The Erie County Legislature approved a local law Thursday which aims to prevent concussions in youth sports. Though a near-majority passed the measure, the lone opponent sparked a passionate debate.
The county's concussion law was written to ensure that every child's safety will take priority while playing contact and collision sports. It passed by a 10-to-one vote. That lone "no" vote belonged to Republican Kevin Hardwick, who emphasized how the volunteers who organize and coach youth sports are already asked to give so much of their time.
In referring to the volunteers as "saints," Hardwick listed their variety of responsibilities including, "talking with the school districts and the towns and the cities. Getting the uniforms. Measuring the kids. Scheduling referees. Making sure everybody gets paid and doing all the banking. Making sure this all gets collected. Making sure the league is insured. Dealing with irate parents. And we're going to heap on them one more requirement."
That argument drew an equally passionate response from Democrat Patrick Burke, who was one of the bill's co-sponsors. Burke took exception with Hardwick waiting until just before the vote to make his voice heard.
"If you had people unwilling to take a 20-minute free course to potentially save the long-term brain health of a child, they should not be coaching," Burke fired. "I don't care how inconvenient it is."
The new Erie County law mandates that coaches, sports staff, referees or officials supervising a collision youth sport take a free online course on how to recognize concussion symptoms in children.