Bubble wrapping our kids is not the safest thing to do

When does it stop?

Asa child I remember jumping off garage roof to the lawn. I remember building a ramp to jump over match-box cars on my bike. I remember throwing and deflecting mini fire-crackers in a battle with my brothers. We used to build snow forts and have huge snow-ball fights. We used to climb trees and play on monkey bars and swing sets too. But today’s kids are made to fear the horror of the playgrounds  and the aggression of the snow-ball fight.

Our parents often used the adage of letting a child skin their knee; meaning that kids need to have the opportunity to fall down, get a bruise and learn to get back up when we do fall. Recently a school district in West Virginia banned swing sets from their playgrounds. Seems like a child broke an arm when trying the superman dismount off the swings.  unfortunately the knee jerk reaction to the accident was to sue the schools. This doesn’t change anything at all. Kids will still find things to play on, and they will still fall down. I don’t know the details in this situation but it seems to me that instead of asking the casted child what they learned, the parents decided to seek the easy pay-day. Never once did the repercussions of their actions come to mind. Their suing the schools took away a fun activity from other children. I’m not an advocate for breaking bones but I am an advocate of self-responsibility and learning.  What lesson did the child learn aside from casts smell after a few days? They learned that you look to someone else to blame when you don’t want to examine your own actions, and if you can get paid doing it, so much the better.

When I was in college, I broke my neck. It was before practice, before the coach showed up and we were playing around in the gym. 2 guys pulled a mat like they were going to trick me and I stalled out in a double front flip, came down on my head, lost conciousness and wore a cervical collar for 6 months. I was advised to sue the school because I could make some good money. But I had other ideas. I knew that it wasn’t the coaches fault, it wasn’t the school’s fault, I knew those 2 guys were jerks and I knew they main person at fault was me. The school made some changes to be sure no other kid (I was 17) could do the same thing and that was good enough for me. The University paid for my medical bills too, I appreciated that. I was also aware that men’s gymnastics was on the chopping block at the college. Coming from a high school that cut the sport I was afraid that it would speed the cleaver to eliminate gymnastics as a sport for men. My decision was impacted by that but more because I took responsibility for my actions.

The best lessons connect to us on an emotional level. They cause joy or pain and in doing so we own them, they sink in deeper.  I learned from my accident and I can honestly say it changed my life. I am more cautious and concerned with safety than ever before, but that comes from my experiences and the experiences I see happening all around me. A friend had owned his gym for over 30 years, as he positioned himself to sell it and retire a horrible accident happened and he lost everything he had put into it. Land, building, business, reputation and self respect. I don’t want to get off on his case but suffice to say the incident was accidental and there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it.  This impacts us very deeply in our industry. It makes us seek more insurance and in doing so we make ourselves a more attractive target for lawsuits. Owning a gym means, putting everything into your business. It also means daily terror of being sued for something that might be out of your control. Negligence is non-defendable. IF we are negligent, truly negligent that no amount of lawyers or insurance will protect you from that. BEing an owner means feeling the fear every time a child twists an ankle, it means sleepless nights worrying that the kid will name you in a lawsuit because they slipped on the ice in the parking lot. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to instruct and coach to the best of our ability and not be afraid of a sprained toe putting us out of business.  Now I do believe that these things also serve to motivate us to act more safely and to have consideration for many things in teaching to be sure that our kids are safe. On the other hand, accidents happen. You just hate to see them shut down a decent and responsible program.

At Gymfinity we safety train all of our staff and our team coaches are required to be safety certified by USA-Gymnastics, the governing body of gymnastics. In fact on October 17th from 9:30 to noon we are having a safety class for our staff. Parents are invited to join us for FREE. Parents should be aware of the training the coach you leave your child with is getting. You should know ow well versed they are in safety, I guarantee that you won’t find anyone in Wisconsin that does more safety training than Gymfinity.

I have striven for many years to take the worry of major safety issues from our parents. Though I cannot guarantee consistent safety as accidents do happen, I feel that we make a respectable effort to keep it as safe as possible. Many gyms feel that the risk factors are inherent and so don’t address it. The difference has maybe protected us a bit more, it has certainly protected our children but our litigious society has removed so many of the things that kids can do to be healthy and to have fun Yet we complain that kids today are lazy, or obese and we keep limiting their activity until all that’s left is the safety of the couch and joystick.   You need to be sure that the program you have your children in is a safe one, you need to trust them with your child. You need to also understand that accidents happen and sometimes that means their is no one responsible party. We need to return to good safe common sense and it has to come from mom and dad first.

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