed to meet the specific needs of young people and help develop a love of sport and exercise. Depending on the sport, changes may include field size, length of the game, rules and equipment.

Matching of Opponents               

In most sports it is common for athletes to be matched up according to their age, weight or gender. This is fine for sports such as athletics, however for contact sports such as rugby league or rugby union, players of the same age may have a 10-20kgs weight difference, which can be an issue due to the amount of tackling in the game. Players with extra weight are harder to tackle and possess a power advantage over smaller athletes.

Accordingly, some sports have discussed changing the rules to match players based on weight and size. Unfortunately, this could mean that a larger unskilled child may end up playing against an older, more mature player at the same size. While they are even physically, the psychological difference is still a concern.

Many sports, like boxing and judo, have weight divisions, which are designed to protect the health of the athletes.

Junior sports competitions need to be even to help aid in the development of skill. When there is a close, even competition, it makes the game more interesting for the players.

Use of Protective Equipment

Wearing protective equipment is a requirement of most sports. Whether it is a mouth guard in league or a shin pad in soccer, most sporting competitions will make wearing protective gear compulsory, by making it part of a mandatory guideline.

Protective equipment must be comfortable and fit properly. For example, a cricket helmet must be the correct size for the player as gear that is too loose or tight will fail to prevent or protect the athlete from injury. If the helmet doesn’t have a metal grill the player faces the risk of facial injuries.

Athletes are encouraged to purchase high quality equipment to protect themselves. Some other examples of protective gear include:

– Wetsuits
– Goggles
– Mouth guards
– Helmets
– Padded pole posts
– Good quality shoes

Safe Grounds, Equipment and Facilities

Athlete safety is important. All grounds, equipment and facilities must be maintained to provide a safe environment, with minimal potential for injury, for all athletes to compete in. Councils, clubs and associations are all responsible for the maintenance of playing fields.

Playing surfaces should be flat and free from rubbish, like bottles, and other obstructions, such as sprinkler heads. It is also essential that the lighting is adequate and that there is access for emergency vehicles. Local councils and associations must determine if fields and grounds are suitable for play during wet weather and other conditions.

Clubs are responsible for setting out guidelines for coaches, managers and spectators. This may include enforcing a minimum distance between fans and the playing field as well as the provision of first aid staff and facilities. Due to a number of recent deaths, there has been a recent push for all local clubs to have access to a defibrillator, in case of emergency.

All equipment must be checked regularly and before each use to ensure it is the correct size, maintained correctly and used properly.