One of the most common ‘must have’ items for a coach is a first aid kit. Easy enough, you think, they have them for $10 at Wal-Mart all the time. But you might be surprised at what is in those inexpensive first-aid kits and what is missing. Most experienced coaches will tell you that they eventually ‘create their own’ kit, but they usually start with a normal kit, even if just for the case. Here are some ideas for creating the perfect coach’s first aid kit.

Most inexpensive first-aid kits come in a hard plastic shell and often will have a space wasting plastic ‘tray’ inside. If you ditch the tray, the case is good to keep things from getting crushed, but everything is bound to get mixed up, so consider putting similar things (bandages, ointments, etc.) in baggies.

So lets crack open that first aid kid and see what we should keep and what we should add. A common kit from Johnson & Johnson contains the following:

  • Assorted Band-Aids
  • First Aid Scissors
  • Pain Relievers
  • First Aid Tape
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Latex gloves
  • Tweezers (usually plastic)
  • Gauze pads
  • Small ice pack

So what stays and what goes?

First, many coaches remove the pain relievers since they are in simple foil pouches, especially if they coach younger kids. Trust me when I say that your first aid kit will be raided by one or more players without your knowledge by the end of a season. If you’re prone to headaches (and what youth soccer coach isn’t?), replace the pouches with a tiny travel bottle of pain relievers with a child resistant cap.

Next, consider replacing the tweezers and scissors. Most kits come with these really cheap plastic tweezers that couldn’t pull a toothpick sized splinter out, let alone the usual tiny ones. The scissors have been getting worse and worse as well – so be sure to get a decent pair for cutting athletic tape and any other variety of things. Look at the first aid tape they provide – if it’s made out of paper fibers, ditch it – it breaks very easily – and replace it with nylon tape which is very strong and will help hold bandages or gauze on if needed. You can buy it in a plastic dispenser with a built in cutter which can be very handy. This is great for helping bandages stay on during play as the players sweat.

Now you need to think about what you’ll need to add. This list will vary a bit depending on the age of your players as they tend to experience different types of injuries.

Above all else, unless stinging insects aren’t a problem in your area, get a small bottle of bee sting ointment. Not only will you find you need it at least once a season, many coaches won’t have this and you’ll be a hero to players and siblings from other teams if you keep this handy. Next, get an extra set of latex gloves and some extra larger gauze pads (4″ x 4″) or a travel pack of tissues. Bloody noses happen, and you’ll need to be prepared to deal with it. I prefer gauze to tissues as it tends to absorb more. Throw in some sandwich size baggies so you have somewhere to put all the gauze after the bleeding stops.

Athletic tape is often left out of most kits, but even if it’s not, they usually include a token amount. Get a few good sized rolls of 1.5″ athletic tape and some prewrap. Granted this is often for older kids who will twist their ankles from time to time, but athletic tape comes in handy for all sorts of stuff. So at the very least keep one roll of it on hand.

An Ace Bandage is a must. I personally keep two of them in my kit. One is 4″ wide for wrapping ankles and knees and another is 2″ wide for wrapping wrists (keepers sprain them more than you think in U10 and above). Try to find bandages that use the elastic fasteners – the simple metal ones break easily. The 4″ bandage is great for holding an ice pack in place when needed. Speaking of ice packs, most kits come with one small ice pack. Get at least one more. I carry four - no joke - and I’ve used them all in one weekend. They’re cheap and easy to carry, though you’ll probably have to keep them outside your first aid kit as they take up a lot of room. Many 6″x9″ ice packs come in individual boxes which is great for protecting the pack inside your coaches bag outside the first aid kit. I keep mine in a side pocket.

Check the bandage assortment. 2″ and 4″ square gauze pads come in very handy. Most kits come with a good assortment of bandaids, and you use them less than you’d think. One type of bandaid that isn’t often in kits that you should get are butterflys. These are very thin adhesive strips with fat ends that are used to hold slicing cuts together. Hopefully you never have to deal with one when a player slides and hits something sharp, but if you do, they will be invaluable. Also consider raiding your home first aid kit for a couple flexible fingertip and knuckle bandages. I think I’ve needed one of these once, but the cut was in a tricky place and a regular bandage just wouldn’t stay in place.

Something not often found in generic first-aid kits is moleskin. This thin skin-colored adhesive felt is ideal for preventing blisters and providing relief from them or other recovering wounds on a player’s feet. There are two types: regular moleskin, which is thicker, and moleskin plus, which is thinner. Get the moleskin plus – the thickness of the normal stuff makes it hard to put cleats/socks on without tearing it off. If a player complains of a spot where somthing is rubbing and irritating their foot, a section of moleskin will fix it. If they have a deep blister, not likely to pop, apply moleskin over it for temporary relief. If a blister pops, use a normal bandage over it, and then apply moleskin over the bandage, which will help keep the bandage in place when it’s rubbed by the cleat without the strong adhesive on the moleskin hurting the wound.

firstaid.pngOur league initially would purchase the $10 kits from Wal-Mart for our new coaches, and we’d suggest ways to improve them. However, we recently found a kit at Score Sports which was only a couple dollars more, came in a nice flexible case, and contained more of what a soccer coach needs and less of what they don’t.

The flexible case is nice. It has a number of pockets inside to keep everything organized, but also allows you to pack a fair amount of stuff in it. Because it’s a soft sided case, it fits better into the side pockets of many coach bags. I was able to put athletic tape at the bottom and ace bandages across the top and still not strain the zipper to close it.

As for the contents, here is what it comes with:

  • 36 Assorted Adhesive Bandages
  • 1 Elastic Wrap
  • 1 First-Aid Guide
  • 12 Assorted Gauze Pads
  • 2 Latex Gloves
  • 2 Instant Ice Packs
  • 3 Triple Antibiotic Ointment Packs
  • 12 Alcohol Prep Pads
  • 12 Antiseptic Pads
  • 3 Sting Relief Pads
  • 1 Gauze Roll
  • 1 Tape Roll
  • 2 Mole Skin Pads
  • 2 Pair of Gloves

I found using this kit as a starter, I only had to add a bottle of sting relief (the pads get used in a hurry), ace bandages, more athletic tape, tweezers, and scissors. They could include more antibiotic ointment – but you treat small cuts rarely. If you run out – a small tube of Neosporin will do the trick.

For those of you who have coached a while, what types of items do you make sure you add to a basic first aid kit? What am I missing here?

Finally – now that you’ve got your tricked out first aid kit – you should to learn how to use it properly! If you coach a youth sports team and expect to continue doing so, get your first aid certification.