Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Safety Checklist For Fields and Gymnasiums

When the new sports seasons start it is so exciting that you may forget to take the time to make sure that your gymnasiums and fields are safe. Do a quick gym and field check to make sure that you have covered all the safety pitfalls that can go easily unnoticed. Your athletes and fans will thank you and your sports season can be all about winning and having fun- like it should be.

As President of SportsGraphics Incorporated, a Safety and Image Resource for Schools across America- and a coach myself, I have put together a quick check-off list that you can easily print to check the safety of your own facilities.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the training policies of your school district and make sure to plan your practices with rest and water breaks.
  2. Check to see that you understand your legal duties as a coach. These duties include offering instruction and offering correct and safe equipment and facilities. To offer proper conditioning, and offer proper emergency care.
  3. Check the area in which you will be practicing. Walk around and assess the entire area getting rid of any tripping hazards, holes in fields.
  4. Check the wall pads. Make sure they don’t need repair. Are the backboards and football posts padded properly?
  5. Check to see that bleachers have enclosures that prevent children from playing underneath.
  6. Check to see that the volleyball poles are secure. Make sure that you are observing manufacturer’s guidelines and that you are not making anything fit by jimmy rigging or making homemade adjustments.
  7. Check each individual player’s equipment for proper fit. Make sure that you have educated yourself on the latest enhanced safety equipment and educate your staff with latest trends available on decreasing injuries.
  8. Check that your players are physically fit enough to participate. Make sure you are participating in warm-up, stretching, and a cool down for your players even during pre-season practice programs.
  9. Check that athletes are matched with close equivalent weight, size and skill in terms of competition matching practices.
  10. Check to see that the players are always under the supervision of a qualified coach.
  11. Check to review emergency plans in case of injury and review it with everyone who will be involved.
  12. Check the record keeping for physical exams, attendance, eligibility forms, emergency cards, informed consents; and make sure there is a good clear and consistent form of record keeping done by all including substitute coaches.
  13. Check that you have informed the players about their own understanding of their responsibility in injury prevention.
These are a few critical procedures for you or your coaches to practice that will prevent the most common accidents that occur in high schools and middle schools across the country. Please don’t underestimate the importance of explaining the responsibility that the
athletes have in making safety a priority for themselves.

Written from the perspective of a father of five, a football coach and the as a Safety and Image Specialist for the company SportsGraphics.

Patrick Conlon
SportsGraphics, Inc.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Field Wall Pads Keep Gophers Protected At TCF Bank Stadium

So many movies have been made about the excitement of going from rags to riches. Its only exciting really, if you’ve been forced to wait in rags until it seems almost natural to be in them. Sometimes you’ve been in rags so long you might even begin defending the ugly state your in. The ugly state I’m talking about is the downtown Metrodome and the Gophers can finally stop grinning and bearing it.

This will be a totally new era for the Minnesota Gophers and their fans; and boy do they deserve it. After two decades of having the off- campus hideous Metrodome which seemed so awkward on so many levels (navigating and parking topping the list) they now are blessed with a classically beautiful, borderline opulent stadium that has been designed in such a way that you could almost feel a tinge of resent toward these Gophers. In case you do, rest assured, it passes.

And maybe what helps it pass is the realization of how much the Gophers deserved this stadium and how much this stadium is so much more than a stadium. The sheer forethought alone that went into every detail of construction makes this infrastructure somehow more special like it was built with an instant heritage, a story. Stadium designer Jeff Spear and Coach Brewster really thought about the purpose of this stadium beyond the More Factor- more seating, more fans, more tickets, more money; more, more more. This stadium was built for a purpose; the team for starters, the team most importantly. What seemed to be in mind, was the goal of unifying, and tearing down at the same time. Building cohesion while not allowing the natural separation that can naturally take place when teams have money to build individual spaces for players. This stadium was designed to never be a fertile ground for cliques; not even a chance to take root. The locker rooms were laid out to keep an open feel instead of compartmentalizing positions and offence and defense. And then there are architectural details that only the team will enjoy, like the illuminated giant M on the ceiling of the locker room that was put there to bring excitement to the players.

