Summer Sports Camps Safety Tips
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 12:08 AM EDT
COLUMBUS (Lu Ann Stoia/Ken Hines) -- As many children prepare for the fun of summer sports camps, their parents should take the time to make sure safety is a top priority for the camps' operators, according to experts.
Hours of operation, location, and camp activities are usually near the top of priority lists for parents choosing sports camps for their children, but camp expert Mark Wilson told ABC 6/FOX 28 safety plans -- many of which are not reflected on websites or in brochures -- deserve extra scrutiny.
Wilson is the Managing Director of Harrison Kent Advisors, a central Ohio based company that provides athletic directors, coaches, and camp operators with advice that improves their sports camp operations and reduces risk. He said a well-managed camp should be able to respond to parents' safety-related concerns by taking the following steps:
1. Hire, train and supervise their staff
- The hiring process should include a pre-employment screening of potential camp staff members, including an interview, reference check and a comprehensive criminal background check including a search of the National Sex Offender Public Website, which is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice and enables any citizen to search the latest information for the identity and location of known sex offenders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and numerous Native American tribes.
- All camp employees should receive training on child abuse (including sexual abuse) prevention and reporting. Camp operators should publish written procedures that describe the process employees must follow if they know, or suspect, abuse has occurred, or may occur.
- Continuous training should be provided to employees, even during camp sessions. Rigorous supervision of staff members by other responsible adults should also be maintained throughout the duration of the camp.
- The staff-to-camper ratio should vary based on the age of the children and the nature of activities. It is also important to understand the number of employees who are directly involved in the instruction and supervision of campers. Staff members with purely administrative roles should not be included in this ratio.
- The experience of camp employees matters. Experienced staff members are generally well-prepared to supervise minors and react to emergency situations. At a minimum, camp staff should include First Aid/CPR certified personnel. For those sports camps where there greater risk of injury exists during activities (e.g., full equipment football camp, lacrosse team camp, wrestling camp, gymnastics camp, etc.), certified athletic trainers should also be employed.
- Staffing should be consistent during scheduled and unscheduled activities. Unscheduled activities (e.g., time after a meal, before the next formal camp activity begins) should not mean “unsupervised.” While “down time” is necessary for campers to relax and recover, it is also notorious for injuries.
- Camp operators should develop a written action plan that covers the steps staff members will take in the event of an emergency (e.g., missing camper, injury, foul weather, etc.).
- Operators should also provide written procedures that address, among other potential issues: camper allergies, special diets, restricting activities on hot days, transporting and escorting campers from one location to another, and dorm room assignments.
- Operators should review these procedures with employees and, when appropriate, campers. The existence and availability of written plans should allow for timely and effective responses to emergency situations.