Clay County schools awarded First Team Safe Sports Schools recognition

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Clay County's seven high schools have something to be proud of. They have now been recognized as First Team Safe Sports Schools. 

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Clay County's seven high schools have something to be proud of. They have now been recognized as First Team Safe Sports Schools. Out of more than 37,000 high schools in the United States, 1,013 of them have been recognized as Safe Sports Schools. It's a prestigious recognition from the National Athletic Trainers' Association and it means a lot for your kids on the field.

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"There's a lot of areas in this nation, as well as in this state, who do not, and have not, been as proactive as Clay County in initiating this program and being awarded this title," said Gary Gillis, Director of Sports Medicine for St. Vincent's Health Care.

Gillis said it started as a partnership with the district and St. Vincent's two years ago and now the schools have been deemed First Team Safe Sports Schools. In order to achieve this status, the athletic programs have a list of requirements and recommendations to meet.

"A lot of them will put in new facilities, do different things, but unless you have health care for your athletes, in all your sports, you really don't have a complete athletic program," said Gillis.

It's more than that. It's developing injury and illness prevention strategies, providing or coordinating pre-participation physical exams, and creating and rehearsing a venue-specific Emergency Action Plan.

"All of the athletic directors have worked collaboratively to make sure we have a game plan with our emergency action plan and really make sure everyone's on board with the requirements for the program," said John Sgromolo, Ridgeview High School's Athletic Director.

Sgromolo said he's glad they had an emergency plan in place, because it had to be used this school year at a cross-country meet.

"We had a student go down from a different school and had to get them to the hospital and everyone did their job. The student was safe. It was really good to see as the leader of the athletic department that we're doing the right things," said Sgromolo.

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He hopes this catches on, but for now, he's happy to know Clay County is leading the way.

"Athletics are such a huge part of the development process of all students, and it's really important to us in Clay County. I think that we are still an innovator, and I think we're going to continue to be the leader in everything we do," said Sgromolo.

The only other schools in our area that have been deemed Safe Sports Schools are Atlantic Coast High School and Englewood.

In order to achieve Safe Sport School status, athletic programs must do the following:

  • Create a positive athletic health care administrative system
  • Provide or coordinate pre-participation physical examinations
  • Promote safe and appropriate practice and competition facilities
  • Plan for selection, fit function and proper maintenance of athletic equipment
  • Provide a permanent, appropriately equipped area to evaluate and treat injured athletes
  • Develop injury and illness prevention strategies, including protocols for environmental conditions
  • Provide or facilitate injury intervention
  • Create and rehearse a venue-specific Emergency Action Plan
  • Provide or facilitate psychosocial consultation and nutritional counseling/education
  • Be sure athletes and parents are educated of the potential benefits and risks in sports as well as their responsibilities