The gift this stadium gives to its fans goes beyond more room. There is of course the amazing view of the Minneapolis skyline, and the ability to park and get in the stadium in less than twenty minutes. And if you’re a prospective recruit; just travel down your own secret entrance where there you’ll end up in a huge lounge with cozy couches. The concourses are wide making it easy for fans to navigate through to their seats. Once seated you’ll enjoy the game from the main HD video board by Daktronics, which says this video board is the third largest in college football. Daktronics ProAd® LED ribbon displays are also installed along the fascia of both sidelines, revealing game information and up to the second player statistics, and all sorts of video animation to keep the crowd enthusiastic, though I doubt the crowd will need much help.
So much thought was put into this stadium, even the skeletal construction. 8, 800 tons of steel- and 97% of it was recycled. And the first brick put down on the stadium was laid by Hilding Mortenson who was a brick layer and worked on the Memorial Stadium in 1924. He is now 100 years old.

We were very excited to be a part of the making of the TCF Bank Stadium. As our field padding was being installed, I felt the excitement of sharing in the moment of yet another dream held by thousands of people; become a reality. I was amazed at the many hats that Scott Amundson of Mortenson Construction wore while staying calm cool and collected the entire time. I’d like to thank Scott for giving my sons and I tickets to the opening scrimmage. The highlight of the experience though was to see the sheer excitement on the alumni’s faces as they saw the stadium for the first time. I felt like I was in a MasterCard Commercial because that was priceless.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Custom Dry Erase Boards

The dry erase board has done to the chalk board what the Apple iPod did to the Sony Walkman. There are so many advantages to using the dry erase board; more vibrant wording as markers come in every color, no chalk dust, easy cleaning, lighter weight than a chalkboard, and less expensive than a chalkboard.

SportsGraphics Incorporated manufactures custom dry erase boards for schools; making teachers and coaches lives much easier by imprinting permanent grids or templates such as a weekly work assignments,customized calandars,record boards,and more. The customized template is permanently printed utilizing the schools colors, mascot and slogans while the written information can be updated and easily erased.

Andy Kachure, a sales representative for SportsGraphics says he has seen the requests for custom wipe off boards increase significantly. “I have been getting so many requests for wipe off boards that will keep account of snack schedules, weights for wrestlers, score boards, game schedules for locker rooms-you name it. The great thing about it is the same sort of design we create for their banners, bleacher enclosures and wall pads,can be incorporated into the wipe off boards, so they have a consistent look throughout the school.”

For more informaton on receiving complimentay dry-erase or white-board designs for your school please visit our website at and click on custom dry erase boards.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Windscreens - The Many Functions

Traditionally, windscreens have been used across fences to provide privacy for the players on the field. The windscreen helps players stay focused on the game without distractions of traffic and activity off the field.

Windscreens also limit outside noise while keeping the resonance of the game at a contagious inclusion of involvement.

Another benefit of windscreens is shade. With more and more scientific evidence of the damaging effects of sun on unprotected skin; windscreens can provide spectators protection with varying levels (depending on the windscreen) that can block up to 100% of sun’s exposure.

Of course windscreen also lives up to its name by blocking out wind, dust and debris from distracting players and spectators.

Andy Kachure, a safety and image consultant for SportsGraphics, is seeing new ways that windscreens are being used. “The first order usually results with the athletic director or the principle telling me that the digitally printed windscreen far exceeded their expectations. Next they are asking for it on the backsides of press boxes and below railing in the gymnasiums,” says Kachure.

According to Kachure, schools are wanting to use printed windscreen to wrap the fences that run around the parking lot, giving the spectators an enclosed, safe feeling for privacy and security. “It is just a very affordable way to dress up the school’s fields and facilities with amazing digital imagery that really identifies the school’s spirit, “ says Kachure.

Windscreens are easy to apply with built in grommets and hemmed edges. The only thing the school needs to do is zip tie them to the fence or poles, depending on where they are going to be displayed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gymnasium Murals that Are Finished In One Afternoon

Everyone loves the spirit and enthusiasm of a well designed gymnasium. It has been called the heartbeat of the school; the hub of the community.

