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Who’s Your Designated Driver?

ByGMR-Photo-ReconditionedIf you’re smart and you care about others, you wouldn’t drive a vehicle while impaired. Back before Uber and Lyft, groups going out for a night on the town chose a designated driver to ensure everyone got home safely after they had their adult beverages and their fun.

If you’re a gym club owner and you care about your athletes, as well as your bank account, you wouldn’t let a gymnast use a piece of equipment whose safety and function is impaired from wear and tear or improper installation.

Sure, coaches can raise or lower bars to tailor it to an individual gymnasts needs. But, do they know how that piece of equipment overall is supposed to be positioned? Coaches are masters of picking out angles and body alignment as a gymnast moves through a skill. But, are they paying attention to see if the bases of your high bar, uneven bars or your ring frame have walked out sideways? Are they looking to see if they’ve gone cattywompus (one base forward, one base back)? On your unevens, are your cables frayed? Is the concrete around your anchors in good condition or is starting to crack? What are the ramifications of cracked concrete on the stability of your uneven bars?

Do they know how each piece of equipment works and WHY it needs to work that way? Understanding your equipment on a deeper level will help you identify issues before they become accidents

Just like with your party posse, we recommend your gym enlist a designated driver to drive your equipment inspection process.

Gymnastics equipment takes a beating in the course of a day; as well as over time. To keep your athletes and coaches safe, your gym needs to stay on top of the condition and position of all your equipment and matting.

Facts from USAG’s recommendations for equipment inspection safety: “Metal fatigues every time it bends. The more it moves, the faster it wears out. Metal on metal is a high wear area. Laminations wear out fast – keep them  in good condition. Foam has a memory, but like us old folks, that memory starts to fail with age. Failures don’t happen suddenly.”

Failures don’t have to happen at all when you keep your eye on the ball.

“Trying to extend life [beyond a part or piece’s obvious expiration] isn’t safe.” To that end, be smart. “Retire parts before you have to retire the entire piece.” At some point, you will need to retire the entire piece, so be sure and plan for that in your budget and class/training/meet scheduling.

Train your designated driver to recognize what a part looks like when it’s worn out, so you can stay ahead of the game. Check your moving parts, especially, such as the threads on your spinlocks or on cable tensioners on the uneven bars. Look to see if they’re ground down, worn off or smashed together. Tightening those, parts over time or too much, will take its toll on their threads causing them not to perform as they should.

One of the best ways to achieve these crucial goals is to have one person in your gym conduct your inspections and have them photo document the life of your parts and your pieces of equipment, so they catch and fix concerns to protect your liability and avert accidents that cause an injury. Taking pictures means they don’t have to try to remember what it looked like last time and wonder if it’s wearing out and how far it’s gone. Storing those pictures on an in-house computer, where all the staff can access them, ensures continuity should that person leave. It will also help protect you when it comes to working with your insurance company.

In addition to knowing your equipment, your designated driver should know the tools necessary to maintain each piece or part. Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of tools to do that! An open wrench, a socket wrench and adjustable wrench will help you make the necessary adjustments to keep things secure. For the love of all that is holy: never use pliers or vise grips on your gymnastics equipment. You’ll just scratch it up!

A torpedo level (aka. a bubble level) will help you ensure your uprights are straight. You want that.

A little lubrication keeps things moving smoothly and that keeps them from wearing out as fast! On that point, it’s important to know which one goes where: use 3-in-1 oil to lubricate spinlocks and the eyebolt on your unevens piston. Use silicone spray on the notches of pistons, so the bars adjust easily and on your uneven bars’ uprights, so that the spreader slider collars move easily.

Some coaches see inspections as boring, busy work. They go through the motions of checking boxes without a deeper understanding of how and why things work, how and why things should be aligned and what tools or lubes to use to ensure the tight parts stay secure and the moving parts flow freely. Ask yourself, who’s the best person on your staff for the dedication to detail and documentation that this integral part of running a safe gymnastics club entails. If you don’t see a good fit on staff, maybe there’s a mechanically inclined parent/handyperson who enjoys tools and assembling stuff.

Safety First! Safety Always!


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