Saturday, September 27, 2014

A parent writes to the president of a youth soccer program (names changed):

Thank you again for offering to advocate on behalf of my daughter, Mary, who wishes to comply with her pediatrician's advice not to remove the very small studs with which her ears were pierced this morning.  I've taken the liberty of drafting a legal document that would eliminate any liability that NGS might possibly have in connection with Mary's compliance with her pediatrician's advice. I've been a practicing attorney for over fifteen years; I cut-and-pasted the key language in this document from boilerplate I've used countless times on behalf of a wide variety of clients.  I've attached a signed jpeg version, along with a Word version in case you or anybody else would like to make any revisions.

This is, of course, quite time sensitive.  If at all possible, I'd like to close the loop before Mary's team's next soccer practice, which is scheduled for Friday afternoon.  If you think it would be helpful for me to reach out to anyone else, please let me know. 

Again, thank you very much for trying to help Mary.  She loves playing soccer with her team, and the idea of not being able to play for the rest of the season is causing her the kind of distress that only seven year olds are capable of feeling.  Because we failed to anticipate and prevent this problem, my wife and I feel awful, as well.  If you can help solve this problem, it would mean an enormous amount to my family.

Sorry, but no. My advice to the league president:

Absolutely, absolutely not.  This is a well established rule throughout the state and the league and we should not make exceptions for one girl. We have drilled referees for years to make no exceptions. It puts the referee in a terrible position, and then others will say, "What about me?"  I don't care what kind of legal release the parent is willing to sign.  This is the referee's responsibility, and I wouldn't want any referee, much less a youth referee, forced to make the decision.

The mistake is easily rectified:  New earrings can be removed for and hour and reinserted.  Kids and parents have done it over and over again.  A little ice applied to the ear solves the problem of reinserting, perhaps with some Vaseline if needed or antibiotic if desired.

This stuff about a pediatrician's advice is really silly.

If the family doesn't want to go through the removal and reinsertion, they can simply take the earrings out and have a new hole made in a few weeks.

BTW, this is a time for parents to explain to the seven year old that sometimes, rules are rules, and to say it in a positive manner and not "blame" anyone.  She'll do what they tell her and she'll be happy about it if they handle it the right way.

In summary, this has happened dozens of times in the past, and we all get through it quite easily.

The coach should also enforce the rule during practice, by the way, so it does not even arise at game time.  The referee should not be the first person to mention the problem to the coach at game time.  It should also be solved well before that.

A colleague added, in agreement:

There is a reason for that—athletic, medical, legal, and insurance entities have advised and mandated that we, as referees, are first and foremost responsible for maintaining safety in soccer matches. Soccer leagues, tournaments, and the companies that provide them with liability insurance specify in their rules that no jewelry will be allowed on players—especially children players. Every time a player uses her head to play, or is bumped in the head by another player, or falls to the ground, or has a ball ricochet off her head, she is potentially inches from having the impact point involve her ears.

Anyone interested in safety—a referee, a coach, an administrator, or a parent—should be completely committed to the enforcement of the no jewelry rule.  And even if the latter three groups are not committed, we as referees must, with no exceptions, protect our young players.  I have officiated nearly 2,800 games in 18 years; I have never allowed earrings on girls or boys—taped or otherwise.  Dozens and dozens of times, I have counseled players, coaches, and parents that they can follow the remedies suggested in Paul's note, or they can choose not to play.  I say it gently, politely, and empathetically, but I am always firm.  It is the right thing and the only thing to do with young players, including all high school games.

And another person added:

It really needs to be enforced at all levels. I would occasionally ask folks if they wanted to be sent links to pictures and articles of girls suffering major injuries from playing with earrings, but never got any takers. 


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