Wall murals, traditionally are painted on the walls by artists on scaffolds dipping paintbrushes in reds and blues while bringing mascots to life one stroke at a time. SportsGraphics Inc. heard the concerns from school administrators who didn’t have the budgets for artists or capability to close off parts of the gymnasium for weeks or months at a time.

Introducing, Convenient Gym Murals (CGM) from SportsGraphics; the manufacturer of wall padding, and other gymnasium products designed for schools. CGM ‘s provide everything the traditional painted on wall mural does- with much less time, money and mess.

Convenient Gym Murals are designed from the desks of the graphic department at SportsGraphics and emailed to you for viewing and alterations. Once you and your school have decided on a design, the mural is printed. SportsGraphics has certified installers throughout the country that will come to your school and put up the mural in an afternoon.

The mural is a thin graphic film that is applied with heat to any surface. It is graffiti resistant and appears to “painted on,” so there are no corners to be tampered with.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coaches Protect Our Athletes

Schools throughout the majority of the nation now require physical education. In fact, forty-two states make physical fitness class mandatory to graduate. What is the result of the emphasis on physical fitness, besides taking a stab at the growing obesity issue among our young? A high occurrence of sports related accidents and even death. What happens to those students who are obese and required to participate in physical activities?

Imagine a three hundred and twenty seven pound student running up and down the court for twenty minutes in a hot gym without being given the opportunity for water breaks. The regular physical education teacher was out and the class was being supervised by an art teacher. Apparently the art teacher was in pretty good physical shape since he played basketball with the students. The three hundred twenty pound student continued playing and after twenty minutes, collapsed. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and was pronounced dead.

Another trend in schools right now is the frequency of substitute teachers. The student that has a health issue gives the regular teacher the doctors note excusing the student from activity, but the substitute teacher who doesn’t physically see the “note” requires the student to participate. This irresponsible supervision results in catastrophe.

How many more cases of students dying or suffering brain damage or spinal accidents do we have to read about? Pad all areas in the gym that a student could possibly make contact with. When a student’s skull slams into a concrete wall, it most certainly will be a devastating impact. Today schools use their gymnasium a lot more than they used to, so schools need to pad more than just a 12 foot backstop. This seems like an obvious responsible answer.

Patrick Conlon, president of SportsGraphics (the original wall pad company) says that his company has been making wall pads for schools for two and half decades. The common question his safety and image consultants hear is, ‘what am I a liable to pad?’ “I tell them that they need to adopt the prudent, reasonable standard of protecting their students. They will be safe with that premise. The amount of padding depends on the amount of usage in the gym. If the gym is used for kick ball, drills and cheerleading then you need to pad most of the gym, or at least the cement walls and any equipment, poles, columns etc. that protrude. “

When athletic directors and administrator question merely what they are liable for, are they forgetting common sense? If it poses a threat; be proactive to prevent accidents. The internet makes it easy to avoid mistakes that other schools have made. There are a plethora of lawsuits against schools for sports injury and failure to provide a safe gymnasium. If school budgets are tight, educate parents on safety issues and concerns. Let them see you going to extra measures to make your facilities as safe as possible. Raise the money for superior safety precautions; it will save lives, accidents and potentially millions in lawsuits.

For more information on how to make your facility and programs safer follow the risk management plan written by Dr. Richard P. Borkowski, EdD, CMAA in his most recent book Coaching for Safety, A Risk Management Handbook for High School Coaches, published byESD112. Also visit for wall padding, bleacher enclosures, crowd control barricades, sideliners, padded score tables and other safety products manufactured specifically for high schools and middle schools.

For more information on making your gym and programs safer follow the risk management plan written by Dr. Richard p. Borkowski, EdD, CMAA in his most recent book Coaching for Safety, A risk Management Handbook for High School Coaches, published by ESD112. Also visit SportsGraphics for wall pads, bleacher curtains, crowd control barricades, padded scorers tables and other safety products.

