When lightening strikes in youth sports…a parent’s worst nightmare
But this past week, the dangers of lightening and youth sports were tragically brought home to us in Southwest Florida. On October 3, Jesse Watlington, an 11-year-old football player, was headed out to practice with his team when he was struck by lightening. On Sunday Jesse died.
I write this post with a heavy heart. Every time I look at Jesse’s smiling picture, tears come to my eyes. Jesse was just going outside to play football, a sport he loved. There had been no lightening strikes and the dark clouds seemed distant. Yet a freak strike left him in a coma and eventually took his life.
I know that freak accidents happen. I know that there is never a way to guarantee the safety of our children whenever we send them out the door to their practices or games. But perhaps a little more awareness of lightening’s deceiving dangers can help prevent a tragedy in the future.
What to remember about lightening strikes
- You cannot guess the danger from a storm by listening to thunder. Most of the time, thunder cannot be heard until the lightening is 2-4 miles away. By then, the danger is imminent because you can be in danger of being struck by lightening when the storm is 8-10 miles away. In fact, lightening can strike up to 25 miles away from a thunderstorm cloud.
- Most people who are struck by lightening get struck under blue skies with no warning signs. This was the case with Jesse.
- Remember, the flash-to-bang method for calculating the distance of lightening is a very unreliable way to determine how safe you are from getting struck.
For more info on lightening strikes and safety: visit the National Weather Service.
What can you do as a parent?
- Check your child’s club or school league’s policy on lightening and be sure your child’s coach follows it.
- If there is no policy, lobby for a set weather policy and don’t give up until the coach or the administration establishes one.
- Be sure your kids understand the dangers of lightening and the policy that their coach needs to follow.
- If the coach doesn’t follow the policy, as a parent, it’s time to step in and remove your child from the field. His safety is the most important thing.
- I am not getting any commission or kickback from any business, but I know there are companies out there like the Lightening Detector Store that sells equipment to detect storms and track lightening. They even have handheld equipment that coaches could use. To me, this is a worthwhile investment for any coach or school, whether the funds can be budgeted or the money must be raised. In my book, this is more important than new uniforms.
Our prayers are with you
To Jesse’s parents and family, we can only say that our prayers are with you in this tragedy. Our hearts are saddened beyond belief at your loss.
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