This week, Tennessee becomes the first state to adopt an
official safety ratings system for youth sports leagues.
The program hopes to corral a wild west of safety standards across all sports.
It will award levels like Bronze and Gold to organizations based on their level
One of the minds behind the new Safe Stars system says the idea came from a
discussion about a different state initiative — one that rates the safety of
Dr. Alex Diamond of Vanderbilt’s Injury Prevention in Youth Sports program says
that effort set minimal safety and health requirements for daycares across the
state. Since it was performing so well, he says they thought “You know what? We
should do something around sports.”
Dr. Diamond compares the current situation to dropping your kid off at a pool
that has no lifeguard.
The new program would set sports safety standards for potentially life
threatening issues by requiring things like AED machines at all facilities and
venues. To meet the the Bronze level, organizations would need to check off a
number of items on the list, like performing background checks and having an emergency
But there’s one move they wish all leagues could make, which would earn a top
“In an ideal world, we could solve a lot of these problems by having every
youth league and organization have an athletic trainer,” Diamond says. “An athletic
trainer can take care of all of these issues and take the burden quite honestly
off parents and coaches who are absolutely well meaning — but volunteers.”
But hiring a trainer is an expensive proposition. To have one trainer appear at
games alone, it recently cost one Middle Tennessee youth football program
nearly $1,700 for the season. Safe Stars would like to see trainers at every
activity, including practice, which would greatly increase that cost.
The other hurdle for some communities is internet access. Most of the
certification courses for things like concussion safety and heat awareness are
online only. That will likely limit the participation from some rural and lower
Diamond says the group behind Safe Stars is aware of “the resource factor”
faced by some leagues but believes if their efforts mean saving the life of
just one child, it is worth doing.