Breathing Life Into An Old Gym

Outdated Gymnasiums Can Easily Get A New Lease On Life

A large number of school buildings were built in the fifties and sixties and will require immediate attention very soon. One third of urban schools are more than fifty years old.

The gymnasium is the place where the school really shows its age. With mandatory physical education classes comes more wear and tear, while it still remains the gathering center for assemblies, dances, and of course, hosting the community games; it is getting more difficult to hide the outdated fixtures and the “tired feel” these gyms exhibit.

Parents and grandparents nostalgically go back to the day when they were center stage as the crowd cheered, and because of this connection between the community and gymnasium, it is hard to agree on a renovation strategy. What appears to be dilapidated to some is a piece of history that by know means- is justified for the wrecking ball.

There are a lot of affordable ways to breathe new life into an old gym.

At this time, teachers across the nation are being laid off, programs are cut to avoid projected deficits. Even the schools that agree upon a new construction plan to their gymnasium know that now is not the time to make such a move.

Research and Developer for SportsGraphics, Tom Conlon, encourages these schools, “There are a lot of affordable ways to breathe new life into an old gym. We take a lot of time with each school to understand where they are at right now, and where they want to be. It is exciting to see how creative schools across the nation are; One school district got their students together and made a fun “Painting the Gym Day.”

These are a few inexpensive tips that any school can do to breathe new life into their gym:

  1. Painting the gym will make the lighting look more modern and will be the perfect backdrop for the other suggestions. Wall murals are customary in gymnasiums.
  2. Every gym needs to have a huge mural of their mascot with the name of the school written across the walls. Muralists are very expensive. You pay for the design and you pay by the hour, and there is always the mess and the time involved. 3M has come out with a digital film graphic that allows you to see the image before the image is applied to the wall. It is also a fraction of the cost for a painter, yet it looks just like a painting. Now that you have your color on the walls it is time to decorate.
  3. Bleacher Curtains also known as “Bleacher Enclosures” can do wonders for the look of old bleachers in an old gym. These are very affordable for the actual impact of color and style it will have on your space. They are put on the sides of the open ends of the bleachers and are used to keep children from playing underneath the seats. Make sure when you are dealing with a company that you ask if they do their own in-house printing. This will save you money and time. The larger companies have flat- bed printers in their facility which will allow the entire enclosure to be printed instead of a small square in the middle of a plain end closure.
  4. Gymnasiums are being used so much more these days; from kickball to physical fitness classes. Padding more than just the area underneath their basketball hoops has become standard safety practice. Since it’s a liability issue anyway, have your pads “wow” your audience. New technology in printing allows some manufacturers of wall pads to print scenic vistas or mascots that come to life. This will no doubt be what your students and visitors notice when they walk into your gym.

Some high schools are trying to invest in the scorers table with the led screens and advertisement feeds. Of course those are state of the art, as well as the price tag. There are companies out there that still make scoring tables that are completely padded and will coordinate with the other products I’ve mentioned. These padded score tables are an affordable alternative. Remember the coordinated color scheme, mascot, and lettering is what makes the difference between mismatched items, or a real defined, designer look. It is best to work with one manufacturer that will design all of these items for you. You would be surprised how many different shades of red there are. By working with one company you eliminate trying to match previously purchased products.

If you are dealing direct with a manufacturer, (and I suggest you do for better discounts) tell them your overall goal and they can give you the graphic designs for all of your products with a package price. Work with the company to pay per item, yet under the discounted package pricing.

Most manufacturing plants can offer pre-pay discounts. Although some schools policies won’t allow for pre- purchasing items, don’t hesitate to work out the same discount if you were to pay within five days of receiving shipment.

Give your students the gym that they will be proud of now. These furnishings a long with a fresh coat of paint will minimize the facilities shortcomings. Conveniently, they can all be put back into the gym once your have your new, well deserved, state of the art gymnasium.

For more ideas on ways to breathe new life into your gym or sports facility, contact Kimberly Conlon at SportsGraphics.