When I wrote about MRSA last year, the one thing that struck me was the massive overreaction to it in some places. Shutting entire schools down to sanitize every surface was a massive waste of money for little benefit according to scientists. These districts had succumbed to hysteria, stoked by the media, and lost sight of ‘acceptable risk’. Our teams take a cooler filled with ice water and towels to cool the players off with during hot events. Yet the risk of an MRSA outbreak is extremely small compared to the risk of a player suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If someone develops a safe additive for water to keep MRSA at bay, I’d be happy to use it. But until then, we as coaches keep a sharp eye out for infections and rest easier knowing our players have a way to keep cool. It’s a matter of acceptable risk and balancing the impacts of prevention vs the risk you mitigate.
A recent discussion thread at the NC Soccer Forum also touched on acceptable risk, but with a much more controversial subject: DUI. Though it veered off topic a bit, many posters were struggling to decide if a single DUI in a coach’s lifetime should preclude them from ever coaching again, or if it was an acceptable risk to allow them to coach (vs. someone who had multiple DUIs). Was your child more at risk riding with a coach who got a DUI five years ago, or with a coach who talks on their cellphone while driving all the time?
Think about it. Youth soccer has one of the highest per capita injury rates in youth sports, second only to football. We also put our kids (and us) at significant risk getting into the car and driving to practices, away matches, tournaments, and more. Yet the media highlights something like MRSA, which is extremely rare, and people lose any sense of acceptable risk. This isn’t trying to diminish the pain and suffering of those few families that have lost someone to MRSA. But it’s to easy to focus on the extreme and lose sight of the overall realities. In this case – putting your family in a car is one of the most dangerous everyday things you can do.
My point in all this was to highlight a recent article by John Stossel about the media’s tendency to overhype things that pose very little risk to the population at large. The jelly bean example is excellent.
So the next time you read about some scary thing that has a horrible ending, take a deep breath and investigate how likely this is to happen. Is it worth the hysteria or extreme measures to try and prevent it, or does it pose an acceptable risk? If someone tries to enact draconian rules in your league to mitigate an extremely rare scenario, will anyone step up to point out the problems with that? Thinking rationally when it comes to their child’s safety is one of the hardest things for a parent to do.